[from Memoirs of Bishop Hildesley]

No. XI.

NARRATIVE of the ORIGIN, PROGRESS, and COMPLETION, of the MANKS VERSION of HOLY SCRIPTURE, and other religious Books, for the Use of the Native INHABITANTS of the ISLE OF MANN.

THE latter end of the year 1698 is alike memorable, for having given birth to the SOCIETY for promoting Christian Knowledge, and to the Rev. Mr. HILDESLEY, afterwards lord bishop of Sodor and Mann, who so fully entered into, and so happily availed both himself and flock of the spirit of their institution.


Without his lordship’s peculiar ardour in the cause, the Manks impression of Holy Scripture, &c. might have long been wanted ; and, but for the Society’s generous aid, all his unwearied assiduity, and the labours of his clergy on the Version, might have proved equally in vain. Congenial, however, in sentiment, they adopted with alacrity the fair design ; they mutually encouraged; each other to forward a work, in which the honour of religion was concerned :

——— Alterius sic 
Altera poscit opem res, et conjurat amice:

and Divine Providence so poured its blessing upon the efforts of human zeal, as to give them all the success which could possibly have been expected or desired.

THE venerable bishop WILSON, " full of kindness and good fruits," first held up the standard of information, which his successor and the Society most strenuously and happily followed : and thus, at length, was produced a triumph, indeed, over that gross and palpable deficiency of spiritual means, which for many ages had obscured the ancient diocese of Mann.

To detail , these interesting particulars is the object of the present article ; and for this purpose the editor has benefited his work, through the obliging assistance afforded him by a. permission to inspect the books of the Society ; to whom, and to the Rev. Dr. Gaskin, their secretary, he thus again, publickly, returns his thanks.

ON the 6th of July, 1762, the Rev. Mr. Archdeacon Yardley, treasurer of the Society, laid before them. the state of religion in the Isle. of Mann ; and, particularly, that the inhabitants had no impression either of Common Prayer Book, Bible, or Testament, in a language they could understand. Upon which the Society directed him to pay into the hands of Dr. Hildesley, the then worthy bishop, out of Mr. Belke’s charity 1, the sum of one hundred pounds, in such manner as his lordship should direct, for the purpose of printing the Scriptures, and other good books in the Manks tongue.

In July, 1763, the board having received a letter from bishop Hildesley, requesting the Society to favour him by circulating, together with their own packets, a printed. Proposal respecting the intended Manks impression ; and also to aid the design, by permitting benefactions to be deposited in the hands of their treasurer for that purpose ; It was resolved that, on his lordship’s sending them his statement of the plan, and its being approved at a General Meeting, their secretary, the Rev. Mr. Broughton, should be directed to give it circulation accordingly. To forward also, as much as possible, so interesting a work, they willingly accepted the care of benefactions paid into their treasurer’s hands, and engaged to apply the same wholly for the purposes of the intended Impression.

His lordship having soon after communicated his idea of the design, it produced the following

PROPOSAL for printing the HOLY BIBLE, COMMON PRAYER, and other religious Books, in the Manks Language.

Hatton-Garden, Sept. 6,1763.

"WHEREAS, On the strictest enquiry, it appears, that the ancient church of the diocese of Mann, within the jurisdiction of the metropolitan see of York, is probably the only Christian church in the world, which is absolutely destitute of a printed copy of the Holy Scriptures, in the vulgar tongue : And whereas the inconveniency, to say no worse of it, experienced by the several congregations assembled for Divine Worship, in receiving an of-hand translation of the English Bible and Common Prayer Book, according to the different sense, attention, and ability, of the officiating minister, has appeared to the present bishop of the see, the right Rev. Dr. Mark Hildesley (as heretofore it did to his excellent predecessor), to be manifestly great and grievous; he could no longer forbear publickly to represent the melancholy case of his people, with respect to their state of spiritual darkness : a people placed, as they are, on the confines, and nearly in the centre of that permanent light, which not only shines with full lustre in every church, and almost in every house, of the neighbouring kingdoms ; but is likewise extended even to the distant parts of India and Arabia; whilst the established church of Mann, within the province of York, hath as yet only been favoured with a Manks impression of Saint Matthew’s Gospel and that now out of print.

