[from Jefferys A Descriptive Account of the Isle of Man, 1808]
Pursuing the tour of the Island, the next place is
the road to which lies through a romantic and solitary dell, watered by a rapid stream, and environed by steep and wild mountains.
This valley continues for a considerable length. In it are scattered cottages and corn mills, which, with the cattle on the sides of the hills, present altogether one of the most beautiful scenes of retired landscape that can be imagined.
Kirk Michael, at which place there is a very good inn, is an extensive village. Before the entrance of the cemetery is a lofty square pillar of blue stone, covered with sculpture, curiously involved from top to bottom.
This relic of antiquity is supposed to have been erected in honor of a Norwegian hero. The inscription is Runic; and, according to Bishop Wilson, no country furnishes more of this hieroglyphic kind of writing than the Isle of Man.
Some years since, Mr Townley, in a tour through the Island, found, on the outside of the church-yard of this parish, a venerable stone, displaying, in rude chissel work, the figure of some mighty Danish chief, in complete steel; and, with all the respect due to departed greatness, Mr Townley rescued the warrior from his ignominious concealment, and placing him in his carriage, conveyed him to more respectable quarters in his own gallery.
In this vicinity are several subterraneous excavations, probably used as places of sepulture; and also some pillars of white shining spar, in a circular form, the undoubted remains of a druidical temple.
Of those venerable priests and legislators of the Island, the Druids, there are several other vestiges existing in the Isle of Man; and considering the age in which they lived, their characters cannot but appear respectable to every contemplative mind.
As priests, they were deemed sacred; as legislators, politic; and as philosophers, enlightened and humane; while the whole nation paid them the veneration due to them as the ministers of GOD, and as the magistrates of the people.
The Druids, it is well known, after long supporting their power and influence, were obliged to fly from the ferocious sword of the Romans to Anglesea. Followed thither by the universal conquerors, they made a noble stand; but being defeated, their king, Caractacus, was carried in chains to Rome, and the whole race nearly exterminated.
A few, however, escaped from the general slaughter, and took refuge in the Isle of Man, where they were generously received lay their brethren, and found once more an asylum from their enemies.
Here they planted new groves, encreased the number of their temples, and governed the people, till about the close of the fourth century, when the light of Christianity broke upon this Isle, and gave them an opportunity of embracing a religion, Rich, in purity and sublimity, infinitely exceeded their own.
About a mile from Kirk Michael stands the episcopal residence. It is pleasantly situated, shaded by a grove of trees; and a beautiful stream, which passes through an old-fashioned but pretty garden, turns a corn mill, which serves for the use of the Bishop's family, and for the surrounding neighbours.
I have read a description of this place, written many years since, in which the beauties of it are described in such high terms of admiration, as to be quite ridiculous. The house has not at all the appearance of a palace, but more resembles that comfortable sort of family house, which is generally attached to a good living in England.
To the honor of the Bishop, his neighbours are so warmly attached to him, that they extend their partiality to his residence, and I half affronted a Manksman by not agreeing with him, that it was the prettiest spot in the world.
The Bishopric was founded in 447, and the first Bishop was St Germain, in memory of whose piety the cathedral was dedicated to him; and after a long succession of persons who bore the mitre, some of whom were distinguished for their learning and piety, it came to Dr Isaac Barrow, who, in 1671, was translated from this See to St Asaph.
But among the prelates who have done honor to religion, and human nature itself, no man can be more illustrious than
Bishop of Sodor and Man.
This eminent pattern of primitive Christianity was born December 20, 1663, at Burton near Chester,in which city he had his school education; and from thence was sent to the university in Dublin, where he took the degree of B. A. and. in 1686 was ordained deacon by the Bishop of Kildare.
He continued in Ireland to serve the church, till the disturbances in King James's reign drove him into England, where he became curate to his uncle, Dr Sherlock, the rector of Winwick in Lancashire. After some years he was tutor to Lord Strange, son of the Earl of Derby, and afterwards promoted to the Bishopric of Sodor and Man.
