[from D. Robertson, Tour, 1794]
A DECEASED FRIEND DESCRIPTION OF DOUGLAS DUKE OF ATHOL'S RESIDENCE ST. GEORGE'S CHAPEL, EPISCOPAL ANECDOTE.
PURE and uninterrupted enjoyment is seldom the lot of mortals: frequently, as we raise the cup of pleasure to our lips, it is dashed by some unexpected misfortune. The happiness which I had promised myself from an interview with my friends in Douglas was sensibly diminished, by not observing, among the few who welcomed me ashore, one who was peculiarly endeared to me. At a little distance I saw his favourite servant approaching. His locks had grown grey in the service of my friend. As he advanced, a tear started into his eye; while his melancholy air sufficiently expres sea, " that my friend was no more," " My poor master," cried Gerard, shaking his grey locks, " is now at rest. You were absent, and his eyes were closed by strangers; yet as some consolation know, that in his last moments, he tenderly remembered your friendship. To-morrow I will show you where they buried him." " Yes, Gerard, I will visit his grave: I will bathe " the turf that covers him with my tears; and sigh over the consecrated spot." ' Here sleeps in peace the Friend of mankind!'
The reader, I flatter myself, will forgive this effusion to the memory of George Parker, Esquire *1 when he is informed, that it is a tribute of respect not more due to Friendship than true Philanthropy for his life was an ornament, and his death a real loss, to society.
Douglas, or according to the ancient orthography, Dufglass, is now the principal town in the Island. The seat of government is at Castle-town, about ten miles distant: but trade and commerce have rendered Douglas, in wealth and importance, greatly superior.
Near the southern point of the Bay the town rises in a triangular form: and in situation is both salubrious and pleasant; commanding a fine view of the neighbouring country, and a most extensive prospect of the sea, with the majestic mountains of Lancashire and Cumberland. The town, considering its extent, is now very populous; although, about a century ago, it was little more than a group of clay-built cottages. The establishment of the Excise in England, uniting with other circumstances, occasioned an influx of wealth into the Island. The bold adventurer often rapidly and unexpectedly, by illicit commerce, acquiring affluence, his paternal hut was soon demolished; and on the favoured spot was erected a mansion, more flattering to his luxury and ambition: while his less fortunate neighbour contented himself with a residence, barely adequate to shelter himself and family from the severities of the weather.
This, I presume, will account for the present irregularity of the streets; and the surprize which a stranger feels, on viewing several of the best houses hemmed in by so many miserable cottages. Several of these have, however, been lately demolished: and a spirit of architectural elegance seems now rising in Douglas; to which the Manks have many inducements, particularly, from their easy access to some fine quarries of lime, stone, and marble.
A fine river, forming the harbour of Douglas, runs close by the town. The houses, which skirt the banks of the river, have an air of superior elegance; and at high water would make, with the shipping and adjacent scenery, a pleasing landscape.
The residence of his Grace the Duke of Athol is a stately edifice. It was built, previous to the sale of the Island, by a merchant in Douglas, at a considerable expence; and was soon after that transaction sold to the Duke of Athol for 300l. a memorable instance of the consternation which universally prevailed in the Island at that period. But sometimes how short-sighted are mankind! The Revestment of the Island in the Crown of Great Britain, which the inhabitants then believed would ruin the country, soon proved the fountain of all the blessings which they now enjoy.
There is a free-school at Douglas; but what perhaps will appear astonishing to an Englishman, there is not in the whole Island a single edifice devoted to the restoration of the sick, or the relief of the poor: yet in few places, is private charity more universally liberal.
On some rocks near the mouth of the harbour, is an ancient fort, formerly intended for its defence, but now used as a temporary prison for criminals. In the centre of the town is a small chapel. dedicated to St. Matthew, which has little claim to the attention of a traveller: but on an eminence, a little west from Douglas, rises St. George's chapel; a modern edifice, at once spacious and elegant. It was built by subscription, and the funds were lodged with the Right Reverend George Mason, Bishop of the Diocese; a man, whose elevation to the episcopal dignity occasioned his future misfortunes.
Being raised to the mitre by the generosity of the Athol-family, he devoted himself to its interests; and was easily seduced to engage, with some degree of violence, in promoting his Grace's well known attempt to re-establish in the Island some portion of that Feudal severity, which the wisdom of ages had abolished. The Bishop profaned his spiritual authority, by directing it against his political opponents. Bishop's Court, a mansion formerly consecrated by the venerable piety, meekness, and virtue of Bishop Wilson, now emulated the Vatican. The thunders of the church shook the Island: at length the civil power arose and checked episcopal presumption. By this salutary interference, the Bishop's influence being weakened, and his feelings injured, he soon after died, regretting his past temerity.
At his death there was a great deficiency of the funds which had been entrusted to his care. All was anarchy and discontent,
The wealthy creditor was injured; and the industrious labourer almost ruined! Thus, St. George's Chapel, in a great measure, owes its present splendour to the distresses of many individuals: a reflection equally afflicting to the pious and humane.
*1 Brother of Admiral Sir Peter Parker, Bart.