" And whereas the contributions bestowed by some worthy charitable persons in 1762, at the solicitation of the bishop, being then in England *, toward helping his flock to the comfort of a printed translation of, at least, some portion of the Holy Scriptures, the Common Prayer of the Church of England, that universally-esteemed tract "The Christian Monitor," and other religious books and treatises, into the language of the country ; have encouraged his lordship to apply to the SOCIETY for promoting Christian Knowledge, for their advice and assistance, towards carrying the work into execution, by such means as in their judicious consideration shall seem most expedient

" The said Society, being fully convinced of the necessity and excellence of such a charity, have not only agreed to recommend and encourage the said Manks impressions, but have likewise undertaken the management thereof, under the direction of the Right Rev. the Lord bishop of that diocese : not doubting, but that the fame gracious Providence which has hitherto prospered all their other undertakings, for the Glory of GOD, and the salvation of souls, will also raise up benefactors, to enable them for the prosecution of so good a work.

" All, therefore, who are disposed to countenance this charitable design, are hereby requested to pay or remit their several contributions to the Rev. Mr. Archdeacon Yardley, &c. &c. treasurer of the Society ; or to the Rev. Thomas Broughton, secretary, at the Society’s house as above."

This proposal was ordered by the Society to be inserted in their Annual Report, for 1763, then in the press ; and two thousand copies of it were directed to be printed separately, and circulated among the members of the Society.

At their meeting in February, 1764, a letter received from bishop Hildesley was read, relative to this most interesting object of his lordship’s attention ; and more particularly to the expences of the Rev. Thomas Corlett, the voluntary corrector of the press, occasioned by his stay in London to prepare a Manks impression of the New Testament ; accompanied with a draft upon James Heywood, Esq for fifty pounds, as his lordship’s own benefaction to the good design.

The Society thereupon agreed to make Mr. Corlett a compliment of thirty guineas, exclusive of his expences ; at the same time desiring his lordship to bestow reasonable premiums on such other of the Manks clergy, as had already been, or should be, serviceable in translating or revising the Manks publications, and in such proportions as his lordship should think fit.

In consequence of this,—an edition of the Four Gospels having been recently revised and printed for them, and being desirous to expedite their farther efforts,—the bishop, in March following issued the circular letter subjoined ; and arrangement was soon formed for carrying the design into most extensive effect in the Isle of Man. . . .


My Reverend Brethren,

‘This waits on you, with great pleasure, to signify my readiness to transmit to your hands a portion of the Manks Gospels, by such means as you shall contrive to have them conveyed to you for the use of your parishioners, so far as this first edition will extend.

I have likewise the satisfaction to acquaint you, that our friends in England are still successfully exerting their endeavours, for increasing the fund of contributions toward the expence of printing a large and more correct edition of the Holy Oracles, and of our excellent Liturgy, when you shall be pleased to furnish them with matter for so truly Christian a work.

Whilst strangers and foreigners are thus zealously engaged in the service of this poor, but very antient, church of Mann, I have great confidence in my faithful clergy, that they will not be wanting in their share of pains and study to promote the spiritual welfare of their respective charges ; by helping to adminster light to them, that sit in darkness, compared with what they will enjoy from an uniform translation of the Scripture ; of the New Testament, at least, and of the publick offices they are so ready to attend.

I therefore do now, once again, find myself obliged, in the name of our great MASTER, whose servants we are, to recommend it to you, my dear brethren, to take into consideration some method of proceeding with the Liturgy already begun, and which our benefactors are so frequently inquiring after.

Commending your willing labours in so pious and important an undertaking to the Divine blessng and assistance, I remain, with my earnest prayers for the success . of this, and what. ever else may tend to the Glory of GOD, and the good of his church,

Rev. Sirs,

Your ever faithful friend, and affectionate brother,


N. B. It is earnestly requested of the clergy, who have received the interleaved Testaments, that they will be so good as to insert freely their remarks on the blank pages, as the best method that can be proposed for furnishing, from the whole, one correct edition, which will be much wanted ; the number already printed being too small to answer the demand for them."

