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SP^e STrustteest of ISr Beirut Wiill 







I. 8T ANDREWS, .... 




V. HOME AGAIN, .... 


XVI. DR bell's character AND SYSTEM, 









Andrew Bell was bom in the city of St Andrews on 
the 27th of March 1753. 

St Andrews is a place so full of contrasts between 
new and old, town and country, barbarism and Chris- 
tianity, that one or two words may be useful about it. 
The traveller on reaching it sees at once that he has 
fallen out of the ordinaiy track — has gone away from 
the common world, and that he has come into an out- 
lying place, — which cannot be judged by the usual 
standards we apply to villages, and towns, and cities. 
Such a cold stony hideousness of street, such a glory 
of sky, alternately chills and depresses, or lifts and in- 
spires him. Old ruins, rising up bare and gaunt into 
the heaven, long reaches of monotonous street, quiet 
fields looking suddenly in upon the town, a bay of the 
most changeful hues — sometimes black as night, at 
other times of a blue as deep as the Mediterranean, or 



white as molten silver, — steep cliffs, softly moulded 
hills, and over all a sky of the most various and tran- 
scendent beauty — a beauty that is new every few min- 
utes, — these are the features that keep the new-comer in 
a mixed condition of wonder and dissatisfaction. The 
sky is most beautiful in winter; for in these high lati- 
tudes the sun is low, even at high noon. He does not 
send his rays down to the earth to enable work-people 
to get through their work, but he flings them aU abroad 
through the wide and open sky, to light it up with 
richest gold, to sprinkle over it light traces of green and 
grey; and, towards afternoon, when the barred clouds 
lie in long stretches along the low sky, to touch with 
deepest calm some narrow opening into the beyond. In 
the evening, as the clouds meet towards the west over 
the setting sun,^^ there are here and there rifts and open- 
ings between them, like quiet lakes of soft light, in which 
the calm is the visible expression — the true symbol to the 
fleshly eye of " the peace that passes aU understanding." 
The look of some of the streets, even now, is the 
look of the fifteenth century. Knubbly and rough, 
like the streets of a Continental town, they must have 
been, as they still are, trying to the feet of the enthusi- 
astic pilgrim. Perhaps a cart slowly rumbles through 
one of them once an hour, and this serves to intensify 
the silence. Winds from the sea push in vast body or 
in sudden gusts along the wide avenues ; and when a 
storm sends the waves dashing into the rocky coves 
that line the Scores,-^ the white thready foam is carried 

^ This word is a corruption of scar or scaurs, the old English 
word for a steep cut-away cliff. 


in large flakes, over house and churcli-stccplc, away to 
the farthest end of the little wind-swept city. From the 
west, too, wind-currents find their way easily through it ; 
so that there is no stagnant air, and no close vapours, 
but everywhere an openness, a skyey influence, and a 
largeness of air all about 

Approach it from the south — from the hills that 
bound it — and the traveller sees it set in a framework 
of river, and sea, and wood ; while the pilgrims of the 
middle ages, surmounting their last hill, halted at an 
iron cross which still stands on the Hill of the King,^ 
and, falling on their knees at sight of the sacred spires, 
thanked God that it was at length given them to behold 
the DiviNB with the eyes of flesh. Stand in the middle 
of the Links : between the gaps of the sand-hills flashes 
towards you the deep sunlit blue of the bay-waves ; you 
feel on a platform ringed with deep-blue sea, which is 
itself again ringed with an outer and infinite sky. Sky- 
bom of the sky the whole region looks ; while the town 
itself seems a heavenly Jerusalem let down upon the 
nether earth to teach a higher doctrine to the sons of 

The people are notoriously long-lived. You meet 
old men and women whom, from their experienced 
looks, you might judge to be well over a hundred; 
and exhausted constitutions of seventy come here, re- 
new their youth, enjoy their lives, and hold on happily 
till ninety. It is the strong dry air, the absorbing 
exercise of golf, the play of social amenity, that hft 
them out of depression and senility. For here there 

^ Balr^mout. 


are traditions of culture and civility that have been 
passed on from century to century, and the influeneB 
of which leavens the social life and moulds the social 
manners. Here are more than a thousand years of 
Christianity; and the visible symbols of it, in tower 
and steeple and window, catch the eye at innumerahla 
points. There are three distinct layers — the Celtic, the 
Eoman, and the modern Protestant Christianity. The 
Celtic layer is represented by the leaning square tower 
of St Eegulus, of the simplest form, but the most stem 
and solid character. The Eoman layer is represented 
by the ruins of the Abbey, and the lovely window of 
the ancient monastery of the Blackfriars. While the 
Protestant — not constructive or architectural in any way 
— has raised for itself a number of the ugliest little 
chapels that even a Scotch town can boast of. But 
these traditions of Christianity and culture have left 
their mark most deeply on the character of the inhabit- 
ants. A sweet naivete permeates the place. 

** One reverence still the untainted race inspires ; 
God their first thought, and after God their sires ; — 
These last discerned Astrsea's flying hem, 
And Virtue's latest footsteps walked with them." 

Clergyman, soldier, professor, physician, landowner, chim- 
ney-sweep, carpenter, ploughman, farmer, and tax-gatherer 
mix upon equal and brotherly terms, and each is always 
on the look-out to oblige his neighbour. Exclusiveness 
is neither known nor understood. On this happy plateau 
the schism of classes has never existed, but every man 
walks in a kindly atmosphere of neighbourliness and 
goodwill The clack of disputing tongues, the appeal 


to an unsympathetic and matter-of-fact law, the impu- 
tation of evil motives, — these things, so common in the 
sanaller towns of Scotland, are never heard of in St 
Andrews. Here might Astrsea Eedux take lodgings for 
the sea-bathing of the summer months, and send her 
boys and girls to the schools and colleges for the winter. 
It is true there are religious sects, but these exist chiefly 
for the sake of friendly discussion, and the generous 
rivalry of doing good. Episcopalian and Presbyte- 
rian, Churchman and Dissenter, frequent each other's 
churches, and " fiU " each other's pulpits, and are eager 
for nothing but the promotion of the constant Gospel of 
Christ Perhaps the old Eoman Catholic form of Chris- 
tianity is most weakly represented here. It has only 
one adherent, and he is a minor official of the town. 
But then his chief is an archbishop, and this does a 
great deal more than make up. Besides an archbishop, 
I we have also a bishop — the distinguished nephew of the 
' lasting poet Wordsworth. In addition to a bishop and 
an archbishop, the Presbyterian part of the community 
has also a city clergyman, who, to be in harmony with 
the general quaintness of the place, is known to fame 
and to both worlds as "the Country Parson." 

Two great interests share the life of the place — the 
University and Golf. The University is far from large, 
but it can boast of more famous men in proportion to 
its size than any other university in Great Britain. 
The quadrangle of St Mary's College has a quiet love- 
liness which attracts every one, and reminds the visitor 
of the Clarendon Press quadrangle at Oxford ; and the 
steeple of the United College Chapel is of a simple 


};eauty and perfect proportion unsurpassed — and not 
often equalled — by that of any piece of architecture 
cither in England or on the Continent The professors 
live — when they can — an enviable life of quiet study ; 
and between them and the students the pleasantest 
relations subsist. Hundreds of men look back upon 
their academic days at St Andrews as by far the 
happiest in their lives. There they lie, far back in 
the happy fields of memory, a part of heaven rather 
than of earth, but every now and then carrying into 
tlie noise and hurry of the crowded street a wave of 
culm, a peace that hallows and soothes the fevered 
nerves, tlie bounding emotions, or the surging brain. 
Golf is, however, the more permanent staple of the 
place. It is to golf that Andrew Bell most probably 
owes his moral education. Statements we print, morali- 
ti(5H we utter, which the child learns by " heart " and 
njpcatH, have probably no effect whatever on the char- 
acter; for thore is no tertium quid, no mediating in- 
fluence}, by which they can cross over to the habitual 
thoughts and daily actions of a person ; and it is these 
thoughts and actions that go to mould the coming man. 
liut golf is in itself an education. It is an education of 
the highest value. It embodies and carries into practice 
one of the noblest arts — tlie art of living a good and 
luialthy life. It trains to attention, to concentration, 
and to tranquillity. The player takes his stand in a 
condition of perfect balance : every power of body and 
mind, of nerve and muscle, is braced up, rallied to 
point, under the guidance of a single eye ; the weapon is 
swung easily at the full stretch of the arm ; it is slowly 


lifted, describes the largest possible circle, and descends 
with a concentration of sweep and force upon the ball, 
the whole ball, and nothing but the balL The reflex 
action upon the consciousness of the player of a good 
stroke is probably more healthy and complete than 
any sense of virtue to which human mortal can in this 
life attain. The maxims : No zeal or hurry ; act upon 
the largest circle; have a single eye; mind and body 
in perfect balance and free swing ; the longest leverage 
you can find in your favour; never take your eye off 
your purpose, — these are surely as good maxims for 
living as any moral philosopher has yet been able to 
lay down. This presence of the maximum of thought 
with the nn'TiinrmTn of anxiety, — this absolute freedom 
from care — this absorbing tranquillity, — approaches more 
nearly to the Greek idea of ataraxia than anything 
we possess in modem times. It is therefore the best 
preparation for the highest thinking— for that which 
is not to be attained by importunity and improJnus 
labor, but which comes, if it comes at all, as a 
heaven-sent gift : — 

** Und wer nicht denkt 
Dem ist sie beschenkt 
Er hat sie ohne Sorgen.'' 

That some golfers do not rise to the highest heights 
of human perfection is no argument against the splendid 
qualities of the game, but only a proof that these players 
are men of arrested development — have been content 
with a mean, have considered it as a finality, and have 
never looked beyond. But in a world like this, the 
chief object in self-education should be to connect all 


we do with the intellectual and moral growth of the 

soul, and to remember with the pious Greorge Herbert, 

how — 

*' The man that looks on glass 
On It may stay his eye ; 
Or, if he pleaseth, through it pass, 
And then the heaven espy." 

There are few more perfect systems of gymnastic for 
mind and body than the game of golf. 

Bell's father was a barber in the city. This noble 
profession has dwindled much since the time when 
Henry VIII. presented a charter to the barber-surgeons 
of his day. The schism which is the fate of human 
things, and which, on one side, is nowadays dignified 
with the title of " division of labour " (whereas it should 
bo called monotony and restriction of labour), has over- 
taken the barber - surgeon. The surgeons have gone 
inside the head, have penetrated into the inner secrets 
of the human body ; the barbers have been content to 
remain outside. Alexander Bell was, however, far more 
than an ordinary barber of the present day. His was 
an architectonic calling : he did not cut hair, he built 
hair. He was often to be met in South Street — the 
wide, tree-lined, and majestic street which stretches 
from the West Port to the Priory, and worthily the 
pride of St Andrews— carrying on each hand an elab- 
orate and highly dressed wig, carefully apart, so that no 
collision might disarrange their form or dispel their 
powder. This was in the morning : and, after fitting 
one professor with his wig, he would sit down and 
breakfast with him, and then away to another professor 


with his wig, and he would sit down and breakfast 
with Mm,— "his appetite" says Southey, "like his 
mouth " (and his mind also) " being of remarkable and 
well-known capacity." This extensive appetite, which 
was moral as well as physical, his son Andrew seems to 
have inherited. Alexander Bell belonged to what is 
known as the higher classes. He and his wife were 
the first persons in the city to introduce the drinking of 
tea, — ^they possessed a tea-service of china ; he was him- 
self bailie of the city (and in that capacity at one time 
put down a furious meal -mob by his own personal 
weight) ; and he was in the habit of assisting Dr 
Walker, the professor of natural philosophy, in the pre- 
paration of his experiments. 

Dr Bell was descended, on the mother's side, from a 
Captain Cavalie, of the Horse Grenadier Guards, who 
came over to England with William of Orange, and 
settled in St Andrews as a wine merchant. His mother 
had in her blood a strain of insanity, which in later 
years developed itself into mania and suicide. Andrew 
was the second son. At the age of four some friend 
gave the little boy a penny, upon receiving which he 
seized on one of his brother's books, set off to school, and 
offered his penny as his quarter's fee. Those were the 
days when a large part of school education consisted of 
flogging, and by far the greater majority of teachers be- 
lieved and acted upon the dogma, " Nihil in intellectu 
nisi prius in sensu." They were as thorough enemies 
of the a jpriori as Locke himself : it was the contrary 
method they preferred and employed ; it was the other 
end of a child's being to which they appealed. Dr 


Bell himself used to say, " I never went to school with- 
out trembling. I could not tell whether I should be 
flogged or not." And Mr Southey adds: "Schools 
were everywhere conducted in those days upon a 
system of brutal severity, which never ought to have 
existed except when the master happened to be a 
man of singular humanity" — a sentence of curious 
and extraordinary significance. 

Little Bell did not know much, but what he knew, 
he knew thoroughly, and never forgot. This he achieved 
by not trusting to his memory — I mean to the will- 
memory. His verbal memory was so weak that he 
never could get correctly by heart a single rule in his 
Latin syntax, but he could apply the rule with perfect 
judgment. His reasoning and inquiring powers were 
always active and at work ; and, while still a child, he 
wrote a little book of arithmetic for himself. He left 
school with a fair knowledge of Latin, and no Greek. 

In the year 1769, Andrew Bell, then at the age of 
sixteen, was matriculated as a student of the United 
College of St Salvator and St Leonard's. Though the 
youngest pupil in the mathematical class, he rose to 
be the head of it; and he also distinguished himself 
in several other classes in his college. He eked out 
the bursary he held, and his other scanty resources, by 
private teaching. He was ready to teach anything at a 
few hours* notice, for he could always, as he said, pre- 
pare over-night for the lesson of the next day; and thus 
what he had to teach he acquired as he went along. 
So simple is the art of teaching, so near does it lie to 
every man who chooses to take it up. I remember 


meeting in Washington the head of a famous American 
college for ladies, who assured me she *' could teach 
anything, if she had the hooks." 

Of all his studies, mathematics and natural phil- 
osophy were his favourites, and in the latter he even 
rose to the st^e of original inquiry. To this he re- 
mained true through life ; and his master, Dr Wilkie, 
the Professor of Natural Philosophy, told him that he 
" never knew a man fail of success in the world, if he 
excelled in one thing." 

This Dr Wilkie was a remarkable man. He was a 
clergyman, a professor, a poet, an agriculturist of deep 
insight, and a political economist He came of a family 
so poor that, when his father died, he had to borrow 
money to bury him ; and so hard, that when he asked 
his uncle for a loan of £10 for the funeral expenses, 
that gentleman declined. He was never able to rid 
himself of a perpetual feeling and gruesome conscious- 
ness of the horrors of poverty. He used to say, "I 
have shaken hands with poverty up to the elbow, and 
I don't want to see her face ever again." In agricul- 
ture his rule was deep ploughing and plenty of manure, 
clean ground, and rich feeding for it. He went about 
the back streets of the town picking up, says Southey, 
'* dead cats, dogs, and horses, for the purpose of giving 
them, not decent burial, but profitable interment." He 
studied the qualities of different soils, gave good wages 
to his servants, and raised better crops than any of his 
neighbours. But the thoughtful man, though rewarded 
by nature, was overreached by his fellow-men, and he 
was "always cheated in the market." 


Constantly fighting with poverty, but determined to 
make his own way in the world, he came to the conclu- 
sion, after long and careful thought, that the best way 
of promoting his interests was to write an epic poem. 
This would be fame, and fame was then the road to 
wealth. Philosophy would find few readers ; theology 
or a volume of sermons would either have roused bitter 
suspicion, or have met with total neglect; a tragedy 
from a minister of the Kirk would have been a scandal ; 
a novel he would have liked to write, but he could 
hardly found upon a novel a just claim to preferment : 
an epic poem — and nothing else — it must be. Even 
when this point had been settled, there came the 
miseries of choice — he had to look out for a sub- 
ject ; and he was again burdened with " the weight of 
too much liberty." He at length chose the Second War 
of Thebes as his subject, and he called his poem " The 

While engaged in the " composition " of his epic, he 
tilled the ground with his own hands, gave or found 
employment for the poor, took care of his sisters (who 
would have sunk into indigence but for him), preached 
for neighbouring ministers— but always extempore— 
and pursued his own physical studies. His adviser was 
an old woman. Like Moli^re, he employed her as the 
test of his verses ; and if any line displeased or failed 
to strike her, he altered, retouched, and recast it, until 
at length it succeeded in conquering her approbation. 
This old woman, Margaret Paton, is probably the only 
person who ever read the whole poem. He had many 
other virtues and peculiarities. The potatoes he pro- 


(luced were so good, that he was known as the potato- 
minister; he generally preached with his hat on, and 
often forgot to pronounce the blessing at the close of 
the service; he chewed tobacco; he was fond of re- 
ceiving medical advice — which he constantly disputed, 
and generally rejected; he preferre<l to sleep under 
four-and-twenty blankets; and he ardently longed for 
the power of " iBrmly believing in all the doctrines of 




To return to Andrew Bell. He passed through the 
classes of the coU^e with considerahle success; and, 
seeing no prospect of remuneiatiYe labour in his native 
city, he b^an to cast his eyes over the world. The 
colonies attracted him most, and by accident an oflfer 
came to him from Virginia. He accordingly went to 
Glasgow, and embarked for America at the age of 
twenty. He was there for seven years, of which there 
is little or no record. In 1774 he was engaged as 
private tutor, at a salary of £200 a-year (paid some- 
times in money, sometimes in tobacco, and sometimes 
not at all), in the family of a Mr Carter Braxton, a 
merchant of West Point, Virginia. But in addition 
to teaching, Andrew Bell found time to engage in com- 
mercial transactions of various kinds — ^his dealings being 
chiefly in American currency and tobacco. 

He left Virginia in March 1781. Mr Braxton 

thought 80 well of him, that he intrusted his two sons 

to hia care, to be " taken to Europe,"— that is, to Great 

Blitiin^ — and there "to be fixed at some genteel 

^«njr." Bell had made, in the course of his seven 


years' residence, a sum between £800 and £900. ( )n 
the day of sailing he was lucky enough to catch a sight 
of the Marquis de la Fayette and his family, who, 
he says, "had just arrived at York to command the 
army destined to storm Portsmouth, where was Genenil 
Arnold." He passed the English and French fleets, 
who were just preparing to engage. His voyage was 
miserable and unfortunate in every way; and before 
it was over he suffered shipwreck. The ship ran 
aground — was filling with water, when at daybreak 
all of the passengers and crew managed to effect their 
escape to land. It was still winter; the ground was 
covered with snow ; the country (in lat. 45°) was un- 
inhabited; the shipwrecked party had to sleep in 
tents ; they were all wet to the skin night and day ; 
and things looked so depressing, that Bell thought 
it best to make his wilL He leaves 25,634 pounds 
of tobacco, and £10 sterling, which Mr Braxton owes 
him, to his father, Bailie Bell. To make things 
worse, sixteen of the crew — sexdecim sceleratissimi^ 
says Bell — agree to rob and plunder the passengers, 
and then to desert them. At last, however. Bell and 
his friends get away in a boat and reach Halifax, where 
they are well content — in spite of the fact that beef is 
"9d. sterling per pound," and a turkey costs twenty- 
one shillings. At length, on the 10th of May, BeU and 
his pupils sail in the Adamant for London, and reach 
Gravesend on the 6th of June. 




Andrew Bell brouglit his pupils to London, and they 
took lodgings in New Bond Street. What was then 
called " quality " seems to have been their chief end in 
life. Their eldest brother had had a run of eighteen 
months on the Continent, and had, says Bell, " returned 
quite the man of fashion, possessed of the graces.'' This 
fashion, and these graces, were destined to give Bell a 
good deal of trouble. What with the "unremitting 
kindness," as regards money, of Mr Braxton, the idle- 
ness and disobedience of the lads, Mr Bell was at 
length obliged to give up the work, and to send in 
his resignation to their guardians. 

Turning his back upon London, he set his face 
towards Scotland. He travelled sometimes on horse- 
back, sometimes on foot, sometimes by stage, and some- 
times by a local waggon. He seems to have kept a 
journal of what he saw and heard, — fragments of which 
still exist. Among other things, he mentions that at 
(irantham he " supped at the Angel with an Israelite ; " 
that in the county of Durham he found "monstrous 
conversation, but savouring of Scottish, as in York- 


shire ; " that he is always dropping things on the road 
— " on the first day my penknife, on the second a hand- 
kerchief, on the third a nightcap, and on the fourth 
my glass;" that, when he arrived in Scotland, some 
parts of some of the towns did not smell agreeably ; 
and that at Fallowden, he got good green tea at break- 
fast, which cost sixpence ; while " at Greenlaw it was 
eightpence." At length he reached Edinburgh. He 
sent his cards round to his friends ; and in the hyper- 
bolical language of the period, Mr and Mrs Peter re- 
turned "their most affectionate and friendly compli- 
ments to their much esteemed Mr A. Bell," and were 
"incapable of expressing their delight" that he was 
in their neighbourhood again. After two days in 
Edinburgh, he "arrived in the dark at St Andrews, 
and was not known by mamma" (his mother). 

His new stay at St Andrews was not uncheckered 
by events. A quarrel arose between himself and a Mr 
Crookenden, an English student at the University. A 
challenge followed. The combatants met on the Witch 
Hill, a rising ground which looks over the broad bay, 
away to a long stretch of sands, a breadth of moorland, 
and on to the lovely hills of Forfarshire ; and all pre- 
liminaries had been duly arranged. Mr BeU was short- 
sighted, and at the same time very eager, and when the 
signal was given, he poured his fire into the seconds. 
A burst of laughter followed. The seconds took advan- 
tage of the good-humour to bring about a reconcilia- 
tion, and a pleasant dinner followed. 

Mr Bell thought as highly of a good dinner as Dr 
Johnson. He stayed during Christmas with his father's 



friend, Mr Dempster of Dunnichen, and records in his 
diary how he ate of an " eel three feet long, and nine 
inches round;" and that the "daily fare is grouse, roast- 
beef, giblets, tripe, soup, oysters, etc, etc. ; strong beer 
by Hunter, twenty-two years old, most excellent. Three 
wines — ^bravo ! " 

Soon after this his two American pupils were sent 
down to St Andrews by order of their father. Here 
Mr Bell could take a firm hold of them ; and he entered 
them at the United College, made them rise at five, 
and forced them to work hard at languages and sciences. 
He himself rose at four. In July 1783, the tutor and 
his pupils were attacked with an endemic sore throat, 
which had been travelling all over Europe. Bell was 
much the worst; but he was tenderly nursed by his 
friend Mr Berkeley (afterwards a prebendary of Can- 
terbury), a son of the great Bishop Berkeley. For 
three days Bell was unable to swallow anything ; but, 
says Mr Berkeley, "under God, a poached egg saved 
BeU's life." 

The young men did very well at college. One of 
them gained a prize for an essay on the " Immortality 
of the Soul," a subject which, owing to its complete 
freedom from data and exemption from the ordinary 
rules of argument and methods of inquiry, is a stand- 
ing favourite with Scottish students. 

The father did not write much, and sent money still 
seldomer. Mr Bell, who had only a salary of £40 a- 
year — ^paid uncertainly — had to write often and again : 
" It is scarcely possible for me to express my astonish- 
ment at your silence." He goes on to say that he is 


employed " day and night in the service of your sons ; " 
that he " takes from his usual hours of rest," and yet 
his fees are ''not anything like the usual reward of 
mere boys who are employed as tutors." Besides, 
Mr Bell has to be " every hour in the day with them," 
to prevent their extravagance from ruining them. The 
boys kept a " servant out of livery," but Mr Bell him- 
seK was not paid. 

Bell now began to take mathematical pupils. His 
first pupil was a nephew of Mrs Dempster's; but 
" the young man, going into the county of Angus, was 
put into a damp bed," and died of rheumatic f^ver. 
He, however, succeeded in at length collecting eight 
pupils ; but the receipts were not satisfactory. He 
now thought of returning to Virginia, and wrote to 
Mr Braxton : " What prospects may I indulge " — this 
was the epistolary manner of the period — " from 
a revisitation to Virginia] Any academies erected] 
Any encouragement in the line of the Church 1 Shall 
I come out in holy orders ] What is now the mode of 
obtaining them in America] Can they be come at 
with you]" He was willing to do anything; but 
" the line of the Church " and holy orders that are " to 
be come at " strike one as a reminiscence of the days of 
currency and tobacco. 

An event now occurred which turned the whole 
stream of his existence. A general election was at 
hand. The St Andrews burghs had to return a 
member to Parliament ; and the constituency consisted 
entirely of the town -councillors of the burghs.^ The 

^ Unlike the Spartan virtue of these modem days, the town- 


rival candidates were Mr Dempster of Dunnichen and 
a Mr Campbell, of the family of Breadalbane. Every 
engine of private and secret persuasion was put in 
motion ; every kind of human weakness was appealed 
to; and most of the voters had been got at through 
their pockets. All the town-councillors had pledged 
themselves to the one or to the other candidate with 
one exception; and it so happened that an exactly 
equal number had pledged themselves on both sides. 
The councillor who had refused to give any promise 
was Bailie Bell. With him virtually lay the whole 
power of electing. He was approached in every pos- 
sible way; and at length the Breadalbane candidate 
went so far as to oflFer him £500 for his vote — a large 
sum in those days. The honest bailie sternly declined, 
and gave his vote for Mr Dempster. The new member 
was profuse in his thanks, and promised to take a 
fatherly interest in his son. 

Bell now resolved to enter the Church of England. 
By the aid of his friend Berkeley he obtained an intro- 
duction to Dr Porteus, the Bishop of Chester, by whom 
he was ordained. Soon after this, a vacancy occurred 
in the Episcopal Chapel at Leith. Bell went there to 
preach; the congregation was satisfied; and he was en- 
gaged at a salary of fifty guineas a-year to act as curate. 
This salary was afterwards raised to £70. 

'Not long after this appointment, he was offered a 
situation as tutor to a son of Lord Conyngham, who 
was intended for Parliament or for diplomacy. He was 

councillors were not impervious to argument, if conveyed in a 
manner sufficiently weighty. 


not only to teach the usual subjects, but also to direct 
the political studies of the lad; and on this occasion 
Mr Dempster wrote to him that " the old proverb, 
Honesty is the best policy, is worth Montesquieu, Bol- 
ingbroke, and De Lolme, all put together." There is 
always a populous school of "political thinkers" who 
deal largely in general statements and major premises ; 
but they are not very happy or helpful in fitting every- 
day circumstances and actual cases to their wide and 
loose maxims. Honesty is not only the best policy, it 
is the necessary condition of the most moderate success. 
This agreement with Lord Conyngham was, however, 
never carried out ; and Mr Dempster now urged Bell to 
go to India, to lecture there on natural philosophy, and 
to do work " in the way of tuition." 




Andrew Bell, now Dr Bell (his University, with 
thoughtful generosity, had given him an M.D.), sailed 
from the Downs for India on the 21st of February 
1787 with £128, 10s. in his pocket; and on the 2d 
of June his ship reached Madras. His destination was 
Calcutta ; but the committee for establishing a Military 
Male Orphan Asylum at Madras, believing they saw in 
Dr Bell "a person eminently qualified to superintend 
the education of children," asked him to stay in that 
city, and he accordingly cut short his journey. 

Here promotion and appointments flowed in upon 
him all at once. Between August and October of that 
year he obtained one chaplainship to a regiment and 
three deputy-chaplainships — all offices with little work 
but certain pay ; and he began also to give courses of 
lectures, which were very successful Those were the 
days in India of the pagoda tree ; and his first course of 
lectures brought him in the sum of 972 pagodas, or 
£360. The lectures even became the rage with the 
ladies of the town ; and one correspondent writes that 
"the ladies are determined to encounter every incon- 

INDIA. 23 

venience for fashion's sake." He redelivered his lectures 
in Calcutta, and there too with great success. Mean- 
while another deputy-chaplainship came in, " being the 
fifth appointment conferred upon him in little more 
than a year and a half." Mr Southey goes on to point 
out, that "at this time Dr Bell partook largely of the 
blessings of pluralism. Besides five deputy-chaplain- 
ships, he held two full chaplainships ; and he was also 
superintendent of undertakers ; " and the poet com- 
pares him to "Kehama, who was in eight places at 
once." Most of these offices were sinecures, but all had 
salaries attached to them; and the same absorbing 
genius which had combined teaching with dealings in 
tobacco and American currency, was here to push its 
fortune in every possible or likely direction. 

In 1789 he heard from St Andrews the news of his 
father's death — "the death," he says, "of as good a 
father, and as just and upright a man, as ever lived." 

The impaid American tobacco began now to trouble 
him. He wanted to provide for his orphaned sisters, 
and it was advisable to look up every resource in his 
power. He wrote to Mr Braxton and other friends the 
most earnest letters, pointing out "the many sacrifices 
made of everything dear and valuable, — of youth, health, 
and fortune," to his pupils ; but no answer ever came 
from any one. The fact is, the Braxtons had been 
ruined by the Kevolution ; all their property in Virginia 
was lost, and Bell's along with it. In spite of this, his 
success in India was so rapid and so great that he soon 
felt himself able to settle an annual allowance upon his 
only unmarried sister. As " the chaplain was the per- 


son by whom funerals were furnished, and the under- 
taker was his functionary," the death of Europeans in 
Madras was a source of considerable gain to him. He 
had an allowance of one pagoda " on every scarf -funeral 
of twelve scarves, two of twenty, and three of fifty," — 
whatever a scarf - funeral may mean. But these are 
mysteries, known only to undertakers. Dr Bell, how- 
ever, very soon, says Southey, "gave up this branch of 

He went on with his lectures, which were always 
successful He showed original power, too, in natural 
philosophy, and was the first man who ever made ice 
in India, as well as the first to make and float a balloon. 

