[From Manx Quarterly #6, 1909]
VALUABLE ADDITION TO THE DOUGLAS LIBRARY.
The collection of books, prints, mineral specimens, and curious, recently bequeathed to the town by the late Rev Theophilus Talbot, is a valuable and extensive one. This was to be gathered from the selection made by the Library Committee and which was shown to advantage in the Council Chamber of the Town Hall during one week, and opportunity of seeing the rare volumes, old prints, and valuable treatises which the late Mr Talbot had gathered together should not be missed. The works shown give but a slight indication of the love of research into everything appertaining to the history of the Isle of Man of the late Mr Talbot, and it is to be regretted that he has not left behind him in the more permanent form of books, evidence of his vast knowledge upon the Isle of Man, its geological structure, its fauna and its flora, its history and its lore.
The exhibition was opened on March 15th in the presence of a select company, including several eminent antiquarians, by the Mayor of Douglas. The exhibits, it should be mentioned, have been admirably arranged by the Librarian, Mr John Taylor.
The Mayor, in opening the proceedings, said they were met in response to an invitation from the Library Committee to inaugurate the exhibition of a selectionand only a selection-of books out of the large number which were a bequest to the town a short time ago, under the will of the Rev Theophilus Talbot. The bequest was included in the reference section of the Free Library, which was open to the inspection of the people, not only of the whole Island, but of our visitors (applause). He need not say how deeply they were indebted for the bequest.
Their thanks had already been transmitted to Miss Talbot, the daughter of their generous benefactor. He would have pleasure in calling upon Councillor Hough, Chairman of the Library Committee; the Speaker, Mr A. W. Moore; and Canon Savage to give short addresses.
Councillor Hough said they had met to assist in opening an exhibition of books, minerals, and botanical and other specimens, for examination by the polyscope and microscope, which formed part of the handsome bequest made by the late Rev Theophilus Talbot. Mr Talbot was a resident in the Island for over fifty years, and they had a keen reollection of what a highly educated gentleman he was, more particularly in scientific and antiquarian matters, in both of which departments he was absolutely at home. He was a man who made a name for himself as a controversialist. He took nothing for granted. He always went to the fountain head for his knowledge. His one aim and one desire was truth, and nothing but the truth suited him, in any of those subjects to which he gave his particular attention. In the matter of legendary and traditionary writings and works he was particularly strong and acute. He (Councillor Hough) had keen recollection of serious disappointment in finding how some legendary and traditional castles he had built his faith in were hurled to the ground by the reverend gentleman. He referred to the story of William Tell having now been declared a mere fiction, and similarly Mr Talbot had destroyed the legend about the Duchess of Gloucester being in the dark dungeon at Peel Castle, by proving that no such person had ever been imprisoned there. These were some of the penalties they had to pay for men like Mr Talbot making research into legend and history. But they had their compensations as well. If these men of research pulled down, they also built up. He was thinking particularly of a little book on the table before him-the work of the Speaker, Mr A. W. Moore, who he was glad to see presentin which the halo of heroism had been cast round many Manx worthies, whom many of them did not know were in existence, and entitled to a halo. The exhibition, he continued, was only of a small part of the bequest the Rev Air Talbot had made to the library. They had, in addition, many other specimens, and something like 4,000 books. The difficulty the committee were under was to find anything like proper and adequate accommodation such as the books and other gifts deserved. The day was not far distant when they would have to enlarge the Library. If they had more bequests of this kind-and they were always open to receive gifts of the sort-they would speedily have to look round for larger premises, or make some alteration to adequately house and exhibit such works as they saw before them. It would be a relief if the museum in embryo fully Jeveloped, and took part of the specimens exhibited, particularly the minerals, away. Once again, on behalf of the public of the town, he begged to thank Miss Talbot for so generously carrying out the gift bequeathed by her respected father (applause).
The Speaker said: Mr Mayor, ladies and gentlemen,-I have been asked to address you on the advantages of the Library in connection with education. It is a somewhat hackneyed subject, and I fear I cannot say anything new about it, but I will try to formulate a few simple thoughts. Let us first consider what education is. It may be described as the training of the mind and the body. Children to begin with are nothing more than little animals. They have no innate desire to train their minds; but they, if healthy, naturally and joyfully help to train their bodies by such exercises as running and jumping ands kipping. This being so, it was evidently, till quite recently, not thought necessary to trouble about the physical needs of children.
