• Henry Noel Bentinck

    In memoriam
    1919-1997

    This website is in memory of my father. He was the wisest man I ever knew and he left a legacy for future generations that has not been published. The Internet allows his ideas to live forever, instead of lying unseen on a high top shelf, and a lifetime of original thought being wasted.

    Timothy Bentinck
  • Obituary

    by Tom Read

    Henry Noel Bentinck, 11th Earl of Portland 
    2nd October 1919 - 30th January 1997 
     

    A non-conformist intellectual, deeply concerned about humanity's responsibility to its environment.

    Henry Bentinck, Earl of Portland, who has died at the age of 77, was a man far ahead of his time in understanding how fast we were losing our inheritance of the natural world. He knew as an environmentalist how and why Rachel Carson's sad prophecy of a silent spring could soon be with us. He came from an aristocratic family that had lost its wealth and land in an earlier period. He knew personally all about the loss of inheritance.

    He was not one to merely voice his concerns in private. His thriller Isoworg (International Society for World Government) espoused his ideas and he once hired Trafalgar Square for an afternoon to make his voice heard. His other publications include a children's adventure, The Avenue of Flutes; a popular science question-and-answer book, Anyone Can Understand the Atom; and a television play, Countdown at Woomera. The last six years of his life have been spent working on his fourth and most important book, 'Life is a Sum Humanity is Doing Wrong'.This is a philosophical assessment of the position humanity finds itself in today and what the future holds. In later years young people in particular were delighted to find support for their unconventional ways and ideas from this unlikely figure.

     Henry Bentinck was born in 1919, a Count of the Holy Roman Empire with a Royal Licence of 1886 to use the title in England. His father died when he was 12 and his mother seven years later. His mother was Lady Norah Noel, eldest daughter of the Earl of Gainsborough, and for the first six years of his life, Henry grew up to love the woods and streams of the Gainsborough seat at Exton where they lived in a cottage in the park.

     Bentinck always had an independent spirit. After education at Harrow, he was sent to Sandhurst. He left after only a term amidst press headlines - "Count missing from Sandhurst" - went to America where he worked as a cowboy in California for a year. He returned to England in 1939, and in 1940 married Pauline Mellowes. With the outbreak of war, Henry had promptly registered as a Conscientious Objector, expounding the idea of the unity of mankind's spiritual existence and the unique consciousness of humanity, a quite extraordinary idea from a twenty-year-old of that period. However, his innate sense of patriotism and the death of a close friend soon made him realise that he could not sustain his views. He joined the family regiment, the Coldstream Guards, as a private soldier. He was soon commissioned as a Lieutenant and served with distinction in Italy at Camino, was wounded twice and the second time taken prisoner shortly before the crossing of the river Po. The news of his capture made a front page story in the Daily Telegraph under the headline "Count Missing Again". On reading the story, a relation thought he had deserted from the front line and left the Bentinck money intended for Henry to a number of other people. He remained a prisoner of war until 1945. On his release, he rejoined the regiment as part of the garrison in Trieste.

    After the war, he joined the BBC as a talks producer. This job brought him in touch with the work of people such as Professor N.S. Shaler, who had forecast ecological catastrophe as early as the 1900s. Ideas like these reinforced his view that the abuse of the environment would be fatal to our civilisation. It led him to accept an offer of employment as a "jackaroo" on a sheep station in Tasmania. He emigrated there with his family in 1952. Events there gave them no option but to return to England in 1955 where he rejoined the BBC.

    Here, he joined Bob Craddock, the first producer of "Today", with Jack de Manio as presenter. He also produced the series "The Younger Generation" and worked for further education which helped him in the selective pursuit of his principal interests and also enabled him to write his first book, Anyone Can Understand the Atom.

    In 1959 he left the BBC to join J Walter Thompson as an advertising producer. There he gained a reputation for innovation and daring, producing over 600 commercials. Who of us will forget the stunning images of the Nimble balloon or the Kipling cake campaign. The advertising industry still remembers "The Count" in raccoon skin coat, black eye patch and convertible VW Beetle.

