[from Memoirs of Bishop Hildesley]
Late Lord Bishop of Sodor and Mann; and Master of Sherburn Hospital, near Durham.
To snatch from oblivion the venerable names of worthy men, who have ceased to be amongst us, is the office of common humanity, and of something more. To set them truly forth, in a connected point of view, by collecting the scattered materials of which their histories consist, is at once to do honour to virtue and to religion. The contemplation of genuine Christian energy in the heart, and of moral excellency in daily practice, where soever they are found, supplies the most instructive lesson to a well constituted mind. The wise and the virtuous, in all ages, have dwelt with delight on the meritorious talents and dispositions of their fellow-creatures. By exalting our ideas of the human character, they expand within us that original native principle of benevolence, which best dignifies and adorns our species ; they excite a noble ardour of emulation ; and are at the fame time highly favourable to piety, by raising our views to the supreme origin of all that is fair and godlike in man. Hence, upon the best authority, we are told, by archbishop Tillotson, that " to commend those excellent persons, the virtues of whose lives have been bright and exemplary, is not only a tribute of justice to the dead, but an act also of great charity to the living as setting before our eyes a pattern of well-doing, which is very apt and powerful, to incite and encourage us to go and do likewise ."
BIOGRAPHY, whenever it is honestly conducted, forms the vehicle of this effect to the imitative world around us. Without its salutary aid, the career of the best of mortals would be, as to other men, but like that of the gourd of Jonah ; ordained just to spring and flourish for a few fleeting hours, as the creature of a day ; and then to perish in a night for ever ! This happy resource, then, is the only remedy for the evil : it teaches by well-exhibited example , whose influence is so generally and justly allowed to be far more potent than all the plausibility of barren precept : and it produces the wholesome effect intended, by rendering genuine morals and sincere piety person fled, as it were, and visible to the admiring eye of mankind. It is not enough, therefore, that, while good men lived, their temporary excellence was known, and noted by their coevals with suitable respect and honour : their virtues must remain also on durable record ; and, if we will to stir up others to benefit the world, from a sincere love to GOD and to goodness their names and their conduct though alike be had in all that we can give them of everlasting remembrance !
It has been very justly observed, that the historick records of great events may indeed surprize, from the unwonted splendour of achievement : they may be suitably calculated to instruct and to animate those very few, who govern the myriads beneath them : but the generality of mankind certainly derive the most solid improvement from those relations, which are levelled to the general surface of social life ; which tell, not how men learned to conquer, but how they endeavoured to live ; not how they gained the shouts of admiring crowds, but how they justly acquired the esteem of their acquaintances and friends. That knowledge, in short, should most eagerly be pursued, which we can readily convert to our truest benefit. ~
" I have often thought," says Dr. JOHNSON, " that there has rarely passed a life of which a judicious and faithful narrative would not be useful. it is frequently objected to relations of particular lives, that they are not distinguished by any striking or wonderful vicissitudes. The scholar, who passed his life among his books ; the merchant, who conducted only his own affairs ; the priest, whose sphere of action was not extended beyond that of his duty ; are considered as no proper objects of publick regard, however they might have excelled in their several stations, whatever might have been their learning, integrity, and piety. But this notion arises from false measures of excellence and dignity, and must be eradicated by considering, that, in the esteem of uncorrupted reason, WHAT IS OF MOST USE IS OF MOST VALUE
Whoever knows the much~honoured name of bishop WILSON, must also recollect, with peculiar reverence, that of bishop HILDESLEY, his immediate successor in the diocese of Mann. Had it not seen for the very sincere respect of the writer of these memoirs for both their memories, the humble narration here given would never have appeared : nor would it now have been obtruded upon the readers notice, but for the valuable assistance which has been drawn from authentic papers, communicated by Mr. Giberne, merchant in London ; a relation of Dr. HILDESLEY , and also of the editor by marriage ; and to whom the execution of his lordships will principally devolved.
The first account we have of this truly primitive priest and bishop, is derived from a few short notes concerning him, originally inserted in the Gentlemans Magazine for the year 1781 . These have since been given in the History of the Gentlemens Literary Society, established at Spalding, in Lincolnshire ; of which Mr. HILDESLEY was long an honorary member, having been entered of the same in the year 1750. They were furnished to the publick from a manuscript of the late Rev. J. Jones, who, from being some time Curate to the celebrated Dr. Young, a particular friend of Mr. HILDESLEY, at Welwyn in Hertfordshire, afterwards became vicar of Hitchin ; and thence they have found a place in the Biographical Dictionary, published in fifteen volumes, 8vo, 1798.
