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 http://www.canterbury.ac.nz/scholarshipsearch/ScholarshipDetails.aspx?ScholarshipID=6935.212



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

Ailing Priscilla

Because of continuing ill-health Priscilla moved to Ipswich in 1813 to live near her daughter Bell. But it appears she left alone and husband Edward was not included in the removal. Over time Edward Wakefield had become an increasingly shadowy figure whose presence seemed more of an irritant to Priscilla especially when he chose to ‘stay down’ (downstairs) when she wanted to write. Edward died in 1826, the same year his grandsons Edward Gibbon and William Wakefield would be tried and convicted for the abduction of a young woman in a failed elopement plan.

Priscilla spent the remaining 19 years of her life in Ipswich. Her health greatly deteriorated and was of such concern that she was not told immediately told of Catherine’s marriage in 1823 for fear of the excitement. (A Sort of a Conscience, p. 76) She died in September 1832 as the former convict Edward Gibbon Wakefield was reinventing himself as a colonial reformer.

In his publication A Letter from Sydney, published in 1829, a fictional character visits his Grandmother who is quite possibly modelled on Priscilla.

“Just before I embarked at Plymouth, I visited my grandmother, in order to take leave of her for ever. Poor old soul! She was already dead to the concerns of this life ; my departure could make but little difference in the time of our separation, and in regard to her affection for me, it could be of no importance to her which of us should quit the other. My resolution, however revived her for a day all her woman’s feelings. She shed an abundance of tears, and then became extremely curious to know every particular about the place I was going. I rubbed her spectacles whilst she wiped her eyes, and having places before her a common English chart of the world, pointed out the situation of New Holland.”

A digital copy of A Letter from Sydney can be found here http://archive.org/details/aletterfromsydn00gouggoog

Edward’s children

 Priscilla’s son Edward Wakefield was married twice. First to Susannah Crush in 1791 and following is a list of their children. After Susan’s death he married Frances Davies in 1822.

Catherine Gurney (1793-1873)

Edward Gibbon (1796-1862)

Daniel Bell (1798-1858)

Arthur (1799-1843)

William Hayward (1801-1848)

John Howard (1803-1862)

Felix (1807-1875)

Priscilla (1809-1887)

Percy (1810-1832)

Un-named (1813)

 Source: A Sort of Conscience The Wakefields, Philip Temple, Auckland University Press, 2002.

Published in: on November 7, 2011 at 8:14 am  Leave a Comment  


Of Priscilla’s three children, her eldest son Edward (1774 – 1854), would be the child who would become well known in his own right. He grew up in London and would have been a witness to his father’s financial incompetence that effectively drove his parents back to Tottenham. Unfortunately, it was a trait that he would also inherit.  He married Susannah Crush at the age of 17 and two years later the first of their 10 children a daughter Catherine was born. Edward had a number of farming and business ventures but in wheeling and dealing he often came out on the losing side of the ledger. In his early adulthood, as the number of children increased, Priscilla’s caring concern was probably interpreted as interfering. But when things were going badly it would always be Priscilla who would take in the grandchildren and support poor Susan.  

Like his mother Edward was interested in writing, His most significant work was Ireland, Statistical and Political, published in 1812 it was a two volume publication the result of four years research. The inclusion of a folded map of Ireland inside the cover is not entirely unexpected. But his politics was more radical than his mothers. He rejected Quakerism,  became involved with a number of reforming initiatives and associated with people such as James Mill and Francis Place. Some stability in his life came when he went into business as a land agent in 1814. The broken-down Susan died in 1816 but it is clear Edward had lost interest in the relationship years before. He remarried in 1822 to Frances Davis the daughter of the headmaster of Macclesfield Grammar School.

As a young man Edward was impulsive and directionless. It is not unsurprising that  his son exhibited similar traits. As a child Edward Gibbon Wakefield (EGW) would test the patient Priscilla to her limits and as he grew older he considered elopements with wealthy young women to be a career option. In historical terms, the son would gain a far greater renowen than the father but the key to understanding EGW lies in his early life experiences and his relationships with his father, mother and grandmother.

Published in: on July 18, 2011 at 5:07 am  Leave a Comment  

A dedication

There appears to be only one dedication in Priscilla’s books. In Instinct Displayed she wrote ‘to my Grandsons Edward Gibbon Wakefield and Barclay Head’ the following:

My Dear Boys

I present this little work to you, as a mark of my tender affection, and solicitude to form your taste to everything that leads to virtue and goodness. The attributes of the Deity are displayed in his works, which surround us in every part of the habitable globe; and the deficiency will be ours if we neglect the opportunities of reading in this volume of natural religion, which lies open to all mankind, and is written in a universal language. All may observe, and those who do, must perceive the existence of a great Creator, from the consummate wisdom and goodness that is apparent in his designs. Accustom yourselves to see every thing with an accurate eye, and reflect upon what you see; and in the course of a few years you will be a treasure in more advanced years, when your time will be engrossed by the necessary occupation of life.

 With the warmest wishes for your welfare and happiness.

 I am

Your affectionate grandmother

Priscilla Wakefield


Published in: on September 13, 2010 at 8:17 am  Leave a Comment  

Grandmother’s concerns

Priscilla spent long periods of time looking after the older children of her son Edward and daughter-in-law Susan. The eldest Catherine (sometimes called Kitty) seems to have been a relatively easy child unlike her brother Edward Gibbon who would cause Priscilla to write:

‘My dear little Edward still a disgrace. My heart years to forgive him: he has some fine qualities, but he is a character that requires delicate handling.’ Journal February 14 1807.

Latter that year;

‘Edward Gibbon left Tottenham, and my protection, for the dangers and temptations of Westminster School’. Journal 12 December 1807.

As Priscilla had predicted the education of Edward Gibbon would be a fraught and difficult affair.

Published in: on June 5, 2010 at 5:13 am  Leave a Comment  

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.

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

Adam Smith

There is an interesting connection between Priscilla’s interest and knowledge of the work of Adam Smith and her grandson Edward Gibbon. As noted below she began her book Reflections on the Present Condition of the Female Sex quoting Adam Smith.

Between 1835 and 1839 Edwerd Gibbon Wakefield prepared a new edition of the Wealth of Nations with his own commentaries published in four volumes.

Published in: on September 28, 2009 at 3:05 am  Leave a Comment  

Edward Gibbon Wakefield

Edward Gibbon Wakefield was born on 20 March 1796 in London and he died on 16 May 1862 in Wellington, New Zealand.  Between these two dates is a remarkable life of a man of ideas and influence but a life that had many dark aspects and tragedies, sometimes of his own making. From about the turn of the century the young Edward Gibbon and his sister Catherine spent most of their childhood with their grandmother Priscilla. She took responsibility for their care and education.  The mature Catherine is in contrast to her brother whose bad behaviour would test a grandmother’s love.  But like Priscilla, in a difficult time in his life, Edward Gibbon turned to writing – not children’s stories, but books on colonisation.

Published in: on August 22, 2009 at 4:59 am  Leave a Comment