Douglas May-June 1811
The Following extract is from 'Miss Weeton's Journal of A Governess' a two volume set of letters first published in the 1930's and later reprinted by David & Charles only those connected with the Isle of Man are included here. Any footnotes (TBA!) are my own.
She left Liverpool on the Brilliant for a five week holiday, 23rd May to June, 1812
TO MRS. PRICE
Douglas: May 25th. 1812.
The day I left you (23d) was so calm, that after we were beyond the rock, we did not advance 2 miles an hour. I was amused with seeing a species of what I think were star-fish, swimming about, alternately closing and expanding like a bag. They are only seen in very smooth water. Porpoises, too, here and there made their appearance; a sign, sailors say, of approaching storm. We made so little progress till after midnight, that I had not the slightest inclination to sickness, and felt so hungry that I began to be alarmed at the deplorable decrease of my sea-store; for, at 4 o'clock on Saturday afternoon, we had the comfort of being told that we were farther off the Isle than when we set out, and there was such a dead calm, that the rising tide was drifting us far to the Eastward; therefore, to prevent our progress the wrong way, the captain cast anchor, where we remained for two or three hours.
Weary with doing nothing, I read over the whole of 2 newspapers, traversed the deck, and at last unpacked my box, and took out my flageolet; but I soon found that, like a street-fiddler, I got such a crowd about me, as made me feel quite uncomfortable. A rough-faced fellow, a journey-man saddler I suppose from what he said, produced a cracked flute; and, would you suppose it, he and I attempted several duetts. Oh, how you No! not you, for you are not much given to laughing; but oh, how some people that I know would have laughed to have seen such a contrasted pair, piping and fluting duetts! I shall have many a solo laugh when I think of it. I hope I shall never be taken with a sudden fit of laughter in the streets here, should the recollection rush all at once upon me; for, if I am, the people will think I am crazy; or, if I hang down my head to hide my grinning face, the most charitable construction they can put upon it will be, that I am ill of the gripes. The man behaved as civilly as it was in his power to do; but his exterior bespoke him as a blackguard of no high degree.
The young man, whom you and I condemned for being rather conceited, and who proved to be a lieutenant in the navy, was so highly entertained with the distorted phiz of the flute-player, that he urged him on repeatedly to continue his playing, till at length the quiz betrayed himself by every now and then slily holding the candle to the other's face, pretending to give more light to the notes. My playing had soon ceased on the lieutenant's descending into the cabin, and when the flute-player discovered that he, in turn, was played upon, he declined continuing his music, though he had too much good sense to shew himself offended. After this, the passengers, about a dozen in all, fell into a kind of general conversation; and the gentlemen, to induce the women to open their mouths, hit upon that hackneyed, everlasting theme, love; we were but 3 women in the front cabin, one of whom was a low kind of woman, with a child, so that I and another had the conversation principally addressed to us. Our fellow-travellers were all as civil as they could be; but there was a want of that delicacy and gentleness of manner which attends a cultivated and refined understanding.
I don't know that I ever was in such rough company before; towards ten at night, one or two of them frequently requested we women would go to bed, really intending to be considerate and kind. My companion looked at me and smiled; I knew what that meant; these men never thought of leaving the cabin whilst we got into bed, and as there was but one cabin, the men and women must all herd together. I gave a hint to the captain, who likewise gave a hint to the fellows (for they were not gentlemen). When we were got into bed, they came down into the cabin, and a sweet scene of riotous mirth ensued; their conversation and songs were rational enough, and void of any indelicacy, for which we were obliged, but too noisy to admit of any possibility of sleeping before two o'clock next morning. About 4, the vessel began to roll a little, and the wind rising, the ropes and sails rattling, made me feel apprehensive that we were going to have a storm. At 7, I could lie no longer, I became so deadly sick; and, for the next two hours, I heaved incessantly; the quantity of bile that came up, would have shocked any one to see. Ill as I was, I was thankful for it. I might well be ill whilst I was in Liverpool, with such a load upon my stomach, for I think I am not guilty of the slightest exaggeration when I say that there was above a pint of pure bile.
Between 9 & 10 on Sunday morning, we were moored in Douglas harbour; the custom-house officers were not very strict on their search, for which I was not sorry, merely because it saved me a little trouble, for I had nothing to fear. In going to bed, I had slackened my cloaths, but not taken them off, and in a totally unlaced, unpinned state, I was obliged to crawl through the streets, to the Inn, being perfectly unable to dress myself. I wrapped my coat round me, and threw my shawl over it, my hair uncombed, uncurled, my face wan, and eyes sunken, I presented no very beautiful picture. I remained at the inn that day, and till after breakfast the next, and recruited tolerably; but oh, such a filthy Inn throughout, I never saw! The house was good, and wanted nothing but cleanliness to make it respectable; I fancy it was one of the lower orders of houses. However, it must have served me, had it been worse. I dined with the family and a few of their friends, on a fine turkey, a fowl, asparagus, and potatoes, and paid only a shilling.
If I only enjoy my health, I shall not be sorry that I have taken this trip; but a contraction at my chest, which I have often felt, particularly for the last 4 or 5 months, gives me reason to apprehend an approaching asthma; however, if it does arrive, though I cannot welcome it with joy, I must endeavour patiently to endure it, as there will be no getting rid of it till my panting breath itself is stopped.'
We have pasteboard money 1 here, instead of silver; and 14 Manks pennies for an English shilling: a 5s. piece of pasteboard, is an oval about 2 2 inches long, and 1¾ broad: a 2s. 6d. a size smaller: a 1s. an octagonal piece a little bigger than an English crown. I must take care to bring none of them to Liverpool, for there they would be waste paper indeed. Their value is stamped in printed letters, and are issued by the Banks here.
Everyone here, I am told, send for their letters to the Post-office 2; none are delivered. I can't see why the postmasters can't hire letter-carriers here, as easily as they do in England; nor why the inhabitants should not be as ready to contribute to the additional expence; for there would certainly be an adequate convenience. All letters regularly received or sent, come and go through Whitehaven, if I am rightly informed.
I will not expect you to write to me unless you should have anything necessary to communicate; and probably I shall not write again whilst I stay. When a month has elapsed from the time I left you, you may daily expect me.
TO MISS ANN WINKLEY
Douglas. Isle of Man. June 15 concluded July 5th. 1812.
