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Unfortunately for Bentley, his personality and persona resembled those of Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood (2007). The tone of his writings was aggressive and peremptory, not to say bullying, toward his readers. His treatment of his underlings in Cambridge University was so vile that he was repeatedly sued, eventually stripped of his degrees, and finally ejected from the mastership of Trinity College.Learn more about Richard Bentley at the Harvard University Press website.
But it was in the actual contents of Bentley's literary scholarship that his violent disposition emerged most clearly. His greatest notoriety rests on his work as a textual critic — that is, deciding whether the traditional words in a text are correct. Here, Bentley slashed and burned gleefully, whether his target was the lyric poet Horace, the playwright Terence, or the very recently departed John Milton. Bentley attacked not only authors but the idea of authorship itself: he might accurately have said, with Day-Lewis' egregious oilman Daniel Plainview,
"I have a competition in me. I want no one else to succeed. I hate most people."This ruthless and combative Bentley is what's revealed to us by a wide-ranging crane shot, if you will. But a close-up of Bentley in the act of working shows us a different character, less alarming but still wonderfully strange: someone like John...[read on]
Kristine Louise Haugen is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at The California Institute of Technology.
My Book, The Movie: Richard Bentley: Poetry and Enlightenment.