North and South

North and South

by

Elizabeth Gaskell

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Mr. Hale’s old Oxford tutor and close friend, Mr. Bell is also godfather to Frederick and Margaret. He is a jovial man in his sixties. It’s implied that he is sympathetic to Mr. Hale’s religious doubts. A Milton native himself, he helps Mr. Hale secure a tutoring position in the city and is Thornton’s landlord. He and Margaret renew a warm, teasing friendship when he visits the Hales in Milton. He takes a special interest in caring for Margaret after Mr. Hale dies, and they visit Helstone together. Margaret inherits his substantial fortune after his death.

Mr. Bell Quotes in North and South

The North and South quotes below are all either spoken by Mr. Bell or refer to Mr. Bell. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Nostalgia and Identity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin edition of North and South published in 1996.
Chapter 40 Quotes

“If we do not reverence the past as you do in Oxford, it is because we want something which can apply to the present more directly. It is fine when the study of the past leads to a prophecy of the future. But to men groping in new circumstances, it would be finer if the words of experience [from history] could direct us how to act in what concerns us most intimately and immediately; which is full of difficulties that must be encountered; and upon the mode in which they are met and conquered—not merely pushed aside for the time—depends our future. Out of the wisdom of the past, help us over the present. But no! People can speak of Utopia much more easily than of the next day’s duty; and yet when that duty is all done by others, who so ready to cry, ‘Fie, for shame!’”

Related Characters: John Thornton (speaker), Mr. Bell
Page Number: 327
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 44 Quotes

“But the truth is, these country clergymen live such isolated lives—isolated, I mean, from all intercourse with men of equal cultivation with themselves, by whose minds they might regulate their own, and discover when they were going either too fast or too slow—that they are very apt to disturb themselves with imaginary doubts as to the articles of faith, and throw up certain opportunities of doing good for very uncertain fancies of their own.”

After visiting with Margaret in London, Henry and Mr. Bell chat about the struggles the Hale family has endured in recent years. Henry remarks that he’s heard from Mr. Hale’s successor, Hepworth, that Hale need not have abandoned his position as rector over a few nagging doubts. Henry argues that “country clergymen” become so morbidly consumed by their own ideas that they make mountains out of theological molehills, and overreact about small things. They have no neighbors of similar education, so they have few opportunities to test and refine their thinking against others. The result is that they become disproportionately fixated on certain pet ideas and sometimes do what Mr. Hale did, walking away from a potentially fruitful ministry for no good reason. While Mr. Hale himself had warned of the risk of stagnation in country life, Henry’s claim is presumptuous—assuming that Hale’s doubts were insignificant, and that his heartbreaking choice to leave Helstone need not have been made. It also lines up with the bias, seen elsewhere in the novel, that concrete, measurable action is to be preferred to thought.

Related Characters: Henry Lennox (speaker), Mr. Richard Hale, Mr. Bell, Mr. Hepworth
Related Symbols: Nature and the Countryside
Page Number: 371
Chapter 46 Quotes

“After all it is right,” said she, hearing the voices of children at play while she was dressing. “If the world stood still, it would retrograde and become corrupt, if that is not Irish. Looking out of myself, and my own painful sense of change, the progress all around me is right and necessary. I must not think so much of how circumstances affect me myself, but how they affect others, if I wish to have a right judgment, or a hopeful trustful heart.” And with a smile ready in her eyes to quiver down to her lips, she went into the parlour and greeted Mr. Bell.

Related Characters: Margaret Hale (speaker), Mr. Bell
Page Number: 390
Explanation and Analysis:
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North and South PDF