It was my wish to have answered your last letter the moment I received it; for I found you had dwelt too strongly on one or two passages of mine.
Though I have appeared to neglect you, I have incessantly thought of you, and the unhappiness which I have caused you, my intention was, to prepare you for the evils which might happen; not to afflict you in reality. When I last wrote to you, it was certainly under a very unpleasant impression; my own suffering pressed heavily upon my spirits; and the gloom that overclouded me, gave a tinge to everything; I thought the excuses your sister made, when I urged her to write to you, were trivial, and I was much more hurt than I am sure I had any reason to be.
And now, my young friend, to present you with something more lively to mingle sweets with bitters the gay with the grave and narrative with precept, I will give you some account of my journey here; for I am at this moment in Douglas. The week after Mr. and Mrs. Price had removed to Copperas Hill, I prepared for my travels; and on Saturday morning, about 1o o'clock, May 23rd, I left Liverpool in the Brilliant. For three hours before I landed, I was extremely ill, and scarcely able to crawl out of the cabin when the vessel arrived at the pier. I went to a public house for that day; for, being Sunday, it was an awkward and improper day to inquire for lodgings; though, indeed, I did make an attempt in the afternoon, accompanied by a young married man who lodged at the house; notwithstanding I was unsuccessful, I was really rejoiced to find that the people had such a veneration for the day, as to think it improper to take in a lodger, or that I should apply.,
I contented myself as well as I could, in the dirty, uncomfortable house I was in, until next morning, when I set out alone. I rambled along the streets until I found the stationer's shop, from whence the Douglas newspaper was issued 3, which I had seen the day before. I inquired for the lodgings he had advertised; I was directed to them; those, and several others were engaged. One house was occupied by a barber, who told me that though his rooms were taken, such a one would perhaps be vacant. As I was a total stranger to every one, an old soldier, who was shaving, offered to go with me, and, escorted by him, I knocked at two doors, but they were not 'opened to me'. I did not knock at the 3d house in vain; the door was opened, the people civil and respectable, the house spacious and convenient, and my accommodation in every respect ascomfortable as I could wish. I agreed to lodge and dine with the family for 1 2s. a week, finding everything else myself. This was all settled by 10 o'clock in the morning, that same hour which for 3 days together had been propitious to me.
I was very anxious to see Mrs. Dodson, formerly Mrs. W. Singleton of Wigan, with whom, when she was Miss Prescott, I had spent so many agreeable hours in Up-holland. I was no sooner, therefore, settled, than faint and weakly as I still was from the violent sea-sickness I had undergone, I dressed and set out to call upon Mrs. Dodson. As I proceeded, I was a good deal surprized to find the streets so narrow and intricate; they are one continued zig-zag labyrinth; I never saw a town so ill-built, nor altogether so shabby and dirty. The best houses, with very few exceptions, are in an almost total want of whitewash, paper, and paint; and so mingled with little, dirty huts, as to present the most opposite ideas from those of cleanliness, comfort, or symmetry. The tradesmen's signs in any town, in my opinion, present the quickest and most just idea of the general taste and degree of opulence of the inhabitants; and here, they are strikingly mean; and the combination of trades in the same person, rather singular.
But I rather mean to give you an account of my peregrinations, than of the Island, which you may find in print. I will go on to tell you that I was received by Mrs. Dodson in as pleasing a manner as I could wish. It was a happy thing for her that Mr. Prescott settled her fortune upon her and her children, or otherwise she would at this moment have been a beggar; for Mr. W. Singleton's embarrassed circum-stances drove him to this Isle of refuge for the unfortunate and the unpirincipled; for it literally swarms with English vagabonds. Mrs. W. S's income was near £400 a year; a very comfortable support for the family; and better to be in a sort of voluntary exile here, with her husband and children, than to live in England, and her husband perhaps spending his days in a prison.
Mr. W. S. has been dead 2 or 3 years, leaving his widow with 3 daughters and a son. About 12 months ago, she married a Mr. Dodson, a Manchester gentleman, who had seen richer days, but who now had absolutely nothing. His manners were elegant, his conversation was intelligent; but his habits had been dissipated. He wanted a home, and in Mrs. Singleton's house he found one; she was pleased with his manners, and, far removed from all her friends, felt the want of an adviser and a companion. In hopes to obtain both, she married him; exactly 3 weeks from the day they were married-he died!!! His constitution had been greatly injured by former dissipation, and 2 days sickness carried him off.
Mrs. Dodson's friends, and those of her first husband, were greatly displeased at so imprudent a marriage, and rejoiced at Mr. D's death. It was an afflictive event for her; but she did not meet with one to soothe or console her. Her relations in England wish her to return, but she says she is settled here, and can educate her children at much less expence than elsewhere, and shall therefore re-main for some years at least. She has a governess for her girls, a Miss Maddocks, to whom she gives only £12 a year! What do you think of this, my dear Ann? You have much more; and yet this young lady has had an education much superior to yours., Mrs. Dodson keeps only 2 women servants, no carriages, and very little company.
There are many very pretty houses in the neighbourhood of Douglas; and indeed, all over the Island. I have nearly walked round it, and think myself amply repaid for the fatigue I have undergone, by the pleasure I have experienced in viewing so romantic a country.
A promontory, called Douglas-Head, commands a fine view of the town, harbour, and some distant mountains; and when I am not inclined to take a long walk, I amuse myself with ascending here, where I can arrive in 20 minutes any time from my lodgings. For 2 or 3 days after my arrival, I took only short walks, to reconnoitre the country and the people. The want, the almost total want of wood, except a few ornamental plantations, gives the country a very bleak and naked appearance; for a day or two, I thought there had been nothing but broom hedges, which, being nearly in full flower, have a gaudy and flaring appearance. I have since observed many other kinds of fences; some are of earth and sods entirely 4; and it is no uncommon thing to see people walking upon the fences, which are quite broad enough, and path-worn. Walls prevail everywhere, particularly on the hills and mountains, and certainly as far from being ornamental, as a fence can be; 7d a yard is the price now usually paid to wall-builders; whether that is cheaper than making green fences, I do not know. The land is generally well cultivated; much better, I think, than in the North of England. Here, is very little waste land that can be made use of; and the commons are not so extensive as in many parts of England, where the ground is similar in extent and surface. The industry becoming prevalent here, is chiefly owing to the English farmers 5, who have settled in the Island; and the Manks, discovering the utility of the English method of agriculture, are by degrees universally adopting it; so much corn is grown in the Isle, that they are enabled to export a great deal, and can raise all the common necessaries of life without foreign aid.
