[From Mannin #9,1917]
FOLLOWING upon our recent publication of a number of letters which passed between the late Mr. Egbert Rydings, of Laxey, and the great John Ruskin, we reproduce a number of extracts from a correspondence which was carried on between Mr. Rydings and another of England's great literary figures the Manxborn poet, T. E. Brown. The correspondence opened on or about September 27th, 1889, and extended over a considerable number of years, the last letter being written shortly before Brown's death. Brown had been holidaying in the Island in the summer of 1889, and had called at the St. George's woollen mills in Laxey, of which Mr. Rydings was manager, to order a dresspiece for one of his daughters. Mr. Rydings, replying to Brown on this bit of business, expresses his regret that he did not get a chance of having a talk, and goes on to express his intense admiration of the poet's books. He tells of a lecture he had given recently on the subject of 'The only Manx Poet,' and says he was astonished to find that Manxmen knew so little of the work of their great countryman. The chairman at that lecture, commenting on selections given by Mr. Rydings from The Doctor and Betsy Lee, had said that 'No doubt they were very good in Manx, but, like all translations, had lost much of their beauty! Brown, in the following letter, thanks Rydings for this letter, and informs him that his new volume is now in the press, and that the scene of the principal story (The Manx Witch) is laid in Laxey. He reciprocates the desire to have a talk, and hopes that it may be his good fortune to bring it off when he is next in the Island.
The correspondence is resumed when Brown has returned to the Island, to spend his declining days in his native land. The correspondence is, indeed, a mere filling-in of the interstices between frequent conversations, to which many allusions are to be found in the letters. Brown beseeches Rydings to forward on any stories he has of Parson Caine, Parson Drury, and otter Manx worthies. Brown sometime afterwards commenced a series of articles in the Ramsey Courier on the subject of Manx life and character, and a further series in the Ramsey Church Magazine entitled Manxiana, but it cannot be said whether any of the material supplied by Mr. Rydings was employed in those articles. This exchange of stories leads on to the suggestion that certain narratives of Mr. Rydings should be written up for recitation upon public platforms, and for publication in newspaper or book form. As is known, Mr. Rydings' story of How our Tholm and Kirrer went to the wair, and others, were published in the Manx newspapers, and later on, after having been rejected by Macmillan's, largely because of difficulties arising out of the use of the Manx dialect, which Mr. George A. Macmillan alludes to as having been a serious hindrance to Brown's own success-they were printed by Heywood's, of Manchester, and published locally. Brown actively interested himself in all the stages which Mr. Rydings' stories went through before they finally saw the light, and though many of the letters of this period are too technical to be of general interest, they reveal abundantly how generous, unsparing, and yet courageously honest a friend Brown could be. Brown was also deeply concerned with the successful appearance of Canon Quine's The Captain of the Parish and to a lesser degree of Mr. Hall Caine's The Manxman, and though naturally the correspondence on this subject is so intimate that only occasional passages from it are permissible, the large-heartedness of the man is more and more made manifest. After this scanty introduction, the extracts may be allowed to speak for themselves.
I thank you very much, on my behalf as well as Mr. Hall Caine's, for your extremely acceptable stories about the old vicar. I shall take them to Greeba in a day or two, and discuss with the great novelist the use which we may make of these and similar contributions to the fund of Manaiana.
Let me congratulate you warmly on this real gem, a marvellous penetration into a speech and a cast of thought which are not your native element, but in which you float so completely at your ease. Imagine my being able to do that in Lancashire! ! You may be proud of the feat. It is simply magnificent.
A sketch or two from Nicholson would brighten the book. I have recently made Mr. Nicholson's acquaintance, and am delighted with him.
From Mr. Rydings.
Dear Mastha Browhn,
My wife an' me finks that mavee as you hev been so kin' as to stan' godfather for this brat of ours (hm), an' as we hev tuk hapes of th'rubl in fix'n' it in its bes' cloas, you wouldn' min. gibe' a sight on it before it's tuk to the pazon (hm), jus, to see lek if its faze is crane, an, its nose wip' propa, lek (hm). Mavee its cloas is not to your likin', an, a lit' sthrooghin' in the hair wouldn' be amiss (hm). These qwhem'n are terravel for purren hapes of cloas on, fair smotharin' lek (hm). I quashtin if you'll approve the leak arrem, but strep them off, quhat you finks the pazon win navar approve, an, navar min' the qwhem'n, and put any lit feather or ribb'n that yon fink might make it more puffec', lek.
An' mavee, you wouldn' consedher it imperant on us, if we might now be a surt of axin' lank, as you might say (hm), if a surt of ali taste of a preeface, lek, might be gibn'by you (hm) to tosh it off, task, as a surt of a-(hm)-a silver mug wiss a 'scripzn on, lek.
