[From Ramsey Church Magazine 1897-8]
[By the Rev T. E. BROWN, Author of " Fo'c's'le Yarns," " Betsy- Lee," " Old John," &c.]
[Reprinted from the Ramsey Courier, Saturday, June 17th, 1893.]
I have often been asked what sort of people the Manx are. And the question has not seldom been dictated by practical considerations. Persons who have any idea of settling in the Island very naturally ask this question. The answer is not a very easy one. You may fancy you know a people well, but try to formulate your opinions, try to give an estimate which may not be purely negative and colourless, and you will soon find the difficulty. I have put the question to my own countrymen, I have even put specified points ; but the result has been for the most part, unprofitable. I have tried it with individuals. I have tried with groups, and I have succeeded in producing perplexity and confusion, when l had hoped to arrive at clearness and precision.
"What sort of people are the Manx?"-this to an excellent Manx tradesman, or farmer. He will begin with the utmost confidence: "The Manx ! aw, bless my sowl ! that's aisy enough said, The Manx . . , that is, ye see, the Manx people. . I mane the rael Manx ye know , , . well now, let me see! Let me see !" But he can't see,
So I turn to a group. The group catches the question with great alacrity. " Yes, yes ! the Manx though, the Manx, aye, aye'. Well now, for all ! What do you say, Mrs Kewley ? What do you think, Mr Cubbon ?" Then a general silence, and much discomfort. I take single points "Is the Manxman truthful':" A chorus of " Yis ! sartinly !"
"Ts the Manxman hospitable?" ,,Well . , yis, satinly."
" Is the Manxman punctual ?" Hesitant answer, not unanimous. " Is the Manxman clean?"
By this time my friends have survived the first vigour of affirmation, and the conspicuous exceptions have begun to occur to them. There is a murmur, at last something like expostulation :
"What d'ye mane by clane?"
However, a fairly satisfactory certificate is given under the heading of cleanliness, when I throw the whole room into the wildest hubbub of uproar by asking, " Is the Manxman brave?" or " Is the Manxman honest?"
The light-hearted, irresponsible foreigner, who thinks he know his Manxman, would make short work of all my questions. But it is not he whom I wish to consult. In fact I must at once rule him out of court. "It takes a Manxman to know a Manxman." That is true, and evidently the responsibility is thrown upon us, and we must try and judge ourselves. I ought to offer every apology to my countrymen for the attempt which I am about to make. But I may perhaps plead that a Manxman who has lived much of his life out of the Island, yet has kept up all along the closest communication. with it, who loves it in his heart of hearts, who knows intimately " all sorts and conditions of men" in the Island, is not likely to be the most unfitted to estimate equitably and intelligently the national character. It is necessary to stand at some distance, to approach, to retire, to look at an object from several points of view, before we can pronounce upon its form and colour. In the case of "National character," it is also advisable that the habit of tracing the outcome of character in the lives of other nations, as exhibited to us in history or by Travel, should have been formed. I think I may be pardoned for presuming that I possess some of the qualities desirable in the arbiter of this debate; though I am far from suppossing that my countrymen would by acclamation welcome me in that capacity. It is sufficient, perhaps, that I may be recognised as a tolerably competent person to form opinions, from which I must expect many to dissent, but which I would ask all to receive as meant in good faith and brotherly loving-kindness.
Have we a " National character ?" Are we a " Nation?"
I think that history answers this question with no uncertain voice. Fortunately, or unfortunately, we are not an English county : Our laws and institutions are our own. Our language, it is true, is all but dead: but it still lives in a vigorous and picturesque dialect, which constantly throws us back on Keltic sources, and explains uses and idioms that otherwise would be inexplicable. We have hardly any literature, a very noticeable fact, but not decisive of our claims to be a nation, The very dumbness of our history is significant. We have had no voice in the affairs of the Empire. A harmless anachronism may be a well defined nationality. The cleanness of its definition within the limits of an island, the sufficiency of itself to itself, the quiet, functional working of its life, the absence of friction, the wholesome, eupeptic digestion of its little governmental system, have made it, and kept it, a nation (I will drop the capital).
Then take us as we are, and the diferentia which separates us from the adjacent kingdoms. We are distinct, we have a distinct flavour. I know this view may be carried too far. I know we are not so original, and so very unlike the northern counties of England, as some would have us believe. Much that has been considered distinctively Manx, is nothing of the kind, but will be found to be equally rooted in Lancashire and Cheshire, and even to have been introduced into our Island at a comparatively recent date. It is better not to insist too much upon these differences. For my own part, I have had large experience of this tendency of the supposed pecuculiarly Manx to " melt away into the light of common English". But this does not prevent my seeing a stratification of character in the Isle of Man which does not cross the channel, and which is specifically Manx.
Well then, we are a nation, and, as a nation, we have a character ; and one can ask what a Manxman is like is he this, that, or the other? I wish, if possible, to take my readers with me. Try what you can do. Reject exceptions ; there will always be exceptions. Suppose, upon mature consideration, you have concluded that the Manx are a sober race, and yet you know Manxmen of whom it could hardly be said that they were ever sober in their lives. Don't let that affect your general verdict. Suppose you think you have reason to believe that the Manx people are shy; you will not, of course, abandon that view because some of the most impudent persons you ever met were Manx. This matter of the exceptions is the great difficulty in the way of a stranger arriving at a judicial estimate. For instance, he may know Douglas and no other place. Is the Manx character to be determined by the character, or no character, of such an olla podrida as Douglas? Surely not. Or if, it matters not in what part of the Island, your stranger has met with a dishonest landlady. Are we all then dishonest? This would be hard lines indeed for any nation. We who know our countrymen not by the single individual, or the half-dozen, or the round dozen, but by hundreds and thousands ; know them too, not in one circumstance or predicament in life, but in the whole of their life, have summered them and wintered them, are acquainted with their trials, have felt the pulse of their emotion, seen them suffer, suffered with them, seen them in life, seen them in death-we have a right to speak. But let us speak the truth, the truth in love. Away with all flattery, self-deception, or any other deception.
I shall now take some of the leading virtues and corresponding vices, and see how the Island, as far as I know, stands at present with reference to this field of observation. I am now enquiring what the Manxman is, and is not. I am not enquiring what he has been; that will come in its proper time and place. That he has changed somewhat during the lapse of time is only too probable. But the nature and amount of the change will be discussed separately and in a future article. How does the Manxman stand now ?
1. Intellectual faculties.
2. Moral virtues.
1st. Intellectual faculties. Has the Manxman good wits?
I should say, eminently so. But here I draw a distinction.
The Manxman is not a sound logician; that solid foundation for all reliable thought is not a characteristic of our race. Manxmen don't argue well ; they constantly miss the point. "Undistributed middle." Ignoratio elenchi, and a helplessness before the most elementary fallacies, are an incessant source of trouble to those who desire to instruct and enlighten them. But once this is granted, behold your Manxman in one of his best capacities ! He is a magnificent rhetorician. Everyone must have noticed what talkers we are, conversationalists, tellers of stories. And, subordinate to this keen observation, an extraordinary shrewdness, an ability to take the measure of our fellows. See a number of men at work. and I can't say that you will altogether admire their industry, but you surely must rejoice in their brightness and vivacity, and the marvellous flow of words, These are good things, but one misses the main shaft, the pivot, the power of logical concentration, which would no doubt diminish the talk, but increase the wisdom. Still it cheers them, this talk ; and Iam willing to allow that the capacity to supply it in almost unlimited quantity is an intellectual gift of the most valuable kind.