The Orphan Asylum in Madras now began to take 
visible form and existence. A deserted fort, called 
Egmore Eedoubt, in an open and healthy situation, was 
selected for the purposes of the Asylum, and fitted up 
for the reception of the children. Dr Bell, whose heart 
was in this work, declined to receive any salary as 
superintendent, though the duties of this ofi&ce were 
much heavier than those of all his chaplainships put 
together. The Asylum was supported not only by 
voluntary subscriptions, but also by the fines imposed 
for drunkenness in the army. The boys — known as 
" blue boys " — were the sons chiefly of European fathers 
and Indian mothers ; and they were to be instructed in 
reading, writing, and arithmetic. They were not allowed 
to have any intercourse with their " maternal relations." 
All seemed to be going well, except that the teachers in 
the Asylum had no knowledge of their duties, and no 
very great love for them ; and to add to Dr Bell's diffi- 

INDU. 25 

culties, as soon as an assistant had grown qualified for 
his work in school, he very soon discovered that he 
had also become qualified for situations where the salary 
was much higher and the work far less irksome. Dr 
Bell's temper was quick and even rampant ; and in all 
his attempts to introduce improvements, he was met by 
the silent unsympathy, or by the quiet opposition, of 
every one of the masters. He was much discouraged. 

One morning, in the course of his early ride along 
the surf-beaten shore of Madras, he happened to pass 
a Malabar school, which, as was usual with Indian 
schools, was held in the open air. He saw the little 
children writing with their fingers on sand,^ which, after 
the fashion of such schools, had been strewn before 
them for that purpose. He turned his horse, galloped 
home, shouting, " Heureka ! Heureka ! " and now be- 
lieved that he at length saw his way straight before 
him. He at once gave orders to the usher of the 
lowest classes to procure a board and some fine sand, 
and to teach the alphabet to the youngest children 
with this apparatus. The usher declared it was im- 
possible. Here was a dead wall ; but Dr Bell had as 
great a contempt for the word " impossible " as I^apo- 
leon himself. A difficulty with him was simply a call 
for new resource ; an impossibility was a sign that he 
was just about to break into a rich vein of ore. The 
despair of the usher — ^the " impossibility " of his task, 
in fact — was the means of driving Dr Bell upon what 
he caUed his « great discovery " in education. Finding 
that nothing was to be expected from any of his assist- 

^ See John viii. 6. 


ants, lie resolved to employ a little boy to carry out 
his plans. He had long noticed a bright little fellow 
called Johnnie Frisken, the son of a private soldier; 
and it is this little boy who is the comer-stone of a 
"system" which seemed at one time destined to edu- 
cate the children of the three kingdoms. Little Frisken 
carried out with the greatest ease the impossibility that 
had been too much for the powers of the usher. Other 
boys were soon selected : and very soon John Frisken 
was appointed superintendent of these monitors and then- 
classes — superintendent, in fact, of the lower part of 
the school " His little friends " were both eager and 
faithful; and they were amply rewarded by a smile 
from the Doctor, or sufficiently punished by a frown 
from his bushy black eyebrows. The plan of making 
one boy teach others gradually spread throughout the 
the school: and the result was progress, contentment, 
and happiness. Gradually the whole of the teaching 
work fell into the hands of the boys; and, so far as 
instruction went, the master and his assistants were 
practically superseded. Every boy was either a master 
or a scholar, and "generally both;" and the utmost 
harmony reigned among the white and the blue boys. 
The blue boys learned to be straightforward, and to 
give up the tricks and wiles which they had acquired 
from their native mothers ; and Dr Bell conceived the 
large ambition "to alter the character of a race of 

Dr Bell now started an orderly book, and, most 
characteristically, the first entry made in it " conveyed 
a reprimand to the schoolmaster." Mr Harvey was 

INDIA. 27 

desired to pay more attention ; and Mr Harvey did not 
like it. Every usher, in every part of his work, was 
admonished in a similar manner. The ushers did not 
relish it any more than the head-master. One usher 
was particularly vicious. He bit the fingers and 
pinched the ears of the little boys: and another had 
even dared to speak rudely to Dr Bell in the presence 
of the boys themselves. 

At length the head-master resigned. He gave as his 
reason that he found himself incapable of executing the 
duties, or supporting the fatigues, of his office of school- 
master. " What duties do you speak of 1 " " Almost 
every duty," was the reply. "What fatigues]" con- 
tinued Dr BelL "The fatigues of the mind." His 
resignation was accepted. Frisken was now eleven 
years of age, and had a third of the whole school 
under his care. 

It was not easy to fill Mr Harvey's place. There 
was no great choice of teachers in Madras. Mr Holmes, 
a clerk in the Adjutant-General's Office, applied for it ; 
and in his letter of application to Dr Bell, mentions 
that he had heard " that you was a very odd kind of a 
gentleman, and very fond of abusing and quarrelling 
with the teachers, when they were not even in the least 
fault imaginable." Dr Bell turned his eye upon another 
candidate, the Kev. Charles William Piezold, from the 
University of Wittenberg. But Mr Piezold was just as 
naif as Mr Holmes. His wife stood in the way. He 
writes to Dr Bell that, as " a man of family, he must 
absolutely accommodate himself to the humours and 
dispositions of Mrs Piezold, to her liking and disliking. 


pleasing and not pleasing ; " and he goes on to say that 
he "showed Dr Bell yesterday the most perspicuous 
marks of my being entirely incapable to succeed in the 
room of Mr Harvey." " You see, dear sir, this is sin- 
cerity, this is open-heartedness." 

But now at length Dr Bell, whose health, owing to 
worry and the climate, was not so good, began to think 
of returning to Europe. The climate, the dryness and 
clearness of which he at first enjoyed, began to aflPect 
his health in 1794. He had been very happy in India ; 
and he had rendered his " system " complete in all its 
details. IMr Dempster writes to him to "bring back 
a good constitution and £10,000;" and, tiring of the 
eternal fine weather and the sultry sun, his thoughts 
turned to the cooler air, the more varied climate, Mid 
the clouds and mists of his native country. He felt, 
too, that he had made his mark in India. " I think," 
he says, " I have made great progress in a very diffi- 
cult attempt, and almost wrought a complete change in 
the morals and character of a generation of boys." This 
was much. But his health would not permit him to 
remain ; and he wrote to a friend to find him a landed 
estate, " the purchase of which would bring him in two 
or three hundred pounds a-year." 




Dr Bell left India on the 20tli of August 1796, 
followed by the praises, the regards, and the regrets 
of everybody who knew him ; and he had, in addition, 
£25,935, 16s. 5d. in his pocket. In his head he carried 
a new idea which he thought was destined to change 
the face of English society, to mould the rising genera- 
tion, to raise the Church to new and greater heights of 
power, and to promote the interests of the whole nation. 
On his voyage home his ship called at the Cape, and Dr 
Bell climbed Table Mountain, admired " the moss over 
the table, soft and moist as a sponge," and visited Con- 
stantia, where he found in the Calvinistic chapel " the 
candlestick and the sand-glass, like a Presbyterian 
Church." The sand-glass is forgotten, and its use has 
utterly perished. He called at St Helena, too, and "ate 
conger -eels at the Governor's garden — a rich fish." 
On the 28th of December he "took up a bucket of 
water and found it highly luminous when agitated ; saw 
distinctly the fiery particles, and poured them on the 
deck, where they shone for some time as well as in your 
hand." He arrived in London on the 7 th of February 


1797, after a voyage of nearly six months. We can 
go round the world now in three. 

"Kever was I so charmed with an English spring," 
he writes to his friend General Floyd : " Scotland has 
no spring, and the daughters of the spring are so 
enchanting." He goes on to say that he fears his sus- 
ceptibility to beauty is not so quick as it once was. 
The English world was now his oyster, and the sword 
with which he was about to open it was his " Report 
on the Madras Asylum." This Report he made up his 
mind to publish under the title of * An Experiment in 
Education, made at the Male Asylum at Madras, sug- 
gesting a System by which a School or Family may 
Teach itself under the Superintendence of the Master or 

This Report was. in his belief, to be the seed of a 
slow-growing and mighty tree, from which generation 
after generation was to be fed, and under which they 
were to find shelter and shade ; and Dr Bell hoped that 
" by the end of next century it would be generally 
practised in Europe." In one of his letters to the 
printer, he says, " You will mark me for an enthusiast ; 
but if you and I live a thousand years, we shall see 
this system of education spread over the world." In 
the meantime, however, his "humble essay" is "not 
to be advertised in the London newspapers oftener than 
thrice in all ; " and these three advertisements were tQ^| 
distributed over the * Times,' the * Sun,' and the * Sta? 
newspapers, the two latter of which have been long 
sunk in endless night. He sent copies of his Report to 
the most influential persons in the kingdom — dukes. 


archbishops, bishops, and a large number of otlier 

Meanwhile he bought some land in Dumfriesshire, 
which brought him in a rental of £610 a-year. 

His plans very soon began to make way in London. 
A Mr Watts, one of the trustees of St Botolph's, Aid- 
gate, " the oldest Protestant parochial school in London," 
handed the Eeport to Samuel Nichols (the Mr in the case 
of teachers was always omitted at that period) the head- 
master, who reported to the trustees that the System 
" instructs the younger ones with more rapidity, because 
to the monitor they can read and spell twice or thrice 
in the morning and afternoon, when to the master not 
more than once." This was a beginning. The plan 
was accordingly adopted in this school in 1798; and 
in 1803 Mr Nichols writes to Mr Watts in praise of 
another " idea" of Dr Bell's — ^the use of sand. He says : 
" The sand I continue to use, it being the most facili- 
tating as well as the most saving method that ever was 
conceived." And he gives as an instance of its efficacy 
the following case : " I had a boy, who is the dullest, 
heaviest, and the least inclined to learning I ever had, 
who, having for six months past wrote upon sand, and 
read alternately and constantly while at school, is now 
able not only to spell every word, but can tell me many 
words, let me ask him where I will ; and he appears 
mar to have an inclination to learning, to which, when 
ne first came, he had an utter aversion." The value of 
this as an educational fact clearly lies in this: that 
whereas the boy had before this time been called upon 
merely to imitate another person by threats and by 


coercion, his self-activity was now agreeably roused into 
free play, and the movements of his mind and finger 
were accompanied by their natural modicum of pleasure. 
The little boy, in shorter words, liked "writing with 
a pen upon damp sand." 

The System travelled down to Kendal, and was taken 
up with enthusiasm by Dr Briggs, the mayor of the 
town. He started a school on the Madras System, and 
most thoughtfully attached to it " a penny ordinary." 
" The experiment of giving the children occasional les- 
sons in geography was also made here, a set of maps 
having been presented to the school ; and with admirable 
results." Nearly eighty years after, the present writer 
has found schools, both in London and Glasgow, where 
lessons in geography were given, but where a map was 
never either shown or seen. 

Dr Bell spent the winter of 1798-99 with his sister 
at Dumfries, so as to be near his lately acquired pur- 
chases. He seems to have mixed a good deal in the so- 
ciety of the place, and, " towards the end of his sojourn 
there, to have kept a carriage and horses, together with 
a coachman and footman." In August of 1799 he went 
to Edinburgh, and officiated at the English Episcopal 
Chapel there — services which the congregation rewarded 
with a quantity of plate. 

His friends now began to think that Dr Bell had 
some intention of marrjring. And Mr Dempster wrote 
him, that " it is the general opinion of all my female 
friends, that you could only hire so dear a house, and 
keep a carriage, with a view to fascinate some coy 
damsel." Major Wight, another friend, wrote to 


warn him against what he calls 'Mearncd ladies." 
"They are" in Major Wight's opinion, "most gen- 
erally deficient in that delicacy and correctness which 
render a woman most truly amiable." Those specula- 
tions and suggestions were, however, soon brought to 
a close by Dr Bell's marrying a Miss Agnes Barclay, 
the daughter of the minister of Middleton. The same 
ponderous and infallible Major Wight thus describes, 
in the epistolary manner of the period, the new condi- 
tion of Dr Bell : " You are now placed in your native 
country, in the midst of your friends, in unembarrassed 
affluence, and married to the wife of your choice, aided 
by science, and by an ample acquaintance with practical 

Dr Bell married at the not immature age of forty- 




In the year 1801, Dr Bell was presented to the Rectory 
of Swanage in Dorsetshire — a living of more than 
jC600 a-year. The parish was a very small one. It 
contained about three hundred families ; and there were 
three Roman Catholics and twenty Methodists within 
its bounds. They were a quiet, simple, primitive, 
kindly jH^ople. Among the more notable inhabitants 
>V}\s Thomtvs Maxwell, a retired quarryman, a great 
j^tudout of books, and the founder of a musical society 
iu the place. He was the author of several books— one 
oil umthomatictU geography; and his tombstone states 
that ho ** broke through the barrier to literature, and 
acquired a degree of knowledge which might have ranked 
him witli the first philosophers of the age." The reason, 
given farther on, why he was not in the first rank of 
phiU^ophers, is that he was a " child of solitude." He 
is thus to be classed with those village Hampdens, 
nuite inglorious Miltons, and others whom an unkind 
fate or " the force of circumstances " has prevented from 
iloing very much either for mankind or for themselves. 
Another noteworthy family consisted also of quarry- 


men. They were called Stickland; and several mem- 
bers of this family were employed as teachers in 
the Sunday-school "imder the new system." The 
salary for each of the two teachers in the Sunday- 
school was only fifteen shillings a-year ; this was. after- 
wards raised to twenty-six shillings : hut in the course 
of time the subscriptions to the schools fell away en- 
tirely. In spite of the complete disappearance of his 
salary, John Stickland stuck to his post, and was not 
to be discouraged. He even provided the children 
with books at his own expense; and he instructed 
them in sacred music. Dr Bell became a constant 
visitor at the Sunday-school, and was in the habit of 
going from class to class, asking questions, throwing in 
hints, explaining passages, and in general making him- 
self an element of stir and revolution. The children 
looked a great deal more at the burly eager black- 
browed Scotchman than at their books ; and Mr Stick- 
land had now and then to request the doctor to " be 
pleased to pitch himself." In 1802, Dr Bell intro- 
duced his System; and his energetic efforts to make 
the little scholars imderstand and appropriate every 
even the minutest detail, are still a memory in the 
parish. "He hammered it into them," Mr Stickland 
used to say, "like a blacksmith on an anviL" 

Education, under the enthusiastic fostering of Bell, 
spread in the parish, until there were no fewer than 
thirteen day-schools in it, and three Sunday-schools. 
The introduction of his plans into one of the disorderly 
local schools was, he says, " like magic ; order and regu- 
larity started up all at once. In half an hour more was 


learned, and far better, titan liad been done the wbole 
day before. A class which could only get one line 
to a lesson a fortnight ago, now gets eight : and all 
say their lessons well, and come on in like proportion. 
. • , They quit the school at dismissal with reluc- 
tance ; and they return before their time to renew the 

But, while a bright day seemed to be rising for the 
new system, there were clouds and tempests in Dr 
Bell's life which were destroying his domestic peace. 
N'othing is known of the nature of these "unhappy 
dissensions." No paper exists to lead or to mislead 
us on the subject. We do not know whether Dr Bell 
or his wife were " in fault," who was most to blame, 
or whether a fundamental incompatibility of dispo- 
sition prevented all chance of a kindly arrangement. 
A youthful bridegroom of forty-seven, who has had 
it all his own way in India for twenty years, was not 
very likely to alter his habits, or to tone down his 
somewhat combustible disposition, after he had passed 
the age of fifty. The two separated finally in April 
1806, before they had been married six years. His- 
tory — this and others — knows nothing of Agnes Bar- 
clay, her looks, her ways, her character, her hopes, her 
fears, or her aims — nothing at' all except her name. 
And so Mrs Bell disappears entirely from the scene with- 
out leaving behind her a single trace of her existence.^ 

^ De Quincey appends the following note to his essay on S. T. 
Oolerldge : " Most men hare their enemies and calumniators ; 
Dr Bell had his, who happened, rather indecorously, to be his wife 
— from whom he was legally separated, or (as in Scotch law it is 


In addition to being an innovator in education, Dr 
Bell was a vigorous revolutionary in other matters. 
He did not reserve his pulpit for vague shadowy state- 
called) divorced; not, of course, divorced d vinculo matrimonii 
which only amounts to a divorce in the English sense (such a 
divorce as enables the parties to contract another marriage), but 
simply divorced d mensd et thoro. This legal separation, however, 
did not prevent the lady from persecuting the unhappy Doctor 
with everlasting letters, indorsed outside with records of her en- 
mity and spite. Sometimes she addressed her epistles thus : * To 
that supreme of rogues, who looks like the hangdog that he is. 
Doctor (such a doctor !) Andrew Bell.' Or, again : ' To the ape 
of apes, and the knave of knaves, who is recorded to have once 
paid a debt, but a small one you may be sure it was that he 
selected for this wonderful experiment — in fact, it was Hd, Had 
it been on the other side of 6d. he must have died before he could 
have achieved so dreadful a sacrifice.' Many others, most ingeni- 
ously varied in the style of abuse, I have heard rehearsed by Cole- 
ridge, Southey, Lloyd, &c. ; and one, in particular, addressed to 
the. Doctor, when spending a summer in the cottage of Robert 
Newton, an old soldier, in Grasmere, presented on the back two 
separate adjurations, one specially addressed to Robert himself, 
pathetically urging him to look sharply after the rent of his lodg- 
ings ; and the other more generally addressed to the unfortunate 
person as yet undisclosed to the British public (and in this case 
turning out to be myself), who might be incautious enough to pay 
the postage at Ambleside. ' Don't grant him an hour's credit,' 
she urged upon the person unknown, * if I had any regard to my 
family.' * Cash doum/* ahe wrote tv^ice over, "Why the Doctor 
submitted to these annoyances, nobody knew. Some said it was 
mere indolence; but others held it to be a cunning compromise 
with her inexorable malice. The letters were certainly open to 
the * public ' eye ; but meantime the * public ' was a very narrow 
one ; the clerks in the post-office had little time for digesting such 
amenities of conjugal affection ; and the chance bearer of the let- 
ters to the Doctor would naturally solve the mystery by supposing 
an eactra portion of madness in the writer, rather than an eactra 
poition of knavery in the reverend receiver." 


ments of abstract doctrmes, but attiEicked Satan wher- 
ever he found him, and with most vigour and success 
in his fleshly strongholds; and on the 15th of June 
1806, "preached twice, and the same sermon, both fore- 
noon and afternoon, on cow-pock." But he not merely 
preached, he vaccinated everybody, "from seventy- 
eight years of age to twelve months ; " and he set every 
body vaccinating, his own wife (before she left him), 
old women, and schoolmistresses, in all the parishes 
round about : and so thorough and successful was 
his treatment, that there was not a single instance 
of any of his patients being attacked by small-pox, 
which was at that time a periodical epidemic of the 
most fatal nature in every part of Great Britain. It 
appears that, as there were poets before Homer, and 
novelists before Cervantes, there was also a vaccinator 
before Dr Jenner. This was Benjamin Jesty, of Downs- 
hay, near Swanage. He lived to be seventy-nine, and 
was, says his veracious tombstone, "particularly noted 
for having been the first person (known) who intro- 
duced the cow-pox by inoculation, and who, from his 
great strength of mind, made the experiment from the 
cow on his wife and two sons, in the year 1774." 
The historic tombstone is silent as to whether his great 
strength of mind induced him to try the experiment 
upon himself. 

Dr Bell also introduced the manufacture of straw- 
plait into Swanage. This was at best a doubtful ad- 
vantage. The persons who purchased the straw-plait 
did not pay the workers in money, but in truck, — ^thus 
earning a profit at both ends. The health of the work- 


ers was impaired by long sitting ; and as soft delicate 
hands were necessary, they were not allowed to do any 
household work. 

In fact, Dr Bell did everything he could. There 
was no limit to his energy and versatility. Benefit 
societies, schools, friendly meetings, clubs, visiting from 
house to house, advising with farmers, — ^nothing came 
amiss to him ; his large, fiery, friendly nature had an 
infection ia it which few could resist. He was hospit- 
able to the extent of keeping open house ; and under 
his influence the social spirit flowed and spread like a 
strong tide all over the neighbourhood. 




These are the dioscuri of modern popular education. 
Like other great and small " discoverers," they hated 
each other with a perfect hatred; they accused each 
other of stealing each other's " ideas ; " they did their 
utmost to fence in the sky for the benefit of their own 
separate and separating " Churches ; " and they taught 
their followers to cultivate a mutual detestation, which 
has no parallel outside of science or theology. Soldiers, 
who have to make war on other nations, frequently 
form the most lasting friendships among the men they 
take prisoner ; but to men engaged in the war of words, 
there is no custom of capture, and little opportunity of 
turning hatred into affection. How many wakeful nights 
has this unchristian spirit cost the present biographer ! 
Bell and Lancaster were as jealous of each other as two 
women in love with the same man ; and even the common 
love of children and education could not bring them into 
one mind. Must human affairs always progress by the 
method of antagonism — " madman or slave, must man be 
one 1 " George the Third, in an interview with Lancaster, 
said to him : " It is my will that every child in my king- 


dom should be able to read the Bible." The wish never 
went an inch beyond the expression ; the words remain- 
ed mere words ; no step was taken to carry the royal will 
into the cottages of the poor. Here were two seemingly 
heaven-sent men who could have done it ; but instead 
of doing it, they set to work and quarrelled. They were 
men eager to label their names across the education 
of the people, and to turn their systems into banners 
for the marshalling of hostile camps. They were also 
both Christians, followers of the eternal Peace-maker, 
of the Divine Son, who asked His Father to forgive 
the very men who were nailing Him to the cross. But 
religion is too good for everyday concerns; it must 
not be mixed up with the secular — it must be kept ex- 
clusively for Sunday wear. It lends itself beautifully 
to hymns and prayers, and is not out of place in compo- 
sitions called " sermons ; " but it is a foreign leaven in 
everyday intercourse between man and man — between 
Lancaster and Bell, — that must be regulated, like other 
pieces of business, by the multiplication-table. Thus, 
and thus only, is " civilisation" to be advanced. Besides, 
if religion is good, it is good chiefly for others. 

Joseph Lancaster had a message ; and his story of it 
is not without pathos. " I was walking," he says, " from 
Deptf ord to Greenwich, when my attention was attracted 
by this inscription : * To the glory of God, and to the 
benefit of poor children ; ' and while I was pleasantly 
meditating upon the founder giving glory to God, the 
children burst forth into singing His praises. My heart 
was melted; and it pleased God to implant within me 
a fervent wish and desire that I might one day thus 


honour Him; and through all the vicissitudes of the 
intervening period, my hope was seldom long clouded. 
I knew not how it was to be accomplished ; but, being 
assured that it was a divine impression, my mind was 
constantly endeavouring to find out a way. In 1798 
I proposed something of this kind to a number of gen- 
tlemen, but it failed. I had not long entered into the 
straw-hat business ; but I was persuaded this was the 
channel to accomplish my wish." 

Here, surely, in the deadest time of England's reli- 
gious feeling, was a manifestation, in the dull streets 
of Deptford, of the divine. Lancaster, at the age of 
eighteen, opened a school in his father's house; and 
not long after he happened to possess himself of a copy 
of Dr Bell's celebrated Report. In the year 1804, he 
wrote to Dr Bell from the "Free School, Borough 
Road," on the "21st of 11th month," enumerating his 
difficulties, and asking for advice. He mentions, as 
one of the " obstacles to the diffusion " of popular edu- 
cation, " the price of sand in London — 9s. the load ; " 
and he asks for " further information on the use of the 
sand, — whether dry or wet, and how the boys were first 
taught their letters." Lancaster further offers to travel 
down and talk with Dr BelL The meeting between 
these two celebrated personages took place in 1805. 

Dr Bell's account of their meeting is full of preju- 
dice. His feelings were, no doubt, much influenced by 
Church considerations ; and as he was writing to Mrs 
Trimmer — ^a buttress, if not a pillar, of the Church — 
he was more likely to show these feelings and their in- 
fluences with perfect openness. He says that Lancaster 


" seemed disposed to copy him on every point," except 
on that of the training of teachers. And the good Doc- 
tor, with his eager practical mind, is filled with scorn 
at the notions of Lancaster upon this subject Lan- 
caster^ with the 'Adive simpleness of an inquiring mind, 
had expressed his opinion that it was as well for a 
teacher to know something of the nature and growth of 
the mind and soul upon which he had to operate. Dr 
Bell calls this " forming his teachers by lectures on the 
passions;" and thunders out, "Nothing was ever so 
burlesque!" And he goes on, — seeing with perfect 
truth, as far as he does see — " It is by attending the 
school, seeing what is going on there, and taking a share 
in the office of tuition, that teachers are to be formed, 
and not by lectures and abstract instruction." Most 
true; but "it takes all sorts to make up a world.'* 
How to train a teacher is a problem which still remains 
to be solved ; and at the present time there are many 
good ajid true minds hard at work upon it But to 
put the question upon its lowest ground, it is plain that 
the teacher, who has intrusted to him a veryldifficult 
task, ought to know something, be it more or less, of 
growing human nature,— of the laws according to which 
human knowledge is acquired, and of the chief hindrances 
to the production of strong minds and healthy souls, — 
just as the carpenter is the better for knowing the grain 
and fibre of woods, and the farmer for learning the 
chemical components of soil and manure. 

If Dr Bell ever had any kindly feeling for, or 
sympathy with, Lancaster and his labours, the notable 
Mrs Trimmer, who — according to her own account — ^had 


'' long been engaged in striving to promote the interests 
of the Church," very soon put all that out of his head. 
She made two great discoveries: one, that Lancaster 
was "building on the foundation of Dr Bell;" and 
the other, that " there was something* in his plan that 
was inimical to the interests of the Established Church." 
Here was the ecclesiastical trumpet clearly blown. Dr 
Bell would have been unfaithful to his Church had 
he forborne to treat and to describe Mr Lancaster as an 
impostor and a plagiarist. And so the armoury of evil 
names is ransacked. " Quackery, conceit, ignorance, 
a consummate front " (whatever that may mean), a 
"plausible and ostentatious guise" — these and many 
other accusations are thrown vigorously about. Li the 
case of Dr Bell, all this only meant that he was jealous 
of Lancaster, and looked upon him as a kind of poacher. 
But Mrs Trimmer saw farther. She saw that Lancaster 
was an incendiary and a conspirator. "Of all the 
plans," she says in one of her letters to Dr Bell, " that 
have appeared in this kingdom likely to supplant the 
Churchy Mr Lancaster's seem to me the most formid- 
able." And she mixes him up with Jacobins, Ulum- 
inati, PhUanthropinists, sectarists, and infidels, and is 
determined to erase him and his works from the face 
of England. Here is a quiet straw - plaiting Quaker, 
who tries to teach large numbers of poor children, and 
he is spoken of as a kind of spiritual and diabolic Guy 
Fawkes. Joseph Lancaster, on the other hand, wrote 
nothing in reply, but quietly said to his neighbour 
Friends, "Sarah Trimmer is a bigot; and having set 
up to herself that golden image, the Church, she wants 


every knee to bow down to it." But Mrs Trimmer will 
not let Lancaster alone even in his private life. ** It is 
a curious facty" she says, " that he was not originally a 
Quaker, but an Anabaptist, intended by his father (who 
is a preacher himself) for what they call a minister} 
Whether he changed for the love of a pretty Quaker, 
whom he married, or whether the broad brim was the 
best cover for his scheme, I cannot say." Had all this 
taken place at the present day, one would say that ^Irs 
Trimmer was suffering from the spreti injuria amoria ; 
but in the early part of this century, all good Church- 
men believed that they, and they alone, held the patent 
for the Christian rehgion, and this kind of language 
was employed to deter aU persons from interference 
with their exclusive rights. 

Dr Bell is more kind, if at the same time a little 
too patronising. ''In his (Mr Lancaster's) hands this 
beautiful system has the advantage of being conducted 
with admirable temper, ingenuity, and ability ; and he 
discovers much contrivance, and even wit, iu the rami- 
fications of its application." But in another letter, 
written at a later date, he describes the simple child- 
like man as "illiterate and ignorant, with a brazen 
front, consummate assurance, and the most artful and 
plausible address, not without ability and ingenuity, 
heightened in its effects under the Quaker's guise." 
His family, too, were anything but what they ought to 
be. ** His account of his family in unguarded moments 
—Dissenters, Roman Catholics, infidels — is most ex- 
traordinary." In another letter, Mrs Trimmer flatters 

^ The italics and the scorn are Mrs Trimmer's. 


Dr Bell by describing Lancaster's procedure as " a per- 
version of your excellent plan for purposes deeper than 
meet the eye." This is one of the very oldest methods 
of abuse, and one of the most efltective. You do not 
know anything about the intentions of the other man, 
and you are therefore free to conjecture the very worst. 
The King was going to help Lancaster ; and a school was 
about to be opened at Windsor on his plan, to be called 
the King*8 School. But a zealous ally of Mrs Trimmer's, 
the Rev. Mr Plimley, rector of Windsor, defeated this 
philanthropic " attempt of the arrogant Quaker." Mrs 
Trimmer even succeeded in disturbing the repose of the 
higher orders of the clergy. " The dignitaries of the 
Church," she says, "even the highest^ are fully con- 
vinced of the danger of the plan of forming the chil- 
dren of the lower orders into one organised body?- , . . 
The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge are 
desirous to take an active part against him. ... In 
short, his wings will be clipped in some degree." Such 
wrath disturbs celestial minds — such passions ruffle the 
quiet bosoms even of the sage barn-door fowL 

^ Mrs Trimmer's italics. 




The trustee of a charity school in Whitechapel had 
fallen in love with the System, and was anxious to have 
it introduced. Mrs Trimmer was also contemplating a 
girls' school at Brentford. Accordingly Dr Bell came 
up to town. In commencing the organisation of the 
school at Whitechapel, " he first chose about twenty of 
the best and cleanest boys, and having tried them in 
reading, etc., he selected ten or twelve of the best of 
them as teachers and assistants for the different classes. 
He then selected, by further trials, the two best of them 
for the first class, and the two next for the second ; and 
so on, till he had five or six sets of teachers." He told 
all the boys present that he was going to help the 
scholars to teach themselves, and at the same time he 
"was also going to seek instruction at their hands." 
When Dr Bell, soon after, left for Swanage, some 
obstacles arose; and his excitement and determination 
rose with the emergency. " By — meaning through and 
under — God ! " he exclaimed, " the work will go on, and 
flourish and spread far and near." 

