Imágenes de páginas

that the Bishop was Special Visitor, but not General Visitor. Dr. Fleetwood said that, if he interfered at all, it must be as General Visitor, to do justice on all alike. This scared some of the weaker Fellows into making peace with Bentley, who kindly consented to drop his dividend scheme. In one sense the new Bishop's course was greatly to Bentley's advantage, since it raised the preliminary question over again. Miller vainly tried to move Dr. Fleetwood. Meanwhile Bentley was acting as autocrat of the College - dealing with its property and its patronage as he pleased. His conduct led to a fresh effort for redress.

The lead on this occasion was taken by Dr. Colbatch, now a Senior Fellow. From the beginning of the feuds, Colbatch had been a counsellor of moderation, disapproving much in the stronger measures advocated by Miller. He was an able and accomplished man, whose rigid maintenance of his own principles extorted respect even where it did not command sympathy. Colbatch's early manhood had been expended on performing the duties of private tutor in two families of distinction, and he had returned to College at forty, more convinced than ever that it is a mistake to put trust in princes. He was a dangerous eneiny because he seemed incapable of revenge; it was always on high grounds that he desired the confusion of the wicked; and he pursued that object with the temperate implacability which belongs to a disappointed man of the world. Since the Bishop of Ely wonld not act unless as General Visitor, Colbatch drew up a petition, which nineteen Fellows signed, praying that it might be ascertained who was General Visitor. This was encouraged by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Wake-—who described Bentley as "the greatest instance of human frailty that I know of, as with such good parts and so much learning he can be so insupportable.” The object of the petition was baulked for the time by the delays of the Attorney-general. After three years the petition came before the Privy Council in May, 1719.

Bentley was equal to the occasion. Serjeant Miller had presented the petition, and could withdraw it. For five years Bentley had been making active war on Miller, and renewing the attempt to eject him from his Fellowship. Now, towards the end of 1719, he made peace with him, on singular terms. Miller was to withdraw the petition ; to resign his Fellowship, in consideration of certain payments; and to receive the um of £400 as costs on account of the former prosecution before Bishop Moore. Miller agreed. Bentley then proposed the compact to the Seniors. Five of the eight would have nothing to say to it. By a series of manæuvres, however, Bentley carried it at a subsequent meeting. Serjeant Miller received £528 from the College. Who shall describe the feelings of the belligerent Fellows, when the Serjeant's strategy collapsed in this miserable Sedan? It was he who had made them go to war; it was he who had led them through the mazes of the law; they had caught his clear accents, learned his great language; and here was the end of it! But this was not all.

If the College is to pay costs on one side, the Master argued, it must pay them on both. Accordingly, Bentley himself received £500 for his own costs in the trial. And, anxious to make hay in this gleam of sunshine, he further prevailed on the Seniors to grant a handsome sum for certain furniture of the Master's Lodge. Bentley had no more to fear, at present, from the oppo sition of an organised party. For the next few years his encounters were single combats.

Such was the state of affairs in Trinity College. Mean while Bentley's relations with the University had come to an extraordinary pass. From the first days of his Mastership his reputation, his ability and energy had made him influential in Cambridge, though he was not generally popular. We saw that, before his appointment to Trinity, he had taken a leading part in the reparation of the University Press. He continued to show an active interest in its management by serving on occasional committees; no permanent Press Syndicate was constituted till 1737. Politics were keen at the University in Bentley's time: a division in the academic Senate was often a direct trial of strength between Whig and Tory. When Bentley struck a blow in these University battles, it was almost always with a view to some advantage in his own College war. Two instances will illustrate this. In June, 1712, when acting as Deputy Vice-chancellor, Bentley carried in the Senate an address to Queen Anne, congratulating her on the progress of the peace negotiations at Utrecht. The address was meant as a manifesto in support of the Tory Ministry, whom the Whigs had just been attacking on this score in the Lords. At that time Harley, the Tory Premier, was the protector on whom Bentley relied in his College troubles. The irritation of the Whig party in the University may have been one cause of a severe reflection passed on Bentley soon afterwards. The Senate resolved that no Archdeacon of Ely should thenceforth be eligible as Vice-chancellor; a decree which, however, was rescinded two years later. Then in 1716 Bentley sorely needed the countenance of the Whig Government against the revived hostilities in Trinity. By a surprise he carried through the Senate an address to George I., congratulating him on the recent suppression of the Jacobite risings, A letter of Bentley's describes the Cambridge Tories as being "in a desperate rage"-not wholly, perhaps, without provocation. It was shortly before this

in the early days of the Jacobite rebellion, when visions of a Roman Catholic reign were agitating the public imagination—that Bentley preached before the University, on the 5th of November, 1715, his “Sermon on Popery”—from which a passage on the tortures of the Inquisition has been transferred by Sterne to the pages of "Tristram Shandy," and deeply moves Corporal Trim. Bentley had then lately received the unusual honour of being publicly thanked by the Senate for his reply to “A Discourse of Free-thinking” by Anthony Collins. When the Regius Professorship of Divinitythe most valuable in the University-fell vacant in 1717, few persons, perhaps, would have questioned Dr. Bentley's claims on the grounds of ability and learning. But the Statute had declared that the Professor must not hold any other office in the University or in Trinity College. Two precedents were alleged to show that a Master of Trinity might hold the Professorship, but they were not unexceptionable. Of the seven electors, three certainly-presumably five-were against the Master of Trinity's pretensions. The favourite candidate was Dr. Ashton, Master of Jesus; and there are letters to him which show the strong feeling in the University against his rival. On the whole, most men would have despaired. Not so Bentley. By raising a legal point, he contrived to stave off the election for a few weeks; and then seized a propitious moment. The Vice-chancellor was one of the seven electors. It was arranged that Mr. Grigg, who held that office, should leave Cambridge for a few days, naming Bentley Deputy Vicechancellor. On the day of election the Master of Trinity was chosen Regius Professor of Divinity by four out of seven votes, one of the four being that of the Deputy Vice-chancellor. It was in this candidature that Dr. Bentley delivered an admired discourse on the three heavenly witnesses, which denied the authenticity of that text. It is no longer extant, but had been seen by Porson, who himself wrote on the subject.

This was in May, 1717. Not long afterwards Bentley had occasion to appear publicly in his new character of Regius Professor. Early in October, George I. was staying at Newmarket. On Friday, the 4th, his Majesty consented to visit Cambridge on the following Sunday. There was not much time for preparation, but it was arranged to confer the degree of Doctor of Laws on twenty-seven of the royal retinue, and that of Doctor of Divinity on thirtytwo members of the University. On Sunday morning Mr. Grigg, the Vice-chancellor, presented himself at Trinity Lodge, there to await the arrival of the Chancellor, “the proud Duke of Somerset.” Bentley was unprepared for this honour; he was “in his morning gown,” busied with meditations of hospitality or of eloquence; in fact, he remonstrated; but Mr. Grigg remained. At last the Chancellor came.

Bentley was affable, but a little distrait. “While he entertained the Duke in discourse," says one who was present, “there stood the Earl of Thomond and Bishop of Norwich, unregarded : and there they might have stood, if one of the Beadles had not touched his sleeve a little; and then he vouchsafed them a welcome also.” But worse was to come. George I. attended service at King's College Chapel. When it was over, the Vice-chancellor proceeded to conduct his Majesty back to Trinity College. But Mr. Grigg was desirous that royal eyes should behold his own College, Clare Hall, and there

« AnteriorContinuar »