Early years

Early years

Jacob Bell was born in 1810, the fourth child of John and Eliza Bell. Aged 12, Jacob was sent to his uncle's school near Darlington, for about four years. The school had a good reputation with Quakers, and Jacob followed his family's religious persuasion by writing two essays against war, and against slavery.

However, as an adult, Jacob abandoned Quakerism. One incident recounted by WP Frith sees Jacob dressed up as a woman so that he could break the Quaker custom of separating men and women on opposite sides of the room during a meeting. Bell left the meeting when two members spotted him. Ultimately he was disowned by the Kingston Monthly Meeting in 1855 for absenteeism. The paradox between the father's faith and the son's lifestyle has been pointed out by SWF Holloway: it was John Bell's financial success that provided the means for Jacob to develop interests and abilities which 'lured him out of the confines of the meeting-house and dispensary into the temptations offered by politics and the arts.'

Image above: Jacob Bell drew caricatures on all of the blank pages in a collection of tracts from the 1700s.