Such matters as bad ventilation, insanitary surroundings, imperfect nutrition, defective eyes and teeth, were not thought to be of any importance. But we are now learning better, and are gradually approaching the ancient classical idea of " mens sana in corpore sano "-a sound mind in a sound body. Education has made extraordinary strides, and I think it is no exaggeration to say that the poor man's child can get a better education in some respects than the rich man's child could fifty years ago. Nevertheless, if I were asked whether the results obtained were altogether successful, I should hesi tate. I would ask, Has the average child of 14 years of ago been embued with a wish for learning, or has he not? If the answer is in the negative, I would say that his education had been a failure. It-` does not matter how much he may have learned, if he doež not care for his books, he will soon forget most of it. I do not of course say that in all, or even in most cases, this is the fault of the education. It is often the fault of the child. But the fact remains that the results of education are frequently almost lost. No wonder that our educationists are anxious to prolong education in secondary schools, continuation classes, etc. But for many children these are impossible, and the only hope for those who still have some wish to learn, and whose school life cannot be prolonged, is in books. These books, it should be borne in mind, can only be obtained by a poor man's child in a free library. What, indeed, would we do without books? I will first quote to you what a Bishop of Durham said of them more than 500 years ago: "These are the masters who instruct us without rods and ferules; without hard words and anger; without clothes or money. If you approach them, they are not asleep; if, investigating, you interrogate them, they conceal nothing; if you mistake them, they never grumble; if you are ignorant, they cannot laugh at you. The library, therefore, of wisdom, is more precious than all riches, and nothing that can be wished for is worthy to be compared with it. Whosoever, therefore, acknowledges himself to be a zealous follower of truth, of happiness, of wisdom, of science, or even of the faith, must of necessity make himself a lover of books." if he could say this with truth so long ago, how much more may we do so? He lived before Shakespeare, or Milton, or Scott, to say nothing of Hall Caine. In his day, too, the vast and fascinating world of science was all but non-existent. Here is what Sir John Lubbock says on the same topic at the present day: "Books are to mankind what memory is to the, individual. They contain the history of our race, the discoveries we have made, the accumulated knowledge and experience of ages; they picture for us the marvels and beauties of nature ; help us in our difficulties, comfort us in our sorrow and in suffering, change hours of ennui into moments of delight, store our minds with ideas, fill them with good and happy thoughts, and lift us out of and above ourselves." What a feast our children have before them! But it is of little value if not wisely used. Let me again quote the same authority
" To get the greatest amount, I will not merely say of benefit, but even of enjoyment, from books, we must read for improvement rather than for amusement. Light and entertaining books are valuable, as is sugar an important article of food, especially for children, but we cannot live upon it. Moreover, there are books which are no books, and to read which is mere waste of time; while there are others so bad that we cannot read them without pollution; which, if they were men, we should kick into the street. There are cases in which it is well to be warned against the temptations and dangers of life, but anything which familiarises us with evil is itself an evil. So also, there are others, happily many others, which no one can read without being the better for them." Here, then, comes in the necessity for a wise mentor, to teach the young in particular what to read and what not to read. The ideal librarian should be a man who knows the insides as well as the outsides of books, a man who can talk about them in a bright and pleasant manner. Such a man, I believe, we have in Mr Taylor. He should be assisted by lectures on special subjects from time to time, and these lectures should tell the children what are the best books on these subjects. In this way the Free Library may be brought into intimate connection with education, and if properly used may prove not only of incalculable value, but a source of lifelong pleasure. And now, Mr Mayor, in departing from my general subject to a particular application, I should like to bear witness to the good work that has been done by your library and librarian in the cause of education. You have many good and interesting books, and you should have, if you could afford it, many more. But there is one fatal drawback to any increase, and that is, that you have not room even for your present books. This valuable gift by the late Mr Talbot cannot, for instance, be properly displayed for want of space. I have an earnest desire that we may see some of your books, such as the Talbot bequest and the Manx books, transferred to Villa Marina-(applause)-where I hope they will be in company with a museum-another useful means of education-and surrounded by a public park (hear, hear). May this dream be at no distant date converted into a reality! This, with, if possible, some small extension on your present site, should give ample room for your main library (applause).
