[From Hall Caine:Man and Novelist, 1901]
IN The Manxman, Hall Caine sounds the depths of humanity, and brings up the cry of living men and women to our ears. The sacred powerfulness of Love is his theme, the depths of spiritual degradation in which Love, twisted, distorted, makes its own punishment-the ennobling beauty of carrying out its great Unselfishness in simple fearlessness. And this is shown in the three characters, Kate, Pete and Philip, which, as they develop, touch every chord of sympathy in the reader's gamut of sensibility.
Kate and Pete are children of one generation. Life is theirs and the light of the sun; yesterday has no hold over them, neither has to-morrow. Philip is the aristocrat, knowing his fathers, and his fathers' father, heavy with the knowledge of their follies and sins; the world calls to him, for him there is a great To-morrow. Into the complexity of his nature comes love -love for a girl who is "of the people "- Kate; and the alternate yielding to and resisting his love makes the tragedy of the three lives.
The scene is laid entirely in the Isle of Man. Manx characteristics, humours, eccentricities and pathos making up the atmosphere so exclusively that when we are introduced for the moment to an assemblage chiefly English, we feel ourselves to be in a foreign element.
Philip Christian is brought up by his aunt, who in dread lest the principal weakness of their house should appear in him, makes it her task to keep in his remembrance the misery of his father's life, who, in marrying beneath him, ruined his career and lost his self-respect. We are carried through Philip's childhood with its love for little peasant Pete, until, with Pete's child-sweetheart, Kate, the miller's daughter, the three stand together on the borderland of the mystery of manhood and womanhood. Then Pete, leaving Manxland to seek a fortune which shall make him acceptable in the eyes of Kate's parents, commits his sweetheart to Philip's care and toils his youth away in South Africa. Philip in his rôle of protector and letter-carrier, visits the inn of Sulby, Kate's home, now frequently, now infrequently, as his hidden love for Kate or the thought of treason to his friend surges uppermost. And Kate's child-love for Pete fades, passes into woman's passion for Philip. Understanding nothing of Philip's feelings, but knowing his love for her, and caring for nothing else, she rebels at his silence and sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously, uses all her power to tempt him to break it.
After the lapse of some months, in which Philip had not been seen at Sulby, she wrote him a letter. It was to say how anxious she had been at the length of time since she had last heard from Pete, and to ask if he had any news to relieve her fears. The poor little lie was written in a trembling hand which shook honestly enough, but from the torment of other feelings.
Philip answered the letter in person. Something had been speaking to him day and night, like the humming of a top, finding him pretexts on which to go; but now he had to make excuses for staying so long away. It was evening. Kate was milking, and he went out to her in the cowhouse.
"We began to think we were to see no more of you," she said, over the rattle of the milk in the pail.
" I've-I've been ill," said Philip.
The rattle died to a thin hiss. "Very ill?" she asked.
"Well, no-not seriously," he answered.
" I never once thought of that," she said. "Something ought to have told me. I've been reproaching you, too."
Philip felt ashamed of his subterfuge, but yet more ashamed of the truth; so he leaned against the door and watched in silence. The smell of hay floated down from the loft, and the odour of the cow's breath came in gusts as she turned her face about. Kate sat on the milking-stool close by the ewer, and her head, on which she wore a sun-bonnet, she leaned against the cow's side.
"No news of Pete, then? No?" she said. "No," said Philip.
Kate dug her head deeper in the cow, and muttered, "Dear Pete! So simple, so natural."
" He is," said Philip. "So good-hearted, too." " yes."
" And such a manly fellow-any girl might like him," said Kate.
"Indeed, yes," said Philip.
There was silence again, and two pigs which had been snoring on the manure heap outside began to snort their way home. Kate turned her head so that the crown of the sun-bonnet was toward Philip, and said,-
"Oh, dear! Can there be anything so terrible as marrying somebody you don't care for?"
"Nothing so bad," said Philip.
The mouth of the sun-bonnet came round. "Yes, there's one thing worse, Philip."
"Not having married somebody you do," said Kate, and the milk rattled like hail.
. . . .
Kate began to hate the very name of Pete. She grew angry with Philip also. Why couldn't he guess? Concealment was eating her heart out. The next time she saw Philip, he passed her in the market-place on the market-day, as she stood by the tipped-up gig, selling her butter. There was a chatter of girls all round as he bowed and went on. This vexed her, and she sold out at a penny a pound less, got the horse from the "Saddle," and drove home early.
