The Convict

One of the short stories in Sketches of Human Manners is The Convict. In the story a young man called William Harrison who is convicted of theft from his employer and sentenced to transportation to Botany Bay. William had made unwise friends and took on an extravagant lifestyle. He incurred debts that he had settled with his employer’s money. In Australia, the convict William worked hard to redeem himself to those in authority. The Governor was impressed and gave him his freedom on the condition he stayed in the colony for the duration of his sentence. When he learnt his mother had died he decided not to return to Britain ‘in which the recollection of his misconduct and punishment would expose him to scorn and reproach’.

The Convict was published in 1807. In 1826 Priscilla’s grandsons Edward Gibbon Wakefield and William Wakefield were convicted for abducting a young woman. The plan had been for EGW to elope and marry into the wealthy family as a way of achieving his ambition of becoming a member of Parliament. The marriage took place but was later annulled and both brothers imprisoned for the abduction. What is interesting is that when his was serving his sentence on Newgate Prison EGW began to get interested in transportation and colonisation. An interest that lead to a new career path as a colonial reformer.

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Published in: on May 1, 2010 at 4:42 am  Comments (1)  

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  1. Around this time, Priscilla met a young woman in prison in Ipswich, Margaret Catchpole, who was later deported to Australia. She wrote from there to her employer telling how she had gained her freedom and married a good man. Priscilla’s comments on her were to the effect that had she had more chance in life she could have been a leader.


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