Visitors and visiting

Priscilla’s journal entries are full of notations of who had visited her and the people she visited. Visiting family members and friends appears to be major part her life. She would often write ‘drank tea with …. or dined with ….. ‘ these semed to be two distinct social activities.  

As much as she enjoyed a social life at times her frustration at not being able to find the time to write is evident in her journal entries. On the 23 May 1799 with visitors in the house she writes ‘my poor book is at a complete stand still’. On the 27th they left and on the 28th she writes ‘my writing once more renewed’.

In her journal entry for 30th May 1799 a productive day allowed her to reflect on a busy month of visitors.

‘a regular day made considerable progress – Tho’ I am apt to complain of interruptions the variety that society & change of occupation afford is salutary to mind & body & lead to excite the energies of both & to preserve them in vigor. Began to read (space follows) on the Epistles of St Paul’

Published in: on December 29, 2010 at 9:49 am  Leave a Comment  

Preface to Instinct Displayed

Priscilla wrote:

“The harmonising beauty of creation and the interesting objects it presents, have been my delight from childhood ; and the enjoyments, as well as the advantages, I have received from this taste, have made me desirous of communicating it to others, by relating a few well authenticated facts of the exact coincidence of the instinctive powers with the necessities of animals … I thought more likely to arrest the attention of the young, when combined in the form of letters, rather than a long string of detached anecdotes, following each other like horses in a team.”

Published in: on September 24, 2010 at 11:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

Instinct Displayed

The book Instinct Displayed in a Collection of Well-Authenticated Facts Exemplifying the Extraordinary Sagacity of Various Species of the Animal Creation was first published in 1811. On the title page of the 4th edition is the following quote.

                                            is not the earth,

With various living creatures, and the air

Replenished, and all these at thy command,

To come and play before thee? Knowest thou not,

Their language and their ways? They also know,

And reason not contemptibility


Published in: on September 12, 2010 at 4:15 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  

Declining health

The year 1810 marks a turning point in Priscilla’s health. Approaching the age of sixty she wrote:

‘My health is in a very enfeebled state but with thankfulness I add that as far as I can judge my intellectual powers are unimpaired. I have published Instinct Displayed and begun Travels in Africa. The employment of writing is profitable, not only with a view to what it yields but also an amusement, affording considerable relief from the cares of life.’ Journal 1810.

Published in: on June 5, 2010 at 5:22 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  

Animal rights

Researchers interested in animal rights history have included quotes from Priscilla’s books on the following website:

Published in: on May 3, 2010 at 12:24 am  Leave a Comment  


In her journal for 1805 Priscilla wrote, ‘I have published one volume  of ‘Domestic Recreations’ and prepared another for the press my ‘American Excursion’ an effort essentially necessary as business is flat indeed and seems difficult to increase.’

But on 10th October 1806 she wrote, ‘The Booksellers object to the 3rd vol. of ‘Domestic Recreations’ as unsuitable in its subject for children. A disappointment after all my labours.’

Published in: on March 6, 2010 at 3:49 am  Leave a Comment  

Domestic Recreation

Domestic Recreation; or Dialogues illustrative of Natural and Scientific Subjects was published in 1806. It consists of a number of conversations about the natural world between ‘a well informed mother’ Mrs Dimsdale and her two daughters Emily and Lucy. There is a strong emphasis on conducting experiments. As Mrs Dimsdale says;

“Those who desire to become acqauinted with the beauties and wonders of creation, must acquire a habit of patient and attentive onservation, for experience is the surest guide to knowledge ; and the idle, who rely wholly upon the information of others, are always liable to receive as truth, the misrepresentation of error or falsehood.”

Published in: on February 6, 2010 at 2:42 am  Leave a Comment  

Priscilla’s maxim

In her summary of the year 1805 Priscilla wrote the following in her journal. 

‘It is my maxim to make the best of existing circumstances, therefore I do rather what I can, than what I wish.’

Published in: on January 16, 2010 at 11:12 pm  Leave a Comment