Richard Bentley was born in 1662, the son of Thomas and Sarah Bentley at Oulton near Wakefield. In 1676 he was admitted as a subsizar to St John's College, Cambridge, whence he graduated BA in 1680. In 1682 he was appointed by his college to be master at Spalding school, but in the same year was employed by Edward Stillingfleet as tutor to his son and he duly lived with that family until 1689.
In 1690, Bentley took holy orders, allowing him to accept the position of Stillingfleet's chaplain when the latter became Bishop of Worcester. In 1692 Bentley became a Prebend of Worcester and in 1694 he was appointed Keeper of the Royal Libraries.
In 1700 Bentley was appointed Master of Trinity, where he remained until his death in 1742. For much of this time he was at loggerheads with the Fellowship. The disagreement, which began with some perceived attacks on the privileges of the fellows, escalated into a full-blown dispute when the fellowship, under the lead of Edmund Miller, persuaded the Bishop of Ely to try Bentley for acting contrary to the Elizabethan statutes. The case came to a premature end with the almost contemporaneous death of the Bishop and Queen Anne, but the matter rumbled on, Bentley being deprived of his University degrees in 1718. A second major attack was made by the Fellows in the period 1728-38 under the leadership of John Colebatch, and another trial took place before the Bishop of Ely in which, in 1734, Bentley was sentenced to be deprived of the Mastership. However, the act of deprivation could only be performed by the vice-Master and successive postholders refused to take action, so Bentley remained Master until his death
Although it would appear that Bentley had many distractions, he managed to pursue his classical studies throughout his life. He was, in effect, the founder of the Cambridge school of classical studies based around rigorous textual criticism. In exposing the Letters of Phalaris as a fraud he produced a critical masterpiece. In 1709 he published critical notes on the Tusculan Disputations, the following year he wrote his emendations on Menander and Philemon and in 1711 he published his Horace. In 1726 he published an edition of Terence and one of Manilius in 1739.
Papers relating to the case Bentley v Trinity College, papers relating to John Colebatch and the case against Bentley, notes on classical subjects, notes on biblical criticism, notes on miscellaneous subjects
These volumeshave been placed and catalogued within the College's collection of medieval manuscripts
See Richard Claverhouse Jebb, Bentley
R J White, Dr Bentley, a study in academic scarlet
Adam Fox, John Mill and Richard Bentley a study of the textual criticism of the New Testament, 1675-1729
J H Monk, The Life of Richard Bentley DD, Master of Trinity College and Regius Professor of Divinity in the University of Cambridge...
A T Bartholemew, Richard Bentley DD, a bibliography of his works and of all the literature called forth by his acts or his writings
Alexander Dyce (ed), The Works of Richard Bentley