    In 1967, his wife Pauline died. His increasing interest and expertise in the dangers facing the environment made him decide to leave the advertising world. Together with his new wife, Jenny Hopkins whom he married in 1974, he moved to Devon where initially with the help of his son and daughter-in-law, then single-handedly, they set up and ran a self-sufficient 10 acre organic smallholding and guesthouse which they managed with great success for the next six years.

    Now in his sixties, the workload proved too much, and in 1982, Henry moved with Jenny to a beautiful thatched farmhouse in North Devon. There, he devoted himself to his writing. He struck up a close friendship with the writer James Lovelock, whose respect and encouragement enabled Henry to finish Life is a Sum...

    In 1990, the dukedom of Portland died out and Henry succeeded to the earldom of Portland. He had always wanted to use the political platform of the House of Lords to further the environmental causes he had espoused for most of his life and his maiden speech took up the theme. He called on his fellow peers to take a lead in the environmental debate - "to keep their 'green' hat on always" - and not merely talk about sustainability, but work to create an economy that the environment could sustain. He urged them to help people face up to the fact that civilisation no longer serves our best interests but threatens them. Failing health prevented him from having the impact that he had hoped, but his legacy will not be forgotten.

    He married first in 1940, Pauline Mellowes, who died in 1967; they had one son and two daughters, Sorrel and Anna. He married secondly, in 1974, Jenny Hopkins. Heir, Timothy Bentinck, Viscount Woodstock.
     

    Tom Read
     

  • Philosophy

    Henry had a unique world view. From a very early age, he saw things differently to almost everyone else

    "Life Is a Sum Humanity is Doing Wrong"

    The book that Henry spent the last seven years of his life writing. It's what he was all about. It is incomplete.

     

    "If civilisation and population are allowed to continue unmodified on their present expansionist courses it will cause ecological catastrophe which will destroy that civilisation and most of that population."

     

    Read it here

    House of Lords Maiden Speech

    The platform that he had longed for. At last he had an audience for his ideas.

     

    Read it here

    Statement to the Conscientious Objectors' Tribunal

    20 years old and his views already so strong.

     

    Ultimately he changed his mind, fought with distinction, was wounded twice and taken prisoner.

     

    Read it here

     

    Transcript of Conscientious Objectors' Tribunal

    Foolish young man, you so nearly got yourself locked up. Typical Henry - he was right and everyone else in the world was wrong!

     

    Read it here

     

    Extract from James Lovelock's "Homage to Gaia"

    They became close friends in Henry's last years. Lovelock writes of their friendship and of Henry's original ideas.

     

    Read it here

     

    "Clogs to Clogs in Six Hundred Years"

    Henry's autobiography. Sadly incomplete, but intimate, fascinating and beautifully written.
     
  • Published work

    Henry wrote all his life, and I have put some of his work onto this site in the Philosophy section. THere are the books he had published in his lifetime.

    Anyone Can Understand the Atom
    1965

    A popular science book, explaining the basics of atomic theory

    Are you ever mystified by what you read or hear in conversation about the atom? If you are this book is specially for you because it is conversation. Conversation about the atom designed to be easy for the layman to follow. It explains what an atom is - how matter is built up and how energy is released. It explains enough about genetics to show why atomic radiation is so dangerous to living things and describes some of the many uses to which the atom can be put.
    Read it and you will not only be able to follow a conversation about the atom, you'll be able to contribute to it.
    Atomic power has become an essential part of our age, yet there is a growing danger that democratic control over the influence of science upon our lives will slip out of the hands of the electorate simply because we are not equipped to understand the issues involved. Here we have the means of making informed political decisions.
    356 01187 9

    The Avenue of Flutes
    1966

    A charming children's book.