On the way to Sulby she overtook Philip and drew up. He was walking to Kirk Michael to visit the old Deemster, who was ill. Would he not take a lift? He hesitated, half declined, and then got into the gig. As she settled herself comfortably after this change, he trod on the edge of her dress. At that he drew quickly away as if he had trodden on her foot.
She laughed, but she was vexed; and when he got down at "The Manx Fairy," saying he might call on his way back in the evening, she had no doubt Grannie would be glad to see him.
News comes of Pete's death, and Kate, knowing nothing of the world's share in Philip's heart, thinks the only barrier removed. And, for a few hot, passionate hours Philip does give way, only to be dragged back at the heels of his ambition, under the shield of Pete's home-coming and the falsity of the rumour of his death. He tells Kate that marriage with her would be treasonable to Pete, more than that, that neither he nor she can in honour marry either each other or anyone else. In her despair, Kate falls back upon stratagem. She sees Pete, allows herself to be considered his betrothed, and encourages rather than prevents the wedding preparations. Still Philip gives no sign, and Kate is married without fully realising what she is doing; but, on awakening to her new life, she sets herself the easy though bitter task of keeping Pete happy and ignorant. Philip absents himself for some months, and then, returning to his native island and the career he had laid out for himself, becomes, on Pete's happy insistence, an occasional inmate of the latter's cottage. A child is born, and Kate finds it impossible to keep from Philip the knowledge that it is his. She tells him, and thence ensues the tragedy of Pete's life.
"You are right," he said, with his head bent down. You cannot live here any longer. This life of deception must end."
" Then you will take me away, Philip? "
" I must, God forgive me, I must. I thought it would be sin. But that was long ago. It will be punishment. If I had known before-and I have been coming here time and again-looking on his happiness-but if I had once dreamt-and then only an hour ago-the oath at its baptism-O God! "
Her tears were flowing again, but a sort of serenity had fallen on her now.
" Forgive me," she whispered. " I tried to keep it to myself-"
"You could not keep it; you ought never to have kept it so long; the finger of God Himself ought to have burnt it out of you."
He spoke harshly, and she felt pain; but there was a secret joy as well.
"I am ruining you, Philip," she said, leaning over him.
" We are both drifting to ruin, Katherine," he answered hoarsely. He was an abandoned hulk, with anchorage gone and no hand at the helm-broken, blind, rolling to destruction.
"I can offer you nothing, Kate, nothing but a hidden life, a life in the dark. If you come to me you will leave a husband who worships you for one to whom your life can never be joined. You will exchange a life of respect by the side of a good man for a life of humiliation, a life of shame. How can it be other- wise now? It is too late, too late! "
Kate goes, and Pete crushes his grief to defend her honour. The lies he invents, that she has gone to visit his uncle in Liverpool, the letters he writes to himself, purporting to have come from her, the wiles he practises to deceive the neighbours-all intensify his terrible sorrow.
" A letter for you, Mr Quilliam."
Hearing these words, Pete, his eyes half shut as if dozing in the sunset, wakened himself with a look of astonishment.
" What ? For me, is it ? A letter, you say ? Aw, I see," taking it and turning it in his hand, "just aline from the mistress, it's like. Well, well ! A letter for me, if you plaze," and he laughed like a man much tickled.
He was in no hurry. He rammed his dead pipe with his finger, lit it again, sucked it, made it quack, drew a long breath, and then said quietly, " Let's see what's her news at all."
He opened the letter leisurely, and read bits of it aloud, as if reading to himself, but holding the postman while he did so in idle talk on the other side of the gate. "And how are you living to-day, Mr Kelly? Aw, h'm- getting that much better it's extraordinary-Yes, a nice evenin', very, Mr Kelly, nice, nice-that happy and comfortable and Uncle joe is that good-heavy bag at you to- night, you say? Aw, heavy, yes, heavy-love to Grannie and all inquiring friends-nothing, Mr Kelly, nothing- just a scribe of a line, thinking a man might be getting unaisy. She needn't, though-she needn't. But chut !
It's nothing. Writing a letter is nothing to her at all. Why, she'd be knocking that off, bless you," holding out half a sheet of paper, " in less than an hour and a half. Truth enough, sir." Then, looking at the letter again, "What's this, though? P.N. They're always putting a P.N. at the bottom of a letter, Mr Kelly. P.N.-I was expecting to be home before, but I wouldn't get away for Uncle Joe taking me to the theaytres. Ha, ha, ha!