Mr Davis, the trustee of the Whitechapel school, was 


80 well satisfied with what he saw there, that he deter- 
mined to found and endow a school at Gower's Walk — 
which should be a school of industry as well for instruc- 
tion in the ordinary subjects. In the school shoemaking 
was tried, but this did not succeed. Printing was then 
introduced, and the boys took to it with immense eager- 
ness. They " composed, distributed, and worked off to 
admiration," and found the labour " highly amusing." 

Lord Radstock, a great admirer of the System, sug- 
gested in 1807 to the then Archbishop of Canterbury, 
that he should establish a school for two hundred boys 
at Lambeth ; and in the beginning of May, Dr Bell ob- 
tained a licence from his bishop " to be absent from his 
benefice of Swanage for two years." 

The System was introduced into the female orphan 
asylum at Lambeth; and in 1808 Dr Bell was ap- 
pointed "perpetual guardian" of the institution, in 
order that he might have every facility for the carrying 
out of his plan. He was also invited to remodel the 
Royal Military Asylum at Chelsea. In explaining his 
System to the Duke of York, then Commander-in-chief, 
he said that his '^ teachers and assistant teachers were 
his sergeants and corporals, his reports their orderly 
books ; " and that it was in the school of the army that 
he had learned his own lesson. 

About this time — the beginning of 1807 — Lancaster 
inserted in the 'Star' newspaper an advertisement which 
produced in Dr BeU's mind a considerable amount of 
excitement In this advertisement, he stated that he 
had "invented, under the blessing of Divine Providence, 
a new and mechanical system of education for the use of 


schools ; " and that, '* hy this system, paradoxical as it 
may appear, above one thousand children may be taught 
and governed by one master only. . . . Any boy who 
can read, can teach arithmetic with the certainty of 
a mathematician, although he knows nothing about it 
himself." This claim to teach a subject that the teacher 
does not himself know is constantly making its appear- 
ance ; and it is one of the diseases that accompany the 
low feyerish habit of mind which demands a method, 
but cares little for the knowledge which must accompany 
the method — which looks for a panacea, and overleaps 
the need for first-hand knowledge. This constantly 
cropping-up demand impeded for a long time the science 
of medicine ; and it even now impedes, to a large extent, 
the possible science of education. 

Mr Whitbread, the eminent brewer and member of 
Parliament, was at this time engaged on an attempt to 
remodel the poor-laws, and to introduce a system of 
national education. The differences between Dr Bell 
and Mr Lancaster were submitted to him, and he 
settled, or appeared to settle, them in an amicable way. 
He stated that "Dr BeU unquestionably preceded Mr 
Lancaster, and to him the world is first indebted for 
one of the most useful discoveries which has ever been 
submitted to society. , . . Mr Lancaster at the same 
time asserts that many of the very useful methods 
practised at his school are exclusively his own." Who 
knows ? Who needs to know ? Who cares to know ? 
Lancaster hardly knew himself. But he gave a noble life 
to popular education, and no doubt he has his reward. 

Another school on Dr Bell's system was begun in 



East Maiylebone in 1807. It opened with three boys, 
and in a short time niunbered two hundred and fifty. 
The success of this school suggested the formation of a 
society for the promotion of education and the training 
of teachers; but nothing came of this movement till 
several years after. It was, however, very cheering to 
Dr Bell to find letters pouring in upon him from all 
parts of the kingdom — from correspondents who asked 
to be provided with teachers trained upon the famous 
Madras Sptem. From Ireland, too, came an application 
from Eichard Lovell Edgeworth, who wanted "some 
hints on the subject of education." The art of instruc- 
tion was at this time very backward in Ireland; and 
the ideas of discipline very rudimentary. " The boy who 
had written the best copy was ordered by the master to 
pull the other^s hair, and so to do till they arrived at 
their seats in the school again." 

A petition from the West Indies — from Barbadoes — 
also came to Dr Bell. It asked for a " well-instructed 
boy," to be sent out immediately ; and a young jprotSgS 
of Bell^ Lewis Warren " was sent out. The Bishop of 
London was very enthusiastic about Warren, and wrote 
of him : " Ho will make his fortune and immortalise 
his name. He will be ranked among the greatest bene- 
factors to mankind, and (although it is a bold thing to 
say) he will be doing as much good in the Atlantic 
Ocean as Bonaparte is doing mischief on the continent 
of Europe." This contrast between oceans and conti- 
nents, Warrens and Bonapartes, is very pleasing. But 
Warren very soon withdrew his light from education, 
and gave it to the more lucrative subject of blacking. 


The West India planters were, however, up in arms. 
They deprecated Dr Bell's introducing education among 
their negroes. They looked upon education as something 
akin to small-pox or yellow fever. They ask whether 
there " is nothing further to be done in Great Britain 
and Ireland in the instruction and civilisation of the 
lowest classes, that he must adventure the fruits of his 
imagination to our side of the Atlantic ? " If England 
is fully educated and civilised, there is Ireland ; and a 
Scotch gentleman, " who is now at the right hand " of 
the correspondent, suggests that even in Scotland the 
lower classes are not so highly polished as they might 
be. The planter goes on to complain that England 
never thinks of her colonies, except to tax or to edu- 
cate them ; that they are the corpora villa for experi- 
ment ; and to " entreat the Doctor to contemplate the 
miseries of St Domingo," and to give up a scheme that 
would "make him answerable in another world for 
so wanton and cruel a misapplication of his talents." 
And the writer concludes by stating that, on the Day of 
Judgment, Dr Bell would not be able to plead "as a 
justification for the injury done us, the benefits to our 
slaves, who are, I sincerely believe, better off in their 
present condition than instruction in letters would make 




In the beginning of the year 1808, Dr Bell was trying 
to find a living near London, in exchange for his rectory 
at Swanage, in order that he might be able to give per- 
sonal aid and superintendence to the schools which were 
rising up under his system on every side. In one of 
these applications for an ecclesiastical position, he de- 
scribes himself as " more than fifty, and a bad life ; " 
and points to " the zeal with which I have devoted 
myself to the King and Church." The motivation, by 
aid of " the bad life " and " the King," — who takes 
pi^ocodonce of the Church, — sounds to our modem ears 
somewhat odd. About this time he became acquainted 
with the Bishop of Durham, who appointed him one of 
his chaplains, and presented him with the Mastership of 
Shorburn Hospital 

A long triangular correspondence, about dilapidations, 
between the Bishop of Durham, the Bishop of Ely (the 
late Master), and Dr Bell, followed, with which the pres- 
ent reader need not be detained. The Hospital, which is 
near Durham, had been founded by Hugh Pudsey, " the 
joly By shop of Durham," for sixty-five lepers ; and the 


original endowment dated from before 1181. The lepers 
were well treated. Their daily allowance was " a loaf 
weighing five marks, and a gallon of ale to each, and 
betwixt every two a mess or commons of flesh three 
days in the week ; and of fish, cheese, or butter on the 
remaining four ; on high festivals, a double mess ; and 
in particular, on the feast of St Cuthbert, in Lent, 
fresh salmon, if it could be had, — if not, other fresh 
fish; and on Michaelmas-day four messed on a goose, 
with fresh fish, flesh, or eggs," — and so on. The sick 
leper had fire and candles, and all necessaries, till he 
should get better or die, — dcmec melioretur vel moriatur. 
In the seventeenth century, maimed seamen and soldiers 
were substituted for lepers. 

Dr BeU wished to hold this office along with his 
living at Swanage ; but this was found to be against the 
conditions of the Mastership. The bishop accordingly 
requested Dr BeU to write to his patron, Mr Calcraft, 
and beg him to present the living to a Mr Gale, the 
bishop's nominee. Mr Gale was not beloved by Swan- 
age ; and this lack of aflfection was ardently returned. 
He writes in the plainest terms to Dr Bell : " My good 
cousin, you begin yours with saying you hope I am 
in love with Swanage. I told you the moment I saw 
it, and even before we arrived at it, my idea of it. 
You talk of summer. The fault is in winter, as you 
too well know. You are up to the neck in puddle and 
mire; and in summer you are smothered with the 
dust, and roasted in those parts where the houses are, 
by the burning sun. The very sight of the country 
gave poor Mr Saunders (the curate) the horrors. . . • 


I have told the bishop that, instead of doing me a 
service, the expense of this place will be the ruin of 
me; and I am most truly sorry that I was so great 
a fool as to come to it without having first seen it ; 
and well for me had it been at the bottom of the sea 
before I ever arrived at it." And yet Mr Gale's 
living in Yorkshire was only £150 a-year, while the 
Swanage rectory amounted to £600. 

Applications for teachers trained on the Madras 
System, came in almost daily — from London, Twicken- 
ham, Plymouth, and many other places. As early as 
1805, Dr Bell had recommended the establishment 
of a Board of Education for the whole country ; and 
in 1808 he published a ' Sketch of a National Institu- 
tion for Training up the Children of the Poor in Moral 
and Religious Principles, and in Habits of Useful Indus- 
try.' And this was the beginning of the present National 
Society, which is still strong and prosperous. 

The clergy of the diocese of Durham formed them- 
selves in 1811 into "A Society for the Education of 
the Children of the Poor, according to the System 
invented by Dr BeUj" and another society of the 
same kind was founded in Devonshire by Sir Thomas 
Acland. The formation of this Devonshire society 
was much quickened by the expressed intention of 
Mr Lancaster "to visit this county in October;" by 
a report that he came " with royal authority ; " and by 
his statement that " he will teach the people of Devon- 
shire a lesson that will surprise them, and such as 
they have not been used to." 
. The System had been also adopted in the Preparatory 


School of Christ's Hospital at Hertford ; and Mr Davis, 
on visiting it, tells Dr Bell that " I and my wife were 
delighted almost to tears. An intelligent, weU-disposed, 
unobtrusive master — able, active, diligent, correct, cheer- 
ful teachers — Chappy boys, all employed — the hum of in- 
dustry — marked books — registers beautifully kept — 
reading and ciphering after your own heart, — all bespoke 
the carefulness and attention which had been paid to 
the directions given." And their success seems to have 
fired Dr BeU with the ambition of applying the Madras 
System to classical education. 

In the autumn of 1811, the controversy between the 
partisans of BeU and Lancaster broke out again, and 
with increased virulence. Lord Radstock, an admirer 
of Dr BeU's, sent to the * Morning Post' an "eirtra- 
ordinary rhapsody," to which he gave the title of 
" The Sleepers Awakened : a Vision." Li this paper, the 
writer dreams that he saw " the whole bench of bishops 
dressed in their robes, their mitres on their heads, aad 
all of them seemingly in a most profound sleep." Then 
there appeared " a chubby-faced little man, in an entire 
drab-coloured suit and a broad-brimmed hat," who " ex- 
claimed in a slow and sonorous tone of voice — *Ye 
slothful and mouldering puny dignitaries, have ye not 
slumbered your fiU ? ' " The bishops were frightened ; 
and " the whole of them rushed out of the hall together, 
in no less apparent agony than with precipitation." The 
chubby-faced little man had " dashed a scroll to the 
floor," and on the scroll was written "Joseph Lan- 
caster, the inventor of the Lancasterian System" Then 
Lord Eadstock, feeling " a gentle tap on the shoulder," 


turned and saw " a lovely youth standing by my side, 
clad in white, and of heavenly mien." (The lovely 
youth was Dr Bell, who had a heavy, fleshy, fiery-red 
face, — ^was fifty-eight, and, as he himself said, " a had 
lifa") The youth " spoke as follows : * Be of good 
cheer, thou friend to the Established Church, and 
fear not' " The editor of the * Morning Post * appended 
the following note to the end of the paper : " The above 
subject being of considerable importance to the public, 
it is scarcely necessary for us to state that we shall 
leave our colunms open to the free and liberal discus- 
sion of it" 

The lists were now ready, and the challenge had been 
sounded. Mr Lancaster at once thought it necessary to 
address a series of letters to the "British Public," in 
which he changed his attitude, became the attacking 
party, drew his sword, and threw away the scabbard. 
It was a pity. For whereas Lancaster had before 
thought only of his children, his work, and the wants 
of the country, he now descended into an arena of 
personalities, where the line of another man's con- 
sciousness is constantly crossed, and where motives and 
meannesses are lavishly and loudly imputed. He said 
that the King had sent for'him; "unsolicited and un- 
expectedly," had honoured him with his name and 
patronage; and that then, and only then, "Dr Bell 
was dragged out of his retirement to claim a plan, the 
merit of which I assert is not his." He accuses the 
reverend Doctor of having for years kept " the benefit of 
his boasted system " even from the children of his own 
parish; and adds that, had it not been "for the glitter 


and sound of the royal patronage," he would never have 
left his solitude or his occupation "of planting cab- 
bages." He taunts Dr Bell with being an advocate for 
"the universal limitation of knowledge," and quotes 
from one of Dr Bell's pamphlets the fatal words — " The 
children of the poor should not even be taught to write 
or to cipher." Professor Marsh, who had the mis- 
fortune to preach a sermon in St Paul's to seven 
thousand charity children, in which he attacked Lan- 
caster, joined in the controversy. The controversy 
quickly rose into higher regions; and, as was to be 
expected, the * Edinburgh Review ' took the side of Mr 
Lancaster, while Southey in the * Quarterly ' appeared as 
an ally of Dr BelL 




The friends of Dr Bell and the Madras System were 
desirous of establishing a " National Institution ^ which 
should extend the benefits of the new ideas to all parts 
of the three kingdoms. They were also bent upon estab- 
lishing — ^what was a very minor matter, about which 
not a soul cares a straw nowadays — " the priority of Dr 
Bell's claim." One of the very first discussions which 
arose at the preliminary meetings was, whether it was 
advisable to convert the present schoolmasters to Dr 
Bell's ideas, or to create a new set of teachers by found- 
ing a seminary for training them. A third course sug- 
gested was " to have one school in perfect order in 
the metropolis, where masters may be trained, and to 
which they may be referred." In the course of time, 
it was resolved to foimd a society, "to be called the 
Metropolitan Society for Promoting the Education of 
the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church, 
according to the System invented and practised by the 
Bev. Dr BelL" Part of the plan of the society was 
also " to show the danger of Lancaster's proceedings." 
But Mr Bouger, one of the most powerful prota- 

PR06BESS. 59 

gonists in this moyement, had a larger plan in lus 
head. His plan was " to establish not a metropolitan, 
but a national, society, for the education of the poor." 
Everybody that was anybody was ready to give his 
support to either plan. " The Prince Regent approves ; 
that wisest and best of men, Mr Perceval, will give it 
his best support " (Mr Perceval was the unhappy Prime 
Minister of the day) ; and these ceremonial and offi- 
cial heads of the State were followed by a crowd of 
peers and bishops. But the movement was in some 
danger. The new society got mixed up with a " Bart- 
lett's Boys' Society," and several of its best supporters 
refused to join it under this restriction. At length 
the ship was fairly afloat : and the name was by gen- 
eral consent altered to " The National Society for Pro- 
moting the Education of the Poor in the Principles 
of the Established Church, throughout England and 
Wales." The President of the Committee was the 
Archbishop of Canterbury: and the vice-presidents 
numbered among them the Archbishop of York, several 
bishops, the Lord High Chancellor, the Speaker of the 
House of Commons, and a number of peers. 

A sub-committee was also appointed; and its first 
work was to recommend that a central school for the 
education of a thousand children should be established 
near the city of Westminster, and that a similar school 
should be established in or near the city of London. 
Temporary rooms were meanwhile adapted to the pur- 
poses of a school in Gray's Inn Lane. 

Some doubt was felt by several members of the com- 
mittee as to the part that should be taken by Dr Bell 

1 .>• 

• * . 

• ■ • 

,1 • 

::ji of dr bell 

-:.:.:> ul'm; fln«I the Ei<liop of London 

. : ; ;.• J)r Jk'iJ al:- .:-:Iivr from the national 

•: :.> an •oo.iSiii. .i :v:s.:t." and seemed 

k:. '.k •::• ti- ■ ''l'.-. s- '..-.-i hy his perverse- 

* W'lll -•::•> 1/-. '•>•:: to play Hamlet 

: .:: : !:.:-'•' --' -T-rritt, an entlmsias- 

;; . . ■>:''.'.. I:-!: [^ of London on 

. : * ,*■".."" for this he will 

. :. • -i •• -- :::-iu mine.'' At 

• . V • ? .. •.:: 1 -i^ j',js laid 

'- 7 "::.i::'::: arpointnient in 

:. - ■■ :::■:' '-I'-M-tin;^ him "an 

. • * 1 "'!!ii:iiLt».Mi.'' 

"*:"il S.;houl wa."? given 

- !"^i-:isi»itT»\ who had in- 
- * ' :* *:•.«' sv^u'LT' stion of the 

,- ir .sn<.'ut.:5s. AVords- 
: Lis own children 

- • Dr IVIL in 1811, 
," i: wi-rk goes on so 

•'"'r.k. m tlio present 

i " '< \: loast one small 

^ • • ^- ;5 if tluv thoudit 

"* - ' :v; • SO than that of 

1 , .. 

-■ • ^ - . "!':■ IVU made the 

^ ..-•">!:<> Porolhy Words- 

^ >'.. ' ::i till- convction of 

■" . • .-.■. yiir.^Iv ivi::od».'lk'd, 

V ...'c /I;: l.-i? Ow..'.'.'a. Vd\. 

.' ■ «. ..•.-.■■■.J .».'• • -. i" » ,-. T rIP 


fact is, that Dr Bell wrote a terribly lumbering and pain- 
ful style, and no one now can read Mb books ; but then 
no one can speak for another as well as the man himself 
— ^however clumsily and stupidly he may speak. 

Dr Bell's introduction to Mr Bamford at Grasmere 
gives a not uninteresting glimpse of the state of teaching 
in the begining of this century. Mr Bamford was the 
head -boy of the grammar-school at Ambleside; and 
when Mr Johnson went to London, he was sent to take 
charge of the school at Grasmera " I was sitting one 
day," he says, "reading Baptista Mantuates, while a 
little brat was squeaking his letters before me, when an 
elderly venerable-looking gentleman entered the school." 
The custom in Grasmere school was for the master to do 
as much reading of his own in the school as he could, 
and to " hear the lessons " of the children, who came 
up separately four times a-day to " say " them. This 
ancient superstition still lingers in some parts of the 
country, under the name of "the individual system." 
Mr Bamford gives a bright and pleasant picture of 
Hartley Coleridga " Hartley was very irregular in his 
time of attending school He used to run in about ten 
o'clock, with his hat on his head, chewing a slate-pencil 
in his moutL * Where have you been 1 ' Hartley, 
laughing, * I really don't know.' * You are a strange 
fellow. Hartley, to go on in this way. Get me forty 
lines of Homer in such a book.* 'Shall I say them 
now, sir*?'" 

The System was now spreading itself over the country. 
Mr Marriott tells him that, near Lutterworth, he wiU 
" find several parishes rendered comparatively a heaven 


upon earth by teaching." And Mr Justice Park wrote to 
Mr Marriott that Dr Bell's *' plan is one of the most 
stupendous engines that ever have been wielded, since 
the days of our Saviour and His apostles, for the ad- 
vancement of God's true religion upon earth." 

The Central School was now beginning to do good 
work, but also to be a source of some trouble The 
** masters and mistresses " who had come to be trained 
as teachers were, in many instances, '^ imable to write, and 
in some even to read ; " and what was worse, they seem 
to have shown themselves quite indifferent to the merits 
of the System- In the Charterhouse, however, where it 
had been introduced, the System seems to have been 
successful; and the Archbishop of Canterbury enter- 
tained Dr Bell "for an hour with eulogiums on the 
effects produced in this school by the Madras System." 

During this period, young Bamford seems to have 
been his private secretary and amanuensis. Of Bamford 
he took possession body and souL He would have .him 
in attendance at six in the morning ; and sometimes till 
eleven at night. His chief work was transcribing, 
''from little scraps of paper and backs of letters, the 
chaotic effusions of Dr Bell's ardent mind." Young 
Bamford hardly dared to speak to a friend or to call 
upon an acquaintance ; and he " looked upon all others 
who spoke kindly to me, or wished me to seek some 
relaxation, as insidious enemies." " He exacted of me," 
Mr Bamford goes on to say, "the prostration of the 
intellect, the affections, and the actions." For all this 
absolute devotion of time and soul, Bamford was paid 
chiefly with promises. Dr Bell also represented to him 


that the copying and recopying of the notions, ideas, 
plans, and suggestions which day by day he committed 
to odd scraps of paper was " real training, far better 
than being at the University." And Mr Bamford adds, 
with half-Tinconscious humour, " nobody knew where it 
might end, or what you may come to, if you give your- 
self Tip to this thing." 

The Central School was in the meantime prospering 
more and more. It was introducing into England not 
only a new type, but a new tone, in school-work. The 
Keport of 1812 says, among other things : " The pleas- 
ure and delight children take in their school, wherever 
the Madras System of education is introduced, is a 
well-known and gratifying fact. . . . Children who 
had acquired, at their admission, the most disorderly 
habits and ungovernable conduct, have actually been 
reformed. This is not only visible in the school, but 
it has been observed by the parents at home, many of 
whom have not been backward in confessing the same 
with tears of joy and gratitude. ... Flagellation 
has not once been resorted to, . . . which shows that 
self -discipline, as well as self -instruction, is produced by 
the new system of education." 

The National Society was also prospering, and widen- 
ing its hospitable borders with great rapidity. In 1812 
it had 62 schools, with 8620 children, under its care; 
in 1813 their numbers had grown to 230 schools, and 
40,484 children. 

About this time, Dr Bell, who was always travelling 
up and down the country inspecting schools, visiting 
patrons, and in every way " prosecuting his discovery,*' 


"- :.:7E ■■? DB BELL. 

^^ '— :: 'Ji'* .';:?]•• 7 :' I-j-hir:. his friend 

^^ .-::- : -:-•■— H-ital. The 

•...— ^ . ■-- i.-z:rr or their 

. -- - r -: :-. - iz a state 

: T_ I- s.-^'jL :» letter 

_ "rf :r.f homs, 

- -■ l:: rri^-inate 

■ •.. :':.:is-: " who are 

-■ ~.:1 ::■ ar.r:OT and 

:: 'if-r.-. n-akvs him 

- ":.;.:j-r the frlljw- 














■ I 

' ■; • ■ 

• ^ • 




on to descant upon "the advantages which the in- 
brethren enjoy." These advantages seem to have con- 
sisted of one suit of clothes a-year, an allowance of 
beer, an apothecary, a tip now and then, and food. 
" Each brother," says Dr Bell, " has also a small gratu- 
ity on signing a lease. Their diet and allowance are 
set forth in the accompanying paper, on which I observe 
that some of them use no beer, and none of them, I 
believe, small-beer, — the table-beer alone being suffi- 
cient for their daily beverage; cheese they find un- 
necessary. Their meat, milk, and other allowances 
are much more than they can consume. They sell a 
part, and some of them lay up the money. Several die 
possessed of considerable funds; others give to their 
relations and friends; and others spend the money, to 
the injury of their morals and their health, at the pub- 
lic-house, or elsewhere." The bishop appears to have 
been satisfied with the Doctor's explanation; and he 
was now free to go to and fro in the country, and to 
give all his time to the pursuit in which his whole heart 
was engaged, while the old men went on vegetating, 
and wending their slow way towards the grave. 

In 1814, Dr Bell "added an important addition to 
his invaluable system." It illustrates the permanent 
condition of wonder and admiration of himseK in which 
the Doctor lived, — a wonder not " the seed of know- 
ledge," as Lord Bacon calls it, but the fruit of ignorance, 
that " this important addition to his invaluable system " 
consisted of making " the children stand while they are 
learning their lessons;" and the humane persons in- 
trusted with the execution of this new idea state " that 



no mconvenience whatever has heen obseirved from the 
children lemaining at continued lessons, even two or 
three hours together." To keep young children stand- 
ing for two or three hours together was surely some- 
thing very like cruelty. 

Mr Johnson, the head-master of the Central School, 
was obliged to give up a great deal of his time to show- 
ing visitors over the school, to explaining the system, 
and to the training of teachers (among whom was a 
young Persian) ; and Dr BeU thought it advisable that 
he should be relieved of his duties as master. . Accord- 
ingly he one morning fell upon Mr Bamford with the 
sudden intimation that he was to be the master of the 
Central School Mr Bamford was dumfounded. " I 
received the intelligence," he says, " with real grief. . . . 
I shed tears ; but go I must, and that very morning." 

London was, in the year 1814, "crowded with for- 
eigners, among whom were the Emperor Alexander and 
his sister, the Grand Duchess of Eussia, — the latter of 
whom had expressed her intention of visiting the Cen- 
tral School" Dr Bell wrote several times to the 
Grand Duchess, sent her copies of his reports and 
works ; and in one of his letters he asks permission 
" to lay his books at the feet of his Imperial Majesty, 
at any hour, as he goes out or returns, so as not to 
occupy a moment of that time which was so fully em- 
ployed." The Emperor of Eussia was not so scrupu- 
lous about his time, — ^which surely was also of some 
value. Dr BeU achieved the interview he sought ; but 
he had to wait five hours in an ante-room for it. '' The 
Grand Duchess," he says, " soon " (this must mean soon 

PB06RESS. 67 

after the five hours of waiting) ''brought in the Em- 
peror, and after a while left us. After a time" (Dr 
Bell's notions of time are singularly illogical and self- 
inconsistent) " the Emperor and myself were left alone^ 
and I acquitted myself, on the whole, very badly, but 
had a very gracious reception, and very gracious leave." 
After a short time spent at Eyde, to recruit from the 
hard work of the London season, Dr Bell paid a visit 
to Ireland. In a letter to the Speaker, asking for 
introductions to persons of position in Ireland, he 
delivers himseK of a neat and compendious theory of 
education : '' Teach the Irish to read, write, cipher, and 
train them in the principles of morality and religion, 
as the Scots, Swiss, and Swedes are thiined, and they 
will resemble in character and conduct the Scots, Swiss, 
and Swedes." In this year of grace 1881, it is interesting 
to compare this theory of Dr Bell's with the actual state 
of that unhappy country. He also quotes from Hume 
that the Irish " had all the vices of a nation not tamed 
by education." At the root of Dr Bell's theory there 
lay two fundamental blunders. The'first was, that civil- 
iaation meant conformity to the type in the mind and 
conduct of Dr Bell himself, whereas civilisation is as 
multiform and as rich in types as IN'ature herself ; the 
second was, that what has not been done by the great 
unconscious powers in thousands of years can be done 
by one conscious man in a few months or years. Hu- 
manity is not so shallow, nor are civilising processes 
so short and hurried. Let us do aU we can, but let us 
not try to interrupt or to anticipate the work of vast 
cyclical currents. 




The fame of Dr Bell had now spread over England, 
Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, and letteis poured in 
upon him every day requesting advice or assistance in 
the foundation Of new schools. His mind was filled 
with the System — possessed by it through and through. 
He could think of nothing else ; he spoke of nothing 
else ; he wrote about nothing else. He was devoured 
by this single aim; he had become in every respect 
a one-ideaed man. Everything, both external and 
internal — every trait in the characters or minds of 
other men — ^was submitted to the standard of the ^S^^- 
tern and approved or condemned by that. A teacher 
was looked upon as lost to his profession and to good- 
ness if he thought of anything else at all ; and there 
were no lights or shades in Dr Bell's appreciation of a 
character. ''The Moorfields School insufferably bad; 
the Irish school bad ; the master president of a debat- 
ing society; what better can be expected of such a 
mani" The "discovery" he had made was of infinite 
value to the human race. He scolds his friend Mr 
Watts for thinking that his books were a little too 


dear. " A discovery is made," lie says, " and is given 
without patent, and at an incredible expense to the 
author, and it is too dear to those who profit by it 
at four shillings and twelve shillings ! It should have 
been published in quarto, and sold for five guineas — 
this has sense in it. . . . You will not soon be 
reconciled by me." The ebullient Doctor's idea of 
patenting the plan of asking one boy to teach another, 
and selling the description of his plan for five guineas, 
is very characteristic. But in all ages there are to 
be found men who would like to patent the Atlantic 
Ocean or to bottle up the English language. 

Dr Bell not only went about the country himself, 
to direct or to organise, but he had several assistants 
in this work— among others, Mr Grover, who organised, 
on the Madras System, schools at Manchester, -Salford, 
Leeds, Bolton, York, and Sheffield. 

At the close of the memorable year of 1815, Dr 
Bell revisited, after an absence of more than thirty 
years, his native city of St Andrews. Scenery did not 
interest him; the progress of towns he did not care 
to watch; hardly a trace of politics is to be found 
in his letters; schools and the System absorb all his 
thoughts. " Nothing," he writes to a friend, " is curi- 
ous, or interesting, or beautiful in my eyes, but the 
faces of children, but the infant mind, but the spiritual 
creation." He loved children ; he believed in children ; 
he believed in the System ; he believed in every detail 
of it. " If the master do not immediately," he writes, 
'' adopt the new system in all the departments of his 
school, especially by teaching every letter, monosyllable, 


and tlie syllabic lessons of the spelling-book, by writ- 
ing tbem on the slate, I shall entertain no good hope. 
Let him talk to me for ever of diMculties, want of 
room, etc etc., — ^he will talk in vain. I mil not lis- 
ten to him. . . . Difficulties in the instruction and 
discipline of a school are created by the master, or 
often handed down to him." 

There were, of course, enormous advantages in this 
enthusiasm. Bu^ it had its drawbacks. Dr Bell was 
constantly making alterations in the details; and he 
expected the teachers to be as loyal to, and as fond 
of, every new alteration as they had been of the old 
plans. " Besides," says Mr Southey, " his manner of 
Condemning trifling inaccuracies in those schools which 
he visited in his travels, was often unnecessarily harsh 
and violent; and while the slightest omission called 
forth unlimited blame, it required a very high state of 
perfection to obtain his commendations." 

