Page images
PDF
EPUB

the future welfare of himself, and his amiable family.

I am, Sir, respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

But a subscription from a few persons in his native town was not the least valuable instance of attachment to Mr. Wakefield. He had at different periods of his life resided at Nottingham, but had now left it nearly ten years. His relations in that place, and elsewhere, befriended him in every mode which their affection could devise. But they had no share in this testimony of esteem, which a few of his former associates conveyed in these respectful terms:

Nottingham, Feb. 14, 1800.

Wishing to succour the good man in whatever way distress may invade him, and in honour to great literary talents, constantly devoted to the interests of truth and virtue, a few friends, without adverting to any political consideration, subscribe one hundred guineas, to be respectfully presented to the Rev. Gilbert Wakefield.

In this manner was the design completed, to the high gratification of all who promoted it. Much larger subscriptions have been raised, but these have usually been for public men, and conducted in a public manner. In the present instance the management of the business was left to a few private individuals. No assistance was derived from the public prints. On the contrary, those in the interest of the then administration used their best endeavours to frustrate the design. "The True Briton” especially, at that time regarded as the organ of Mr. Pitt, in the paper of July 6, 1799, after representing the subscription, for an obvious purpose, as amounting to double the sum then contributed, proceeds to impeach the principles of those who promoted it. But these attempts happily failed, and the sentiment of the immortalbard, who also fell on “evil days and evil tongues,” was strikingly illustrated.

Virtue may be assaild, but never hurt,

Surpriz'd by unjust force, but not inthralld;
Yea, even that which mischief meant most harm,
Shall in the happy trial prove most glory.” Z

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

CHAP. VIII.

Mr. Wakefield's Removal to Dorchester Gaol, and Circum

stances connected with his Imprisonment.

1799.

The time was now fixed for Mr. Wakefield's removal from the King's Bench Prison to Dorchester gaol. He was permitted, previously to his confinement at so great a distance, to pass a day with his family at Hackney, for the purpose of arranging some domestic affairs. Accordingly, early in the morning of Sunday, the 16th of June, he quitted the King's Bench, accompanied by one of the present writers, and in the custody of a tipstaff. Contrary to the general expectation of his friends, the time passed in that prison was not deducted from the two years imprisonment, to which he was sentenced, though, as we had occasion to notice before, he was kindly assured in the very homely address of Mr. Justice Grose, that he suffered a lenient punishment for so great an offence!

It was the wish of Mr. Wakefield that his unexpected visit to Hackney should not be generally known, to avoid the possibility of offending those to whom he was indebted for this indulgence. His numerous friends, however, hearing that he was in their neighbourhood, embraced this last opportunity of testifying their respect. They were anxious to take an affectionate farewell of one, the

prospect of whose long absence they deeply regretted on their own account, while they sympathised in his sufferings, and those of his family.

On the following morning he quitted Hackney in the custody of the tipstaff, (whose uniform civility he frequently mentioned) accompanied also by his eldest daughter, who contributed not a little to relieve the irksomieness of such a journey. Upon their arrival, on the next afternoon, at Dorchester, he was committed to the gaol, where two of his brothers had previously procured for him the best accommodations which the place could afford.

Under the present circumstances, the exorbitant terms- to which they submitted would

a Mr.Wakefield's brothers agreed with the gaoler, that on condition of the sum of one hundred pounds a year being paid

have been disregarded, had the behaviour of the gaoler and his family eventually corresponded with the assurances given on this occasion.

Mr. Wakefield was now determined to reconcile his mind to his new situation, under all its disadvantages, and could even speak of it with his accustomed pleasantry. The following is an extract from a letter to one of the present writers.

Dorchester Gaol, June 22, 1799.

“ This place will probably become very comfortable in no long time; so that we must regard it as no more than a temporary banish ' ment, till we shall have lost some unaccommodating peculiarities, which rendered our saciety less agreeable, and which may be reasonably expected to be so worn off by a revolution of two years, as to render us on our return more worthy of those advantages of friendly

by their brother, he should be provided, at his table, with board, and have the use of a room in his house. For similar accommodations anywhere but in a prison, such a sum would unquestionably be deemed extravagant, considering that Mr. Wakefield seldom tasted animal food, and was to provide himself with wine, had he used any.

« PreviousContinue »