He was consecrated by Dr Sharp, Archbishop of York, assisted by the Bishops of Chester and Norwich, at the Savoy chapel in London, and on the ad of March following he was created D.D. at Oxford. He immediately passed over to the Isle of Man, where he continued to reside nearly sixty years, in great reputation and honor, for his piety, exemplary lit hospitality, and extensive charity
In the church-yard, on a plain tomb, inclosed with iron railing, is the following inscription:
" Sleeping in Jesus, here lieth the Body of J hon. " Wilson, D. D. Lord Bishop of this Isle, who ditch " March the 7th, 1755, aged 93, in the 58th Year of his " Consecration.
" This Monument was erected by his Son Thomas Wilson, D. D. Native of this Parish, who, in obedience to the express COMMANDS of his Father, declines giving him the Character he so justly deserved.
LET THIS ISLAND SPEAK THE REST.
And to the feelings of the natives his eulogium might well be committed. His life and manners would have done honor to primitive Christianity. His character was truly apostolical. He was not only revered and loved in his own diocese, but by the whole nation, and even by its enemies; for during a French war, the cruisers of that nation were forbid to injure the property of the natives of the Isle of Man, out of respect to this amiable prelate.
Cardinal Fleury wanted much to see him, and sent over on purpose to enquire after his health, his age, and the date of his consecration, as they were the two oldest Bishops, and he believed the poorest in Europe; at the same time inviting him to France.
The Bishop sent the Cardinal an answer, which gave him so high an opinion of the prelate, that he obtained an order that no French privateer should ravage the Isle of Man.
He very reluctantly accepted the promotion to Episcopacy, for upon the death of Bishop Levintz in 1695,the See was offered to him by the Earl of Derby, but he declined to accept so great a charge. At length the Archbishop of York complained to King William, that a Bishop was wanting to fill the See of Man; that the nomination from with the Earl of Derby as Lord of the Isle, but that the approbation was with his Majesty.
The King sent for the Earl of Derby, and insisted on an immediate nomination, and that, if delayed, the King would fill the vacancy himself.
In consequence of this admonition, Lord Derby insisted on his chaplain accepting the preferment; and Mr Wilson was, to use his own expression, " forced into the Bishopric."- He took possession of his dignity in 1698, (the See having been kept vacant for him five years) and was enthroned in the cathedral of Peel Castle.
In the same year he married the daughter of Thomas Patten, Esq. of Warrington in Lancashire, by whom he had four children. Three of them died young; and Thomas, born in 1703 [sic 1723], lived to the age of eighty-one, dying on the 15th of April, 1804.- he was chaplain to George II. a prebendary of Westminster, and rector of St Stephen's Walbrook in London.
Bishop Wilson, with the assistance of Dr Thomas Bray, founded parochial libraries throughout his diocese; and in 1708 he obtained the act of settlement, of so much consequence to the peace of the Island; and also the ecclesiastical constitutions were confirmed in full convocation, and ratified at a Tynwald Court.
Lord Chancellor King was so pleased with these constitutions, that he said " if the ancient discipline of the church were lost, it might be found in all its purity in the Isle of Man."
In 1707 he had the Catechism translated and printed in Manks and English.
In 1711 he went to London to settle some business relative to the Isle, and was taken great notice of by Queen Anne, before whom he preached. She offered him an English Bishopric, which he waved, saying, " that, with the blessing of God, he could do some good in the little spot he then resided upon; whereas, if he were removed into a larger sphere, he might be lost and forget his duty."
He could not be induced to sit in the House of Lords, though there is a seat detached for him within the bar, saying, " That the Church should have nothing to do with the state."
The Bishop at present has no vote, holding his See of a subject; but if the Island, as in case of treason, should become forfeited to the Crown, the Bishop then, holding his Barony fully the King by a Conge' d'elire, would have a vote as well as a seat.
Bishop Levintz, the predecessor of Bishop Wilson, sat there in his episcopal robes.
In 1740 there was a great scarcity of corn in the Island, and but for the great exertions of Bishop Wilson and his son in getting a supply, and charitably distributing large quantities, thousands of the poor would have perished.
In 1744 was another scarce year of corn, when the Bishop bought, and sold to the poor at a cheap rate.
In summing up the character of this truly good and pious man, every part of his life affords a display of the most genuine charity and benevolence. Venerable in his aspect, meek in his deportment, his face illumined with benignity, and his heart glowing with piety, like his DIVINE MASTER, he went about doing good.
With the pride and avarice, sometimes imputed to prelacy, he was totally unacquainted.
