Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. III. Seventeenth Century
An Apology for Resentment
By Richard Bentley (16621742)
From the Preface to the Dissertation on Phalaris
I WILL here crave the readers leave to make one general apology for anything, either in my Dissertation or my Defence of it, that may seem too severe. I desire but this favour, or justice rather, that he would suppose my case to be his own: and then, if he will say sincerely, that he should have answered so many calumnies with fewer marks of resentment, I am content to lie under his censure. But it is a very difficult thing for a person unconcerned and out of the reach of harm, to be a fair arbitrator here. He will be apt to think the injured party too angry; because he cannot have as great a passion in seeing the ill-usage, as the other has in feeling it. Even Job himself, with all his patience, was accused of losing his temper by his companions that had no share in his sufferings. Besides, there is a common fault in human nature, which I crave leave to express in Greek, [epicaricacy]. There is a secret pleasure, they say, in seeing another man under the risk of a shipwreck, while ones self is safe on the shore; and so we find the world is delighted to see one worried and run down, while themselves are made the spectators, and entertained with the diversion. Twas an excellent saying of Solons, and worthy of the wisest of the famous seven; who, when he was asked, [Greek]; What would rid the world of injuries? If the bystanders, says he, would have the same resentment with those that suffer the wrong; [Greek]. If the reader will but follow that great mans advice, and have an equal sense of ill-usage as if it had fallen upon himself; I dare then challenge him to think, if he can, that I have used too much severity.
I do not love the unmanly work of making long complaints of injuries; which, I think, is the next fault to deserving them. Much less will I imitate Mr. B.,1 who has raked together those few words of my Dissertation that had the least air of resentment, and repeated them six times over. For, if I was to enter into the particulars of his abuses, I must transcribe his whole book, which from beginning to end, is nothing else but a rhapsody of errors and calumnies.
But there is one rudeness that I ought not to omit; because it falls upon others as much as myself. I am satisfied, says he, how unnatural a step it is for an amanuensis to start up professor of divinity. I am persuaded every ingenuous reader must be offended at his insolence who could suffer such stuff as this to come out of his mouth; which is a double affront, both to the whole order of bishops, and to a whole University. As if a person, who in his youth had been an amanuensis to a bishop, was upon that account made unfit to be Doctor of Divinity; as if a whole University, which was pleased to confer that degree upon him, were neither fit judges of his merit, nor knew their own duty.
I should never account it any disgrace to have served the Right Reverend the Bishop of Worcester in any capacity of a scholar. But I was never amanuensis to his lordship nor to anybody else; neither did his lordship ever make use of any amanuensis: so little regard has this examiner either to decency or truth. I was tutor to his lordships son, and afterwards chaplain to himself; and I shall always esteem it both my honour and my happiness to have spent fourteen years of my life in his family and acquaintance, whom even envy itself will allow to be the glory of our church and nation; who, by his vast and comprehensive genius, is as great in all parts of learning as the greatest next himself are in any. And I have the satisfaction to believe, that this excellent person has not the worse opinion of my probity or my learning, for all the calumnies that the examiner has cast upon me.
As for the general character that Mr. B. endeavours to fix upon me, that I have no learning, no judgment, no reasoning, no knowledge in books, except indexes and vocabularies, with many other expressions of the utmost contempt, that make up the greatest part of his book; I do not think myself concerned to answer them. These things shall never make a dispute between us; he shall be as great as he thinks himself, and I as little as he thinks me. But then it will lie upon him to dispute with some other persons, who have been pleased to declare publicly such an esteem of me and my writings, as does not altogether agree with Mr. B.s.