Imagination is not our strong point. We can tell stories, and often good stories : but we are generally the heroes of our own stories, and this leads us into a boastful vein. The higher imagination can hardly be said to exist. We seem singularly incapable of the imagination which either produces great fiction, or appreciates and criticises it when produced by others. Confronted with works of this nature, paralysis seems at once to seize the intellect of the Manxman. He becomes literal, gross, and whimsically stupid. Witness the amazing attempts to evolve real prosaic history from the Manx novels of Mr Hall Caine ; the nonsense talked about Dan Mylrea " the declaration by some old woman somewhere which I think my distinguished friend has himself mentioned to me, that "her mother used to show the knife, &c.. &c." No, the Manx mind is prosaic; and criticism, to be good, must have the wings of imagination. The Manx mind therefore is remarkably incapable of intelligent criticism. It will be found more-over that this defect is not one of education merely. It prevails in all classes of our insular society, and is radical and well nigh incurable. A symptom of this defect is the tendency to read personal and so-called topical allusions into works of imagination, to be on the look out for scurrilous girds, a " hit " at this one, or a " cut " at that, and so forth. Poverty of the imagination may always be inferred when this degrading appetite has the mastery.
Humour : Here I think we have a claim to a very high place. The Manxman is certainly humorous ; he has nearly all the kinds of humour in perfection - the racy, the pawky, the joyous, the cynical ; all, I should say, except the greatest of all, the melancholic. Manxrnen are not melancholy They are far too light-hearted and brilliant for that. it is true there is a brilliant melancholy to the depths of whose dolorous splendour the Manxman cannot descend : his wings won't take the downward motion. I consider this humorous faculty, combined as the Manxman combine it with ready and sparkling wit, is both a useful and an ornamental one. When I come to treat of the moral virtues, I shall take occasion to point out that this is the great source of a virtue which is of the utmost importance, namely sociality, a noble endowment of the Manxman.
So far then, we have seen that our Manxman is rhetorical, an admirable talker, humorous, witty. These qualities go far towards making him a charming companion. In logic he is defective; he can wrangle, and make much noise ; but he is not a sound reasoner. He is lacking in imagination, especially of the higher kind ; he is an unintelligent critic.
[By the Rev T. E. BROWN, Author of " Fo'c's'le Yarns," `° Betsy Lee," " Old John," &c.]
[Reprinted from the Ramsey Courier Saturday, July 1st, 1893.]
The Manxman is a mimetic animal.; he imitates both consciously and unconsciously. I do not know what we have as yet done on the stage, but I should say that, with good opportunities, the Manx man, or Manx woman who would submit to discipline and patient continuous training, ought to have a fair chance of success. Unfor, tunately, discipline and training imply the existence of moral quality, which, when I come to that division of my subject, I fear I must deny to the natives of this Island. We are impatient of discipline, and success in any department of life is proportionately rare of attainment. We imitate unconsciously with a flexibility and a fluidity which are dangerous. For instance, we fall with a fatal facility into the tone of our visitors ; and, considering the type which is most obviously and frequently exposed if not proposed to our imitation, the results are deplorable. I am not now concerned to speak of the past, or I might show that the tendency to copy the manners of the aliens resident amongst us was at one time not without its advantages. Before the nineteenth century, and even later, we had form of some sort impressed upon us from without. It was generally what in our day is known as " good form." Our visitors were few and select, often extremely vicious, but well bred. To them we owe much of the amenity which everyone will allow to prevail among Manxmen of all ranks, as well as our , good English accent and idiom. We have imitated good types, no doubt at some cost to our morals ; but nothing can be had without cost. Our visitors at present can hardly be thought eligible for imitation in any respect ; but we pay them the homage, and suffer the consequences. Living in the Tripperiad, or age of Trippers, one is alarmed at the rapidity with which the vulgar songs and slang catch-words of the period become current in the Island ; one marvels how from the elementary, if mystic jest of " Hi Kelly ! " we have advanced to the winged lightnings of " Ta-ra-ra-boom de-ay," and an imbecility has no sooner been fabricated in a London music hall than it is shrieked by bare-footed little boys and girls on the Kirk Michael and Ballaugh mountains. But so it is-the Manxman is mimetic ; and the faculty is dangerous, unless combined with others which are not, as a general rule, found in our race Here I cannot declare a balance of advantages and disadvantages, or honours divided. Looking into the future, I see distinct danger. However, we are not to look to the future at this stage of the discussion, but merely to ascertain, constater, the actual state of our mental faculties and endowments : we are taking stock, The Manxman is an imitative animal.
is the Manxman musical ?
Look out ! We are on "parlous" ground ; the Irritabile genus are on the pounce. Well, deliberately, I say that the Manx are musical. I do not speak of a great constructive musical faculty; but the Manx people have good ears ; it is natural for them to sing in tune. And to this gift they add a musical enthusiasm, and a delight in good ;music, Possibly this is rather on the wane, " Hymns-ancient-and-modern "-has done its work here as elsewhere-musically I mean. Of course it was in the fates that we should undergo this baptism of effeminacy, but it will pass. The horrors of " Moody and Sankey " and the " nigger " school have landed on our shores, and I fear have got some foothold. But Manx choirs even in the remotest districts shall serve you up a decent anthem, and even Handel is not altogether beyond their grasp, still less their sympathy.
There has always been the Manx soprano, no doubt rather an eldritch form of enchantment, but singularly piercing and brilliant, shedding the dorragh of superfluous grace-notes innumerable with the sweetest bona fides from a central column of fiery vigour. Who does not know it ? It seems the same everywhere : so it did when I was a boy. You heard it one day in Kirk Patrick, the next in Lonan ; in the morning it made resonant the vale of Braddan, in the evening it filled with thrush-like melody the Curraghs of Lezayre,
"O cuckoo, shall I call thee bird,
Or but a wandering voice?"
I never succeeded in identifying my omnipresent soprano with any individual. It was Wordsworth's cuckoo.
"Breaking the silence of the seas,
Among the farthest Hebrides."
It floated cuckoo like, unconditioned. eternal in the Manx atmosphere. And it was rich and strong, and as native as you like, absolutely unaffected, absolutely in tune, good and wholesome.
"Thrice welcome, darling of the spring!
Even yet thou art to me
No bird, but an invisible thing,
A voice, a mystery."
So the poet addressed his favourite songster, and in his words I would fain invoke my Manx solwano.
" For I can listen to thee yet,
Can lie upon the plain
And listen, till I do beget
That golden tune again.
O blessed bird! the earth we pace
Again appears to be
An unsubstantial fairy place
That is fit home for thee !"
It is here still ; and, if it submits to discipline, you can get very excellent things done by it and its congeners, not forgetting the circumambient bass which had a way of walking in a similar incognito of tuneful darkness. The grace notes might be dropped with advantage. If it submits-yes, that is the all-important condition. I don't mean to say that this condition is never realised. On the contrary, only a week ago I heard a little choir not far from Ramsey, sing an anthem with a precision of tune and a completeness of accord which showed unmistakably that they were capable of discipline. There are two sides to discipline, the indefatigable and skilful teacher, the willing disciple that has confidence in him by whom he is taught,
Shall we advance into the region of the Fine Arts?
I confess I should like to know what our school examiners think about this matter. It is true that the native Manx have not yet turned out a distinguished artist; for I suppose we must not claim Mr Swinnerton or Mr Nicholson as belonging to the old Manx stork. " Buck Kewin," the portrait caricaturist, was unquestionably a genius ; but such men are sporadic and exceptional. On the whole this is yet an untried field ; and the fact that it remains untried is perhaps sufficient to prove that the Manx mind is not very vehemently urged in this direction. Otherwise it is certainly of the nature of the arts in question to spring up unbidden by patronage, and force themselves to the front unaided by circumstance.
