A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature/Bentley, Richard

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Bentley, Richard (1662-1742). -- Theologian, scholar, and critic, b. in Yorkshire of humble parentage, went at the age of 14 to Camb., afterwards had charge of a school at Spalding, and then becoming tutor to the s. of Dr. Stillingfleet, Dean of St. Paul's, afterwards Bishop of Worcester (q.v.), accompanied his pupil to Oxf. After taking his degree at both universities, and entering the Church, he laid the foundation of his reputation as perhaps the greatest scholar England has produced by his letter in Mill's ed. of the Chronicle of John Malelas, and his Dissertation on the Letters of Phalaris (1699), which spread his fame through Europe. After receiving various preferments, including the Boyle lectureship and the Keepership of the Royal Library, he was, in 1700, appointed Master of Trinity, and afterwards was, largely owing to his own pugnacity and rapacity, which were almost equal to his learning, involved in a succession of litigations and controversies. These lasted for 20 years, and led to the temporary loss of his academic preferments and honours. In 1717, however, he was appointed Regius Prof. of Divinity. During the contentions referred to he continued his literary activity without abatement, and pub. various ed. of the classics, including Horace and Terence. He was much less successful in certain emendations of Milton which he attempted. Having incurred the resentment of Pope he was rewarded by being assigned a niche in The Dunciad! His style is strong and nervous, and sparkles with wit and sarcasm. His classical controversies called forth Swift's Battle of the Books.

Life by Monk (1833). Life by Sir R. Jebb in English Men of Letters (1882).