[from D. Robertson, Tour, 1794]
GENERAL CHARACTER OF THE MANKS THEIR INDOLENCE MELANCHOLY SUPERSTITION DISREGARD OF SCIENCE CLERICAL CHARACTER POVERTY OF GENIUS AND OF PUBLIC SPIRIT AMONG THE MANKS THEIR ATTENTION TO PRIVATE CHARITY.
THIS account of the Isle of Man I shall now conclude with a general character of the natives; divesting myself of every prejudice, and only solicitous " to extenuate nothing, nor set down aught in malice."
Indolence is a prominent feature of the Manks character; otherwise the lands would be more universally cultivated, and manufactures more generally established. From whatever causes this hereditary inactivity may spring I will not presume to say; but it certainly derives new influence from the quiet of the lonely vales and mountainous recesses, to which the greater part of the inhabitants are accustomed from their childhood.
To a contemplative mind, solitude is a fountain of the sublimest enjoyments: operating however on an inert disposition,it only cherishes a sombrous melancholy; which, by enervating the mind, renders it a slave to every superstition; or what is still more unfortunate, eradicates every vestige of reason.
In support of this observation, I need only refer to some of the superstitious delusions of the natives; and to the harmless but sullen lunatics, who so frequently distress the feeling mind in this country.
To a gloomy imagination thus nourished by indolence and solitude, perhaps may be imputed the general influence of Methodism in the Island. Being more ambitious to astonish the ignorant, by thundering forth the terrors of the law, than to captivate them, by displaying the mild beauty of the gospel, Methodism easily assimilates with gloomy minds, heightens native melancholy by religious terrors; and rapidly establishes over the weak and superstitious an unlimited controul.
The inhabitants of the towns are how ever, in some degree, exempt from these evils. Society promotes activity; and activity dispels from the mind the cloud of superstition. Men, as they become more social, become more cheerful and enlightened.
Among the higher classes of the Manks are some of polished manners, liberal minds, and real hospitality: but there are many more who, presuming on the wealth they have amassed, are haughty in their deportment, and illiberal in their prejudices.
The middle ranks have a greater air of politeness and hospitality; yet they have been frequently esteemed shrewd, selfish, insincere, and litigious. The lower classes are like the vulgar in every country, only perhaps a little more inert and ignorant. They know little of the enjoyments of life; many of them consuming the greater pant of the year in listless stupidity. Their habitations are miserable huts; their attire mean., and their common diet thin barley cakes, or herrings and potatoes, with a beverage of milk and water. Being however of an athletic frame, they brave these hardships; and from the salubrity of the country, many of them arrive at a great ages.
The Manks are generally of a pensive physiognomy, seldom expressive of vivacity, or sublimity of mind. Some of the women however are beautiful; and a few of them not unacquainted with female accomplishments.
The liberal arts have few votaries in this country. Science is disregarded; and polite literature little cultivated. Their parochial clergy are more respectable for their virtues, than eminent for learning or genius. They are seldom distinguished by an university education; but at a clerical seminary in Castletown(3), imbibe the elements of theology and classical lore. Their livings seldom exceed 200l. and are never inferior to 50l. yet, on this income they live contented and happy.
The solitude of the country, it may be presumed, would be favourable to the pursuits of philosophy or literature; and its picturesque and romantic scenery to the indulgence of the imagination: yet the Isle of Man has not produced a person known in the neighbouring kingdoms, either by the vigour of intellect, or the fire of genius.
The Manks are like the Swiss and Highlanders, warmly attached to their native vales and mountains; tenacious of their ancient customs; and jealous of their hereditary rights and privileges. They have however few monuments of public spirit. The House of Keys is a mean building; the public jail a dungeon; and the principal harbour almost in ruins; while in the whole Island there is no public establishment for sheltering the destitute, protecting the insane, restoring the sick, or supporting the poor. Yet in this country Private charity is liberal. In the herring season the benevolence of the fishermen feeds the poor(4); and during the residue of the year, they are supported by the weekly generosity of a few individuals. A sympathy for the distresses of others has been distinguished by Juneval as " the highest ornament of our nature;" and Charity by the sacred writers has been accounted the completion of human virtue.
I shall therefore conclude this sketch of the general character of the Manks with observing, that, notwithstanding several imperfections which a regard to truth, unaffected with prejudice, has forced me to point out, this country is distinguished, though not by public, by what is equally noble, private charity. And a higher honour can scarcely be inherited by a nation; for in the lustre which Benevolence throws over the general character, a generous mind forgets every blemish and imperfection.
END OF THE TOUR.
1: The poorer sort of the men usually wear a kind of sandal, which they call Kerranes, made of untanned leather, cross-laced from the toe to the upper part of the instep, and gathered about the ancle.
2: In summer the air is cooled by the sea breezes; the winter is as mild as in the same latitude of the neighbouring countries; and though fogs are rather frequent, they do not appear to be injurious to the health of the inhabitants. Sea bathing is peculiarly delightful in this Island; the water being so lucid and pure, that the fine sandy bottom may be seen at a great depth.
3: To Bishop Barrow, the Manks clergy are eminently indebted. Besides several other instances of his beneficence to them, he founded, by donations which he collected in England, this academy; and by his own private charity, purchased two estates for the support of such young persons, as should be designed for the ministry.
4: The Manks have the following
" Tra ta yn derrey Vought cooney lesh bought eiley ta see hene` garaghtee " When one poor man relieves another, God himself rejoices at it; or, as it is in the original, laughs outright.
5 - Mollissima corda
Humano generi dare se Natura fatetur,
Quae lacrymal dedit, haec nostri Pars optima senses.