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fore chose a route which led to a closed gate of Trinity College. Here a halt of some minutes took place in a muddy lane, before word could reach the principal entrance, where Bentley and an enthusiastic crowd were awaiting their Sovereign.
These little griefs, however, were nothing to the later troubles which this day's proceedings begat for Bentley. As it was thought that thirty-two new Doctors of Divinity might be too much for the King, Sunday's ceremonial had been limited to presenting a few of them as samples. Bentley, as Regius Professor of Divinity, had done his part admirably. But the next day, when the rest of the doctors were to be “created” at leisure, Bentley flatly refused to proceed, unless each of them paid him a fee of four guineas, in addition to the customary broad-piece. As the degrees were honorary, the claim was sheer extortion. Some complied, others resisted. Conyers Middleton, the biographer of Cicero, was at this time a resident in Cambridge, though no longer a Fellow of any College. He paid his four guineas, got his D.D. degree, and then sued Bentley for the debt in the Vice-chancellor's Court, a tribunal of academic jurisdiction in such matters. After months of fruitless diplomacy, the Vice-chancellor reluctantly issued a decree for Bentley's arrest at Middleton's suit. The writ was served on Bentley at Trinity Lodgenot, however, before one of the Esquire Bedells had been treated with indignity. Bail was given for Bentley's appearance before the Court on October 3, 1718. He failed to appear. The Court then declared that he was suspendcd from all his degrees. A fortnight later, a Grace was offered to the Senate, proposing that Bentley's degrees should be not merely suspended but taken away. Bentley's friends did their utmost. To the honour of the Fel
lows of Trinity, only four of them voted against him. But the Grace was carried by more than two to one. Nine Heads of Colleges and twenty-three Doctors supported it.
When the Master of Trinity learned that he was no longer Richard Bentley, D.D., M.A., or even B.A., but simply Richard Bentley, he said, “I have rubbed through many a worse business than this.” He instantly bestirred himself with his old vigour, petitioning the Crown, appealing to powerful friends, and dealing some hard knocks in the free fight of pamphlets which broke out on the question. For nearly six years, however, he remained under the sentence of degradation. During that period he brought actions of libel against his two principal adversaries, Colbatch, and Conyers Middleton. Colbatch suffered a week's imprisonment and a fine. Middleton was twice prosecuted; the first time, he had to apologise to Bentley, and pay costs; the second time he was fined. During the years 1720–1723 Bentley had altogether six lawsuits in the Court of King's Bench, and gained all of them. The last and most important was against the University, for having taken away his degrees. That act had undoubtedly been illegal. The four Judges all took Bentley's part. On February 7, 1724, the Court gave judgment. The University received peremptory direction to restore Bentley's degrees. That command was obeyed, but with a significant circumstance. On March 25, 1724, the Vicechancellor was to lay the first stone of the new buildings designed for King's College. In order that Bentley might not participate as a Doctor in the ceremonial, the Grace restoring his degrees was offered to the Senate on March 26.
Thus, after fifteen years of almost incessant strife, the Master of Trinity had prevailed over opposition both in the College and in the University. He was sixty-two. His fame as a scholar was unrivalled. As a controversialist he had proved himself a match, in different fields, for wits, heretics, and lawyers. At Cambridge, where he was now the virtual leader of the Whig party in the Senate, his influence had become pre-eminent. And as if to show that he had passed through all his troubles without stain, it was in this year, 1724, that the Duke of Newcastle wrote and offered him the Bishopric of Bristol — then rather a poor one. Bentley declined it, frankly observing that the revenues of the see would scarcely enable him to attend Parliament. When he was asked what preferment he would accept-“Such," he answered, "as would not induce me to desire an exchange.”
The remainder of this combative life, it might have been thought, would now be peaceful. But the last chapter is the most curious of all. It can be briefly told. Dr. Colbatch, the ablest of Bentley's adversaries in Trinity College, had never resigned the purpose of bringing the Master to justice. It had become the object for which he lived : private wrongs bad sunk into his mind; but he believed himself to be fulfilling a public duty. In 1726 he vainly endeavoured to procure intervention by the Dean and Chapter of Westminster, on the ground of certain grievances suffered by the Westminster scholars at Trinity College. In 1728 he was more successful. Some Fellows of Trinity joined him in a fresh attempt to obtain a visitation of the College by the Bishop of Ely. There was, in fact, good reason for it. Bentley's rule had become practically absolute, and therefore unconstitutional. While Colbatch's new allies were preparing their measures death nearly saved them the trouble. George II. had visited Cambridge, and had been received in full state at
Trinity College. Bentley, who was subject to severe colds, had caught a chill during the ceremonies of the reception, in the course of which he had been called on to present no fewer than fifty-eight Doctors of Divinity. He was seized with fever. For some days his life was in most imminent danger. But he rallied, and, after taking the waters at Bath, recovered. Five Counsel having expressed an opinion that the Bishop of Ely was General Visitor of the College, Dr. Greene, who now held that see, cited Bentley to appear before him. Bentley did so; but presently obtained a rule from the Court of King's Bench, staying the Bishop's proceedings on the ground that the articles of accusation included matters not cognizable by the Bishop. The question of the Bishop's jurisdiction was next brought before the King's Bench. The Court decided that the Bishop was in this cause Visitor — but again stayed his proceedings— this time on the ground of a technical informality. The prosecutors now appealed to the House of Lords. The House of Lords reversed the decision of the King's Bench, and empowered the Bishop to try Bentley on twenty of the sixty-four counts which had been preferred.
After the lapse of nearly twenty years, Bentley was once more arraigned at Ely House. This second trial began on June 13, 1733. On April 27, 1734, the Bishop gave judgment. Bentley was found guilty of dilapidating the College goods and violating the College Statutes. He was sentenced to be deprived of the Mastership.
At last the long chase was over and the prey had been run to earth. No shifts or doublings could save him now. It only remained to execute the sentence. The Bishop sent down to Cambridge three copies of his judgment. One was for Bentley. Another was to be posted on the gates of Trinity College. A third was to be placed in the hands of the Vice-master.
The fortieth Statute of Elizabeth, on which the judgment rested, prescribes that the Master, if convicted by the Visitor, shall be deprived by the agency of the Vicemaster. It has been thought-and Monk adopts the view —that the word Vice-master here is a mere clerical error for Visitor. The tenor of the Statute itself first led me to doubt this plausible theory. For it begins by saying that a peccant Master shall first be admonished by the Vice-master and Seniors: per Vice Magistrum, etc., ... admoneatur, If obdurate, he is then to be examined by the Visitor; and, if convicted, per eundem Vice-magistrum Officio Magistri privetur. This seems to mean: “let him be deprived by the same Vice-master who had first admonished him.” The Statute intended to provide for the execution of the sentence by the College itself, without the scandal of any external intervention beyond the purely judicial interposition of the Visitor. I have since learned that the late Francis Martin, formerly Vice-master, discussed this point in a short paper (Nov. 12, 1857), which Dr. Luard's kindness has enabled me to see. Dr. Monk had seen a copy of the Statutes in which Visitatorem was written as a correction over Vice-magistrum. He believed this copy to be the original one; and when in 1846 Martin showed him the really authentic copy-with Elizabeth's signature and the Great Seal-in the Muniment-room, he at once said, “I never saw that book.” There the words stand clearly Vice-magrm, as in the Statutes of Philip and Mary; there is no correction, superscript or marginal; and the vellum shows that there has been no erasure. The Vice-master, who takes the chief part in admitting the Master (Stat. Cap. 2), is the natural minister of depriva.