Page:EB1911 - Volume 03.djvu/766

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

the “Ten Americans,” and of the National Academy of Design, New York. Besides portraits, he painted landscape and still life; and he was one of the decorators of the Congressional library, Washington, D.C.

BENSON, GEORGE (1699-1762), English dissenting minister, was born at Great Salkeld, in Cumberland, on the 1st of September 1699, of a family which had distinguished itself in church and state. He studied at a school at Whitehaven and later at the university of Glasgow. In 1722, on Calamy’s recommendation, he was chosen pastor of a congregation of dissenters at Abingdon, in Berkshire, where he continued till 1729, when, having embraced Arminian views, he became the choice of a congregation in Southwark; and in 1740 he was appointed by the congregation of Crutched Friars colleague to the learned Dr Nathaniel Lardner, whom he succeeded in 1749. His Defence of the Reasonableness of Prayer appeared in 1731, and he afterwards published paraphrases and notes on the epistles to the Thessalonians, Timothy, Titus and Philemon, adding dissertations on several important subjects, particularly (as an appendix to 1 Timothy) on inspiration. In 1738 he published his History of the First Planting of the Christian Religion, in 3 vols. 4to, a work of great learning and ability. He also wrote the Reasonableness of the Christian Religion (1743), the History of the Life of Jesus Christ, posthumously published in 1764, a paraphrase and notes on the seven Catholic epistles, and several other works, which gained him great reputation as a scholar and theologian even outside his own communion and his own country. Owing to his undoubted Socinianism his works suffered neglect after his death, which occurred on the 6th of April 1762.

BENT, JAMES THEODORE (1852-1897), English traveller, was the son of James Bent of Baildon House, near Leeds, Yorkshire, where he was born on the 30th of March 1852. He was educated at Repton school and Wadham College, Oxford, where he graduated in 1875. In 1877 he married Mabel, daughter of R. W. Hall-Dare of Newtownbarry, Co. Wexford, and she became his companion in all his travels. He went abroad every year and became thoroughly acquainted with Italy and Greece. In 1879 he published a book on the republic of San Marino, entitled A Freak of Freedom, and was made a citizen of San Marino; in the following year appeared Genoa: How the Republic Rose and Fell, and in 1881 a Life of Giuseppe Garibaldi. He spent considerable time in the Aegean archipelago, of which he wrote in The Cyclades: or Life among the Insular Greeks (1885). From this period Bent devoted himself particularly to archaeological research. The years 1885-1888 were given up to investigations in Asia Minor, his discoveries and conclusions being communicated to the Journal of Hellenic Studies and other magazines and reviews. In 1889 he undertook excavations in the Bahrein Islands of the Persian Gulf, and found evidence that they had been a primitive home of the Phoenician race. After an expedition in 1890 to Cilicia Trachea, where he obtained a valuable collection of inscriptions, Bent spent a year in South Africa, with the object, by investigation of some of the ruins in Mashonaland, of throwing light on the vexed question of their origin and on the early history of East Africa. He made the first detailed examination of the Great Zimbabwe. Bent described his work in The Ruined Cities of Mashonaland (1892). In 1893 he investigated the ruins of Axum and other places in the north of Abyssinia, partially made known before by the researches of Henry Salt and others, and The Sacred City of the Ethiopians (1893) gave an account of this expedition. Bent now visited at considerable risk the almost unknown Hadramut country (1893-1894), and during this and later journeys in southern Arabia he studied the ancient history of the country, its physical features and actual condition. On the Dhafar coast in 1894-1895 he visited ruins which he identified with the Abyssapolis of the frankincense merchants. In 1895-1896 he examined part of the African coast of the Red Sea, finding there the ruins of a very ancient gold-mine and traces of what he considered Sabean influence. While on another journey in South Arabia (1896-1897), Bent was seized with malarial fever, and died in London on the 5th of May 1897, a few days after his return. Mrs Bent, who had contributed by her skill as a photographer and in other ways to the success of her husband’s journeys, published in 1900 Southern Arabia, Soudan and Sakotra, in which were given the results of their last expedition into that region. The conclusions at which Bent arrived as to the Semitic origin of the ruins in Mashonaland have not been accepted by archaeologists, but the value of his pioneer work is undeniable (see Zimbabwe).

BENT. 1. (From “to bend”), primarily the result of bending; hence any inclination from the straight, as in curved objects like a hook or a bow; this survives in the modern phrase “to follow one’s own bent,” i.e. to pursue a certain course in a direction deviating from the normal, as also in such phrases as Chaucer’s “Downward on a hill under a bent,” indicating a hollow or declivity in the general configuration of the land. From the bending of a bow comes the idea of tension, as in Hamlet, “they fool me to the top of my bent,” i.e. to the utmost of my capacity. 2. (From the O. Eng. beonet, a coarse, rushy grass growing in wet places; cf. the Ger. Binse, a reed), the name (“bent” or “bennet”) popularly applied to several kinds of grass and surviving in the form “bent-grass.”

BENTHAM, GEORGE (1800–1884), English botanist, was born at Stoke near Portsmouth on the 22nd of September 1800. His father, Sir Samuel Bentham (1757-1831), was the only brother of Jeremy Bentham, the publicist, and of scarcely inferior ability though in a different direction. Devoting himself in early life to the study of naval architecture, Sir Samuel went to Russia to visit the naval establishments in the Baltic and Black Seas. He was induced to enter the service of the empress Catherine II., built a flotilla of gunboats and defeated the Turkish fleet. For this he was made, in addition to other honours, colonel of a cavalry regiment. On the death of the empress he returned to England to be employed by the admiralty, and was sent (1805-1807) again to Russia to superintend the building of some ships for the British navy. He attained the rank, under the admiralty, of inspector-general of naval works. He introduced a multitude of improvements in naval organization, and it was largely through his recommendation that M. I. Brunel’s block-making machinery was installed at Portsmouth.

George Bentham had neither a school nor a college education, but early acquired the power of giving sustained and concentrated attention to any subject that occupied him—one essential condition of the success he attained as perhaps the greatest systematic botanist of the 19th century. Another was his remarkable linguistic aptitude. At the age of six to seven he could converse in French, German and Russian, and he learnt Swedish during a short residence in Sweden when little older. At the close of the war with France, the Benthams made a long tour through that country, staying two years at Montauban, where Bentham studied Hebrew and mathematics in the Protestant Theological School. They eventually settled in the neighbourhood of Montpellier where Sir Samuel purchased a large estate.

The mode in which George Bentham was attracted to the botanical studies which became the occupation of his life is noteworthy; it was through the applicability to them of the logical methods which he had imbibed from his uncle’s writings, and not from any special attraction to natural history pursuits. While studying at Angoulême a copy of A. P. de Candolle’s Flore française fell into his hands and he was struck with the analytical tables for identifying plants. He immediately proceeded to test their use on the first that presented itself. The result was successful and he continued to apply it to every plant he came across. A visit to London in 1823 brought him into contact with the brilliant circle of English botanists. In 1826, at the pressing invitation of his uncle, he agreed to act as his secretary, at the same time entering at Lincoln’s Inn and reading for the bar. He was called in due time and in 1832 held his first and last brief. The same year Jeremy Bentham died, leaving his property to his nephew. His father’s inheritance had fallen to him the previous year. He was now in a position of modest independence, and able to pursue undistractedly his favourite studies. For a time these were divided between botany,