[From Bullock's History of IoM, 1816]

Introduction.


TO MRS ––

 

MY DEAR FRIEND

IT is now a long while since in obedience to your suggestions, I have entertained the idea of arranging an Account of the Isle of Man, for your sole amusement and information. My original design was to give you simply a sketch of living manners, and to this purpose I had composed a series of Essays or Letters, which I believed would answer the end I had in view; when an event took place, which gave such a check to the prosperity of the island, that I, who have lived long enough in it to identify myself with its welfare, began to inquire whether it was not possible, even with my limited powers, to return some of the numberless kindnesses I have experienced from its native inhabitants.

Scarcely had this latent hope shed its glow over my imagination, ere I painted another fairy vision; and having, like Alnaschar, first dreamed myself into a sovereignty, I next set about choosing my subjects, all of whom I meant, with exclusive scrupulosity, to pick out, from a revered and long-lamented class, now nearly extirpated in my native land; but being that in which I spent the purest and best years of my life, is naturally assoelated with all my ideas of happiness. I allude to the class who used to hold the middle rank: it seemed to me, as the vision floated by, that to preserve the remnant of this oppressed race from annihilation, no retreat could be better imagined than this, on which I am now writing. The land and the people appear so exactly suited to each other, that I believe I have only to perform the ceremony of introduction-only to make the one known to the other-and like kindred minds, they will contract an intimacy which will end in a communion of benefits.

Is it not true, my dear Madam, that by growing inordinately rich, by revelling in luxuries, until they have become mere necessaries, and above all, by changing the very character and principles of life and manners, the scene is closed on those valuable and quiet comforts which used to spring from circumscribed expences, and well regulated desires? What has becorne of the associates of my early days, who, on moderate incomes of a few hundreds per annum, used to preserve a certain superiority of character and manners, over the mere money-getting and moneyloving crowd?-where are now the anniversary days of rejoicing?-the Christmas gambols, in which all ages forgot their petty cares, and after a delightful bustle of preparation, met together to be merry with their whole hearts. When a birth or a wedding day brought a renewal of original joy, of which even the anticipation made no inconsiderable-part, feasts and fine clothes were not then undervalued by perpetual recurrence, nor the hope and happiness of such assemblies, lost in vapid sameness.

Am I mistaken when I say, that all these things are no more; that such narrow means as would once suffice, for all the purposes of domestic ease, are no longer adequate to the bare supply of necessaries: and the peace of independence can only be preserved by the observance of a system of watchfulness and penurious economy, equally painful to endure and to practise, accompanied as these circumstances too frequently are, by the aggravated fears of paternal anxiety, for the rising generation.

How difficult is it for those, whom education has fitted to enjoy, and diffuse the elegancies of life, to relinquish even its comforts, and sink at once into the class beneath them. The desire of keeping good company, is another mistake which the young (particularly those who live in what is called the world) have to combat. Perhaps I am wrong to use the word combat, I should rather say, to regulate, and in order to this, it is necessary to define the term: I believe, generally speaking, it refers to that link in the chain, immediately above our own, to those who live more expensively, keep more company, and make more show, than we can afford to do, without the slightest reference to mental qualifications or acquirements. Now this I contend is the fundamental error: I will have my good company to consist of those whom education, early Associations, and present habits of thinking and acting, have fitted either to coincide with my own, or to correct and guide me to clearer views and better purposes; who can participate in my pleasures, however simple or frugal, and sympathize from their own feelings, in my cares, and my sorrows.

Having, to my own perfect conviction at least, established the fact, that luxury is the prevailing pest of the day, and that it is absolutely necessary to find a retreat where congenial spirits may associate, at a distance from the vortex of dissipation; I come naturally back to the point whence set out, and declare that I believe the Isle of Man to be the very spot where this Utopian scheme may be realised.

The chief obstacle to my project lies in the general neglect or contempt with which this place has been hitherto regarded, those who have thought of it at all, view it as a mere shelter for debtors, and s debts imply a degree of poverty, which is a high crime and misdemeanor, to which no man likes to plead guilty, it has hitherto included a species of disgrace, even to contemplate a retreat on the sea-beat shores of Mona: this objection, however, is now at an end, protection being no longer afforded to the fugitive, the field is left open for another, and, let us hope, a better class, to occupy.

Perhaps, when I have stated the advantages this Island really offers, you will agree-with me, that-it is one of the few places in Europe where moderate people, may be moderately happy at a moderate espence; nor is it a small recommendation to a new colony, that they may find a place ready prepared where they can enter, as the children of Israel did on the land of Canaan, into houses which they have not built, and gardens they have not planted; in truth, the want of population since the non-protection act (as it is called) has been most severely felt, and it is a great pity it should be so, for, in the few years immediately preceding this sudden stagnations, the progress of improvement had been rapid beyond comparison; every thing was in a course of amelioration; even the asperities of party, which had formerly been so fertile of feuds, (that it was dangerous to hazard a remark, lest one Would start a prejudice), were begining to subside into perfect unanimity. Agriculture and trade had also combined to diffuse prosperity over a happy community, when this sudden cloud overshadowed the whole horizon.

In perusing the few accounts extant of the Island, I find none that are wholly satisfactory; some say too little of the present day, and others appear not to have thought the early history of the Manx worth tracing out, or their primitive character and situation deserving of inquiry; at all extents, the changes of the last few years are important enough to demand a new record.

It would ill become me to provoke a comparison with other authors, all the merit I claim is that of having industriously collected into one view what has been scattered in a desultory manner through different books, many of them still in manuscript (to which I have had access through the kindness of friends on the spot), and others of such antiquity as to be only in the hands of a few individuals: from these sources, Which I believe to be authentic, I have derived my history of the past, and for my account of the present state of manners, society, and customs. I have trusted to the observations which a residence of ten years on the Island has enabled me to make, and my chief aim has been to give the result of those observations with impartiality and truth.

I am fearful that, to indifferent readers, the history of the early Kings of Man will appear tedious, and must be uninteresting; and the account of the Derby family may also be considered as a repetition of well known facts; yet would the natives of the Island have been as much dissatisfied if these had been omitted, as the English would be, should a future author present them with a History of, Great Britain, from which the names of Alfred, Edward the Black Prince, or Henry the Fifth, were expunged, merely because the events connected with them were too universally known to demand a repetition.


 

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Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2001