[from Memoirs of Bishop Hildesley]


" IT IS remarkable,"says Mr Moore, "that, for a fortnight before he died, he was, apparently, in better health and spirits than he had been for some months preceding. This is what they here call " a Lightening before Death." On the very day previous to his being taken ill, Sunday the 29th of November, 1772, he performed the whole duty of the day in his chapel ; seemingly with much ease and pleasure to himself, as well as to the great satisfaction of all his hearers ; went through his domestick duties of devotion in the same manner ; and, as usual. spoke for an hour in the evening to his servants and the family on religious duties and subjects, which was his constant custom. The next day, November the 30th, being a holiday (St. Andrew’s), he read the service of the day, in his chapel, equally well and clear as on the day before 1 but, it being a wet stormy day, instead of his usual morning’s walk, he took several turns the length of his hall and parlour, for above an hour ; talking to his sister of various matters, and about his intended journey to Sherburn and London next summer. And on her observing to him, that he would require a judicious servant to attend him, on account of his but indifferent state of health at times, he said, " any servant would do for him ;" and added, " that he should have been well enough. had he not been plied with too much laudanum, in his former illness at Ballamoore 2." As he walked to and fro’, he sometimes took up a Spectator, that his sister had been reading, and cast his eye over it for a few minutes, and so continued his walk : then took it up again, ‘till he had read it through. It was Saturday’s paper, of July 26, vol. VII.3 This day he had a neighbouring clergyman to dine with him, and dined with a tolerably good appetite ; sat conversing with him till between three and four o’clock ; rose from his chair without much effort ; saw his guest to the hall, and returned to the parlour, but with a tottering hasty kind of gait, which sometimes took him since his former illness. On this, his sister begged him to sit down ; but he did not ; asked if Mr. Corlett was gone, for that there were two letters which might be sent by him, and took them out of his case. Mr. Corlett was called, and, coming in with his lordship’s sister, found him in the chair : he took no notice of them, but seemed intent on reading, or looking for something ; on which the gentleman went away without the letters. in less than two minutes his sister returned, and found that he had fallen off his chair, and had fast hold of a moulding under the window-seat, which he had pulled off, in attempting to rise. On her approach he turned round, and looking up in her face, said, with’ a smile, " Hetty, I can’t rise." How she got him up, and seated him in his chair, she knows not, for they were alone, and the much frightened. He had still the two letters in his hand, which she took, and sent them after Mr. Corlett to the stables, imagining this would go off, like something of the same kind, that had alarmed them about a fortnight before. On one of the servants’ coming in, with a petition relative to a suit in the bishop’s court, his sister found that he had lost his speech, and the use of one hand—indeed, of one side entirely But, thinking this might rouse his attention, she put the petition into his hand, which he read through ; and it plainly appeared that he understood it, as he repeatedly afterwards mentioned, though with much difficulty, the petitioner’s place of abode. He then had the sheet turned, and seemed still to read, where nothing was written ; made some sign, by pointing, as if he wanted an almanack, which his sister opened to him in December ; and he ran his finger upon ‘till about the seventh or eighth day4

" A letter coming in from Ramsay, was read to him ; but he took no notice of it, and seemed quite insensible of any thing: and in this condition he was carried up to bed, when Mr. Wilks 5 arrived, about five the same evening ; and Dr. Scott being sent for from Douglas, got to Bishop’s Court the same night. Before the doctor came, the bishop had got some warm claret and currant-jelly, and would have his sister take a cup of the same.

In the mean time, his stupor and insensibility increasing, all that could be done in the medical way proved ineffectual. He seemed to make some attempts to speak at times, but hardly any thing intelligible. And thus he continued till the Sunday night following, December the 6th, and expired, quietly, about one in the morning of the seventh ; much and greatly lamented by his whole diocese, who have lost in him a most affectionate and faithful pastor, ever attentive to the spiritual and temporal welfare of the people committed to his care.

" His zeal and piety, in getting the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, together with the book of Common Prayer, printed and published in the Manks tongue, for the use of his diocese, is, above all others, the strongest and most lasting proof that can be given, of his ardent love and concern for the good of his spiritual charge. And these carried with him to the grave, and even into his grave : as he had by his will directed, that the funeral office and sermon should be in Manks ; which was performed accordingly.