    Tamsyn Firebrace lives in her grandparents' huge house in the west of Ireland. Her twin brother, Justin, has gone to look for their father, who has disappeared. One night, Tamsyn walks into a dream world, where she finds Justin, and where the people she knows - two schoolmasters, her grandfather, his visitors, a cruel groom - reappear under srtrange guises, and where animals talk. The sisister bear, Bondorofski, is dictator of this dream country. Tamsyn and Justin, determined to overthrow him, win some of the animals to their side. War breaks out. The battle rages faster and furiouser. Who will win?
    Here is an enchanting story for children, packed with inventiveness, drama, fun and fantasy. The topsy-turvy world Tamsyn finds herself in is as logical and surprising as Alice's Wonderland. And Tamsyn herself? - well she is a General's grand-daughter, the most charming, daring, resourceful heroine you are likely to meet this year.

     

    Isoworg
    1971

    A spy thriller that foresees the Internet, the iPhone and Wikileaks!

    ISOWORG was written in the mid sixties and within the first two chapters Henry foresees the Internet, "Thorne was connected to a network of computers that housed the sum of the world's knowledge", the iPhone, "he communicated with it via a radio device the size of a cigarette case", and Wikileaks, "the job of the Isoworg spies was to discover the secrets of all the world's governments and publish them in the newspapers".

    ISOWORG is the International Society for World Government; a society whose policy is to publish all secrets to the world, reasoning that secrecy breeds jitters and that a jittery finger is a bad thing to have on an atomic button. For this it needs agents, special agents. Agents trained to perfection not only in the ways of spying but in the knowledge of themselves.
    Thorne is invited to join ISOWORG and accepts. He rescues a Dutch scientist in danger of abduction by a foreign power and ISOWORG publishes his breakthrough in the use of power from atomic fusion to the world; and brings back from Samarkand secrets which will help towards the final formula for restraining plasma at temperatures of millions of degrees.
    Caught up in a world of violence and intrigue he is involved in a breath-taking skating race across 120 miles of frozen canals in Friesland; a blood-curdling BasKashi where, instead of the usual tethered goat, Natasha, Thorne's assistant, is the bait; and finally plucks two hostages from the heart of Russia, fighting it out in a gun battle in a Paris hotel.
    Brutal and exciting, this highly original first novel by Henry Bentinck holds the reader's attention from one action-packed page to another. Once started it is impossible to put down.

    7181 0876 0

     

  • Videos

    Henry's commercials and in person

    TV Commercials

    by Henry Bentinck
    A collection of commercials produced and often written by Henry for J. Walter Thompson in the 60s and 70s

    Maiden Speech to the House of Lords

    'Keep your green hats on always'
    At last, a political platform for his prescient environmentalist philosophy

    Telling the story of the Nimble shoot

    Henry at home, in story mode
    Sorry about Will tinkling on the piano in the background!

    Henry at 70

    With his family at Little Cudworthy
    Starts off in full pro-women didactic mode!
     
    Password is 'henry'
  • Music

    Henry was completely tone deaf. This didn't stop him writing a musical!
    "The Trend" was written at the peak of the 'Swingin' Sixties'. Here are some tracks recorded by none less than Johnny Dankworth and Cleo Laine!

  • Visitors' Book

    Some reflections from friends

    Feliz Bennett

    "Henry did change my life in many ways, but mainly in deciding to make advertising my career. When people ask me (now an august Professor of Communications ? perlease!) about how I started off I tell them about accidentally meeting Bernard Gutteridge on a slow Sunday train but also about debouching from a viewing theatre into a miserable grey Soho dawn after watching 78 versions, over and over, of a spoon going into a mug of Horlicks. I recount how the man I was with grasped my arm and said, "Do you realise they're PAYING us for this?" and me thinking: "I guess I want to be in a job where at a moment like this I can still feel like that..."
    That man was Henry."

    Liz Francke

    "Out location hunting with Henry and Jenny: Sussex farmland on an evening in late November; the leaves gone, the light fading, the rooks flying home to roost and the autumn chill beginning to bite. I asked: "What`s your favourite season Henry?"
    He looked round the wide, dim landscape and answered 'I love all seasons, Liz'."

    Monika Palmer von Maltzahn

    Few can have the strange blessing of meeting their absolute opposite in life. Henry and I were such opposites.

