Page images



[ocr errors][merged small]

The extent to which this feeling prevailed may be surmised from the fact that Dr. Bell so far yielded to it as to insert, in the third edition of his Experiment,' the following paragraph :

'It is not proposed that the children of the poor be educated in an expensive manner, or even taught to write, and to cypher. Parents will always be found to educate at their own expense children enow to fill the stations which require higher qualificatious; and there is a risk of elevating, by an indiscriminate education, the minds of those doomed to the drudgery of daily labour, above their condition, and thereby rendering them discontented and unhappy in their lot.'

Thus far is given by the editor, who kindly does his best to deliver the Doctor out of the inconsistency into which he had fallen, and which had justly exposed him to the taunt of being an advocate for the universal limitation of knowledge. But Dr. Bell went further than this. He stooped to sneer at Utopian schemes for the universal diffusion of general knowledge,' which, he said, would soon realize the fable of the belly and the other members of the body, and confound that distinction of ranks and classes in society on which the general welfare hinges, and the happiness of the lower orders, no less than that of the higher, depends. This was pitiful, from a man who at other times professed such zeal for education. What right had he afterwards to complain that the names of Mandeville



and Bell were associated, when he had thus gravely argued that the children of the labouring classes were to have ignorance, which Shakspeare calls the curse of God,' rivetted upon them, because their parents subsisted by daily labour ? The following is from a letter to him by Mr. Coleridge, under date of the 15th of April, 1808, and apparently written with reference to the false position he had now assumed :

'I confess that I seem to perceive some little of an effect produced by talking with objectors, with men who, to a man like you, are far, 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, burglarists, or Parisian revolutionists—which in. cludes all evils 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 do proceeds from fear, from a momentary variation of the balance of probabilities, which happened to be in favour of letting their brethren know just enough to keep them from the gallows. O, dear Dr. Bell, you are a great man! Never, never permit minds so inferior to your own, however high their artificial rank may be, to induce you to pare away an atom of what you know to be right. The sin that besets a truly good man is, that, naturally desiring to see instantly done what he knows will be eminently useful to his fellow-beings, he sometimes will consent to sacrifice a part, in order to realize in a given spot, (to construct, as the mathematicians say,) his idea in a given diagram. But yours is for the world--for all mankind; and all your opposers might, with as good chance of success, stop the half moon



from becoming full; all they can do is, a little to retard it. Pardon, dear Sir, a great liberty taken with you, but one which my heart and sincere reverence for you impelled. As the apostle said, Rejoice! so I say to you, Hope! From hope-faith, and love, all that is good, all that is great, all lovely and honourable things' proceed. From fear-distrust, and the spirit of compromise—all that is evil.'

This letter is every way worthy of the venerable man by whom it was written, and with it this controversy may very suitably close. Had Mr. Coleridge known more of Lancaster than he did, he would have freely admitted that, with all his faults, he was something far better than a mere “ignorant, vulgar, arrogant charlatan ;' he would have allowed that to him,- to his zeal, ingenuity, and perseverance, may fairly be attributed the awakening of the public mind to the duty of caring for the instruction of the poor; and he would thankfully have acknowledged that to his efforts may be traced, in no slight degree, the subsequently rapid spread of knowledge, the growth and enlargement of the popular mind, and the moral and intellectual improvement of the labouring classes of society in these realms.




PERHAPS we should rather say, contrasted ; for the diversities of character in the two

were many and striking. Lancaster, through his whole course, is the religious enthusiast; Bell, from youth to age, is distinguished by worldly-minded prudence. While the one is burning with desire to teach the Blacks to read the Bible ; the other is quietly earning a reputation for sobriety and circumspection. When Lancaster is frequenting the meetings of Friends, and sacrificing worldly prospects to obtain inward peace,' Bell is fighting a duel, and preparing to take orders in the Church. While the unworldly Quaker is exclaiming, “I don't want a stock of money, I only want a stock of faith ;' the disinterested' Churchman is insatiate in his lust after place and preferment. While the one, generous to a fault and benevolent to a weakness, is complaining that his

soul succumbs under the burden when he sees hearts breaking under distress' and he • cannot or dare not help them; the other, careful, and a little covetous withal, is pinching the brethren,' and bringing upon himself



a visitation from the bishop. Both are proud; but with this difference,-Lancaster is arrogant, Bell, vain. Both are self-worshippers, the eye' of each is ever on himself; but the result is not the same : in the one, self-complacency destroys love ; in the other, it produces something like insanity. Under its influence, Lancaster, always generous and fervid, becomes habitually wasteful and flighty; Bell, with a natural tendency to be hard and grasping, becomes as habitually selfish and morose, — of the earth, and earthy.'

“The gratification which Dr. Bell 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 (says Mr. Bamford) 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 thinkeven if he were alone and in solitude-have

« PreviousContinue »