" Dr. HILDESLEY left a donative of corn, to the amount of some four, some five pounds apiece, to every parish and town in the isle ; three hundred pounds to the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge, towards a future edition of the Manks Bible, &c. together with some handsome legacies to his relations and particular friends ; who, exclusive of this tender evidence of his esteem, will have reason. to remember him with that gratitude and respect, which were most justly due to so venerable and respectable a character."



The words of his lordship’s will, which is dated March 26, 1765, and was proved in Doctor’s Commons, February 12, 1773, are more particular than Mr. Moore has stated above ; viz. " IN TRUST for the following uses and purposes ; namely, that. they my said trustees, or either of them, upon the death of my sister Hester Hildesley, do forthwith pay, or cause to be paid or transferred, three hundred pounds, old South-Sea annuities, to the treasurer of the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge ; to be applied by the society, interest or principal, as occasion shall be, for printing a second or third impression of the Four Gospels, Acts of the Apostles, Daily Service of the Common Prayer, and the Christian Monitor, in the Manks Tongue : and also for printing any more or other parts of the Holy Scriptures of the Old or New Testament, as shall be carefully translated into the Manks Tongue.’ The great task, as we have already remarked, was not finished till above seven years after the date of the bishop’s will, and but just a few days only before he died. So singularly were his sanguine hopes fulfilled ; who " wished but to live to see it finished, and should then be happy, die when he would !"

Then follows a desire, " that his trustees will, out of his said stock, after his sister’s decease, pay into the hands of the librarian of Trinity-college, Cambridge, the sum of fifty pounds ; to be laid out in the immediate purchase of books, for the library of the same, with the advice and approbation of the master of the college."

The following are extracts from the bishop’s Manx Will and codicil, as respecting merely his property in the Isle of Mann.

" Lastly, I present my best wishes to my right reverend successor, and desire his acceptance of my purchased cottage and gardens, and whatever I have expended in rebuilding and improving the same ; hoping his lordship will find every thing in his place of residence at Bishop’s Court to his satisfaction." Dated March 21, 1772.

" Directions about my Funeral.

" In the first place, I readily excuse the trouble of any person’s waiting on my poor remains, excepting my domestick servants ; and unless the clergy, perhaps, who are in the neighbourhood, should think proper to give their attendance, health, weather, and convenience serving.

" Every instance of grateful remembrance, which any shall think due to me I desire may be transferred in civilities to my representatives or such relation as shall happen to be resident with me at the time of my decease.

"I would have all the tenants of my demesne, who are able, to assist in conveying my corpse to Kirk Michael, and to set forward from Bishop’s Court precisely at ten in the morning of the fourth day after my decease ; and for their trouble I order a British crown piece to be delivered to each, immediately after my funeral.

" As to funeral sermon, I give no directions relative thereto ; otherwise than, if it should be thought expedient by my executors that there should be one, I would desire it should be by all means in the Manks tongue, for the benefit of the greater part of the hearers : to which a personal character of the deceased does usually so little contribute, that I desire that too-customary compliment may be omitted. And whereas the rubrical directions, prefixed to the office of burial, leave the officiating minister to his choice, whether to attend the corpse directly to the grave for its immediate interment, or into the church ; the former I should prefer, as the properer of the two ; and that the psalms and lesson, and sermon, if there be any, should then succeed within the church, which is the place designed for the living, and not for the dead. Yet, as the custom is generally otherwise, :I leave the minister, as the rubrick does, to his own choice ; only that I would have every part of the service, and sermon, if any, performed in the Manks tongue.

I desire thy remains may be deposited in the same grave with those of my late dear wife : the arch to be then renewed; and, as soon as conveniently may be, I would have a flat stone provided, to be laid over us ; with our names, and times of departure, and no other inscription whatever.


May 7, 1766.

March 18, 1772.

