[From Feltham's Tour, 1798]
To the Same.
" Avaunt then, cities, courts, where friends
Where malice wounds, and slavery drops the knee
To him how hateful who can steal away
To freedom, love, simplicity, and thee."
IN emigrating from England many advantages must be given up. Money, here, loses much of its omnipotency; the: pleasures of a luxurious table cannot be had without difficulty : markets are thin, and but ill-provided, and there are not any butchers' shops; The pigs are larger in proportion than their other cattle, and extremely good and plenty. Fat meat is scarce, and the veal in general indifferent; the mutton is sweet and delicate. But a very peculiar breed of sheep is found here, the wool of which is of a red sandy colour, or the fawn-coloured Turkey wool used by hatters in this country. It would be difficult to account for this peculiarity; they are called Laughton sheep, and are now but few; the natives use the wool undyed for stockings, &c. and formerly one of the Earls of Derby had a whole suit of it. Fleeces, as well as I could observe, yielded from 2 lbs. to 4 lb. And the price of lambs varied from 2s. 6d. to 6s. and sometimes were worth 10s.
Respecting the price of provisions, mentioned page 50, I would beg to remark, that in the towns most frequented, it is higher considerably than in remoter spots; but in all parts there is an evident rise of late.
Poultry of all kinds are numerous and cheap; fish and eggs are plenty and reasonable. The better kind of fruits are not to be had; Major Taubman's was the only walled garden I observed, and that would grace any place. Apples are not grown in any quantity.
They have no pheasants or nightingales; grouse, golden plovers,1 corn-crakes, and night larks abound; hares are comparatively scarce, for the want of cover; cranes, or herons, frequent the rocks. An Irish crow of a grey or lead colour is found, though the true English crow is scarce. Mr. Townley mentions a pied crow, which preys on small crabs and marine delicacies. The Calf has plenty of the usual rock birds; the razor-bill (alca torda) and the puffin (alca artica). The noises of sea-birds often indicate a change of weather. The cuckoo and its attendant announce the genial seasons of spring and summer; and most of the small birds are found here.
Furze and heath are used as fuel, but the peat bogs are valuable; these run deep both in the lowlands and the summit of the highest mountains. The cottagers have the privilege of digging it on the common, for the payment of a halfpenny per year. It is sold for fourpence a square yard, and the best sort at sixpence, to be cut and carried away by the purchaser.
Where the shelter admitted the growth of a hedge, I observed it luxuriant, and covered with honeysuckles.
" To scent with sweeter breath the summer gales-
With careless grace and native ease she charms,
And bears the horn of plenty in her arms.'-DARWIN.
I noticed the fox-glove (digitalis purpurea) adorning the sides of the roads. Also the eriophorum, alpinum, a species of cotton grass I had often conceded some use might be made of this plant, and find by Mr. Pennant that in the Isle of Skye it supports the cattle in the earlier part of spring, before the other grasses are sufficiently grown; and that the poor stuff their pillows with the down, and make wicks of candles with it; but it becomes brittle when quite dry.
The coolly verna, or vernal squill, is a maritime plant found in the rocks: for plates of these two last, I refer you to than elegant work, Sowerby's English Botany. Having mentioned the plant, termed by the natives ouw, in my fourth letter, I have now no farther remarks to make on this subject. ;
The want of trees and hedges gives a barren aspect to the island; but it is not unpleasing from the undulation of its surface, and the sublimity of its mountains, of varied shape, distances, and termination; whose sides afford a frequent specimen of that adventitious beauty occasioned by floating clouds intercepting the sunbeams, and giving to the fields glowing and varied tints. But it could not have always been without trees, for by a statute of 1570 a forester is allowed to range the forest for unshorn sheep, &c.2
Thus, though its rocks are not, like those in Devonshire, "fringed with ornamental plants and shrubs ;" nor its gardens "surrounded with myrtle hedges covered with most delicious bloom ;" yet its rugged rocks, and bold mountains, whose outlines are abruptly varied, adorned with the heath, gorse, and fern, that spread over its surface, form somewhat of a picturesque scene; but a general want of trees, &c. for a foreground, and a requisite variety of well-disposed object, render it not adapted for the composition of a landscape painter.
" Yet still, e'en here, content can spread a
Redress the clune, and its rude winds disarm."
