1902 Encyclopedia > Henry Glassford Bell

Henry Glassford Bell
Scottish lawyer, poet and historian

HENRY GLASSFORD BELL, was born at Glasgow in 1805, and received his education at the High School of that city. He afterwards studied at Edinburgh and became intimate with Moir, Hogg, Wilson, and others of the bril-liant staff of Blackwood's Magazine, to which he was drawn by his political sympathies. In 1828 he became editor of the Edinburgh Literary Journal, which proved unsuccessful. He passed to the bar in 1832. In 1836 he competed unsuccessfully against Sir William Hamilton for the chair of logic and metaphysics in Edinburgh University, and three years afterwards was appointed sheriff-substitute of Lanarkshire, an office which he held until 1867, when he succeeded Sir Archibald Alison in the post of sheriff-prin-cipal of the county. During his early life he had been a versatile author of poems and prose sketches, but his literary activity was checked after he applied himself seriously to law. In 1831 he published Summer and Winter Hours, a volume of poems, of which the best known is that on Mary Queen of Scots. He further defended the cause of the unfortunate queen in a prose Life. A preface which he wrote to the works of Shakespeare contains some acute and original criticism. His Romances and other Poems (1866) display deeper thought and less fervour than his former works, but are mainly interesting as evidence of latent poetic genius, the development of which was pre-vented by attention to other pursuits. Bell's literary tastes did not affect his industry in his profession, and, on the other hand, his legal labours never dulled his early affection for poetry and painting. He deserves to be held in kindly remembrance for his readiness to assist youthful literary aspirants. During many years he took an active interest in social questions, especially in promoting educational and sanitary reforms. He died in January 1874.

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