User menu


Bellew, Frank Henry Temple (1828-1888)

Illustrator, Poet

Frank Bellew was born in India, possibly to Captain Francis-John and Anne Smoult Temple (Colburn 1374). While growing up, Bellew also lived in France and England before moving to New York City in 1850. Once in New York, he worked as a caricaturist and illustrator for numerous publications including Yankee Notions, The Lantern, the New York Picayune, Nick-Nax, Vanity Fair, Harper's Weekly, Harper's Monthly, and Scribner's Monthly. One of Bellew's more memorable illustrations is a cartoon in the Picayune which depicts Edward G. P. Wilkins, John Brougham, Boucicault, Cornelius Matthew, Charles Gayler, Fitz-James O'Brien, and Benjamin A. Baker as "playwrights registering their dramatic works before the first copyright law went into effect" (Miller 52). Bellew also created illustrations for books, including T. B. Gunn's Physiology of the New York Boarding-House (1857), John T. Irving's The Attorney (1853), and his own The Art of Amusing (1866). Works like "My Mural Chum" and "The Lonely Grave" also indicate that Bellew dabbled in poetry. He was a prolific artist whose "inexhaustible fund of ideas" allowed him to work as an illustrator for over thirty years (Weitenkampf).

Bellew's association with Pfaff's is uncertain; some sources describe him as a regular while others classify him as a visitor. It is clear, however, that Bellew maintained friendships with several Pfaffians including his former roommate, Fitz-James O'Brien, Thomas Butler Gunn, and Thomas Nast, whom Bellew found "amusing" (Paine 22). Bellew is also the artist of the popular New York Illustrated News “Round Table” image depicting the interior of Pfaff’s. Though not specifically placing Bellew within the beer-cellar, the illustration may support Bellew’s knowledge of Pfaff’s and those who drank within its walls. Renowned publisher, J. C. Derby, may also help establish Bellew’s position within the group, calling Bellew one of the "brightest and most popular humorous men of the day,” Derby goes on to name Bellew alongside other known Pfaffians commenting that, "the noonday hour frequently found most of them at Pfaff's celebrated German restaurant, in a Broadway basement, near Bleecker-street, the rendezvous at that day of the so-called Bohemians" (239).

Thomas Butler Gunn also included several entries in his diary concerning Bellew’s personal characteristics and relationship to the group. Described by Gunn, as “powerfully built ---a Sail among artists”, Bellew was at first received negatively by the diarist:”At the outset and for some years, I detested him heartily and he returned the compliment” (13.174). But later, Gunn confesses and clarifies that the mutual detestment did not last: “In demeanor I never knew a truer gentleman or indeed any one who would bear comparison with him. good-breeding about him, which contrasts strongly with us, whose manners get knocked awry by circumstance and atrocious surroundings” (13.174). Gunn also seems to allude to a possible romantic attraction between Bellew and Ada Clare and the discretion needed when speaking to Bellew’s wife about his visits to Pfaff’s: “Once when he and Cahill had dropped in at Pfaff’s, on their way to dinner at Bellew’s, he remarked with a half-laugh that Mrs. B. didn’t like his going thither, as she had heard that ‘Ada Clare’ had said he was the handsomest man she knew &c. ‘It was a hint not to speak of the visit to Pfaff’s, which of course Cahill adopted. It can hardly be a happy household that at 21st street” (18.168). 

In 1888 Bellew suffered several months of failing health and forced bedrest. Succombing to his illness on June 28th, Bellew died in his daughter’s home in Long Island. His obituary in the New York Times links him not only to his popular “Triangle” signature, but also to fellow well-known Pfaffians: “A few of his former chums, such as Ed Underhill, Frank Cahill, and Walt Whitman, with perhaps enough others to count on the fingers of one hand, alone have personal recollections of him when he was at his best. They all speak of him as pleasant, and full of anecdote, and a thoroughly companionable and lovable man to the end” (“A Veteran Artist Dead”).