Counting Priscilla

In 2014 I noted the Darton and Harvey Archive – held at the University of Reading – could be an interesting source of information about Priscilla’s publications. For researchers on the other side of the world this source can be difficult to access. But I have recently discovered a spectacular book, published in 2002, that includes information from the Darton and Harvey archive.

The book is The Dartons: an annotated check-list of children’s books issued by two publishing houses 1787-1876 by Lawrence Darton with the editorial assistance and preface by Brian Anderson. It runs to over 600 pages and encapsulates one man’s quest to locate and describe every imprint printed at the Gracechurch St and Holburn Hill premises. Each title has a unique Dalton number and is described in detail, including subsequent editions and information from a range of sources.

Priscilla is described as one of Darton and Harvey’s ‘notable authors’ and the book reveals many interesting and possibly new aspects about her writing career. A detailed examination of the entries shows that Priscilla can be attributed as author or contributor to 20 books. The 19 children’s books, described in the checklist, plus one title for adults. Three of the children’s books were ‘miniatures’ with illustrations by Alfred Mills and descriptions by Priscilla. This can be established from the Darton and Harvey Copyright receipt books where payments to Priscilla were noted.

I have compiled a spreadsheet from information in The Dartons and my own research available here It lists Priscilla’s 20 titles, the number of editions and information from the Darton and Harvey archive. The various agreements between Priscilla and Darton and Harvey show that between 1794 and 1817 she received over fifteen hundred pounds in copyright payments. From 1804 Edward Wakefield (Priscilla’s husband) signed the receipts and later Isabella Head (Priscilla’s daughter). In 1814 there was a lump sum payment negotiated to cover the copyright of some earlier works.  

This ‘paper trail’ provides an insight into the commercial relationship between the Darton and Harvey publishing house and the Wakefield family.

Published in: on April 8, 2021 at 9:27 am  Leave a Comment  

Juvenile Travellers: Priscilla Wakefield’s Excursions in Empire

“While most discussions of juvenile imperial literature relate to the mid-nineteenth century onwards, this article draws attention to an earlier period by examining the children’s books of Priscilla Wakefield. Between 1794 and 1817 Priscilla Wakefield wrote sixteen children’s books that included moral tales, natural history books and a popular travel series.  Her experience of the British Empire’s territories was, in the main, derived from the work of others but her use of interesting characters, exciting travel scenarios, the epistolary form to enhance the narrative and fold-out maps, added interest to the information she presented. Her strong personal beliefs are evident throughout her writing and an abhorrence of slavery is a recurring theme. She was also the grandmother and main caregiver of the young Edward Gibbon Wakefield and his immediate siblings. In contrast to his grandmother, Edward Gibbon Wakefield’s experience of the empire was both theoretical and practical. He drew on, and departed from, the work of political economists to develop his theory of systematic colonisation and was active in both Canadian and New Zealand affairs. He began writing about colonisation in the late 1820s and his grandmother’s influence can be seen in his wide use of existing sources and attractive writing style to communicate with his audience”.

The above is the abstract of an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Journal of imperial and Commonwealth history on 01 September 2010. See:

Whitmore House

Little is known about Priscilla’s life in her later years beyond the fact she left Tottenham in 1813 to live with her daughter Isabella (Bell) in Ipswich because of deteriorating health. See a previous post Ailing Priscilla

However, a Horrid Hackney blog post throws some light on those years. It describes a sad episode involving Priscilla and exposes the terrible state of psychiatric care in those times.

The source of the reference is from a pamphlet titled A description of the crimes and horrors in the interior of Warburton’s private mad-house at Hoxton, commonly called Whitmore House : dedicated to the Right Honourable Viscount Sidmouth, late Secretary of State, &c. and the Right Honourable Lord Redesdale, late Lord Chancellor of Ireland, &c.. It was published about 1822. The author is not named but is believed to be John Mitford.

The pamphlet is available in digital format at the Wellcome Library see page 14 for the reference to Priscilla.