Nothing is allowed to be imported, but for the consumption of the islanders; not for the purposes of trade, of which there is very little; of course, no merchants of any consequence. The imports, if consumed on the Island, are duty-free; which makes tea, wine, sugar, salt, and many other things extremely cheap. Tea, which we procure in England for 8s., is here 5s. p. lb. Strangers are frequently charged 6s.; but it is invariably the rule here to impose upon the ignorant. Wine may be had at 2s. 4d. p. bottle; 3s. is, I think, the highest price; at the best hand it may be had at 24s. p. Dozn. Brown sugar of the middle price, 6½d p. lb.; brown paper loaf 9d do. Rum 2s. 6d. a bottle; salt 5d for 14 lb. Bread is quite as dear as in England; wearing apparel of all kinds dearer, except coarse woollens. Butchers meat and vegetables no cheaper; and rents of land, or houses, extremely high. No land taxes, window-money, or poor's rates are levied; which are considerations of value. The rents, on an average, may be nearly as they are in Wigan, and the country around it. To compensate for the want of poor rates, a collection is made in the churches every Sunday morning, between the sermon and concluding prayer.
Eggs are from 28 to 36 for a shilling; poultry is very cheap; fish is moderate, not so cheap as might be expected, herrings excepted; the season for which will commence in about a fortnight, and continue for several months. This fishery is the principal support of the Manks; and the coasts of the Island during the time is as complete a scene of bustle as can be imagined. During this period, the interior is nearly deserted by the men, and as few of the women left as can be helped. Douglas, and all the little sea-ports, are in one continued state of hurry and drunkenness. I should like to have seen a specimen of all this, and the fleet of little one-masted boats going out, and returning every day, but I cannot stay so long, for I must be in Yorkshire the 2d week in July, if possible; and I have only allowed myself a fortnight to prepare, after I return to Liverpool.... I am again wandering from my own little adventures, and telling you that, which I dare say you may meet with in many a publication.
The first long walk I took, was on the 28th, after my arrival. When I had been on Douglas-Head one day, I had seen some mountains at a distance, and this day I set out with the intention of ascending the highest, if it were not too far. By paying strict attention to a map which I purchased, I have had very little occasion to ask any questions respecting roads, distances, or places. I took my guide in my hand, and wanted no other. In this, and in all my walks, I have ever been without a companion; I prefer being alone; I can then stop, go on, sit down, proceed, turn to the right or to the left, as my fancy may prompt, without restraint; and, even were it probable I could find a proper companion who would with pleasure accompany me 12, 15, 20, or 3o miles a day, still, her taste would not perhaps assimilate in most respects with my own, and we should teaze each other I, in listening to conversation which did not interest me, and she, in attending to observations to which she was indifferent. But, as it is extremely unlikely I should find one who would take such long walks, and give way to my taste, wishes, and curiosity in every thing, I choose to go alone, in places unfrequented by those of my own species, that my thoughts, as well as my feet, may ramble without restraint; when I enter towns, and crowds, I do then like to have a companion; but when the wonders of nature alone occupy me, when my soul is filled with admiration and rapture at scenes of rural beauty, or mountainous grandeur, I never wish for the company of one earthly being, save that of my brother, for whom it is in vain to sigh. . . . Oh, Ann, how the thought of him makes my heart ache! Once, so affectionate, so noble! now, so led by a malicious, envious, mischief-making wife! . . . but no matter.
On my way to Greeva [sic Greeba](the name of the mountain), I passed by Kirk-Braddon, about 2 miles from Douglas; it stands at a distance from any house, and almost buried in trees. As I got a glimpse of it from the road, I thought it looked beautifully. This stands as a Church should do; retired from the haunts of business, or thoughtless levity; the remains of the departed here rest in peace, and a kind of sacred solitude reigns perpetually. I remained some time in the Churchyard after I went into it, and quitted it with sentiments of religious awe. Four miles farther, and I arrived at the foot of Greeva, which projects nearly into the Peel-road. I asked a girl, who stood at the door of a little hut, if I might be permitted to pass that way? She instantly complied, and showed me through the garden, from whence I began directly to ascend the rocks, which were very steep. I might have ascended a much less difficult way, but this was nearer; and walls, and rocks, are slight impediments to me. When arrived at the top, I could see nearly round the Island: east, west, and south, the view was clear, and fine. Snafield,1 the highest mountain in the Island, impeded the view to the north. A number of sheep and a few goats (the only ones I have seen here), were feeding around me; and an old man and young woman were gathering furze for firing, and carrying it down the mountain on their backs;2 the young woman was without shoes or stockings, and her feet bled very much; Snaefell. it grieved me to see it; often did she sit down to rest from her burthen, and the tears in her eyes evinced the pains she felt. The poor women in the Island seldom wear shoes or stockings, whilst the men seldom go without them; why there should be such apparent injustice or partiality, I know not; I see it every day. I sat some time on the top of the mountain, and saw distinctly the Scotch and Irish coasts.
When I descended the mountain, the same girl who had so civilly let me pass through her garden, even taking down some stones that I might the more easily get over the wall at the back, met me as I returned, and said she was glad to see me again, for she thought I was lost, and had climbed ever so high up the rocks to find me, but could see nothing of me; and expressed some surprise when I told her I had been to the summit of the hill. It is no very common thing, I suppose, to see strangers go up the mountains, particularly a decently dressed female, alone.
