Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Bentley, Richard, was born in 1662 at Oulton in Yorkshire, where his family had been reduced to poverty by adherence to the Royalist party. His mother looked after his education, and from the Grammar School at Wakefield he passed as a sizar to St. John's, Cambridge. The college sent him as head-master to Spalding School, and Stillingfleet, Dean of St. Paul's, soon after employed him for six years as tutor to his son, whom he accompanied to Oxford. All this time he was accumulating vast stores of classical learning, and at Oxford he became acquainted with the leading scholars of the day. His Epistola ad Millium (1691), appended to Mill's edition of Malalas, proclaimed him the ablest critical emendator of the day. He had now taken orders, and in 1692 was appointed Boyle Lecturer, receiving next year a prebendal stall at Worcester, the posts of royal librarian and chaplain with the living of Hartlebury. For some years, though busy in small undertakings, he attempted nothing on a large scale, and it was almost by accident that in 1697 he inserted in a work of Wootton's some remarks exposing the spurious character of the Epistles of Phalaris, which Boyle (afterwards Earl of Orrery) had edited at Oxford. Atterbury and Smalridge helped Boyle to write a foolish reply, whilst Swift, Pope, and Garth abused the dull Cambridge pedant. In 1699 Bentley published his famous Dissertation, crushing down his opponents by the weight of his erudition and making reply impossible. He was forthwith selected by the Crown for the mastership of Trinity College, Cambridge. Here the rest of his life was utterly wasted. He determined to sweep away the disgraceful corruptions that had grown up both in the college and the university, but he set about the task with a heavy hand, often resorting to means as little creditable as those by which his reforms were met. Twice he was nominally deposed by the fellows, the vice-chancellor, and the Bishop of Ely, but the courts of law protected him in some measure, and amidst endless wrangling he succeeded in holding his ground till death removed him in 1742. During the intervals of the fray he brought out his editions of Horace, Terence, Phaedrus, Publius Syrus, and Manilius; his reply to Collins, in which he defended the text of the Greek Testament against the freethinkers; his criticism of Menander and Philemon; and his absurd reprint of the Paradise Lost. He was engaged on the text of Homer when he died, and left some valuable material to future scholars. His ingenuity led him to make wild emendations in Milton no less than in the Greek poets, and his lack of taste prevented his seeing how such verbal changes spoiled the beauty of the original; but in mere knowledge he had and has no rival.