Priscilla’s maxim

In her summary of the year 1805 Priscilla wrote the following in her journal. 

‘It is my maxim to make the best of existing circumstances, therefore I do rather what I can, than what I wish.’

Published in: on January 16, 2010 at 11:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

The years of ‘storm and stress’

This is how Priscilla describes the years 1802 to 1810 when financial and family troubles overwhelmed her. Bankruptcy loomed and there were multiple law suits between the family members that became estranged as a result. The family of son Edward and his wife continued to grow with much detriment to the health of Susannah. Priscilla’s second son Daniel made an unfortunate marriage to a woman who swindled him and left him with large debts and threatened his legal career. Amongst it all Priscilla held the family together and continued to write.

Published in: on January 16, 2010 at 11:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

Middleton family divergence

The separation event that occurs on page 83 of A Family Tour as discussed below has attracted the interest of a number of researchers and can be considered from a number of perspectives. When A Family Tour is read in isolation this event stands out quite starkly but when considered in relation to books that came before and after it may take on an alternative explanation.

A family separation was also intrinsic to The Juvenile Travellers where Theodore and his father went off on explorations leaving Laura and her mother. And with the advent of the character of Sophia, who undertook her own travels, this separation increased the potential for the wider coverage of material using letters between the characters. This devise, that had been so successful in The Juvenile Travellers, could only be replicated if the Middleton family was also legitimately separated during the tour. In the next travel book Excursions in North America, Arthur Middleton travels while the remainder of the family stay at home. In A Family Tour the option to send letters home to family members was not possible as at the beginning of the book the whole family were travelling together.

On page 87 of A Family Tour Priscilla reverts to including a letter from Arthur to Catherine and Louisa in which he reports ‘Edwin and Mr Franklin are out botanising ; for the neighbourhood of this place is full of rare plants’. This letter from Arthur is followed by another from Edwin to his sisters. This book contains 13 letters from Edwin or Arthur to their mother or sisters. In the latter part of the book extracts from Catherine’s journal that she kept of their travels in Wales is introduced through Mrs Middleton but this seems to be a less successful approach.

What is evident between The Juvenile Travellers and A Family Tour is the contrast in the complexity of the multiple letter writing characters which is effectively a one-way activity. The expression of the female voice that was evident through the letters of Laura and Sophia is absent in the characters of Catherine and Louisa.  

Whether Priscilla processed these aspects we will never know. But possibly with pressure to publish another travel book after the success of The Juvenile Travellers and burdened by many family troubles she did what she could to satisfy her readers.

Published in: on January 1, 2010 at 11:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

Going our separate ways?

Part way through the book A Family Tour through the British Empire the company of travellers separate. When they reach the Lake District Mrs Middleton decides to rent a cottage where she, Catherine and Louisa stay while Mr Franklin and the boys complete a circuit of the Northern part of England.  

Of all the events in Priscilla’s books this seperation has received considerable interest from researchers in terms of gender roles.

Aindow, Rosy. ‘Priscilla Wakefield (1751-1832)’. In The Literary Encyclopedia, updated 18 April 2006.

Kroeg, Susan M. ‘Class Mobility: Priscilla Wakefield’s A Family Tour through the British Empire (1804)’,  Kentucky Philological Review 19 (2004): 24-29.

Labbe, Jacqueline M. “‘A Species of Knowledge both Useful and Ornamental”: Priscilla Wakefield’s Family Tour Through the British Empire’, In Romantic Geographies: Discourses of Travel 1775-1844, edited by Amanda Gilroy. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000.

Norcia, Megan A. ‘“X” Marks the Spot: Victorian Women Writers Map the Empire’. Ph.D diss., University of Florida, 2004.

Published in: on January 1, 2010 at 8:37 am  Leave a Comment  

Companion volumes

The book A Family Tour through the British Empire, first published in 1804 has a companion volume Perambulations in London, and its Environs : Comprehending an Historical Sketch of the Ancient State, and Progress, of the British Metropolis, a concise Description of its Present State, Notices of Eminent Persons, and a Short Account of the Surrounding Villages in Letters Designed for Young Persons, published in 1809. In the former the Middleton family deliberately exclude London from their tour to which they return in the latter.

An Introduction to Botany, first published in 1796 has a companion volume in An Introduction to the Natural History and Classification of Insects, in a series of letters with engravings published in 1816.  

Published in: on January 1, 2010 at 8:11 am  Leave a Comment