The brevity of those notes made it extremely desirable to see a more ample account of so very amiable and worthy a character. To the edition lately published of the life and writings of bishop WILSON there are added, in the Appendix some few other anecdotes respecting him; which the ingenious editor, in his preface, gratefully ascribes to the condescending information given him by the dowager countess Spencer ; a name, which must add lustre to every page, from that constant munificence displayed by her ladyship, in a thousand instances, for the comfort of poverty whether in youth or age; and which heft adorns the highest characters on earth. These too have afforded us a pleasing opportunity of enlarging upon the life of Dr. HILDESLEY ; and being still better enabled so to do, by the kind aid of Mr. Giberne, and other respectable friends, we have cheerfully embraced it, to form from the whole a more regular and accurate detail of particulars.
DESCENDED, as will hereafter be clearly shewn, from the antient kings of England, he was the eldest surviving son of the Rev. Mark Hildesley, rector of the valuable living of Houghton, held with the chapel of Witton, or Wyton All-Saints, in the County of Huntingdon who had been a student of St. Johns college, Oxford, where he took his degree of M. A. on the 6th of February, 1691. Mr. Hildesley, senior, out of a very numerous family, left several other children, two sons and four daughters, and died in the year 1726. The living, thus become vacant by his death, was offered to young Mr. HILDESLEY by Sir John Bernard, bart, to be held on terms for a minor, which he conscientiously declined.
He was born on the 9th of December, 1698, at the village of Muriton, near Sittingbourne, in the County of Kent ; to the rectory of which his father was presented, in 1694, by Sir Thomas Hales, bart. of BeakThourne in Kent, and John Hales, esq. of the Inner Temple, London, who were brothers of the very celebrated Dr, Stephen Hales, of Teddington, in Middlesex. In 1705, Mr. Hildesley, sen. was also presented to the adjoining vicarage of Sittingbourne, by Dr. Tenison, archbishop of Canterbury, Both these benefices he vacated by cession, on his removal in I , JO
to the rectory of Houghton cum Witton ~ : and about the same time his son MARK commenced his education at the Charter-house, in London, where he had the learned JORTIN for his school-fellow.
At the age of nineteen he was removed to Trinity college, Cambridge ; There he took his degree of A. B. in 1720, and of A. M in 1724. He was elected a fellow of that society in October, 1723 ; and about the same time executed the office of steward to his college.
His letters testimonial for the order of deacon bear date Sept. ~, 1722, and are signed by the celebrated Dr. Richard Bentley, then master of Trinity, (who, being appointed to that honour in 1700, held it for two and forty years ;) and by eight other members of the college. On the 29th of March, 1723, lord Cobham :j~ appointed him one of his domestick chaplains. In February, 1724-5~ . He was nominated a preacher at Whitehall, by Dr Edmund Gibson, bishop of London. From 1725, till the latter end of 1729, we find him curate of Yelling, in Huntingdonshire.
In 1733-4, January 18, Mr. HILDESLEY was appointed chaplain to Henry, viscount St. John, the famous lord Bolingbroke, though not so named in the qualification filled up by his lordship, where his signature is only " St. John On the 10th of May, 1742, he was nominated chaplain to John, lord viscount St. John : no mention is made of his resignation of the former chaplaincy to his lordships relative, lord Bolingbroke ; but, Perhaps, that active politician was not then in England.
In February, 1730-31 , he was presented by his college to the vicarage of Hitchin, in Hertfordshire ; and the same year married miss Elizabeth Stoker, with whom he lived in the utmost conjugal affection for upwards of thirty years. It does not appear that they had any children.
At Hitchin his constant attention to the duties of his function, from inability to keep a curate upon so small a living, impaired for a time his weakly constitution; and having, soon after his institution, been obliged to bestow great expence on the vicarage-house, which before he came to it was but a poor mean dwelling, in order to improve his finances, he undertook the instruction of from four to six select pupils, as boarders with him. It was his general custom, at this period, to preach either from memory or short notes ; and at a visitation at Baldock he delivered his discourse to the clergy from memory alone, with a very singular and agreeable address.
In October, 1735, Mr. HILDESLEY succeeded to the neighbouring rectory of Holwell, in the county of Bedford, and about three miles from Hitchin, upon the presentation of Ralph Radcliffe, esq. of Hitchin-Priory, who had a great respect for his many amiable and engaging qualities ; and always, with affectionate jocoseness, was wont to call him " Father Hildesley." On this rectory, which he held for about two and thirty years, and to which he was inducted by mandate, November 15, 1735~, ~ he greatly distinguished himself by a very diligent attendance on the business of his extensive parish. it is said to have been much neglected by the former incumbent ; and he therefore redoubled his exertions, took his constant rounds to visit his parishioners both in the town and country, and talk familiarly amongst them, old or young, without distinction, in the most friendly affectionate manner, upon moral and religious topicks. He preached, alternately with his curate, at the two livings ; and, above all other objects, he made those of the rising generation the peculiar ones of his indefatigable attention. He seems, indeed, very remarkably, through life, to have realized the character of " an instructor of the foolish, and a teacher of babes in Christ." Every Friday evening, and sometimes twice in the week, at seven, throughout the year, he catechized in church, and conversed with the younger part of his congregations, choosing an hour for them, when the business of the day was over, and they could best be spared : and upon Good Friday in particular, from year to year, he distributed such good books among them, as he thought might best tend to establish their improvement in religion and morals. " Permit me here," says a writer unknown, " to pay a tributary truth to the memory of bishop HILDESLEY. It was his custom at Hitchin to receive once or twice a week, in an evening, as many boys from the different schools there, were willing to attend him, where I was a frequent attendant. If any others remain, I trust they will acknowledge with me, that he took affectionate and zealous pains to make us profit by his good admonition ; of which I hope ever to retain a grateful remembrance."