" To all the OFFICIATING CLERGY.of this ISLE

With respect to the form to be used, upon our new Liege’s accession to these dominions, you will be pleased to read " The Lord, the Lady, and Government of this Isle."

Given at Bishop’s Court, this 29th day of March, 1764.


Generously elated with the happy prospect of success which now presented itself to his view, the amiable bishop would no longer conceal from the Society his intentions in favour of their joint concern. He accordingly sent them a letter, containing a new clause in his will, fully expressive of his paternal attachment to the great work in hand. It needs no comment, and is as follows

" I Mark Hildesley, D. D. bishop of Sodor and Mann, among other bequests, in a will bearing date 12. Sept. 1763, do give unto Samuel Dickens, D. D. archdeacon of Durham, and his two brothers, the Rev. Charles Dickens, and colonel Thomas Dickens, three hundred pounds Old South Sea Annuities, standing in my name in the books of the South Sea Company, London; In trust, that they, or either of them, thai!, after the death of my sister, Hester Hildesley, pay, or cause to be paid or transferred the said stock of £1300 to one or other of the treasurers of the SOCIETY for promoting Christian Knowledge, London ; to be applied by the said Society, interest or principal, as occasion shall be, for furnishing new impressions of Manks Translations, when it shall be signfied to them from the bishop of Mann, for the time being, that such new impressions of the Holy Scriptures, the Liturgy, or other good books in the Manks tongue, are farther wanting to the people of the Isle and Diocese of Mann. And if, by any mischance, my will above referred to should never reach the Commons in London, for probate ; or if, by any fresh transcript, my will should be altered, with respect to trustees, or otherwise ; I hereby declare it to be my clear will and purpose, that the bequest mentioned in this paper shall stand good, and be proved, if necessary, as part of my last will. In witness thereof, the whole being written with my own hand, I here subscrihe my name, and affix my seal, this 3d day of April, 1764.


Mr. Archdeacon Yardley reported, that he had offered Mr. Corlett thirty guineas, in pursuance of the Society’s direction ; but that, having generously refused to receive what he thought was more that his labour deserved, he accepted twenty guineas only, for which he respectfully returned his thanks.

By their next proposal, May 4, 1764, the Society state, " That the diocese of Mann is supposed to contain near twenty thousand souls; the far greater number cf whom are entirely ignorant of the English language ; that the benefactions already received amounted to upwards of five hundred pounds ; and that, in consequence of this encouragement, they had printed and dispersed gratis in the isle of Mann 2000 Catechisms,1200 Chriftian Monitors, and 1000 copies of the Four Gospels,. and Acts of the Apostles, in the Manks tongue. They hoped also to pursue farther the good design, so soon as enabled by the beneficence of well-disposed persons ; and to that end, the Apostolical Epistles, and Liturgy of the church were already put into the hands of able clergymen of the Isle of Mann, well skilled in the language, to be prepared for the press. After which it was intended to translate and publish the Scriptures of the Old Testament ; that the diocese might be put upon a level with their neighbours, in having the pure word of God and the Liturgy-service in their own language, for the use both of their publick assemblies, and of private families. This dotie, and in case the fund thould answer, it was proposed to publish such other books and trades, in the Manks tongue, as might be thought most suitable to promote true religion and virtue ; and the society, therefore, earnestly intreated assistance from the pious and charitable, in favour of so excellent and extensive a scheme."

Of the above proposal three thousand copies were ordered to be circulated ; and on the 4th of Dec. 1764, the Society resolved on printing 1500 Manks copies of the Common-Prayer, of the same size and paper as the Four Gospels, and Acts of the Apofties, already published ; together with an additional number of fifty copies in quarto, on fine paper, for the use of churches, and for presents.