A mighty boy is Uncle Joe. But, Mr Kelly, Mr Kelly," with a solemn look, "not a word of this to Cćsar ! "
Pete must write back, and orthography not being his strong point, Philip must be his secretary.
" Then maybe you'll write me a letter ? "
Philip nodded his head and returned, his mouth tightly closed, sat down at the table, and took up the pen.
" What is it? " he asked.
"Am I to give you the words, Phil? Yes? Well, if you won't be thinking mane-"
Pete charged his pipe out of his waistcoat pocket, and began to dictate: " Dear wife."
At that Philip gave an involuntary cry.
"Aw, best to begin proper; you know. 'Dear wife,"' said Pete again.
Philip made a call on his resolution, and put the words down. His hand felt cold; his heart felt frozen to the core. Pete lit up, and walked to and fro as he dictated his letter.
The letter is finished, and Philip in his misery returns to Kate, who persuades him to lead Pete to believe her dead. After doing this, Philip's moral degradation seems to be complete, and Kate, feeling herself to have been the cause of his ruin, leaves him. To outward appearance he climbs higher and higher in his professional career, while Pete sinks into poverty. Still the two men are friends. The child is ill; between them they nurse it, and Pete begins to see its resemblance to Philip. Little by little the truth comes to him-from the lips of a drunkard, he hears that Kate has been seen in London. Returning to his now poverty-stricken cottage, he finds the wanderer bending over the cradle of her child. In his stupefaction he watches her as she leaves the house to end her misery, only to be rescued and brought face to face with Philip in his office of Dempster. Burning for vengeance, Pete seeks Philip-to meet him as he is borne home unconscious from the courthouse, and the sight wipes out all feelings but those of love and friendship in the great-hearted man. All his thought is for the happiness of Philip and Kate-to restore Philip to health, to resign Kate, to leave the island, after giving up the child that he has tended with so much love. And all that is best in Philip's nature rises, strengthened by its suffering. As the crown of his brilliant youth, he is offered the Governorship of the island; before the assembled court he refuses it, and quitting the post of honour to which he has already climbed, acknowledges Kate, setting out with her, there among the people that have known them from childhood, to build up a new life on the ruins of the old.
Although the story of The Manxman throbs with sadness, yet the unconscious humour of the minor characters, depicted as as they are with tender appreciation, gives to the book a completeness which is perhaps lacking in Hall Caine's earlier novels. The quaintnesses of Grannie, of Caesar, of Pete himself, do much to sustain the spirit of optimism, that, rising triumphant in the end, gives to the story its undying beauty. To the hearts of all who read, the Manx people must come closer, the hope of all humanity shine brighter, because of the evident faith- fulness of this picture of human life.
The first part of The Manxman was written in Greeba Castle, Isle of Man, where Mr Caine temporarily resided. He after- wards removed to Peel, and did not return to Greeba Castle until it was his own property.
In 1895 he visited America, where he was enthusiastically received. He was filed, interviewed, bombarded at his hotel, and entertained almost to the point of extinction. It was said in one American journal that the American public had not been so deeply interested by the visit of an English author since the visit of Dickens many years before. He always speaks of his visits to America with the deepest gratitude, for the dis- tinguished attention and overflowing kindness always shown to him. There is no warmer admirer of America and American institutions.
His visit to America was undertaken on behalf of the Authors' Society, in connection with difficulties that had arisen with regard to Canadian copyright. His mission was highly successful, and on his return to the Isle of Man his greeting was as hearty as that which he had enjoyed in America. He received the following characteristic letter from "T. E. B."
"Here's a health to thee, Hall Caine! I suppose you are by this time in Peel, and this most interesting episode in your life attains its close. You must be fearfully tired, and I will not weary you with a long letter. I hope Mrs Caine has thoroughly enjoyed the busy, exciting weeks. What you both need now is REST. Take it, and plenty of it ! Of course, I long to see you. But I can wait, and only write this to bid you a hearty welcome, and assure you of the great happiness with which I have heard of your return.- Ever yours, T. E. BROWN."
RAMSEY, December, 13, '95"
This seems to me the fitting place in which to insert a hitherto unpublished article written by Mr Hall Caine on hearing of Mr Brown's death. Mr Caine was on his way to Rome when the news reached him that his friend had died suddenly at Clifton.
