Selections from Jonathan Bell’s memoirs provides some insight into the character of Priscilla’s sisters.

Catherine: a closely devoted religious Quaker. Florid complexion, dark eyes and hair more a Bell than a Barclay in looks. Her mind possessed every engaging quality … under strict regulation her thirst of knowledge was ardent and she was extensively accomplished in mental attainments. She was greatly admired. She married John Gurney a merchant of Norwich. They had a numerous family: Catherine, John, Rachael, Elizabeth, Hannah, Richonda, Louisa, Samuel, Daniel, Joseph, Priscilla. She died at a young age – her daughter Elizabeth Fry was the well-known prison reformer.

Elizabeth: elegant and stately, very handsome and graceful, endowed with talents energy and feeling over taking the strongest interest in everyone’s affairs and pursuits. She wrote some novels that were highly spoken of but never published. She did publish a book on home nursing. The death of her daughter from measles at the age of 14 or 15 is said to have nearly broken her heart. She married John Hanbury and lived to over 70 years of age. Her children were: William, Kitty, John, Capel Charles, George.

Lucy: died unmarried although she had many suitors. She suffered for many years with palpitations from an enlargement of the heart. She adopted the closest demeanor in dress and conduct and appeared as the plainest of Quakers. She had a natural cheerfulness and affectionate disposition. Of middle stature, brown complexion with black expressive eyes.

Charlotte: was more of a Friend from her youth than her sisters. She married a close friend Capel Hanbury (brother of John) and had two sons Cornelius and Daniel. She was slight and rather tall, neither brown or fair, a sensible countenance without the energetic character of her sisters and without the attractiveness they possessed. There was a reserved coldness in her disposition. She was extremely read in all kinds of literature.

Rebecca: the handsomest, a fine expressive countenance, stately in person, more brown than fair, the finest temper and disposition possible, animated and affection overflowing. Married Abel Chapman who was not a Quaker and this was a point of disagreement. They had a large family: Abel, Hannah, Mary, Catherine, Emma, Ellen, David, Jonathan, William, Daniel, Edward, Alfred, Frederick and Henry.

Christianna or Chrissy Bell: very popular, animated countenance and cheerful – very clever – quick in ideas and expressive in manner. Married twice. First to David Springhall the children Nathaniel and Catherine died young. Second husband was Thomas Hankin and she had Hannah, Chrissy, Maria, Daniel, Emma and George. She had a mind panting after knowledge and good in which her husband did not harmonise. She died a victim of extreme nervousness.  

Caroline: fair with blue eyes and flowing auburn hair. She was all sweetness and simplicity. Married John Head of Ipswich some years older than herself. She died within a year of the marriage.

Published in: on July 25, 2010 at 4:54 am  Leave a Comment  

The Hill

In Priscilla’s journals there are many reference to ‘The Hill’ – this was ‘Stamford Hill’ the residence of her father Daniel Bell (1726-1802).  It was located between Hewington and Tottenham with about 70 acres of land with a wharf and a warehouse on the River Lea. He ran a successful business as a coal-merchant.According to Jonathan Bell’s memoirs the property had been purchased by some of the Barclay family and he became a tenant of The Hill.

Published in: on July 25, 2010 at 4:52 am  Leave a Comment  

Wakefield on Wollstonecraft

In her Literary Journal for the 4th of April 1798 Priscilla recorded her thoughts about the publication Memiors of the Author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by William Godwin. Wollstonecraft had died in September 1797 following childbirth and the book was published by her husband in January 1798. It revealed shocking aspects of her life  such as her  illigetimate children, love affairs and suicide attempts.

Literary journal for April 4 [1798]

The Life of Mary Wollstonecraft by Godwin

To a common mind the events that befell? her previous to her connection with Imlay might have passed with so little distinction as to be deemed not sufficiently interesting to engage public notice. but the different tint they received from the energy of her character render the most minute of them important as they tend to show that exertion and firmness  overcome many evils under which weakness and timidity suit?  Her mind was capacious her judgment clear and her promptitude in action equal to both. The originality of her genius was not curbed by any regular cultivation, her faculties were left to expand by their own force which probably contributed to leave her free from the actual fetters of prejudice – but whilst this neglect procured her so great an advantage it deprived her of the benefit of early impressions of religious principles. Void of fixed sentiments on this essential subject she deviated from those wholesome and necessary restraints wh. the doctrines of revelation impose upon natural inclination, when it leads beyond those limits wh. the good order of society and happiness require – Possessing those great talents in combination with many enviable qualities of the heart she might have formed a model for her sex by her example but unguarded by a sense of religious duty she wandered from that standard of female excellence wh. the Author of the Rights of Women should have defended by a purity of conduct consistent with the perfection she had delineated. Such a combination of great qualities and defects is a humbling lesson and teaches us to qualify our notions of human excellence. Her posthumous works are miscellaneous. The wrongs of women and her letters to Imlay are the most important.          The fragments of the Wrongs of Woman contains part of the evils the sex undergoes from the wickedness of seducers and bad husbands much more remains to be sketched had the picture been completed – the grand desideratum is the means of protecting the sex from similar misfortunes. A rational energetic education suited to the different ranks raising them to a nearer equality with their tyrants seems to offer the surest tho’ a gradual emancipation from the chains with wh. they are now so frequently manacled.

Published in: on July 11, 2010 at 4:41 am  Leave a Comment  

London in detail

Of all Priscilla’s travel books Perambulations in London is the one area of the world that she had personal knowledge having lived there for many years.  But unfortunately Perambulations is almost weighed down with an enormous amount of detailed description of places, streets, houses, buildings, monuments and famous people.  Not unexpectedly, Priscilla’s characters also visit prisons, workhouses, churches, hospitals and laying-in charities. This detail is communicated to the reader in thirty-three letters in five hundred pages. The first letters are from Charles de Vitry to ‘his dear boys’ followed by a series from Eugenius and Philip to school friends Roland and Frederic Spencer. The final thirteen letters are all from Edwin Middleton to Philip and Eugenius. There is only one letter from a female character: Catherine Middleton to her cousin Emma. The enclosed map is titled ‘London, Westminster, Southwark and the New Docks Eastward 1809 Engraved for P. Wakefield’s Perambulations’.

Published in: on July 3, 2010 at 5:01 am  Leave a Comment