Wakefield, Gilbert

Gilbert Wakefield (1756-1801) took his B.A. from Jesus College at Cambridge in 1776, after which he was ordained a deacon in the Anglican Church.  He soon adopted Unitarian views, leaving the Established church to become a tutor at Warrington Academy, working with Joseph Priestley, William Enfield, John Aiken, and other leading Dissenters. In 1790 he removed to London, where he commenced duties as classical tutor at the new Dissenting academy at Hackney.  He resigned after only one year; he remained in Hackney, however, where he devoted himself to political and religious writing.  His criticism of William Pitt and the war with France eventually led to charges of libel for his pamphlet, A reply to some parts of the Bishop of Llandaff’s Address.  He was found guilty and sentenced to two years in Dorchester goal; his pecuniary difficulties were greatly relieved by a fund of £5000 procured by his friends.  He was released on 29 May 1801, but died of typhus fever not long after his return to Hackney.   Among his numerous publications are an edition of Lucretius (3 vols., 1796-99), a translation of the New Testament (1792), Evidences of Christianity(1793), An examination of Thomas Paine’s “Age of Reason” (1794), The spirit of Christianity compared with the spirit of the times (1794), and A defence of revealed religion(1795).