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Edmund Clerihew Bentley

Edmund Clerihew Bentley Edmund Clerihew Bentley[1†]

Edmund Clerihew Bentley (1875–1956), known as E. C. Bentley, was an English novelist and humorist, credited with inventing the clerihew verse. Born in London, he attended St Paul’s School and Merton College, Oxford. His poetry collection "Biography for Beginners" popularized the clerihew form. His detective novel "Trent’s Last Case" was influential in modern mystery fiction. He wrote a sequel and short stories featuring the character Trent. Bentley also dabbled in science fiction and was the father of illustrator Nicolas Bentley[1†][2†][3†][4†].

Early Years and Education

Edmund Clerihew Bentley was born on July 10, 1875, in London, England[1†][5†][6†]. His father, John Edmund Bentley, was a civil servant and also a rugby union international, having played in the first-ever international match for England against Scotland in 1871[1†].

Bentley was educated at the prestigious St Paul’s School in London, where he met G.K. Chesterton, who became his closest friend[1†][3†][6†]. This period of his life was significant as it marked the beginning of his interest in writing[1†][6†]. After St. Paul’s, Bentley attended Merton College, Oxford[1†][5†][3†].

After his education at Oxford, Bentley lived in London and studied law[1†][3†]. However, he soon abandoned law for journalism, which he practiced for most of his life[3†].

Career Development and Achievements

Edmund Clerihew Bentley began his career as a newspaper journalist, working for several newspapers including the Daily Telegraph[1†]. He also worked for the weekly The Outlook during the editorship of James Louis Garvin[1†]. Bentley’s career in journalism spanned several decades, with him serving as a foreign affairs editor from 1912 to 1934 and as a chief literary critic from 1939 to 1947[1†][7†].

Bentley’s literary career was marked by his invention of the clerihew, an irregular form of humorous verse on biographical topics[1†][3†][6†]. His first published collection of poetry, titled Biography for Beginners (1905), popularized this form[1†]. This was followed by two other collections, More Biography (1929) and Baseless Biography (1939)[1†].

His detective novel Trent’s Last Case (1913) was much praised, with Dorothy L. Sayers among its admirers[1†]. The novel, with its labyrinthine and mystifying plotting, can be seen as the first truly modern mystery[1†]. It was adapted as a film in 1920, 1929, and 1952[1†]. The success of Trent’s Last Case inspired Bentley to write a sequel, Trent’s Own Case (1936), and a book of Trent short stories, Trent Intervenes (1938)[1†].

From 1936 until 1949, Bentley served as president of the Detection Club[1†]. He contributed to two crime stories for the club’s radio serials broadcast in 1930 and 1931[1†].

First Publication of His Main Works

Edmund Clerihew Bentley’s literary career was marked by several significant publications that left a lasting impact on literature[1†][3†].

Bentley’s works, particularly his invention of the clerihew and his contributions to detective fiction, have had a profound influence on literature[1†][3†].

Analysis and Evaluation

Edmund Clerihew Bentley’s work has been widely recognized for its originality and impact on literature[1†][8†][7†]. His invention of the clerihew, a unique form of humorous verse, demonstrated his creativity and wit[1†][8†]. This new poetic form, characterized by its four-line structure and AABB rhyme scheme, was first introduced in his book “Biography for Beginners” and quickly gained popularity[1†][8†].

Bentley’s contributions to detective fiction were also significant[1†][9†][7†]. His novel “Trent’s Last Case” is considered the first truly modern mystery[1†][9†]. The book was praised for its realism, craftsmanship, and believability, marking a departure from the melodrama and purple prose that had dominated detective novels before Bentley’s time[1†][9†]. The novel’s success led Bentley to write a sequel, “Trent’s Own Case”, and a collection of Trent short stories, "Trent Intervenes"[1†].

Critics have noted that Bentley brought a new level of sophistication to the detective novel[1†][9†]. His work is characterized by intricate plotting and a focus on character development, which added depth and complexity to the genre[1†][9†].

Despite his significant contributions to literature, evaluating Bentley’s legacy is challenging[1†][9†]. His influence is evident in the continued popularity of the clerihew and the evolution of detective fiction, but his impact extends beyond these genres[1†][8†][9†][7†].

Personal Life

Edmund Clerihew Bentley was born on July 10, 1875, in Shepherd’s Bush, England[5†]. His father, John Edmund Bentley, was a civil servant and also a rugby union international, having played in the first-ever international match for England against Scotland in 1871[5†][1†][10†]. Bentley’s upbringing in such a family might have influenced his later life and career.

In 1902, Bentley married Violet Alice Mary Boileau[5†]. They had three children: Neil, Betty, and Nicholas[5†]. His son, Nicholas Bentley, became an illustrator[5†][1†], indicating that the creative streak ran in the family.

Bentley’s personal life seems to have been closely intertwined with his professional life. His friendships and relationships had a significant impact on his career. For instance, Gilbert Keith Chesterton, a fellow pupil at St Paul’s School, remained a lifelong friend[5†][6†]. Chesterton even dedicated his popular detective novel, “The Man Who Was Thursday,” to Bentley[5†][1†].

Bentley passed away on March 30, 1956[5†][1†][5†]. His legacy continues through his contributions to literature and the unique verse form he created.

Conclusion and Legacy

Edmund Clerihew Bentley left a lasting impact on the world of literature. His unique blend of humor and creativity, as seen in the clerihew form he invented, has inspired generations of poets and humorists to explore the playful side of verse. His detective novel, “Trent’s Last Case,” is considered the prototype of the modern detective novel[11†], and his mystery novels have captivated readers with their engaging plots and memorable characters.

Bentley’s work was not limited to crime fiction and clerihews. He also wrote at least one science fiction short story[1†]. His contributions to literature were diverse and significant, demonstrating his versatility as a writer[1†].

Bentley’s legacy continues through his contributions to literature and the unique verse form he created. His work has had a lasting influence, and he is remembered for his creativity, wit, and contribution to the detective genre[1†].

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Wikipedia (English) - Edmund Clerihew Bentley [website] - link
  2. Poem Hunter - Edmund Clerihew Bentley - Poet Edmund Clerihew Bentley Poems [website] - link
  3. Britannica - E.C. Bentley: British author [website] - link
  4. My poetic side - Edmund Clerihew Bentley Poems > My poetic side [website] - link
  5. Encyclopedia.com - Bentley, E(dmund) Clerihew 1875-1956 [website] - link
  6. All Poetry - Edmund Clerihew Bentley - Poems by the Famous Poet [website] - link
  7. Prabook - Edmund Bentley (July 10, 1875 — March 30, 1956), British journalist, writer, barrister [website] [archive] - link
  8. Linda Hall Library - Edmund Clerihew Bentley [website] - link
  9. Golden Age of Detection Wiki - Bentley, EC [website] - link
  10. Find a Grave - Edmund Clerihew Bentley [website] - link
  11. Oxford Reference - Edmund Clerihew Bentley [website] - link
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