His palace was a Temple of Charity. Hospitality stood at his gate, and invited the stranger and the necessitous to a plenteous repast. The day he devoted to benevolence, and the night to piety. In fact, his revenue was dedicated to the poor and the unfortunate.
And not content with relieving the wants, or mitigating the woes of mankind, he was solicitous, both by his precept and example, to lead his little flock to Heaven.
Even to this day, many of the inhabitants of the Island never hear his name mentioned, but the tear of gratitude swells in their eye, and their faultering tongue blesses the memory of their pious and venerable benefactor.
It is impossible to contemplate the very extended acts of charity, utility, and benevolence of Bishop Wilson, with the limited means which he possessed, and the immense riches bestowed upon thousands, whose lives are scarcely marked by one act of genuine benevolence, or of liberal utility, without exciting in the mind feelings of wonder at the amazing variety in the passions and actions of men, in their pursuit and possession of wealth. It can only be accounted for by the order of PROVIDENCE, which works the general good out of extremes.
" 'Tis Heav'n each passion made,
" And different men directs to different ends.
Different in Nature equal good produce;
Extremes in Men concur to gen'ral use. "
Ask eve, Vat melees one keep, and one bestow ? "
That POWER who bids the ocean ebb and flow,
And seed-thee, harvest, extol course maintain, " 'I'
Thro' reconcil'd extremes of drought and rain."
Dr MARK HILDESLEY
succeeded Bishop Wilson, and proved himself not unworthy of filling the station of his great predecessor.
The following are his sentiments on his succeeding to the See of Sodor and Man.-
" Although I know it is sometimes said, that a person succeeds with disadvantage to an office which has been filled by a predecessor of remarkably eminent qualities, I must beg leave to think the reverse as nearer the truth, at least with respect to the instance I am about to refer to, My coming after the great and good Dr Wilson to this See of Sodor and Man. Forasmuch as I find many excellent things established to my hands in regard to the government of the church, besides the example which, by the traces he has left, his Lordship still lives to show, and which I shall endeavour, as far as I am able, to follow; though I am sensible it is, and must be, Con passius Audis."
Dr Hildesley, during the whole of his life, assiduously imitated the piety and benevolence of his predecessor. Besides a life of private beneficence, he established a charity school at Kirk Michael, and promoted a translation of the scriptures into the Manks language.
It was usual to approach the Bishops on the knee; but this was abolished by Dr Hildesley, when he published a rescript, signifying that kneeling in future should not be practised in honor of his person; declaring that this act of humiliation was only due to the Divinity.
The next Bishop was
He was an eloquent preacher, but haughty, and unamiable in his manners. He was succeeded by
who became the dupe of his open gratitude to his patron; and by his weakness, rather than by any studied attack on the privileges of others, involved himself in trouble and disgrace.
the present Bishop, succeeded him in 1784. Of living characters it is proper to speak with caution, lest adulation or prejudice should either be seen or suspected. But by those to whom this amiable prelate is well known, he is said fully to merit the high praise bestowed on him, for polished and conciliating manners, sound judgment, and domestic worth. His labors have not only tended to the eternal, but to the temporal happiness of his flock; for he has, in an eminent degree, promoted the internal peace of the Isle of Man, by teaching society the blessings of unanimity and order.
The parochial clergy in the Isle of Man are more respectable for their virtues, than eminent for their learning or genius. They are seldom distinguished by a university education, but receive the elements of classical learning and Theology at a seminary in Castletown, founded, and principally endowed, by Bishop Barrow.
That the Isle of Man was once the seat of learning, is known, from the circumstance of the early Princes of Scotland sending their sons there for education; and the concurrent testimony of Saxon, Scots, and Irish writers shows that it was at that period famous for wise and virtuous prelates. Its monks were learned, and in the Early list of Bishops are many natives.
James Earl of Derby mentions, in a letter to his son, a grand design he intended to have executed here, that of establishing a university; but it never was effected.
The livings seldom exceed £100 per annual, and none are lower than £50, too.
The liturgy of the church of England is used in the churches, with the addition, during the herring fishery, of the form of prayer composed for that purpose by Bishop Wilson. The service and the sermon are delivered three Sundays in the English language, and on the fourth in the Manks.