    We met in the summer of 1955 - a very bright and sunny summer. Julian Slade's 'Salad Days', Sandy Wilson's 'Boyfriend', and 'Kismet' by Wright & Forest - with melodies by Borodin - were all on at the same time. After a lunch party in my cousin's house, returning from the Davies' School of English, I found Henry with a little note book in his hand, into which he wrote what people said. He explained that he was writing a novel.

    Both shocked and damaged by the war, our experiences were so different, that we talked all afternoon. Henry had been a conscientious objector, been sent a white feather, become an ensign in a guards regiment, been wounded and taken prisoner, and had now returned with his wife and children from Tasmania - I had spent the war as a child in the deepest countryside of north Germany, driving to school with two black Shetland ponies, and war only became a reality for me when it was over. On the other hand I had been a refugee at 10 and spent five days on a trek, which was bombed, ending up in Schleswig-Holstein, which became the British zone.
    Ten years at least before Adorno et al. published "The Authoritarian Personality" Henry thought that Hitler could happen in any country in the world, not just Germany. (But this could not comfort a German).

    Henry was working for the BBC and invited me to Langham Place for a discussion amongst young Europeans on their respective countries' customs.
    Much later he wrote: "Did you know I was a member of a society called 'Federal Union' in 1938. I have grown more insular with age - emotionally - not intellectually. I argue that Federal Europe is the only safe way to guarantee national idiosyncrasies."

    At the BBC venture was a very talkative German girl who described a way of life I had never come across as typically German - there was nothing I could contribute and so I was quiet.
    Afterwards Henry took me for a drink and told me that if I disagreed, I should have said so. I said it would have achieved nothing but 2 Germans arguing on a British radio station. I think that was already, when he started on Wagner, claiming that all Germans loved his music. I don't like it at all and over the years I realised that it was Henry who loved Wagner: he is still the only person I know who sat through the entire Ring and to him, thinking in pictures so much, Wagner's music would have a special significance.

    We found always lots of things to argue over - once we argued the entire length of the embankment, then all the way back, which impressed Henry so much, he never forgot it! Nor did I, for he accused me of speaking in platitudes when, in fact, as a non-English-speaker, I invented every platitude myself and this only showed that it was the best way to express whatever one was trying to say - and that is how unfairly it might have become a platitude but not for me, and so on!

    Even in 1955 he was beginning a novel which later had the working title "The Dragon's Tooth" (to receive the Golden Fleece, Jason of the Argonauts had to plough a field and plant a dragon's teeth. But from each tooth an armed man sprang up to pursue Jason, who threw a stone into their midst, which caused them to fight and slay each other, and Jason es-caped).
    The opening scene of the novel was a dogfight between a Spitfire and a Messerschmitt in and out of the clouds with the 'Dance of the Valkyries' as musical background. (The German gets shot down and later walks into a Sussex country house where the story begins.)

    Henry and I sometimes did not see each other for years but it was always easy to pick up where we left off. In the '60s we both worked in advertising, Henry at J.W.T. as a director of commercials, I at Y&R as a writer of commercials - both are now united under the name of WPP, as I recently heard. Also, as far as Henry's illegible handwriting allowed, we corresponded, for instance about the German element in "The Dragon's Tooth". Once he apologised for not having replied: "I did in fact write a long letter explaining all - about 120 pages in my book […] - you can read it there with more pleasure."
    But then he wrote: "…the old guru in me has forced me to write a book about life being a sum we are doing wrong etc. and if I started I might never stop." So it seems that perhaps the anti-war book was abandoned for the sake of the anti-destruction of the world book. Henry always said that he would not finish the book on "The Sum" because it would kill him.

    When I was working in Munich, Henry came to look for locations over which to float loaves of 'Nimble' and, with some local friends, we showed him quite a lot of Bavaria, including the Baroque Churches - the sun was shining on the mountains all around, and these churches are so delightful, so filled with light and beauty and music! Henry loved every minute and even was in tears at one stage, so overcome was he by a vision.
    In return, some time later, Henry took me on a grey flat English day across grey flat English countryside to show me Canterbury Cathedral which was a truly great contrast: black, cold, damp, the killing place of Archbishop Thomas Becket all pointed out. When we came out a great gale had blown up and we went to a Lifeboat station - I freezing cold and a water phobic - even in memory the waves on the Channel that day make me feel ill, though it all delighted Henry enormously: "You have to love every weather!" he said.

