More about maps


The inclusion of folded maps was a feature of Priscilla’s travel books. The above image provides a sense of the scale of these maps in comparison to the text. It must have been a source of delight to children to carefully unfold them and follow the adventures of Arthur, Henry Franklin and Sancho in North America.

This image is on the website of an online auction for Excursions in North America with the following description.

third edition, 1 large folding engraved map of North America, some very light browning, contemporary ink inscription to front free endpaper, contemporary blind-stamped calf, gilt, spine gilt in compartments, rubbed, 1819 § Birkbeck (Morris) Notes on a Journey in America , third edition, 1 large folding engraved map ‘from the Coast of Virginia to the Territory of Illinois’, hand-coloured in outline, some slight soiling, modern morocco, spine gilt, edges uncut, 1818; and 4 others, similar America, 8vo, (6).

Published in: on October 27, 2014 at 4:01 am  Leave a Comment  

The traveller’s final letter

In The Traveller in Asia these are the final words of our traveller Arthur Middleton in a letter to his siblings in England.

‘No one whose excursions have been confined to a watering-place or a summer’s jaunt, in their native country, can imagine the comfort afforded by the prospect of a peaceful home, anticipated by a weary traveller, who has wandered into distant quarters of the globe, encountering the variety of climate in both extremes, and mixed with men of every form of society. It is like the view of land to the ship-wrecked mariner this tranquillity I hope soon to enjoy, as a fleet will sail in a few weeks for England, in which I intend to take my passage, which will render any further communication unnecessary, from your affectionate brother’.  ARTHUR MIDDLETON

Published in: on June 18, 2011 at 8:39 am  Leave a Comment  


Priscilla’s final book The Traveller in Asia was published in 1817.  She wrote on the preface: ‘The travels through Europe, Africa and America, that I have already presented to the public, having meet with a favourable reception, I am induced to complete the series by the addition of a visit to Asia ; believing it to be a portion of the globe that contains many objects of peculiar interest, especially British India, where the dearest connexions of such numbers of our countrymen reside.’

In the book Arthur Middleton travels around India and visits China with his impressions and experiences recorded in a journal format. He makes an acquaintance with a Mr Melville who accompanies him on part of the journey and asks Arthur to take charge of his nephew Charles Melville who is fourteen. Arthur and his new companion Charles continue the journey and Priscilla begins to include into the text letters from Charles to his sister Adele. The visit to China at the end of the book is brief in comparison to the volume of information about India. At the end of the book Arthur returns Charles to his uncle and plans his return to England.

Published in: on June 18, 2011 at 8:36 am  Leave a Comment  

Arthur Middleton’s love life

In the beginning of Priscilla’s last book The Traveller in Asia the reader learns the reason why the character of Arthur Middleton continues his global travels.

‘When Arthur Middleton set out on his travels in Africa, his affections were fixed upon a young lady, who have given him every reason to believe that she felt an equal regard for him ; and although the family reasons prevented her from giving him her hand at the time, she had made a solemn promise to do so at his return. How great then was his surprise and disappointment to find she had become the bride of another, a few months before his arrival in England! The shock unmanned him at first, but a little reflection convinced him, that a woman who was capable of acting in such a faithless manner was not worthy his respect… he therefore gave up all thoughts of marriage, and determined to devote the remainder of his life to his favourite pursuit of exploring foreign countries’.  p.[1]-2.

Published in: on May 16, 2011 at 4:43 am  Leave a Comment  

William Penn

William Penn, Quaker and founder of the colony of Pennsylvania, featured in Priscilla’s first book and was the subject of her penultimate publication. In the first volume of Leisure Hours or Entertaining Dialogues published in 1794 there is a story called the ‘Petition of Gayashuta’. It reproduces the speech the Seneca leader Kayahsotaà made to the descendents of Penn. Penn was held in high regard by the indigenous people because, according to Priscilla, of his religious beliefs and personal qualities of fairness and respect.

A visit to Philadelphia by Arthur Middleton and Henry Franklin was included in the book Excursions in North America published in 1806. Penn is described as a man of ‘wisdom, moderation, justice and humanity’ and that the respect for this memory was so firmly rooted with the Indian people that ‘they are never perfectly satisfied with any treaty, unless some Quakers are present at the conference; for, say they, the descendents of William Penn will never suffer us to be deceived’. (p.15)

In 1816 Priscilla published A Brief Memoir of the Life of William Penn. Compiled for the use of Young Persons. It is an adapted version of the biography by Thomas Clarkson. She describes him above all as ‘a pious Christian’. Priscilla’s biography is followed by a number of Penn’s works.

