He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, where he originated the Dublin Historical Society to supply the place of the old Historical Society which had been suppressed.
He is said to have obtained early in life a government appointment in Dublin, and to have edited for a time the Patriot, a government organization He is also described as one of the founders of and contributors to the Dublin Inquisitor, and as the author of two dramatic pieces, "Double Disguises" and "Comic Lectures."
In 1828, he settled in London either before or after publishing a pamphlet on catholic emancipation. About this time, he was appointed editor of the Atlas, then one of the largest of London weekly journals, and he conducted it creditably and successfully for many years.
The indictment would have been withdrawn if Bell had consented to give up the name of his authority, but he refused.
The verdict of the jury found him guilty of publishing a libel, but virtually acquitted him of any malicious intention. The attorney-general expressed great satisfaction with the verdict, and Bell seems to have escaped punishment.
A very prominent and active member of the committee of the Literary Fund, Bell was personally most helpful to struggling and unsuccessful men or letters, and his death on 12 April 1867 was much and widely regretted.