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William Bell Scott

(1811-1890 / Scotland)

Biography of William Bell Scott

William Bell Scott poet

William Bell Scott (12 September 1811 – 22 November 1890), British poet and artist, son of Robert Scott (1777-1841), the engraver, and brother of David Scott, the painter, was born in Edinburgh.

While a young man he studied art and assisted his father, and he published verses in the Scottish magazines. In 1837 he went to London, where he became sufficiently well known as an artist to be appointed in 1844 master of the government school of design at Newcastle-on-Tyne. He held the post for twenty years, and did good work in organizing art-teaching and examining under the Science and Art Department.

He did much fine decorative work, too, on his own account, notably at Wallington Hall, in the shape of eight large pictures illustrating Border history, with life-size figures, supplemented by eighteen pictures illustrating the ballad of Chevy Chase in the spandrels of the arches of the hall. For Penkill Castle, Ayrshire, he executed a similar series, illustrating James I's The Kingis Quair.

In Newcastle, Scott was visited by all the Rossetti family, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti painted Maria Leathart's portrait at Scott's house 14 St Thoms' Crescent (plaque erected 2005). Algernon Charles Swinburne, who wrote two poems to Scott, spent much time with him in Newcastle after being sent down from Oxford.

After 1870 Scott was much in London, where he bought a house in Chelsea, and he was an intimate friend of Rossetti[2] and in high repute as an artist and an author. He was, however, at daggers drawn with John Ruskin.

His poetry, which he published at intervals (notably Poems, 1875, illustrated by etchings by himself and Alma-Tadema), recalled Blake and Shelley, and was considerably influenced by Rossetti; he also wrote several volumes of artistic and literary criticism, and edited Keats, L.E.L., Byron, Coleridge, Shelley, Shakespeare and Scott.

He resigned his appointment under the Science and Art Department in 1885, and from then till his death he was mainly occupied in writing his reminiscences, which were published posthumously in 1892, with a memoir by Professor Minto. It is for his connection with Rossetti's circle that Bell Scott will be chiefly remembered

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The Which's Ballad

O, I hae come from far away,
   From a warm land far away,
A southern land across the sea,
With sailor-lads about the mast,
Merry and canny, and kind to me.

And I hae been to yon town
   To try my luck in yon town;
Nort, and Mysie, Elspie too.

[Hata Bildir]