I returned home, highly pleased with my walk, which was about 13 miles; the few people I had met with, either took no notice of me, or spoke civilly; which gave me more confidence, as I confess my first walks were not without considerable apprehensions, lest I should meet with insult, as I was so totally unaccompanied; but to me, the country people, as well as others, have been altogether as civil as I could wish, sometimes entering into conversation, which I generally encouraged, that I might gain all the information I could. In return for my questions respecting the roads, gentlemen's houses, &c., I was sure to be questioned in turn. I never met with a more inquisitive, prying set of people in my life! Where did I come from? how long had I been in the Island? when did I mean to return? where was I then going? were questions asked by every one. Sometimes I answered, and sometimes civilly evaded their inquiries; for, though I thought their curiosity impertinent, I saw they meant not to be rude; and as they were ignorant that they were guilty of any impropriety, I should have been wrong to have answered them with ill-humour. Many of them spoke to me in Manks, and when they found that I did not understand them, would then address me in English; few of them, indeed, none, that do not understand English (which I think is principally, if not wholly spoken in the Manks towns; but in the hamlets, and scattered houses, the native language is most prevalent). The natives adhere with great tenacity to their original language, and will speak nothing else if they can help it, frequently refusing to answer strangers in any other. I have met with some instances of this, and felt somewhat chagrined at their rudeness and stupidity, when I have wished for a little information. The schools that are established all over the Island, teach only English; and that, only, is spoken in them, so that probably in 20 or 30 years, the Manks language will be almost obsolete. There is a school in Douglas on the Lancastrian plan, lately established; I was as much surprised, as pleased, to see so good a building erected for the purpose, for there is scarcely another instance of so much public spirit.'
My next long walk was on the 30th to Kirk-Santon, on the road to Castletown; it was rather an uninteresting road, and served only to give me a farther idea of the nature of that part of the country, which, as far as I went, is the least fertile of any. As I seldom go directly on without swerving occasionally from the road, to ascend some eminence for a better view, my walks are often unnecessarily, though pleasingly, lengthened; and this, which was only in a direct road, going and returning, 12 miles, I stretched into 16.
Encouraged by the little fatigue I felt after these walks, I meditated others of greater length; and, on June 1st, going up to Douglas-Head to take a view of the country, I concluded upon going to Laxey, 8 miles distant, the road to which I could plainly see. I accordingly set out after dinner; some scenes along the road are very pretty for the first 4 miles. Kirk Conchan and the village near it have a rural romantic effect at this season of the year; some boys were tolling, or more correctly, ringing a bell for a funeral, when I passed; as few of the churches have any steeple, the bell is hung just above the roof, and the rope hangs outside the wall into the churchyard. When I first heard the odd manner in which this bell was jingled, and saw the children in the church yard from between the trees, I really thought they were making use of the church-bell, instead of a frying pan, to ring a swarm of bees into a hive; for it had exactly that kind of sound, and had I not asked a boy who sat on the roadside, should have thought so to this moment. How careful should travellers be of making conjectures, and of taking for reality, what only appears to be very probable.
I walked on, laughing heartily at the idea; the country for the remaining 4 miles, was very uninteresting, for want of wood; but as a compensation, I was overtaken by a most agreeable fellow pedestrian . . . an old Irishman, with a sack on his back! He made several attempts to converse with me, which I rather shyly answered at first, wishing to be rid of him; but when I perceived that there was not another human being anywhere in sight, I began to examine him with more attention. He was old, and rather infirm, and I was confident I could overpower him, should he attempt to rob me; at any rate, I can run five times as fast, thought I. Thus wisely reflecting, I became amazingly courageous, and began to talk with him. He told me he had walked that day from Ramsay to Douglas (16 miles) and was then returning! a long way, Ann, for an old man between 60 and 70, was it not? He then asked me what o'clock it was? I did not quite like this question, as it appeared as if he wanted to know whether I had a watch. I said I did not know; perhaps it was 4 o'clock. Then the usual questions of, where did I come from, &c? succeeded. If I would tell him, he said, where I lived in Douglas, he would call and see me. I could have laughed at this, for I saw the drift of it; he had, in a sly kind of way, been wanting to beg of me. As there was no shaking him off, let me stop, or walk at what pace I would, I gave him to understand I had no money. Then, like a true Irishman, he would call to see me, for the respect he had for such a nice young woman. I seemed to be much pleased, but said I was leaving Douglas soon . . . the cunning old fellow. Accidentally, I recollected that I had 2½d, and giving it to him for a glass of ale at Laxey, made a decided stop, sitting down by the road side that I might get rid of him. He had not the impudence to sit down too; but, as he went, often stopped and turned. I watched him quite out of sight before I proceeded.
Laxey is a beautiful little vale, and scattered village; the houses are but poor, but in fine weather, they have altogether a romantic, picturesque appearance. The vale is long, and narrow; high hills rising steeply on each side, and terminated at the upper extremity by Snafield, the highest mountain in the Island. Cottages, huts, gardens, orchards, and little patches of corn and meadow-land, ornament the view for 2 or 3 miles in length, whilst in front, the bay, surrounded with 30 or 40 fishermen's boats, gives an animated finish to the picture. I walked near ½ a mile up the vale, and returned, highly gratified. I had scarcely quitted Laxey, when the old Irishman again made his appearance out of a but by the road side, to repeat his thanks for the money I had given him. Certainly, I must never be quit of this old fellow! thought I; however, he did not follow me.
About half way home, I met a decent-looking woman, who, civilly bidding me 'good-even', encouraged me to ask a few questions respecting the different places within view. She was very communicative, and we had a long conversation. She was a pedestrian traveller, pedlar, and fortune-teller, and had a good deal of sly drollery. She offered to tell me my fortune. I laughed, and told her I dared not venture; for she could only tell me that I must die a miserable old maid. She would fain have persuaded me to the contrary, but could not succeed. We cordially bid each other good-bye, and parted. Had we both been walking the same way, I might have drawn from her many an entertaining anecdote. I have since wished I had suffered her to exert her talent in prediction; the future recollection of such an adventure would have entertained me so much-but alas! I cast the silver opportunity away, and if I choose it, may live in sorrow that I did so all my days. Foolish creature that I was! when the hope of a husband, and a fine coach, might have cheered me even to my last moments, thus ridiculously to have lost all chance of the wretches' last resource! Goosecap! noodle! ninny hammer! no name is too bad for me!
