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Numerous as have been the biographies of Wilson, we cannot
saj that we are satisfied with any one of them. The records of
his childhood, and indeed of his early life generally, are, in all,
disappointingly meagre; nor has Mr. Keble been able to add
to the scanty stock of information. Almost all we are told is
that he was born at Burton in Cheshire, in 1663, of respectable
though humble parents; that he was sent to school at Chester, and
finished his education in the not very showy academical position of
a sizar of Trinity College, Dublin; that in 1686 he was ordained
deacon by the Bishop of Kildare; and the next year licensed to
the curacy of Wmwick, of which his uncle, Dr. Sherlock, was
rector. Here he remained six years. Taking his priest's orders
in 1689, he was appointed domestic chaplain to William, the
ninth Earl of Derby, in 1692, and tutor to his son, Lord Strange,
who died young. In 1697 he was appointed by the Earl to the
Bishopric of Man, being then only thirty-four years of age; one
of the youngest bishops on record. The following year he was
married to his cousin, Mary Patten. All the rest of his long life
he may be said to have lived among his own people, his only
absences being his twelve voyages on business which took him to
England, and on which, by-the-bye, he frequently embarked on
a Sunday—necessarily, as Mr. Keble says, as the chance vessels
which alone then made the passage always preferred that day.
Yet how interesting it would have been to know something of the mould in which was cast a character so much in advance of his age, anticipating as it did by a century the higher clerical standard of our own; whether the gentle spirit which so distinguished him was, as is so often the case, the reflection of a mother's grace; and who instilled into him those sound views of practical religion and that love of primitive Christianity which characterized him through life. His friend Hewetson, the Archdeacon of Kildare, to whom we are indebted for directing his mind from medicine to Holy Orders, can hardly have been the man to effect this great impression; whilst as to Bishop Pearson, whose preaching he often heard when at school at Chester, and whose gratitude to God that he had been brought up in a household where family prayer was observed, he recollected in after life, Wilson was probably too young for his mind to have taken a permanent complexion from that casual influence. It seems likely that the example of Sherlock had most to do in forming his character. And this must make us look with additional respect upon that excellent divine. We know that he made his parish a pattern to all around, that he was singularly humble and devout, yet bold in rebuking vice, and exercised in extreme cases ecclesiastical discipline.
All All these points we find afterwards in Wilson. It should also be remembered that Wilson found the old laws of church discipline already established, or at least extant, in the island, and a ready groundwork for that more detailed system of Church polity which became law as his ' Ecclesiastical Constitutions.'
The Bishop of Sodor and Man was an important officer of State as well as of the Church. He was a member of the Governor's council, the Court of Chancery and Exchequer, and the sole Baron of the island. He held courts in his own name for his temporalities. If any of his tenants were tried for his life the Bishop might demand them from the Lord's court, and try them by a jury of his own, and on conviction the offender's lands became forfeited to the see.* In order therefore to understand the part which Wilson took in the conflicts with the temporal powers which form so prominent and painful a portion of his biography, it will be well to remind the reader very rapidly of the civil history of this miniature kingdom.
From the remains which are found on the island, though not in any abundance, the Romans appear to have been masters of it. Throughout the fifth century it fell to the Scots. It then passed under the sovereigns of North Wales as part of Powvsland, Maelgywn, its king, having wrested it from Scotland. From this time it was shuttlecocked from Wales to Scotland, and back again several times, until Harold Harfager, in the ninth centurv, added it to Norway, and Orry the Dane, in the beginning of the tenth century, reconquered it from Norway. In his line it continued till 1077, when Goddard Crovan, also of Danish extraction, defeated Goddard, the reigning king, and founded a dynasty of his own, which held it as a virtually independent kingdom, though nominally doing homage to Norway, till the reign of Magnus in 1266, in whose time, Alexander III. of Scotland having vanquished Haco Hakenson at the battle of Largs, it was again ceded to that country, together with the * Isles.' It was, in all probability, during the Crovan dynasty that those splendid Runic monuments were reared, for which the island is so famous.
After the Norwegian disaster at Largs, we find England and Scotland alternately disposing of Man ad libitum, as each acquired local ascendancy over the other. In 1290 the insular
* Mr. Train in his history says (vol. ii. p. 13):—'The Bishop had the jurisdiction of life and limb with the right of erecting a cross gibbet on his land for the execution of malefactors.'
Bishop Wilson on the other hand (Wilson's works (' Anglo Catholic Library'), vol. vii. p. 260) says :—' In case of conviction of one of his own tenants the lands are forfeited to the Bishop; the goods and person are at the Lord's disposal.'
prepossessions prepossessions seem to have been unmistakably in favour of England—(of this the knee of its coat-of-arms kicking at Scotland, spurning at Ireland, but kneeling to England is significant)—by the formal surrender which the inhabitants made of themselves to the protection of Edward I. Names familiar to English ears now rapidly succeed each other—miniature kings, who all held it as an English fief,—John of Balliol, the Bruce, the Earls of Salisbury, of Wiltshire, and Northumberland, on the service of carrying the sword of Lancaster at the English coronation; and Sir John Stanley in consideration of a cast of falcons; all of whom, as Mr. Sacheverell has proved, enjoyed the insignia of royalty, with the exception, perhaps, of the orb and sceptre, as truly as any of the feudatory continental sovereigns. From this period, the period of the thirteen Stanley kings, begins in real earnest the history of the island. Of these, three figure in that history as its chief legislators, Sir John, steward of the household of Henry VI., governor of Carnarvon castle, and one of the judges of the county of Chester, who first reduced the magistracy and law courts to a regular system; James (known as the Great Earl), whose noble features will be remembered by those who have visited the National Portrait Exhibition at South Kensington—who shared with Charles II. the perils of the battle of Worcester, and was with him at the 'King's oak,' but afterwards falling into the Parliamentary army, was beheaded at Bolton; and James, the tenth earl, who was trained to war with his relation William of Orange, and embarked with him in the Admiral's ship from Helvoetsluys Bay, at the Revolution of 1688, in command of the Dutch guards. On his death without issue, the island fell to James, second Duke of Atholl, the grandson of a daughter of the Great Earl, and remained in that family till 1765, when the British government purchased it; the Duke reserving certain manorial and feudal rights, until the Crown acquired the whole of his remaining interest in 1829 for the additional price of 416,114/., of which 100,000/., was the purchase money for the Bishopric, and fourteen of the seventeen advowsons of the island.