Such, for near twenty years, was the humble, but very useful, situation of this good man : during the latter part of which it appears, that his exemplary conduct had strongly recommended him to the notice of his grace the duke of Athol, lord and patron of the Bishoprick of Sodor and Mann; who, knowing his value, as a man and a divine, justly considered him a proper person to succeed bishop WILSON.
A fit occasion here offers, and we gladly avail ourselves of it, to say a few words respecting the last mentioned prelate; who certainly shone forth as one of the most excellent that ever adorned the episcopal character. His lordship was singularly long indulged to the diocese of Sodor and Mann, by divine Providence ; having presided over it for more than half a century ! He was eminently distinguished for the great sanctity and rectitude of his life, no less than for his benevolence, hospitality, and unremitting attention to the wants and happiness of the people entrusted to his guardian care. He encouraged agriculture amongst them, established schools for the instruction of the young inhabitants, and founded parochial libraries in every district of his diocese. His virtues were, in short, numerous, and so amply displayed, that he proved himself in every sense an inestimable blessing to the Isle of Mann, and an ornament to human nature. Venerable in his aspect, meek in all his deportment, his face illumined with true Christian mildness, and his heart glowing with godlike philanthropy, he went about, like his divine master, doing good. His whole character expressed the mind within, and gave to every beholder an animating idea of the "beauty of holiness." With that pride and avarice, which some have been found to assume, who yet bore the name of prelates, he was totally unacquainted. He was in fact too great to be proud , and too feelingly liberal to be covetous. His palace was the Temple of Charity. Hospitality stood at his gate, and invited the stranger and the beggar alike to a plenteous repast. insomuch, that it was not unaptly observed, by a gentleman of the island, who knew him well, " that his lordship kept beggars from every bodys door but his own." The day he consecrated to benevolence ; and the night to that ardent and sincere devotion, which issues from the heart. His revenue was dedicated. to the poor and needy ; and, not contented with supplying the transient wants, or mitigating the temporary woes of mankind, he was solicitous, both by precept and example, to conduct his little flock to the kingdom of heaven.
Thus to relieve the wretched was his pride;
And evn his failings leand to Virtues side
But, in his duty, prompt at evry call,
He watchd and wept, he prayd and felt for all,
And, as a bird each fond endearment tries
To tempt her new-fledgd offspring to the skies;
Be tried each art, reprovd each dull delay,
Allurd to brighter worlds, and led the way .
He died in the ninety third year of his age, on the 7th of March,1755, justly revered and lamented by the whole island, and by all good men. His grave was watered with the tears of those whom his bounty had supported, whom his benignity had gladdened, or his eloquent piety had " turned unto righteousness." Even to this day, many of the inhabitants never hear his name mentioned, but the drops of gratitude insensibly swell in their eye ; while the faultering tongue blesses the memory of their pious benefactor, whose unbounded kindness towards them. still survives his ashes*. He lies buried in the church-yard of Kirk-Michael ; and over his remains a monument has been raised by his only son, with a very short and modest inscription, concluding emphatically with these words,
" LET THIS ISLAND SPEAK THE REST !"
No better monument, however, can possibly exist of so great a character, than his own numerous and valuable writings already mentioned.
If any thing in this world can make up for the loss of such a man, and at so interesting a period, it very happily occurred in the case before us. Their Father had reserved yet another blessing for the inhabitants of Mona ! . ,
Primo avulso, non deficit alter
Aureus ; et simili frondefcit virga mettallo +.
Mr. HILDESLEY was well calculated to heal the wounds so deeply inflicted by the decease of his pious exemplar : he accordingly accepted. the nomination of the duke of Athol to the bishoprick of SODOR and MANN , in 1755 ; and after being created Doctor in Divinity on the 7th of April in that year, by archbishop Herring, a licence of consecration, within the province of Canterbury, was granted by his grace the 24th of April : in pursuance of which he was consecrated in Whitehall chapel on the 27th by Dr. Hutton, archbishop of York , assisted by Dr Richard Trevor, bishop of Durham ; Dr. Richard Osbaldeston, then of Carlisle ; and Dr. Edmund Keene, then of Chester ; being all the bishops of the Northern Province and, on the 6th of August following, was installed in the usual place for that solemnity, the cathedral of St. German on Peel, in the Isle of Mann.