Every cult has its mysteries; and the worship of 
the System very soon developed several. One of the 
chief mysteries was I L T 0. Dr Bell is " glad Davis 
is so jealous about I L T 0. . . . It is beautiful 
to see its effects. ... I fear I shall not sleep 
soundly till I hear from you, or see it producing the 
same fruits in Baldwin's Gardens as in Bishop Auck- 
land. . . • Wherever it is attended to as it ought, 
and duly understood, it will do all that can be done 
for a school I have gone to the full length of my 
tether. I can go no further. It leaves nothing more 
for me to do. All the world will in time learn every 
lesson by writing it. . . . Believe you have not 


done it as it ouglit to be done, till you are delighted 
and charmed as all are, where it is performed rightly. 
. . It is completely done at the Harrington School ; 
and all there think it all in all. I think it consum- 
mates my labours and leaves nothing more for me to 
do. . . ." Dr Bell, then, had come to the Her- 
cules Pillars of Elementary Education ; and there were 
no more worlds for him to conquer. Everything that 
the human intellect could do had been done ; the bright 
consummate flower of his thought was I L T ; and 
the coping-stone had been placed upon the immortal 
edifice of Primary Instruction. What was this I L T 1 
It was nothing more than that children should write 
their letters as soon as they had learnt them ; and 
these four letters were learned first, as the easiest to 
write. It was a small anticipation, a slight instal- 
ment, of the well-known Schreib-Lese-Methode of (Jer- 




Soon after the battle of Waterloo, the English began to 
resume their old habit of making the grand tour. The 
Continent had long been closed to them by ^Napoleon ; 
and they were now glad to get back to their old playing- 
fields — their former holiday-making places — ^and to travel 
about under a brighter sky and in clearer air than are 
generally found in London. Dr EeU was among the 
number. He left London on the 18th of June 1816, 
and arrived at Paris on the 21st. He found, on his 
arrival at Paris, that the Society for Elementary Listruc- 
tion had nominated him an honorary member. But he 
very much feared, in fact he "knew, that the beautiful 
simplicity of the new system is ill adapted to the genius 
of the French nation.** Among other places which he 
visited, he went to the school of the Duchesse de Drevas. 
There he found "about seventy boys, in bad order, 
noisy, with all the Lancasterian nonsense, loss of time, 
and dreadful clattering of hands and slates;" and he 
found his friend, the Abb^ Gualtier, "most bigoted 
and prejudiced : he contends that they do already as 
to emulation, etc., as I propose, and advocates even the 


noise." "No discoverer likes to hear tliat his "discovery " 
has been found, and found out, before : " Pereant isti qui 
ante noa nostra dixerint" He soon left Paris and travelled 
soutL Somewhere between Dijon and Dole, on the 
1 6th of July, he " conceived the idea of abridging my 
works into one volume perpetual {sic)" 

He comes at length to Yverdun, and at last meets 
Pestalozzi But he mentions the meeting with no em- 
phasis whatever. He does not seem to understand the 
greatness or the significance of the man. He mentions 
him quite incidentally — mixes him up with people that 
no one ever heard of. This is the way he is introduced : 
"July 30th at Yverdun, Mr and Mrs Langton, Pestalozzi, 
Mr Akerman. . . . An explanation from the vener- 
able chief of his principles. The development of the 
faculties — the mind, the heart, and the body — sum up, 
I think, what he said. Erom the principles he derived 
his art. I explained that mine arose from experience." 
It had come to this that Dr BeU was so fully absorbed 
by the System that he could understand or sympathise 
with nothing else. " Sum up, I think, what he said ! " 
As if Pestalozzi's explanations were like the passing gos- 
sip on a staircase of a world-hardened dowager. Why, 
Pestalozzi had given his fortune, his time, his labour, 
to the education of the poor, and had received nothing 
in return; Dr Bell, whose merits are unquestionably 
great, had received just as much from society as he had 
given to it, Dr Bell grew complimentary and solemn, 
and Pestalozzi turned it off. " When I said that Pes- 
talozzi was the father, friend, and companion of his 
pupils, he replied, * And the fool who takes them by the 

ft mm est im jams. 

licMQ^' taking <me of tlieiiQ who was in the compaiqr'by 
tluB noBe.** Ho doobt Dr BeiQ was shocked. He goes 
<iBi: ''F^ataloid has twenty mastecs for one hundzed 
idiQlaiB; • • • a mnltipliication of masteis to attend^ 
^UxmAtdf and insfaniGt the childzeii fdvd voce, to pierent 
enndation, and to tell whenerer a mistake is made, 
wiBuNift itc^^ping.'' ]^ sow^ and then he breaks into 
admiratjon: ^ISbe gymnastic exercises are incompar- 

In a letter from Yverdnn to his friend Mr Moms, 
Dr Bell points out that '^eyery -ptoieBoox must have a 
prejudice against an innoTation which would expose tiie 
whole tenor of th^air system, or want of system. There 
is also a natural jealoxusy in tiieir republic of letters : 
why should not we on the Continent improve as well 
as they in England t It will be long before the new 
system is sufiGiciently understood to put an end to such 
speculations. Every one wants to remake a discovery 
which has only been made after the world had existed 
almost 6000 years." But that is just the beauty of 
the " world ! " The world is perfectly new to the new 
human being. 

'* Und alio deine holieii Werke 
Sind herrlich wie am ersten Tag ! *' 

Dr Bell had got it into his head that the world had 
" waited " for his " discovery " for six thousand years ; 
and that then there was to be nothing after but rehears- 
ing the wonderful discovery. But the good and warm 
heart of the Doctor often got the better of his crotchet. 
Further on in the letter he says of Pestalom : ^ The 


chief I am clianned with : he has much that is original, 
much that is excellent ... I love the man. . . . 
He is a man of genius, benevolence, and enthusiasm.'' 

Eetuming home from Switzerland, he made his way 
by Holland, and had the new and rare pleasure of going 
down a large part of the Ehine on a raft. 

Soon after his return home, his thoughts went out 
towards America. " I often think," he writes to Lord 
Kenyon, "what a field America presents for the new 
system. The low state of education there ; but, far above 
all, no institutions, no prejudices, to encounter. The 
impulse thither appears irresistible." But Lord Kenyon 
cannot bring himseK to approve of America. He thinks 
that young nation is " hollow and unsound." He thinks 
it has no principles. He does not even believe it ever 
will have any. " I fear," he writes in reply, " there is 
not, and never will be (would there might !) principle 
enough in America to work upon to do good, even by 
your almost all-powerful System." 

Li 1817, the Crown Prince of Sweden sends over a 
Mr Swensson " to take notice of the principles and the 
method of learning, for which not only England, but 
aU Europe, is indebted to you ; " and Dr Bell replies 
that Mr Swensson "shall receive every instruction 
which can be given him in the knowledge and use of 
the new organ of the human mind for the multiplica- 
tion of power and division of labour in the moral and 
intellectual world." The Novum Organon of educa- 
tion — that was now Dr Bell's way of talking about the 
Madras System. 

We now find Dr Bell, at the age of sixty-four, work 


"ing aivfiy as indefatigably as ever on bis I L T and 
A E C. "I have Batiafied my mind that then ia no 
difficulty in teaching the al{diabef; I haTe applied a 
tutor to every child — made copying to be done Siei, 
the tutor helping as much as poeaible — repeating, and 
requiring to be repeated, the letter on which the diild 
ia employed — registering each letter taught — reading 
aloud, and taking places for every possible superiority, 
and writing afterwards fi'om dictation on the opposite 
side of their slates." What B great deal of miaeiy 
— dov, nnmbing mind-destroyii^ misery— ^laa been 
inflicted on children for want of a little previons in- 
qoiry — of a simple, open-eyed pfeliminaiy examination 
into the matter they were asked to leam I The ABC 
is the proverbial b^innii^ of eveiytiiing; and so it is 
made the beginnit^ — and in many places still is the 
beginning — of what is called education. But to " know " 
the A B C is simply to be able to attach a number of 
meaningless sounds to a number of meaningleaa and 
uninteresting marks ; and the child is not one whit the 
better — ^rather the worse — for having had to pat his 
mind through an arbitrary drilL Even now, the snper- 
atition, that it helps a child to make him eAj douUeyou- 
aitch-eye-see-aitch before he says which, and that tea- 
aiteh-ee-why is an " account," both rational and philo- 
logical, of they, still survives in some of the darker 
parts of educational Ei^land, 

In September 1817, Mr Johnson wrote Dr Bell that 
the Central School was " never in bo flourishing a con- 
dition as at present" There were 62 masters and 21 
mistresses under training, and more than 1000 scholars 


in the scHooL But in the same letter he infonns Dr 

Bell that the famous I L T has been "tried and 

condemned by the Committee as worse than useless, 

and ordered to be struck out of the type." But the 

strong-hearted Doctor was quite equal to the occasion. 

** It may be buried for a while," he writes in reply, " or 

in a comer, by the hand of power; but it will rise 

again, and spread over the world, and live for ever. It 

were then vain to take up arms against eternal truths." 

Meanwhile, after a little further correspondence, the 

alarm proved to be vain. It was merely the term, the 

heading, that the !N'ational Society wished to abolisL 

The practice itself, designated by the term — that is, 

simultaneous instruction in reading and writing — 

became a permanent practice in all the schools with 

which Dr Bell had to do. It is significant, however, 

that about this time we find that the Madras System 

had more difl&culties to contend with at St Andrews 

than at almost any other place where it had been 





While in St Andrews on a visit, in the beginning of 
1818, he was delighted and surprised by an offer, from the 
Archbishop of Canterbury, of a stall in Hereford Cathe- 
dral, " of good value." He had expected that the duties 
would be light, and that, holding this post along with 
his Mastership of Sherbum, he might still be able to 
give the larger part of his time to the promotion of his 
System and the foundation of new schools. But he 
found that the post was not without its duties. He 
had to preach four English and four Latin sermons ; he 
had to sit for forty days in a prebendal stall, without 
any duty to perform (surely the hardest kind of work 
for his active brain), thrice every Sunday and Saint's- 
day, and twice every ordinary week-day ; and all this 
time he was not allowed to ride or walk outside the 
walls of the city. 

While residing at Hereford, he, of course, lost no 
time in setting to work on the schools of the place — 
the Grammar and the iN'ational Schools. For the latter 
he preached a charity sermon at St Peter's. His sub- 
ject was The System. It was not a short sermon. The 


Doctor was in his element, and could have discoursed 
for days on the Novum Organon. He kept his aman- 
uensis up night and day copying and recopying it; 
and he entered into a long and detailed history of the 
discovery of the System, of its progress in this and 
other countries, and of the reasonable expectations that 
might be formed regarding its future. The eager 
preacher went on reading for an hour, then made a 
short pause to wipe his spectacles. The congregation, 
who had sat on with considerable patience, now thought 
the sermon over and rose to go. But, " Dr Bell, sud- 
denly recollecting himself, exclaimed *God bless me!* 
and instantly recommencing, went on for half an hour 

A new idea now came into Dr Bell's head. He had 
noticed, and rightly noticed, the great wrong and in- 
justice done to children in the mode of bringing them 
up and teaching them. He accordingly wrote a little 
book on the subject and gave it the title, * The Wrongs 
of Children.' The difficulty was to find a publisher. 
Lord Kenyon, in a letter to the Doctor about this time, 
remarks, — "Murray, I presume, like other booksellers, 
considers chiefly the likelihood of a sale, as I remember 
my revered friend Mr Jones told Eivington once, he 
believed if the d — 1 was to write a book they would 
publish it ; and Eivington said, * To be sure, if it was 
a good thing.'" 

He was now sixty-six years of age, but with that in- 
domitable freshness and eternal youth ^ that were his 
characteristics aU through life, he became extremely desir- 
^ ** Whom the gods love die young" because they live youDg. 


ous of correcting his Scotch accent. Dr Johnson once 
remarked that much might be done with a Scotchman 
" if he were caught young ; " but surely he woidd never 
have tried to induce him to alter his way of speaking 
when he was nearly seventy. However, the Doctor set 
manfully to work. He requested his secretary, Mr 
Davies, to note down during sermon those words in 
which his Scotch accent most evidently appeared ; and, 
when he returned home, he practised the art of pro- 
nouncing them in Mr Davies's English fashion. He 
was also very anxious to be able to speak so as to be 
heard in every part of the Abbey; and for this pur- 
pose, Mr Davies would take his seat in different distant 
parts of the building and report. But the voice of 
the enthusiastic Doctor, though of great volume, was 
never clear enough or articulate enough to be distinctly 
heard in the more distant parts of the cathedral In 
fact, he did not speak — ^he roared. 

There had been murmurs of complaint arising from 
Sherbum Hospital, to the visitor, the Bishop of Dur- 
ham, in 1813; and now, in 1818, again stronger com- 
plaints were uttered by the ancient brethren. It was 
the beer. Dr Bell, assisted by his chaplain and the 
agent, set to work at once to inquire into the causes of 
these complaints. The brethren were examined individ- 
ually and collectively, and their answers were written 
down. The result of the inquiry was that Dr Bell 
appointed two of the brethren to inspect the meat, and 
two to inspect the brewing, and to see that five bushels 
of malt went duly to the hogshead of beer. " But," says 
Mr Southey, ''the flame, which had but slumbered, 


burst out anew" in 1819. The flame was stirred up 
"by a designing person called Michael Angelo Taylor ; 
and this gentleman at length succeeded in inducing the 
bishop to appoint a commission. This commission dis- 
covered that only Is. 6d. was allowed for the weekly 
allowance of bread, beer, and two poimds of cheese. On 
the other hand, it appeared that Dr Bell spent £35 a-year 
on each of the in-brethren; and that he provided each of 
the old men with greatcoats, to be worn in chapel in 
cold weather. The fact is that, though it was not the 
fault of Dr Bell, but of the traditional system, the 
hospital was farmed^ and nothing was more likely than 
that an absentee master should get into all kinds of 

In the beginning of 1819, Dr Bell was so fortunate 
as to obtain a stall in Westminster Abbey, in exchange 
for that at Hereford ; and he was installed by the Dean 
of Westminster in the end of January. 

As Prebendary of Westminster, Dr Bell had to attend 
the coronation of George the Fourth in 1821 ; and here 
he was very nearly taking an unwilling part in a terrible 
socio-political scandal The Queen had been refused 
admittance to the Abbey, and was waiting at a side- 
door, apparently for the purpose of effecting an entrance 
should an opportunity present itself. On approaching 
the door, some one announced him to the Queen — " Dr 
Bell, your Majesty," — and alarm seized the reverend 
Doctor lest the Queen should ask him to allow her to 
enter the Abbey. He was too loyal a man to take a 
side in these disputes ; but he showed himself equal to 
the occasion. He hurried on, bowed to the Queen, and 



rushed past her through the door, " leaving her outside," 
It appears that, after the coronation, certain of the pro- 
perties were distributed among the prebendaries and 
other officials who took part in the ceremony. Dr Bell's 
share was a piece of carpet, some lamps, the gold cloth 
laid upon the coronation -chair, and one or two other 
things; and these he used long after to exhibit as 
"valuable relics." 

It will be remembered that the Madras System had 
been introduced into the Charterhouse schools. In 
regard to the success of this experiment, it may be use- 
ful to quote part of a letter from Lord Kenyon, an old 
and stanch friend of Dr Bell's : " I maintained that the 
examinations at the Charterhouse were very striking; 
that the whole of Horace's odes, or a whole book of 
Homer, might be examined upon ; and that no boy ^ in 
a cla^s would be found deficient, either in the repetition, 
being called upon to go on after a few words were re- 
cited to him, or to render it straightforwards by mem- 
ory into English, if required so to do. I mentioned 
also that every other matter connected with the subject, 
whether historical, geographical, mythological (or, if con- 
nected with the Sacred Scriptures, doctrinal), was to be 
explained by any boy who might be called on to do so. 
I added, likewise, the fact, that Dr Eussell found 100 
or 150 boys, and now had above 450; was quite over- 
done with his labours, and now found everything easy 
to him. I forgot to mention that he had now no cor- 
poral punishment, but did not forget to insist that no 
such was necessary, which, with respect to the Madras 

^ The italics are mine. 


schools, the bishop and ladies also maintaiiu I said 
you never did pretend that your System would super- 
sede the necessity of able masters, and carry on the 
whole matter mechanically, which they all seemed to 
conceive had been advanced." 

Perhaps the most important duty that Dr Bell per- 
formed at Westminster Abbey was to read the funeral 
service over the body of Mrs Garrick. She was buried 
in her husband's grave ; and when it was opened, a copy 
of Shakespeare's plays was found resting on his coffin. 

Dr Bell was^ at no time of his life, a clear or 
methodical writer. He said the same thing — ^he had 
only one or two ideas altogether in his head — over and 
over again in different ways, in long lumbering sentences, 
and with a ponderosity of manner that repelled and 
disenchanted. For the last twenty years his anxiety 
about what he called his " style " had been growing 
upon him to such a degree, that in 1823 it had become 
a disease. Mr Davies, his amanuensis, was the chief 
victim of this habit of anxiety. The too anxious Doctor 
rendered his manuscripts almost totally illegible by 
interlineations, erasures, and corrections ; the proofs of 
his books were as bad; the revises were very little better. 
He sat up himself at these corrections till one or two 
o'clock in the morning, and when the time for getting 
up came, his mind was ready with a fresh batch of 
alterations. These altered and corrected manuscripts 
Mr Davies had to copy out on large paper in a fair hand; 
and he had to be ready to do the same for the altera- 
tions of the next morning. Thus he seldom got more 
than two or three hours' sleep, and sometimes none at 


alL He was kept up the whole night. But even this was 
not enougL The Doctor used to send the proof-sheets 
of his works to his friends Lord Kenyon, Mr and Mrs 
Johnson, Mr Southey, Sir James Langham, and others ; 
and then, when they came full of corrections, he simply 
tossed them aside. The work he was now engaged in 
was his 'Manual of Instructions' for conducting schools 
on the Madras System ; and the work upon it was so 
hard that Mr Davies at length broke utterly down. The 
book appeared in 1823. 

But Dr Bell must go on writing and saying the same 
thing over and over again and again. He accordingly set 
to work on an abridgment of this Manual He went on 
with it — it was to be only a little book of forty-eight 
pages — year after year. In 1 8 2 7 he writes to Mr Southey : 
" Advanced years, growing infirmities, and decay of 
mind and memory, together with the difficulty of com- 
pressing within forty-eight pages what was before a 
hundred and forty-eight, and leaving nothing out, are 
the causes to whicli I ascribe my slow progress, in the 
course of which I often turned my eyes towards you ; 
but with so small a matter as a sixpenny or shilling 
tract for common use, I could not bring myself to break 
in on your time, occupied as I always know it to be." 




In the end of the year 1830, Dr Bell had fixed his 
residence at Cheltenham, which he never again quitted. 
He was now seventy-seven years of age ; his voice and 
throat had hecome affected, and he was unable to 
articulate without considerable difficulty. He had also 
great difficulty in swaUowing; and his breathing was 
hard and much impeded, especially in the morning. 
What the doctors feared was ossification of the upper 
part of the windpipa 

He was now becoming very anxious about his works 
— both the present and the posthumous editions ; and, 
among other plans, he formed one of a complete edi- 
tion of all he had written and published, to be edited 
conjointly by Mr Southey and Mr WordswortL Mrs 
Wordsworth went down to Cheltenham to see him 
about this project ; but Dr Bell was both ill and irri- 
table — full of anxiety about the disposal of his property, 
and the future fate of his " ideas " — and Mrs Words- 
worth cannot be said to have enjoyed her visit. !N"oth- 
ing, in any case, came of the proposal. 

His money, in fact, had become a terrible burden to 


him. He had laboured — both by saving and by enterprise 
— ^to make money ; and his success had been very re- 
markable. His chief anxiety now was that the money 
that was going to be left behind him should go to the 
promotion and immortalisation of his own educational 
ideas. One of his chief occupations and amusements in 
his latter days had been the making, unmaking, and re- 
making of wills ; and a large part of Mr Davies's work 
had consisted of copying and recopying these wills, and 
the endless interlineations upon them. Now, however, 
as things began to look serious, he thought it was time 
to employ a lawyer. iN'ay, more, a great fear and haste 
seized upon him; and "make all despatch — no time 
must be lost," became the everlasting burden — the 
monotonous refrain at the close of all his messages and 

On the 11th of May 1831, without consulting any 
person whatever, he gave orders for £120,000 to be 
transferred to the care of four gentlemen in St Andrews, 
who were to act as trustees. 


His sister. Miss Bell, had expressed a strong wish to 
go down to Cheltenham and pay a visit to her brother ; 
and with some reluctance he gave his consent to this, 
and forwarded to her an invitation. No sooner had he 
given this consent, than he wrote her another letter to 
recaU it. But she had set off before this second letter 
came ; and, on her arrival at Cheltenham, was received 
with warm affection by her brother. He made her a 
present of his cottage and grounds, of furniture, goods, 
and chattels, and also of '^ the carpet, and the covering 
of the coronation-chair which fell to me at the coronation 


of King George the Fourth." Most unfortunately, how- 
ever, Miss Bell had taken it into her head that her 
brother was not in a fit state to make a will, or to 
manage his own affairs; and his odd ways, his sud- 
den bursts of irritability, and his apparently causeless 
anxiety, seemed to give strength to this opinion. Upon 
these phenomena Miss Bell meditated much, until at 
length she went so far as to say to other persons in the 
course of conversation, that "he was not in his right 
mind." Dr Bell had always been a shrewd man ; and 
a few strange signs very soon put him upon the track 
of her intentions. He was unable to speak; but he 
silently placed a paper in her hands, requesting her to 
leave the house immediately, and offering her a choice 
of residence at St Andrews, at London, or at Malvern. 

In his last will, dated the 13th of August 1831, he 
named as trustees of the whole of his property the Earl 
of Leven and Melville, Walter Cook, Esquire, Writer to 
H.M Signet, Lord Kenyon, the Lord Justice - Clerk 
of Scotland, and Bishop Walker of Edinburgh. The 
trustees of the money intended for St Andrews were 
now to be the subject of unceasing interpellations. 
He wrote to them " to engage at any expense an agent 
to inform him, day by day, what was going forward." 
" My solicitude distresses me much. Excuse my anxiety. 
There is danger in the delay of a day." These trustees 
were to erect a building in harmony with the style of 
Blackfriars Chapel — one of the most beautiful remains 
in a city full of ecclesiastical fragments — ^to appoint 
four teachers, and also a rector of the Institution. A 
paper, containing his own suggestions, was drawn up 


by Professor Alexander; but, when the paper was 
concluded, he himself drew up another in reply to his 
own ideas. " I am, indeed," he wrote, " reduced to a 
sad dilemma. ... It afflicts me beyond measure to 
think that the funds laid up for giving full effect to a 
system of education, the object of which is the health, 
the happiness, the moral, religious, intellectual, and liter- 
ary improvement of the young (to a degree impracticable 
before) by a new and stupendous engine, may, by mis- 
take or otherwise, be directed to different purposes. . . . 
The only remedy that occurs to me is to desire that the 
funds be put into Chancery." Such was the utterly 
hopeless condition of Dr Bell's mind — such was the 
faithless outlook that presented itself as he la^ at the 
door of death. 

He was afraid that some of his money would go to 
the support of a number of ancient nuisances — such as 
" charity schools, hospitals, asylums, colleges, and uni- 
versities." He lumped them all up together, and took 
no note of any distinctions that might be made, or dif- 
ferences that might possibly exist. Nothing was to be 
done except for the "Madras (or, as it is often called, 
the monitorial) system of education." Before that sys- 
tem, education did not exist. " Do not talk to me of 
your colleges and your universities. They are asylums 
for the maimed, the halt, and the blind ; more, they are 
receptacles for the dead, who cannot hear the new word 
of life which I have spoken, and who must sleep on." 

While Dr Bell was in this anxious state of mind — 
drawn hither and thither by every new suggestion, driven 
hither and thither by every new letter he received from 


his correspondents — splitting up his money into portions 
of £10,000, and distrusting the very men to whom he 
proposed to intrust these portions, a paragraph in the 
newspapers met his eye about the establishment of a 
Koyal Naval School near London. " This is a godsend ! " 
he muttered; and a letter is immediately sent to Sir 
Henry Blackwood the chairman, to offer him one of his 
sets of £10,000. He was duly thanked; and Captain 
M'Konochie was despatched to Cheltenham to converse 
with him about the constitution and purposes of the 
new school Captain M'Konochie found that Dr Bell 
had totally lost the power of articulation, and could 
communicate with others only by writing on a slate. 
He sat with his head sunk on his breast, raising it 
quickly now and then when he was excited. When 
he agreed with the speaker, he pointed to his eye; 
when he dissented, a strong grunt was heard in his 
throat. He wrote question after question on his slate 
with the same impulsive eagerness that had marked his 
whole life. " What do you think of my offer 1 " " Do 
you know my system?" Captain M*Konochie had 
established a school on his system in Scotland. " But 
where did you learn it ? Have you read my books ? " 
"Some, not alL" Davies is sent off for the last pro- 
duction. "Have you seen that?" "m." "Then 
take soma" "Where have you seen my system at 
work?" "In Edinburgh and in Chelsea." "Good! 
Where is the plan of your I^aval School ? " " Oh ! we 
have not got the funds yet." "But my £10,000 — that 
will give you funds at once." " True : but we have just 
learned your kind intention, and have not had time," 


"Well; but you have time now. I rniist liave a plan. 
"When will you have it? Can you hring it to me to- 
night at eight, or to-morrow morning 1 A plan we must 
have." Captain M'Koaoehie, seeing no way of escape, 
undertook tn bring him a plan in the morning. Dr 
Bell stuck to his own views — in small things aa well 
as in greats He asked advice from everybody; he 
always rejected it. It was pleasant to liim to see how 
I many roads he need not go; and how little those who 
) ad\Tsing him knew of what they were talking 
about But he liked the escitement — he was fond of 
keeping up the discussion, and had "some reluctance 
finally to conclude, because then the business which 
was by this time almost necessary to him {the ac- 
tivity of his mind having become morbid) would he 

On Captain M'Konochio's next visit to Cheltenham, 
he met the trustees from St Andrews. These gentle- 
men had been presented with £120,000 for the good 
of their city ; and they were now called upon to give 
up half of this splendid donation. There is no doubt 
they could have legally held Dt Bell to hia transfer ; 
but thia would have been ungracious. The old man 
was afraid they would. They, too, were asked for " a 
plan ; " but they did not even know the rudiments of 
the System, They were not even willing to try to make 
a plan ; they were afraid Dr Bell would disapprove of 
it "They were methodical in their way of doing 
business ; he was capricious and vehement. They were 
slow ; he was quick. They were very patient ; he was, 
at times, very violent. Fire and water would have 


combined more easily." Such, are the trials of donors 
and trustees. 

And now an epistolary dispute arose between Dr Bell 
and his St Andrews trustees. The letters — some of 
them — extend to ten printed pages. He accuses Provost 
Haig, a perfectly honourable man, of using some of his 
money, on the eve of an election, to bring a fresh supply 
of water to the city. Mr Haig replies : " I beg to say 
that I never fingered a shilling of your money, nor did 
I ever make use of it in any way to serve a political 
purpose." Dr Bell heaps letter upon letter and accusa- 
tion upon accusation. He pours red-hot shot into the 
defences of the St Andrews trustees — quiet honest 
gentlemen, who were quite willing to help him in every 
way. He accuses them of having " kept him in a state 
of incessant agitation and excitement;" of availing 
themselves of " my loss of voice to convert a large portion 
of my property to objects and purposes at entire vari- 
ance with those to which I had proposed to devote 
them;" of "denying my last days the comfort which 
I sought for from an epistolary participation of your 
doings" (this only meant that they should write him by 
every post); "of concealment;" of writing "declamations 
to give a death-blow to my debilitated constitution, or 
for a posthumous epistle to the grave, which tells no 
tales ; " and of " trying whether I was so much alive as 
to be able to discriminate between sophistry and pre- 
varication and sound reasoning and good sense." Thus, 
in the first part of his long and fiery letter, he com- 
plains that they do not write enough; while, in the after 
part, he complains that they want to write him to 


death, in order that they may have perfect freedom to 
do as they like. And he concludes in the most char- 
acteristic way : " Finally, I adjure you, by the living 
Grod, to forward copies of this letter immediately " to 
certain legal authorities in Edinburgh. The trustees 
replied in the meekest and mildest manner. But the 
volcanic soul was in full action ; and he at once wrote 
off to the other Principal in the University and three 
other professors a short note, asking " what immediate 
and brief additional measure can be taken to enforce 
compliance with all my requisitions and injunctions, 
that will lose no time, require no formal deed on my 
part ? What can be done — what can you do — ^what can 
I do, in one moment 1 Write by return of post and 
by every post , . . Excuse haste. Late for post, and 
not one must be lost." Poor old gentleman I he asks 
several excellent men to be his trustees, and then h9 
appeals to others whom he hardly knows to tell him 
what to do, what can be done, what they can do. 
Boundless suspicion; infinite isolation. 

Another long epistle followed, in which, among other 
flowers of a luxuriant rhetoric, he says that " Dr Bell's 
little finger, when put to the work, will do more than 
the whole of St Andrews." He had forgotten the quiet 
idyllic life there — how, in transcendent and sky-like 
repose — the academic inhabitants refused to believe 
that they had left the fifteenth century. Dr Bell had 
got into his head an insatiable desire to see ''extra- 
ordinary visitors " appointed, who were to be a check 
on the ordinary trustees. But this the trustees demurred 
to, on the common-sense ground that the " extraordinary 


visitors" might themselves want "extraordinary visitors" 
to watch themy and — as is so often the case in Scotland 
— all the power needed to create these new Madras 
Institutions would disappear in friction. 

The trustees did their hest to mollify Dr BelL They 
took advantage of the opportunity of the first quarterly 
examination to write a flowery and laudatory report of 
the two new schools, in which they state that they 
carried in their hands (as if it were a foot-rule) Dr 
Bell's * Manual ' to apply to the English school, and his 
*Ludus Literarius' to the classical school; that every- 
thing was done as Dr Bell would have it ; and that the 
" proficiency of Andrew Bell Morrison " (a relation of 
the Doctor's) was " sufficiently attested hy the unexcep- 
tional evidence of the paidometer ; " that " Mr Waugh 
has adopted the Novum Organon ;^^ and that Virgil, 
with the happy anticipation of true prophecy, had 
some time previously described in his verses a Madras 
school: — 

'* Ac yeluti in pratis, ubi apes aestate seren^ 
Floribus insidunt variis, et Candida circum 
Lilia fanduntnr : strepit omnia marmure campus, 
Fervet opus." 