If I am right in my estimate of the Manx imagination it would be quite in harmony with that estimate to regard the Fine Arts, which are sustained by the higher imagination, as beyond the natural scope of our people, and we should expect that any artistic effort would assert itself in the department of caricature. Hence, "Buck Kewin " may have been not merely phenomenal, but may have represented a struggling energy of the native mind. He has not, however, made a school, and for that the caricaturable optimates of the Island are probably very thankful.
For the ordinary mechanical arts the Manx have a decided aptness. We produce good shoemakers, black smiths, and so forth. Of course this does not mean much, nor does it amount to a distinctive mark of our intellectual character. The more complicated arts of mechanism, engineering, and the like, as well as the arts of design and decoration, are scarcely open to us - individual Manxmen have done admirably, but they must not be quoted as fixing a standard of native excellence. Those who have settled in large communities, and been subjected to the stimulus of competition, and the general impulse of the great industrial centres, have no unfrequently risen to a modest eminence. But as for our " home-keeping youth," we must wait, as I do with interest, the result of the night-schools in metal work, which have recently been established, or I believe have been established upon the model of that which has been so successful at Keswick.
Are we good farmers?
This is an intellectual pursuit, at least, it may be. I mean that it appeals to certain intellectual as well as moral faculties. No doubt, the latter are the more important, and we shall see their importance in the second part of our enquiry. But the intellectual peculiarities that go to make the farmer are not the less essential. They are keen perception, close attention, observation, long memory, order, presence of mind, concentration, a certain intellectual doggedness, and I have by no means exhausted them. All these I think belong in a marked degree to the Manx farmer. To what extent they may be modified,or even neutralized by certain moral defects, we shall endeavour to ascertain hereafter. What one observes immediately is the suitability of the Manx farmer to his soil and surroundings: and though we may admit the advantage of new ideas and methods as introduced by those of our resident visitors who are real farmers and not mere pretentious shams, and be very grateful to gentlemen of such intelligence and worth, still here are our countrymen, our own Manx farmers, who have looked after the land since-shall we say Noah? or, at any rate Mannin-Mac-Leir, and are "native and to the manner born," and I am proud to recognise the many admirable qualities which enable, and I trust will long enable them to hold their own.
I suppose " Business" ought not to be reckoned among the mechanical arts, and yet it is barely an intellectual art, certainly not a fine art. The " three R's," which are the intellectual instruments chiefly necessary for the due conduct of its process, are but humble faculties Business on the large scale calls into play moral and even intellectual qualities of a high order; but this kind of business is little pursued it the Isle of Man I see no reason for denying to Manxmen average ability as men of business ; but the moral aspect of the question must be deferred. I do not yet ask what the Manxman is like in this capacity; it would be premature to do so.
Are Manxmen likely to make good classical scholars? The history of our young Manxmen at King William's College and at the Universities seems to say "no." The higher classics demand the higher imagination, and that we have observed as being rare in the Manx. All classical studies moreover rely upon the Linguistic faculty, a faculty not common among Manxmen, rather, conspicuously wanting.
A certain elegance and grace of intellectual pose is very helpful to the production of a fine " Classic." The Manxman has the elementary gentleness which might, one would think be moulded into this form; but the instinctive delicacy of taste, and the moral condition of discipline, which enable us to train gentleness into an athletic force, are seldom native to the Island; so as classical scholars we fail. Of course experiment in this direction is very limited, and can hardly be regarded as definitive.
Have we the Mathematical faculty? It is generally believed that we have this in liberal measure. The Manx children are reported of by the Inspectors of schools as sharp arithmeticians : I think I have seen their mental arithmetic commended in the blue books. Really however, this does not constitute a claim to the possession of mathematical faculty. Our distinctions at the Universities are more significant, but do not go very far. The appearance amongst us from time to time of something like mathematical genius, uncultivated as it is unquestioned is remarkable but exceptional. The greatest caution must be used in dealing with the mythical cases of astounding rustics who " puzzled the Senior Wrangler," and made light of the papers which tried the mettle of the Smith's-Prizemen. On the other hand, the impediments of mathematical success are fewer, and the collateral qualities necessary, or favourable to the development of the faculty are less rare, costly, and precarious, than in the case of classics. Mathematics ought to be pushed at King William's College: It is difficult to push classics anywhere.
I would say this is at a very low ebb. It is a faculty for which some leisure is necessary, but it can be cultivated at any time of life. As it matter of fact, Manxmen, speaking generally, do not show the smallest germ of a scientific tendency. Who amongst us has a Physical or Chemical Laboratory? If there is one, you may be almost certain that he is not a native, nor of the Manx blood. I do not speak of the half-blood: if I did so, Edward Forbes would at least be a brilliant exception. Mr Keig, our F.R.A.S., stands, I suppose, facile princep among scientific Manxmen. An exception so very exceptional was all that wanted to to prove the rule: and I believe it will be conceded that we have not made our mark in tha scientific world. When I come to deal, as I shall in my next, with the moral qualities of Manxmen, it will be seen without difficulty how we come to lag behind in the path of scientific study. The deep root which superstition has in our minds, the indifference to law as revealed in nature, the appetite for the marvellous, the incapacity for and impatience of logical processes, an incapacity and an impatience which are constantly hindering and befooling us, all these things will supply an approximate explanation. Meantime it is just worth observing that the sciences which to some extent flourish here, such an Archaeology, Geology, Ethnology, Natural History, are some of them hardly sciences at all, and the majority of there such as can be taken up or abandoned in a desultory way and being cultivated at the minimum of intellectual effort, are in danger of becoming the haunt of the Faddist, the solace of Sciolist, or merely the occasional excitement of the collector, the gentleman who mikes " curious finds," or of the lady who adorns a pic-nic.
The sciences of Psychology, Metaphysics, and the like, need hardly be spoken of in this connection. The severity of analysis, especially of the introspective analysis, is altogether removed from any conceiveable mood of the Manx mind. That we have not attained to any proficiency in these sciences is a matter of course, but we can go further and assert that the tendency of the Manx intellect is the other way . we have neither the gravity nor the actavien which suggests, and is required in such studies.
Equally vain is it to speak of Law, Divinity, and Medicine as cultivated by Manxmen. The word " faculty " is here used in a different sense from that in which I have hitherto employed it. Still it is just worth glancing at these branches of study, and seeing bow they affect, or are apprehended by the natives of the Island. The three Faculties are, of course, numerously represented. But it is not with these representatives that I have to do : I do not speak of the Manx Bar, the Manx Clergy, or the Manx Doctors. I look at the race as a race, not at accidental groups and combinations, not at the Professions, as we call them. The only point that interests me is the attitude of the Manx people in general towards these departments of knowledge ; I try simply to catch the ideas that circulate in the Manx community about these matters. And it is quite evident that I can he very brief. No doubt, the Manxman is fond of Law, in a sense. That is going to law. He is probably fonder of going, to law than of going to Church or Chapel. But we must not degrade that noble study by confounding with it the Manx man's love of litigation. He likes law partly as a game of skill, partly as a game of chance. His idea of "The " Law is not the idea of " Law "; it is gross and illiberal, and can only by a great stretch of language be described as an outcome of intellectual movement. I shall return to this point when I treat of the moral status and faculty of Manxmen.
Most Manxmen like to preach, from that I gather notbing as to their capacity for Divinity ; and I have already claimed for my countrymen the ability to talk. The sermons preached by real Manxmen of the lower middle, and semi, or demi semi-educated class would not lead one to enterain a high opinion of their theological powers, however much they may excite our admiration for their rhetoric, their wit, and their fluency.
Of Medicine there were much to say ; but it will be best said when I come to the second division of my subject.
