11 FEBRUARY 1905, Page 21

By What Authority ? By Robert Hugh Benson. (Isbister and

Co. 6s.)—The second half of this book is by no means equal to the opening chapters, for the excellent reason that Mr. Benson, after making an effort at religious impartiality, abandons the attempt, and frankly turns his novel into a Roman Catholic historical pamphlet. Though his arguments sound astonishingly unconvincing to Protestant ears, it must be admitted that as Mr. Benson takes for his subject the religious persecutions of the Roman Catholics in the reign of Elizabeth, ho has some ground for representing the persecutors in an unamiable light. Just as the annals of the reign of Mary make our blood boil at the cruelties of the Roman Catholics, so the accounts of the persecutions by Protestants make the modern reader feel indignant compassion for the members of the elder Church. To read this book, however, one would suppose that no Roman Catholic had over been known to employ the rack as an instrument for dealing with heretics, though the records of the Inquisition in the Low Countries alone would point to the Protestants of the sixteenth century having suffered at least as much for their faith as the Roman Catholics. As the greater part of the novel is occupied by theological discussions, it is impossible to avoid the subject in any notice of the book. Mr. Benson may have written his story for the express purpose of introducing these discussions, but there is no denying the fact that they do not improve the book as a work of art. Mr. Benson has a gift of word-painting which enables him to give vividly lifelike pictures of the Court of Elizabeth, and particularly of the Queen herself. His sketch of that groat and picturesque figure is, owing to the religious bias which runs through his every page, necessarily painted in dark colours, but it leaves, nevertheless, an extremely striking image on tho minds of his readers. On the whole, the book is well worth reading, though spoilt, if judged from the standpoint of a work of fiction, by the intrusion of too much theology.