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  

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  

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  


Priscilla’s fourteenth book and fourth in the Middleton family series was the The Traveller in Africa.

But that was just the start of the title like most of Priscilla’s books they conveyed a lot of information.  


Traveller in Africa :

Containing some Account of the


Natural Curiosities,



of such Parts of that Continent and its Islands, as Have Been Explored by


The Route Traced on a Map,


The Entertainment and Instruction of Young Persons

The full text of The Traveller in Africa

Published in: on October 30, 2010 at 6:56 am  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  

Edwin & Arthur Middleton

Arthur Middleton becomes the central character for Priscilla’s travel books. He is first introduced in A Family Tour as a 14 year old with his younger brother Edwin. Edwin is described as ‘a more silent character, and, from his diffidence, less pleasing to strangers; but he was his superior in attention and industry’.  (A Family Tour p. 7) Quiet and emotional Edwin is a counter to his more outgoing brother.  What was to come is signalled by the following quote from Arthur, ‘novelty delights me ; when I am a man, I will travel all over the world’. (A Family Tour  p. 3).

In the travel book series Arthur journeys to North America, Africa and Asia including India and China. During that time the Middleton family characters age and their circumstances change.

On whom the characters of Edwin and Arthur Middleton are modelled is unknown. Likely candidates could be Priscilla’s sons Edward and Daniel or the grandsons Edward Gibbon and Arthur

Published in: on March 28, 2010 at 2:48 am  Leave a Comment  

Excursions in North America

Excursions in North America Described in Letters from a Gentleman and his Young Companion, to Friends in England was published in 1806.

The young companion of the title was Arthur Middleton one of the child characters from the family Priscilla created in A Family Tour.  The gentleman is Mr Henry Franklin – the brother of the boys’ tutor. One significant feature of this book is her continuation of the Middleton family characters onto another publication. This did not happen in the case of the Harcourt or Seymour families. After the publication of A Family Tour the Middleton family and specifically Arthur Middleton are the characters she uses in the remaining travel books.

Following is a link to  Excursions in North America  a copy from the Stanford University Library

Published in: on March 28, 2010 at 2:20 am  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  

The Wakefield grandchildren in 1804

In the year A Family Tour was published the Wakefield grand children were:

Catherine – 11 years

Edward Gibbon – 8 years

Daniel – 6 years

Arthur – 5 years

William Hayward – 3 years

John Howard – 2 years

Were the children of the fictional Middleton family based on the older Wakefield grandchildren that were in Priscilla’s care?

Published in: on December 29, 2009 at 11:11 pm  Leave a Comment