« AnteriorContinuar »
salary given, independent of success, is a premium for neglecting duty."
In August of this year he goes to the Rhine and sails down it “on a raft, everywhere within an inch of the surface of the water, except two watch-towers for steersman, which have a commanding view of the surrounding 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, Switzerland, and Russia. In 1818 he received the offer 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 !' 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,
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 distresses me much. Excuse my anxiety. There is danger in the delay of a day.” In June he wants all his money to be thrown into Chancery, and the trustees along with it. He next asks the trustees to come down to Cheltenham 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 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
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 surreptitiously obtained it from him, under circumstances of painful and disqualifying enactment." They reply firmly but modestly; he tells them their “declamation 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 propositions 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 shortly before his death. He signified his approval of this twelve hours before his departure; but he did not live to sign it.
His intellect and memory were unimpaired, and his affections were as eager as ever. At half past ten on the night of the 27th of January, his doctor said to him, “How are you, my dear sir ?” and in half 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 detain 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 without 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 solving 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 ? "
You will perhaps agree with me that it has not been uninteresting to take a backward look on the early beginnings of popular instruction in this country; and if any one should ask for the moral of Dr Bell's story, I think it is to be found in the divine words,—words which are written in letters of fire upon the face of the commonest human life. “The fashion of this world passes away, and the lust thereof; but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” And this, too, is a voice straight from Heaven: “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is neither wisdom nor device in the grave, whither we all hasten.”