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to enable him to execute many classical and other works, which he had, for some time past, projected. This was to him, as it will long be to every lover of literature, a subject of mortification and regret. He thus laments it in one of his letters:
“ The want of my library is an insupportable inconvenience to me, and occasions such frequent mortification as very much retards my industry, and checks my vigour.”
His imprisonment was soon very agreeably enlivened by the occasional visits of several gentlemen in the town and neighbourhood. Two in particular, Mr. Fisher and Mr. Jeffries, claim every acknowledgment of respect for their steady attachment, evinced by numberless acts of kindness to Mr. Wakefield and his family, throughout the whole period' of his imprisonment.
The relief afforded by these friendly associations could not preserve him from occasional dejection. He saw himself surrounded by objects whose wretchedness might have excited commiseration in the coldest breast. The impression of such scenes upon a
mind of his sensibility was not a little distressing. He used frequently to remark that a constant eye-witness alone, could think it possible that so much unhappiness should exist, as every day presented itself to his observation. In the sufferings of the prisoners in general, he took a lively and even affectionate interest, supplying many of their wants, and shewing, by every means in his power, how anxious he was to mitigate their distress.
In a letter dated but a very few days after his arrival, he thus interposed for the relief of a debtor, and, after some exertions in his behalf, he had the satisfaction of succeeding.
“ A young man accosted me this morning, who is thrown into this gaol for ten pounds, by a tailor of
-street, London, for a suit of clothes during his apprenticeship. He seems an ingenuous youth, and, if the case be attended with no peculiar aggravation, it is possible that the man might relent upon proper application. I am persuaded you will not think the trouble of a call ill repaid, by the chance of such a kindness as the liberation of a youth from confinement, for such a trifle.”
In the course of this narrative we shall have occasion to enlarge upon a subject so honourable to our friend's character; for in
this, as in every other situation of life, it might be justly said of him,
“ Still to relieve the wretched was his pride,
And ey'n his failings lean'd to virtue's side."
Visits to Mr. Wakefield-Literary Projects-Mr. Dodson's
In September of this year one of the present writers made an excursion to Dorchester, to visit Mr. Wakefield.
The presence of a friend, whom he had long honoured with his confidence, appeared to revive all his former vivacity. The gloomy scenes, continually in his view, would naturally, as we have already remarked, affect his spirits during the hours of solitude to which he was doomed by the regulations of the prison. But the powers of his mind seemed to have lost nothing of their native vigour and elasticity.
His conversation continually turned upon subjects connected with the discovery and cultivation of useful knowledge. The acquisition and communication of important truth might, indeed, be said to form his ruling passion. Various were the works which he ex
pressed a wish to execute, had not the absence of his library proved an insuperable obstacle. Yet, while his literary pursuits were thus obstructed, he was engaged in a more than usual exercise of the duties of humanity.
It excited no common interest to observe the kindness and courtesy of his behaviour towards all the prisoners. They, in return, were eager to seize every opportunity of evincing their gratitude for an attention to which they were so little accustomed. Of the greater part of them it might be truly said, that with the exception of himself, they had
“ No eye to mark their sufferings with a tear,
No friend to comfort, and no hope to cheer."
He took great pains to enquire into their peculiar cases, and made them the subject of frequent conversation with his friends, who, in several instances, had the satisfaction of contributing to their relief. One instance has been already noticed, and more might be added, even from our own personal knowledge. The prisoners frequently requested him to draw up petitions in their behalf, for mercy, or for mitigation of punishment. These of
• Day's “Dying Negro."