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Bentley, Richard

Bentley, Richard (1662–1742). Scholar and polemicist. After attending Wakefield Grammar School and St John's College, Cambridge, Bentley came under the patronage of Stillingfleet, later bishop of Worcester, and was appointed royal librarian in 1694. His reputation as an outstanding classicist was established by the controversy over the Letters of Phalaris, which Bentley showed to be forgeries. In 1700, he was elected master of Trinity, Cambridge, where he remained until his death. His relations with the fellows were acrimonious and there were repeated attempts to deprive him of his mastership, all of which Bentley managed to defeat. Of his later publications, his edition of Horace (1711) was most admired. Despite their political differences, Johnson wrote handsomely of him that ‘the many attacks on him were owing to envy, and to a desire of being known, by being in competition with such a man’.

J. A. Cannon

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Bentley, Richard

Richard Bentley, 1662–1742, English critic and philologist. Generally considered the greatest of English classical scholars, he was also an Anglican clergyman who became (1717) Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge. An editor and critic of Greek and Latin texts, he was largely responsible for raising standards of textual criticism in the work of his many followers. His Dissertation upon The Epistles of Phalaris (1699), an exposure of a 14th cent. forgery of a purported 6th-cent. BC text, was his most celebrated work. His editions of the poems of Horace (1712) and of Marcus Manilius's Astronomica (1739) were other outstanding works. Bentley was pilloried by Swift in the Battle of the Books and Pope in the Dunciad.

See biographies by J. H. Monk (1830), A. Fox (1954), and K. L. Haugen (2011); studies by R. J. White (1968) and R. F. Jones (1961).

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