Rain is frequent in small portions, and the winds boisterous but neither the heat in summer, nor the cold in winter, is in extremes.3
Post-chaises may be had at Douglas and Castletown, at 9d. per mile.4 The roads are good and exempt from tolls, but destitute of mile-stones, except from Douglas to Castletown; a duty of 10s. 6d. on public-houses; 5s. 2d. on greyhounds and pointers, and 6d. on other dogs, with moderate statute duty, repair the roads. These, with 9d. on passes, are the only taxes levied.
Salt is exempted from duty; 14lb. costs about sixpence English; this tax has always been odious in all countries. In France, it was a forerunner of the revolution. In Italy, it caused great commotions; years elapsed before the States could bring it to three farthings per pound, their present duty. And in England it was first imposed under the idea of its being only temporary! An additional duty of 81. per ton on port wine is said to be in contemplation, and that the island is to form a receptacle for French prisoners and emigrants.
Five rivers have harbours, viz. Ramsay, Laxey, Douglas, Castletown, and Peel; on the north side three ringlets meet the sea at Ballure, Milltown, and Ballaugh; besides which are twenty four others of a diminutive kind in the island. These places, with the mines and mountains, should be visited.
A voyage round the island is seldom thought of as an amusement for strangers; but a sail round the Calf is strongly enjoined, though the weather even for this should be very select, to render it adequate to expectation: I was content with a ramble through it. Aquatic excursions of any length defeat their purpose from the uncertainty of time and weather, and prove disagreeable from the convulsive operations of sea-sickness: so that, as Mr. Wyndham observes,5 parties generally express more pleasure at their return, than either at the actual commencement; or in any part of its continuation.
The excursion to the Calf is generally made from Port Iron, from which it is about three miles (vice Kirk-Christ Rushed parish). Its surface is rather barren, so that I cannot descant on its picturesque scenery; everything bearing the character or the sublime tending to raise the bolder emotions of the mind, rather than amuse it with gentle sensations. The eye is regaled from its heights with the azure vault of heaven; and beneath, the briny surface is covered with swelling sails, either impelled with the cheerful breeze, or agitated by bleak winds or scowling storms; while the surrounding surface of the ground presents a verdure, wild and innocent-
"Just where the distant coast extends a curve,
A lengthen'd train of sea-fowl urge their flight.
Observe their files! in what exact array
The dark battalion floats, distinctly seen
Before you silver cliff! now, now they reach
That lonely beacon; now are lost again In you dark cloud.
How pleasing is the sight."-GILPIN.
Round the Calf you see innumerable quantities of sea-birds, wild pigeons, &c. The quantity of herrings, &c. they annually destroy, are supposed to be some hundred thousand barrels.
Mr. Townley says, "The wild or rock pigeons, found in the cliffs from Peel to the Calf, are smaller than the dove-cote pigeons, and of a much darker colour, being almost black. The legs and feet are a beautiful red, beaks yellow; they are sweet and high-flavoured."
The mountain of Snafield, and perhaps the Barrules, should be visited. Sneeaylle, or Snafield, is 580 yards above the level of the sea, and affords, of a clear day, a remarkable and extensive prospect of the coasts of England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales; as, from Allonby in Cumberland, to Pile of Foudre in Lancashire, 45 miles. From Arklow mountains in Ireland, to the northward of Belfast, is 105 miles. From Barnamore hill in Scotland, to the Criffit mountains, near Dumfries, 54 miles. And the coast of Wales, from Holyhead to Rudland, 45 miles. Did this mountain only present a complete view of the island, and its various mountains, it would be a peculiarly delightful and novel spectacle. Between Douglas and Kirk-Michael, you pass a very romantic solitary dell of considerable length.
The ruins of Peele castle, &c. will not fail to repay every expectation formed of them; but " frowning turrets, messy walls, and gloomy dungeons, make the imagination of a contemplative man wholly at variance with the beauty and serenity of the spot; and he will think only of sieges, chains, torture, and death."*6
I shall notice everything worthy again, under their parochial heads.
In going from Glenmoij to Castletown, I lost my way; the prospect was dreary, the road swampy, and no track appeared.
" LO ! all around a most alarming gloom !
A fog of monstrous size, and sooty crest,
Sat like a nightmare, squat on Mona's breast."-STOWEL.
What to do it was difficult to tell. At length the cottage of a mountaineer presented, but the owner being unable to speak English, my application was unheard, but by signs I prevailed on him (pointing to my purse) to be my guide; he put me, with some trouble, in the direct road; I pressed a reward on him, but he refused to accept anything, leaving me to wonder at such unexpected civility in the rudest confines of a remote mountain.
To cross these mountains is but uncomfortable at best, and if fogs should come on, a stranger must lose his way inevitably.