But this appeal to his literary and pedagogic vanity, 
to his family love, and to his weakness for well-worn 
classical quotations, utterly failed. Dr Bell could not 
be moved. He therefore executed " a holograph deed, 
which may or must be my ultimatum." In this deed 
he appointed a large number of miscellaneous gentle- 
men as patrons, and another number as " supplementary 
trustees." The central idea of lus holograph deed was 


that the St Andrews Trust should be managed, not by 
local persons, but from Edinburgh. But, only a few 
days after, Dr Bell writes: "Since writing the holo- 
graph deed, dated 21st December 1831, I have exe- 
cuted a deed, dated 29th December 1831, which per- 
haps supersedes it." Perhaps : he was not quite sure. 
And, further on, he launches out into another denuncia- 
tion of his own trustees — whom he calls "ostensible 
advocates and insidious patrons;" and he enumerates 
the "studied embarrassments, machinations, devices, 
distortions, and perversion of the propositions of a dy- 
ing, speechless, and insulated man, with funds undis- 
posed of." 

In the beginning of 1832, Dr Bell grew worse, but 
his mind was as active as ever. Mr Davies's bedroom 
was next his own, and he could call him whenever he 
awoke. This "he now generally did at three, four, 
five, or six o'clock ; " and Mr Davies had to get up at 
once, read his own manuscripts to him, receive his 
corrections and recorrections, transfer them from slate 
to paper, read the manuscripts over again, and correct 
and recorrect them once more. Up to Thursday the 
26th of January 1832, his intellect was vigorous and 
hi8 memory imimpaired. The day after lie w« very 
weak j and it was plain that the end was not far off. 
His friends went to see him. " He was sitting in his 
chair, his head inclined forward, his breathing short." 
When Mr Allen came in, he just looked up, and then 
dropped his eyes again. At half -past ten he was 
asleep, but still in his chair. Mr Davies and his two 
women-servants knelt round him, holding the hand of 


the master whom they loved so well, in spite of his pas- 
sionate manners and exactingness. His breathing became 
softer and gentler, and, when they next looked up, he 
was dead. So passed upon a quiet wave of sleep into 
the unknown world the soul of the fiery eager Scotch- 
man, who had fought a good fight, kept faith with God 
and man, and who had also been the lover of, and 
beloved by, children. He was seventy-nine ; and, as a 
prebendary, his body was buried in Westminster Abbey. 


D8 bell's C0REE3F0N1)BNCB. 

Dr Bell's correspondents -were of all kinds, ranks, 
and nationalities ; and one might have expected to find 
a, good deal of interesting matter — a good many 
characteristic remarks, unconscious revelations, curious 
national traits, and piquant anecdotes— in them. But 
it is not so. Dr Eell kept every note, letter, paper, 
and pamphlet he received during sixty years; and it is 
only astonishing how barren the mass turns out to be. 
Everybody, with one or two exceptions, writes in the 
most ponderous and sesquipedalian style — it is plain 
that Dr Johnson ivas still all abroad in the air ; and 
everybody pays everybody else the most elaborate com- 
plimenta The end of last century was the period of 
the minuet; and Geoi^e III.'s sons and daughters danced 
that slow and elaborate dance for entire evenings — 
hours at a time — with each other. The personages in 
Dr Bell's letters walk and talk as if they were dressed 
in the stifTest pasteboard or brocade, as if life might be 
Bpent in writing and in reading letters, as if the old 
antediluvian span had come into existence once more. 
Dr Bell writes of his two young American pupils : 

DR bell's correspondence. 97 

" To London they owe several very genteel accomplish- 
ments. . . . They keep no company, but that in 
the very first line of life. . . . Your sons have, 
among their con-disciples and most intimate friends at 
St Andrews, an earl, the son of an earl, the son of 
a bishop, the grandson of a bishop, and the sons of 
knights in great number." Thus people talked in pedi- 
grees, and arranged their conversation according to pre- 
cedence. And these two young gentlemen themselves, 
going home to Virginia rather unexpectedly, cannot 
say that their father 'and mother were both glad and 
surprised to see them, but must put their facts and feel- 
ings in this eighteenth century fashion : " Our meeting 
with papa and mamma was joyful beyond description. 
The engine of paternal affection was conjoined with 
that of surprise, by no means weak, you will allow. 
We announced our arrivals with our own persons." 

And we find a Mr Sikes opening a correspondence 
with Dr Bell after this wise : " My acquaintance with 
you has indeed been short ; but it has served to per- 
suade me that you possess those respectable qualities 
of head and heart which ought to make me desirous of 
improving it." In fact, one might just as well take to 
reading the * Polite Letter-Writer.' 

The few women who write to him are by far the 
best of his correspondents. They say what they have 
to say in fewer and simpler words than the men, some 
of whom write in the most long-drawn, ponderous, and 
dreary style. Mrs Berkeley, the wife of the then 
Dean of Canterbury, is one of these correspondents. 
She thanks Dr Bell for "half-a-dozen elegant dried 



bottle bonnets " (history has forgotten to give any de- 
scription of these), and advises all young men "who 
mean to succeed, ever to plough with the heifer, if they 
mean to rise; for, whether the lords of the creation know 
it or not, or are too proud to own it, we females, one 
way or another, openly, or, as the French say, sourde- 
ment, whether we be wife, mistress, sister, or daughter, 
guide the world." And she goes on to volunteer to Dr 
Bell, who must have known the climate of St Andrews 
very well, a description of a St Andrews winter, which 
is perfectly accurate. "Alas! we" (in Canterbury) 
" have not had a St Andrews winter. I wished myself 
there aU the vile frosty severe weather. If I had a 
good safe balloon, Mrs Finsham, who is now with us 
on a visit, and I both declare we would set off in it in 
the beginning of November, and stay till May, then up 
again to England. My neighbours used to provoke me 
by saying, * Well, madam, this can be nothing to you 
who have been in Scotland.' I rave at them. I can 
conceive that an Edinburgh winter may be bad enough, 
but in London I never suffered so little cold as I did 
in St Andrews in winter : no, they were pleasant in- 
deed." The present writer thoroughly agrees with Mrs 
Berkeley. Dry, mild, genial winters are the rule at St 
Andrews; and there is also at aU seasons the most 
blithe, light, inspiriting, and uplifting air in the whole 
of Great Britain. 

Another female correspondent, Mrs Cleghom, is more 
sentimental, and not so sensible as Mrs Berkeley. When 
Dr Bell writes her that he is going to India, she replies : 
"Your letter, my dear sir, I read over with a mixed 

DR bell's correspondence, 99 

pleasure, and could not forbear shedding tears of 
mingled pleasure and pain when I considered," — and 
so on. 

The hard worldly wisdom which marked the latter 
half of the eighteenth century shows itself without the 
smallest particle of shame or shyness in these letters. 
Mr Dempster sets forth the then art of rising in the 
Church : " Orders taken by a man who has only one 
patron is a dangerous experiment. But, if that one pa- 
tron has one prior engagement, the danger is quadrupled; 
the danger, indeed, is converted into a certainty of 
starving, and not alone ; for among the fine girls in Eng- 
land even a curate cannot resist matrimony ; and then 
God have mercy on the poor curate, his poor wife, and 
poorer children ! It is not to be done. But orders, to 
return to America, in the clerical line, is not so bad." 

The oddest people appear in the correspondence at 
wide intervals. Among odd people those who continue 
to discover perpetual motion must always be reckoned. 
Dr Lucas is among this number. He writes, in 1789 
" I shall cheerfully communicate to you, that my asser- 
tions of having discovered the Perpetuum mobile dur- 
ante materid, are not without foundation." Fortunately, 
no squarer of the circle attacked the sympathetic Doctor. 
But it is astonishing what hundreds of pages of tempo- 
rary rubbish Southey thought it right to print in the 
correspondence of and with Dr BelL Here is an 
average example : " When you are at leisure, ascertain 
the component parts and proportions of the best plaster 
used at your settlement, with the mode of preparing it, 
and favour me with a memorandum on the subject," 


Mr Millingchamp, when on a visit to Canton, sent 
Dr Bell a pleasant account of the Chinese theory of the 
weather. Mr Millingchamp had raised the astonish- 
ment of the Chinese at his learning, and they " tell me 
I have very cunning inside, . . . According to Lan- 
ing-tyen, there are two species of air ; or, as the Ynking 
more pointedly expresses it, the air has two sexes. When 
they agree, the seasons are regular, the weather favour- 
able, com grows ; when they disagree, and the she-air 
will not permit the he-air to approach her, the conse- 
quences are terrible. He flies round her in a whirlwind, 
or typhoon. Earthquakes are caused by the male air 
enclosed in the bowels of the earth, and struggling to 
make its escape. The souls of good men after death 
take up their residence in the he-air, and become josses 
or semi-gods ; the souls of bad men pass into the she- 
air, and become so many devils. ... Of the seven 
causes which authorise a divorce, the first is a woman's 
talking too much." 

"We catch a good many glimpses of Lord Comwallis's 
campaign with Tippoo Saib ; but there is very little of 
the smallest interest. Colonel Floyd writes: "I felt 
the consequence of my corps at Sattimangulum, and 
knew the loss of it would entail the loss of all I was 
anxious in the extreme; but, I thank God, felt per- 
fectly collected and greatly animated. I was struck 
with the remark of a respectable sepoy of the 25th 
battalion. He had a large white beard. During the 
cannonade on the 13th I went along the front, and 
spoke to the men. I looked as I really felt, perfectly 
serene. Every man met my eye with a smile. I 

DR bell's correspondence. ' 101 

stopped to hear something a sepoy said, and was 
addressed by the venerable beard I have mentioned 
thus : * Sardar, on these occasions General Smith al- 
ways led ns to the enemy's guns.'" — It is Colonel 
Floyd also who sends Dr Bell Goethe's piece of 
worldly wisdom — 

** Lasset den Narren eben zum Narren sejn, wie sichs gehort." 

Turned into plain English : " For God's sake never 
give yourself the least trouble about ill-tempered and 
foolish people, but consider it a great honour and a 
blessing to be hated by them." From one of his letters, 
too, we obtain a glimpse of the state of Europe in 
1792 : "The era is singularly eventful towards crowned 
heads. Sweden assassinated; Denmark insane; Bri- 
tain has known her misfortunes and accidents ; Orange, 
though no cro^vned head, chief of a great country, nearly 
expelled, but restored by armed force ; France dethroned, 
imprisoned, and liable to further misfortunes ; Empire ^ 
said to be poisoned ; Portugal insane ; Spain not very 
wise. I see none but Prussia, who reigns in full, 
personal prosperity; . . . Russia, though victorious, 
gi'eatly reduced by her late war, and personally infirm. 
I think there are no less than three sovereigns in Europe 
liable to attempts on their persons, owing to the colour 
of the times." All this might have been written again, 
with considerable truth, in 1848, and again in this year 
of grace 1880; only, instead of three sovereigns "liable 
to attempts on their persons," there is now indeed not 

^ Austria probably. 


one, unlesi? it be some of the minor sub-kings in the 
south of Germany. 

Colonel iloyd was also a practical philosopher, and 
a man who, though he wrote clumsily enough, had a 
broad bottom of common -sense. He had mentioned 
some of his cares to Dr Bell, who had referred to them 
again. Colonel Floyd replies from Pondicherry — a 
French settlement in India — "When I name cares, it 
would be unjust and ungrateful to fancy myself weighed 
down by them. On the contrary, I feel and own, with a 
heart full of piety and gratitude, that I have no cares 
that grieve, but all the enjoyment a reasonable being 
can weU have. My wife and myself have uninterrupted 
health ; our children are all I can possibly wish them ; 
my aflfairs clearly above board; my friends tried and 
true; and I reckon it among my chief comforts that 
there is no person living to whom I bear hatred: I 
don't mean to say I have no enemies, but they are so 
obscure, or so impotent, that I can neither fear nor 
hate them. . . . All are on pretty good terms here. 
Christmas Eve is a time of much religious performance. 
The young Saviour of mankind is represented in wax, 
after having been duly announced by the angel to the 
shepherds, and great numbers of young angels fly about 
like butterflies." 

It is odd to find controversies which even now occupy 
the time and thought of sensible and considerate people, 
raging and getting discussed in the very same form and 
almost in the very same phrases in the beginning of the 
century. A landowner in the Highlands, a Mr Mac- 
kenzie, is anxious to introduce the System. But he 

DR bell's correspondence. 103 

"found the Highland Society so enamoured of the 
Gaelic language, that it would be in vain, at present 
at least, to expect them to give up this favourite idea. 
They are even thinking, I am told, of instituting isi Pro- 
fessor of the Gaelic language at one of the Universities, 
Ossian is the only inducement to this attempt" What 
would Matthew Arnold and Professor Blackie say to 
this 1 Mr Mackenzie goes on : " As a living language, 
Gaelic clearly creates a barrier between the Highlander 
and his fellow -subjects, which excludes improvement 
of all kinds, and robs the country of the benefits it 
would otherwise more completely derive from this part 
of its population." This is the argument which Dr W. 
Chambers has lately advanced, and treated with great 
aptness and ability. 

It strikes one with an odd feeling of old newness 
and surprise when we find Dr Bell, in replying to Mr 
Mackenzie, telling him that "the General Assembly of 
the Kirk of Scotland, in the year 1806 — not much 
unlike the French Convention — choose to debate on the 
existence of God." 

Dr Bell was always strong upon the point of learning 
at first-hand from facts — from nature — from children 
themselves. In a letter to Eichard L. Edgeworth, he 
says : " There is only one book which I have studied, 
and which I take the liberty to recommend to you. It 
is a book in which I learned all I have taught, and in 
which you will find all I have taught, and infinitely 
more than I have taught It is a book open to all 
alike, and level to every capacity. It only requires 
time, patience, and perseverence, with a dash of zeal and 


enthusiasm in the pemsaL This hook you have filled 
me with the hopes of seeing soon in your hands. 

" In reading this hook my way is to suhmit every 
hint which it suggests to the test of experience ; and 
I have transcribed into my humble essay no observa- 
tion till I had established its authenticity and demon- 
strated its truth in the mode best adapted to my 
capacity, most congenial to my habits, and most satis- 
factory to my mind — namely, that of facts and ex- 
perience." And Dr Bell was perfectly right. There 
is an immense mass of second-hand and unauthenti- 
cated "knowledge" afloat in society; there is a large 
circulation of paper-notes with no bullion which they 
represent ; and he is a benefactor who brings us back 
to the truth of nature and the firm rock of fact. 

Dr Bell goes on, always coming nearer and nearer to 
life and truth : " Our Saviour tells us that if we would 
enter into the kingdom of heaven, we must become as 
little children. It is, then, that among children, and 
from them, and by becoming one of them, we are to 
learn those simple doctrines of nature and truth, in- 
nate in them, or which readily occur to their minds, as 
yet unbiassed by authority, prejudice, or custom. • • . 
What remains to be done could be done by thousands 
better than by me, if they could be brought to give 
their mind to it and take pleasure in it; but it is a 
drudgery to most men from which they seek only to 
escape." This opinion of Dr Bell's that "teaching 
is a drudgery " is still held by thousands of people — 
and even by teachers themselves ; and it is probably in 
looking for the true answer to the question — Why is 


teaching a drvdgeryl that a cure will be found for a 
prevalent disease, and for much of the inalaise that 
afflicts modem society. This question, of course, in- 
cludes the two larger questions: What is the average 
teaching just now ? and — What is the best teaching 1 

Dr Bell's advice to Mr Edgeworth regarding the 
spirit in which he should prosecute his inquiries is 
also excellent: "You will grow," he says, "in the 
necessary knowledge as you go along. Do not harass 
yourself in pursuit of new information. Do not dis- 
tract your mind by hunting for a variety of schemes. 
Lose no time. In the course of your proceedings, you 
will learn what you can nowhere else learn." He con- 
tinues his advice into details : " Short lessons, short 
books. . . , Nothing is so facile and. pleasant as to 
teach ah initio; nothing so difficult and ungracious as 
to unteach those who have been ill taught." 

A few letters from S. T. Coleridge and Kobert 
Southey appear in the correspondence; and these are 
to some extent interesting. In one, written 15th April 
1808, Coleridge makes the sensible remark that "ob- 
jectors are far more pernicious than avowed antagonists. 
Men who are actuated by fear and perpetual suspicion 
of human nature, and who regard their poor brethren 
as possible highwaymen, burglars, or Parisian revolu- 
tionists (which includes all evil in one), and who, if 
God gave them grace to know their own hearts, would 
find that even the little good they are willing to assist 
proceeds from fear,i from a momentary variation in the 

^ Or like those persons mentioned by an old Scotch lady : 
** They're like cats — all the good they do comes from ill-nature." 


balance of probabilitiea, which happened to he in 
fftTOni of letting their brethren know just enough to 
koBp them from the gallowa. Oh, dear Dr Bell, you 
are a great man ! NoTer, never permit minds eo in- 
ferior to your own, however high their artifical rank 
may be, to induce you to pore away an atom of what 
you know to be right . . . From fear, distrust, and 
the apirit of compromise, proceeds all that is evil" 
And he adds: "Be assured, while I have life and 
power, I shall find a deep consolation in being your 
zealouB apoetlo." 

The following ia a good illustration of the fact that 
many people still believe that human beings are made 
to fit into aystems, and not that systems are invented 
for human beings. Mr D. P. Watts writes to Dr Bell 
in 1809, to tell him that a Simday-school is going to be 
opened in Wt-yinouth ; "am!, as it commcnees about the 
time of commemorating the entrance into the fiftieth 
year of the reign of his Majesty, the new school is to 
open with fifty boys and fifty girls'' No sympathy 
can be felt for all or any of the boys and girls over that 
number; and, when Mr Watts and his alhes were so 
exact, why did they have the girls at all! That was to 
put his Majesty's reign into its hundredth year. 

The same Mr Watts happily hits another odd human 
failing. A large proportion of civilised beings in these 
islands are often much troubled with the ulterior conse- 
quences of what they do, and are afraid — if they throw 
their walnut-shells about — they may hit a genie in the 
eye and blind him. They want to be miniature Pro- 
vidences, and to " trammel up the consequence " whet- 

DR bell's correspondence. 107 

ever they can. A certain party in the earlier part 
of the century, maintained that " education (by which 
they meant reading and writing) abates the energy of 
the lower orders, relaxes their laborious exertions, and 
damps their ardour." Mr Watts, when at Weymouth, 
sees a boat capsize. The young officer was drowned. 
The two men clung to the boat The wind was blowing 
a gale, and the waves were high. Three boats at once 
set off to save the men, who were holding on to the 
keel of their boat. " A thought occurred to me, that I 
would examine if these brave boatmen could read and 
write, and I took some pains to ascertain the facts ; and 
it proved that, of the five first boat's crew, four could 
read and write; and of the second crew, three could 
read and write." Hence it is demonstrated that "educa- 
tion " does not damp native ardour or freeze the genial 
current of the souL Further on in his letter, Mr Watts 
stated as an axiom what Stein was driven upon by hard 
experience: "What has overwhelmed other states in 
Europe — French superiority or their own moral in- 
firmity] The stability of a country begins in the 

It is cheering to find a man writing in this way in 
the year 1809. 

" The Stability of a Country begins in the School." 

That would not be a bad motto for a statesman to 
bind between his eyes. 

Mr Watts writes in another letter, of the year 1811, 
of "a schoolmaster in Swabia, who had superintended 
a seminary fifty-one years with severity. It had been 


inferred, from recorded observations, that he had given 
911,500 canings, 124,000 floggings, 209,000 custodies, 
136,000 tips with the ruler, 10,200 boxes on the ears, 
22,700 tasks by heart, 700 stands on peas, 600 kneels 
on a sharp edge, 500 fools' caps, 1700 holds of rods; 
and the report closed with this quotation from Martial : 

" FerulsB tristes, sceptra psedagogomm cessant" 

"We have no means of ascertaining the truth or even the 
probability of this terrible list of charges against this 
unnamed and unknown schoolmaster; but he reminds one 
of the famous German judge of the sixteenth century, 
who is said to have sentenced 30,000 people to death. 

Coleridge called Dr Bell " a great man " to his face ; 
and, in another letter (in 1811), Southey couples him 
with Clarkson, and is proud that he has " the honour of 
numbering among my friends, the two greatest bene- 
factors of the human race who have appeared since 
Martin Luther." But nature provides a steady crop of 
"great men" — especially in the United States; and 
many of them are among the least known; for both 
before and after Agamemnon, great and brave men 
have lived and died and been forgotten. The better 
for tliem. 

The correspondence is full of advice from clergymen, 
both to others and to men of their own profession. The 
best piece of advice is contributed by Colonel, now 
General, Floyd, in a letter to Dr BeU : " I never shall 
forget the answer of one of our primates to a body of 
clergy, who brought him an address, complaining of the 
increase of sectarian and itinerant preachers, and asking 

DR bell's correspondence. 109 

his advice what they should do. " Gentlemen," said 
the revered man, " out-preach them — out-live them ! " ^ 

Dr Bell's old friend, Mr Dempster, contributes a 
description of the processes of Scotch law, which is not 
without a modicum both of picturesqueness and of truth. 
"The whole fraternity of agents," he says, writing in 
1813, "those in the bailie's town courts, the sheriff's 
county courts, the Admiralty and Commissary Courts, 
the two Courts of Session, the Court of Exchequer in 
Scotland, the Court of Appeal from them aU in England, 
where indecision personified presides — all, all are now 
incorporated in one great fraternity. They have a com- 
mon seal; and their motto is procrastination. They 
copy the rules of the fox -hunter. A cause is their 
game. The chase is their sport. Covers are formed 
to protect the animal, and prolong the sport. Worry- 
ing at starting is penaL They give the game law in 
both senses of the word. They glory in the length of 
the chase, but seldom insert its duration in the news- 
papers. Here the metaphor ends. They regularly 
inform their client, they hope next session the cause 
will make an important step. They submit patiently 
to have the blame thrown on their shoulders, and 
retaliate by throwing it off their own backs on the 
adverse agents' shoulders ; and, God, have mercy on 
the poor client ! He reminds me of a pool in summer. 
Evaporation imperceptibly dries him up. Let the con- 
stant copies for your scholars be — ^ Law is a bottom- 
less pit' " 

In a letter of 1814 to Mr Abbot, the then Speaker 

^ Live better and longer— beat them at living. 


of the House of Commons, Dr Bell indicates a truth 
which still has some value. for us of the present day. 
He says: "Almost all the reformers terminate where 
they begin, with Acts of Parliament, boards, secretaries, 
treasurers, and salaries, for doing what they either do 
not know how to do, or do not do what is most easy 
to be done, and what now is the time to do — ^that we 
are happily at peace with all the world." Dr Bell 
means that people are too ready to rest content with 
machinery. They elect school boards; they get able 
men to sit upon them; they select a most intelligent 
and vigilant clerk ; they give him a number of vigorous 
assistants ; they invent books, and schedules, and reports 
of all kinds, which are returnable and returned each day 
and every day ; — ^but they often forget that the teacher 
is the heart and brain of all this beautiful and well- 
contrived machinery, and that, if he does not work as 
a strong humanising power, all the rest may be merely 
waste paper and soulless statistics. What are the in- 
fluences that are actually at work to cultivate the young 
soul and mind — by literature, by science, and by art ? — 
that is the real question for school boards and for that 
active and enthusiastic class that in these later times 
go by the name of educationists. To build schools, to 
put Hving and registering machinery inside of them, 
is no more than to build depots, and enter the number 
of cadres in the Army Department books, and then say 
to the world, and to your country, that you have got an 
army. These things one ought to have done, and not 
leave the other undone. 

Mr Dempster has peculiar and not unreasonable 

DR bell's correspondence. Ill 

views about Ireland and the mode of climbing to a 
bishopric. He writes (27th August 1813), "Do you 
never think of extending your labours to Ireland) 
There is a field 1 The wittiest, sharpest, handsomest 
people in Europe left in a ferocious state of barbarism, 
between a learned Protestant clergy who do nothing, 
and an ignorant, bigoted. Catholic priesthood who do 
too much, because the Government does nothing for 
them. . . . Don't moderate your ambition to Sher- 
burn Hospital, but continue your progress to the mitre. 
F(yr very little money you may he jparagraphed wp 
to the episcopal throne, A few superficial essays on 
chemistry, and an apology for the Bible, have made 
bishops; flogging the Westminster schoolboys, arch- 
bishops. What are their labours or merits compared 
with yours? If well puffed, as it would admit of, 
what wiU not the rising generation owe you % Plough- 
men, between their yokings, reading the Old Testament ; 
the New read by the milkmaids and dustmen : cobblers 
solving proble J algebraicaUy, and girls drawing 
of Europe on their samplers." It is plain that Mr 
Dempster thought himself standing in the morning 
light of a new millennium of education. His appor- 
tionment of the Old Testament to ploughmen, and of 
the New to dustmen, is more antithetic than correct. 

A Mrs A has also some original ideas on educa- 
tion — as, indeed, which of us has not? How good 
education is, like religion, for other people; and how 
easy and pleasant is the architecture of Spanish castles 
for the benefit of mankind. In building these, the foot- 
rule is not wanted ; all that is wanted is a metaphor, to 


which you stick wherever it carries you ; and it always 
carries you into new and wonderful countries. Mrs 

A 's metaphor is "the river of language." She 

says, after other ebullient expressions of hopeful faith : 
" It appears likewise to me, from the character of lan- 
guages, that they might be more simplified, and made 
more easy by bringing them from the source; that 
carrying up the stream must always be the more diffi- 
cult way. We learn that, in the time of the Reforma- 
tion in Scotland, children of six or seven years of age 
read the Hebrew and Greek Bibles. If the Hebrew 
is the root of all language, and can be so easily at- 
tained, would it not be the most fit to begin with 1 " 
This is a delicious educational morsel The authen- 
ticity of the facts, the insight into history and human 
nature, the rapidity and cogency of the reasoning, all 
make it well worthy of the attention of the Educa- 
tion Department, the London School Board, and the 
Association of Head-Masters. 

A Monsieur Timueff writes from Yverdun on the 
25th of May 1819, to Mr Johnson, the Head-Master 
of the Central School, and gives a tolerably lucid 
account of the thought and work of M PestalozzL It 
may not be out of place to select a few sentences from 
this long letter. M Timueff begins at the very be- 
ginning. " Man," he says, " comes out of the bosom of 
nature as an individual being^ — that is, he brings into 
the world only as much as nature has given him. . . . 
Those amongst whom he grows have a holy sacred 
obligation to educate him- Kature herseK declares it 
in the relations between the parents and their children. 


DR bell's correspondence. 113 

"Education can be perfect only in so far as we 
follow the course nature points out The science of 
human nature — so great that it may even be called 
the knowledge of the world — is far from its perfection, 
and, consequently, education also. 

"Nature points out the means for every education. 
The tender love and pure faithy animating all members 
of a family, give us a most excellent opportunity to 
observe and to imitate the means nature employs for 
their development. But the time of such a pure and 
exemplary family life is not yet come. Till that is the 
case we are in want of schools. Now, you see, if the 
school must properly be called the house of education, 
it must be a perfect image of jpure natural relations. 
By that the holy obligations of father or mother lies 
upon the teacher or upon the mistress ; and, if they feel 
the importance of their duty, as father and mother to 
their children, then nature, by the voice of the heart, 
will tell them what they must be to their scholars ; and 
the scholars, by the same voice of nature, will be called 
on to be what for their instructors they must and can 
be. Recijprocal love and faith are the movers, if one 
desires to obtain a tnte education, 

"M. Pestalozzi's principles are: — 

" (L) Give the things before the signs, 

" (iL) The perfection of conclusions depends on the 
perfection of instruction. That is, the more exact in- 
tuitive impressions you can convey to the mind by 
the way of the senses, the more perfect will the under- 
standing be. 

