[from Memoirs of Bishop Hildesley]
Rev. PHILIP MOORE
to the Rev. J. STUART *, of Luss, North-Britain,
Douglas, Isle of Mann, June 6, 1780
Rev. and learned Sir,
:I should long before now have answered your kind favour, but have been intensely engaged for some months past, and yet am, in furnishing Dr. Wilson, son of our late bishop Wilson, with such materials as I could collect here, for the completion of the history of his fathers life and writings, to be published in two volumes, quarto.
His immediate successor, and almost alter idem, bishop Hildesley, (from some minutes of his predecessor, who had made an essay towards it,) finding us to be without the Holy Scriptures in our own language, and that we were, perhaps, the only national church in the world in the same situation, was moved, by an ardent zeal for the Glory of God and the spiritual welfare of his diocese, to undertake the work of translation. He accordingly solicited his friends in England, with such success, that he soon raised a fund adequate to the printing of the Common Prayer, together with the whole sacred Canon of Scripture, the Christian Monitor, and bishop Wilson's excellent book or the Sacrament of the Eucharist, all in the Manks tongue. And this desire of his soul he just lived to see completed, with a nunc dimittis, December 7, 1772.
You with to be informed of our method in the translation. It was this : first, to implore the aid and direction of that divine Spirit, by which the original was inspired ; and next, to proceed with all the circumspection and accuracy which a work of such consequence required : having recourse to every assistance we could get, from all the various translations, commentaries, annotators, and criticks, ancient and modern, living or dead, that we could lay our hands on.
During the course of this work, I had the happiness and advantage of several conversations with the learned and ingenious Dr. Lowth, the present bishop of London, but then of Oxford; who, like you, was desirous to know our method of procedure. His Prelections had been of singular service to us ; though the rule we laid down to ourselves was, to confider and treat the Scriptures, as we would any other classical author, of whom a new translation was to be made. In consequence of this method, I found we were under the necessity of making many variations from the present English Version ; and of venturing at some bold strokes, where we found good authority for such deviation.
We have been particularly complaisant to the ladies of the Old Testament. We have made Rahab an honest woman ; viz. a kind, hospitable, courteous inn-keeper, or hostess 1. Jobs wife, on Dr. Lowths authority, we have acquitted of blasphemy and impiety. Instead of that shocking phrase, Curse God, and die 2! we have made her advise the patient man to pray God to take away his life, and thus put an end to his sufferings, which she considered as irremediable any other way. Samsons foxes, of which, as well as many other scriptural relations, infidels have made such a ridicule, we have translated so many sheaves of corn, laid in a train, from shock to shock 3, which would soon and easily. set . the whole field in a blaze ; thus cutting off this occasion of ribaldry from malevolent gainsayers. We have taken the same liberty with Elijahs ravens 4; for we found that Orebirn, in the Hebrew, were " The Men of Oreb ;" in whose neighbourhood the prophet lay concealed, and who doubtless supplied his necessities as well as they could. The phraseology in i Sam. xxv.22, 34. I Kings xiv, 10, and elsewhere, which has caused so much foolish tittering, we have reduced to the decent and modest expression of " the males," or " men."
On mentioning these and other Variorums to a very learned prelate 5, he was pleased to say, that our Manks version, as it was the last, so would it be the best translation of the Scriptures this day extant. I had likewise the honour of a most agreeable literary correspondence, on these and other subjects, with the late General Sir James Adolphus Oughton, one of the most learned laymen that ever I had the pleasure to know, by the intercourse of letters only ; for I never saw him, though I have been at his house but he was then gone to the Highlands, with the late Lord Harcourt.
Your most obedient Servant,
* See the note in p. 434~
1 Joshua II. passim and V.1. 27. 25.
2 Job II 9.
3 Judges XV. 3, 4, 5. Mr. Moore, in the original of this letter, uses the old word Stook, instead of Shook : both meaning the same thing ;a pile, or mass, consisting of twelve, or more sheaves.
4 I Kings xvii. 4, 6.
5 See the Postscript to Letter LXXXVIII, p. 654.
[fpc see also G.W.Wood's paper in Manx Church Magaizine]