Edinburgh Bookshelf

Kay's Originals Vol. 1


Volume 8 Page 15
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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 13 ANDREWB ELL,th e very odd-looking gentleman on the left, was an engraver ; and however little flattering this representation of his person may be considered, it is nevertheless perfectly correct-his nose to a hair's-breadth, and the angle of his legs to a point. Mr. Bell began his professional career in the humble employment of engraving letters, names, and crests on gentlemen's plates, dog's collars, and so forth, but subsequently rose to be the first in his line in Edinburgh. His success, however, can scarcely be attributed to any excellence he ever attained as an engraver, but rather to the result of a fortunate professional speculation in which he engaged. This was the publication of the Ewcyclopcediu Britunnica, of which he was proprietor to the amount of a half; and to which he furnished the plates. By one edition of this work he is said to have realised twenty thousand pounds. Mr. Bell did not possess the advantage of a liberal education, but this deficiency he in some measure compensated in after life by extensive reading, and by keeping the society of men of letters, of which aids to intellectual improvement he made so good a use that he became remarkable for the extent of his information, and so agreeable a companion that his company was in great request. A b . Bell was a true philosopher : so far from being ashamed of the unnecessary liberality of nature in the article of nose, he was in the habit of making it the groundwork of an amusing practical joke. He carried abaut with him a still larger artificial nose, which, when any merry party he happened to be with had got in their cups, he used to slip on, unseen, above his own immense proboscis, to the inexpressible horror and amazement of those who were not aware of the trick. They had observed of course, at the fist, that Mr. Bell's nose was rather a striking feature of his face, but they could not conceive how it had so suddenly acquired the utterly hideous magnitude which it latterly presented to them. . Mr. Bell was also remarkable for the deformity of his legs, upon which, however, he was the first person to jest. Once in a large company, when some jokes had passed on the subject, he said, pushing out one of them, that he would wager there was in the room a leg still more crooked. The company denied his assertion and accepted the challenge, whereupon he very coolly thrust out his other leg, which was still worse than its neighbour, and thus gained his bet. Mr. Bell acknowledged he was but a very indifferent engraver himself, yet he reared some first-rate artists in that profession. He died much regretted, at his own house in Lauriston Lane, at the advanced age of eighty-three, on the 10th of May 1809.
Volume 8 Page 16
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