[from Memoirs of Bishop Hildesley]
To the Rev. PHILIP MOORE,
Bishops-Court, Feb. 19, 1768.
The Packet still on this side I took it for granted it would have gone off this day fornight, in the evening, when the wind was at S. W. I think its riding out the storm on the snowy Tuesday must gain some credit to the managers : Or, rather, we must give the whole to Providence.
What you say of the moderation and gentleness of the Manks, toward the distresses of unfortunate persons suffering shipwreck, I believe may be an observation just enough, so far as respects open violence, which I think is said to be often exercised in some other countries. But, with regard to stealing the goods, as well as the parts of a ship broken, I fancy that experience, and the guard always set here to prevent it, will shew that we are no honester than other people. Nor, indeed, can I reconcile to the dictates of conscience, the taking advantage of the misfortune of wrecked mariners, by having their cargo at a far less price than would be given if the vessel were safe in harbour. But, such it seems is the custom ! and defendit numerus, though a bad one, is the only excuse I know of .*
You know that, how desirous soever I am of having you here, I have, for prudential reasons, dispensed with your coming very soon after your sufferings. The first fair day past the ordination, we shall expect you.
I am just now administering to another patient a particular friend of mine in Kent ; the sister of lady Lambard, whom, though you know her not personally, you must have heard me often mention. She is now the widow of a most excellent husband, the late Dr. Pery, rector of Ash, in Kent ; and who, from a delicate, tender, and affectionate disposition, is in the deepest affliction that can be imagined. This trial coming just after the loss of a favourite son, about 21 years of age, helps, to make her present burthen peculiarly heavier to bear. Bye-standers, upon such occasions, are ready to balance, and endeayour to alleviate the pressure, where there is room for it, with the consideration. of " the fine family she has ;a son just of age to succeed his father in his living," which the patroness, lady Lambard, has given him, being of nearly 300 pounds per annum value ; and four daughters, all, though single,. provided with pretty fortunes, and extrernely well accomplished, by being chiefly brought up with their aunt lady Lambard ; And all of them the most dutiful in behaviour both toward their parents and her ladyship; so that it used to be delightful to see them together!
But, what is all this ? Though such considerations be valuable, what influence or effect will they have on a mind, that feels the loss of what was the dearest to her of all other blessings put together ;the loss of an unexceptionably good husband ; of whom, for my own part, I, who have known him for many years, can say, I never could discover a single fault he had ? He was well and hearty when I saw him in England the latter end of last summer, and spent some days with him at his sister Lambards ; and my fellow-traveller, Christian1, can bear testimony, what a charming and agreeable family they all are.
" But, what," you may say, " is all this to me, who know them not ?" and you may also add " Every one feels for himself, or herself," However, sir, if others feel for them too, you will not say that is no sort of alleviation. I know it is, and a great one too. It helps mightily to support the burthen. As far as I can understand, this worthy brother of ours was carried off by a gout-fever in his head ; which had been flying about for some time, and, at last, fatally fixed on the vital part.
I am now acquainting my lady with the great loss I have sustained here, by the death of a worthy Clergymans worthy Consort ; a loss, which I shall sensibly feel, as of one whom I visited with the greatest pleasure in the town where the lived. Poor woman! If her ladyship could know how rejoiced she was at my late preferment 2, and how anxious to come and tell me so, but prevented by illness ; I am sure my lady would say, " I shall love her memory, for loving my friend Mark so well."
And now, give me leave to ask you one question,or, perhaps, to repeat what I have asked before. Would you have chosen, if you might, to have left a very affectionate wife to grieve some years for the loss of you, (and which must have been proportionably severe to the love she bore you,) than for you to bear that trial, by her resting from worldly pain and sorrow of every kind ?Think of this, my friend, and you will then think, what is, is best" No, say you; but I should willingly have gone with her, if it had so pleased God." Possibly so, in the height and anguish of your grief. But, do you not remember the story of the man, who, being depressed with trouble, and weary of life, and calling for death to take him out of it, when death came, told him he only wanted him to lift up the bundle of sticks upon his back ; and so walked on?
We read of the custom, in ancient times, (and which possibly may sill remain) in some distant parts of the East, for the wife to fling herself voluntarily on the funeral pile, to be consumed with her dead husband : But, I do not remember that it was usual for the like loving compliment to be paid to a deceased wife. I have known instances, of surviving wives attempting to hurl themselves after their husbands into the grave, at the funeral ; and to have been, not without difficulty, restrained. These, however, are the effects of violent agitation, and when, for a time, the chief mourner is bereft of reason. I underwent a trial myself, which I now think . it would have been as well if my friends had been so kind as to prevent :I mean, in attending my wifes corpse to the grave. I imagined it had been the constant custom here ; or I am sure I should not have attempted it. Your friends, I think, were wiser, than to permit or encourage you to do the like.
You see I fill my paper with whatever occurs, and hope you will take all in good part, as well meant, to amuse you, as well as to soothe and coincide with your present state and circumstances. It will help to spend your grief, and to vent and unburthen your sorrows.
As to religious arguments for Submission, I know you are sufficiently furnished with them, not to need receiving any from me, I chiefly consider nature, and offer sentiments principally on that head : and I am, dear sir, your affectionate and faithful friend,
MARK SODOR and MANN.
* JUVEN. Sat II. 45. who addsjunctaeque umbone phalanges. On which Prateus quotes, from Lucan, Pharial. V. 260. Quidquid multis peccatur, incltum est. Too true, with respect to that most infamous practice of wreck-plundering!
1 The Rev. Evan Christian : who long enjoyed the bishop's friendship, and is at present vicar-general in the diocese of Mann ; to which respectible office he was appointed in October, 1769.
2 The mastership of Sherburn-house