Painful to many, from long habits of esteem, yet pleasing to all who loved him, this most unexpected event was, perhaps,
can avail, a near view of the sick bed, and of the calm departure of the just, is surely both awakening and instructive to survivors. Such, at least, was the sentiment of one, and he too a dear and much-valued friend of Dr. HILDESLEY through lifewhose incessant study of a subject so truly aweful may stamp the highest sanction on its propriety:
" When by the bed of languishment we fit,
Or oer our dying friends in anguish hang;
Wipe the cold dew, or stay the sinking head;
Number their moments ; and in every clock.
Start at the Voice of AN ETERNITY !
See the dim lamp of life just feebly lift
An agonizing beam, at us to gaze ;
Then sink again, and quiver into death
That most pathetick herald of our own
How read we such sad scenes !As sent to man
In vengeance ? No ! In perfect pity sent;
To melt him down, like wax ; and then impress,
Indelible, deaths image on his heart *.
Tis here resistless demonstration dwells:
Here real and apparent are the same
A death-beds a detector of the heart:
You see the man ; you see his hold on heaven.
Heavn waits not the last moment ; owns her friends
On this side death ; and points them out to men;
A lecture silent, but of sovereign power;
To vice, confusion ; and to virtue, peace -+ !"
* + YOUNG, N. Th. V. and N. Th. II.
see Abp. Tillotsons Works, vol. Ii. 8vo. p. 126~
" preCipUUm mumiS anflaltU1 reor, ne Virtutes fiie
antu Ann. hb. III. c. hv
,4~ See Bibliotheca Topographica Britannica, vol. IlL
* Rambler, No. 6o.
p. xxiv. publiihed by Mr. Nichols in eight Volumes, 4tc . 1790 ; aid Mr. Greens letter to the editor, Appendx, No. XVII. Letter 48.
t Folio edition, p. lxxx. Quarto edition, p. cxxviii.
See Appendix, No. XV. for the genealogy of the Hildesleys, and some posthumous records of the bishops family.
~ For this information, gathered from the register of the archdeacons court at Canterbury, the editor is much indebted to the kindness of the Rev. Henry John Todd, minor canon and librarian of the cathedral in that city, and vicar of Milton, in Kent ; whose late ingenious publication of the " Lives of the Deans of Canterbury" does the very candid writer so much credit.
* On whom, as a patriot, so high an eulogium is bestowed by Mr. Pope, in his Moral Essays
And you, brave COBHAM, to the latest breath,
Shall feel your ruling passion strong in death
Such, in those moments, as in all the pall, " Oh ! save my Country, Heaven ! shall be your last."
i\lor. Elf. I. vol. III. p. 192.
t As it varies from the usual form, we have given a copy of it in the APPENDIX, No. I.
* See his Letter to Dr. Doddridge, in the APPENDIX, No XVII. Letter
* See Rorn. II. 20. camp. Matt. XVIII. ID, and particularly see his letter to Dr. Monsey, Mar. 5~ 1741 at the c.kfc.tion;
* See a letter in the Gentlemans Magazine for May, 1796, p. 379, signed INSULARIS. The letter is there dated July 10, 1795,above two years before the editor had any thought of drawing up these Memoirs.
1 See the APPENDIX No. IL and No. XIn[.
~ See the portrait of bishop Wilson, taken when he was above seventy- years of age ; engraved by Vertue in the year 1735, and prefixed to his Lordships works, in quarto.
* Our great moral bard is very pointedly severe, but just, on this head, in his " INFIDEL RECLAIMED."
" What station charms thee ? Ill install thee
Tis done. And art thou greater than before?
Then thou, before, wast something less than man.
Has thy new post betrayd thee into Pride?
That treacherous Pride betrays thy dignity:
That Pride defames Humanity ; and calls
The being mean, which nails or firings can raise !
That Pride, like hooded hawks, in darkness soars,
From bindness bold, and towering to the skies.
Tis born of Ignorance ; which knows not man
An angels second ;nor his seccond long."
l~IOHT THOUGHTs VI.
~ GOLDSMITH, " Deserted Village."
:~ For part of this just eulogium the editor is indebted to an elegant work, intitled, "A Tour through the Isle of Man by David Robertson, Esq." large 8vo. 1794 ; sold by Payne, Egerton, Whites, and Deighton.
t VIRG. £n. VI. 143.
" - The uirft pluckd off, Still other
gold succeeds ; another branch
With the same vegetable metal blooms."
Respecting these names, and for a copy of the Instrument of Acceptance, see,APPENDIX, NO. l 111.