Upon a moderate computation, however, it was found, that upwards of 1000 pounds more than had been received would be requisite to complete the object, especially if larger numhers of copies thould be printed in future editions ; it being their view, " to extend, if possible, the distribution so far, as that no individual of the twenty thousand natives in the Isle of Mann might be destitute of a Bible, and a Common-Prayer Book, in his own language?’

In June, 1765, bishop Hildesley, being then in England, and in the chair, represented to the board the extraordinary care and labour which the Rev. Philip Moore 2, of Douglas, had taken, to assist the translation of the Liturgy into Manks; and that he had declined to accept of any gratuity in money. The committee, entertaining a grateful sense of that gentle’man’s service.s, recommended it to the Society to make him a present, from the produce of Mr. Belke’s charity, of such books in their catalogue as he should choose, to the value of five pounds ; and to the Rev. Mr. Corlett, also, to the amount of twenty shillings.

At their meeting on Oct 7, 1766, after considering a letter from Mr. Shepherd, printer, at Whitehaven, relative to the printing of books in Manks, at Ramsay, in the Isle of Mann; the Society resolved, that 1000 copies of the transated Epistles and Revelation be forthwith worked off, exactly similar with the Gospels and Acts already printed in London ; and that bishop Hildesley be desired, both to fix with the printer, as to price of paper, letter-press, and binding, ; and to draw upon their treasurer for such monies as were wanting to carry on the work.

His lordship being again in the chair, August, 1767, and having represented to the board the necessity of a new edition of the Common-Prayer, in a smaller volume ; they. requested his lordship, after funishing the present impression of the Epistles and Revelation, to order 200 copies of the Common-Prayer, with the Psalms in Metre annexed, to be printed in the Nonpareil or Minion character.

It was in the state of the business, that the following " ADDRESS to the PUBLICK" was printed and dispersed in 1769 ; drawn up, as we have reason to believe, by the Rev. Mr. MOORE, whose name and important services are so often and deservedly mentioned in the course of our narrative.

" SINCE the isle of Mann is become an appendage of Great Britain, and its regalities are vested in. the imperial crown of these realms, it may possibly afford some satisfaction to the public, to be informed what effect this great, and, to us, interesting Revolution in our small state, may have had on the minds, the manners, and the disposition of our people.

"IN order to which I.would obferve, that the local trade so long carried on here, to the detriment of the crown,.being now totally suppressed, by the care and attention of his majesty’s civil government in this isle, aided by the vigilance and activity of the revenue officers and cutters ; we have turned our hands, with uncommon spirit and diligence, to cultivate the more innocent and laudable, though less lucrative arts of agriculture, and the linen manufactory.

 " OUR HERRING FISHERY too, with the favour of some further encouragement from British bounty to facilitate our attempts, would be a happy resource for the support and benefit of the inhabitants ; above a thousand of whom have been obliged to leave this island, within these three years, for want of employment, to the great distress and irreparable loss of the country.

" IT is an observation no less just than pious, that it belongs to the wisdom and goodness of divine, Providence only, to bring good out of evil ; and of this we are a very eminent and recent example. We have lost, it is true, a certain species of commerce, of no great advantage to the place in general, as but few, in comparison, were enriched thereby ; while it was secretly undermining us, as it introduced a spirit of idleness and dissipation ; and, from the easy acquisition of spirituous liquors, and other foreign luxuries, was tending fast to debauch the minds, corrupt the morals, and enervate the constitutions of our common people; the gains so lightly acquired being, for the most part, as lightly liquidated..

" INSTEAD of this, a more pleasing and more agreeable prospect begins to open. Sublata cause, tollitur effectus ; the cause being removed, the effect ceases. Industry and sobriety have taken place, and diffuse their salutary influence ; which we have reason to hope will daily increase ; since the principal inhabitants of the isle, yet remaining, have made application to the British ministry for some particular indulgence, in certain branches of a fair and honest commerce, which we hope will not be refused us ; flattering ourselves with the expectation of some lenity and favour, upon account of our peaceable and submissive behaviour ; and that no subjects in the British dominions can be better assessed to his Majesty’s person and government than the inhabitants of this isle.

