Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Bentham, Edward
BENTHAM, EDWARD, D.D. (1707–1776), regius professor of divinity at Oxford, the son of the Rev. Samuel Bentham and Philippa, formerly Willan, his wife, was born in the college at Ely on 23 July 1707. He entered Corpus Christ College, Oxford, in 1724, and studied under the care of his cousin John Burton. In 1730 he held for a short time the office of vice-principal of Magdalen Hall, and the next year was elected fellow of Oriel. On taking his M.A. degree in 1732 he was appointed to a tutorship at his college, an once he held for twenty years. In 1743 he took the degree of B.D., and was collated to a prebendal stall in Hereford Cathedral. He proceeded to the degree of D.D. in 1749, and in 1754 was made a canon of Christ Church, Oxford. On the death of Dr. Fanshaw, regius professor of divinity, he was persuaded by Archbishop Secker and other firiends to accept the vacant chair, and accordingly in 1763 he vacated the canonry he held for that annexed to the professorship. He is said to have read three lectures in each week during term time without exacting any fee for attendance. The year's lectures formed one continuous course, which he seems to have gone through year after year. Oxford was his world, and from his matriculation to his death he never missed a single term's residence. He died on 1 Aug. 1776, and was buried in the cathedral. His wife Elizabeth, the daughter of Theophilus Bates of Alton, Hertfordshire, survived him, and he also left a son and daughter. He was the brother of James Bentham [q. v.], the historian of Ely. He wrote : 1. 'An Introduction to Moral Philosophy,' 1746. 2. A Letter to a Young Gentleman, and a Letter to a Fellow of a college, 1748. 3. 'Advice to a Young Man of Rank on entering the University.' 4. 'Reflections on Logic, with a Vindication.' 6. 'Funeral Eulogies in Greek, Τῶν Παλαιῶν... 'Επιτάφιοι' 2nd edition, with additions, 1768. 6. 'De Studiis Theologicis Prælectio,' 1764. 7. 'Reflections on the Study of Divinity,' 1771. 8. 'De Vita et Moribus J. Burton, S.T.P., Epistola.' 9. 'An Introduction to Logic,' 1773. 10. 'De Tumultibus Americanis.' Besides an assize and other single sermons. A somewhat lengthy account of Bentham's life will be found in Chalmers's 'Biographical Dictionary.'
In his notice of Bentham in his MS. 'Athenæ Cantab.' Cole writes: 'In the "Gentleman's Magazine" for 1780, p. 187, is this advertisement or note, probably from his brother James of Ely. "Professor Bentham's Life is not in the 'Biographia;' but if our correspondent will enable us to supply that defect, it shall find a place in our repository." In good truth it is well that he is not in the "Biographia," which is, or ought to be, a temple of fame for eminent persons of England and Ireland, but by no means for every little professor or writer. I personally knew and was acquainted with Dr. Bentham, who, I verily believe, was a very honest, virtuous, good man; a good husband and father, and an excellent brother, but as poor a creature, both in conversation, manner, and behaviour, as I have generally met with: a plodding, industrious man, bred under his cousin John Burton of Eton, who pushed him forward and rather got the start of him; both on the merit of being whigs at Oxford in Sir Rob. Walpole's time, when they were scarcer than at present, though not so abundant as with us [at Cambridge]. I know they have a collection for a life of him drawn up by Alderman Bentham, who was to have brought it to me, but his sudden death prevented it. The professor had designed a monument and epitaph for his father and mother in Ely Cathedral, which I have seen, but suppose it will now be neglected, except his widow or his son were left rich, £30,000 (sic) may do it, for James is as poor as a rat, being long helped out by his brother,' &c.
[Addit. MSS. 68, 64, B. f. 317 Brit. Mus.; Rawlinson MSS. 4to, 6, 46, Bodleian Library; Nichols's Literary Anecdotes, viii. 450; Chalmers's Biographical Dictionary, iv. 475.]