" (iii.) TJie child must he led from simple on to more 


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,. .. .:.::;:.. ii Mr JialJjer, quite 

DR bell's correspondence. 115 

agrees with him : " Pestalozzi is, I daresay, a wise and 
good man; but he seems to have invented nothing. 
. . . If I understand the little I have seen of him, 
while you by your new power enable one man of sense 
to educate five hundred children, he will require about 
a score of philosophers to educate one hundred. What 
he does in the way of teaching, he does exactly as you 
do, by means of the * Assiduous Exactor,' ^ always at his 
pupil's elbow; but you have shown us how to create 
these exactors by self-tuition ; but, if we are to follow 
him, we must import them all, from whence I know 

A Sir James Langham sends to Dr Bell an extract 
translated from a Pekin Gazette, and remarks that the 
ideas of the Emperor of China and of Dr Bell jump 
marvellously together : " His Majesty the Emperor has 
also examined the progress made by his fourth son, a 
lad of fourteen years of age, and is much disappointed 
to find him quite unable to lorite verses. The emperor 
remembers well that his august father, the late emperor, 
examined him when he was thirteen years of age, at 
which time verses were daily composed by him. His 
Majesty attributes the present failure to the prince's 
tutors, and has ordered a complete set of new masters." 
This is distinctly imperial ; his Majesty orders " a com- 
plete set of new masters" with as much ease as he 
would a new suit of clothes or a new set of furniture 
for the prince's room- 
In 1831 Southey was making ready to write a general 

1 A phrase of Quintilian's : ''Ne opus quidem erit hac casti- 
gatione, si assiduus stiidiorum exactor adstiterit." 


survey of the state of education in England; and he 
writes to Dr Bell from Keswick on the 15th of Janu- 
ary : " What I have to show is that mischief is done, 
not hy having too much education, but too little ; that, 
if it were general, it would no more make the children 
of the peasantry above their station than it has done in 
Scotland ; that, of some kind or other, let Government 
do what they will, it must become general, and is becom- 
ing so ; and that, if they do not surround their estab- 
lishments with a well-constructed outwork of national 
schools, nothing can save them and their establishments 
from destruction. It was no fault of yours that this 
was not done many years ago ; and I have no sin of 
omission to answer for upon this score." But what 
was seen with perfect distinctness by Mr Southey 
in 1831 is not even yet universaUy admitted in 

In the same way. Professor Leslie of Edinburgh sends 
Dr Bell some excellent remarks which still continue to 
point the way to improvements that are not adopted, 
and to sensible methods that are kept out by the pres- 
sure of routine. '* Custom lies upon us like a weight, 
heavy as frost, and deep almost as life." " Nothing," 
says Sir John Leslie, " can be more galling or prepos- 
terous than the usual mode of loading the memory with 
long, barbarous, and absurd grammar rules, which only 
retard the acquisition of the language, destroy all its 
beauties by tasteless mechanical associations, and are 
forgotten as soon as by practice the language has be- 
come familiar. ... A great desideratum in schools 

BR bell's correspondence. 117 

is a proper selection of specimens of composition. Be- 
sides religious and moral subjects, passages from poets 
or orators, we should have an extensive selection in 
history, biography, natural history, the mechanical arts, 
manufactures, navigation, and commerce. It would be 
of national importance if men of higher talents would 
lend their aid to this design. ... I should pro- 
pose that these grammars and school selections should 
be stereotyped, and furnished in such portions as should 
be wanted, at a penny a sheet. A boy need not have 
more at a time than would serve him half a year. 
Nothing can be so wasteful or preposterous as to put 
into a boy's hand a thick volume, which is generally 
thumbed and useless before a score of pages have been 

Mr Hugh Cleghom, at one time a Professor at St 
Andrews, expresses in a letter of the 19th of October 
1831, some very strong views as to the maintenance of 
endowed institutions. His opinions are very like those 
of Mr Eobert Lowe : " If these institutions," he says, 
" cannot support themselves, no adventitious assistance 
can render them useful Learned retirement and se- 
cluded leisure for study is nonsense. The world is the 
school of letters as well as of business. The political 
agitations of Greece produced her poets and philosophers 
as well as her statesmen, while the monkish establish- 
ments of our fathers, with their seclusion and endow- 
ments, produced only the jargon of technical language, 
and fettered themselves and their disciples with the 
impertinence of academic forms. They educate men most 


profoundly learned and most consummately ignorant; 
and I am almost inclined to regard them as asylums for 
opinions, which, like cast-off mistresses, have been 
kicked out of every decent company." There is much 
strong good sense here; but it is surely too absolute. 
What are we to think of Chairs of Eesearch 1 And 
Goethe speaks quite differently : — 

** Es bildet ein Talent sich in der Stille 
Sich ein Karakter in dem Strom der "Welt." 

Mr Cleghom goes on to make some remarks which 
are not without applicability to the year 1881: "If 
the duration of human life is to be determined by the 
only rational standard, the succession of great events 
which have passed during its existence, we are the 
longest-lived generation that ever appeared upon earth. 
But, unhappily, man is the only brute who derives no 
wisdom from experience. For nearly forty years we 
have witnessed the wickedness and the calamities of 
France; we have seen her, except during an interregnum 
of despotism, possessed of a king without power, of 
a nobility without privileges, of a jposse of legislators 
and no law, and of the whole body of the people 
swearing allegiance to a constitution which they, as yet, 
have not formed ; and, to crown all, singing Te Deums 
for the national confusion. This unhappy state, mer- 
cifully held out to us as a beacon to shun, a branch 
of our legislators wish to follow as a light to direct. 
The great body of the people, too, commonly become 
most outrageous when they have most reason to be 


And he concludes his letter, an octogenarian writing 
to an octogenarian : " Let ns all remember, in the lan- 
guage of Socrates, that 'he who prays for long life, for 
riches, or for health, prays for the throw of a dice, or 
the chance of a battle/ " 




If it were said that Dr Bell was a successful man in 
the field which he set himself to cultivate, and that he 
made a few warm friends in his passage through life, 
— ^that would perhaps be aU that could be accurately 
asserted of his career. He was not an interesting man ; 
he was not a great man ; he had very little insight into 
human nature, though here and there are to be found 
glimpses of truth ; he was singularly narrow-minded ; 
and he was in several respects a terrible bora There 
is in his own mind hardly a trace of education — ^hardly 
the smallest sign of literary culture. He had read 
Cicero and Quintilian, Milton and Locke; but he had 
read them only for the purpose of digging out of them 
mottoes for the chapters of his works, or passages in 
support of his own conclusions. There is no more trace 
of literature or of literary culture in all his voluminous 
writings than there is in the minutes of a corporation 
or the report of a banking company. He remained to 
the end of his days of the opinion which he expressed 
when he was acting as tutor to his two American 
pupils : " I thought that a good hand was better than 

DR bell's character AND SYSTEM. 121 

all the Greek and Latin in the universe." And, even 
after he was a richly beneficed clergyman, he looks 
upon grammar-schools and universities chiefly as places 
where people " contract prejudices." His whole mind 
and soul were absorbed in the one idea of extending to 
the whole world the blessings and the peculiarities of 
the Madras System. 

But there is no doubt that his character is interesting 
from its largeness, its massiveness, and simplicity; and 
he always seems to have retained his power of attrac- 
tion for children. It is clear all through his life that 
he was determined "to have his own way;" but he 
was not very careful to make that way smooth and 
easy for others. When Mr Wilmont, one of his assist- 
ants, spends two days with him in the country, the 
time is almost entirely taken up with "lecturings and 
scoldings." He marries a wife ; and he dismisses her. 
That is all we know. She comes into his biography 
like a shadow, and she goes out again like a shadow. 
She is a name and nothing mora He no doubt treated 
her to a perpetual course of " lecturings and scoldings : " 
perhaps she was a woman of spirit and replied. This 
would, in the Doctor's eyes, be high treason, and she 
must go. We know nothing of her ; and the field is ab- 
solutely open to every kind of conjecture. Then he was 
himself very parsimonious ; and perhaps her allowances 
wore smaU. His married life was not a success — as his 
school life was. 

He was eminently able in money -dealings; and if 
he had gone into business, he would probably have 
become a merchant-prince. When a tutor in America, 


he trades in CTirrency and tobacco ; when going out to 
the East Indies, he manages to get a free passage — 
" which will save him £200 " — and even to make money 
on the way by having a class of officers on board. He 
was the first man to apply to education the principle of 
" payment by results." " He regarded money," says Mr 
Bamford, "as the jprimum mobile and only efficient 
stimulant in the world. He excited masters by a 
negative kind of threat He did not say *Do this, 
and you shall have so much beyond your regular and 
fixed salary ' — which at best must be barely sufficient 
to command the necessaries of life — but *Do this, or 
you shall be mulcted, or lose your situation.* He 
would have had all the masters under such an arbitrary 
kind of control that, if the school did not weekly and 
monthly increase in numbers, and order, and attendance, 
and improve in progress, the masters should be subject 
to weekly and monthly fines, and be paid according to 
the periodical state of the school *I can do more,' 
said he to the Archbishop of Canterbury, taking half- 
a- crown out of his pocket — *I can do more with 
this half-crown than you can do with all your fixed 
salaries.'" "Vixere fortes ante Agamemnona;" and 
Dr Bell is not the only man who has tried to fix 
burdens on the shoulders of others, which they them- 
selves touched with but one of their fingers. "Pay- 
ment by results " is a divine thought ; and it is beyond 
a doubt the ultimate test of the lives of all of us. But 
then it should be applied with complete impartiality to 
every profession — to the army, the navy, law, medicine, 
and the Church, as well as to education. The fact is, 

DR bell's character AND SYSTEM. 123 

that many good people are still unwilling to look upon 
education as anything but a process which may be 
carried on by some kind of machinery or other — more 
or less intelligent. They want to judge it, but to have 
no hand in it; they do not see that it is the one 
process in our social life the conductors of which must 
be frankly and simply regarded as colleagues — as friends 
and helpers, not as menials and serving-men. 

Dr Bell's strength of will carried him from a humble 
position to a stall in Westminster Abbey — ^lifted him 
from the status of curate to be master of a hospital — 
" a preferment which has heretofore fallen to the first 
dignitaries of the Church." His strength of will — ^that 
was the chief thing in Imn. It is an admirable and 
a most necessary quality. But it is not so admirable 
when unmixed. We do not accord it a large meed of 
respect when we meet it in a Tropman or in a Tasman- 
ian devil. It is seen to require other qualities to com- 
mend it to our higher feelings. " He would have made," 
says Southey, " a good engineer, a good general, a good 
statesman ; " but he hardly seems to have mounted to 
the level of a good man, and he certainly was not an 
adequate husband. He says of himself to Mr Southey : 
"You know how strong-headed and wrong-headed I 
am." And then he puts in a bar against his being con- 
sidered "wrong-minded;" but no one would consider 
that high praise. The fact is, he cared not a pin for 
the feelings of other people, unless they happened to 
be of higher rank or station than himself. 

His character is faithfully mirrored in the style of 
his writings. Cumbrous, clumsy, chaotic, dull even to 


heaviness, full of involutions, repetitions, misplaced lim- 
itations, — it is a severe penance to be obliged to read a 
page. He cannot speak ; he gets to say what he wants 
the reader to know by the simple process of " pegging 
away." Dr Southey, writing to Dr BeU, says : " A mad- 
man, but of great genius, cast my nativity once, and 
pronounced that I had ' a gloomy capability of walking 
through desolation.' " If this meant that he had a capa- 
city for wading through the desolation and monotony 
of Dr BeU's papers, the madman was right. Extracts 
from dull old pamphlets ; endless minutes of meetings ; 
long series of motions — in which everything has been 
moved except the reader's mind and feelings ; reports — 
and reports on these reports; tables and columns of 
statistics ; letters from boards and to boards about things 
that every member of each board was glad to forget the 
moment the letters had been signed ; endless repetition 
of two or three fixed ideas; reading compared with 
which the dullest Blue-book is lively : these form the 
staple of the writings of this eager " educationist." Dr 
Bell has at most only one or two things to say ; and he 
contrives to hit all round the nail — and, among these 
strokes one now and then hits the nail on the head. 
Mutual Tuition — Accurate Preparation: — that is 
almost the whole of the educational message he had to 
deliver to the British nation. 

Mutual tuition — this was his " discovery " — ^this was 
to regenerate the world. There was nothing too strong 
to say about it. " Like polarity in the magnet, it had 
lain hid for ages;" it was ''an organ for the multi- 
plication of power and division of labour^ in the intel- 


I, moral, and scientific world ; " it was the newest 

I Organon ; it was the greateBt benefit that had 

\ to mankind since the "Word was made flesh and 

\ among us. Kay, Dr Bell and his friends wore 

I upon the language of sacred poetry to express 

r feelings about it; and in one of his letters he 

I ittto an adjuration to this country : " Arise 1 

! for thy hght is come ; for the glory of the Lord 

[tiaen upon thee ! " But, if any one were to ask, 

There is Dr Bell's System now 1 he would receive no 

ept from echo. He is as forgotten as the 

ite of the Pyramids ; his works are as little read as Mr 

r /ilkie's " Epigoniad ; " hia memory has passed with the 

Pnows of yester-year. Not even in the schools which 

e founded and endowed, and which are hound, by the 

Rspress terms of his will to use his System — not even 

□ these schools is his name known or his System em- 

►•ployed. Hia portrait looks down with heavy-browed 

eagerness, and a certain bovine look of mildness, over 

a scholastic procedure, every step in which he would 

have condemned with fervour and asperity; and neither 

man nor boy regards him. His works lie in the library; 

and neither student nor teacher consults them. They 

are hideous, amorphous, without form, with little light ; 

tiiey are almost unreadable. 

But let us look a little into his works and System, 
and see whether there is not in them something that 
may be of use for the present age — somethii^ that our 
modem generation of teachers may learn from. 

The central notion is that of Mututd Tuition; and the 
piaotical corollary from it is Self-Selection. The children 


were to teach each other ; each child was to rise or fall 
in his place in class according to his accuracy of repeti- 
tion ; or even to fall or rise from class to class. Before 
Dr Bell's plan, the master " heard " all the lessons ; and 
forty-nine children were always more or less idle, while 
the fiftieth was occupied in " saying " his lesson. But 
now the little boys were arranged in divisions ; one of 
the boys taught ; when one was reading, all the others 
listened, and the next boy corrected when an error was 
made. The lessons were always very short ; and each 
child prepared what he had to prepare without a single 
mistake. A register was kept by the monitors and 
" teachers,*' and even by the boys themselves j and thus 
the whole school became a scene of unceasing activity 
and constant healthy emulation. 

Dr Bell's ideas had a root in nature — ^in the nature 
of the child. That was their merit. He says himself, 
" The System has no parallel in scholastic history " — 
(he means the histoi'y of teaching — ^if there be any such 
history) — " it is essentially discriminated from aU others 
by the inherent principle which constitutes its natural, 
necessary, and never-to-be-confounded distinction." I^ow 
in this and in many other passages, Dr Bell, like other 
inventors and discoverers, piques himself most on that 
which differentiates his " system " from others, while it 
was what he had in common with others that gave it 
its true value. For all its true value arose simply from 
the digging down a little deeper into our common 
nature. Again, like other inventors, he wanted to label 
the education of this country with his name ; but the 
label has long been shed — it fell off with the necessary 

DR bell's character AND SYSTEM. 127 

growth of the mighty tree of popular instruction ; and 
his own eagerness made other people all the more ready 
to disallow his claims. 

The " discovery " of Dr Bell was not what he called 
his system, but the carrying into practice and the school- 
room of an old, old truth, which in the present day we 
are all of us a Httle apt to forget. Learning is a social 
ACT ; it is best carried on under social conditions. It 
is one of the strongest bonds that knit society together ; 
and, while it binds and strengthens, it lifts the whole 
body of society to ever higher and stronger life. That 
is what Dr Bell really meant. Thus his doctrine of 
Mutual Instruction is valuable, not because it is new, 
but because it is old — and eternal Teach that you may 
learn ! has been uttered thousands of times by men in 
all ages and in all countries. You will not have a firm 
grip of any truth, or even of an external fact, until you 
have tried to give it to others. This power, like aU the 
highest powers in human nature, grows by spending; 
and, in things of the mind b& weU as in things of the 
soul, it is more blessed to give than to receive. But 
the Jesuits — those old-fashioned instructors from whom 
we have still to learn so much — imderstood this per- 
fectly, and have enshrined the truth in their dog- 
Latin — 

<< Discere si quseris, doceas, sic ipse doceris ; 
Nam studio tali tibi proficls atque sodali." 

But in schools there are always great practical diffi- 
culties in carrying out the principle. To set pupils to 
teach each other requires an organisation which has 


entirely gone out of fashion in the present day. At 
best, it could only be applied to those subjects, or parts 
of subjects, in which memory and drill are alone con- 
cerned ; but surely in such subjects it would be well to 
employ it still. To employ it, I mean, as Professor 
Pillans was wont to do, in small divisions of three or 
four, coached by one a little ahead of the others. Each 
member of these small divisions, by going over the 
passage to be prepared again and again, had every fibre 
of it worked slowly — ^slowly, for that is the method and 
habit of nature (and in education we must reverence 
and observe the Naturlangsamkeit), into the mental 
marrow of him, so that he could always apply it after- 
wards, — so that he never forgot it. Plans and methods 
are subject, in education, as in every other human 
sphere, to the ebb and flow of fashion; but a great 
reward awaits that teacher who can, in some practical 
and practicable maimer, reintroduce Dr Bell's central 
idea of Mutual Tuition. !N'owadays we are eager to 
bring every young and growing mind under the direct 
influence of a powerful and mature mind ; and we de- 
mand the Best for every little half-fledged creature who 
enters our schools. The demand is a noble one; the 
ambition is a splendid reaction from our old sluggish 
satisfaction with anything — ^with the Worst. But, 
while the best teaching is wanted for every child and 
for every class of children where a method has to be 
instilled, it is not necessary in those parts of instructions 
where routine and the mastery of details are concerned. 
In such cases the chief thing is mental companionship, 
with an after reference to a higher court, to the stand- 

DR bell's character AND SYSTEM. 129 

ard of perfection in the head-master himself. I am 
not here defending the "Pupil-Teacher System," or 
any system. The pupil-teacher, as a teacher, is gener- 
ally a failure. But social learning, where the memory 
is chiefly concerned — where constant mental drill is 
necessary, is a condition which ought to be present, to 
some extent, in all our schools — secondary as well as 

The phrase Social Learning may be interpreted in 
many ways, and may be applied after very varying 
fashions. The man who can hold the attention of one 
pupil, so that the needle of his mind never fluctuates 
from the attracting intellectual pole, is an artist. The 
man who can hold for an hour the eyes and the atten- 
tion of a whole class, not by threats but by the sheer 
force of attraction, is a great artist. The man who can 
invent business plans and carry them out — such that 
the school shall be a home of perpetual cheerful work, 
and that every child shall take delight in the pleasant 
round of labour, is the next to these. 

If I were asked in what part of England Dr Bell's 
main ideas — the true and living germ of his thought — 
stiU existed, I should point to a school in a valley on 
the borders of Lancashire and Yorkshire. It is there 
that what is best and most Hving in his "system" stiU 
lives and bears fruit for the present generation. It is 
there that his two principles — Everything perfect from 
the beginning, and Mutual Tuition, are carried into prac- 
tice under the best conditions and in the f uUest measure. 
Dr Bell is never tired of dwelling on the extreme satis- 
faction that anses both to the teacher and to the pupil 



when, by giving short lessons, every part of every lesson 
is known without error or hesitation. The perceptions 
of the child are preserved in their healthy, natural, and 
unerring state; his articulation is perfect; his concep- 
tions are clear; his memory is free from confusion. In 
this respect the school at Centre Vale -^ is a modem 
presentment of the truth of Dr Bell's ideas. " Writers, 
ancient and modem," says Dr Bell, " have observed, and 
experience confirms their observation, that children do 
not tire, like men, of perpetual attention to minute 
points." In this school these small points not only do 
not tire — the child seems to take a positive pleasure in 
attending to them. But the most interesting feature in 
Centre Vale school is a novel application of the principle 
of Mutiuzl Tuition. The application is novel ; but it is 
much more profound than anything Dr BeU meant, for 
it goes deeper down into human nature, and employs 
a larger number of human elements than have been 
brought together for harmonious working within the 
walls of a schoolroom. The application is to the learn- 
ing of the best poems and passages in our English 
literature. The precondition of perfect reading aloud 
has been secured — an accurate, never-ceasing regard to 
pauses, points, and stops ; a full outspokenness, and a 
clear articulation. Then the parts or elements of the 
poem are given out; and they are given out in such a 
way as to interest almost every member of the class. I 
remember being much struck with the reading of two 
poems. One was Groldsmith's " Elegy on the Glory of 

^ Near Todmorden. 


her Sex, Mrs Mary Blaize;" and the other was Mr 
Lushington's " Eoad to the Trenches." It would hardly 
have struck any one that these poems were susceptible 
of a dramatic cast — that they were capable of being 
distributed, as it were, over the class, for full and com- 
plete rendering. But assurance, mixed with a most 
agreeable surprise, would have run into the mind of the 
listener and spectator when he heard one pupil read 
with a clear articulation and in teUing accents, — 

** Good people all, with one accord, 
Lament for Madam Blaize, 
Who never wanted a good word — 

and, in a distant part of the room, there rises unex- 
pectedly a young head, who represents the cool detrac- 
tion of the world, the cosmic care that " trees do not 
grow into the sky," by quietly remarking — 

" From those who spoke her praise." 

The effect is wonderful ; it is wonderful because it is 
so true. Another reader takes up the praise of the 
lady ; and still another, from another part of the room, 
quietly rises to take off the necessary discoimt. Still 
another tells us in moving and eloquent words, — 

** The needy seldom passed her door, 
And always found her kind ; 
She freely lent to all the poor — 

when, from the unexpected comer, comes the inevitable 
equation of the young Minos — 

** Who left a pledge behind. 



Again is her praise taken up ; again her good deeds find 
a herald : — 

** Her love was sought, I do aver. 
By twenty beaux and more. 
The king himself has followed her — 

but the just interpreter again hands in the corrective — 

** When she has walked before." 

The same kind of treatment was applied to the 
powerful and pathetic verses called " The Eoad to the 
Trenches." In that poem there are several speakers; 
and what they say may well be distributed among dif- 
ferent readers. But more, there are several different 
incidents and different situations ; and these, too, were 
distributed among the class with singular appropriate- 
ness. The soldier in the terrible winter of the Crimea 
asks to be left alone; not even a man can be spared 
from the work of the country to stay beside him. An 
officer offers his cloak to keep him warm : " Wrap him 
in this, I need it less." The company marches on to 
the trenches; they say good-bye. When they return, 
they find only a Httle mound of snow ; and their com- 
rade lies beneath it dead. 'Now the lady who directs 
this school gives all this a dramatic treatment; and 
some may even blame her for this. £ut what does 
dramatic treatment mean in this case? It simply 
means that every feeling and act of the human mind, 
which is naturally related to the incidents of the poem, 
is called into play. This is to begin at the right end. 
The ordinary " didactic " treatment of such a poem 
begins at the wrong end. It begins with words; it 

DR bell's character AND SYSTEM. 133 

keeps to words ; and it explains words by other words, 
which may or may not explain, which may be nothing 
but an application of the ohscurum per ohscurius. But 
this living treatment begins with feelings ; it creates the 
right emotions ; the emotions create the thoughts ; the 
thoughts create the words; and the words — even the 
words of others — are plain from the first, because the 
reader has risen to the same state of feeling as that 
which in the author produced the words. Then every 
thing is as sure, as simple, and as unerring as nature 
herself. And this is what education has to do ; it has 
to employ the methods of nature — ^if it is to have re- 
sults as good and true. But education is an art. True ; 
but every art that is a true art has its roots in nature. 
" The art itself," says Shakespeare, ** is nature." There 
are hundreds of excellent poems in our language that 
would freely lend themselves to the same treatment. 
But the best is still to say. The reading of the poem 
unites the whole class into one corporate intellectual 
whole ; it binds them all together " as with the bands 
of a man ; " and the story of the " noble, nameless, Eng- 
lish heart " makes all of them feel as one. And more, 
the children, who have an honest and spontaneous liking 
for what they have thus learned in school, recite their 
poems to their parents and friends at home \ and thus 
the best words of the best English minds are made seeds 
of English patriotism and humanity — centres of true 
ci\'ilisation in this far-withdrawn Yorkshire valley. Pil- 
grimages to saints, processions of devout persons to kiss 
the bones or other reHcs of some dead religious hero, — 
these we have often heard of or seen^ marching to the 


music of hymns by the side of the broad Ehine, under 
the shade of thick-planted walnut-trees. But a pilgrim- 
age for teachers — a better pilgrimage than to the dead 
— ^would be a pilgrimage to this living nursery of good 
and true thought, of clear and frank expression, of the 
application of natural feelings and natural methods to 
the processes of school-education. From such a visit 
teachers would return with new ideas and new strength. 

Let us now look back for a few minutes at the dif- 
ference between Bell and Lancaster. Both had struck 
upon the same idea of mutual instruction ; and it does 
not matter a straw to us now which of them happened 
to be a few days in front of the other. The time in 
which they lived was, in fact, the dawn of popular in- 
struction ; and in a dark dawn even a farthing candle 
is a wonder and a revealer. But now, this new light, 
precious as it was, has faded into or mingled with the 
light of common day. The plan of mutual instruction 
was only a plan — ^it was far from being a method ; but 
it was a plan which, under certain strict limitations and 
clearly defined conditions, might still do some good work 
for us. Among other benefits which it might bring, it 
might spare the lungs and labour of the teacher, and 
enable him to keep himself constantly fresh and in good 
spirits. For a teacher, by allowing himself to become 
jaded and weary, does as great a wrong to his pupils as 
he does to himself. 

Both sides had the support of statesmen and thought- 
ful persons ; both were heart and soul in earnest, until 
they began to quarrel, and to ask themselves the barren 
and stupid questions : " Am I not better than he 1 Is 


not my plan anterior to his 1 " Both believed in the 
spontaneous and superabundant activity of the child; 
and both felt that a school ought to be the home of 
lively and cheerful learning. When Lancaster found a 
mischievous boy, he made a monitor of him. Leaders 
of men (and boys) have known of this homoeopathic 
cure for long ages. Lancaster, like Jacotot, believed, 
with all his heart, in the pregnant paradox, " A teacher 
can teach what he does not know." For the teacher 
sets the pupil's mind in motion, sets it to work on the 
matter before him, questions and cross-questions, invites 
him to repeat and re-repeat, asks new questions from 
constantly new angles, asks about the inter-relations of 
every part to every other part, makes him break up 
every whole into its constituent fractions — ^recombine 
them into one whole, and so works his mind to a high 
pitch of free play on the matter imder discussion, that 
it is turned over and over, and looked at from every 
side, and becomes completely the possession of the mind. 
The teacher does this by keeping before him one of the 
chief guiding - stars of all good teaching — Kepetition 
without Monotony ! 

Both were lauded to the skies for their " systems," 
and both have been forgotten — almost even to their 
names. I have already mentioned the praises showered 
upon Dr BelL Of Lancaster's system, the * Edinburgh 
Eeview' of 1811 says: "This method may most truly 
be pronounced a capital discovery. Printing is not 
more capable of being applied to diffuse all truth and 
all knowledge than the beautiful discovery of Mr Lan- 
caster." Both had the patronage of the King, and both 


were not one whit the better for it. Both raised enor- 
mous sums by subscription, founded scores of schools, 
trained hundreds of teachers, taught thousands of chil- 
dren; and thus both sowed in England that seed of 
popular instruction, the large and happy fruits of which 
we are now beginning to reap. 

Both were good men, lavish of themselves, their time, 
and their powers ; but Dr Bell was the more fortunate. 
Lancaster was in danger of dying in a debtor's prison. 
A story, which shows the character of the man and his 
strong power of attraction, is told by Mr Corston, the 
old and devoted friend of Lancaster : — 

"I visited him to apologise for not going his bail, 
because the number of writs which might be issued, 
were the present ones satisfied, would only reduce two 
families instead of one to want and suffering. After 
my departure he rang for the sheriff's officer to take him 
to the Bench (Court), but obtained leave to call at home 
on their way. After being alone with his grief-stricken 
family a little, he opened the parlour-door and said to 
the man, ' Friend, when I am at home, I read the Scrip- 
tures to my family: hast thou any objection to come 
mV * "No, sir,' the man replied, and went in. He soon 
became deeply affected, and joined in the common grief. 
Soon after the worship was over, Joseph said to him, 
' Now, friend, I am ready for thee.' They had not gone 
many paces when the man said, ' Sir, have you got no 
friend to be bound for you for this debtl' Joseph 
replied, * I^o ; I have tried them alL' * Well,' replied the 
man, 'then I'll be bound for you myself, for you are 
an honest man, I know.' He surrendered him at the 

DR bell's character AND SYSTEM. 137 

King's Bench, and they took his security for the 

Both tried to understand the nature of children, and 
to enlist on their side and attach to their educational 
efforts all the feelings and powers of nature that they 
could find. In this regard we have still something to 
learn from both of them. 

Both had the habit of repeating themselves, of redis- 
covering their old discoveries every morning, of saying 
over again, in slightly varied words, or in differently 
arranged sentences, the one idea round which their 
minds revolved like satellites. They did not possess 
the idea ; the idea possessed them. Hence they became, 
for the sake of the poor, bores of the first magnitude. 
There is one very amusing instance in the works of Dr 
BelL When he was nearly seventy, he took it into his 
head that he would write a book on the "Wrongs of 
Children." Children were not imderstood; they were 
badly taught ; they were ill-trained ; nature was flouted 
and insulted in their persons ; much cruelty was prac- 
tised upon them ; much of their lives — of the time they 
could never get back — was wasted. Dr Bell would 
blazon forth these wrongs, would show the remedy, 
would right them with his own hands. Accordingly, he 
writes a book, and looks out for a publisher. The book 
is published. But there is not a single word about the 
wrongs of children from the beginning to the end of the 
book. It is the old story retold. It is once more the 
" New Organ, or Intellectual Power, which had escaped 
the research of every age and of every country," — and 
so on. The one sole wrong mentioned in the book is 


the shadowy wrong done by La Bruyfere in an essay on 
children, in which he calls them " hautains, dMaign&uXj 
coUres, env^ietix" and a number of other unpleasant 
things. And the book closes with the usual number 
of "letters and documents" from eminent persons re- 
garding the wonderful merits of the New System. 

In spite of all this, we must not forget the valuable 
truths preached by Dr Bell's tongue and pen, and still 
more by his practice. The most valuable of these truths 
are perhaps the three following : — 

1. Let the principle of self -selection prevail in every 
school ; and so arrange the life of the school that every 
pupil seeks and finds his own place. 

2. Learn by teaching. 

3. Let there be no residuum in a class. Every pupil 
has one kind of talent at least. 

The modem danger in education — both secondary 
and primary — is the predominance, and indeed the 
absolute tyranny, of drill, and the high-pressure which, 
in the hands of a hard-working master, compels aU the 
pupils to advance in unbroken line. We are in danger 
of forgetting the common-sense truth — that it is onlv 
what a pupil does for himself that is truly educative ; 
and that the mind unconsciously sheds much of what it 
has unwillingly accepted, and also refuses to employ even 
the things it has retained. It is not the best and most 
powerful minds that have been made and built up in 
school and by school-work. Sir Humphry Davy writes 
to his mother and congratulates himself on the whole- 
some neglect he met with at school. " I perhjips owe," 
he says, " to this circumstance the little talents I have, 

DR bell's character AND SYSTEM. 139 

and their peculiar application." Sir Walter Scott, who 
was an omnivorous reader, but certainly not a bright 
scholar according to the regulation pattern, thought that 
" the best part of every man's mind is that which he 
gives himseK." Leslie declares that it was Fuseli's 
" wise neglect " of young Landseer that helped to make 
him what he afterwards became. Turner's father sent 
him to school to learn drawing; but it was not long 
before his master, a thoroughly competent man, sent 
young Turner back to his father with a note that lessons 
were thrown away upon him, that it was of no use try- 
ing to teach him, and that " the case was hopeless." 