Canon Savage congratulated the Library Committee and Mr Taylor, the librarian, on exhibiting such an admirable selection of the bequest Mr Talbot had left to the town. There was an object lesson in it that all might take to heart, and try to learn something from. Mr Talbot showed a happy touch of spirit in making the bequest to the town. He was not a Manxman, not even by descent, yet he took the keenest interest in everything belonging to the Isle of Man, as every intelligent man and woman who lived in the Island ought to do (applause). Mr Talbot reminded him of the Rev Mr Cumming, who, years and years ago, was a master at King William's College. He entered into everything connected with the Island, and he brought out a history of the Island, the geological portion of which, geologists of this day said, was a most marvellous work considering the time at which he wrote, and the independent work he put into it. Mr Talbot also took a most intelligent interest in everything conpected with the Island, and the collection of books and geological and botanical species all had a bearing, because they enabled him to get a sort of comparative view of Manx things. For instance, there were in front of him-together, as they ought to be-Bibles in Manx, Scotch, and Irish Gaelic. This gave them a comparative view. Mr Talbot's bequest ought to be a suggestion to others who had collections that bore upon the Isle of Man. Once a collection had been made, and was dispersed through death or other cause, it never could be got together again. A question which had come to his mind was where these things could be shown permanently, so that they would be of use for those who took an interest in Manx and natural history. What he had in his mind for a long time past was, what a grand thing it would be if a collection lilw this could be exhibited in Villa Marina, where other collections would gather to it, and we would soon have a Manx library of which we could be proud, and which would help people to take an interest in things connected with the Island in which we live. He thought every man and woman ought to have a hobby. He came across a saying in a review of forty years ago: "How many hobbyless wretches are still crawling about this world!" Every man and woman who had not got a hobby was very much to be pitied. A vast amount of work had been done by people who had taken up natural history as a hobby. Their good, independent work had been acknowledged by those who were real scientific observers. If some of the young men of our time were but to spend half the time they spent in looking at other people playing football, in some geological or botanical study, or the study of seaweeds on Douglas shore, or some other scientific work that would take them out of themselves and add to the knowledge of the human race and of our Island, how much more intelligent it would be than getting damp feet and a cold on the football field (applause). He advised everybody to take up a hobby. Very good work had been done in various directions of late years towards working out the history of the Island. They knew the work of their friend, Speaker Moore, on "Manx Place Names," Mr Ralfe's book on "Manx Birds," and Mr Kermode's book on "Manx Crosses." But while a great deal of sound work had been done of late years, yet he was perfectly certain that not one of those whose works he had named would say that any work was, or could be, final. There was always something else to be found out -some other line of study that would throw a light. They must all try, as far as they could, to carry on and amplify the work that had been done; and nothing could help towards that better than the collection before them, which gave them comparative view from so many different points. If only someone would take up sconce definite line of research-geological, botanical, or seaweed specimens-something might be done to work out more thoroughly the natural history of our Island. He said most emphatically whatever people did in life they should have a hobby, independent of their special work. People who learned things only that they might make money out of them were very much like those who married for money They ought to have something to live for independent of any material benefit that came through it (applause). Have a hobby, and work it.
The Mayor said they had not only been interested by the exhibits, but by the addresses given. With regard to a remark of the Speaker, he might say the Librarian had invited children from the schools to attend the library, and had given them instruction in special subjects. That work was being continued. He agreed with Canon Savage as to hobbies. He had one himself. He collected jugs, and he had so many that some day he would be in a position to have an exhibition himself. It was encouraging to have gentlemen like the Speaker and Canon Savage encouraging the Town Council to go in for Villa Marina. He presumed they meant for the purchase of it. He did not know whether Noble's Trustees were in a position to give it to the town. It was encouraging to the Town Council to have such strong influence on their side for an endeavour to get the Villa Marina estate on terms. The building could be admirably adapted for the exhibition of the works before them, and a museum. The exhibition would be open for a week, and he hoped the public would take advantage of it. Afte: declaring the exhibition open, the Mayor proposed a vote of thanks to Speaker Moore and Canon Savage for their addresses, which was carried with acclamation.