I did not again take any long walk till the 5th of June, the intervening time being taken up in short rambles of 3, 4, or 5 miles around Douglas; and in dining and drinking tea with Mrs. Dodson, who has taken a great deal of notice of me indeed. I had seen little of her since her first marriage; previous to that time, we saw each other almost daily for several years. The sight of each other now, bring again to recollection 'the days that are gone', and we have many a long conversation. Mrs. D. is quite the gentlewoman; yet, there is something in her manner most strikingly peculiar; in my opinion, she will retain her life longer than her senses, although she is at present as perfectly clear in idea as ever she was. She has vanity to a most astonishing degree, and it would scarcely be possible to flatter her too grossly; but as I really am partial to her, and value her health of mind more than her favour, I am particularly cautious not to feed a vanity that strongly wants a check; she will sometime absolutely extort compliments and praises, and is almost as often guilty of praising herself, as is Mrs. Edwards.' It shewed an extreme weakness, which requires many a valuable trait besides to palliate. She has invited me to spend some weeks with her, next summer but one, if all be well; and urges me often to fix near her in Douglas; nay, has even offered me to live with her; and as she knows how tenacious I am in receiving obligations, has proposed such moderate terms for board as she knows I could easily comply with.
This last offer must be a profound secret, my dear Ann; for, as I am engaged to Mr. Armitage, I must fulfil it. Should it so happen that I cannot stay in Yorkshire, I am to inform Mrs. D., and then, if convenient to them both, come and stay with her. Such an offer has filled me with sentiments of the warmest gratitude; the more unkind my brother's family is, the greater friendship do I meet with from others. Mrs. D. one day said that I was a dangerous character to be near Mrs. Weeton; for that my virtues and my talents were so much superior, that my brother would continually be drawing comparisons to her disadvantage.... In transcribing this high compliment, my dear Ann, I am guilty of all the vanity of which I accuse others. I am weak as the weakest, and have not even the sense to hide it! Mrs. D. meant it kindly, and to reconcile me to the estrangement under which I now suffer.
You will scarcely credit me when I tell you that on the 5th of June, I walked 35 miles. I left home at half past nine, with an intention to go to Castletown, and as much farther as I found I could walk. So as to get well home, I put my map, memorandum book, 3 boiled eggs, and a crust of bread into a work-bag; and, thus prepared, sallied forth. I met with nothing worth observation until I arrived near Castletown, which I think is by much the prettiest town in the Island. I walked slowly through it, passing by the castle, an ancient-looking building; a few soldiers were scattered in groups here and there, and gave the place a rather martial appearance. The streets are wide, and more cleanly than either of the other three principal towns; and the good houses that are in it, are seen to more advantage than they are in Douglas, Ramsay, or Peel. I walked 2 or 3 miles beyond. Castletown, to a rising ground that commanded an extensive view; and, springing upon a high copse by the road side, where I seated myself, I had the double pleasure of satisfying my appetite, and feasting my eyes. Then, retracing a. part of the road, I turned towards Peel, thinking I would only go a little way, just to have a more extended view. I saw an old woman on the road behind me, knitting; I walked slowly, that she might overtake me, for I wanted to have a little chat with her, and to ask her a few questions respecting the country. She was very communicative, and we went sociably on till we arrived at some cottages, where she stopped and bid me a `good day'. I have ever found women, when I, as a stranger addressed them, civil, humane, and hospitable, both here and in the north of England, (I have travelled no where else) ; but of men, I cannot say so; frequently, when I, or other females, have passed them, have I seen their sneers, or heard their rude remarks. Mungo Park makes the same observation in his travels, that, from men, he frequently met with unkindness, but from women, never; they protected, nursed, or fed him, whenever he wanted assistance; whilst from men, his life was frequently endangered.
`I will only go a little further, and a little further, just to that pretty house, or to the top of that high road,' I frequently repeated to myself, until I had got full 5 miles beyond Castletown. To return, or go through Peel, would be equally 15 or 16 miles. I stood hesitating for some time what to do. I looked at my watch, and found that it was half past 4 o'clock! I confess I was a little alarmed, but as there was no time for delay, I turned towards Peel, over a mountain road the old woman had shewn me; preferring that to the high-road, because it was in fact a much lower one; and I wanted scenery and prospect, not caring for the additional fatigue. Often and often, as I went on, did I turn to feast my eyes on the beauties spread out at my feet. The air was serenely clear; England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales were all perfectly distinct; some Irish mountains appeared so near, I fancied I could row myself to them in an open boat; they were of a deep purple, tinged with the declining sun, and did look most beautifully! I could distinctly mark the mountains in Cumberland and Westmoreland; Skiddaw, Saddleback, Helvellyn, Coniston, and several others. I felt a pleasure in looking at them, for there had my feet trodden, and some of my happiest days been spent! To stand as I did, upon an island, and in one half hour see three kingdoms and a principality, is no common view.
Numbers of men were on the mountains as I passed, cutting turf; many of them, when they saw me, ceased working, and stood to gaze; others sat down. I did not feel quite comfortable. Should they insult me, I thought, I have only my own temerity to blame. However, they did not utter a single word. A lonely female, dressed as I was, I dare say they never saw in such a place; for I had on a small slouch straw hat, a grey stuff jacket, and petticoat; a white net bag in one hand, and a parasol in the other; and in their eyes, I dare say I made rather a singular figure. I got into Peel at 6 o'clock, having in my way down the mountains, and along the vales, seen many a lovely little cultivated patch of earth, and romantic lonely little but on the sides of the hills, the streamlets running wildly at the bottom, over their rocky beds. There is a simple grandeur and beauty in such scenes, that infuses a greater portion of enthusiasm within me, than I can express. I admire! I wonder! I adore! Oh Ann! if you knew the pleasure I feel in running wild among such scenery, you would not wonder at my temerity, or at my undergoing so much fatigue to obtain the gratification.
The ruins of an ancient castle at Peel are worth seeing; and the view of them from the pier-head, and of the harbour, vessels, and town, are very fine. The town is, of itself, insignificant, and poor; it looks best at a distance. When I was on the pier-head at Peel, I had walked 25 miles, and had still 10 to go. The Tynwald mount, from whence all the Manks laws are promulgated, is about 4 miles from Peel, near to the road I had to go; it is only a small, circular mound of earth, with 3 rows of earthen steps, and derives all its consequence from the above circumstance.'
I now became rather footsore, and for the remaining 6 miles, was more anxious to get home than to survey the beauties a setting sun displayed. I arrived there at half past 9, having been just 12 hours away. If you can get a map, you will see that I made quite a circuit of the southern part of the Island; a tolerable journey, even for a horse.