 A Brief Memoir of the Life of William Penn

Published in: on March 19, 2011 at 6:53 am  Leave a Comment  

Moving on

In The Traveller in Africa, published in 1814, Priscilla moves the story of the Middleton family through time to age her characters. At the beginning of the book we are told that Mrs Middleton had died, Catherine was married and Louisa lived with her and that Edwin was studying law. Arthur had attended Cambridge for three years but the changes in his family, especially the death of his mother, had left him alone but also free to pursue his desire for travel.

Although the title suggests a single traveller the character of  Sancho is included in Arthur’s journey to Africa.The circumstances of  Sancho’s life had also changed with the death of his wife.

The progression in the life story of the Middleton family is interesting in itself and reinforces the idea that Priscilla may have been based some of the characters on the Wakefield grandchildren

Published in: on October 30, 2010 at 7:23 am  Leave a Comment  


The book 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 was first published in 1809.

In this book Mrs Middleton fulfils her plan of taking the family on a tour of London. In the scenario the plan had been delayed a number of times because of Arthurs numerous absences. On this occasion he as in Scotland with his friend Henry Franklin and Mrs Middleton decides to proceed without him.

This is an interesting choice. The Middleton family first appear in A Family Tour published in 1804. Arthur Middleton goes on his Excursions in North America in 1806. In Perambulations Arthur is omitted from the family tour of London but will become Priscilla’s main adventurer in two further books.

Priscilla includes a new group of characters, Monsieur Charles de Vitry and his nephews Eugenius and Philip.  Monsieur de Vitry was a Swiss gentleman who had escaped that country and settled in Richmond near the Middleton’s.

Published in: on June 27, 2010 at 11:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

The shark attack

In the final pages of Excursions in North America Arthur Middleton has one more encounter with a dangerous animal. Arthur, Henry and Sancho are reunited on a ship making its way to Canton. Arthur, who was an excellent swimmer, enjoyed plunging into the sea. But on one occasion he was approached by a voracious shark. Seeing his friend in danger Sancho jumped into the water and saved him.

Priscilla writes:

‘This fortunate deliverance strengthened the mutual regard of Arthur and Sancho, as each had received from the other the most signal benefit, and rendered their obligations equal ; though there was still a disparity in their circumstances, which Sancho never forgot, observing the most respectful conduct towards his liberator; who, on his side, endeavoured, by every condescending attention, to diminish the distinction between them.’ (p. 420)

Published in: on April 11, 2010 at 3:45 am  Leave a Comment  

Animal encounters

In Priscilla’s travel books Arthur Middleton had many encounters with the local wildlife. In Excursions in America Arthur is bitten by a rattle snake, although he had been told not to go near it. Henry Franklin reported that the effect of the venom was reduced by the ‘leaves of a plant’  and hoped that Arthur had learnt from the accident. p. 70-71.

Apparently not, as soon after Arthur is saved from an alligator by an Indian wielding a tomahawk. In thanks for saving young Arthur’s life  Henry Franklin presented the Indian with trinkets and a bottle of rum. p. 97.

Published in: on April 10, 2010 at 5:33 am  Leave a Comment  

Sancho & slavery

The development of the character of Sancho marks an important point in Priscilla’s writing about slavery. In previous books she had included the abolition message but with Sancho she creates a character that had experienced slavery and brings that story to the reader.

But for Priscilla this is just a half-way point in bringing the abolition message to the fore.  In the Traveller in Africa published in 1817 her travel hero Arthur Middleton (along with Sancho) is enslaved by Moors.  Slavery, in whatever form it took, was abhorrent to Priscilla.

For a detailed discussion of Priscilla Wakefield’s writing on slavery and the role of Sancho see:

Johanna M. Smith. ‘Slavery, Abolition, and the Nation in Priscilla Wakefield’s Tour Books for Children’ In Discourses of Slavery and Abolition: Britain and its Colonies, 1760-1838, Ed. Brycchan Carey, Markman Ellis and Sara Salih, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.

Published in: on April 3, 2010 at 11:10 pm  Leave a Comment