So far, then, of the Manxman as intellectual ; beside attributing to him the qualities mentioned in my last as possessed by him, we may say that be is mimetic, musical, probably not fitted for the higher style of painting and sculpture, good average mechanic, good farmer, poor classic, tolerable mathematician, has no scientific faculty, no aptness far the mental sciences, no idea of law. Postponed - business, medicine,
T. E. Brown.
Ramsey, June 27th, 1893.
[By the Rev T. E. BROWN, Author of " Fo'c'sle Yarns,' " Betsy Lee," "' Old John," &c.]
[Reprinted from the Ramsey Courier, Saturday, August 5th, 1893.]
And now my anatomical specimen is to be endowed with vital energy; my Manxman shall take to himself his moral faculties, and live, and move, and have his being. It might perhaps be as well to leave him is he is, and, having assigned to him certain intellectual qualities, to say no more. But, if we did this, our picture would be fatally defective, a creation as incomplete as an Adam without the Eve; for it is indeed the moral side of the Manx Character that lends the chief interest to the discussion we have undertaken, and moral tendencies are sure to assert themselves practically, while the intellect may be discovered only in its elementary operations. On such a stage, the higher intellectual gifts can be spoken of merely as potential, whereas the whole of the moral nature is constantly in action. When one says, for in. stance, that the study of the Classics is not likely to flourish among Manxmen, what, after all, has been said? But if the Manx are found to be honest or dishonest, courageous or cowardly, that is, in the last degree important
Now in this moral region, let us just take some half-dozen principal points, and try to settle them : afterwards we can work more in detail.
I suppose every one will allow that among the principal moral faculties the following are included The, religious faculty, honesty, truthfulness, temperance, justice, courage-these six; and these may be regarded as the groundwork of character.
First then the religious faculty.
A word has, for some time, been creeping into our language, which is a very useful one: I mean the word religiose. By a religiose person we understand one whose inclination is to deal with religious matters rightly or wrongly, who is fond of the subject, whose tendency is to clothe other subject-matter in the forms of this. The word is useful because the term, a religious man, implies to my mind the possession of something more than a natural tendency to religion, or to what are called religious topics, conveys to us the idea that a man has experienced a grave change of nature. It is not without a certain solemnity that we say of a man, " he is religious." In saying this, we mark the individual, we designate him as having experienced the change in question, as having become religious. We could not venture to say of any roan that he was naturally religions, still less could we affirm this of any class or race. The utmost we can predicate is religiosity-the man is, religiose, the race is religiose. I would not for the world be understood as denying to Manxmen the religious character. On the contrary, I think that religion has a strong hold upon them ; but this is not simply a question of nature. Naturally, the Manxman is religiose, eminently so. It may be considered unsatisfactory that we cannot speak of him as a religious. But naturally religious? Do we understand the value of terms ? Can that be said of any man:? And may we not derive some satisfaction from. attributing to our countrymen the natural gift of religiosity ? We don't claim too much: we see how impressible our people are in the matter of religion, how much of their life is affected by at least the simulacrum of religion, how much their other faculties are coloured by it, not altogether sadly ; how much sincere happiness they derive from it that is, from religiosity.
Passing from this tendency of nature, that is, of their nature, to the region of faith, and the loftier contemplations, to the belief in Christianity, and the experimental life of holiness, we know that there have been and are Manx Saints. I can't say, however, that this full blossom of Christian development is of frequent occurrence, nor would I detract from the merit accruing to the ministers of religion who cultivate so assiduously a field in which nature is not the only, or even the principal, element of success. Subject then to the special interpretation of the word religious, and not to press too much the unfamiliar religiose, I shall say that the Manxman is religious and even eminently so.
To hear some people, we should have to condemn the Manx as most dishonest.
I confess I can't stand this.
There was as time, it is true, when I listened in amazement, and not without discomfort, to our slanderer-.
Who are they-these people that call us dishonest :? Look facts in the face ! Collar your slanderer or ! I'll every case I have undertaken (and I have handled scores), the, man who calls us dishonest is either a disappointed swindler, or a disappointed niggard. Either he came over here, and found us too sharp for him ; or he came -and found that our self-respect rebuked his manners-. "It takes two Jews to cheat a Greek, and. two Greeks to cheat an Armenian," so says the proverb. This doublefirst in the school of dishonesty has not yet been transferred to the New World, and America, notwithstanding her strenuous efforts, must still be content "with a back seat." As for the Isle of Man it is nowhere, unless we are to suppose that its native astuteness, for want of opportunity, remains in a crude and barbarous stage. If this be so, I cannot help thinking that the opportunity is at hand. The influx of strangers, "the better way " so liberally shown to us by our neighbours cannot fail to improve our rawness. At present it is an affair of outposts ; but we shall come to closer quarters, and then ! The Englishman is highly favoured by nature in this contest. He looks so honest, he has such a fine rough swagger of honesty about him ; if necessary, he can look not exactly simple, but stolid. A Manxman, if he is a rogue, looks like the rogue from his charranes to his billycock. But it's no rise calling names. If we leave the frontier, which is always the happy hunting ;ground of scamps, and examine the interior, we shall see Manx. men more as nature intended them to be. Well, what do we see? Simplicity, transparent honesty, :a positive reluctance to take an advantage? Ridiculous! Wherever men buy and sell, you will see just the same thing - hard bargains, and the playing of the game. The pettiness of all this will be in proportion to the pettiness of the interests involved. The spirit is the same. Old Tom Cowin was about right when he saw the Davil in Douglas Market Place. But you need not go the Market-place. Go far back enough, and you will decry two Manxmen in a mist, two Manxmen in a bog, cheating each other over a heifer, or a marriageable daughter, with all the energy of the Stock Exchange. I say energy, I do not care to say greed or wickedness. Let them play the game ! See ! there are two worthy Yorkshire farmers doing the same thing this very moment. '
I do not think, however, that the Manxman has been corrupted by intercourse with his business rival from the other side of the water. But I do not labour the point It was inevitable, as civilization advanced, that this should be the case.
"The Manxman will cheat you if he can "-that is the talk, I trust I have made it plain that such talk ignores the facts, ignores the laws of human progress, and, in short, is rubbish.
In what I have just said an answer may possibly be found to a question stated in my last letter. The question was "What sort of a man of business does the Manxman make?" The answer would seem to be somewhat as follows :-The Manxman is yet learning, and his master is the Englishman. The pupil will find it difficult to come up to the standard or knavery which is set him. But we are an imitative people, and. we must hope for the best.
An Englishman's word is his bond,"-Proud boast ! But we will leave the. Englishman alone for a while.
How about the Manxman ?
Now, let us distinguish -
" Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour."
That is one kind of untruthfulness.
" Thou shalt tell no story that is not literally true." That is another.
It would be very hard to bind down an imaginative race like the Manx to a strict observance of the latter commandment. They are not active in the region of the higher imagination, but, on the lower plane, they are inconceivably active.
To tell a story accurately is almost impossible for them. They want scope: for instance, how enormously it brightens the tone of the narrative to use the first person instead of the third ! But fact requires the third ; so much the worse for fact. "Let me tell the story," and away he goes-" Says I this," and " Says I that," and " I ups with mee fiss &c., &c." You may say what you like, but the avoidance of the third person and oratio obliqua is a genuine dramatic instinct ; and the fire and fury and raciness of the Manxman's stories would seriously suffer from the withdrawal of the indulgence which we extend to this---well, call it foible, but you might say ornament of discourse.
False witness-that is another matter.
I am told by members of the Manx Bar who may be regarded as experts, that the Manx people are not reliable in the witness box. Much inay depend upon the atmosphere of our Courts, and upon the high or low tone maintained. or permitted in our practice. A certain kind of examining counsel will create a certain kind of provaricating witness ; and, possibly the absence from the whole scene of all that goes to elevate the grovelling proclivities of our poor fallen nature, may be accountable for a great deal that we deplore.