I was so tired, I could hardly undress myself for bed, where I immediately went on getting into the house. Mrs. Allen (my landlady) laughed heartily at me. `Now really,' said she, `if anybody had obliged you to go such a journey, you would have thought it the greatest hardship that ever was. Lord help you! I see you are almost killed; why, you'll never be able to get up tomorrow.' I joined her in the laugh, and begged she would send me up some tea, for I had not tasted since 2 o'clock. I took my tea in bed, but was so overpowered with fatigue, I was obliged to lie down between each cup, and almost between each mouthful of bread & butter.
Next day, I was well enough, only a little stiff and footsore. I rested that and the succeeding one, and on Monday, the 8th., set forward on another expedition. I had been told that the northern part of the Island was much more beautiful than the southern. I mentioned my wish of seeing it, and my intention of taking lodgings at Ramsay for a week, to Mrs. Dodson, who advised my going to Mrs. St. George's, of West-Kella, in preference. Miss Maddocks gave me a letter of introduction to her mother, and I went, and staid there till Friday the 12th. In going, I went a much longer way than was necessary, merely that I might see more of the country. From Douglas, I went by St. John's, Kirk Michael, Bishop's-Court, and Balaff, near 22 miles; the mountain road is only about 16. The second 8 miles of the way led along a deep vale, which was very pretty, though the view was confined. I have observed, that bare as the Island is of wood, wherever there is a cluster of huts, there is always a plantation of trees amongst them, so that they appear almost embosomed in trees. I several times sat down by the road side, to note in my memorandum book any observation or idea which I thought would be worth transcribing to you; for I had the road to myself nearly all the way.
Kirk Michael is a village near the sea, and there are many pretty country houses scattered around it. Bishop's-Court has an appearance of canonical antiquity and solemnity, as you approach, and pass it, that suits well for the habitation of a prelate. At Balaff, I became completely puzzled about the road; the place so marked in my map, and the road in which I was, I was convinced were not the same; and how to get right, I could not tell. West-Kella, not being down on the map, I knew not in what direction it lay, since Balaff was not in the right place. At length I met two men, who appeared for some time not to understand my question; they repeated the word West Kella? and, adding something in Manks, pointed up to the right. I turned that way for a quarter of a mile, but could see nothing of the house I was in quest of. I called at a farm house. The woman within could not speak English. I went on yet farther, till I saw 3 or 4 men lounging by a blacksmith's shop. I inquired of them; they knew nothing of it. I began to think I did not pronounce the word right. I said I had a letter, which perhaps they would understand better; and, untying my bundle, I took it out, and shewed it to them. A young man, who was chief spokesman, examined the direction, but could make nothing of it; there was no such place up that glen, he said; and I had better go back, and proceed 3 or 4 miles farther. I did so, and found the place, which is only a single house. Kirk Balaff only is marked on the map, which stands at some distance from the village, which was the cause of my mistake, naturally supposing the church and the village would be together. I have always measured the distances of places upon the map from each other; and having a tolerable idea of the length of a mile by the eye, and the time I take in walking it, I never made any mistake of the kind before, or since. If I travel north, or south, east, or west, which I take care to ascertain on setting out, the sun, and the hour of the day inform me which way to go forward in an unknown country, where I meet with so few people.
To give you any satisfactory account of Mr. & Mrs. St. George, would be to write a little history. Mrs. St. George is a most unfortunate, imprudent woman! She was educated in a convent in France; and, in England, married a man highly respected, a Mr. Maddocks, a tanner at Ellesmere in Shropshire, by whom she had 9 children. Her friends were so displeased at her marrying a protestant, that, until her husband's death, they would never notice her; then, being in indigent circumstances, a wealthy uncle again became a friend.
Some inconsistencies of conduct on her part, displeased him a second time; and, becoming attached to a Mr. St. George, he and she, with all or most of her children, came over to this Island, where, after some time, they were married. Mr. St. George boasted of himself as a man of a great family, and allied to nobility; a gentleman really of that family, happening to be in Douglas, and hearing of this, investigated the matter, and he was proved to be a complete impostor! It is said he has been a candle-snuffer at the Dublin theatre, and afterwards enlisted as a common soldier; that he deserted, and fled hither, not daring to return any more. His real name is Rickey, but, as he married under an assumed one, Mrs. St. George is living with a man not her husband not worth a halfpenny not possessed of either virtue or talents and, too idle to earn a livelihood!!! Her eldest daughter is governess to Mrs. Dodson's children; 3 or 4 boys are in England, and 4 girls are with her at West-Kella. She keeps a school, but everything wears the appearance of distress. What will become of her, I cannot tell. I fear she is wavering and unsteady; and her attachment to an idle fellow, will be the ruin of the whole family. Mr. St. George is younger than his wife; I dare say 10 years; and in my opinion, only stays with her so long as she can keep him. She has an annuity of £50, which she wants to dispose of for her life. I hope she may not succeed in selling it, for, if she should, I fear he will get hold of the money, and disappear. If she is but wise enough to keep her annuity, it will keep her and her children from starving.
West-Kella is a pretty-looking farm house, with a good garden and orchard. The day after I got there, I took a very short walk, being too stiff and footsore to take a long one. From Primrose Hill, I had a very pleasing view; the country behind, and to the right and left, was more mountainous; in front, spacious; the sea spreading far and wide. The mornings I spent, whilst I staid, in reading a manuscript translation from the French, by Mrs. St. G., and of which she wanted my opinion, as she had some thoughts of publishing it. It is an account of the suffering of the Princess Royale of France, whilst in prison, after the decapitation of her parents; and, entitled 'Irma', is represented as a Persian tale. Mrs. St. George is really a pleasing, well-informed woman; but as she has now placed herself, it is dangerous to speculate; and in publishing this work, it would be a great risk. The expense of printing an edition will cost £200, she says; for the London booksellers will not run the risk themselves, and it is very uncertain that it will sell; still, she seems bent on trying it. I dared not give her any encouragement; the risk is too great; yet the work has considerable merit. It is rather too literal a translation, which, in a work in the Persian style of writing, is a great fault; in Mrs. St. George's, there is great want of amplification and embellishment to make it sufficiently Eastern.