Published in: on January 17, 2021 at 1:25 am  Leave a Comment  

Tottenham Female Benefit Club

In October 2018, to celebrate the 220 year anniversary of the founding of the Tottenham Female Benefit Club, a new plaque will be unveiled and a talk given by Associate Professor Susan Johnson, University of Bath titled Reflections on Feminism and Microfinance. Information on the celebrations can be found on the Priscilla Wakefield website here 

Read more about Priscilla’s pioneering work to establish an early form of savings bank.

A previous post on this blog:

Priscilla Wakefield: Tottenham Activist:


Published in: on September 18, 2018 at 9:24 am  Leave a Comment  


Further research has led me to agree with Janine McVeagh that the date of the picture (below) is earlier than 1774, more likely to be 1771, the year Edward and Priscilla married. It was customary to give gloves as tokens at weddings to the bride, groom and guests. The portrayal of fine clothes and gloves are described in the book Portraits, Painters, and Publics in Provincial England, 1540-1640 by Robert Tittler (DOI: 10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199585601.001.0001). Although the date coverage of this text is earlier than the marriage his comments are relevant. When discussing gloves in portraits he says:

“We find gloves in all sorts of portraits: of men and women, of the courtly and the non-courtly, the landed gentry and urban tradesmen. We find them in various states: worn, lying on a table, and, most often, as a pair held together in one hand. We also see them in various states of finery and embellishment, from the relatively mundane to the extraordinarily ordinate.” (p.130)

Focusing on the gloves in the portrait Edward is wearing a right-hand glove and holding the left. The unpaired gloves have been described as “aristocratic iconography” by Peter Stallybrass and Ann Rosalind Jones in their article ‘Fetisizing the glove in renaissance Europe’  Catherine wears the long gloves that became popular in the 1700s, according to this website  and looking closely at the seated Priscilla she appears to be wearing fine pale or flesh coloured gloves befitting a bride.

Published in: on August 11, 2018 at 8:22 am  Leave a Comment  

Mr and Mrs Wakefield and Catherine Bell

In 2009 I did post about the following picture and received some comments. It was painted  around 1774 and depicts Edward Wakefield, his wife Priscilla (on the right) and Priscilla’s sister Catherine Bell in the centre.  Read about Catherine here

It is such an intriguing composition that seems full of hidden meaning. I welcome any further comment on the background, the position of the subjects, the hands, the objects they are holding and the clothing.

Francis Wheatley (1749-1801), Norfolk Museums Service.

Published in: on July 4, 2018 at 2:05 am  Comments (1)  

Tottenham remembers

In 2018 two Tottenham residents developed a website that highlights many aspects of Priscilla’s life.

Priscilla Wakefield: Tottenham Activist

Follow the associated Twitter account @TottenhamQuaker

Published in: on July 2, 2018 at 9:25 am  Leave a Comment  

Familiar science

The following article was published by The Royal Society and features Priscilla and two other women who contributed to what is described as ‘familiar science’.

Eleanor Anne Peters, (2017) “Observation, experiment or autonomy in the domestic sphere? Women’s familiar science writing in Britain, 1790-1830” in Notes and Records 17, 71-90. DOI: 10.1098/rsnr.2016.0018

A link to the article is here:



Published in: on June 9, 2018 at 5:03 am  Leave a Comment  

Edward Gibbon Wakefield Doctoral Scholarship

The University of Canterbury in New Zealand offers a scholarship in the memory of Edward Gibbon Wakefield who was the grandson of Priscilla Wakefield.

Information about the scholarship is here



Published in: on June 9, 2018 at 4:29 am  Leave a Comment  

Online Priscilla

When I first began researching Priscilla Wakefield I had to scour the national libraries to locate print copies of her publications. I had to make appointments and take time off work to visit research libraries. I had to take hand written notes in pencil or pay for expensive photocopies. Times have changed. Internet sites such as this bring together digitized copies of Priscilla’s works

Published in: on December 19, 2014 at 7:47 am  Comments (1)