    I first heard from him the idea that we are made of the same atoms and molecules as our surroundings, be they animal, plant, mineral, whatever - recently I found an old letter he wrote sometime in the '80s: "I think its true that all people in all eras at some point in their lives are certain that there is 'something more besides', something more than the material explicable world. They have called this something 'God' and claimed that it is infinite, eternal, omnipotent and omniscient. And they have done this basically because they just had the 'feeling' that there was something 'just around the corner of the mind'.
    "Now the ecology of the earth has maintained itself for 3 1/2 thousand million years. That is so much of eternity as I could ever feel. It has sustained in balance a variety of life so huge that it feels to me as though it were infinite. Such a feat feels to me like omniscience and omnipotence.
    "Thus my belief is that the actual presence, all around me, of Gaia, the living 'eternal' earth from whose atoms I have evolved and which resonate in me and it - between whom, at the subnuclear level, the boundaries are completely tenuous - to whom I am linked through the collective unconscious of mankind and the palpable unconscious of the flora and fauna and ecology of the world - this immanent presence that we feel when we say 'there is something more besides' is what we mean by God. We need look no further. "The important thing about this idea (which is not new - only a bit more modern!) is that it does not require that God is external and reality - an outside chap who tells everybody what's what - or a universal spirit - or a divine ground of all being spreading through the universe like a quantum field. All such ideas are in the divisive - dualistic - or so gigantic and impossible to launch oneself onto that they leave one where one was - lonely - separate etc.
    "I feel that I am part of this earth, which, in the person of the English countryside, I adore. And I hate the farmers and agro businessmen for wanting to destroy it so as to be able to have noisier motorbikes and more caviar. G.K.Chesterton, a great Catholic, argues against those who said that religious wars were a contradiction in ethical terms, adding that to him the only possibly jus-tifyable reason for going to war would be a religious one. Which means I am allowed to shoot the farmer who is getting my God hooked on drugs.
    "Imagine the scale of the crime which in Christian terms is like injecting Jesus with heroin or being a 'pusher' at the Pearly Gates."

    Later he sent me "The Tao of Physics" by Fritjof Capra, who calls this feeling part of the rhythm of all cosmic energy around and within himself 'The Dance of Shiva'. But I could not find my way there, instead I converted to the Catholic Church.

    In younger years Henry used to mock dreadfully, for instance that aristocracy represented nothing but "500 years of ignorance and inbreeding" (800 in my case!) and so I was delighted, and having my own back, when he asked me to help him find his German ancestors' documents in order to reclaim his title. I found the German papers (but he found the crucial one for "drowned off Malta") and so became the Earl of Portland. He began to attend the House of Lords and was incredibly impressed with the many interests and great expertise he found there.

    On 17th February 1993 I was invited to lunch there by "E of Portland", I had salsifies, Henry explained the exact meaning of the word 'copious', then showed me around.
    When I left he waved, framed in the little doorway from which one calls taxis, and I thought how I would always remember him exactly like this: standing there smiling with his smart silvery hair and his gentle and delightful charm.

    We talked on the telephone several times after this - once he told me a marvellous quote from one of Churchill's speeches: "When Mr.Schickelgruber dared to tweak the British Lion's tail, I felt honoured to be called upon to roar!" Another time I told him how a healer, who could see people's aura, had described this to me as masses of colourful Catherine wheels buzzing all around a person - without a moment's hesitation Henry said: "That makes the greatest sense! If you think of a DNA spiral and then look at it from above, that would be exactly what you saw!"

    Having fought so passionately against the self-destructive urge of mankind, the day of his death was also the 25th anniversary of "Bloody Sunday", the day when 14 unarmed civil rights marchers in Londonderry were shot by British soldiers.
    At his memorial service the Londonderry Air was sung.
    His friendship was a great gift.
  • Please contribute to this site

    If you knew Henry, do add your memories to the visitors' book.