On the 10th., I walked, after dinner, to Ramsay, 4½ miles from W. Kella; and as I had a great wish to see where Mrs. Askins (Miss Chorley's friend) lived, I inquired for her cottage, and found it; it was beyond Ramsay from W. Kella, near a mile. I went to within 50 yards of it, but did not call upon Mrs. A., though when I saw her in Liverpool last October, she desired I would, if ever I came to the Island; and even talked of introducing me to the Bishop's family. Still, I felt diffident; I had a great desire to see her, yet could not assume resolution to knock at her door. I lingered about the house some time; then, sitting down upon a high bank, just hid from view, I surveyed with delight the fine bay of Ramsay, still thinking of Mrs. A., and peeping over the bank every now and then, to catch another glimpse of her cottage. She is a most elegant woman, tall, handsome, dignified, affable. She is not now young, having children grown up. I got home at 8 o'clock in the evening, after walking 13 miles.
The next afternoon, I ascended a mountain not far distant; the view from it was new, and pleasing. After tea, Mr. & Mrs. St. George went with me again to the same mountain, to shew me a famous well on the top, which they had heard of, but had never seen. A countryman, of whom they were asking where to find it, offered to go with us; and, as we laboured up the mountain side, told us many a superstitious, wonderful tale. The well which we went to see, is shallow, and merely remarkable for curing violent diseases of the eyes; it was first discovered, our guide told us, by a blind man, many, many years ago; perhaps 2 or 300; who dreamed that on such a mountain in the Isle of Man, was a well, where, if he would wash, he should recover his sight. He left his dwelling place (I think in Ireland), came, and saw.
Everyone who washes, must leave a deposit near the place, or they will not be cured; and a neighbouring furze bush is literally stuck full of rags, ends of worsted, and bits of paper: money is sometimes left, and a little boy who stole some of it a few years ago, fell sick immediately afterwards, as our guide told us, and died. These deposits are, on a certain night in the year, all taken away by the fairies! The man (who was the owner of the mountain) really appeared to believe what he told us. I was surprized to see him tell it with so grave a face; but, as I could not expect to convince him of the absurdity, I looked as grave as he. There are three little springs; I washed my face, dipping my hand alternately in each as I was directed, and then put a piece of paper in the bush.'
The following afternoon, I left West Kella, for Douglas, accompanied by Mr. & Mrs. St. George. We walked over the mountains. Mrs. St. George entertained me with many an anecdote of what she had seen in France, in England, and knew of the families in this Island. As to Mr. St. George, he is a surly nonentity; handsome, but far from well-bred. I stopped, and took tea with them at a Mr. Woods, 3 miles from Douglas; after tea, Mrs. St. George came on and slept with me, as she had to breakfast at a friend's house in Douglas next morning, from whence she went back to Mr. Wood's to stay a few days.
The very long walk I had taken on the 5th. and the repeated ones just after, with so little intermission, caused blisters on my feet, and prevented them healing; and after I returned from W. Kella, I was obliged to rest a few days, amusing myself with short walks, writing, and visiting Mrs. Dodson, where, for the last 3 weeks I have spent almost half my time; she is extremely kind to me, and urges me to spend more time with her than is altogether convenient, as I wished to have seen a few places yet, that my frequent visits to her have prevented.
To find my society so much courted, is highly grateful to me; particularly after being treated at Leigh and at Holland as if I were a creature deserving every punishment that contempt and violence could inflict; and at best, better forgotten, than thought of. Were I to tell you, my dear Ann, how flatteringly I am treated, how highly complimented, by Mrs. D. and her acquaintances; how chearful, agreeable, intelligent, or humorous they profess to think me; you would justly condemn my excess of vanity. It was always my wish to please; but till I left Holland, I never so easily succeeded as I appear to have done since. Your sister sometimes says that never poor creature was so harassingly situated as I was, or a lot cast amongst such a strange-tempered set of mortals; for my aunt Barton, Mrs. Braithwaite, Mrs. Weeton, and Miss Chorley, are all notoriously ill-tempered, proud, and overbearing. Since I left Up-Holland, I have seen more of the world, care for it less, know better how to please, and am ten times more happy.
I set out on the 1 6th. with a design of walking to the top of Snafield, if the unusual coldness of the day, and lowering aspect of the sky, would permit. I often hesitated as I went looked around me meditated to return; yet still my feet carried me onward. A sort of irresistible impulse impelled me; perhaps, thought I, to my destruction, for mists are floating thickly round; but as the time of my departure is very near, I may not have another day to spare. When I had got about 6 miles from Douglas, I was in the midst of a dreary moor, terminated by mountains, over which the sun strongly gleamed every now and then. My heart ached at the sight of so barren a prospect, and with uncertainty whether to proceed; but curiosity surmounted caution, and I went on, apparently the only human being within view. The passing clouds flew swiftly, and light and darkness alternately covered the face of nature. There was a wildness in the scene and in the state of the air that impressed an idea of woe and desolation. The wind blew furiously, whistling sharply amongst the furze, sometimes moaning amongst the rocks like the voice of a human being in distress. It was a day to impress gloom, awe, and dread, and I felt as if I were the miserable creature doomed to experience it, with only now and then a bright ray of hope. I felt a sort of melancholy pleasure in the contemplation, as I walked on over a mountain road. Snafield, at length, reared his lofty head, and when I was about a mile from his summit, the road terminated, and I had to walk over peat-bog and swamp, wet and slippery to a degree. When I had passed over this, I was soon at the top; the wind was here a complete tempest, roaring most loudly; my slender figure could not bear up against it. I attempted to walk over a heap of stone piled on the highest point, but was blown down instantly. Determined that the wind should not entirely conquer me, I crept over on my hands and knees, though with great difficulty, and then added my mite to the heap, by placing a stone on the top. I ran to the opposite end of the mountain top, the wind urging me forward so impetuously, that I was nearly precipitated down the side, which was extremely steep; with difficulty I faced about, and returned to the heap of stones. I stood for a few minutes to view the prospect; the sea was in view all round, but no land beyond.
The surrounding country had a mistiness upon it, that obscured its beauty though it did not hide its features. I looked up and saw a large black cloud hang over me, one end of which I could almost touch! Terrified lest I should be enveloped in a fog, I ran down with the utmost speed, my senses and my breath almost battered out of me with the wind, and my fright not at all contributing to restore them. Nearly at the bottom, I saw the skeleton of a sheep. And I too, may die here, thought I, if I cannot get away before the cloud settles; for it is cold enough to starve me totally, and I am so far from any human habitation, that I shall soon be lost. And, thinking how uncomfortable it would be to lie dead in such a place, unburied, my cloaths battered off my body by the winds, my flesh pecked off by sea gulls, and my naked bones bleached by the weather till they were as white as those of the sheep, I heaved a sigh! ... when, such is the mutability of my disposition, I burst out into a loud laugh at the charming picture my imagination had drawn. For some paces, I had been so busied with it, I had forgot the cloud, the mist, and my own danger; but now, looking up, I saw it had all passed away. Other clouds were fast approaching, and some of them might settle, so I walked homewards, and arrived safely, feeling as little fatigue after a walk of 20 miles, as if I had scarcely walked four.
