Bentley, Nathaniel (DNB00)

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BENTLEY, NATHANIEL (1735?–1809), called Dirty Dick, kept a warehouse in Leadenhall Street. It was the first glazed handware shop in London, having been glazed by Pick's father. The elder Bentley had a country house at Edmonton. He presented a bell to the church of St. Catherine Cree in 1754 to he rung on his birthday as long as he lived. He died in 1760. Young Nathaniel Bentley was well educated, but ran away from home to escape the severity of his father, he learned several modern languages during his absence. he afterwards entered the business of his father, from whom he inherited a considerable estate, besides the business in Leadenhall Street. For some years before and after his father's death, Bentley was known as the 'Beau of Leadenhall Street,' exhibiting a fastidious taste, whether in dress or in manners, and frequently presenting liimself at court. At Paris he was introduced personally to Louis XVI, and 'was considered the handsomest and best dressed English gentleman then at the French court' {Granger's Wonderful Museum). But with this occasional magnificence, he was developing strange habits of squalor, which increased with his years. The filth of his premises became proverbial. His eccentricity has been attributed to a shock caused by the death on the eve of the marriage of a lady to whom he was betrothed. He always kept closed the room which had been made ready for the wedding breakfast. In business transactions, although miserly, he was prompt and honourable. Bentley quitted the premises in which the undisturbed dirt of forty years had accumulated in February 1804. He lived in Jewry Street, Aldgate, for three years, and then in Leonard Street, Shoreditch. Here he was robbed of a considerable sum, so that little remained to him beyond a balance of 400l. at the bank. He lived in Leonard Street for about twelve months when he 'commenced a perambulation from one country place to another, more in the habit of a beggar than a traveller for pleasure.' He died at Haddington about the close of the year 1809, and was buried in the churchyard.

[History of the Extraordinary Dirty Warehouse in Leadenhall Street, together with the Memoirs of its Eccentric Inhabitant. Nath. Bentley, Esq., 8vo, 1803; Granger's Wonderful Museum, vols. i. and ii., 1802 and 1804, and Life of the celebrated Nath. Bentley, Esq., &c., 12mo. London. extracted from Granger; Wilson's Wonderful Characters. 1821, i. 166-80.]

A. H. G.