[From The Manx Quarterly, #29]
Wesleyan Minister Replies to Eminent Writer in a Manx church
Lovers of literature have had their attention aroused as they have read their favourite daily papers, by a controversy occasioned by a declaration of Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, author of many delightful books, and at present Professor of English literature at Cambridge, to the effect that " drinking assists thinking." . A fresh contribution to this controversy was made at the Victoria-street Wesleyan Church, Douglas, on Wednesday, April 5th, by the Rev Henry Carter, temperance secretary to the Wesleyan Conference, and an intimate associate of the Wesleyan President, the Rev J. Alfred Sharp, who has been valorously breaking a lance with " Q," as Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch is affectionately known by numerous admirers, in defence of the principle of total abstinence. Mr Carter, who is a member of the Liquor Control Board, has lately visited the Island in furtherance of the five years' temperance campaign just inaugurated by the President, and has preached and given. addresses in Douglas, Peel, Ramsey, and Castletown. On the present occasion, Mr R. G. Fargher presided.
Mr Carter described the final challenge made by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, namely: Will the Wesleyan President enumerate half-a-dozen great poets, or at least half-a-dozen great critics, who have been total abstainers?" This challenge to produce six great poets was really very superficial, for the organised total abstinence movement was less than a century. old. It was like saying to Mr Arthur Henderson, " Show us six Labour Premiers who have made a success of their job." Still, they need not shirk the challenge. Long before organised total abstinence was in existence, there were men whose literary eminence none would. dispute, who; though they were users of alcoholic liquors, said, " Drink spells., Devil." A modern critic whose leadership probably even " Q." would recognise, Mr G. B. Shaw had intervened in the controversy, and had said, " Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch forgets Shelley and me " (laughter). Sidney Smith, the first editor of "The Edinburgh Review," was not a teetotaller at first, but he became one, and he wrote, " I never knew how delightful life was, or how easily work could be done, until I gave up wine." In Sir Arthur's latest essay on literature, entitled " On the Art of Writing "-in itself a glorious and noble piece of prose-he deplored the fact that the English Bible, which had set the standard for English literary expression, was not included in the course of study of English literature, not even at Cambridge. Well, the very ablest masters of ' Biblical criticism, men whose fame would probably live as long in that realm as " Q.'s " in his, Dr James Hastings and Professor Hope Moulton, had been life-long abstainers and ardent temperance advocates. In the United States, that noble poet Whittier was a total abstainer; Longfellow in his later career frequently wrote and spoke in favour of total abstinence; and America had produced one total abstainer whose name would rank for ever in the roll of the great-Abraham Lincoln .
Mr Carter concluded by applying the principles he had outlined to the particular case of the Isle of Man. The Manx people could do a great thing. They were set in the midst of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, with the opportunity provided for them of working out their own destiny, and they could, if they would, obtain for themselves democratic powers of saying whether or not the drink traffic, with the necessarily resulting drink evil, should continue among them. Let them get Local Option, and prepare for its use by education, in the Sunday--schools and Bands of Hope, by means of temperance study circles, and so on. Let them so use their power as to show to the peoples of the British Isles what a nation's life could be when the drink curse was banished by the will of the people for ever (applause).
Carter narrated an incident of special interest to Manx people. Some time ago, he said, he was walking along a Cornish road, and he saw a little chapel with the inscription cut out in the wall above the doorway, " T-Total Methodist Chapel." He made inquiries, and learnt that about eighty years ago there came among the fishermen of that district a Manxman, of whom they might have heard, James Teare (applause). He preached total abstinence as a part of Christian disciplineship, and the people of the neighbour-hood rallied to his call. They then besought the Methodist trustees to grant them the use of the Methodist chapels for the holding of Gospel temperance, meet ings. When this permission was refused, they seceded, and founded this new denomination of " Teetotal Methodists," and all along the extreme West of Cornwall this teetotal Methodist Society grew. In due course, the principles of total abstinence made converts even among. Methodist trustees, and the body that had gone out was gathered in again.