On the 19th., I had sat at home all morning, and part of the afternoon, reading, and writing to you, when, at 4 o'clock, I heard the Friends would sail that evening at 7. The summons was sudden, as I did not expect it to sail till the 20th. However, I took a hasty leave of Mrs. Dodson and Mrs. Singleton's, and prepared as fast as I could for my exit. I sent to the washerwoman for cloaths she ought to have sent home the day before; and the stupid woman would not let me have them till she had finished ironing them! Four times did I send without effect, and the distance was almost half a mile. The vessel, I heard, was moving from the pier! You may suppose what a trepidation I was in; but, as expressions of anger or vexation could be of no service, I quietly sate myself down, and appeared at least to be patient. At last, the cloaths were brought, and, hastily locking them into my box, I hurried down to the pier.... The vessel was off!!
I wanted to hire a boat; the men said they would not go for less than 5s. 'Very well then,' I answered, `I shall not go,' and was returning, when they said they would take me for 2s. I got into the boat; the sea rolled awfully, and the Friends alternately mounted, and then sunk, almost out of sight, sailing at a furious rate. I found it would be impossible to reach it; the boat I was in could never live in such a sea, so I ordered the men to turn about, and I again landed in Douglas. I was convinced the men must know they could not reach the vessel when they took me into their boat, and I would therefore only give them 1s., with which they were obliged to be contented. They made the attempt, merely by way of getting something for drink, but were almost as much disappointed as myself.
I am now, my dear Ann, closing my adventures here, as I have taken a place in the Dutchess, which sails tonight (Sunday), so I have only been detained 2 days.
I am much pleased with my visit to the Island; it will afford me a fund of entertaining reflection in many a lonely hour, and subject for conversation in society. The renewal of my acquaintance with Mrs. Dodson has proved highly gratifying, and in every point of view I rejoice that I came. I have received a great deal of pleasure, and have not bought it dearly. £7 will include every expence of my journey, travelling, lodging, eating, and servants.
I shall not soon again, perhaps, have an opportunity of rambling in a country rich and romantic; and I shall feel a degree of regret at taking a final leave of this beautiful Isle; for, most likely I shall not come again. I shall often think of the times when I sat on the rocks at Douglas-Head, the air calm and clear, the mountains, vales, scattered huts, farm houses, gentlemen's country seats, spread wide and far; on one hand the town encircling the bay; on the other, the sea spread out to a great distance beneath my feet, the waves dashing unceasingly against the rocks, and bounded far, almost as the eye could see, by English mountains many a yawning chasm in the rocks, the seagulls hovering over them, and the fishing boats rocking on the water altogether form a noble view. The hours I have spent here, have been hours of luxury indeed! Here, totally alone, my thoughts expanded with the prospect; and, free and unrestrained as the air I breathed, I was happy as mortal could be.
Were there any lakes here, this Island would be a paradise, but the streams descend so rapidly from the mountains, all the way to the sea, that they cannot form any, nor any rivers of consequence; many a noisy little rivulet runs down the glens; and many a little thatched but is scattered along the banks, which, though they look beautifully romantic just now, must be wretched habitations in winter; for, being built with uncemented stone, the wind and rain must beat through a thousand crevices. The poor natives have one advantage here; the proximity of the sea air, whilst it renders the summers more cool, makes the winters less severe, the snow melting soon after it falls; and the frost is of shorter duration, and less intensity, than in most parts of England. They shelter themselves from the storms, by building most of their huts just under the mountains; which are, many of them, cultivated to their summits. The people can have as much turf I as they please, for the labour of getting it; which is a great blessing where coals are so dear. An attempt is now making, for the first time, to procure coals near Peel, a seam having lately been discovered there; it is yet uncertain whether it is sufficient to afford the proprietors any hope of success.
The laws are very mild here, and seldom enforced in capital offences; even murder goes unpunished!! To the credit of the people, it is seldom committed; but 4 or 5 instances within 10 or 15 years, of which there were sufficient proof, were unnoticed by the laws. Yesterday, as a very uncommon thing, two women were publickly whipped in the market for theft ; petty thefts are very frequent; house-breaking seldom, or never heard of, or highway robbery. Frauds and imposition of all kinds are practised to a great extent by the majority of the people; and litigious lawsuits are perpetually carrying on, in which the unwary stranger suffers most severely; for knavish indeed must that foreigner be, who can outwit a Manksman; yet the English, or Irish, have only to thank themselves for it; for, much to their discredit, the Manks have only been their pupils, and have paid dearly for their learning. A few, and but a few, 'retain their integrity to the last.' Happy are they, for they will meet with a joyful reward.
Liverpool: July 5th.
My rambles are now, my dear Ann, completed for the present; and my rambling account of them. If they afford you entertainment, I shall be pleased; if you feel a more animating sentiment, I shall be delighted; for, in proportion as I contribute to the innocent enjoyment of others, so do I feel happy.
My walks during my residence in the Island, have been many and long. I have set down in a concise journal the number of miles I walked whilst in it, rather setting down too little than too much; and I find they amount to at least 203-
You will have received your sister's letter before you receive this; we are afraid to give you the expence of postage, and therefore wait, to send our letters by a private hand to Dublin. I have been quite anxious that your sister should send her letter, even by post, rather than delay it any longer, as it is long since you heard from her; at last she has sent it, and my dear girl's heart will, in a day or two from the present moment, be relieved from a little load of anxiety, which I fear has possessed it some time.
I am leaving Liverpool on Friday next (July 10th), and have, ever since my return, been extremely busy. After I am settled in my new habitation, I shall give your sister my address; and as soon as she informs you, I hope you will write to me.
Mr. Gunrie was married on the 30th. of June, to a Miss Jones, whose parents are lately come from Wales to settle here; we are told she has a fortune of £8,000 Well done Gunrie, at last!