Bellows, John (DNB12)

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BELLOWS, JOHN (1831–1902), printer and lexicographer, born at Liskeard, Cornwall, on 18 Jan. 1831, was elder son of William Lamb Bellows by his wife Hannah, daughter of John Stickland, a Wesleyan preacher. The father, of nonconformist stock, joined the Society of Friends soon after his marriage, and started a school in 1841 at Camborne, Cornwall, from which he retired in 1858; removing to Gloucester, he died there in December 1877; he published a memoir of his father-in-law (1838; 3rd edit. 1855), educational treatises, and pamphlets on quaker principles.

After education by his father, John was apprenticed to a printer at Camborne at fourteen. In 1851 he became foreman of a small printing business in Gloucester, and in 1858 started for himself, introducing the first steam engine in the town. His business prospered and grew to large dimensions. Meanwhile he studied philology, mastered French, soon made the acquaintance of Max Müller [q. v.], and opened a correspondence with Oliver Wendell Holmes, which lasted twenty-five years, and with Prince Lucien Bonaparte, the philologist. A rapid journey abroad in 1863 impressed Bellows with the need of extending the supply of dictionaries in a portable form. In 1867 he compiled and printed on strong thin paper, made by a Scots firm for Confederate banknotes which had failed to run the Charleston blockade, his ‘Outline Dictionary for Missionaries, Explorers, and Students of Language.’ Max Müller compiled a key alphabet and an introduction. There followed an ‘English Outline Vocabulary of Chinese, Japanese and other Languages’ (1868), and ‘Tous les Verbes, French and English’ (5th thousand 1869).

In 1870 he helped to distribute in France a fund raised by the Friends for non-combatant sufferers at the seat of the Franco-German war, and described his experience in letters to his wife published as ‘The Track of the War round Metz’ (1871). He was already (since 1861) working hard with the aid of French friends on a pocket ‘French-English Dictionary.’ The first edition of 6000, printed entirely by hand in 12mo, mostly in diamond type, appeared in 1872. It was dedicated to Prince Lucien Bonaparte. French-English and English-French vocabularies were both printed on the same page. The title ran ‘The Bonâ Fide Pocket Dictionary, Le Vrai Dictionnaire de Poche, on an entirely new System, revised and corrected by Auguste Beljame, B.A., Alexandre Beljame, M.A., and John Sibree, M.A., 1872.’ The issue was exhausted in twelve months; a second edition with many new features was published in 1876, and an enlarged edition was issued by Bellows's son, William Bellows, with the assistance of MM. Marrot and Friteau, in 1911.

Bellows studied archæology as well as philology, interesting himself in Palestine exploration as well as in that of Roman Britain. When making excavations for building new business premises at Eastgate House, Gloucester, in 1873, he discovered traces of the Roman city wall (see his papers in Proc. Cotteswold Naturalists' Field Club 1875, and Trans. Bristol and Gloucester Archæol. Soc. 1876, i. 153–6). In 1892 he and a Friend, J. J. Neave, went on a mission to the persecuted dissenters, the Dukhobortsi (spirit-wrestlers), in Russia, who had refused to bear arms. Bellows travelled through the Caucasus nearly to the Persian frontier, and paid two visits to Count Tolstoi, with whom he corresponded to the end of his life. Four years later he again visited Tolstoi while making plans on behalf of a committee of Friends for the transportation to Cyprus and Canada of the Dukhobortsi. In May 1901 he visited New England, where his friends were numerous, and he received from Harvard University in June the honorary degree of M.A.

He died at his house on the Cotteswold Hills on 5 May 1902, and was buried at Painswick. Bellows wore to the end the quaker dress, and used the simple language in vogue in his youth. He was a teetotaller, and a vegetarian from 1890. He married in January 1869, at Clitheroe, Lancashire, Elizabeth, daughter of Mark Earnshaw, surgeon, of that place. His wife, four sons, and five daughters survived him.

Besides works already mentioned and papers in antiquarian periodicals, Bellows published: 1. ‘A Winter Journey from Gloucester to Norway in 1863,’ 1867. 2. ‘Two Days' Excursion to Llanthony Abbey and the Black Mountains,’ 1868. 3. ‘Ritualism or Quakerism? and Who sent thee to baptise?’ 1870. 4. ‘A Week's Holiday in the Forest of Dean,’ 1881, many times reprinted. 5. ‘Chapters of Irish History,’ 1886. 6. ‘William Lucy and his Friends of the Cotteswold Club Thirty-five Years Ago,’ 1894. 7. ‘Evolution in the Monastic Orders, and Survivals of Roman Architecture in Britain’ (‘Proc. Cotteswold Naturalists' Field Club’), 1898. 8. ‘The Truth about the Transvaal War and the Truth about War,’ 1900, translated into French and German.

He was the inventor of a cylindrical calculator for rapid and accurate reckoning of workmen's wages, and compiled a series of concentric calculators for converting the metric system into English equivalents and vice versa.

[Life and Letters, by his wife, 1904; Morse's Life of O. W. Holmes, 1896; Life of Max Müller, 1902, vol. i.; Hoar's Autobiography, ii. 449; Nature, 1902, lxvi. 113; Elkinton's Doukhobors in Russia, 1903; The Times, 6 May 1902; Boase and Courtney, Bibliotheca Cornubiensis, i. 20; Smith's Catalogue of Friends' Books.]

C. F. S.