by Howard Coster, bromide print, 1953
by Howard Coster, bromide print, 1953

Born in Highgate, London, Nicholas Bentley was the son of E C Bentley the novelist and writer for the Daily Telegraph. He studied at University College School in London. He worked as a freelance journalist, author and humorous illustrator. During World War Two Bentley was Deputy Director of the Home Intelligence Unit and editor of publications for the Ministry of Information.

He became a distinguished satirical artist and illustrator, having trained at Heatherley’s School of Art, where Evelyn Waugh was a fellow-student. After unsuccessfully trying for a film career, he joined the advertising department of Shell for three years under Jack Beddington, where his colleagues were Rex Whistler, Peter Quennell, Edward Ardizzone, and John Betjeman. They, together with Bentley, were responsible for producing the Shell Guides, highly regarded in their day, and later collectors’ items. He drew cartoons for the Daily Mail from 1958 to 1962.

Of the three men who had most influenced him, his father-in-law Hastings ‘was the foremost, the other two being Jack Beddington of Shell, and Stephen (later Lord) Taylor, under whom he worked in the home intelligence department of the Ministry of Information in World War II. ‘Social historians of the middle decades of the twentieth century will find Bentley’s drawings invaluable, conveying, as they do, quietly and accurately the times in which he lived and the people with whom he associated’.

Information taken from: ‘Nicolas C. Bently’, Poster Database, London Transport Museum; Muggeridge, M., ‘Bentley, Nicolas Clerihew’, National Biography, 1995. (Taken from the IHR Database.)

Related texts: Bentley, N. A Version of the Truth, 1960

Featured Image Source (2015): National Portrait Gallery

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