" WE beg only to be considered as fellow subjects, or at least as the poor relations, for that we certainly are, of a great and opulent people. Nothing do we want, nothing do we wish, but some small encouragement, to make us not altogether unworthy of your regard : And of this we will not despair, from the noble nature and generous spirit of the British nation, with the experience we have already had of their liberality and compassion, in a case of the highest and most interesting nature ; many respetable persons in England, and even some Companies of distinction in the city of London, having kindly and charitably contributed to redress one of the greatest grievances under which it is possible for any Christian people to labour.

" FOR, On the accession of our present worthy bishop to this diocese of Sodor and Mann, he found us most unfortunately destitute of the HOLY SCRIPTURES in our native 1anguage : and. though a design had been formed by his predecessor of pious memory, the late most exceletnt bishop Wilson, for having the Scriptures of the New Testament in. the "Manks tongue, and though the four Gospels, with the Acts, had been already translated, yet were they never printed (except only a few copies of St. Matthew’s Gospel) until his immediate successor, our present bishop, resolutely undertook the arduous work ; which has in a great measure been effected, by the divine blessing on his own endeavours, and his successful application to others, who generously countenanced, and liberally patronised the plan.

" IT is imposible to describe the avidity wherewith the books, which his lordship has been enabled to get printed off, are sought after; or with what joy, and gratitude to their benefactors, they are received. Masters of families, and others, who are well disposed, can now read to the ignorant and illiterate the Sacred Oracles in their own language ; whereas, before, they never did nor could hear or know more of them, than what they learned from crude, and often extempore translations. To the younger clergy this was a task difficult and discouraging, as it required the pratice and experience of some years to make them tolerably expert at such expositions ; and, after all, every man had his own different manner, and different explanation, to the subversion of all order and uniformity in our publick Liturgy. From this inconvenience, however, we are now totally delivered ; and, thanks to the indefatigable zeal of our good diocesan, supported as he has been by the contributions of several munificent benefactors, the Publick Worship of God is every where performed with the utmost decency and good order.

" IN consequence of this fair prospect, the bishop is encouraged to set on foot a version of the OLD TESTAMENT ENTIRE; that so his diocese, in, common with others, may enjoy the full blessing of having the sacred canon complete : a work, in which his clergy are now engaged ; animated with the sanguine hope, that his lordship, enabled by further benefactions to execute so laudable and necessity an undertaking, may perpetuate the fame to future generations ; and that the light and benefit of divine knowledge, enjoyed. by all other Protestant churches in the British dominions, may be happily extended to this also.

"WE justly blame, and even reproach the Church of Rome, for locking up the Scriptures from her people in an unknown tongue : but how little different, and no less to be lamented, is our own case ; where the bulk of the common people understand very little, and many thousands nothing at all, of the English language

" WE celebrate the charity, and applaud the goodness, of those benevolent minds, who, at a vast expence, procure the Scriptures and other good books to be printed in the Malabarick and other Asiatick tongues, for the instruction of nations the most remote and different from our own ; whilst a very ancient Christian community, at home, and of the established church, has never hitherto had the Scriptures in their native aboriginal language : a circumstance, I believe, peculiar to ourselves, till it pleased God to inspire the minds, and enlarge the hearts, of our kind benefactors.

" WHAT an immense tribute then of thanks do we owe to these our noble spirited and generous friends, for the ineffiinahle boon thus conferred upon a most grateful and affectionate people ! whose prayers to the Supreme Fountain of all good, and whose best wishes for their prosperity, our benefactors are desired to accept, as a just, but inadequate, acknowledgement of their pious munificence.


Isle of Man May 4, 1769."

By their Annual Reports of the years 1770 and 1771, the Society acquainted the publick, that, from the very liberal encouragement received, they had been enabled to print large editions of the New Testament, the Common Prayer, " Lewis’s Catechism," and " the Christian Monitor ;" that they had also printed the Pentateuch, or Five Books of Moses ; and that a second portion of the Old Testament, as far as to the book of Job, was gone to the press.