The mountains abound in springs, but the water, though good, is not of a superior kind. Of spirits, rum is generally drunk, and whisky*7 is not so scarce as gin and brandy. Port wine is extremely good, and is sold from 12s. to 15s. per dozen. a single. bottle at the inns is charged 2s.; but if bought in quantities,may be had for less than these prices.
Economy prevails in household management, and the female branches spin, at leisure, flax; and thus produce excellent diaper, check, linen, &c. for family use.
The fairs, which are not infested with sharpers, showman, &c. as in England, serve to enliven the friendship of different parts; and the assemblies, races, &c. that originate from them, afford an opportunity of a mutual association of the northern beaux and belles with the southern.
" As Eubonia's sons Excel in every virtue, manly, brave,
Amidst th'alarms of fate; gen'rous, sincere
By glory kindled: may her virgins too
Supremely fair, midst beauty'u brightest blaze
In soft perfection shine!
May Hymen wave
His purple wings, and o'er the saved couch
His azure mantle spread, as down ye sink
In wedlock's chaste embrace, and oft renew
The hallow'd rapture: thus may peaceful life
Flow undisturb'd, nor jarring feuds invade Your happy hours."*8
The ladies are sensible, polite, and accomplished; pleasing and elegant in their address, and of a more domestic turn than the ladies of England of the same rank or fortune. They are also fond of music and dancing, and excel in each. Fashion soon finds her way hither from the three kingdoms.
" The packet's come, I'll lay my life upon it:
I know by pretty Betsy' s helmet bonnet !"
The native charms of the belles, assisted by milliners and mantua-makers of judgment and taste, dignify an assembly, and enliven society, with as great a degree of spirit as any In England; nor do they recur to foreign artifices to solicit love and admiration.
As a specimen of Manks gallantry, I give you the following complimentary acrostic, which was sent to a lady of Liverpool, with whom I sailed to the island.
To the Lady whose Name it bears.
C harms such as shine, the Cyprian goddess wore,
(H eav'n-born and nourish'd by divine ambrosia)
A nd wreath'd with smiles the angry brow of Jove.
R ose-lipt and pout-mouth'd as the blooming Hebe,
L ove feeds the luring anguish of shine eye-
O h I how Elysium beameth from that smile !
T hee, Flora strews the vernal plains to please;
T tree, Nature smiles to court,-her beauties shine.
E nravish'd I behold, enraptur'd I adore !
R ob'd in the grace of innocence and truth,
O 'er thy sweet brow virtue benignly shed,
B eauty, pure mental beauty, mildness soft,
I mpressing all with reverence and love.
N of Paphos o'er could boast a fairer form-
S uch grace ! No, Phidias, thy skill could ne'er
O n marble carve such symmetry divine;
N or Jove a nobler mind did eter inspire.
June 13, 1797. Pit a pat Ditto cette miavo.
But independent of the effusions of "youthful poets when they love," it is acknowledged that Charlotte and Julia R. both possess qualities that must gratify the warmest wishes of parental affection.
The natives of the lower classes are of a swarthy complexion, 'stout, with an air of melancholy pervading their countenances; the men are indolent, but the women are active and lively; they wear no stockings nor shoes, except on particular occasions; the men wear shoes or sandals, which they call kerranes, made of untanned leather; their cottages are low turf buildings, thatched in an humble style, and the thatch is bound down with a network of straw ropes intersecting each other.
At the principal places are gentlemen in the various branches of the medical profession, and women are now sensible of the danger of having ignorant female attendants in midwifery; who, possessing no knowledge of the animal economy, nor of the anatomical structure of the human frame, must therefore be illqualified for a proper discharge of this important and tender office.
What Dr. Johnson says of the Erse language may apply to the Manks-" It is the speech of a people who have few thoughts to express; it is not a written language, and whoever writes it, spells according to his own perception of the sound." I have mentioned its origin in page 54. The primeval Celtic branched into three grand divisions: 1. Ancient Gaulish, from which no language is fully derived. 2. Ancient British, from whence is descended Welsh, Armorican, and Cornish 3. Ancient Irish from whence comes the modern Irish, the Erse, or Highland Scots, and the Manks language.*9
From political ballads we may catch the sentiments that prevail. Sitting around the blazing hearth one evening with a number of Manksmen, and rocking the cradle of an infant beside me, the toast and song went round, in one of which I recollect the following lines, alluding to the transfer of the island-
" For the babes unborn will rue the
That the Isle of Man was sold away;
For there's ne'er an old wife that loves a dram,
But what will lament for the Isle of Man !"
