Important acquisitions

An account of the manner in which sentences of penal servitude are carried out in England

Author Sir Edmund du Cane
Title An account of the manner in which sentences of penal servitude are carried out in England
Imprint London: H.M.P. Millbank
Date of Publication 1882
Language English
Notes This is a presentation copy of a work on the penal system in England. It was given by the author, Sir Edmund Du Cane (18301903), to the 5th Earl of Rosebery, who was then, as a member of Gladstone's Liberal government, under-secretary at the Home Office, with particular responsibility for Scottish matters. The book also includes a brief letter, dated 7 March 1883, from Du Cane to Rosebery. Du Cane was one of the most important prison administrators of Victorian Britain. After serving in the army, where he organised convict labour in Australia, he became in 1863 a director of convict prisons and an inspector of military prisons. A few years later he took on the posts of chairman of the convict prison directors, surveyor-general of prisons, and inspector-general of military prisons. Du Cane "exercised a profound influence on the direction of penal policy between 1870 and 1895" (ODNB). This work printed at the press at Millbank prison, London, is an update of a paper originally prepared for the First International Prison Congress which met in London in 1872. It outlines the increasingly centralised prison system in operation in England, a system which conformed to Du Cane's belief that adult criminals required short, severe prison sentences. The term 'penal servitude' was coined in 1853 with the first Penal Servitude Act, which substituted sentences of imprisonment in lieu of transportation. Under Du Cane's regime prisoners could expect solitary confinement, severe conditions such as a plank bed, a very coarse diet, no visits, no library books or writing materials, and gruelling hard labour, often including oakum picking or the treadmill. The final stage was conditional release under police supervision. It was this Du Cane-influenced system that Oscar Wilde experienced as prisoner C.3.3. in Reading gaol in 1895 to 1897, and which he bitterly criticised in "The ballad of Reading gaol". Since 1877 Scotland's prisons had also been brought under Home Office control and a Prisons Commission for Scotland had been created. Du Cane was no doubt anxious that Scotland moved to a centralised system in line with England, and in the letter accompanying this book he notes that he is "highly flattered" by Rosebery's request for this additional copy of his work, which is in a "prettier" red, half-morocco binding. Du Cane eventually retired in 1895, amid growing disapproval by liberal politicians and civil servants of his methods and imperious manner. Penal servitude, however, was not abolished in England until 1948, Scotland followed suit two years later.
Shelfmark AB.2.213.57
Reference Sources Oxford Dictionary of national Biography
Acquired on 03/05/13
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