On the whole, I think the evidence is against us. We are not a truthful race. The charge is most serious, and we might like to investigate the causes which have produced such a state of things. We might point to the fact that subject countries are generally given to this wretched weakness. But in what sense can the Island be said to have ever been a "subject country ?" We might speak of Keltic cunning and duplicity, but how about Scandinavian straightforwardness ? And why has not the Dane knocked a little more downrightness into our composition ? We might lay the blame err our imperfect education, and anticipate a higher standard of truthfulness as associated with better educational processes. But is our education imperfect ? Are not our children well taught? And is it the experience of mankind that education promotes truthfulness ?
No, it is something more than a Not proven. Guilt lies at our door.
But as for the play of a skittish conception of truth in narrative, let us spread over this the mantle of a large indulgence. The very imperfection of our Syntax may have a good deal to do with it. Who is to correct me for relieving myself by an oratio recta from the trammels imposed upon me by the all unfamiliar oratio obliqua ? Let me say-" Says I " I mean no harm ; and let him that will and can adopt the formula, " He said that, &c., &c." I know it was not I that said this brilliant thing or performed this wonderful achievement a bit more than Nebuchadnezzar, but-dear me !
I do not use the word as equivalent to teetotalism (an extraordinary perversion of language, by the-bye), or to any rule ascetic or otherwise as regards the consumption of spirituous liquors. I mean temperance in all things, moderation. The word covers a large space. It may appear, in the course of our enquiries, that the Manxman is a cautious man. If so, I must allow some deduction, on this score, from what we may consider to be the merits of his temperance. Caution is a different thing ; the existence of a desire, itself a moderate desire, a natural desire, and the control exercised over it by moderation, are the ideas inseparately connected with temperance. Now I believe it will be found that the Manxman is moderate in his desires ; some people might think that he was too moderate. I don't think that ; on the contrary, I think that in his moderation consists, to a great extent, his happiness.
" Coutracto melius parva cupidine
In the narrow sense of temperance as the exercise of moderation in the use of intoxicants, the Manxman will compete very favourably with the natives of other countries. In this respect he seems to me to be improving. I have now been nearly a year in the Island, and I have only seen one person under the influence of liquor : he certainly was not a Manxman. Considering that I "get about" a great deal, this implies rather a clean bill.
The Manx then are a temperate, and an increasingly temperate race.
I think I know some nations that have the instinct of justice in them stronger than the Manx. The thrill, the quick sense of the thing, the impulse - that is hardly Manx. There may be a popular outcry for justice, but it soon dies out, and it is often irrational. When a wretched man last year yeas not hanged for the death of his wife, there was an exhibition of wild impatience, which had nothing in it of what we discern as justice. Justice is insatiate, but she is calm, deliberate. The Manx people did not appreciate, as they ought to have done on that occasion, the masterly summing up of the veteran, Sir William Drinkwater, and the splendidly judicial frame of mind in which he encountered a case full of repulsive details, and the sophistries of compassion, The Manx people were all on fire with sympathy, as if that had anything to do with justice. A clear conception of justice as distinct from sympathy, and unaffected by maudlin sentiment and vulgar romance, is no characteristic of the Manx mind.
Is courage a quiet thing, or a noisy ? If the former, then the Manx are not courageous. It is astounding what a noise a Manxman will make when he quarrels. A tomcat in the very ecstacy of that rage which seems to soar to the very acme of possible or impossible vocalisation, is nothing to him. I have heard Irishmen quarrel, and Welshmen, and Welshmen quarreling with Irishmen, but I have never heard anything more terrific than the yell of the Manxman, nor indeed anything mure blasphemous and abominable. At this crisis of his fate, the Manxman loses all self control, his temperance forsakes him, certainly temperance of speech. No doubt it takes a fine nature to quarrel nicely, gracefully, imposingly. But surely the Manxman might do better. Do look at these two blockheads as they dare each other to " hit the commas," that is, to strike the coward's blow! It is the most deliciously grotesque exhibition. " Hit then, hit ! I jus want thee to hit ! Theer then ! now then ! do ye call that hittin ? Strek me, will ye ? strek ! that's all, I'm only waiting for ye to strek me," &c.. &c. For obvious reasons I omit the accompaniment of hideous anatomical allusions and detail of murderous menace to "lights and liver " and all "odd jints." Watch him narrowly, this lusty braggart, and you will see that his intolerable clamour is a mask-he wants to disguise his fear. This "quiverin," is he himself calls it in his calmer moments, these threatenings, these slaughters are really his weapons of defence. He calculates upon frightening his antagonist. It is a question which will frighten the other first into utter demoralisation. So the gestures wax fiercer and fiercer, the attitudes more and more emphatic, the feints more imminent, the language more foul. The wretched men ! What a dreadful picture of degradation !
And yet I have heard people say-" The Manxman is hard to rouse, but once he is, he'll go through with it ; he'll die before he'll give in." Nonsense ! he'll die of profane swearing then, with which his poor hoarse threat seems like to burst, but he'll not die like a man. It may be hard to give up this flattering idea of Manx courage; and of course, one knows so many instances to the contrary, good, sober, resolute Manxman ; but that is not the race ; no, certainly it is not, and the truth had better be told, and swallowed once for all.
By the Rev T. E. BROWN, Aurhor of " Fo'c's'le Yarns," " Betsy Lee," " Old John," &c.]
[Reprinted from the Ramsey Courier, Saturday, September 23rd, 1893.]
Having examined the foundations of Manx character, and estimated the degree in which our people possess the religious faculty, honesty, truthfulness, the sense of justice, courage, we may now travel into the more open field of observation, in which we shall discover traits almost equally interesting and important.
And first, I think we shall find that Manxmen are remarkably distinguished for the capacity to rise with their rising fortunes. It is very seldom indeed that our countrymen, still seldomer that our countrywomen, fail to adapt themselves to any more conspicuous position in life which they may happily attain. Something of native refinement and elegance must lie at the root of this capacity, something too of good sense and of good taste.
The Manxman is very ready to sympathise with his fellow countryman who in any way achieves distinction. Most heartily and ungrudgingly he does this. Of course there are exceptions. In the case of any such success being obtained, there is always to be heard the dull sneer of the unsuccessful person who " knew his father." You knew his father? Then you have had the honour of knowing two excellent men, that's all. Thank God, therefore. You see the father is proud of his son. Can't you feel for him and with him? Have you not a word of greeting, for the pair ? And the mother has tears in her eyes. But these miserable people are lost in the crowd of the sincere well-wishers who, for the most part, constitute the pubic of Man. Surely this is a most admirable quality. Nagh insh dou ere va mee, agh insh dou ere to mee - that is a Manx proverb-" Don't tell me What I was, tell me what I am." Is it not a generous proverb, and must it not spring from a sound and wholesome nature ? I certainly think so,
The Manxman is prone to exaggeration. Perhaps this is inevitable. The island is so small that the only, or, at least, the only obvious way to approach greatness is to talk big. Conscious smallness is apt to swagger. Yet it is not exactly swagger. The Manxman for instance, will talk of his mountains, his Snaefell and his Barrule, as if they were Alps or Andes. He will always multiply by at least ten. I saw one day a field where the gulls were dogging the footsteps of the ploughman. "There must be quite 50," I said, "Aw, there'll be thousands yaudhar," chimed in a man at my elbow. I counted them, There were 30. To the Manxman the Island contains all the wonders of the animal, the vegetable, and the mineral kingdoms. He'll never give in. "Hew is it you have no foxes in the Island?" Not seeing his way to make a boast of the want, "Foxes I" he will say: "Is it foxes? I know where theres dozens,' It is true he will add "Foxes;is dirts." A stranger who should implicitly trust these sanguine naturalists would carry away an extraordinary notion of the country, Omne ignotum pro magnifico ; it certainly is to the Manxmen. Young Mr Something has married an English lady (!) : "Aw, the fortune ! Four thousand pounds, I'm tould," Take my division of 10, corresponding to the Manx-man's multiple, and you get £400 a year as the highest possible dower of the lovely bride. A countryman of ours has succeeded somewhere in England, and has gone into a new house. Aw the gran ye navar seen ! treminjious though. Built a' puppose ! Rooms, Did ye say ? Aye, fit for a jook ! He could lodge a radgimint yandhar-aye could he ! And the carriages and the hosses and the barrooshes and the dog-carts-aw, bless ye I and the gardens-acres, acres !" Our successful countryman has merely hired a more or less dapper villa "of the period" in the suburbs of Liverpool or Manchester. It were much to be desired that we should cease from wild statements of this kind. as well as from the fatal credulity with which we accept the pretensions of strangers. There are the social pretensions, which are more amusing than dangerous ; but there are pretensions which venture into the financial sphere, and are dangerous in the extreme.
