[From H Stowell Brown, Notes of my Life, 1888]



TOWARDS the end of 1843 I ventured to write to my father, telling him of my wish to enter the ministry. He very reluctantly gave his consent. He never was hearty about it, and would much have preferred my continuing at my trade. I don’t wonder at it. The ministry had been to him a life of poverty and hard ship, and, as I have already hinted, he was only half a Churchman. My mother, however, viewed the case more favourably. She had always wished me to be a minister, and my going to business was a sore disap pointment to her. And so it was arranged that I should leave Wolverton at the end of the year, and return to the Isle of Man, and go to King William’s College.

The end of the year came, and I left Wolverton and went home. I have no doubt that the three and a half years’ intercourse with so many working men from all parts of the country has proved of great advantage to me in my ministry. The practice of speaking acquired at the temperance meetings was also a great help, and my practice of going as much to chapel as to church gave my religious views and sympathies a breadth which is perhaps unusual at so early a period of life. Yet I had often thought that it was cruel towards my parents to take the step I took. My restlessness had given them much trouble already; I was in my twenty-first year, and was still a burden to them. Receiving 7s. a week and sometimes l0s. (when we worked over time), that burden was being lightened. In another year, perhaps half a year, I should have been earning my own living, to their great relief; and yet in this new notion of becoming a minister I threw myself again upon them. I think my father had good reason to grumble, and I have sometimes wished that he had finally refused his consent, and kept me to my work, for I was not so vain as to suppose that God’s cause could not have gone on quite as well had I never entered the ministry. Here the proper and orthodox way would be to cant about an inward call to the ministry, a burning love of souls, an intense desire to consecrate myself to the service of Christ. Of such things I say nothing. I never felt that the Lord had need of me, as he once had of one disciple at Jerusalem. I suppose I called myself to the ministry urged by various motives, and if all men who speak upon this subject spoke in honesty and good sense, I think they would say much the same thing as I say here. The stories of men whom I have heard at ordinances and settlements, about the Lord having called them and led them, have often turned out fictions, or something worse. Before bidding farewell to Wolverton, I may add that, while the Company did provide a school and a church, they did not, until after I had left, provide anything in the nature of a Mechanics’ Institution or Reading-room. They did not want the men to improve their minds. Not a single thing did the Company for the amusements of their men save and except ‘Hell’s Kitchen.’ They did a year or two afterwards build a Mechanics’ Institute, but it was a poor, mean, shabby concern ; an utter disgrace to them.

I left Wolverton for Douglas in the beginning of 1844, to study for the ministry of the Established Church. On reaching home, I found my father in no way gratified by the resolution I had taken, and, as stated above, I do not wonder at his dissatisfaction and want of cordiality, for I felt that I ought not to have cast myself upon him for support. It was intended that I should go to King William’s College, where, as the son of a Manx clergyman, I would have instruction gratis. However, the greater part of the College was burnt down, and the arrangements of the Institution so disturbed, that I could not be conveniently received, and it was thought best for me to study with my father until August, when the College would begin its second half-year. From January until August there was I at home; but never did any poor wretch feel himself less at home. Indeed I think that home ceases to be home when a fellow has reached his twentieth year; he had far better be somewhere else; he is a man without a man’s freedom. I felt this horribly. My father was morose, feeling, no doubt, that he had done enough for me, and that I ought to be on my own hook. I read with him, chiefly Latin; thrashing away at the Greek by myself; for of Greek I suspect my father was innocent, as he had never looked at it since he left Castletown Academy. I have no wish to dwell upon those miserable seven months.

The seven months previous to my going to the College were spent in very diligent study, and in August I went to King William’s, lodging in the house of Mrs. Kewley, on the Green, Castletown. The Principal of the College was the Rev. Robert Dixon, known by the lads as ‘Bobby,’ a Cambridge man. My chief business with him was in the Greek Testament and other Greek—Thucydicles and Homer, Sophocles, Euripides. The Greek Testament used was Bloomfield’s. The second master was the Rev. J. G. Cumming, who had scientific tastes, and was considered an authority upon the geology of the Isle of Man. Under him I read Latin, chiefly Sallust, Virgil, and Horace. I did something, but not much, in mathematics. I ought to say that, under Dixon, most of us intended for the Church dabbled a little in Hebrew. I certainly worked hard all the time I was at King William’s; rising at six in the morning, reading a great deal, and preparing for the classes and lectures. But it was not a school for me. I wish I could have gone to Oxford or Cambridge, but that was hopeless. I made the best of such chances as I had.

The society in and around Castletown was generally good. We were fairly well fed and cared for by Mrs. Kewley, there being about a dozen College lads in the house. The clergyman of Castletown was Mr. Parsons, a kindly, hospitable old fellow, and I and some others of the College were often asked to his house. There was a company of soldiers in Castletown, the garrison for the whole island. The soldiers went to Parsons’ church. The Government chaplain, John Howard, was at one time his curate, and preaching rather longer than usual one Sunday morning, Parsons, looking up from the desk to the pulpit, said, "John, John, come to a conclusion the Governor’s dinner is getting cold." The beadle’s name was Buchan, and popular rumour fastened upon Parsons the old Joe Miller, that a dog came into the church and yelped while he was reading prayers, "That it may please thee to bless Adelaide the Queen Dowager, the Prince Albert, Buchan put that dog out, and all the Royal Family."

While I was at Castletown there came a new governor, Governor Hope. I was present at his installation in the Castle. In the name of ‘ Victoria Rex,’ silence was commanded the Governor took his oath that he would administer the law as evenly as the back bone doth lie in the herring.


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