Page images
PDF
EPUB

converse which we might have enjoyed, and hope hereafter to enjoy, at Hackney."

Writing to another friend about the same time, he says,

“ This separation, I hope, will only contribute to a more blissful enjoyment of those associations, which are now suspended, if the termination of our exile still find us in the land of the living.”

As soon as domestic arrangements would permit, Mr.Wakefield's family followed him to Dorchester, desirous of relieving by all the assiduities of affection, that intrusion of tædium and melancholy, against which, within the recesses of a prison, Philosophy herself, even when supported by Christianity, is not always sufficiently secure.

The arrival of his family, le mentions in the following letter:

Dorchester Gaol, June 30, 1799.

MY DEAR SIR,

The books and packages all arrived safe, nearly at the time specified, as did Mrs. Wakefield, and the rest of the family, on Tuesday night. She was all but overcome by her severe, and multifarious trials at leaving Hack

ney, and her first introduction here. Indeed, the variety of strange and affecting events, with which she was encompassed, almost oppressed her, especially the sight of this place, whose appearance is formidable to a stranger beyond what the reality will warrant. There is a profusion of barred windows in the house, as well as the prison; but as I see no other habitation, nothing needs hinder me from considering these iron barricades as a style of ornamental architecture peculiar to the fancies of this country.

We hope at the assizes, when an assemblage of the magistrates shall take place, to accomplish our project of residing under the same roof, though the terms, I apprehend, will be, for such accommodations, sufficiently extravagant. In truth, no provision has been made in these institutions for the conduct of any but felons and debtors, in neither of which classes, even technically, can I be ranked: so that a full discretion resides with the ruling people here, without any infringement of their established polity. Should insurmountable obstacles present themselves to our purpose, iny stay here will be uncomfortable to the end.

Two books, particularly marked, are not come, Mattaire's Corpus Poet. Lat. 2 vols. folio; but I shall not wish for them at present,

as some others may come into my mind, and contribute to form a parcel. I shall write to

I trust, tomorrow; and perhaps to

at the same time: then I shall nearly have rounded the circle of peculiar friends by my correspondence

in this way.

Where a continuance of writing is required, not occasional snatches, as in writing notes, amidst a perpetual recurrence of suspension in consulting books, my left arm so imperceptibly sympathizes with the motions of its fellow, as to suffer physical inconvenience, against which I sedulously endeavour to protect myself on all occasions.

Yet I have written about fifty letters since I came hither. An indisposition to other applications has rendered this less irksome than heretofore, in union with so loud and distinct a call of duty. Nor is it the least pleasing reflection to my mind, that those, whom I am bound to love by their personal interest in my welfare, are such as I must have loved, independently of all peculiar connection with myself, for their own virtues, had I not been callous to those sensations, which genuine worth is calculated to excite in every ingenuous and honourable mind.

See Mem. I. 277, and Appendix, Letter LXVII.

Our kindest respects and best wishes, as at all times, await your family.

Yours, ever most truly,

GILBERT WAKEFIELD.

1

The expectations which he had formed of his family being permitted to reside in the prison, were disappointed. By the following passage of a letter, he appears to have foreboded the unfavourable result of his application :

- It will be determined this day (July 17] at the Sessions, in Shaftsbury, whether we are to live together: but I perceive in some of the justices (who are mostly ill-educated men) a disposition to unnecessary vexation, and have therefore abandoned all hopes of accomplishing this purpose; so that better lodgings in the town must be provided for my family, as I shall not be able to persuade their return to Hackney, which I should prefer; as I was always inclined to love an absence of a comfort to an imperfect enjoyment of it, for many reasons that I could assign.'

His apprehensions, as to the determination of the magistrates at the sessions, were soon confirmed. Though they thought proper to' refuse his request, it could hardly have been expected that any of those gentlemen

1

would have interposed to forbid the daily visits of his family. That privilege would have been granted without any difficulty, had he even been committed to the gaol of Newgate. This restraint is a principal subject of the following letter to one of the present writers, who was about to make hiin a visit:

Dorchester Gaol, Sept. 1, 1799.

AI Y DEAR SIR,

The time, which you mention, of coming to see us, will be very suitable. My family are ordered by the justices to see me only four times a week, from ten to six: no orders have been given about my friends; but, as all that passes is known, and these people are, in general, of an illiberal cast, and would do any thing to recommend their ofliciousness to their superiors, I am fearful that too great freedom on my part may lead to restrictions respecting them also.

You may come four days in the week, and stay with me from twelve to three; and on the other three days, you may stay from half past three to six. I do not

I do not say that you might not stay longer; but this is safe, and will perhaps answer every purpose of our communication.

left us on Friday. He is very

« PreviousContinue »