[From Manx Recollections, 1894]
THE Miss Duttons having removed their school from 31 Athol Street to Villa Marina, and the former being the property of Dr. Elliott, he and Mrs. Elliott went to live there. Thus the scene of Eleanor's joyous young schooldays became the home-stage of her married life.
Athol Street was a very fashionable locality in Douglas in those days and earlier. It was known for its large houses, and the notability of some of its inhabitants. Amongst these, a few doors removed from the Elliotts', on the other side of the street, was the abode of the Honourable Colonel Richard Murray, nephew of the Duke of Athol. This street had then by no means the gloomy aspect it assumed in after years, when the majority of the big houses were turned into musty-fusty receptacles of lawyers' litter, and all manner of agents' depositories of deeds and mouldering confusion-the arena of red-tapeism and endless bickerings of legal debate.
Every window almost in 1837, and before that period, was gay with sumptuous hangings and floral decorations; and before most doors carriages stopped, conveying to and from persons of affluence and position.
The claims of home and society, the great attraction for most young brides, only in a minor degree occupied the thou~hts and time of Eleanor Elliott. She had, it must be admitted, no decided taste or faculty for household management. Its details fidgeted her, and came as intrusions upon the time she preferred to bestow amongst the poor, and on her studies. She was not, however, averse to company. She entertained with great zest in her own way, and she delighted in conversation and the exercise of social talents generally. She was a born conversationalist. Most subjects interested her, and her knowledge even at the age of twenty-three was so diversified that almost every one found in her a delightful companion.
After her marriage she continued to go out a good deal, and shone in all circles save those decidedly frivolous, but these she avoided.
In every house of her acquaintances where literature, music, and art found congenial soil, there she reigned supreme, asserting her power graciously and irresistibly, all unknown to herself. As for her own little dinner and other parties, one can only imagine from later experience what they must have been. How easy, how spirited, how gay with fine intellectual mirth and deep spiritual piety.
No character is perfect; and it is to be regretted that this young wife, with all her intellectual and winning attractiveness of manner and speech, did not exercise herself to combine with these more of the ordinary female accomplishments of household management. But as a dark spot shows most conspicuously on a white garment, it is possible that this defect in Eleanor's otherwise pleasing character, excited undue notice and exaggerated censure from some who, intent upon the blemish, lost sight of the prevailing beauty and completeness of the whole.
She was a creature of vast powers of concentration and absorption in her favourite inclinations and pursuits. These overwhelmed her with the constraining sense of their importance and need of attention. She strove, there can be no doubt, to do all things required of her as a wife and Christian lady, but time failed to enable her to accomplish the all. And, what to her were matters of minor and less congenial significance, she handed over to the discharge of those she honestly believed better qualified for their performance. All her life she trusted too implicitly to the supervision of servants.
Marriage, in a word, did not interfere very perceptibly with Eleanor's work amongst the poor, and her pursuit of literature. Indeed, her love for Christian work of all kinds increased. One religious and benevolent society after another shared her sympathy and enlisted her services. Her purse, as well as her heart, was open to all earnest claims. She was, however, far from being. a prominent religious worker in the community, and her name was perhaps at no period one often quoted as an authority in religious and philanthropic circles. She was a power, but a hidden power, moving in her own orbit, and as the silent dew, fructifying and beautifying almost all within her domain. She had an innate and insurmountable distaste to the public discharge of religious and philanthropic work; and as for committee meetings of all kinds, she never in her whole life acted upon them. Herein, it may be, lay the secret of much of her power: she was a self-contained force. She was f elt to be a reality; and people loved her and drew to her often without hardly knowing why. She would have agreed with Spurgeon, though not with the spirit perhaps in which he said it, I'll believe in a committee of three; one dead, one asleep, and myself."
As the life of spiritual might and 'beauty was developing, more and more in this gentle heart, there was also another life springing into being from hers, and shortly to manifest itself in the birth of a little son.
A year after her marriage the babe was born. It only needed this young life to mellow and beautify as never before the character and influence of the mother. She was just twenty-four when she first dandled her precious child upon her knee. What joy and thanksgiving flooded Eleanor's heart ! And the gift of this dear child was a bond felt and understood between herself and her husband. The house was radiant with sunshine. Everything, even the petty details of domestic duty, were now tinged with the reflection of the prevailing warmth and love. Her woman's nature asserted itself, and home and its claims, if not wholly paramount, were of supreme concern. The boy was christened William, after his grandfather Weatherell, The good Dr. Carpenter performed the sacred rite. Little Willie early displayed an extraordinary likeness to his mother iii appearance. He had the same hi,,h expansive brow, clear complexion, calm and intelligent eyes ; but his were a deep blue, with Ion. lashes, whereas his mother's were brown. He evinced besides, as his little mind developed, the same precocious ability, firmness of will, and 'leasin-ness of disposition.
The like endearing union that existed between Eleanor and her brother when they were children, now began to exist between the mother and her offspring.
