Open main menu

Robert Bell (16 January 1800 – 12 April 1867) was an Irish man of letters.


He was the son of an Irish magistrate. He was born at Cork on 16 January 1800. He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, where he originated the Dublin Historical Society to supply the place of the old Historical Society which had been suppressed. He is said to have obtained early in life a government appointment in Dublin, and to have edited for a time the Patriot, a government organ. He is also described as one of the founders of and contributors to the Dublin Inquisitor, and as the author of two dramatic pieces, 'Double Disguises' and 'Comic Lectures.' [1]

In 1828, he settled in London either before or after publishing a pamphlet on catholic emancipation. About this time, he was appointed editor of the Atlas, then one of the largest of London weekly journals, and he conducted it creditably and successfully for many years. In 1829, at a time when press prosecutions were rife, he was indicted for a libel on Lord Lyndhurst, a paragraph in the Atlas having stated that either he or his wife had trafficked in the ecclesiastical patronage vested in the lord chancellor. The indictment would have been withdrawn if Bell had consented to give up the name of his authority, but he refused. He defended himself. The verdict of the jury found him guilty of publishing a libel, but virtually acquitted him of any malicious intention. The attorney-general expressed great satisfaction with the verdict, and Bell seems to have escaped punishment.[1]

A very prominent and active member of the committee of the Literary Fund, Bell was personally most helpful to struggling and unsuccessful men of letters, and his death on 12 April 1867 was much and widely regretted. In accordance with his request he was buried near the grave of his friend, W. M. Thackeray, in Kensal Green Cemetery.[1]


He edited The Story-teller, 1843, and in 1849 the concluding volumes of the Correspondence of the Fairfax Family. In 1846 had appeared his popularly written Life of Canning.[1]

Bell's major work was his annotated edition of the English Poets (24 vols., 1854–1857; new ed., 29 vols., 1866), the works of each poet being prefaced by a memoir. For Lardner's, Cabinet Cyclopaedia he wrote History of Russia (3 vols., 1836–1838) and Lives of English Poets (2 vols., 1839).

Bell wrote also a continuation, with W. Wallace, of Sir James Mackintosh's History of England (vols. iv.-x., 1830–1840); and the fifth volume (1840) of the Lives of the British Admirals, begun by Robert Southey. Bell was a member of the Percy Society, and in 1846 the society published Ancient Poems, Ballads and Songs of the Peasantry of England edited by Bell.



  •   This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainEspinasse, Francis (1885). "Bell, Robert (1800-1867)". In Stephen, Leslie (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography. 4. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  • Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Bell, Robert" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 3 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 686–687.
  • Webb, Alfred (1878). "Bell, Robert" . A Compendium of Irish Biography. Dublin: M. H. Gill & son – via Wikisource.
  • Espinasse, Francis; Banerji, Nilanjana. "Bell, Robert (1800–1867)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/2024.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)

External linksEdit