When what they here denominate the trade, that is, smuggling, was carried on, the access to ardent spirits was so easy, that drunkenness was a common vice, and the morals of the lower orders were in a most depraved state.
" It is impossible to reflect without great satisfaction on the actual gain that results to the nation from the preservation of the morals and health of persons, whose lives are shortened by the immoderate use of ardent spirits."*10
As this letter is miscellaneous, I shall conclude it with telling you I was at the opening of the Manks parliament, at Castletown. His Grace the Duke of Athol, as governor-in-chief, &c. sat in state in one of the court-rooms in Castle Rushen On one side was the Lord Bishop of Man; on the other the Lieutenant Governor; beneath, the two deemsters in their robes, with other state officers (see Letter XII.). The Keys being desired to attend, sat round the table; and without the bar were the spectators.
His Grace prefaced the business by expressing the interest he always felt in everything that concerned the happiness of the island, and that it was with much pleasure he now met them to announce his Majesty's goodness, in having granted him (with full power to use as he best thought fit) a sum large enough to answer all the great public purposes necessary to the safety and dignity of their government; such as the erection of public courts of judicature, forming harbours, &c. That he had ever the will and disposition to serve them, and now he had also the power; doubting not, that by their mutual co-operation and exertions for the common weal, the island would be raised to that degree of consequence it was capable of and merited.
He then laid before them some acts of Tynwald which had previously passed, but which, on being sent for the royal signature to England, the Crown lawyers had objected to and returned, on account of some informality in the wording; these, therefore, he now re-submitted, altered, to the Keys. After various heads of public business were spoken on by his Grace, the members of the Keys retired to their own house, and after some debates rejected, I understood, one act so amended in toto. I could not gain admission into the House of Keys, so that I was not gratified with any specimen of Manks oratory, but the principal and most famed speaker was not present.-Adieu!
*1 Charadrius Pluvialis, Le Pluvier dore, Buff. See a description of this and the grey plover in the History of British Birds, with cuts by Bewick, vol. i. pp. 329, Newcastle. 1797.
They have no moles in the island, nor any noxious animal or reptile. Frogs and magpies have been introduced of late years. Mr. Edward Christian shot a white sparrow in June, 1797, near Balicalignan.
*2 The Druids found this island well planted with firs; quantities have been dug up some depth under the surface of the earth; and some oaks, which, it is supposed, being their favourite tree, was introduced by them
*3 See also on this head the parochial account of Jurby.
*4 The principal inns are the George, Downes; Mr. Duggan's, and Redfearn's, at Castletown. At Douglas is the hotel, Clague; George Wilson's Liverpool coffeehouse, Messrs. Ray's, Atkingon's, and Coultry Cannels. At Peel, Black's, the White Horse, and at Ramsay, Mr. Hendry's, and Mr. Cornelius Hinde's, the King's Head. Besides these there are one or two respectable inns in villages, particularly at Kirk-Michael, where the beautiful hostess cannot fail to attract and please every visitant. By an act in 1739, the number of public-houses in the island is limited to 300, at five score to the hundred.
*5 A picture of the Isle of Wight, delineated upon the spot By H. P. Wyndham Esq. of Salisbury. Egerton, 1794, 8vo.
*6 Mr. .Maton's Western Tour, 2 vole. 8vo. Salisbury, 1797, plates.
Peele Castle for its situation, antiquity, strength, and beauty, might justly be styled one of the wonders of the world, art and nature having appeared to vie with each other in its formation. It is built on a huge rock, which rears itself a stupendous height above the sea, by which it is surrounded, and is fortified by several of less magntiude.-CLARA LENNOX. See page 65.
*7 The word whisky signifies water, and is applied by way of eminence to strong water, or distilled liquor. It is drawn from barley, and is preferable to English malt brandy. - Johnson's Journey to the Western Islands, 8vo. 1775.)
*8 Beauty, a poem; published with "The Sugar Cane," 12mo. 1766, by Dr. Grainger
*9 Mallet's Northern Atiq. 2 vols 8vo. 1770. Carman pp 24, 25
*10 In London, previous to the late stoppage of the distilleries, it was calculated that the consumption of gin and compounds was on an average annually about three millions of gallons. The high price of gin rendering it inaccessible, the lower classes applied their money in the purchase of provisions, perhaps to the extent of some hundred thousands a year, in London alone.-(Treatise on the Police, 8vo.)