The first codicil to his other will, which relates solely to the bishop’s property and affairs in England, affords a striking instance of his lordship’s amiable mind, and is a pleasing specimen of his general disposition. " I LEAVE, says he, to my very worthy friend, James Heywood, of Austin-Friars, London, my most hearty thanks and acknowledgements ; in the first place, for the honour he did me, and the confidence he placed in me, by committing his son and heir to my care in his education, across the seas, to the Isle of Mann, for three years ; and for the handsome Compensation annually and punctually remitted to me for the same : which I would, now, willingly return to him, were it not that I conceive his generous soul would disdain to accept. it. I DO ALSO most thankfully acknowledge. the many and great civilities. received from him and his family, by the hospitable reception at sundry times bestowed on me at his house in Austin-Fryers ; and, lastly, for the great services he carefully did me in the charge of transacting my affairs in London. He neither wants, nor expenses, I am persuaded, any pecuniary compensation, but rather rejoices in the satisfaction of having been more than my nominal friend. I desire, however, His, and Mrs. and Miss Heywood’s acceptance of a ring, as a small memorial of my affectionate regard ; and, together with a ring, that my late pupil, John Heywood, Esq. would honour me with the receipt of ten pounds for mourning, to be worn. one month only, in memory of his foster- father. I also give to him, the said John Heywood, my large folio volume of prints and characters of eminent personages, bound in Turkey or Moroccan leather ; which; though not now in England, will be carefully transmitted to him,"

Bishop. Hildesley composed a valuable small tract, intitled, " Plain Instructions for Young Persons in the Principles of the Christian Religion ; in Six Conferences, between a Minister and his Disciple : designed for the Life of the Isle and Diocese of Mann, By a RESIDENT CLERGYMAN". In two parts, 8vo. The first part of which was published in 1762, and the latter in 1767, by J. and W. Oliver, printers to his favourite Society for promoting Christian Knowledge. This treatise consisting of about 170 pages, is addressed by his lordship to the clergy of the diocese, as a method of instruction, preparatory to the confirmation of their parishioners by the bishop" and this," says he, " I have found serviceable to a number of catechumens under my care."

Let it here however be observed, in justice to " CLERICUS MONENSIS," that the very modest representation thus given of his work is by no means adequate to its merits. For, within a small compass, and in a clear, simple, affectionate, impressive style, it treats of many important matters, that constitute the vitals of pure Christianity ; and respect, in a variety of familiar instances, those qualities of the enlightened heart, and that decorum of external conduct, which in every stage of life, and rank in society, best display the true dignity, ornament, and happiness of man.




1 He also on this day wrote several letters ; particularly one in behalf of a poor clergyman’s widow, to procure for her an annual pension from the Sons of the Clergy.

2- About nine or ten miles from his lordship’s residence at Bishop’s Court ; and where he is said to have been seized with his first illness in October, 1771, previous to that debility of frame, mentioned in his letter to Dr. Scott, p. 48

3 Number 441, written by Mr. Addison : in which " Man is considered as, in himself, a very helpless and wretched being ; who, subject every moment to the greatest calamities and misfortunes, and beset with dangers on all sides, may become unhappy by numberless casualties, which he could riot foresee, nor have prevented, had he foreseen them." The whole essay is truly excellent, for the noble reflections raised in it upon the dreary subject of human frailty ; and it is so singularly adapted to the good bishop's character, and to his circumstances at the time, as to be well-worthy of the reader's perusal.

4 Or, perhaps, the ninth, which was his lordship’s birthday, in 1698.

5 A very worthy clergyman of the Isle of Mann, the bishop’s register, and vicar of Kirk-Michael ; before mentioned, as one of the chief assistants in translating the Scriptures, and in revising the Manks version, to prepare it for the press. He died in the year 1777.

6 — Ut raro, qui fe vixitsse beatum
Dicat, et exacto contentus tempore vitae
Cedat, uti conviva fatur, reperire queamus

HOR. Sat. I. 1.

" — Few are seen,
Who think their station here has happy been
Or, when the feast of life is o’er, retreat,
And quit, like a contented guest, their seat."

7 This gentleman, in December, 1746, paid the usual fine of £500 to be excused serving the office of alderman of the city of for Aldgate ward ; to which he was elected in November, in the room of Mr. Alderman Perry, who had resigned the gown on account of ill health. Gent. Mag 1746 p. 667.



Back index next

Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2000