These are the commonplaces of educational controversy; 
but they aU point to the important fact that spontaneous 
activity is the most valuable power in the mind, and to 
the duty of the wise teacher, who will endeavour to find 
out what direction this activity is taking, and encourage 
its growth. " People," says Eousseau, " do not under- 
stand childhood. With the false notions we have of it, 
the farther we go, the farther we go wrong. The wisest 
lay stress on what it is important for men to know, 
without considering what children are in a condition to 

The problem for modern teachers is a very difficult 
one. It is to reconcile the claims — the enormous claims 
— of modem education, with a reverence for the indi- 
vidual powers of each personality. Another aim — 
another problem quite as important — is to eliminate 
the didactic element from instruction, and so to make 
it an art. Many able young men in secondary schools 
are rising up to give practical solutions to these prob- 


lems. The able teachers in primary schools have — or 
seem to have — even a more difficult task before them ; 
but they, too, by faith and perseverance, will at long 
and at last " beat their music out." 

The * Life of Dr Bell ' may give them here and there 
suggestions, may indicate some side-light which may 
help them towards the performance of their task, or 
may at least give some short but honest word of en- 
couragement : — 

** Es rufen von driiben 
Die Stimmen der Meister 
Die Stimmen der Geister : 
' Yersanmt nicht zu iiben 
Die Erafte des Guten ! 

Hier winden sich Kronen 
In ewiger Stille 
Die soUen mit Fiille 
Die Thatigen lohnen, 
Wir heissen ench hoffen ! ' " 

But, whatever we who are elders and professional 
teachers may say and discuss and resolve, there sounds 
in our inner ear the cry of the children — a cry to which 
the whole past history of education has been somewhat 
deaf : " Take us with you ! " 



[The following lecture was delivered in the Greek Class- 
room of St Andrews in 1877 ; and it is the sketch on which the 
preceding * Life ' is based. It may perhaps be of use to print it 
here as giving, in a very condensed form, the main facts regard- 
ing the educational theories and doings of the founder of the 
** Madras System of Education." That system is now forgotten ; 
but what we must not forget is, that we owe to Dr Bell — through 
his trustees, Mr John Cook and the Earl of Leven and Melville — 
the founding of two Chairs of Education in the Universities of 
Edinburgh and St Andrews,] 

In the year 1844, John Murray brought out, in three 
thick octavo volumes, the Life of the Eev. Dr Andrew 
BelL This ' Life ' was begun by Eobert Southey, the 
well-known reviewer, literary man, historian, and poet- 
laureate. He died when the first volume was finished ; 
and even this first volume had to be edited and carried 
through the press by the loving care of his wife, Caro- 
line Bowles. The two last volumes were written by 
his son, the Eev. Charles Southey, of Queen's CoUege, 
Oxford. These three large octavo volumes contain about 
2000 pages; and they altogether form a mass of ex- 
tremely duU and unattractive reading. This dulness 
is not so much due to the subject — a man whose life 
was very well worth writing — as to the extraordinarily 


chaotic form in which the materials are presented to 
us. They are not presented, they are shot down at our 
feet But for this one can hardly blame the reverend 
gentleman. Dr Bell had kept every letter, note, paper, 
pamphlet, or report he had received during a period 
of sixty years ; and, as he knew almost everybody in 
England, Scotland, and the other two hemispheres, one 
can form some rude guess of the Chimborazo of rubbish 
he had managed to accumulate around him. His amanu- 
ensis, Mr Davies, toiled devotedly through this chaos, 
and gradually worked the facts in it down to fourteen 
octavo volumes. Eobert Southey undertook the task of 
further reducing this, — he died in the process of the 
work, and Charles Southey continued it. Sometimes 
many hundred papers had to be searched for a single 
fact or date; and the same papers, — ^many of them almost 
illegible — ^would sometimes pass through Mr Davies's 
hands some forty or fifty times. It took Mr Southey 
a year only to mark the papers which he wished Mr 
Davies to copy for him, and the result at last appeared 
in these three thick volumes. The first is readable, as 
everything Mr Southey wrote bears the marks of thought, 
diHgence, Hterary form, and some grace ; but the two 
last volumes could only be read under extraordinary 
circumstances, — by the oflfer of a great reward — in a 
country inn on a rainy day, after all the advertisements 
of the local newspapers had been perused — or by a first- 
class misdemeanant in prison. It is these three thick 
volumes that I propose to lay before you a very short 
view of. 

Andrew Bell was an extraordinary man. I may even 


go SO far as to say he was an extraordinary Seotchman. 
In a country where every man has been framed in a 
mould, which was afterwards broken and no copy kept, 
it argues considerable force of mind or character to dis- 
tinguish one's seK at all. The son of a barber, with no 
fortune except the education he received at St Andrews, 
he goes to Virginia as a tutor, and makes a small fortune 
in tobacco ; he comes home, and — though short-sighted 
— fights a duel in St Andrews, loses his money, takes 
orders in the Church of England, and goes to Madras — 
makes a large fortune in India — comes home, buys 
estates, marries a wife, rises to be a dignitary in the 
Church (and has a very near view of the mitre), writes 
a large number of books, shakes hands with princes, 
kings, and emperors, revolutionises education in the Old 
and the New World, leaves £200,000, bullies and terrifies 
his trustees before he dies, travels several hundred thou- 
sand miles, and makes a large number of warm-hearted 
friends, — surely this is experience enough to satisfy the 
appetite or the ambition of any one man. 

He was born at St Andrews in the year 1753. His 
father was a barber in the city. He was a barber in 
the golden age of barbers — in the time when they did 
not cut hair, but built hair — built up enormous edifices 
of horse-hair, grease, and flour, without which no pro- 
fessor could lecture and no judge could try a case. But 
he was more than a barber. He was also a clock and 
watch maker, and something of an astronomer ; he kept 
the University clock in order, and regulated it by ob- 
servations ; and he also invented a plan of casting types, 
which the great printers, Foulis of Glasgow, afterwards 

LKmrBE OS DB Bell. 

ployed. And he was much more than all this : 
la also a bailie. Here one may be supposed to have 
^hed the ftcmo of human climbing. But there is 
■8 to come. Ho was the first man — or rather his 
Je was the firet woman — in St Andrews to drink tea, 
A to possess a china tea-service. About a hundred 
id thirty years ago, he niiglit have been seen walking 
down South Street, with two ample and architectoni- 
oally-eonstructed wiga in front of him , one on each 
band, well in front, lest by a collision they should spoil 
each other's form and beauty. After trimming one 
professor, he would sit down and breakfast with him ; 
and then he would go off to another professor and trim, 
and sit down and breakfast with him. In fact, it was 
known that, in addition to his mental ability, he had 
the biggest appetite and the widest mouth in St An- 
drews, liesidea the indisputable advantage of having; 
strong eager Scotch blood in hia veins, he had also a 
supply of sturdy Dutch blood from his maternal grand- 
father — a captain in the Dutch Guards of William of 
Orange. Once, in a hard time of acarcenees approaching 
to famine, a meal-mob broke out in this quiet fifteenth- 
century University town ; and he alone went out, and, 
with his Scoto-Dutch courage, put it down and sent the 
people quietly back to theii homes. 

This sturdy Scotchman had eight children, and 
Andrew was the second son. At the age of four, some 
one gave the child a penny, and he at once took up one 
of his brother's books, marched off to school, and offered 
the penny as his quarter's fee. 

He matriculated at the University in 1769; and he 


eked out his miserable bursary by private teaching. 
" He has often said that he never refused to teach any- 
thing, for he could always, by nightly study, prepare 
himseK for giving the next day's lesson ; and thus, what 
he had to teach, he acquired as he went along," I 
remember the head of a large school in Washington 
saying to me — "I can teach anything if I have the 
books ; " but one recognises a prescientific flavour about 
these intellectual marvels, and can only say with 
Schiller — 

*' Ach ! was haben die Herren doch fiir ein kurzes Gedann ! " 

He was a special favourite of the Professor of ^Natural. 
Philosophy, Dr Wilkie. Wilkie would stroke his head 
and say — " Andrew, pursue your studies, and they will 
make your fortune. I never knew a man fail of success 
in the world, if he excelled in one thing." This Dr 
Wilkie was also an excellent farmer, and his plan in 
that was very similar — "to plough well and manure 
weU ; to lay the earth open to the influences of the sky, 
and return to it the remains and refuse of its own pro- 
duce ; and to keep the ground clean," This great Dr 
Wilkie, by the way, also wrote an epic on the Second 
War of Thebes, which he caUed " The Epigoniad." It 
may still be found in the University Library; but it 
sleeps with the fathers and the schoolmen and the early 
novels of the Delia Cruscan type, Dr Wilkie was also 
very willing to oblige the neighbouring clergy, and to 
preach for them — which he did extemporaneously. It 
is said that, though " he never pursued the ordinary arts 


of popn]arit7, yet he never failed to fix the attention ^ 
ioM beaPMB." He certainly did. For he was pectdiar, 
Tirioos, and even wrcentiic in his sentiments and reason- 
ing; and he "generally preached with his hat on." Hb 
waa immoderately fond of chewing tobacco, and abhorred 
nothing so much as clean sheets. When Lady Laudei- 
dale asked him to stay all night, he suid ho could not 
sleep out of his own heJ ; but that, " if her ladyship 
would give him a pair of foul sheets, he would stay." 
Once, when he was visiting a relation, the mistress of 
the house put foui-and-twenty blankets on his bed for 
the eake of the joke ; in the morning, they asked bjiii 
how he had slept, and if he had bad plenty of clothes 
on him ; and his reply was that he had had just enough 
But let US leave the great Dr Wilkie, and return to 
the great Dr Bell. He was only twenty when ho left 
for Vij^inia to be tutor in the house of a merchant 
there, at a salary of £200 a-year. This was in 1774. 
In 1781 he came back to England with two of the sons 
of his employer, and was shipwrecked on the way. They 
escaped to land in the month of March, and were almost 
frozen to death. In daily expectation of this end, he 
made his will, and left his money and tobacco — he 
had nearly 30,000 lb.— to his father. But, in spite of 
hard frost and the thin walls of a tent, and rain and 
dreadful nights in open boats, he and his pupils arrived 
safe in London. He worked his way down to St 
Andrews — reached that city in the dark, and was not 
known by his own mother. It was at this time that he 
fought his duel — with a Mr Crookenden, an English 
student. Mr Boll was shortsighted and very eager; he 


therefore wheeled round sharp upon the signal, and 
delivered his fire before he had completed the wheeL 
The consequence was that he fired at the seconds, who 
first set up a shrill cry and then a great burst of laughter, 
which ended in their becoming fast friends, and all din- 
ing together with great hilarity. 

He made friends wherever he went The friends he 
made in Hertfordshire, for example, when they wished 
to enforce anything by emphatic asseveration, were ready 
to swear by the names of " Generosity and Honesty, or, 
which was the same thing — Mr BeU." In 1783, he 
brought his American pupils down to St Andrews ; they 
attended the University, and he coached them. In the 
vacations, they began to work at five in the morning. 

Here comes in a small episode, highly honourable to 
our friend — Bailie BeU. In 1784 there was an election; 
and the two candidates were Mr Dempster and a member 
of the Breadalbane family. As was usual in those times 
everybody had promised his vote to one or the other 
candidate, as political or other considerations weighed 
with him. It so happened that the votes were equal ; 
and thus, to the worthy and clear-headed bailie the 
casting-vote fell, and, in fact, the election itseK. The 
Breadalbane clan made this upright gentleman an offer 
of £500 ; and, in consequence, Mr Bell voted for Mr 

In the same year he was ordained in the Church of 
England, and received an offer of the incumbency of an 
Episcopal chapel at Leith. But Mr Dempster, who had 
now become his best friend, put it into his head to go to 
India, "that he might turn his talents and acquirements, 


to good account as a philosophical lecturer ' — for he 
was a good mathematician, and had learned much from 
his guide, philosopher, and friend, Dr Wilkie. Accord- 
ingly, he set off in 1787, with £128, 10s. in his pocket 
His destination was Calcutta, but he stopped at Madras. 
When he reached that port, measures were on foot to 
establish a military orphan asylum for boys; and Dr 
Bell — for St Andrews had made him M.D. — was 
thought to be " a person eminently qualified to superin- 
tend the education of children." He now began to give 
short courses of lectures on natural philosophy ; and, by 
the first course, he made £360. In 1789 he had to 
undergo the set sorrow — the inevitable grief of losing 
his father; and he speaks of this as 'Hhe death of as 
good a father, and as just and upright a man, as ever 

The small fortune he had accumulated during his seven 
years' stay in Virginia had been lost, for it was invested 
in tobacco ; but his " great and rapid success " in India 
enabled him to provide with ease for his sisters in Scot- 
land. At this time he was constantly lecturing in 
Calcutta, Madras, and elsewhere ; and he also held five 
deputy- chaplainships, the duties of which could not 
have been very arduous. A man of constantly stirring 
and active mind, he was the first man to make ice ia 
India, and also the first man to construct a balloon. 
When war broke out, he was appointed chaplain to the 
army before Pondicherry, at a handsome salary; and, 
when the batteries were opened, he went into the 
trenches— and came out again uninjured. 

It is about this time that he begins to take a strong 


interest in the Madras Asylum School The school was, 
aptly enough, supported to a large extent by the fines 
exacted for drunkenness from the men in the army. 
The boys were mostly of mixed origin, — " blue boys " 
they were called, — but their fathers were all Europeans. 
They were to be taught only the three K's, and they 
were to be kept as much as possible from their mothers 
and their mothers' kin. When Dr Bell took the super- 
intendence of the institution, he found the masters in a 
condition of permanent mutiny. As soon as a master 
had fitted himself for his work, he found out he could 
get a higher salary for far less work — and he naturally 
took it. Dr Bell was at his wits' end ; and he could 
not get a single change or improvement in the school 
carried out. 

So things were, when he happened one morning early 
to ride along the shore on the Malabar coast. He by 
chance rode past a school, and stopped to look at the 
children. They were writing with their fingers on the 
sand. He galloped home, shouting to himself " Eureka/ 
Eureka I " and the Madras System was discovered. He 
gave immediate orders to the usher of the lowest classes 
to teach the alphabet in the same manner, with this 
difference from the Malabar mode, that the sand was 
strewn upon a board ! Most fortunately his orders 
were disregarded, and the master peevishly declared 
that " it was impossible to teach the boys that way." 
He now bethought himseK of employing a boy; and 
he soon lighted on a bright, intelligent, and quick little 
lad of the age of eight ; his name was John Frisken ; 
and little Johnnie Frisken is the head corner-stone of 


the world-famous Madras System. Then other little 
boys were appointed as assistant-teachers ; young Fris- 
ken was made head-superintendent; and at last this 
part of the school was placed entirely in his hands. 
To his little teacher "a smile of approbation was no 
mean reward, and a look of displeasure — and the Doctor 
had black, heavy, bushy eyebrows — sufficient punish- 
ment." This was in the year 1791. It is necessary to 
be particular as to the date, because later on a violent 
quarrel arose as to whether Dr Bell or Joseph Lancaster 
was the originator of the system of mutual tuition, — a 
quarrel in which we have neither part nor sympathy. 
The masters gave him no end of trouble : one of them 
took to ill-using the little boys, biting their fingers and 
pinching their ears, so that the good, eager, and irascible 
Doctor was more and more thrown into the arms of his 
little boys. And now our young friend Frisken, at the 
early age of eleven, had charge of a third of the whole 
school — which numbered about three hundred boys. 
One master he dismissed: a doubtful person, but his 
place was desired by one "Still more doubtful. His 
application, which is very curious, contains among other 
things: "I have been told that you was a very odd 
kind of a gentleman, and very fond of abusing and 
quarrelling with the teachers, when they were not even 
in the least fault imaginable," Another applicant was 
a German gentleman, of the name of Piezold. Dr Bell 
was very anxious to get Mr Piezold, and Mr Piezold 
was very anxious to get to Dr BelL But there was one 
difficulty in the way. That difficulty was Mrs Piezold. 
Mr Piezold wrote : " As I, being a man of family, can't 


act arbitrarily in the matter you are concerned in, but 
must absolutely accommodate myself to the humours 
and dispositions of Mrs Piezold, to her liking and dis- 
liking, pleasing and not pleasing ; so I am necessitated 
to give up the whole scheme as soon as she uttereth the 
tart reply and objection, although the loss arising from 
that resignment be ever so great." Happy and wise Mr 
Piezold ! Timely happy, and timely wise ! He had 
learnt to the utmost the well-known lesson : — 

** The man's a fool who tries by force or skill 
To stem the current of a woman's will ; 
For, if she wUl, she will, you may depend on't. 
And, if she won't, she won't, and there's an end on't." 

Everywhere Dr Bell was a great favourite with 
children; and that is a first-rate test of character and 
disposition. The Eev. Mr John, a Danish missionary, 
writes to him — "My house resounds still with en- 
comiums of our tender, beloved Dr BelL Mary Ann, 
Dickey, Jackey, the little female philosopher Kitty, 
and August — every one cry almost after you, and com- 
plain why I have let you depart so soon." 

Ajid now, in 1796, "the education at the Asylum, 
under Dr BeU's vigilant superintendence, was so com- 
plete, as far as it went, and the character of the boys in 
consequence so good, that applications were made for 
them from all quarters." The great conqueror, Tippoo 
Saib, sent for one of them, named Smith, to come and 
show him the electrical machine, the condensing engine, 
and other interesting specimens of mechanism, 

Dr Bell liked Indist, and the climate seemed to agree 
with him. He says, in a letter to Mr Dempster: " What 


a delightful climate this is ! The weather never changes 
for months. K we had only domestic society like yours 
in Great Britain, I know not who would quit India. I 
know not who would but to repent of it." But I have 
met many men who grew sick of the blue sky and the 
brown faces. I remember a young man I knew who 
had come home for a holiday from a station in the back 
parts of the Punjaub, and who told me he had not seen 
an Englishwoman's face for years ; and he used to sit 
for -^hole days in his window at his lodgings, and fill his 
whole soul with the pleasant home-looks of the passers- 
by. Another — ^an officer coming home — on his arrival 
in the Channel, shouted " Hurrah ! there are .the old 
dirty clouds again; good-bye to the nasty, eternal, 
monotonous blue ! " But the climate and the unremit- 
ting blaze of sultry sun at last began to tell upon him 
in the year 1794, and this compelled him to think seri- 
ously of coming back to his native country. He felt 
he had done a good deal of work, and that he " had 
wrought a complete change in the morals and character 
of a generation of boys." He accordingly returned to 
England by way of the Cape — ^for there was then no 
other way — ^with about £25,000 in his pocket. 

Here let me pause to glance a little at the correspond- 
ence appended to the end of the first volume. The 
letters are from all sorts and conditions of women and 
men, and they here and there give us a glimpse of the 
way of living and thinking three generations ago. It is 
somewhat comic, for example, to find one of Mr Bell's 
young pupils writing in this way : " Our meeting with 
papa and mamma was joyful beyond description. The 


engine of paternal affection was conjoined with that of 
surprise." But this is only one of the good results of a 
classical education. Again, when Mr BeU consults his 
friend, Mr Dempster, on the best course of political 
study for a young peer, Mr Dempster says that this 
study is summed up in the old proverb, " Honesty is 
the best policy." 

In another letter we find Dr Bell sending Mrs Berke- 
ley " a dozen elegant dried bottle bonnets." What these 
bonnets are I cannot tell; I have made inquiries in 
various directions, but without result. Considering, 
however, the fact that bonnets have been waxing and 
waning, growing into and out of all shapes, growing 
beyond and beneath knowledge, transforming themselves 
from gigantic tunnels and coal-scuttles, which they were 
in 1836, into almost invisible haK-crowns, it is not dif- 
ficult to believe that historic darkness and oblivion will 
settle for ever on the particular form of a bottle bonnet. 
It is, perhaps, an even greater mystery why Mrs Berke- 
ley should have a dozen. Mrs Berkeley also mentions 
" a young Scot," who is one of the six preachers of the 
Canterbury Cathedral It gives a clearer idea of the 
arduous nature of the labour of these gentlemen that 
they preach two sermons a-year each. And Mrs Berke- 
ley's moral is weU worth pondering : " My advice to all 
people who mean to succeed is ever to plough with the 
heifer, if they mean to rise ; for, whether the lords of 
the creation know it or not, or are too proud to own it, 
we women, one way or other, openly or under the rose, 
whether we be wife, sister, or daughter, guide the world.*' 
The same sprightly lady abuses without limit the weather 


of Canterbury, and says : " Alas ! we have not had a St 
Andrews winter. I wished myself there all this vile, 
frosty, severe weather. K I had a good gas baUoon 
Mrs Frenshaw and I both declare that we*woiiLd set off 
in it in the beginning of November, and stay till May ; 
then off again to England. An Edinburgh winter may 
be bad enough, but in London I never suffered so little 
cold as I did in St Andrews in winter." I heartily 
agree with Mrs Berkeley, and I admire even more 
intensely than she can the climate and the pearly tints 
and soft golden lights of the lovely skies of this ancient 
capital. We have fuchsias growing in the open air, and 
wisteria and jessamine; and I have myself seen roses 
blowing in December. So that we can handicap our- 
selves up here — give Canterbury ten degrees to the good 
and to the south, and yet beat her in an easy canter. 

Another correspondent, the Eev. Mr Millingchamp, 
writes to Dr BeU from Canton, and gives him some 
account of the natural history of the Chinese. " There 
are two species of air ; or, as the Yuking more pointedly 
expresses it, the air has two sexes. When they agree, 
the seasons are regular, the weather favourable, com 
grows, &c. When they disagree, and the she-air will 
not permit the he-air to approach her, the consequences 
are terrible. He flies round her in a whirlwind or 
typhoon; earthquakes are caused by the male air en- 
closed in the bowels of the earth and struggling to make 
his escape. The souls of good men after death take up 
their residences in the he-air and become josses or semi- 
gods : the souls of bad men pass into the she-air, and 
become so many devils.'* This is quite in accordance 


with the character of the Chinaman. A country in 
which roses have no fragrance, wheel-barrows are driven 
by sails, roads have no vehicles, ships no keel, workmen 
no Sabbath, and magistrates no sense of honour ; where 
the place of honour is the left, the sign of being puzzled 
is to scratch the knee, and the seat of intellect the 
stomach, — is a country where men will believe any- 

Mr Dempster writes to him in 1792 to come home. 
" The truth is," he says, " Nature calls us strongly back 
to our original haunts ; where we sought our birds'-nests 
is the spot where we wish to smoke our pipe and take 
our snuff in old age. There was a man who retired 
some time ago from Copenhagen with a fortune, to 
build a house underground, and live upon train-oil at 
home. So return you will, and encounter with pleasure 
the north winds of the Scores and the links of St 

Another friend and correspondent warns Dr Bell not 
to speak so loud in argument, and, at least now and 
then, to allow others to say something. " Mrs Floyd's 
remarks on the pitch of your voice in argument are not 
wholly unfounded. Turn about is fair play ; and your 
colloquist has a right to be heard sometimes." 

And 80 Dr Bell came home with the desire in his 
heart for what he calls " the only solid comfort of life, 
— a union with an amiable and sweet partner ; " and 
he left the too brilliant shores of India with the good 
wishes of everybody— down to TeUisigna Pillah, who 
"presents his respectful compliments to Dr Bell, and 
much regrets that a severe cold, which confines him at 


bomo, 1 mta him from having the pleasure of %viahiiiii 
Dr Bell leasont voyage in persotL" 


Dr Bell came home, too, with the report of ^fi 
HftdiBs ABjlum in his pocket, which he made up his 
mind to publish under the title of " An Esperiineiit in 
Education, nmdo at the M:;'- Vsylum at Madma, sug- 
geating a System by which a School or Family may 
teach itself under the superinte idence of the Master or 
Puent." Ho already believed in hia System — as he 
had believed in himself — with hia whole soul. Even 
the printer ho tried to convert. "You will wort for 
an enthusiast," he says; "but if you and I live a thou- 
sand years, we shall see this System spread over the 
world." The chief advantages, he points out, are at 
present two : " The younger ones can read and sjiell to 
the monitors twice or thrice in the morning and aftor- 
nooti, when to the master not more than once. The 
elder boy, while he is teaching his class, is inatracting 
liimself." And one of his masters thus writes: "I 
h(ul a boy, who is the dullest, heaviest, and the leaat 
inclined to learning I ever had, who, having for aix 
niontlis past wrote upon sand, and read alternately and 
constantly while at school, ia now able, not only to spell 
every wonl, but can tell me many worda, let me aak him 
whore I will ; and he appears now to have an inclina- 
tion to learning, to which, when he first came, he had 
an utter aversion." The children wrote with their 
fingers or witli a. stylus upon damp sand. 

In the year 1800 Dr Bell's friends are of opinion 


that he meditates taking a wife. "It is the general 
belief," says Mrs Dempster, " of all my female friends 
that you would only hire so dear a house, and keep a 
carriage, with a view to fascinate some coy damsel." 
Dr Bell, who was now 47, seems to have agreed with 
these ladies ; for, on the 3d of November, he married 
Agnes Barclay, the eldest daughter of the Eev. Dr 
Barclay, of Middleton. 

In 1801 he is presented with the living of Swanage, 
in Dorsetshire, — not a bad living, of the value of over 
£600 a-year. To this residence he goes; and here, for 
the first time, we get some glimpse of his personal man- 
ners in a schoolroom. He goes into the Sunday-school 
of a Mr Stickland in the village of Swanage, paces up 
and down the room, asks questions, explains passages, 
hurries from class to class, and absorbs all the attention 
of the children, who were not accustomed to the vision 
of a black -browed, fiery -eyed, eager Scotchman, until 
Mr Stickland was obliged to call to him — "Sir, sir, 
will you be pleased to pitch yourself ! " He hammered 
his injunctions into the monitors, Mr Stickland used to 
say, " like a blacksmith on an anviL" But his love for 
children was always with him ; and he seems always to 
have been able to win their hearts, even when he bullied 
them into tears. Of the introduction of his System into 
the Swanage school he himself says : " It is like magic; 
order and regularity started up all at once. In half an 
hour more was learned, and much better, than had been 
done the whole day before. They quit the school at 
dismissal with reluctance, and they return before their 
time to renew the competition." 


He also introduced yaccination into Swanage, and 
'' set all the old women and others in the neighbouring 
parishes inoculating with vaccine matter." One of his 
parishioners, an old man of eighty-four, thus spoke of 
him: "You may travel far and near without finding 
his equal ; it is true he was irritable and passionate in 
his temper, but there are none without their faults." 
And then the old man begins to philosophise: "We 
are all made up of a compound matter, — earth, air, fire, 
and water ; and Dr Bell had certainly more of the fire 
than of the other ingredients in his composition. But 
if the blaze was larger and more fierce, it was sooner 
over; and people of this description are more loving, 
and have better and warmer hearts than generally fall 
to the lot of others." 

And now we come to Dr BeU's connection with and 
relation to another remarkable man, Joseph Lancaster. 
Joseph Lancaster was one day walking from Deptf ord to 
Greenwich, when his attention was attracted by an in- 
scription, " To the glory of God and the benefit of poor 
children;" and while he was meditating on this, the 
children burst forth into singing. His heart was melted; 
and " it pleased God to implant within me a wish and 
desire that / might one day thus honour Him; and 
through all the vicissitudes of the intervening period, 
my hope was seldom long clouded. I knew not how it 
was to be accomplished ; but, being assured that it was 
a divine impression, my mind was constantly endeavour- 
ing to find out a way. I had not long entered into the 
straw-hat business ; but I was persuaded this was the 
channel to accomplish my wisL" He adopted the mu- 


tual system, and found he " had no more labour with 
250 children than he had formerly with 80/* In 
the year 1804, he was anxious to become acquainted 
with Dr Bell; and he wrote him a letter beginning 
"Eespected Friend," and ending "Thy obliged friend 
and admirer." It is an odd sign of those educational 
times, that Lancaster enumerates among his chief diffi- 
culties, " the price of sand in London, 9s. the load." In 
one of his letters, Dr Bell tells us that Joseph Lancaster 
tried " to form his teachers by lectures on the passions." 
Dr Bell's more practical mind asserts that "it is by 
attending the school, seeing what is going on there, and 
taking a share in the work of teaching, that teachers are 
to be formed, and not by lectures and abstract instruc- 
tion." The fact is both these men were right ; and if 
you could have rolled them into one, you would have 
had a first-rate professor of education. But now a lady 
made a great discovery — a discovery that was destined 
to make people's hair stand on end, to unsettle the wigs 
and tempers of the gravest bishops, and to spread fear 
and dismay throughout the fabric of society. This lady 
was Mrs Trimmer. The discovery she made was that 
" there was something in Joseph Lancaster's plan that 
was inimical to the interests of the Established Church." 
And so Mrs Trimmer sounded her war-bugle; and forth- 
with Churchman and Dissenter, Bishop and Quaker, 
Tory and Whig, set to work pounding each other ham- 
mer and tongs. This discovery was made by Mrs Trim- 
mer on the 24th of September 1805 ; and in the letter 
announcing her great discovery, she calls this quiet, 
unoffending, enthusiastic, straw-hat-making Quaker, " a 


Goliath of scliisniatics." Alas! even celestial minds 
are seized by rage ; and even good Cliristians hit upon 
this too fiery method of stating that they do not agree 
with each other. The art of calliag names is a great, a 
recondite, and a useful art ; and it has been practised in 
all ages by the greatest men. Let us hear what Luther 
says of Aristotle — whom he mixed up with the erroneous 
developments and wrong-headed logicians of his time : 
"Truly a devil, a horrid calumniator, a wicked syco- 
phant, a prince of darkness, a real Apollyon, a beast, a 
most horrid impostor on mankind, one in whom there is 
scarcely any philosophy, a public and professed liar, a 
goat, a complete epicure, the thrice execrable Aristotle." 
And Mrs Trimmer follows, but with unequal steps, the 
majestic pace and thunderous objurgation of the great 
Luther. And even Dr Bell does not think much of 
poor JosepL He teUs Mrs Trimmer that he had " ob- 
served his consummate front and his importunate solici- 
tation of subscriptions in any and every shape," and he 
insinuates that he is a " conceited and ignorant quack." 
Mrs Trimmer keeps at it On the 1st of October, she 
discovers that the quiet gentleman whom she calls " our 
friend Joseph," was " not originally a Quaker, but an 
Anabaptist, intended by his father for what they call 
a minister^* The contempt and the italics are Mrs 
Trimmer'^ "Whether he changed for the love of a 
pretty Quaker, whom he married, or whether the ftrooc?- 
hrim was the best cover for his schemes," etc. Too 
suspicious and improper Mrs Trimmer! to attempt to 
read motives which can be known only to the Maker of 
Joseph Lancaster and yourself. On the 30th of I^ovem* 


ber in the same year (1805), she further discovers that 
Lancaster is " ignorant of every principle of good educa- 
tion, and his plan is a direct |)erversion of yours." Here 
we may pause to notice a social phenomenon ; and it is 
this : There is a large number of people in the world 
who will not allow you to do anything unless you do it 
in their way ; and there is another large number of 
people who will not allow you to do anything unless 
you have discovered the ideal — ^the best possible and 
conceivable method of doing it. For my part, I agree 
with the opinion of the Duke of Wellington — "Her 
Majesty's Government must be carried on." If there is 
motion and life at all, there is some power of alteration 
and of improvement; and for this we must always 
be thankful. On the 11th of December, Dr Bell — his 
internal fires heated by the bellows of Mrs Trimmer — 
finds out that Lancaster is " illiterate and ignorant, with 
a brazen front, consummate assurance, and the most art- 
ful and plausible address, not without ability and in- 
genuity, heightened in its effects under the Quaker's 
guise." In March 1806, Mrs Trimmer announces that 
the bishops have been got at, and that " the dignitaries 
of the Church, even the highest^ are fully convinced of 
the danger of the plan of forming the children of the 
lower orders into one organised hody," (The italics are 
hers.) Fancy this : The -children -of -the -lower -orders- 
in - one - organised - body marching upon the Church ! 
!N"ow, beyond all question, the Church was in danger. 
But what an attack, and what a revolution ! It was a 
revolution that might have been bought off with sugar- 
candy, and an attack to be met with toys and picture- 



books. If only tlie worthy bishops could have read the 
signs of the times, and put themselves at the head of 
this "organised body of the children of the lower orders." 
The lower orders! — But it is much more pleasant to 
turn to Dr Bell at his true work of teaching. " Here/' 
says Mr Davies, " would he often come, and, humbling 
himself to the capacity of a little child, would take a 
class, and prove his power by drawing out the infant 
mind." Unfortunately the difference between Dr Bell 
and Lancaster assumed the form of a personal dispute 
as to priority of discovery, on which it would be useless 
to enter here and now. 

