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there, in Bentley's view, was the opportunity of Trinity College; it was to be indeed a house of the sciences and
of all kinds of good letters ;" it was to be not only a great College, but, in its own measure, a true University.
This noble conception represents the good side of Bentley's Mastership; he did something towards making it a reality; he did more still towards creating, or reanimating, a tradition that this is what Trinity College was meant to be, and that nothing lower than this is the character at which it should aim. Nor is it without significance that Nevile's care for the external embellishment of the College was resumed by Bentley. The Chapel, begun in 1557 and finished in Elizabeth's reign, was through Bentley's efforts entirely refitted, and furnished with a fine organ by Bernard Smith. This work was completed in 1727. The grounds beyond the river, acquired by Nevile, were first laid out by Bentley; and the noble avenue of limes, planted in 1674 on the west side of the Cam, was continued in 1717 from the bridge to the College.
But unfortunately it was his resolve to be absolute, and he proclaimed it in a manner which was altogether his
The College Bursar (a Fellow) having protested against the lavish outlay on the repairs of the Master's Lodge, Bentley said that he would "send him into the country to feed his turkeys.” When the Fellows opposed him in the same matter, he alluded to his power,
under the Statutes, of forbidding them to leave the College, and cried, “Have you forgotten my rusty sword ?" The Fellow who held the office of Junior Bursar had demurred to paying for a hen-house which had been put in the Master's yard; Bentley, doubtless in allusion to Lafontaine's fable of “the Old Lion,” replied, “I will not be kicked by
an ass”—and presently strained his prerogative by stopping the Junior Bursar's commons. Remonstrances being made, he grimly rejoined, “'Tis all but lusus jocusque (mere child's-play); I am not warm yet." Criticising a financial arrangement which was perfectly legitimate, but of which he disapproved, he accused the Seniors of “robbing the Library," and "putting the money in their own pockets." He harassed the society by a number of petty regulations, in which we may give him credit for having aimed at a tonic effect, but which were so timed and executed as to be highly vexatious. Thus, in order to force the Fellows to take the higher degrees, he procured the decision, after a struggle, that any Bachelor or Doctor of Divinity should have a right to College rooins or a College living before a Master of Arts, even though the latter was senior on the list of Fellows. As a measure of retrenchment, he abolished the entertainment of guests by the College at the great festivals. Taking the dead letter of the Statutes in its rigour, he decreed that the College Lecturers should be fined if they omitted to perform certain daily exercises in the hall, which were no longer needful or valuable; he also enforced, in regard to the thirty junior Fellows, petty fines for absence from chapel (which were continued to recent times). On several occasions he took into his own hands a jurisdiction which belonged to him only jointly with the eight Seniors. Thus, in one instance, he expelled two Fellows of the College by his sole fiat.
If Bentley is to be credited with the excellence of the intentions which declared themselves in such a form, recognition is certainly due to the forbearance shown by the Fellows of Trinity. Bentley afterwards sought to represent them as worthless men who resented his endeavours
to reform them. It cannot be too distinctly said that this was totally unjust. The Fellows, as a body, were liable to no such charges as Bentley in his anger brought against them; not a few of them were eminent in the University; and if there were any whose lives would not bear scrutiny, they were at most two or three, usually non-resident, and always without influence. It may safely be said that no large society of that time, in either University, would have sustained an inspection with more satisfactory results. The average College Fellow of that period was a moderately accomplished clergyman, whose desire was to repose in decent comfort on a small freehold. Bentley swooped on a large house of such persons-not ideal students, yet, on the whole, decidedly favourable specimens of their kind; he made their lives a burden to them, and then denounced them as the refuse of humanity when they dared to lift their heads against his insolent assumption of absolute power. They bore it as long as flesh and blood could. For nearly eight years they endured. At last, in December, 1709, things came to a crisis—almost by an accident.
Bentley had brought forward a proposal for redistributing the divisible income of the College according to a scheme of his own, one feature of which was that the Master should receive a dividend considerably in excess of his legitimate claims. Even Bentley's authority failed to obtain the acquiescence of the Seniors in this novel interpretation of the maxim, divide et impera. They declined to sanction the scheme. While the discussion was pending, Edmund Miller, a lay Fellow, came up to spend the Christmas vacation at Trinity. As an able barrister, who understood College business, he was just such an ally as the Fellows needed. He found them, he says, "looking like so many prisoners, which were uncertain whether to expect military execution, or the favour of decimation.” At a meeting of the Master and Seniors, it was agreed to hear Miller, as a representative of the junior Fellows, on the dividend question. Miller denounced the plan to Bentley's face, who replied by threatening to deprive him of his Fellowship. A few days later, an open rupture took place between the Seniors and Bentley, who left the room exclaiming, “Henceforward, farewell peace to Trinity College." Miller now drew up a declaration, which was signed by twenty-four resident Fellows, including the Seniors. It expressed a desire that Bentley's conduct should be represented “to those who are the proper judges thereof, and in such manner as counsel shall advise." Bentley, against the unanimous vote of the Seniors, and on a technical quibble of his own, now declared Miller's Fellowship void. Miller appealed to the Vicemaster, who, supported by all the Seniors, replaced him on the list. The Master again struck out his name. Miller now left for London. Bentley soon followed. Both sides were resolved on war.
Who were " the proper judges" of Bentley's conduct? The 46th chapter of Edward VI.'s Statutes for Trinity College recognised the Bishop of Ely as General Visitor. The Elizabethan Statutes omit this, but in their 40th chapter, which provides for the removal of the Master in case of necessity, incidentally speak of the Bishop as Visitor. Bentley, six years before (1703), had himself appealed to the Bishop of Ely on a point touching the Master's prerogative. No other precedent existed. Acting on this, the Fellows, in February, 1710, laid their “humble petition and complaint” before the Bishop of Ely. They brought, in general terms, a charge of malversation against Bentley, and promised to submit “the several particulars within a convenient time. Bentley now published a “Letter to the Bishop of Ely,” in which he made a most gross attack on the collective character of the Fellows, describing their Petition as “the last struggle and effort of vice and idleness against vertue, learning, and good discipline.” In July the Fellows presented“ the several particulars ” to the Bishop, in the form of an accusation comprising fiftyfour counts. The Statute prescribed that an accused Master should be “examined” before the Visitor. Hence each of the counts is interrogative. For example:
“TU by have you for many Years last past, wasted the College Bread, Ale, Beer, Coals, Wood, Turfe, Sedge, Charcoal, Linnen, Pewter, Corn, Flower, Brawn, and Bran ? &c."
'When by false and base Practices, as by threatning to bring Letters from Court, Visitations, and the like; and at other times, by boasting of your great Interest and Acquaintance, and that you were the Genius of the Age, and what great things you would do for the College in general, and for every Member of it in particular, and promising that you would for the future live peaceably with them, and never make any farther Demands, you had prevailed with the Senior Fellows to allow you several hundred Pounds for your Lodge, more than they first intended or agreed for, to the great Dissatisfaction of the College, and the wonder of the whole University, and all that heard of it: Why did you the very next Year, about that time, merely for your own Vanity, require them to build you a new Staircase in your Lodge? And when they (considering how much you had extorted from them before, which you had never accounted for) did for good reason deny to do it: Why did you of your own Head pull down a good Stair-case in your Lodge, and give Orders and Directions for building a new one, and that too fine for common Use ?"
“LUhy did you use scurrilous Words and Language to several of the Fellows, particularly by calling Mr. Eden an Ass, and Mr. Rashly the College Dog, and by telling Mr. Cock he would die in his Shoes ?”