The constitution, at the time we are speaking of, consisted of the Crown, that is the Derby king, the Council, and the House of Keys. The * Keys,' so called, according to Bishop Wilson, from their unlocking the difficulties of the law, but according to Mr. Train and others, from 'keesk,' the Manx for 'tax '—were twenty-four in number. They answer to our Lower House; but the members are self-elected, the House nominating, on death or resignation, two as eligible, of whom the Governor
chooses chooses one. The Council, consisting of the Governor and two Deemsters (so called either from their ' deeming ' or expounding the law, or from their recording the 'doom' or sentence of the judges), the Attorney-General, the Clerk of the Rolls, the Bishop, the Archdeacon, the two Vicars-General, the Water Bailiff, and Receiver-General, constitutes the Manx Upper House, and are, like the Keys, invested with judicial as well as legislative functions, having in the former capacity an appellate jurisdiction, and in the latter having power to originate Bills, and reject or amend those brought from the 'Keys.'
So here, within a stone's throw of our own shores, we have the singular phenomenon not of a colony, but an integral part of ourselves, governing itself by laws made in a Parliament of its own, and not governed even by them until proclaimed aloud in open air from the Tynwald Hill, in both languages. What can be more interesting than that lonely greensward mount—raised, it is said, with earth taken from each of the seventeen parishes of the island—with its tiers of turf-cut steps, on which for 1000 years the island population has loved to meet. The pageant in former days is described as having been ' surpassingly grand, and as dazzling the people with its splendour,' when 'coming in his royal array, as a King ought to do, in his chair of state covered with a royal cloth and cushions, his visage unto the East, and his sword before him with the point upwards, the Earl opened the Tynwald.' It was this constitution that earned for the Manx the encomium of ' remarkably illustrating that spirit of freedom and political ability which animated the men who in ancient times emigrated from Norway and the rest of the Scandinavian North.' And hither even still, for the same good purpose of proclaiming to the people the laws they are to obev, the Governor, attended by a military escort, sets out from Castletown every St. John Baptist's day, first hallowing the work of legislation by prayer in the adjoining Chapel of St. John's.
Surely the records of such an island are worthy to be preserved; and we are very glad to hail the appearance of the Manx Society, established in 1858, for the publication of the National Documents, and to congratulate them on the ability of the papers they have already issued. And we say this without any disparagement to the existing histories of Mr. Train and Mr. Cumming (who is, indeed, one of the contributors to the new serial), Mr. Bullock, Mr. Waldron, Bishop Wilson himself, and others. These papers cannot fail to be a great acquisition to the permanent literature of the island.
At the same time that we approach the subject of this article -with the unfeigned respect we have expressed, we must not be deterred terred from approaching him, and we think Mr. Keble might, with advantage, have given us both less and more of the Bishop. He says, indeed, that it was ' impossible to tell the truth concerning him with less minuteness;' and, considering how a right judgment on the various legal points of his history depends on an accurate report of them, we can partly believe it. Yet for all this there is repetition, and we begin to weary of our subject before we reach the end; whilst on the other hand, of his domestic history we could have borne with a good deal more. We should have liked to know something more of the feelings with which he approached the sphere of his fifty-eight years' labours; of the impression which a life so singular made upon a mind so singular. We should like to have known something more of his life at Knowsley during 'those five best years of it which he devoted to young Lord Strange,' instead of knowing just one anecdote of his • extraordinary management' of him during that not very short period, namely, how he dropped—not unintentionally —some burning sealing-wax on his finger in the way of gentle rebuke, for signing a paper before he had read it! We should have liked to have felt, and to be able to say, we knew him better before parting with him; and to have had some picture of his character (which we are left to infer from his memoranda and writings), and even of his person and daily habits of life. But we apprehend he was emphatically reserved and undemonstrative, without much love of the beautiful in art or nature, and did not give even those who knew him best much opportunity for knowing him intimately. His Prayer-book is his best biographer. To God at least—and perhaps alone—he poured out his inmost soul.
We think, moreover, that Mr. Keble has carried his admiration too far, when he attempts to justify his conduct in every circumstance. We are unable to detect a single instance in which Mr. Keble admits that he did, or may have done, anything amiss, or that he could have acted otherwise. Now, considering that in his long life of ninety-three years he was often placed in circumstances of the utmost difficulty and delicacy, and that his acts and opinions were generally in opposition to those of the majority, we think this is going rather too far. For the weak point with Wilson, the failing which often spoiled his best exertions, and prevented his attaining that still higher position which his piety, graces, and energy would otherwise have commanded, was his want of a sufficiently practical knowledge of life. He saw it through his own glasses, which were not always the most powerful; and of what he did see, he did not take a very extended view.
Vol. 120.—No. 239. H We