In 1808 the System was introduced into Ireland. 
There it superseded an older and more vicious system, 
under which " the boy who had written the best copy 
was ordered by the master to pull the hair of the boy 
who had written the worst, and so to do until they 
arrived at their seats in the school again." This is the 
pious and charming Arcadian simplicity which always, 
iQ one part of the world or other, is waiting for the 
return of the coming Astrsea. 

In 1809, Dr Bell is made Master of Sherbum Hospi- 
tal, near Durham. This was an old foundation for the 
benefit of lepers and old men. The daily allowance of 
the lepers was " a loaf weighing five marks, and a gallon 
of ale to each ; and betwixt every two a mess or com- 
mons of flesh three days in the week, and of fish, cheese, 
or butter on the remaining four; on Michaelmas -day, 
four messes or a goose," — and so on. 

The System was now making progress in every direc- 
tion, both in London and the country, and in 1810 it 


made its way into some of the great classical schools. 
But in 1811 the great controversy broke out in another 
form. Lord Eadstock now took the trumpet in hand, 
and blew a blast of warning to the bench of bishops. 
He wrote to the * Morning Post,' that he dreamt he saw 
the whole of the bench of bishops dressed in their robes, 
with their mitres on their heads, and aU in a most pro- 
found sleep. Then came a chubby-faced little man (this 
was the fearful enemy discovered by Mrs Trimmer to be 
the Goliath of the Philistines, and whom Southey else- 
where called The Dragon), in an entire drab-coloured 
suit, and a broad -brimmed hat, and after eyeing the 
bishops " with a sort of supercilious and insulting air," 
suddenly exclaimed, in a slow and sonorous tone of 
voice, "Ye slothful and mouldering puny dignitaries, 
have ye not slumbered your fill?" and so on. Next 
Lord Eadstock " perceived a lovely youth standing by 
my side clad in white, and of heavenly mien. * Be of 
good cheer,' " he said, etc. The lovely youth was Dr 
Bell, who was by this time fifty-eight. Then Lancaster 
wrote to the papers ; then Dr Bell ; Mrs Trimmer joined 
with her light skirmishers ; one or two bishops brought 
up their heavy guns ; and there was the usual amount 
of noise, and insinuation, and recrimination and dust, 
and missing the mark, and neglecting the children 
through it all. Dr Bell had unfortunately said that 
he did not propose to educate the children of the poor 
in an expensive manner, "nor even to teach them to 
write and to cipher," whereupon Lancaster jumped up 
and accused him of advocating " the universal limitation 
of knowledge." AU this, however, has no interest for 


US now, but may well take its place in a " Museum of 
Educational Fossils." 

In the end of the year 1811, Dr Bell had induced a 
number of noblemen and gentlemen to found a Society, 
which was called the National Sooibty, which still 
exists, has done a great deal of good work, and is still 
doing a great deal of good work. And the great poet 
Wordsworth, about this time, cheers on Dr Bell by tell- 
ing him that he is happy "to think in the present 
afflicted state of Europe, that there is at the least one 
small portion of it where men are acting as if they thought 
that they lived for some other purpose than that of 
murdering and oppressing each other." He was invited 
to pay a visit to Lord Kenyon, a great friend of his, 
and an enthusiastic admirer of his educational ideas; 
and his lordship gave orders to his butler to present 
every man-servant and labourer in his employment with 
a guinea. The butler brought him the list and apolo- 
gised for its lengtL " It cannot," Lord Kenyon replied, 
"be too long on such an occasion, when so great and 
good a man pays us a visit for the first time." In these 
volumes we get glimpses — ^very partial glimpses, but still 
worth something — of Wordsworth, Southey, S. T. C, 
and Hartley Coleridge. Miss Wordsworth sometimes 
polished Dr Bell's English for him; but he was not 
quite satisfied with this — and who is? The English 
language is so vast a field, and provides so many differ- 
ent ways of writing down one's sense, that every one 
likes to wander about in it at his own sweet will, and 
not to be set right by any one whatever. A young ^Ir 
Bamford becomes one of his proteges. This gentleman 


tells some remarkable stories about the memory of H. 
Coleridge, who was one of his class-fellows. "Hartley 
was very irregular in his time of attending school. He 
used to run in about ten o'clock, with his hat on his 
head, chewing a slate-pencil in his mouth. * Where 
have you been ] * said the master. Hartley, laughing, * I 
really don't know.' * You are a strange fellow, Hartley, 
to go on in this way. Get me sixty lines of the tenth 
book of 'the Iliad.' * Shall I say them now, sir?*" 
While visiting a friend of Wordsworth's, Sir George 
Beaumont, he received a letter from a friend in Leices- 
tershire, telling him that " several families in his neigh- 
bourhood have been rendered a heaven upon earth by 
teaching." And a learned judge writes to the same 
gentleman, " I really think that his plan, if rightly con- 
ducted, is one of the most stupendous engines that ever 
have been wielded, since the days of our Saviour, for 
the advancement of God's true religion upon earth." 

Dr Bell's chief occupation in 1813 was acting as 
general inspector of all his schools ; and his favourite 
pupil, Mr Bamford, tells us that he could not give this 
up, that "his feelings of restless vanity, unless relieved 
by indulgence, would have made him intensely miser- 
able." He scolded and buUied the masters in presence 
of their pupils ; and " his style of talking to them, and 
remarks, with a kind of boundless rage and bluster, 
were, in their situation, not only unkind and unneces- 
sary, but vexatious and oppressive." "He regarded 
money," Mr Bamford goes on to say, "as the primum 
mobile and the only efficient stimulant in the world." 
He excited masters by a negative kind of threat. He 


said, " Do this, or you shaU be mulcted, or leave your 
situation." The masteis were subject to weekly and 
monthly fines; and he paid "according to the periodi- 
cal state of the school" " I can do more," said he to 
the Archbishop of Canterbnry, taking half-arcrown out 
of his pocket, ** I can do more with this half-crown than 
yon can do with all yonr fixed salaries." May we not, 
then, justly regard Dr Bell as the Father of the System 
of Payment by Results 1 Great warriors lived before 
Achilles, but there was no Homer to sing their praises, 
and great practical, or pragmatical, educationists have 
also existed before Mr Robert Lowe. 

The correspondence to the second volume has not 
much of interest But, in one letter of Dr Bell's to 
the famous Mr Edgeworth, we find that he has taken 
a terrible disHke to all teachers, and a corresponding 
affection for all pupils. He says : " It is among the chil- 
dren and youth of the school that I have learned what I 
know, not among their masters, sometimes as prejudiced, 
bigoted, and perverse, as their scholars are ingenuous, 
ingenious, and tractable. It is in this book, I have said, 
that I acquired what I know ; and it is in this book I 
have recommended you to study — a school full of chil- 
dren'* Mr Dempster writes to tell him to get "pre- 
sented at Court, and now and then to attend the levSes; 
get better acquainted with the Archbishop of Canter- 
bury and the Bishop of London, etc.; bustle to be made 
canon or prebendary ; that is the road to a bishopric ; ** 
and so on. An able correspondent, Mr D. P. Watts, 
sends Dr Bell an account of an accident with some 
sensible educational commentaries. There are, unfor- 


tunately, still a number of people who think they must 
act the part of Providence to their neighbours, and 
arrange everything "for their good." At the close of 
his letter, Mr Watts makes the remark : " The stability 
of a country begins in the schooV* The same corre- 
spondent mentions the death of a "schoolmaster in 
Swabia, who had superintended a seminary fifty-one 
years with severity. He had given 911,500 canings, 
124,000 floggings, 209,000 custodies, 136,000 tips with 
the ruler, *10,200 boxes on the ear, 22,700 tasks by 
heart, 700 stands upon peas, 600 kneels on a sharp 
edge, 500 fools' caps, 1700 holds of rods." After this, 
one can only ask, almost fainting: where were the 
police? Poor Lancaster is attacked in this corre- 
spondence also. Mr Sou they goes so far as to say 
that he "will convict him of falsehood and deal 
with him accordingly." In another letter, he says, 
" The Dragon " — meek little chubby-faced Lancaster — 
" is now in the same state as the old serpent at Want- 
ley, when Moore of Moore Hall had given him the last 
fatal kick." 

In 1815 Dr Bell comes back to Scotland and revisits 
St Andrews. But he did not care for the country or 
the scenery, but only for the schools. " Nothing," he 
says, " is curious, or interesting, or beautiful in my eye 
but the face of children — but the infant mind — but the 
spiritual creation." In 1816 a Committee was formed, 
with Principal Playfair as its chairman, to introduce Dr 
BeU's system into his native city. The plan of this 
Committee is sent to him, and he replies that he will 
give material aid, on his own principle, to wit, that " a 


salary given, independent of success, is a premium for 
neglecting duty." 

In August of this year he goes to the Ehine and sails 
down it " on a raft, everywhere within an inch of the 
surface of the water, except two watch-towers for the 
steersman, which have a commanding view of the sur- 
rounding country. This float of timber is 700 feet long 
and 70 wide, and carries only four houses, and fifty men 
engaged in its navigation. Some floats have 40 houses, 
numerous families, and are larger in proportion." In 
this excursion he meets with the great Pestalozzi, whom 
he calls "a man of genius, benevolence, and enthusiasm." 
About this time, too, commissioners are sent to wait 
upon him to learn his System — from Sweden, Switzer- 
land, and Eussia. In 1818 he received the ofTer of a 
stall in Hereford Cathedral. He had to preach four 
English and four Latin sermons, to sit for forty days 
in the prebendal stall without any duty to perform, to 
sit three hours every Sunday and holiday, and twice 
every week-day, and never to walk beyond the walls of 
the city during this period. In 1818 he preached a 
sermon on his System, kept his amanuensis up a night 
and a day copying it, preached for an hour, and took 
off his spectacles to wipe them — when the congregation 
thinking he had come to an end, rose up, and the good 
Doctor shouted " ' God bless my soul 1 ' and, instantly 
recommencing, went on for half an hour longer." In 
1817 the Emperor of Russia sends him a diamond ring. 

I must now pass over the remaining years, and come 
to 1831. "His money," says his biographer, "was now 
a burden to him." Much of his time was spent in 


making wills; and ^Mr Davies, his secretary, spent 
much of his time in copying and recopying them. On 
the 11th of May 1831, he writes to his bankers to 
transfer £120,000 to certain gentlemen in St Andrews, 
entreats them *' to make all despatch — no time must be 
lost." This was done. Meanwhile, Miss Bell wanted 
to come and see him at Cheltenham, where he was 
living: he wrote to say she might come, and as soon 
as the letter had gone, he wrote to say she must not. 
She came however, and he gave her his cottage, a 
covering used at the coronation of George the Fourth, 
his silver plate, gold coins, rings, tea-service, trinkets, 
and money. But Miss Bell got it into her head that 
her distinguished brother " was not in his right mind," 
and that he was not in a fit state to make his will. The 
Doctor discovered this, and placed a paper in her hands 
ordering her to leave his house immediately. He was 
every day becoming more and more impatient to hear 
what was doing with his money. " My solicitude dis- 
tresses me mucL Excuse my anxiety. There is danger 
in the delay of a day." In June he wants aU his money 
to be thrown into Chancery, and the trustees along with 
it. He next asks the trustees to come down to Chel- 
tenham to see him. 

Picture to yourself the situation. An old man, nearly 
eighty, who had totally lost the power of speech, with 
his faculties and eager spirit all alive, but without 
the power of giving adequate expression to them, with 
£120,000 to give away and no one to trust, with the 
belief that his System was to be the salvation of the 
world, and yet with little hope of seeing this System con- 


fided to good and safe hands. The trustees, when they 
came, found him with his head sunk upon his breast, 
and he could talk with them only through a slate. He 
asked them for a plan. " When will you have it ? Can 
you bring it to me to-night at eight o'clock, or to-morrow 
morning ? A plan we must have," etc., etc. But a plan 
for a college, and for the right investment of £120,000, 
cannot be made in an hour. " The trustees were me- 
thodical in their way of doing business ; he was capri- 
cious and vehement They were slow ; he was quick. 
They were very patient ; he was at times very violent. 
Fire and water would have combined more easily." 
After the trustees left, he enters into a long and 
violent correspondence with them; he accuses them 
of "concocting the trust-deed, and that they surrepti- 
tiously obtained it from him, under circumstances of 
painful and disqualifying enactment." They reply 
firmly but modestly; he tells them their "declama- 
tion is written to give a death-blow to my debilitated 
condition, or for a posthumous epistle to the grave, 
which tells no tales." He tells them to write by return 
of post, and by every post. He writes a holograph deed 
on the 21st of December, and he executes another on 
the 29th, which he says "perhaps supersedes it." He 
speaks of the "studied embarrassments, machinations, 
devices, and distortions, and perversions of the propo- 
sitions of a dying, speechless, and insulated man, with 
funds undisposed of, and the multiplication of writings 
contrived for this purpose are inconceivable by those 
who are not in such a situation." His last wishes were 
expressed in a paper which he drew up at intervals 


lortly before his death. He signified his approval of 
iiis twelve hours before his departure ; but he did not 
Lve to sign it. 

His intellect and memory were unimpaired, and his 
iflfections were as eager as ever. At haK-past ten on 
the night of the 27 th of January, his doctor said to 
him, " How are you, my dear sir 1 " and in haK an hour 
afterwards his breathing became languid ; and at length 
gently and calmly ceased altogether ; and no man saw 
at what moment the fiery, passionate, enthusiastic soul 
took its departure for another world. He only quietly 
ceased to be. He was buried among the illustrious dead 
in Westminster Abbey. 

The correspondence in the third volume need not de- 
tain us long. Dr Gray writes from Bishopwearmouth 
about " Harrogate damsels and ladies, young, handsome, 
and accomplished; of barons and baronets enthralled; 
and of schools enthusiastically patronised." We, of this 
generation, may be thankful that we have got beyond 
that: we only want our work to take its right place 
among other kinds of work, without prejudice and with- 
out patronage. George Dempster draws an enthusiastic 
picture of the result of Dr Bell's labours : " Ploughmen, 
between their yokings, reading the Old Testament ; the 
New read by milkmaids and dustmen; cobblers solv- 
ing problems algebraically ; and girls drawing maps of 
Europe on their samplers." And he repeats his advice 
to Dr Bell to strive for the mitre; "bishoprics have 
been obtained for trumpery essays on chemistry, and 
archbishoprics for flogging Westminster schoolboys, — 
then, why not you?" 


LfiCTTBR <Ht DB 1 

Vou vill |MrhnpM agrm iritli me that U I 
hvxm imiiitiTHitiiig tu tuku a haclnrard took on the ei 
l)x>{itiniiiga of popular tiwtrnctioD in this cooatr)'; 
If Kuy iitin >hould oA for lli^ moral of I>r Bell'a 
I lliiiik it U to Iw fnunii in Ibe divine words, — 
wUioU ATC writlou in lottere of fire upon the face of ^ 
«niiuiiii>n<i>t liuiuun life. " Tliu fashion of this t 
IMMtx iiwuy, luid tlic Inst Llioniof; but ho that doett 
llin will of 0(>d uhideth for ever," And this, too, is 
* voiiw ttnti^ht from Houvon : " Whatsoever thy hand 
lttul«Ui lu ilo, do it with thy might ; for there is neitjur , 
ttWtiUU UM tluvioo ill the i^Tavv, whither we all h 




[The Educational works of Dr Bell amount to several 
thousand pages; but they cannot be recommended to 
the perusal of even the most enthusiastic student of 
education. There is much dust, chafF, and inorganic 
matter in them ; and it is only here and there that one 
finds something worth picking up. I have thought it 
right to go carefully through the volumes, and to select 
what might possibly be worth reading and thinking 
about. This is contained in the following pages.] 

" The advantages of teaching the alphabet, by writing the 
letters with the fingers in sand, are many. It engages and 
amuses the mind, and so commands the attention, that it 
greatly facilitates the toil, both of the master and the scholar. 
It is also a far more effectual way than that usually practised, 
as it prevents all learning by rote, and gives, at the instant 
and in the first operation, a distinct and accurate notion of 
the form of each letter, which in another way is often not 
acquired after a long period, and after a considerable progress 
in reading, as may be seen in those who write letters turned 
the wrong way, and other instances familiar to every one. 
It likewise enables them, at the very outset, to distinguish 
the letters of a similar cast, such as 6, d, p, and q, the diffi- 
culty of which is known to almost every person who has 

I ■ I* ■* •* . J ' 

' .1 ■! -I.'. 1. ■ .:■: .. _iT • 

■ I :■ .•Ii!--lu':.'. I.;.': :.•:.:' -V-:-;: -. - -__. 

: .'... .-I :li.ii I. ii'/f ';i'Mrlyaij«i ••:::;:.::!-.- 

■ .M .vii.'ii, l«-;ijiiiii;^' in acjuir^l 
..; .,■■..1 Kiii'l "lliicrary )»Iay;,'roiiix..: ; ',: 

■„■ .mujoii jii.iyi' in I lie ^'reatt-r ta. 


of the scholars to obtain their object, and in their deeper 
regret at failing in it. It is thus that delight prepares the 
way to improvement, and that pleasure becomes the hand- 
maid of knowledge." 

" Our Saviour tells us, that if we enter into the kingdom 
of heaven, we must become as little children. It is thus, 
that among children, and from them, and by becoming as 
one of them, that we are to learn those simple doctrines of 
nature and truth, innate in them, or which readily occur 
to their minds, as yet unbiassed by authority, prejudice, or 
custom. It is in this school of nature and truth, pointed out 
by the Son of God, himself God, that I seek for knowledge. 
It is among the children and youth of the school, not among 
their masters, sometimes as prejudiced, bigoted, and perverse, 
as their scholars are ingenuous, ingenious, and tractable. It 
is in this book, I have said, that I acquired what I know ; 
and it is in this book I have recommended you to study — a 
school full of children." 

" The first and grand law of the new school is, that every 
scholar, by a perpetual and generous competition with his 
fellows, finds for himself his level, and increasingly rises and 
falls in his place in the class, and in the ranks of the school, 
according to his relative attainments. It is thus that the 
dunces, as they are called, from other schools are no longer 
dunces when they enter a Madras school, and breathe a 
Madras atmosphere. 

" The second main law of the Madras school is, that its 
instruction be conducted in a gradually progressive course 
of study by easy, adapted, and perfect lessons." 

'^ Let no master, as he values the satisfaction and approba- 


tion of the visitors and directors of his school — the profit and 
delight of his pupils — the gratification of their parents and 
friends — the good opinion of the public — and his own ease and 
comfort — ^think he has done his duty while he has a single 
child in his school who does not make daily progress accord- 
ing to his capacity — who is not perfectly instructed in every 
lesson as he goes along. But let it also be remembered that 
the scholar's time must not be wasted by repeating again 
and again what is already familiar to him, except as far as is 
necessary to prevent its being forgotten." 

" 1. The Asylum, like every well-regulated school, is arranged 
into forms or classes, each composed of as many scholars as, 
having made a similar progress, unite together. The scholar 
ever finds his own level, not only in his class, but also in the 
ranks of the school, being promoted or degraded from place 
to place according to his relative proficiency. 

"2. Each class is, when preparing their lessons by them- 
selves, paired off into tutors and pupils. 

" Thus in a class of thirty-six scholars the eighteen best 
and most trusty are tutors respectively to the eighteen 

« This arrangement, by no means an important link in the 
chain of self«-tuition, is frequently dispensed with ; and when 
continued lessons take place, as in the schools of the National 
Society, it is of course superseded. 

" 3. To each class is attached an assistant-teacher, whose 
business is, as the name implies, to act under, with, or for 
the teacher. 

" 4. The teacher who, with his assistant, has charge of the 
class, as well when learning as saying their lessons, and is 
responsible for their order, behaviour, diligence, and im- 
provement. Both the teacher and his assistant say their 
lessons with their class. In the conduct of a school, the two 


grand departments are instruction and discipline. 'Disci- 
pline * (says Ascham) * without instruction is mere tyranny, 
and instruction without discipline little better than useless 

" It is an unfounded complaint that very few learners are 
naturally endowed with the faculty of understanding the 
lessons which are prescribed to them, and that most do in 
reality lose their labour and time from defect of genius. 
Quite otherwise is the fact ; for you will find the generality 
of men quick in conception and prompt to learn. This is 
the characteristic of man. As birds are destined by nature 
to fly, horses to run, and wild beasts to be ferocious ; so to 
us is peculiar the (agitation) working and sagacity of the 
mind. Hence it is believed that the human soul is of celes- 
tial origin. The dull and the indocile are no more conform- 
able to the nature of man than bodies which are accounted 
prodigies and monsters. But these are very rare." — QuiNC- 


"Another practice of the Madras school is of high au- 
thority and remote antiquity in the Eastern world. * Jesus 
stooped down, and with His finger wrote on the ground ' 
(John viiL 6.) Writing on sand, borrowed from the Hindoo 
writing on the ground, is of a mixed nature, and applies to 
more than one branch of the scholars' studies — viz., to teach- 
ing the alphabet, digits, monosyllables, notation, arithmetic, 
and the art of writing itself. All the initiatory processes of 
the school being formed at the sand-board, the great diffi- 
culties and impediments of learning, which chiefly occur in 
the beginning of every branch of tuition, are conquered by 
an operation which gratifies the active disposition of youth, 
and their love of imitation ; and like the pen and pencil, ties 
down the mind to the single object in hand. Not a letter, 
a word, a figure can be passed over unknown or unlearned. 



No task can be evaded by the scholar, repeated by rote, or 
done, as too often happens, by proxy." 

" Ascham says, * The schole-house should be counted a 
sanctuary against fear.*" 

" Mr Locke, after stating his reason why * the usual lazy 
and short way by chastisements and the rod, which is the 
only instrument of government that tutors generally know, 
or ever think of, is the most unfit of any to be used in edu- 
cation,' concludes, * beating them (boys) and all other acts of 
slavish and corporal punishments, are not the discipline fit 
to be used in the education of those we would have wise, 
good, and ingenious men, and therefore very rarely to be 
applied, and that only on great occasions, and cases of ex- 
tremity.' How would such a writer have rejoiced to have 
seen the engine of the new school at work ! " 

" Quinctilian, as was noticed before, in denouncing corporal 
punishment, is of opinion that there would not be occasion 
for its exercise — ' Si assiduus studiorum exactor adstiterit ' — 
* if an assiduous exactor of his studies were to attend the 
pupil.' " 

" * If it should be asked what is the one and great device 
for the improvement of memory, my answer would be, exer- 
cise and much employment. To reflect on many things, and 
as far as may be, every day, cannot but be attended with the 
best effect. Memory, more than anything, is either im- 
proved by cultivation, or falls off by neglect.' — QuiN. We 
must also recollect that this is accomplished by means as 


much more lenient, as they have been found more efficacious 
than those usually employed, by means which abridge the 
labour of the master, expedite the progress of the scholar, 
and reduce the expense of the parent. And that the order 
and improvement of the school are produced by the amuse- 
ment and interest which it creates to the children, while it 
gives life, spirit, and energy to every scholastic operation, 
and is calculated to render a grammar-school in reality, as 
well as in name, *ludus literarius,' *the literary play,' the 
wish of the ablest writers on this subject is accomplished 
beyond their expectation — * lusus hie sit.' " 

"'Were matters ordered right, learning anything they 
(children) should be taught, might be made a recreation to 
their play, as play is to their learning.' " — Locke. 

" To sum up the whole ; the Madras System consists in 
conducting a school by a single master, through the 
almost insensibly progressive course of study, whereby the 
mind of the child is often exercised in anticipating and dic- 
tating for himself his successive lessons, by which the 
memory is improved, the understanding cultivated, and 
knowledge uniformly increased — a course in which reading 
and writing are carried on in the same act, with a law of 
classification, by which every scholar finds his level, is hap- 
pily, busily, and profitably employed every moment, is ne- 
cessarily made perfectly acquainted with every lesson as he 
goes along, and without the use or the need of corporal 
infliction, acquires habits of method, order, and good con- 
duct, and is advanced in his learning according to the full 
measure of his capacity." 


" The principle on which, in teaching the Latin grammar, 
I proceed, is (as has been fully explained) the same as in 
teaching Euclid's elements, arithmetic, algebra, chemistry, 
geography, astronomy, or any branch of philosophy, or any 
art or science, and has been described in * Elements of Tui- 
tion,' Part II. It is to reduce everything which is to be 
taught to a methodical arrangement, a regular gradation, 
beginning with what is plainest and simplest, and making 
that familiar by practice and repetition till it be fixed in the 
scholars mind as a habit, and proceeding gradually by short, 
easy, and almost insensible steps through the branches of 
science. This process is especially requisite with the ele- 
ments and fundamentals of grammatical studies. 

" If the syntax were composed on a scientific principle, its 
rules might, while greatly reduced in number, be rendered 
more comprehensive, more simple, more intelligible, and 
more easy of attainment. The rule to be observed in its 
composition is, that it be just and comprehensive in its 
principle, brief and systematic in its method, perspicuous 
and easy in its examples, and that usefulness be studied in 
every particular. 

" * Ut grammatica prsecepta fateor necessaria ; ita velim 
esse, quantum fieri possit, quam brevissima modo sint op- 
tima. Nee unquam probavi literatorum vulgus, qui pueros 
in his inculcandis complures annos remorantur.' 

" * As I acknowledge grammar rules to be necessary, so I 
would have them to be as brief as possible. Nor have I 
ever approved of the common herd of learned men who, in 
inculcating them, detain boys for several years.' " — Erasmus, 
De Ratione Studii. 

" The scholar being now master of his grammar books, 
and initiated in the art of construing, translating, and 
parsing, proceeds to read the easiest prose classics, with or 
without a translation. 


" * In whatever way, let care be taken not to teach him too 
'^ch at once, nor to set him upon a new part till that which 
'^ is upon be perfectly learned, and fixed in his mind.' " — 

•* " He is never put into a new lesson, or new Look, till he 
fcte' well learned the former ; and never put into a book till 
[i^ trial has been made of his ability being equal to the book. 
||lhe simultaneous perusal of a variety of books at the com- 

inencement of the scholar's course of study, is in consonance 
rith much that is done in a grammar-school, to perplex and 
onfonnd the novice, at this early period. The perfect 
junderstanding of any one author is full exercise for the 
Lender faculties. Nothing should be introduced that has a 
tendency to divert the attention from this one object, or to 
itract the mind." 

" Look at a regiment, or a ship, etc., you will see a beauti- 
ful example of the system which I have recommended for a 
jle school. Look at the army and navy, etc., and you 
see the grand system of superintendence which pervades 
the works of men, and which will guide you in the 
leral organisation of your schools. Only yours is a far 
complicated machine. A single inspector-general, with 
secretary, both nominated by Government, and remov- 
ible at pleasure, will suffice to new -model the schools, 
jeive reports, visit them, detect deficiencies, point out the 
Luse of failure, and see that they are conducted according 
the system chalked out for them, and the principles of the 
institution. In their various progress, in their subsidiary 
and subordinate improvements, and the additions to our 
present practices which will occur, a wide field of practical 
knowledge will be opened. Of the new creation which it 
will raise to religion, to society, and to the State, I shall say 


nothing. In each school classify, appoint, or rather, where 
the scholars have made any progress, let them appoint 
teachers and assistants to each class. Short lessons, short 

" Let the progress be secure in every step, and you will be 
astonished at its flight. With new schools, and untaught 
children, you will have an easy task. Nothing is so facile 
and pleasant as to teach ah initio — nothing so difiicult and 
ungracious as to unteach those who have been ill taught. 
Place into a well-regulated institution a boy who has been ill 
taught two or three years at an ill-conducted school, and a 
boy of the same age and capacity, who does not know a 
letter of the alphabet, and in a twelvemonth I shall expect 
to see the superiority inverted." 







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