'Deed on yandhar sthroberries! An' it's us that cud work them wiss a tas'e. But, howavarl The kin' ye are ins pirriful. We bed a terble notion of comin' over an' seeing Niggison. Aw, bless ye! Warn' we at Baldhrine lass week ? Av coarse! Dear me ! an' a passil of us walked over the mountains to Sulby Glen-aye! An' we saw the lil ravvar undhar Noble's house-yiss, but we didn' go daoon to Niggison at all, no. An' the longin' that's arrus, ye wudn' belave-aye! An' we'll be doin' it yit, 'deed for sure ! An' lack enough we'll be doin' jeel on the sthroberries, too, lek a combinin', lek, lek it'd be a surf of a dhooragh-aye.
I congratulate you upon the launching of your new book. It looks very ship-shape and seaworthy. As one reads it in bulk, not in snatches, and rapidly, not with the painstaking scrutiny of a corrector, all troubles about small incongruities disappear.
The rascal, Heywood, has left an error in the Preface which I had carefully corrected (see page 4): 'Mona Bouquet, which will long contain its fragrance,' ought to be, and was distinctly corrected by me into 'retain'-As any fool might see-But fiddiede-dee!
These printhars is Loosely, not carin' a rap
Are ye right, are ye wrong, an' makin' a chap
Spake despard nunsince-the sniffikin dirts!
An' as stupit as'sniffikin. Dart the lot! Bur't's-
Av coarse, av coarse! Not as you Moulds as they would,
That's your style! All right, Masthar Heywood !
I must thank you very sincerely for singing my song last night. You have the song exactly as I intended it, and sang it with perfect taste and feeling. Unfortunately, however, as doubt. less you did not fail to observe, the young people took it as a comic song. This arose, I imagine, front a fixed conviction in their minds that anything of mine must be comic and intended to amuse
I am glad that you have made the acquaintance of my friend and pupil, Mr. W. H. Gill. We spent the whole of Friday over his song-book; and a most enjoyable time we had. Gill is a real musical enthusiast, and a learned musician. He treats the songs freely, and puts into them a lot of himself, and his self is very charming. Mr. A. W. Moore will have to entrench himself within his antiquarian position, which is a true one and tenable, but hardly popular. Beside, Gill's book will be brought out by Boosey as one of a series-English, Scotch, Manx, etc.-directly, and, to some extent authoritively, appealing to the musical world. Both will be beautiful volumes. But there will, of course, be the obvious objection-'Why two ?'
NOTE.-It will be remembered that Mr. W.H Gill freely discusses Browns sentiments towards his Manx National Song, in an article contributed to MANNIN VII.
I was away when the honey and the strawberries arrived The latter, I regret to say, had come to grief; but the 'millish' was all right and very good. You speak of treasures untold, ungathered too, and rotting on the bushes. Dear me! The pirree! The Son' of them I am is jus' scan'lous-it is though, But I'm crane hoult.
Up Glen Aldhyn to-day, arra picnic with Winy Gill Down at Bride to-morrow agate of Cowley's berries. Off to say a' Monday with said Cowley, yachting for a week. I have just been over to Dalby, Teare's place, Ballacoeil-"ran'! On Monday, to Gob-ny-Ushtey, Lag-ny-Killey, Cronk-ny-Eary, etc.-a magnificent ramble and scramble, cudn' be batthar. An', to crown all, a letter from Quine-Heinemann has accepted the book ! ! So there ye are Splandid!
Let us all rejoice and be glad, especially the faithful few who were 'in the know.' Mr. Quine has fulfilled our utmost expectations. The book is a glorious book. The 'windup'-well, I can see that, weak, you will say, forced. But never mind! Think of at least nineteen~twentieths of the volume being what they are. Is it nothing to have gone in and out and found pasture so delicious and so spacious ? If you merely had Ellen and Lizzie in Ellen's room, or the two of them in the Arderry bathing pool, just those two, would you not be perfectly satisfied ? What a picture of beauty and innocence! The glow of a Titian, sparkling, ardent, yet pure as Heaven!
When with you on Wednesday I forebore to speak to you about your great trouble. I could see it was in your mind. I sympathise with you most deeply. Well, well-there is comfort et chibber-y-Pherick' deep peace at Nikkesen, but they can't reach that-no, no ! Still, they can do something. That sweet soft gurgle at the well is meant to soothe you. Nature is like a prattling baby, and tries to wile us from our sorrows. The dear old innocent-to some extent she succeeds, and we are grateful to her for her kind intention. Yet, there is so much to be said, that is, in short, NOTHING. For what can we say ?
These sthravagues really seem to do me good, to refresh and strengthen me. I have a friend with me, and yesterday we walke my stile walk from Peel to Glen Meay. On Monday, it is very likely that we may come to Laxey, and walk the Chibber round, and ~chaw'the Chibber lunch. I want to make you known to each other. He is one of my chiefest friends. He is an all.round enthusiast, Principal of the College for Naval Engineers at Devonport, name, Worthington, Oxford his University, Lancashire or Cheshire his county; full of science (mechanics, physics of sorts, etc.), and of a most loveable nature.
Note:.-The nature of Sir. A. Mt. Worthington via be fanriliar to readers of T.E. Brown's Letters.