Home  »  The Sacred Poets of the Nineteenth Century  »  Charles Dent Bell (1819–1898)

Alfred H. Miles, ed. The Sacred Poets of the Nineteenth Century. 1907.

By Critical and Biographical Essay by Alfred H. Miles

Charles Dent Bell (1819–1898)

CHARLES DENT BELL, D.D., Hon. Canon of Carlisle, was born on the 10th of February, 1819, at Ballymagnigan, County Derry, Ireland. He was educated at the Academy, Edinburgh, the Royal School, Dungannon, and Trinity College, Dublin. He was Vice-Chancellor’s prizeman for English Verse 1840–1–2, B.A. 1842, M.A. 1852, B.D. and D.D. 1878. Ordained deacon in 1843, and priest in 1844, he held curacies at Hampton-in-Arden, Reading, and Hastings, and was Incumbent of St. John’s Chapel, Hampstead, from 1854 to 1861, Vicar of Ambleside, and Rural Dean 1861, Hon. Canon of Carlisle 1869, Vicar of Rydal with Ambleside 1872, Rector of Cheltenham 1879, and Surrogate of Cheltenham 1884. His principal volumes of verse are “Voices from the Lakes” (1876); “Songs in the Twilight” (1881); “Songs in many Keys” (1884); “Poems Old and New” (1893). He died Nov. 11, 1898.

It is somewhat difficult to represent Canon Bell’s poetry within necessary limits, owing to its variety, and to the length of many of its best examples. His poems of nature, “The Rosy Dawn,” “Spring,” and the “Ambleside” group are refreshing, as nature is refreshing. He could scarcely have lived in the Wordsworth country for so long as he did without coming under the influence, if not of Wordsworth, at least of the conditions which influenced Wordsworth. The nature poems are, however, freer from Wordsworthian influences than are the blank verse narrative poems which provoke disadvantageous comparison with those of the master poet. In the “Dream of Pilate’s Wife” we have a dramatic study which won commendation from Whittier, but which, beginning strongly, scarcely sustains its power to the end. One of Canon Bell’s best poems is “In the Escurial,” a poem describing the burial of Alfonso XII., December 10th, 1885. There is true dignity and fine pictorial power in this poem. The subject of death is one which finds felicitous treatment at Canon Bell’s hands, as the poems “Before” and “After,” “Dying Words,” and the Rondeaux here evidence.