Home  »  Volume IX: English FROM STEELE AND ADDISON TO POPE AND SWIFT  »  § 1. Learning in England at the Time of Bentley’s Birth: Pearson; Fell; William Lloyd; Henry Dodwell; John Moore

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume IX. From Steele and Addison to Pope and Swift.

XIII. Scholars and Antiquaries

§ 1. Learning in England at the Time of Bentley’s Birth: Pearson; Fell; William Lloyd; Henry Dodwell; John Moore

AT the end of the seventeenth century, the history of scholarship is illuminated by the great name of Richard Bentley. From 1699, when his Dissertation on the Epistles of Phalaris was published, until the end of his long life in 1742, each successive work that came from his pen was expected with impatience and welcomed with enthusiasm by the learned all over Europe, who, by their common use of Latin, were able more easily than now to understand and to communicate with each other.

When Bentley was born in 1662, there were already men in England of great learning. But most of these busied themselves with theology, chronology and patristic study rather than with the classical authors. Five names may be mentioned here. The first of these is John Pearson, successively master of Trinity college, Cambridge, and bishop of Chester. The Exposition of the Creed and the Vindication of certain epistles attributed to Ignatius of Antioch, have been already treated in an earlier volume. Bentley wrote of him as “the most excellent Bishop Pearson, the very dust of whose writings is gold.” John Fell was successively dean of Christ Church and bishop of Oxford. His chief work is a critical edition of the works of Cyprian. The epigram by which his name is chiefly known at the present day was probably written by Tom Brown, while an undergraduate at Christ Church. William Lloyd, bishop of St. Asaph and, later, of Worcester, is famous as one of the seven bishops. He wrote chiefly on church history and is appealed to by Bentley as “that incomparable historian and chronologer.” Henry Dodwell was elected Camden professor of history at Oxford in 1688. The most important of his very numerous works discussed ancient chronology; and Bentley, in his Phalaris, while controverting Dodwell’s views, constantly refers to his book De Cyclis, then in the press, as “that noble work,” and to the author as “the very learned Mr. Dodwell.” John Moore was bishop of Ely and, as such, became Bentley’s judge in 1710. His library, one of the best collections of books and MSS. in Europe, was eventually presented by George I to Cambridge university.