Gentleman, Robert (DNB00)

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GENTLEMAN, ROBERT (1746–1795), dissenting divine and tutor, was born at Shrewsbury in 1746. He was brought up under the ministry of Job Orton, who encouraged him in his studies. In 1763 he entered the Daventry academy under Caleb Ashworth [q. v.] On 15 Sept. 1765 Orton resigned the co-pastorate of the High Street congregation, Shrewsbury, and there was a division as to the appointment of his successor. The more conservative majority seceded, and Orton assisted them in building a new meeting-house. Gentleman was ultimately chosen as the first minister of this new society. He was a popular preacher, arianising in his theology, but of evangelical sentiment. He remained at Shrewsbury, where he kept a boarding-school, until 1779, when he accepted the position of divinity tutor at Carmarthen Academy (then at Rhydygorse, near Carmarthen), vacated by the removal of Jenkin Jenkins, D.D., to London. The experiment of housing the tutors and students in a residential college proved a failure, from the inability of Gentleman to maintain discipline. Bogue and Bennett say that the London ‘congregational fund’ withdrew its support from the academy owing to distrust of Gentleman's teaching; but this is an error; the support was withdrawn in 1755. He resigned his office in 1784, and the academy was removed to Swansea under Solomon Harris.

The dissenting congregation at Kidderminster had been divided after the death (1780) of Benjamin Fawcett [q. v.] Arian seceders erected a new meeting-house in 1782, but were without a pastor. Orton, who died at Kidderminster in 1783, made Gentleman his literary executor, and this circumstance probably recommended him to the Kidderminster seceders, who chose him as their first minister in 1784. His ministry was very successful. He died in his prime in July 1795, and was buried on 12 July in St. Mary's churchyard, Kidderminster.

He published: 1. ‘The Young English Scholar's … Companion,’ &c., Kidderminster, 1788, 12mo; another edit., 1797, 12mo. 2. ‘Plain … Addresses to Youth,’ &c., 1792, 8vo. From Orton's manuscripts he compiled ‘A Short and Plain Exposition of the Old Testament,’ &c., 1788–91, 6 vols. 8vo; 2nd edit., 1822, 8vo.

[Prot. Dissenter's Mag. 1795, pp. 180, 182, 312; Monthly Repository, 1822, p. 195; Bogue and Bennett's Hist. of Dissenters, 1833, ii. 535; Rees's Hist. Prot. Nonconf. in Wales, 1883, p. 496; Jeremy's Presbyterian Fund, 1885, pp. 20, 49, 66; extract from parish register, Kidderminster, per Rev. J. Hall.]

A. G.