Willie was four years old when another child was born, whom they named Henry Oliver. He only lived one year. The death of this boy struck like a knell on the mother's heart. She bowed as a bulrush before the storm of grief. Her bright eye, as it had done once before in her early girlhood, lost its gleam, her features their youthful softness of outline; and the general expression of her face, especially in repose, became pensive and sad.
In 1843 another calamity took place that brought consternation and sorrow into the Elliotts' home, it was the failure of the Isle of Man Joint-Stock Bank. Numbers of families suffered severely, and very many single gentlewomen lost all they had. Amongst those who were nearly ruined was Mrs. Elliott's mother. In consequence of her losses, Mrs. Weatherell was obliged to give up her own house; and, on the pressing solicitation of her daughter Eleanor and her husband, she went and lived with them. This was a heavy trial to the widow, but she bore it meekly and bravely, as became one who had learned in the school of Christ.
In 1843 another son was born to the Elliotts, to take the place of the little translated baby; ,and once more the parents, hearts were made glad. This son was called Philip after his father, and of the two sons, Philip, in course of time, by far the most resembled Dr. Elliott. More and more little Willie became the counterpart of his mother. He was now six years old-a universal pet and most engaging child.
Mrs. Elliott, if she was not in all respects a model housewife, was a most devoted, painstaking mother. To bring her children up as sons of God was her constant prayer and unwearying. endeavour. She conceived that the highest honour had been put upon her when she became a mother; and she watched over her offspring like a gardener over his pet plants-watering their young souls with the Word of life, and training them to the service of God by habits of holy example.
None of this sacred endeavour was lost on the elder boy. It might be said of him, as of Timothy, that from a child he knew the Holy Scriptures, which were able to make him wise unto salvation.
Willie was a most wonderful boy. His mother writes of him when he was five years old: Our little Willie is an exact mimic; he spends great part of his time in preaching and playing the auctioneer. When he is going to preach he mounts upon a chair saying Mr. Day* is getting into the pulpit, then he covers his face with his hands for a minute and leans forward, then he repeats a few passages from the Lord's Prayer, waving his hands about, and shaking his head in the most solemn manner, and then he concludes with Amen, and comes down from the pulpit. At other times he mounts upon a chair selling things by auction, and waving a chair leg for a hammer, and going through the usual string of phrases, 'No advance; going, going, going, gone " It is really a most amusing performance."
A friend writes: "At the age of ten he arranged the room as a church; and attired in a night-shirt for a surplice, called together the servants, and conducted a service, not forgetting the important part-the sermon.
" He used also to go to the shops and speak to the people serving on reli,,ious matters. His mother often said his mind was much more like a man's than a boy's-in fact, that few people could enter into her thoughts as he could! "
In another letter of Mrs. Elliott's, speaking of this son, she says that it had been told her by one present that Willie said in a little sermon of his, "The Lord Jesus was a gentleman-I don't mean a gentleman, but a gentle man." Little Willie's thought was brought to her memory when reading, the beautiful passage by Decker:-
"...The best of men
That e'er wore earth about him, was a sufferer:
A soft, meek, patient, humble, tranquil spirit:
The first true gentleman that ever breathed."
In another letter the mother says : On one occasion she had to be from home for a short time, and the boys wore left in the charge of their grandmother. Willie conceived it would be great fun, and a fitting and graceful thin~ of them, to express their appreciation of their grandmamma's care when their mother returned to resume the reins of the house, so he and Philip wrote out the following addresses, which they delivered with a presentation of " plate " to Mrs. Weathrerell:-
"WILLIAM ELLIOTT'S ORATION.
"We, the members of this house, do with pleasure witness the return of the mistress of this house. But, notwithstanding, We feel it our duty to give a vote of thanks to the lady who has provided for the happiness and good of this house]'old ill such an able manner.
"The perfect satisfaction evinced by all towards the manager might have been remarked by a careful spectator.
"Had we been in the great metropolis our wants could not have been better taken care of, perhaps not so well.
Among the dishes might not only be seen the good and substantial English, but also foreign reached the table - even from Italy - for there might be seen the excellent maccaroni; and an attentive ear might have heard the table groan under the good things which covered it.
But these should only be secondary considerations, for what chiefly must be noted is the kindness and good management of the lady to whom the charge was entrusted. Words could not express the praise due to the manager.
"It is therefore resolved and seconded that the thanks of this meeting be given to that lady who has distinguished herself by the able manner in which everything has been conducted."
(Signed) "WM. ELLIOTT."
PHILIP ROBERT ELLIOTT'S ORATION.
"LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,-I begin by saying that the first thing to be done will be to return thanks to Mrs. Weatherell for all the many savoury dishes which her Ladyship has provided.
cc 3rd. All the members of the family are sorry at her Ladyship's resignation.
cc 4th. That when her Ladyship gives up the keys a general chorus of cheers . . . and lastly to present the plate."
The fond mother, who copied and preserved these little speeches, adds in a note that the latter speech was in parts illegible, and that " There was a second part to it (Philip's) ; and when it was ended, the orator presented the plate to his grandmamma - a cracked cheese-plate."
* The Rev. Maurice F. Day, B.A., then curate of St. George's, Douglas, now Bishop of Cashel, Emly, Waterford, and Lismore.