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warn him against what he calls “ learned ladies." “They are” in Major Wight's opinion, “most generally deficient in that delicacy and correctness which render a woman most truly amiable.” These speculations 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 condition 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 matters.'
Dr Bell married at the not immature age of forty
DR BELL AS A COUNTRY PARSON.
In the year 1801, Dr Bell was presented to the Rectory of Swanage in Dorsetshire — a living of more than
The parish was a very small one. contained about three hundred families; and there were three Roman Catholics and twenty Methodists within its bounds. They were a quiet, simple, primitive, kindly people. Among the more notable inhabitants was Thomas Maxwell, a retired quarryman, a great student of books, and the founder of a musical society in the place. He was the author of several books—one on mathematical geography; and his tombstone states that he "broke through the barrier to literature, and acquired a degree of knowledge which might have ranked him with the first philosophers of the age." The reason, given farther on, why he was not in the first rank of philosophers, is that he was a "child of solitude.” He is thus to be classed with those village Hampdens, mute inglorious Miltons, and others whom an unkind fate or “the force of circumstances” has prevented from doing very much either for mankind or for themselves.
Another noteworthy family consisted also of quarrymen. They were called Stickland; and several members of this family were employed as teachers in the Sunday-school “under the new system.” The salary for each of the two teachers in the Sundayschool was only fifteen shillings a-year; this was. afterwards raised to twenty-six shillings : but in the course of time the subscriptions to the schools fell away entirely. 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 himself an element of stir and revolution. The children looked a great deal more at the burly eager blackbrowed Scotchman than at their books; and Mr Stickland had now and then to request the doctor to “be pleased to pitch himself.” In 1802, Dr Bell introduced his System; and his energetic efforts to make the little scholars understand 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,
says, “like magic; order and regularity started up
all at once.
In half an hour more was
learned, and far better, than had been done the whole 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 reluctance; and they return before their time to renew the competition.”
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. Nothing 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 disposition 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. History—this and others--knows nothing of Agnes Barclay, 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 without leaving behind her a single trace of her existence.?
i De Quincey appends the following note to his essay on S. T. Coleridge : “Most men have 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 å 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 à menså 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 enmity 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 41d. 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 Coleridge, 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 lodgings; 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 niyself), 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 down !' she wrote twice 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 extra portion of madness in the writer, rather than an extra portion of knavery in the reverend receiver.”