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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

§ 6. Bentley Master of Trinity; The Troubles of his Mastership

In the same year (1699), Bentley received a practical proof of the estimate formed of his character and learning by men who were learned themselves. The two archbishops, with bishops Burnet, Lloyd, Stillingfleet and Moore, had been appointed by king William to act as a commission for filling offices in the gift of the crown; and, by their unanimous vote, Bentley was appointed to the mastership of Trinity college, Cambridge. He was admitted to his new office on 1 February, 1700. It is not the business of this narrative to describe the war which began at once and went on for thirty-eight years between Bentley and the fellows of Trinity college. It is enough to say that Bentley was twice tried for his misdemeanours before judges who cannot be suspected of any bias against him, and twice sentenced to be deprived of his office. In each case, the judge was the bishop of Ely, who had been declared visitor of the college. In 1714, bishop Moore, who had been one of Bentley’s electors fourteen years before, died before he could pronounce the judgment which he had written. In 1734, bishop Greene pronounced sentence of deprivation; yet Bentley’s ingenuity and pertinacity proved equal even to this emergency, and he remained at Trinity lodge until his death in 1742. But the inscription placed upon his grave in the chapel denies, by its wording, his right to be called master of the college. In his conduct as master, there is much that is inexcusable, but the worst feature is his sordid rapacity. This ugly vice seems alien to his character, which, if proud and overbearing, showed a marked strain of magnanimity in most of the circumstances of his life.