Sir William Gell - Encyclopedia

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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 1800 he was sent on a diplomatic mission to the Ionian islands, and on his return in 1803 he was knighted. He went with Princess (afterwards Queen) Caroline to Italy in 1814 as one of her chamberlains, and gave evidence in her favour at the trial in 1820 (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 the Berlin Academy.

His best-known work is Pompeiana; the Topography, Edifices and Ornaments of Pompeii (1817-1832), in the first part of which he was assisted by J. P. Gandy. It was followed in 1834 by the Topography of Rome and its Vicinity (new ed. by E. H. Bunbury, 1896). He wrote also Topography of Troy and its Vicinity (1804); Geography and Antiquities of Ithaca (1807); Itinerary of Greece, with a Commentary on Pausanias and Strabo (1810, enlarged ed. 1827); Itinerary of the Morea (1816; republished as Narrative of a Journey in the Morea, 1823). All these works have been superseded by later publications.

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