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SIR WILLIAM GELL (1777-1836)

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Originally appearing in Volume V11, Page 558 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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SIR WILLIAM GELL (1777-1836), English classical archaeologist, was born at Hopton in Derbyshire. He was educated at Jesus College, Cambridge, and subsequently elected a fellow of Emmanuel College (B.A. 1798, M.A. 1804). About rSoo he was sent on a diplomatic mission to the Ionian islands, and on his return in 1803 he was knighted. He went with Princess (after-wards Queen) Caroline to Italy in 1814 as one of her chamberlains, and gave evidence in her favour at the trial in 182o (see G. P. Clerici, A Queen of Indiscretions, Eng. trans., London, 1907). He died at Naples on the 4th of February 1836. His numerous drawings of classical ruins and localities, executed with great detail and exactness, are preserved in the British Museum. Gell was a thorough dilettante, fond of society and possessed of little real scholarship. None the less his topographical works became recognized text-books at a time when Greece and even Italy were but superficially known to English travellers. He was a fellow of the Royal Society and the Society of Antiquaries, and a member of the Institute of France and theraise the religious and moral character of the people, and to this end employed language which; though at times prolix, was always correct and clear. He thus became one of the most popular German authors, and some of his poems enjoyed a celebrity out of proportion to their literary value. This is more particularly true of his Fabeln and Erzahlungen (1746-1748) and of his Geistliche Oden and Lieder (1757). The fables, for which he took La Fontaine as his model, are simple and didactic. The " spiritual songs," though in force and dignity they cannot compare with the older church hymns, were received by Catholics and Protestants with equal favour. Some of them were set to music by Beethoven. Gellert wrote a few comedies: Die Betschwester (1745), Die kranke Frau (1748), Das Los in der Lotterie (1748), and Die zdrtlichen Schwestern (1748), the last of which was much admired. His novel Die schwedische Grafin von G. (1746), a weak imitation of Richardson's Pamela, is remarkable as being the first German attempt at a psychological novel. Gellert's Briefe (letters) were regarded at the time as models of good style. See Gellert's Samtliche Schriften (first edition, 10 vols., Leipzig, 1769–1774; last edition, Berlin, 1867). Samtliche Fabeln und Erzaklungen have been often published separately, the latest edition in 1896. A selection of Gellert's poetry (with an excellent introduction) will be found in F. Muncker, Die Bremer Beitrage (Stuttgart, 1899). A translation by J. A. Murke, Gellert's Fables and other Poems (London, 1851). For a further account of Gellert's life and work see lives by J. A. Cramer (Leipzig, 1774), H. Doring (Greiz, 1833), and H. O. Nietschmann (2nd ed., Halle, 19o1); also Gellerts Tagebuch aus dem Jahre 1761 (2nd ed., Leipzig, 1863) and Gellerts Briefwechsel mit Demoiselle Lucius (Leipzig, 1823).
End of Article: SIR WILLIAM GELL (1777-1836)

Additional information and Comments

This article on Sir William Gell contains information on the German author, Christian Fuerchtegott Gellert (1715-1769). Information on the works of C.F. Gellert are attributed to Gell in this article and this information is false.
Sir William Gell was knighted in 1814, not 1803. I have checked this with the London Gazette, and it is correctly reported in recent publications,including the Oxford Dictionary of |National Biography. The mistake arose very early, from a confusion between the Ionian Seas, where Gell travelled in 1q901-3 and Ionia, in Asia Minor, where he led a project for the #society Of Dilettanti in 18111-12, and for which the knighted was awarded.
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