LINDSEY, Theophilus, letters, autographs, documents, manuscripts



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LINDSEY, Theophilus (1723-1808). Unitarian.
Autograph Letter Signed to the Revd G[ilbert] Wakefield in Dorchester Goal, 2 pages 4to with integral address-leaf (detached), London, 14 April 1801. Strongly supporting Wakefield's intention to lecture after his release, praising his work with the condemned at Dorchester, and commiserating with him [on the death of his youngest child].
Gilbert Wakefield (1756-1801, religious controversialist) had been condemned to two years' imprisonment for publishing a pamphlet in which he had argued that the government was largely responsible for the war with France and that if the French were to invade they would be likely to be welcomed by the dissafected poor. He became a considerable celebrity in prison and was visited by Fox, the duke of Bedford and Lord Holland, among others.
'For this pamphlet Wakefield, together with his publisher and booksellers (including Joseph Johnson), were indicted on an information and convicted. Their convictions, thought Charles James Fox, meant that liberty of the press was dead. At the trial Wakefield eschewed the offer of legal assistance from the radical Scottish lawyer Henry Erskine (1746-1817) and represented his own case, casting himself as a latter-day Socrates or Jesus. Henry Crabb Robinson, who witnessed the event, wrote that 'his delivery of his own defence must have been one of the most gratifying treats which a person of taste or sensibility could enjoy. His simplicity quite apostolic, his courage purely heroic' (Henry Crabb Robinson, 1.36-7). Upon conviction, Wakefield was sentenced to two years' confinement in Dorchester gaol and a fine of £500. A fund was established to support his family, and £5000 was raised almost immediately, largely from Foxite whigs and liberal dissenters. Wakefield, who was never rich, remarked that he owed his fortune to his majesty's attorney-general (Memoirs of the Life, 2.156).' [Oxford DNB].
'I do most truly honour and admire those who like you and Dr Priestley are able to sooth and divert private trials and griefs by plans and energies of utility to literature and to mankind, and thence to derive the most honourable support to themselves. And in this view I cannot but wish success to the proposal of Lectures which you have thrown before the public to be read when you are liberated from your long and odious confinement now happily so near an end [Wakefield was released on 29 May]. ...
 'It has been a singular satisfaction to me to learn that you have been so usefully and benevolently employed with the poor felons that have been condemned at Dorchester; as I doubt not you would be able to pour some gleams of light and comfort into thir minds in their unhappy situation. ...'

[No: 22602]


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