Many strangers resident in the Isle of Man have marvellous tales to tell of the high position which they formerly occupied, their great wealth, influential connections, aristocratic family, and so forth. " My house in Kensington; - My shooting box in the Highlands; My hunting stables in the Quorn country; " My friend Lord Tim Noddy ; !, My cousin the Counters; " My set in town; My club in Pall Mall;" -who has not heard this charming old prattle? How is it than we can never learn to take off the obvious discount ?
It would be difficult to award the palm to the victor in this strife of brag. The Hibernian could possibly give points to the Scots ; but for cool, phlegmatic assumption, commend me to the Englishman. Moreover, when it comes to money matters, I do not know his equal in the art of complicated and impudent swindling. But the Manxman is an easy prey ; and, what is more, cautious as he is, no amount of experience seems to teach him the folly of surrender to the first trumpet blast of fraud and imposture. The disposition to welcome the social and commercial failures of the mother country as valuable members of our State is closely related to the exaggeration of our own deeds, and the glories and splendours of the Manx climate and scenery, so constantly displayed by the natives of the Island. But observe how this tendency harmonises with that most , creditable readiness to sympathise with, not for a moment to envy, their successful fellow countryman which I mentioned above.
Connected too but more remotely, with this amiable trait, is the love of the marvellous, which, culminating in superstition, becomes a positive evil. This is the depraved appetite to which I referred in speaking of the scientific faculty. It goes far to make science impossible amongst us, and especially to withstand the progress of medical science. A Manxman loves the marvelous; it is his native atmosphere. He wants no scientific explanation. So far forth as science would curtail the domain of the marvellous, the Manxman would watch its advance with dislike. His proclivity is to sink down into a bed of superstition, and wallow in the soft and spongy texture. Marvels, miracles, the Manxman can't have enough of them; his appetite is insatiable; he calls for more ; he revels in the demands upon his credulity. Some pale reflection of modern science, and,what is more to the point, some influence of modern manners, has of late years passed over the Island; but it has only driven in the superstition. I confess I am amazed at the fact, but after an absence of over thirty years, I find the Manx community quite as superstitious as ever. I am not sure that the permanance of superstition is not general over the whole of the British Isles. I rather think it is ; and, so far as is the case, our surprise may suffer some abatement. Superstition dies hard. The modes of Manx superstition have taken to skulking and hiding, but they are in full activity, less poetical and imaginative they are both in form and substance than they formerly were; but it is the same dira superstitio that Lucretius lashed; it is sordid, grovelling, and would be, if it dared, cruel and brutal,. The clergy are well aware of this; the Wesleyan ministers encounter the phenomenon, and have to make the best of it. Many of our witch-doctors and charm curers are among the most important members of their country congregations. They may regret this, but they will not deny it. A few of the so called wise men are sincere and amiable Christians, who rely upon " the effectual fervant prayer" of apostolic times. But most of them, and I should say, all the wise women are simply necromancers ; and what one has to realise is that driven in, as I said above, by the light of science and Christianity, there lurks, and at any moment may confront and astound us, an absolute heathenism, the heathenism of the Classical Pharmaceutria, and the mediaeval rider of broomsticks. Medical men are acquainted with this difficulty, which besets their practice, and is either actively hostile, or clings to their skirts, and impedes their methods. How often have they had reason to know that their remedies were being thwarted by the mysteries of an ars medendi as ancient as Adam, and as ignorant as Choas and Old Night I How often is this concealed from them. and their diagnosis confused by symptoms which have their origin in the contrivances of some hillside Locusts ! The witch stops blood, the witch removes warts, the witch sells the sailor a charm to hang round his neck. The witch is supposed to have the evil eye, and to be able to blight and blast you, or your off spring, or your cattle. This is perhaps harmless, but the witch sometimes carries her operations much further into the arcana of the animal economy. The Island is full of this ; and, say what we may, an acquiescence in it more or less lazy, but not the less subtle or pernicious, prevails in all classes of our community. It is tolerable clear that such a state of things is unfavourably to the progress of science. The Manxman does not want it ; to him science is an impertinence and a kill-joy at the feast of his all-devouring greed for the inscrutable, the supernatural and the marvellous.
The Manxman is patriotic. He throughly loves his country, not only the great country England, to which he belongs, but the little Island which is his own. When absent, he longs for her with a deep longing ; to him the word longing has a special significance. "Are you longin ?" The question appeals to an unutterable rapture of desire which I have never met with in any other people, not even the Swiss. But the Manxman, like the Swiss, is well able to keep under this passionate impulse, to endure what might almost seem the intolerable pain of this privation; and he is a hard working exile, a most sensible, and generally, a most successful emigrant. No doubt his love for his country betrays him into absurdities of exaggeration such as I have already mentioned. But who would have it otherwise ? It is enthusiasm ; the great Sir Walter saw it flash from the pages of Scottish history and romance, and he hailed it with joy. The Isle of Man has no pretensions to compare with Scotland either in the number or the patriotic spirit of its people. But verily our "soul," is not " dead," and our heart within us has burned, and no Manxman is likely to incur the penalty denounced by the poet against
The wretch concentred all in self." A good many of us may die, "unwept, unhonoured, and unsung," but not for lack of patriotism.
There is a very valuable faculty known by the name of initiative, that is, the readiness to begin an action, or course of action, especially if the demand upon us come suddenly. For instance, a child falls into deep water who will be the first to jump in after it? Or a flagrantly unfair fight is forced upon some one; who will promptly and decisively interfere? But the value of this quality extends to all cases of emergency, accidents by flood and field; moral situations innumerable, surprises of the real man that hides within each of us. The Manxman has not this initiative. He will wait and see what others are going to do. Some twelve of us in a boat can do great things, but one man singly armed with the lance of a splendid initiative, is hardly known. A few months ago the death by drowning of a child in Ramsey Harbour brought out this fact with startling prominence. It was a dastardly scene.
The Manxman is eminently conservative. There is a superficial colour of Liberalism, but it is only superficial, and it is only a colour. What did for his fathers will do for him. We need not say much about this. To be a Liberal in English politics, which only affect him academically, and are often strangely misinterpreted by him, is a common predicament of the Manxman. He is a Liberal in English, and a Conservative in Manx politics. Very likely it is ridiculous to use the term Liberal and Conservative with reference to the local questions which may divide us. But the social Conservatism is of more importance and goes deeper. This is not superficial. It partly springs from ignorance, partly from caution, partly from content. Which of these ingredients gives the dominant flavour to the blend must continue doubtful as long as the leading concrete representatives of the principle withdraw from inspection, and will not yield to the blandishments of the wiliest interviewers.
