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Bell, J. J. (1871-1934) | Lake Forest College Archives and Special Collections

Name: Bell, J. J. (1871-1934)
Fuller Form: Bell, John Joy

Historical Note:

J. J. Bell was a Scottish journalist and author, the son of Glasgow tobacco manufacturer James Taylor Bell and Annie Storer Lamont Bell.  John Joy Bell was born in 1871 in Hillhead in the heart of Glasgow's fashionable west end, the U. of Glasgow having moved to the area in 1870. He attended Kelvinside and Morrison Academies, and then the U. of Glasgow.  As a journalist he worked for the Glasgow Evening Times and was a sub editor of the Scots Pictorial.  He wrote a series of stories, turned into books, of working-class Glasgow and employing its vernacular, with a character Macgregor he developed. 

This was roughly contemporaneous with the U.S. local color movement and its interest in the working class of the late 19th and early 20th C. and also with the careers in Chicago of journalists following similar subjects and careers like Peter Finley Dunne (Mr. Dooley), George Ade (Artie, 1896), and John T. McCutcheon (Bird Center cartoons). 

Bell wrote prolifically: novels, poems, plays, and essays.  Very little of this earlier writing appears to be widely available in this country though the Library of Congress has forty-nine entries.  By the 1930s he was writing more expository prose: in 1932 The Glory of Scotland and I Remember; in 1933 Scotland's Rainbow West; and in 1934 Scotland in Ten Days.  Three decades after his debut and in the midst of an international depression, he and his apparently loyal readership were looking at their history and locales for stability and reassurance. 

Scotland's Rainbow West, the author notes in his introduction, follows on his Glory of Scotland, this time looking at the regional differences in scenery, character of most of the people, etc. that distinguish the countryside of each sub-region, though he chooses to describe the one he knows best, the west.  He does not here discuss the cities, the subjects of his Macgregor and such earlier work, but the small towns and corners of countryside.  Here and there he walks in the steps of James Boswell and Dr. Johnson, though this time with the advantage of access to the railways, waterways, etc.  His topics range from archeology and history (the Battle of Glencoe, for example) to nature writing (more about geology than flora and fauna) and comments on the geography and climate (storms, the variety of light, the seasons). 

This book can be compared to similar projects in the U.S. in the same period or soon after, such as the series on Rivers of America (Harry Hansen, The Chicago, 1942) and the Lakes (Milo M. Quaife, Lake Michigan, 1944). After the distractions of World War I and of the 1920s materialist boom, this was a return in hard times to appreciation of native characteristics, heritage and beauty. 

The George G. Harrap & Co. Ltd. (London) published version of the book is also in the collection: Trsm DA 866 .B43 1933a.  This copy, which came in the Scotiana collection given in 1966 by R. Douglas Stuart, is a presentation copy from Bell to "J. D. Hughes./ My good friend Joe,/ To whom I owe/ The gift of "Glory,"/ In kindliness/ Be pleased to bless/ This Other Story./ 27: June, 1933        J. J. Bell".

Arthur H. Miller

Archivist and Librarian

  for Special Collections



Bell, J. J. Scotland's Rainbow West (London: Geroge G. Harrap & co. Ltd., 1933. 

"Bell, John Joy," Who's Who 1935: An Annual Biographical Dictionary with which is Incorporated "Men and Women of the Time."  v. 87 (London: A & C Black, 1934), 233.

Note Author: Arthur H. Miller, Archivist and Librarian for Special Collections, amiller@lakeforest.edu

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