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In 1830 the health of Dr. Bell decidedly failed; and in 1831 Sir Benjamin Brodie stated his agreement with Dr. Newell in the opinion, that the nerves of the larynx were in a degree paralytic, as well as the organs of deglutition. His mind was, however, in full vigour, and his vanity as rampant as ever. * His money,” says his biographer, was now a burden to him.’ After changing his mind again and again as to its disposal, he at length suddenly transferred £120,000 to trustees at St. Andrews for a projected college. He then wrote to Dr. Southey, requesting that he and Mr. Wordsworth would edit his works, and begging their acceptance of £2,000, and all expenses paid, and the expenses of those they might employ. Southey accepts the trust, and incidentally refers to his own declining strength. ‘I am old enough myself,’ he says, “to have the end of my journey in view, and to feel what a blessing it will be to escape from the cares of this world, throw off the burden of human infirmities, and be united in the kingdom of heaven with those dear ones who have gone before us.”
Dr. Southey very properly urged that as almost all his wealth had come from the church, some of it, at least, ought to return to it; and suggested to him a plan for augmenting poor livings. Dr. Bell at first seemed to acquiesce, but soon after altered his opinion. One-twelfth of the amount he had placed in the hands of trustees (£10,000) he subsequently gave to the Royal Naval School, and five other twelfths he transferred to the towns of Edinburgh, Leith, Glasgow, Aberdeen, and Inverness. His Scotch estates, producing a yearly rental of about £400, he made over to trustees for the purpose of promoting and encouraging the education of youth in Cupar Fife, subject to a miserable annuity of £100 per annum to his sister; £20 annually to six other persons; and £10 to Thomas Clark. His princely donation to St. Andrews proved most unfortunate; it involved him in disputes with the trustees, terminating onl with his death, which took place at Cheltenham on the 27th of January, 1832, in the 79th year of his age. His remains were removed to London on the 9th of February, and deposited in Westminster Abbey on the 14th; the highest dignitaries of the church, and other eminent persons, attending as mourners.
The leading features of Dr. Bell's character have been so well pourtrayed by Mr. Bamford, that we cannot do better than extract from his ‘Notes.’ He is speaking of him as he appeared to the teachers with whom he constantly came in contact:—
‘Acting as general inspector of all the schools united with the society, and anxious for the diffusion of his system, he apparently sacrificed every comfort, by continuing to undergo, in traversing from school to school, great bodily exertions and great mental excitements. The gratification which he derived from the display of a particular kind of knowledge, from the reception of praise and respect, the tribute due to his discovery and public reputation, encouraged and fed his restless vanity to such a degree, that his feelings, unless relieved by indulgence, would have made him intensely miserable. He had become so accustomed to bustle and change, and to new faces with new admiration, that he could never be happy for any length of time in one place. His fame, too, was spread, and a monument of renown erected by the establishment of every school. The fervour of travelling, and the excitement of fresh company, were necessary to carry off that exuberance of passion which, if not thus spent, would, I think—even if he were alone and in solitude—have accumulated and overflown in vehement and fiery fits. Food, too, was continually required to nourish those notions of his self-importance which stationary friends, by too great intimacy, might neglect or refuse to gratify. It is true, that disregarding all personal care, and toil, and expense, wherever his services could be useful, however distant the place or unknown the applicants, no self-considerations restrained his zeal, or came into competition with his eager desire to bring his system into public notice and favour, and to keep up its character and reputation with others. In process of time, however, this craving for admiration from diversity of persons increased into a strong and overpowering feeling. It was not surprising, therefore, that he wrought himself into a belief that, as he was signally appointed by Providence to be the means of bringing to light such an instrument for the education of the body of the people, and the consummation of the blessed Reformation, so it was his duty personally to give his assistance whenever it was desired or likely to advance his great object. Still, perhaps, it had been better for himself and the cause in which he was engaged, either to have confined his instructions to fewer places, or to have communicated them with more grace. Previously to his arrival in any town he was, from his public character and his disinterested employment, regarded as highly as his own pretensions could desire; but a first or second visit most commonly lessened the respect or checked the ardour of those who had given their time and money towards the establishment of the schools, and who found themselves and their labours frequently depreciated, censured, and offended. Many anxious friends of schools, who had welcomed his coming, in the hopes of being assisted and encouraged by the sanction of the discoverer of the system they were patronizing, became disgusted and disheartened, and have now either given up their interest in schools altogether, or only attend in spite of the reflection that he, who should best know and judge impartially, could find nothing to commend in their exertions. I do not mean to say that he found fault where there was no reason; but his manner of examining schools, and addressing visitors and masters, was in general so opposite to the courteous and complacent behaviour by which great men become beloved, that many
unkind feelings have been excited against him which he might very easily not only have prevented, but in their place have established unalloyed admiration. Instead of delivering his instructions and making his remarks in a gentlemanly and conciliatory mode, so as to gain upon adult masters by his suavity, his personal behaviour was such that he was almost universally dreaded and disliked. His treatment of tbem in their schools, in the presence of their pupils, was frequently calculated to create any other sentiments than respect and attention. His conduct not only at the time alienated them from him, but it created a dislike which embittered and rendered heartless all their subsequent endeavours. It might be commonly true that there was ground for his observations ; but his style of talking to them, and his remarks, with a kind of boundless rage and bluster, were, in their estimation, not only unkind and unnecessary, but vexatious and oppressive. These were evils which, in a great measure, he might have avoided, without exhibiting less earnestness or producing less benefits ; besides, clothed as he was with authority, the tyranny was the more galling.'