As regards dicipline, I ftear we must hang our heads. We takle it very unkindly; it does not suit us. We have had one or two eminent men in the Navy, and they must have submitted to discipline :but some years ago I remember our men returned from the Mersey, where they had been training in the Naval Reserve, with a very indifferent character. The arrangements have been improved, and I should not be surprised if the conduct of the men has improved too. The training in the Island seems to be satisfactory, and I should be very much interested to know what the officers in charge have to say of our men now. Certainly this seems far the most likely instrument for the inculcation of discipline upon a people not so naturally capable of its methods and exactions. But there is no need of instances such as that to which I have alluded, to prove what is patent to everyone who knows the Island.
By subordination and union, by unhesitating devotion to a common cause, by being content to be a link in a chain, it is marvellous what men can do. But our Manxmen, though guiltless of initiative, have an extraordinary faculty for pulling in opposite directions, or they delight to stand by and criticise the efforts of others. "See yandbar fool ! torble big-, is'n he? Showin off, that's it ! Hould on theer ; slack off a bit ! Does'n know nothing about handlin a boat. Now, if I was, &c., &c., &c." There is something generous about sinbmission to discipline that does not seem to be forthcoming in the Manx nature, though we are so generous in other respects. The Manxmen have never had a great leader or a great cause; perhap; this is the reason that no one sees why he should submit. "That chap! guy heng ! I'm as good as him myself!" I have already mentioned the influence of music on discipline, and, reciprocally, of discipline on music. The moral effects were well known to the ancients; and I really think that remotely, it may be, but infallibly the cause of discipline in all the arts of life will derive benefit from the cultivated habits of subordination in musical practice on a large scale. To "refrain your soul " through a chorus of Handel, to do exactly what is wanted, to have faith in the ultimate outcome, is a moral discipline of the highest order, and cannot fail to affect the whole character of him who undergoes it.
The delightful virtue of hospitality. How do we stand about that? I think very well. It is true that the homely old welcome is not perhaps as freely given as it used to be. Some of our visitors forget themselves, and services which were, once rendered ungrudgingly and for nothing, are eithor not performed at all, or for a money payment. Still, when she is approached in the right sort of spirit, the Manx housewife is an admirable person, and never does she look to greater advantage than in the attitude of hospitality. In her hands buttermilk becomes a vintage of surpassing bouquet, and the rude conger is turbot and haunch of venison. It is years ago, but the memory is indelible. I had ascended South Barrule ; I had descended Glen Rushen ; I had re-ascended and climbed Cronk-ny-eary laa, and I was rather tired and very hungry. Oh, then the glory of that cottage near Ballakilpherick, the smile of the potatoes, the smile of the hostess, the blushing babes, the honest working man, the welcome and welcome yet again the "oie vie', the moonlight, the dance home to Castletown. Twenty-five, . friend Crutch-stick, what can't one do at twenty-five ? I can't recover my elasticity on the most perfect conger, or the mealiest potatoes as I could at twenty-five ; but I feel sure that I should. have the same reception in many a Manx cottage, though not followed by the same exhilarating results "The heart is everything" said an old fisherman. Yes, it is everything, Juan Hom. "And it's wantin hearts both sides for the lek o' yandhar.-; True Juan Hom, and some people's hearts don't develop, don't spread, and some people's hearts never did, and some there are who can't produce their hearts, tug at them as they will. "Leak turnip watches" says Juan Hom, " hard to gerr out o' the fob" Excellent, Juan Hom ! Yes, for hospitality you must give pledges, show that you have a heart at any rate, it yuu can't gerrit out of the fob, and be" pleasant with the childher" But on the man that bestowed the first tip on our dear little Island, tho curse of Mylchrane, say I.
I have observed modesty here in some of its loveliest forms. The woman was not well grounded in medesty,who, seeing me as an invalid with a white umbrella stood spell bound and ejaculated "My God" But that is a trifle, though irreverent: I freely forgive her, and, for the majority of my fellow country-women, I can congratulate them on possessing in an eminent degree the charm which is the chief ornament of their sex. The Manx " boees" are not overburdened with the external manifestation of this virtue, but the little girls are simply delightful.
My Good Manxmen, you are often too sanguine, and consequently often depressed. You do notraasonsoundly, and are liable to sudden accesses of speculation, which lead to disaster. But I for one will not blame you. The Mooragh boom at Ramsey has taught yousome bitter lessons. Don't be permanently discouraged. It's a poor heart that never yields to the intoxication of sunny, though deceptive prospe;ts ; and all my sympathies are with you when ^,yell meant efforts turn out to be failures. Who would have his countrymen to be without enterprise, the dogged stubborn children of thrift and never venture
The Manx people are gregarious, that is, they are sociable. This virtue is not without its drawbacks.
[By the Rev T. E. BROWN, Author of " Fo'c's'le Yarns," " Betsy Lee," " Old John." &c.]
[Reprinted from the Ramsey Courier, Saturday, September 23th, 1893.]
I only wish I could feel as comfortable about another kin that is laid to our charge, that of laziness. Un questionably the Manxman is lazy. He will work, but he is dreadfully slow over his work. Still slowness is not laziness. The Manxrnan however is lazy. Have you observed how he talks and laughs over his work? Of course you have, and how he sits down and has a "smook." There is something in our atmosphere which forbids strenuous activity ; and, as we never tire of the beauties which our scenery prevents to us, you will not wonder that we pause from time to time to enjoy them. Yes, but in a drain, in a cellar,in a stable? I say again Chut ! You must not be so particular. We don't beg, we ask for nothing, except a little fair play, and perhaps a little indulgence. The Rev H. S. Brown used to tell that Manxmen had often called in Liverpool, but never to ask for money, always to solicit work. I think that is a fair record. In doing the work, however, we are open to exception. Work hard, work honestly, work intelligently, brother Manxmen, and get rid of this weakness, which to the energetic and sturdy Englishman is a fault he can hardly forgive.
We are not punctual. and punctuality is the soul of business and of work. The promise of my tear old friend, the Castletown tradesman, always recurs to my mind-" Well, I'll juss be givin a slip down some of these odd everins the fore end of the week." That is the spirit. The railway has done something for us in this matter. As an old Manxman, I listen with mingled awe and perplexity to the mysterious sounds of the " 10-25 train," and the " 6-17 express." And has it come to this? Yet many of our Manx friends still hold out, and miss their trains with wonderful regularity, and the most perfect equanimity. " Is she gone ? Dear me !" and a peaceful suck at the consoling pipe.
I know no race more frugal. They possess all the arts, and all the modest desires of frugality. It is a far. reaching virtue, but it need not be confounded with a neglect of cleanliness. Of this more anon. "It will go down sweet"-I well remember the saying: it was an apology for bad and slovenly cooking. That is not frugality. " When I was livid with Belly, we was used to be heavin the puddins over the Quay." There you had the opposite of frugality. Still the author of that venerable boost practically acknowledged that the life thus vaguely indicated, with all its profuseness was an unusual life, a life of lofty aspiration, a counsel of perfection, the exceptional and glorious life of a being all but disembodied and incapable of jouddin. The implied reference was unmistakeable to the ordinary life, alas ! to most of us the only possible life, where you cannot and must not fling your - "puddins over the Quay."
Curiosity is very characteristic of the Manx. Who has not encountered the following style of question, or rather statement involving question? "You'll not be Manx at all, its lek ?" " I would'n thruss but you'll be one of the Ballabunts?" ' Now, if it's a fair question. how much wil be you be gettin a week?" "Who's yaudher? my gough ! that's a terble man though." The sapping and mining, relieved only now and then by the direct exposition of an interrogative, would melt the hardest of hearts: you have to answer and tell them everything, and a good deal besides This greediness of information might be supposed favourable to scientific research. I fear it is not so. What it often springs from and panders to, is the love of scandal and the appetite for slanderous gossip.
