Richard Busby

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Richard Busby (1606 - 1695) was an English clergyman, and headmaster of Westminster School.

He was born at Lutton in Lincolnshire, and educated at Westminster, where he first showed his academic promise by gaining a king's scholarship. From Westminster Busby proceeded to Christ Church College, Oxford, where he graduated in 1628. In his thirty-third year he had already become renowned for the obstinate zeal with which he supported the falling dynasty of the Stuarts, and was rewarded for his services with the prebend and rectory of Cudworth, with the chapel of Knowle annexed, in Somerset.

Next year he became head of Westminster, where his reputation as a teacher was soon established. He himself once boasted that sixteen of the bishops on the bench had been birched by him. No school in England has on the whole produced so many eminent men as Westminster did under the régime of Busby. Among the more illustrious of his pupils were Robert South, John Dryden, John Locke, Matthew Prior and Francis Atterbury.

As a headmaster, Busby was feared by his pupils for his reliance on corporal punishment. Alexander Pope satirized Doctor Busby in the 1743 edition of The Dunciad. The ghost of Busby comes forward, "Dripping with Infant's blood, and Mother's tears" (The Greater Dunciad IV 142) and proclaims the virtues of rote memorization for placing a "jingling padlock" on the mind.

Busby wrote and edited many works for the use of his scholars. His original treatises (the best of which are his Greek and Latin grammars), as well as those which he edited, have, however, long since fallen into disuse. Busby died in his ninetieth year, and was buried in Westminster Abbey, where his effigy is still to be seen.

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