Laney, Benjamin (DNB00)

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LANEY, BENJAMIN (1591–1675), bishop successively of Peterborough, Lincoln, and Ely, born at Ipswich in 1591, was the fourth and youngest son of John Laney, recorder of that town (who died in 1888, and was buried in St. Mary's Church). His mother, Mary, daughter of John Poley of Bradley, was grand daughter of Lord Thomas Wentworth of Nettlested. He was educated at Christ’s College, Cambridge, where he matricutated on July 1808, and graduated in 1611, standing twentieth in the list of honours. He subsequently migrated to Pembroke Hall, where he was admitted M.A. in 1615, was elected to a fellowship on Smart's foundation on 19 Nov. 1616, and to the foundation fellowship on 16 Oct. 1618. His subsequent degrees were B.D. 1622, D.D. 1630. He was incorporated M.A. of Oxford on 15 July 1617. In 1625 he obtained leave of absence from his college for two years for the purpose of foreign travel. The secretary of state issued an order that all the profits of his fellowship were to be reserved to him during his absence, which suggests that his journey was connected with the king's service. On 25 Dec. 1680 he succeeded Dr. Jerome Beale as master of Pembroke Hall, and in 1682–3 served the office of vice-chancellor (Baker, Hist. of St.John's College, Cambridge, ed. Mayor, p. 214). Richard Crashaw [q.v.], then a Pembroke man, dedicated the first edition of his ‘Epigrammata Sacra' to him in an epistle both in prose and verse, in which he celebrates Laney's restoration of the choral service and a surpliced choir in the college chapel, the dignified adornment of the altar, and the general care of the fabric (Crashaw, Works, ed. Grosart, ii. 7–15).

Laney became chaplain first to Richard Neile [q. v.], bishop of Winchester, and afterwards to Charles I. By Neile he was appointed to the rectory of Buriton with Petersfield, Hampshire, and on 31 July 1631 to a prebendal stall in Winchester Cathedral, which on 19 June 1639 he exchanged for one at Westminster, on the king's nomination. As a devoted royalist and high churchman, Laney on the outbreak of the civil wars become the subject of fierce hostility to the puritan party. He was denounced by Prynne as ‘one of the professed Arminians, Laud's creatures to prosecute his designs in the university of Cambridge’ (Canterburies Doome, p. 177), who, when one Adams was brought before the authorities for preaching in favour of confession to a ‘priest, had united with the majority of the doctors in acquitting him (ib. p. 193). When the parliament exercised supreme power he was deprived of all his preferments, his rectory of Buriton being sequestered ‘to the use of one Robert Harris, a godly and orthodox divine, and member of the Assembly of Ministers’ (Baker MSS. 439). In March 1643-4 he was ejected from his mastership by a warrant from the Earl of Manchester, ‘for opposing the proceedings of the Parliament and other scandalous acts.' In 1644 he was one of the episcopalian divines chosen, together with Sheldon, Hammond, and others, to argue the question of church government against non-conformist divines before the Scotch commissioners, but was refused a hearing (Fuller, Church Hist. vi. 290). On his ejection from Cambridge he attached himself to the person of Charles I, and in February 1645 attended him as chaplain at the fruitless negotiation with the heads of the presbyterian party at Uxbridge. He served Charles II in same capacity during his exile ‘in a most dutiful manner, and suffered great calamities.’ At the Restoration he at once recovered his mastership and other preferments. Kennett speaks of him as having ‘made a great bustle in the crowd of aspiring men at Cambridge’ (Register, p. 376). On 30 July 1660 he was appointed dean of Rochester, and was consecrated in Henry VII's Chapel on 2 Dec. to the see of Peterborough. The see was a poor one, and he was owed to hold his Westminster stall and his mastership in commendam, and resided chiefly in his prebendal house. High churchman as he was, Laney treated the nonconformists of his diocese with much leniency, in his own words 'looking through his fingers at them.' He enforced the Bartholomew Act with much reluctance, saying to his clergy at his primary visitation, ‘as though he would wipe his hands of it,’ 'not I, but the law' (ib, pp. 376, 804, 813, 815; Kennett, Lansd. MS. 986). He was a member of the Savoy conference, but he was not frequent in his attendance, and spoke seldom Baxter, Life apud Calamy, i. 173). On the death of Bishop Sanderson [q. v.] in 1663, he was translated on 10 March to Lincoln, having, as a parting gift to Peterborough, devoted 100l. towards the repair of one the great arches of the west front of the cathedral, ‘which was fallen down in the late times ({sc|Patrick}} apud Guntin, Hist. of Peterborough). At Lincoln, when he remained five years, he pursued the same system of moderation towards the nonconforming clergy as at Paterborough, and allowed a nonconformist to preach publicly very near his palace for some years (Calamy, Memorial, pp. 92, 94, 496). Calamy ill-naturedly suggested that this line of conduct was adopted to spite the government through ‘discontent because he not a better bisshoprick' (ib. p. 94). On the death of Bishop Wren in 1667 he was translated to Ely, and held the see till his death on 24 Jan. 1674-5, aged 84. He is described as ‘a man of a generous spirit, who spent the chief of his fortune in works of piety, charity, and munificence.' He rebuilt the greater part of Ely Palace, which had suffered at the hands of the puritans. By his will he bequeathed 500l. to the rebuilding of St. Paul's, the like sum to the erection of public schools at Cambridge, or failing that, to the improvement of the fellowship at Pembroke, and other sums to putting out poor children in Elys and Soham as apprentices. The legacies to his relatives were small, as he had helped them adequately in his lifetime. (Baker MSS. xxx. 381) He was unmarried. He was buried in the south aisle of the presbytery of Ely Cathedral, under a monument for which he left the money. There is a portrait of him in the master's lodge st Charterhouse. Laney's only contribution to literature, with the exception of sermons, was ‘Observations' upon a letter of Hobbes of Malmesbury, ‘about Liberty and Necessity published in 1677 anonymously after his death; it shows acuteness and learning. Most of his printed sermons were preached before the king at Whitehall, and were published by command. Five of these were issued in a collected shape during his lifetime, 1668-9, which, Canon Overton writes, are ‘especially worthy of notice, as giving a complete compendium of church teaching as to the particular errors of the times, showing a firm grasp and bold elicidation of church ‘There is a raciness shout them which reminds one of South, and a quaintness which is not unlike that of Bishop Andrewes’ (Lincoln Dioscesan Magazine, iv. 214).

[Landsdowne MS. 985, pp. 27, 180; Baker MSS. xvii. 439, xxx. 381; Clarke's Ipswich, p. 385; Prynne's Canterburies Doome, pp. 177, 193, 398; Crenshaw's Works by Grossart., ii. 7-15; Heylyn's Land, p, 55; Wood’s Life and Times (Oxf. Hist.; Soc.), ii. 26. 106, 297; Calamy's Account, pp. 92,94; Neal's Puritans, ii. 251; Patrick’s Life, p. 167; Fuller's Church Hist. vi. 290; Kenneth Register. pp. 81, 222, 376, 407, 804, 813, 815; Baker's Hist. of St. John's College, Cambridge, ed. Mayor, p. 214.]

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