Of course this is characteristic of all small places, and the Isle of Man is no exception. The want of literary interests, and general culture is fatal to the habit of self-respect and personal dignity, which alone can control the native tendency to the practice. The upper classes are quite as much given to it as their inferiors. It permeates the whole of Manx society, and not unfrequently leads to public scandals of the most flagrant kind. Infamous motives are freely imputed, the most damaging statements hazarded with a truly appalling irresponsibility. In short, we are very bad. but not much worse than Cheltenham and Clifton, or Oxford and Cambridge. In these latter fashionable resorts (for Oxford and Cambridge are now fashionable, worse luck ! in fashion itself imposes some useful restraints, which are wanting in a society like ours. Manx gossip knows no bounds, and Manx slander is rampant and, with a people so credulous and so inexperienced in the ways of the world, is specially corrupting and poisonous. But, if we penetrate into the Manxman's home. do we find nothing but gossip about his neighbours? Assuredly not. To no man are the sanctitio s of home more precious than to the Manxman:
Their lot s hard enough, and their domestic Arrangements are those of the penurious. But hardship and penury do not harden their hearts, or damp the ardour of their affections. Bright and beautiful children reward them with that which is the greatest joy and adornment of their little household. The course of these affections is not often disturbed by the outburst of scandalous quarrels, or the malaria of the Divorce Court. A Manxman knows well the true source of happiness, and instinctively seeks it among those who are his own by the tenderest ties.
Unhappily no! The race is not cleanly; it is even much the reverse. There is perhaps a little improvement within the past fifty years. But one great contributory to cleanliness still remains to be supplied ; I mean - decent houses for working men in town and country. Sometimes I am inclined to wonder how the women contrive to keep their hovels so decent as they do. The dimensions and sub divisions of these tenements might well take the heart out of the most well-meaning efforts to be clean. Still our people, no doubt with some brilliant exceptions. acquiese far too readily in the sluttishness which is partly. suggested to them, partly imposed upon them.. Where a spirit of cleanliness exists, it will generally manifest itself in spite of all difficulties. But go into almost any Manx cottage in the afterruoon, even at the time of the year when women do not work in the fields, and you will see "mawther in a muck,"and the plaice " ill through others," as we say; no attempt at tidying up since dinner,. no notion of we'coming the return of the good man with a well-swept hearth, a spotless floor, the neatness of her own person, or the well-washed faces of the children. We admit that things are not seldom quite as bad in the house of an English labourer. But in England these are surely the exception, and their occurrence would be regarded as a symptom of moral depravity. Not so here. How do the men take it ? Well, I should say, with marvellous patience, a virtue which, under such circumstances, one might perhaps disperse with. I have heard a roan describe his wife and her ways as " dirty but comfible ;" but that man was a hero.
It may be said that caution underlies the whole Manx character. This has been made evident throughout these pages, and it is therefore superfluous to dwell further on the point. Many people would sum up the Manx character in the one quality of cautiousness.. But this would be a great mistake. A people of moral fibre so intense and varied cannot be dismissed in this preemptory way : and he that would treat them on any such supposition could not be trusted to treat them wisely or well. We have seen that there are elements in the character of our people which qualify, or even counteract this undoubtedly wide-spread ground-tone of national caution, not to say, timidity.
I do not think pride can be reckoned either amongst our virtues or our vices. A Manxman is proud of his country, but that goes to the account of patriotism. He is proud of his birth, I venture to think, in a modest way. But fantastic pride, the inordinate pride of ancestry, the pride of exclusiveness and caste, though known in the Island, assumes a form so amusing, that we should be sorry to miss the grotesque humours which it contributes to the Insular comedy. Not being malignant, it does not excite our hatred or, anger, quite the contrary. We could ill afford to part with these relics of an age that will soon be gathered to its fathers.
The same may be said of vanity, which is no unusual tenant of the Manx mind -. it is very harmless. The Manx phantast is a gentle creature, his " pomps and vanities" are more antiquated than offensive.
In passing from vanity to the passion of love, I ought to apologise I suggest no facility of transition : the sequence is simply accidental. I have arrived at the last division of my subject, and for so important a place I have reserved the most important and world-ruling passion. That the young people in the Isle of Man are supremely capable of the tender passion in all its varied forms and experiences is perhaps the most generally recognised fact concerning our character and temperament. And I do not think our youth are light-a-love ; a praiseworthy constancy will be found the rule not the exception. How is it then that we have hardly a Manx love song worth mentioning? Where are our "Of a' the airts," our " Bonny Jeans." our " Green grow the rushes?" We have nothing of the kind. The heart has felt, but the tongue has not spoken. Is it possible that an emotion so intense could fail to have tound its ex pression in song? Well, it would seem so.
"Love rules the court, the camp, the grove," but it has not movesd to audible utterance, the tuneful voices of our country men. We know something about " sooreein," also the " Doorney molla." and the ordinary "course of true love," in the Island. We do not for a moment believe that a Manxman is insensible; but the fact remains that we have no literature which in any adequate manner represents the vicissitudes of a passion so universally interesting. But have we any literature ? This is a large question. And, even conceding that the answer must be in the negative, then explanation of such a phenomenon would be a difficult subject of enquiry, and -too long for treatment at the end of a discourse already sufficiently long. In fact, the poverty of Manx literature, in this as in other fields, would well deserve a separate investigation.
And now rev somewhat labyrinthine progress draws to a close. During its course I hope I have not failed to point out the faults as well as ro indicate, possibly to emphasize, the virtues of Manxmen. That our faults are numerous we are at no pains to deny; but undoubtedly they are more than balanced by our virtute The robuster virtues are certainly not to the front : we ought to cultivate them, and here the English people may be imitated safely and with advantage. But if at the head of our intellectual faculties we can put humour, and at the head of our moral faculties, hospitality, that is surely much. Our people are a singularly lovable people. Comparing the present with the past, there are some respects in which we have improved, there are others in which we have fallen off. That very virtue of hospitality is one of the latter. As threatening our moral condition, we cannot help observing the action of the mimetic faculty. We are imitative, and often thoughtlessly and indiscriminately so. The influence of strangers has accordingly done harm, but it has done good. On the whole I am disposed to decide the balance in favour of the good.
And, in my forecast of the future, I should venture to anticipate improvement as flowing from closer inter course with the great English nation : an intercourse which need not be the less close for being more wary, discerning, and eclectic.
The chief industry of our community is that of the lodging-house keeper. I do not think that this implies a wholesome state of things: an immense benefit would be conferred on the Island by the man who should successfully introduce into it a new industry, a manufacture, for instance, suited to our habits, our genius, and our material resources.
Meanwhile, Manxmen are admirable emigrants. Young Manxmen ought to be urged and assisted to emigrate ; and a knowledge of all emigration fields ought to be given to our children in the schools, and in lectures by competent and trustworthy agents
My task has been a pleasant one. the route has been varied, hill and dale, rough and smooth, sunshine and shade; but on the whole, a happy and re-assuring survey has rewarded our efforts. I have had occasion to notice some rather glaring defects. It is a great thing to know our faults: let us try to amend them. In no population of Europe will you find more elements of promise. Let us be true to ourselves and our best interests. "The lines are fallen to us in pleasant places, yea, we have a goodly heritage." I rise from the contemplation cheered and encouraged The Island is a lovely island, and its people a people among whom my youth was passed happily, and with whom I can look forward hopefully and confidently to spend the years which God may yet have in store for me.
Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received
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