Mr. Bell Character Timeline in North and South

The timeline below shows where the character Mr. Bell appears in North and South. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 4
Female Agency and Strength Theme Icon
Religious Diversity and Conscience Theme Icon
...but she “conquers” herself and agrees. Mr. Hale explains that his old Oxford tutor, Mr. Bell, a Milton native who owns property there, has heard of an opening for a private... (full context)
Class Antagonism Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
...own deficiencies, which is more than many a man at Oxford is.” In particular, Mr. Bell has recommended his tenant Mr. Thornton, who seems to be an intelligent man. Mr. Hale... (full context)
Chapter 15
Class Antagonism Theme Icon
...Hale and Margaret are aware that they had never heard of Mr. Thornton until Mr. Bell had mentioned his name, and that Mrs. Thornton’s world “was not their world of Harley... (full context)
Female Agency and Strength Theme Icon
Class Antagonism Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
Mrs. Thornton retorts that Bell can know little of Thornton, since he lives “a lazy life in a drowsy college.”... (full context)
Chapter 31
Female Agency and Strength Theme Icon
...arrangements, but he doesn’t have the energy and refers her instead to his friend Mr. Bell. (full context)
Chapter 33
Female Agency and Strength Theme Icon
Class Antagonism Theme Icon
...emotions and are ashamed to show them; whereas poor women have no such inhibitions. Mr. Bell is too ill to come to the funeral, and Margaret is upset that Mr. Thornton... (full context)
Chapter 40
Female Agency and Strength Theme Icon
Personal Character, Environment, and Change Theme Icon
Mr. Bell comes to Milton for a visit, and Margaret easily renews a warm and teasing friendship... (full context)
Class Antagonism Theme Icon
Personal Character, Environment, and Change Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
Comparing the leisured study of Oxford with the bustle of Milton, Mr. Bell says that he doesn’t believe “there’s a man in Milton who knows how to sit... (full context)
Class Antagonism Theme Icon
Personal Character, Environment, and Change Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
Thornton procrastinates about coming to the Hales’ and conducting business with his landlord, Bell, because he’s reluctant to see Margaret. Finally, however, Thornton and Bell join the Hales, where... (full context)
Class Antagonism Theme Icon
Personal Character, Environment, and Change Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
Thornton is irritated by Bell’s playful tone. He argues that “we are a different race from the Greeks, to whom... (full context)
Class Antagonism Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
In response, Bell jokes that Milton men do, in fact, reverence the past; they are “regular worshippers of... (full context)
Personal Character, Environment, and Change Theme Icon
Later that evening, when Bell comments on Thornton’s irritability and lack of humor, Margaret comes to his defense, saying Thornton... (full context)
Class Antagonism Theme Icon
Personal Character, Environment, and Change Theme Icon
The winter passes monotonously after Bell’s visit. Higgins works steadily for Thornton, commenting to the Hales that Thornton is like “two... (full context)
Chapter 41
Female Agency and Strength Theme Icon
Mr. Bell invites both Mr. Hale and Margaret for a visit to Oxford. Mr. Hale, whose health... (full context)
Religious Diversity and Conscience Theme Icon
...The renewal of old acquaintances in Oxford has wearied him. With sudden earnestness, he tells Bell that, even if he could have foreseen what would come of his changed opinion—including Mrs.... (full context)
Religious Diversity and Conscience Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
Mr. Bell replies, “[God] gave you strength to do what your conscience told you was right; and... (full context)
Female Agency and Strength Theme Icon
Before going to bed that night, Mr. Hale commends Margaret to Mr. Bell’s care, and Bell promises all possible help to his beloved goddaughter. That night, Mr. Hale... (full context)
Female Agency and Strength Theme Icon
On the train, Bell unexpectedly sees Thornton. Thornton is silent with shock at the news of Mr. Hale’s death... (full context)
Chapter 42
Female Agency and Strength Theme Icon
...a state of physical exhaustion from the shock of Mr. Hale’s death. Dixon and Mr. Bell discuss what’s to be done about Margaret and decide to write to Aunt Shaw, commanding... (full context)
Personal Character, Environment, and Change Theme Icon
...on her aunt’s shoulder. Thornton inquires at the house, without seeing Margaret, and invites Mr. Bell to stay with him. Bell tells Thornton that Margaret wishes to quickly leave the place... (full context)
Female Agency and Strength Theme Icon
As Bell, Thornton, and Mrs. Thornton chat at the Thorntons’ house, Bell makes a passing reference to... (full context)
Chapter 43
Female Agency and Strength Theme Icon
Personal Character, Environment, and Change Theme Icon
...prevails upon a heartsick Margaret to return home with her as soon as possible. Mr. Bell, back in Oxford, sends her an affectionate letter assuring her of his provision for her... (full context)
Chapter 44
Religious Diversity and Conscience Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
Mr. Bell and Henry Lennox pay a visit to Margaret, and they chat about Henry’s attempt to... (full context)
Chapter 45
Nostalgia and Identity Theme Icon
Female Agency and Strength Theme Icon
Religious Diversity and Conscience Theme Icon
Mr. Bell has a nostalgic dream about the joys of visiting newlywed Mr. Hale and Mrs. Hale... (full context)
Chapter 46
Nostalgia and Identity Theme Icon
As Mr. Bell and Margaret journey toward Helstone the next day, Margaret finds that “every mile was redolent... (full context)
Religious Diversity and Conscience Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
As Mr. Bell and Margaret settle at the inn in Helstone, the landlady chats with Margaret about the... (full context)
Nostalgia and Identity Theme Icon
Personal Character, Environment, and Change Theme Icon
Margaret and Mr. Bell begin their exploration of Helstone, and Margaret grieves over cottages that have been torn down... (full context)
Female Agency and Strength Theme Icon
...the inn that evening, Margaret brings up the subject of Frederick and confesses to Mr. Bell that she’s told a lie. Margaret spills out the whole story of Frederick and Leonards... (full context)
Chapter 47
Female Agency and Strength Theme Icon
Personal Character, Environment, and Change Theme Icon
...friendship with Henry Lennox, and looking forward to a possible trip to Spain with Mr. Bell to visit Frederick. (full context)
Chapter 48
Female Agency and Strength Theme Icon
...to wearily endure the Lennoxes’ superficial dinner-parties. She continues to hope for news that Mr. Bell has gone to Milton and spoken to Mr. Thornton, and that the trip to Spain... (full context)
Female Agency and Strength Theme Icon
...thankful to have made the journey to Oxford, though she learns on arrival that Mr. Bell had died in the night. On the way home, she weeps over her “fatal year,”... (full context)
Chapter 49
Female Agency and Strength Theme Icon
Margaret soon learns that she has inherited about 40,000 pounds from Mr. Bell. Henry Lennox becomes her legal adviser and happily teaches her the relevant “mysteries of the... (full context)