A HOLIDAY IN PRISON – 1768-1770
DURING the many hundred years that the famous gaol existed in St. George’s Fields no human being ever served a term of imprisonment within its walls under such happy conditions as John Wilkes. From first to last it must have been evident to him that he continued to be the most popular man in England. Any number of friends were allowed to visit him whenever they desired. His board was sumptuous, his lodging the best that the prison could provide. And, greatest solace of all, he was able to pursue his crusade on behalf of “Liberty” without hindrance, being permitted to write and publish whatever he chose, and to take counsel with the most militant of his supporters. Except that he was prohibited from leaving the gaol he was as much his own master as if he were living in his own house.
Anticipating a long imprisonment, his first consideration was to provide a home for his daughter, not wishing her to remain any longer in “the dismal dungeon of St. Sepulchre’s.” Polly Wilkes was now in her eighteenth year, a merry amiable girl with much charm of manner, and the grace and elegance of the well-bred Parisienne. In spite, however, of her sparkling black eyes she was inordinately plain, almost ugly, resembling her father in nearly every feature. The bond of sympathy between the two had become even stronger and closer still since their frequent partings, and she was more attentive than ever to his slightest wish, seeming to have no other thought but to give him pleasure. In her estimation he was the greatest hero and the noblest martyr that the world had ever seen. Few women have shown so perfect an example of filial affection as the daughter of John Wilkes.
Excerpt from Life of John Wilkes by Horace Bleackley – 1907
Chapter 14 A Holiday in Prison
Further Reading and External Links
John Wilkes on Spartacus Educational
John Wilkes on Google Books