« ForrigeFortsæt »
"Three of them, accordingly, came to me; they told me that if I could not agree with the gaoler I must go into the common gaol, be confined by myself, excluded from all intercourse, except with the felons, have a narrow passage to sit in during the day, and sleep in such a cell as before described.
Suspecting what might be the result of their deliberations, by what I had experienced from them before, in limiting the visits of my wife and family to certain days of the week, and certain hours of the day, I had determined, by the advice of my friends, if the justices should prove unfavourable, and leave me no choice between the gaoler's demands and a banishment into the common gaol, to pay the required sum of seventy pounds; in consequence of the extreme distress of my wife and family on this occasion, and the irretrievable inconvenience to my literary pursuits. Accordingly, I signified this determination to the magistrates, and have, in consequence, remained in the house, making my quarterly payment at the rate of seventy pounds per annum.
There can be no reasonable ground for doubting the truth and correctness of the above account. It entirely concurs with Mr.
Wakefield's written "Appeal to the Magistrates," of which we have a copy in his own hand-writing. In that “ Appeal," aware that some might deem his expectations unreasonable, and his complaints comparatively frivolous, he says,
"If it should be rejoined in answer to thse objections, which may appear trivial, but are really of as much importance as health and sustenance can possibly be to man, that better treatment is not to be expected in a gaol: the reply is, that such treatment, as a punishment, by the law, may be no subject of complaint: but Mr. Wakefield conceives that he has as much right to expect his room furnished, and his meals correspondent to agreement, when paid for handsomely, in a gaol, as în any other place."
Upon a review of all the circumstances, it must be left to the reader to decide how far (considering the power with which they were invested) the conduct of the magistrates, on this occasion, wholly exempts them from the imputation of blame; and whether they can be considered as having acted in every part of this transaction, with that strict impartiality which became their office, and with that liberality which the character of Mr.Wakefield,
and the unfortunate situation into which he was thrown, peculiarly demanded.
To detail the ill-treatment experienced by our friend, on this and various other occasions, is no very welcome office; but the suppression of these circumstances would be great injustice to his memory.
Indeed, every act of misconduct in persons who fill the important office of gaoler, and superintendant of prisons, "those caverns of
oblivion," as Johnson calls them, where so large a portion of our fellow-creatures are constantly immured, and where abuses are so easily committed, and with so much difficulty detected, ought to be held up to public censure and reprobation.
It had been far more pleasing to have imitated, to the best of our ability, the example of the author just quoted. He appears highly gratified with the opportunity of recording the tenderness and civility," and even benevolence, of a gaoler in the case of the unfortunate, but profligate, Savage,P
In those of higher stations, who contributed so much to Mr. Wakefield's sufferings, what can more strongly indicate a want of the com
Life of Savage, ad fin.
mon sympathies of humanity, than a determination to consign a person of such a description to the miseries of a common gaol, in the construction of which no provision whatever is made for any but criminals of the lowest class, and where the alternatives are, confinement in a narrow cold cell, and a share of the common prison allowance, or submission to the capriciousness of an imperious gaoler?
The following remarks on this subject very naturally suggested themselves to the mind of Mr. Wakefield, and are found among his papers:
"Judges should reflect, when they sentence men to such places as this, that they are inflicting a punishment grievous beyond the contemplation of the law: Ministers also should rather construct prisons adapted to the objects of their resentment, and not punish them, even beyond the intention of their tender mercies, by a condemnation to such society as inflicts a tenfold aggravation of their sufferings."
Though his tranquillity was thus disturbed by the disposition and conduct of the persons to whose power he was now committed, he never neglected his literary pursuits.
Early in this year (1800) he determined to ascertain how far the public were disposed to give encouragement to a work, which had long been in his contemplation, and for which he had accumulated a large stock of materials.
His critical study of the Greek writers had led him to remark the lamentable deficiencies, and inaccuracies of Hederic's Lexicon, and he had accustomed himself, almost from the period of his quitting school, to note, in the margin of his own copy, such alterations and corrections as were suggested by an attentive study of the best Greek authors. These were originally designed simply for his own improvement. Finding, at length, that his notes became very numerous, he adopted the plan of continuing them in an interleaved copy of Hederic.
It was his practice, during a long course of years, when reading any Greek author, either alone, or with his pupils, to keep the Lexicon open before him. To this he continually referred for the examination and correction of errors and omissions with a patient assiduity which would surprise an ordinary student. His enthusiastic love of classic literature, and his ardent desire to facilitate the knowledge