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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

§ 2. Bentley’s Earlier Life and Labours

Richard Bentley was born on 27 January, 1662, at Oulton, in Yorkshire, and educated at Wakefield grammar school and St. John’s college, Cambridge. He took the degree of B. A. with distinction in 1680 and, after acting for about a year as master of Spalding school, was chosen as tutor to his son by Stillingfleet, then dean of St. Paul’s and, from 1689, bishop of Worcester. For six years Bentley was a member of Stillingfleet’s household. The dean’s library was famous and now forms part of archbishop Marsh’s library in Dublin; but one may suppose that these books have never again found a reader so ardent and so apt as Bentley. Johnson once said to Boswell that he had never known a man who studied hard, but that he concluded, from the effects, that some men had done so; and he named Bentley as an example. This may be illustrated by Bentley’s own words:

  • I wrote, before I was twenty-four years of age, a sort of Hexapla; a thick volume in quarto, in the first column of which I inserted every word of the Hebrew Bible alphabetically; and, in five other columns, all the various interpretations of those words in the Chaldee, Syriac, Vulgate Latin, Septuagint, and Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion, that occur in the whole Bible.
  • Yet biblical study was only a small part of Bentley’s labours.