Three or four lines in a Paris newspaper, meagre in their details, full of errors, but nevertheless only too obviously authentic, bring me the saddest news that has come my way these many years. I ought to have been prepared for it by the long illness he passed through, by the manifest lessening of his vitality month by month, and even week by week, by the partial eclipse of certain faculties (such as memory) once so vigorous, and above all by his frequent and touching warnings. But the end has come upon me, at least, with startling, terrible and overwhelming suddenness, and it adds something to the pain of this first moment of grief that while the devoted friend and comrade of many years is being taken home I am myself far away from it, confined by a passing in- disposition to a little room in a foreign city.
But the splendid soul who has gone from us will have troops of still older friends to stand about his grave. The Isle of Man will be in mourning now for one who loved her and her people with a love that was almost more deep and disinterested than that of any other of her sons. This is no little thing to say, but there is no Manxman or Manxwoman who will question it. Without any material interest in the welfare and prosperity of his native land, with few (alas, how few!) intellectual associates there, parting from the friends and the ways of life when the burden of his work was done, he returned to the Isle of Man because he loved it, because his affections were wrapped up in it, because it was linked with the tenderest memories of childhood and the fondest recollections of youth, because the graves of his kindred were there, and he had heard the mysterious call that comes to a man's heart from the sire that gave him birth. Five years only were given him in which to indulge this love of home, but how much he got into them ! How he spent himself for the people, without a thought of himself, without a suspicion of the difference between them. If only a handful of his countrymen called to him he came. He was at everybody's service, everybody's command. Distance was as nothing even to his failing strength, time was as nothing, labour was as nothing, and the penalties he paid he did not count.
The time has been when his friends have thought that the island did not appreciate all this, did not realise it to the full, did not 'rightly apprehend the sacrifices that were being made, or the generous disproportion of the man and the work, but there can be no question of that kind now. Manxmen and Manx- women know to-day that the island has lost the greatest man who was ever born to it, the finest brain, the noblest heart, the grandest nature that we can yet call Manx ! We do not point to his scholarship, though that was splendid, or to the place he won in life, though it was high and distinguished, or yet to his books, though they were full of the fire of genius, racy of the soil he loved the best. None of these answers entirely to the idea we have of the man we knew and love so well. But the sparkling, brilliant soul, so tender, so strong, so humorous, so easily touched to sympathy, so gloriously gifted, this is the ideal that answers to our recollections of the first Manxman of this or any age.
When I pass from the island's loss to my own, I must be one of a little group who, though not within the circle of his family, can hardly trust themselves to speak. Sitting here, in this foreign city, while my countrymen, for all I know, are doing the last offices for the truest friend man ever had, I feel how much the island has lost for me in losing him. The little paragraph in Le Figaro fell on me this morning like a thundercloud from a cloudless sky, but more than once or twice or thrice during the past few months the thought has come over me of what the island would be without him. It came to me at the moment before I left home, and the last letter I wrote there was written to him, saying Good-bye and God bless you, and such other words of farewell as one sends to one's friend on the eve of a long journey. But he has taken the longer journey of the two, and when the time comes to return home and I see our beautiful mountains from the sea, I don't know what it will be to remember he is there no longer. During the past ten years I have leaned on him as on an elder brother, a wiser, stronger, purer, serener nature, on whom I could rely for solace and counsel and support. I did nothing without consulting him, and took no serious step without his sanction. My stories were told to him first, and he knew all my plans and intentions.
If I have done anything that deserves to be remembered it is only myself that can know how much that is good in it is but a reflection from the light of his genius. He was the ablest appreciator, the most enthusiastic admirer, and the most inspiring of critics. To my moods of depression he brought the buoyancy of hope, to my weakness of heart the strength of his spirit, sustaining me amid the despondency of failure, and the no less real penalties of success. It was a familiar thought to me at Greeba that I could take the train to Ramsey four or five times a day, and within an hour
I could be with him. And now he is gone, and I can go to him no more.
Mr Caine received the following letter from the late W. E. Gladstone shortly after the publication of The Manxman.
"DOLIS HILL, N.W., "July 18, 1894.
"My DEAR SIR,-I thank you very much.for the gift of your work and I hope the-time will not be long before the condition of my eyes will permit me to peruse it.
It is very pleasant to me to find that you have again applied your great talents to illustrating the history and character of that interesting people the Manxmen.-I remain,, my dear sir, faithfully yours,
W. E. GLADSTONE."
He followed this letter up by another, written on December 4, 1894, from
Hawarden Castle, Chester, in which he says: "Though I am no believer in divorce, I have read your Manxman with great admiration of the power which gives such true life to Manx character and tradition."
Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received
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