His passion for money was inordinate, and it deservedly brought upon him, especially in his management of Sherburn Hospital, annoyance and obloquy. His views of human nature were affected by this propensity, and were consequently low and mean:
• He regarded money as the primum 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 might 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 a half-crown out of his pocket, I can do more with this half-crown than you can do with all your fixed salaries.''
His treatment of Mr. Bamford shows how well he understood the art of managing men for selfish ends, and how unscrupulously he practised it :
* In his treatment of me,' says that gentleman, he exercised that mixture of severity and apparent good-will which, however at times unpleasant to my feelings, had so much influence over me, that I adhered to him most exclusively; and as he impressed upon me, looked upon all others who spoke kindly to me, or wished me to seek some relaxation, as insidious enemies. He professed. to have no other object in view but my good ; and by opening mysteriously to me the power of future patronage, with the necessity of implicit re
liance, I was encouraged to expect a reward proportionate to any exertions I should make, however laborious or supererogatory. To him, therefore, I devoted myself. He found me docile, tractable, affectionate, and without guile or suspicion. He wished to train me up in that exclusive attachment to him and his pursuits, which rendered me a useful and necessary instrument for his present purposes, and which would prepare me for any future operations. He, therefore, exacted of me the prostration of the intellect, the affections, and the actions. All were to be at his disposal. Private views, and opinions, and friends, were to be discarded ; and with a pure admiration and dependence, I yielded myself solely and wholly to his will. Severe and hard to endure was this course of discipline. He soon found that with the more gentle qualities of my nature, there were also united a warmth and impetuosity of temper, with a pride of spirit, which could be with pleasure led by gentleness, but which was fretted and wounded by harshness. But what could the vain ebullitions of youth avail against the cool and practised aims of age 2 By raising expectations without directly promising—by manifesting a parental care for my welfare, by professing sincere regard, by holding up inducements and future advancement, by candidly and honestly telling me my faults, by an air of the strictest justice, by enforcing unequivocal veracity, and every moral virtue, with a rigid industry, he bent and warped my mind to such a degree, that all my powers, and thoughts, and sentiments, were employed exclusively to please him, and fulfil his directions. I viewed nothing in the world but through the speculum he presented. Of himself he gave me a picture which I loved. He represented himself as delighted with truth, a lover of candour, the patron of merit; and he signalized me out as his little Lake boy, his protegée, nay, as his son, whom he regarded and trained up as his own. This, notwithstanding the many bitter moments of discipline which were used to try me, could not but gain upon such a heart as mine, particularly so inexperienced a one.’ He never appears to have lived happily with his wife, and in June, 1815, a regular deed of separation was drawn up and finally executed. He nowhere exhibits amiability of character. Few, if any, loved him. His vanity was prodigious: sometimes it is hateful, sometimes amusing. Mr. Davies, his amanuensis, whom he would keep employed for months together almost night and day, apparently regardless of his health or comfort, having on one occasion written to him an account of the progress he was making in the wearisome task assigned him of compiling from an immense mass of papers a complete edition of all the doctor's works, receives the following consolation:- Go on. You must be well aware how instructive, how exceedingly instructive your present task is to you, and must still further be when I come to criticise and correct all you shall do.’ Davies writes that he is
at work from six in the morning till ten at night; to which the doctor replies : 'You must work, not as I have done, for that I do not expect, but as you can. Your labours in no other way can be so profitable to the world, or so improving to yourself.' Mr. Bamford's account is equally ludicrous.
He triumphantly displayed the mighty advantages with which I was favoured in being allowed to copy and transcribe, from little scraps of paper and backs of letters, the chaotic effusions of his ardent mind. This was real training, far better than being at the university; and nobody knew where it might end, or what you may come to, if you give yourself up to this thing.' He would remark, after he tried my fidelity,-Now you know all my concerns ; other people require oaths of secrecy; no man engages a common clerk, without having security for his faithfulness; but here I allow you to see my papers, and trust only to your honour. Though I do not ask you to swear, yet I expect that you will consider yourself as fully bound, as if you were sworn to secrecy.'
In this respect alone,—the attaching of vast importance to supposed discoveries in education,-Lancaster resembled him. He, too, had his mysteries,' known only to the initiated. He, too, was a moral spectacle, and a wonder to himself. If Bell 'wielded one of the most stupendous engines' known since the days of our Saviour and his apostles, Lancaster was not a whit behind in celebrity. He could instruct a thousand children at the same time out of one book;'-his 'youngest pupil could teach arithmetic with the certainty of a mathematician without knowing anything about it himself,' and by these 'wonderful inventions' the world was to be regenerated. If Bell 'attached an overweening importance to trifles, and insisted with vehemence on all his notions being adopted,' Lancaster, (we were about to say,) outdid him,- but that was impossible,-in this species of extravagance. Yet his boasted methods of punishment were radically bad, and have long since been abandoned as degrading and mischievous; and his system of rewards, includ. ing 'badges of merit,' orders' of merit, chains, medals, and expensive prizes,—scarcely less objectionable, have shared the same fate. Time has already set its seal upon the doings of both these men, and judgment has long since gone forth. But how different is the verdict to that which they so fondly anticipated. On all the peculiarities in which they gloried, men already pour contempt. The monitorial principle survives; but the trappings with which they encumbered it have long since proved worthless. Their pride is in the dust; their ambition, a vain show. Posterity will remember them rather as party leaders than as inventors or philanthropists, and succeeding generations will honour their zeal, their energy, and their per