Of the first mentioned impressions they had dispersed, gratis, in the Isle of Mann, 2000 copies of Lewis’s Catechism, 1200 of the Chrisian Monitor, 1000 of the New Testament in octavo, 1550 of the Common-Prayer in the same character, and 1000 ditto of a smaller size. They farther said, that, prompted by a consideration of the good efffects which already attended theiè distributions, the worthy Bishop of Mann has often expressed to the Society his own and his peoples sense of so noble an instance of Christian charity to the souls of men. At the same time in this happily advanced state of the pious design, they hoped, that the same genuine principles of benevolence, which had hitherto assisted them, would still continue to operate, and thus enable them to perfect the success of so useful an undertaking.

About this time a fatal accident had like to have taken place, which threatened greatly to retard the good work, and is thus related by the Rev. Dr. Kelly. " I began to revise, correct, and tranfcrihe, the Gaelic Translation of the Bible on the 1st of June, 1768. The Pentateuch was soon after nearly ready for the press ; and we arrived at Whitehaven, where the work was printed on the 13th of April, 1770. On our next return from the island to Whitehaven, the 19th of March, 1771, charged with another portion, from Deuteronomy to Job inclusive, we were shipwrecked in a storm. With no small difficulty and danger the manuscript was preserved, by holding it above the water for the space of five hours ; and this was almost the only article saved. His lordship, and the Rev. Philip Moore, when-ever the subject afterwards came into conversation, were jocularly pleased to compare the corrector to Caesar ; who, during the sea-fight at Alexandria, is said to have faved his Commentaries by holding them in one hand, and swimming with the other4. Of this trying event an account was given by a paragraph in the Newcastle Chronicle, as of the Saturday, 19 March, 1771."

In Octobe, 1772, not many weeks previous to bishop Hildesley’s decease, the Society read a letter from his lordship, expressing his hope, that some handsome gratuity might be thought of for Mr. John Kelly 6, a young gentleman, native of the Isle of Mann ; " who has been," says the good prelate, " a most assduous and useful assistant to Mr. Moore, in transcribing fair the translation of the Manks Bible for the press7 of which he has been likewise a most indefatigable corrector ; and for which he has hitherto received no emolument." His lordship further hoped, that the Society would the rather consider Mr. Kelly in an especial manner, as Mr. Moore had generousy declined to accept any thing for his pains. The Society upon this, very much to their honour, referred the business entirely to his lordship ; only requesting him to make Mr. Kelly a sutable acknowledgement, and rather to exceed than fall short of a due liberality.

The first volume of the Bible Translation was completed on the 2d of July, 1771 : the second volume was got ready for the press on the 6th of April, 1772 ; and all was finished, and transcribed in December of the same year,—just before his lordship died.



1 This consisted of a very liberal free-gift, in the year 1734; when Mr. Edwin Belke, a gentleman of Kent, left to the Society ten acres of land in Romney Marsh, now let at ten pounds per annun, free of all taxes and other deductions ; and likewise £ 1050 New South Sea Annuities, towards defraying the expence of distributing, gratis Bibles, New Testaments, and other religious books, under the inspection of the Society.

2 For his lordship’s very singular and personal exertions in this business, he was goodnaturedly called " the mendicant bishop."

3 See the Short Account given of this very excellent divine, page 186.

4 "Cum desilisset in mare, nando per ducentos passus, evasit—elata laevà ; ne libelli, quos tenebat, madesierent." C. Sueton, lib. I. n. 64.

5 Now LL. D. heretofore of St. John’s college, Cambridge ; vicar of Ardleigh, near Colchester, in Essex ; and late tutor to the marquis of Huntley.

6 Somewhat about this time, a proposition was made for printing the whole Bible in folio ; or, if that could not be done, to have the Proper Lessons, at least, in that size, principaly for the use of churches. With respect to the former, feeeling themselves happy that so much already had been done, beyond all expectation ; considering also the present state of their fund, and the precarious nature of their resources ; the Society properly declined so expensive an undertaking.

7 Neither could the latter meet their approbation; as, though the number said to be wanted was srnall, the cost of printing would be great ; and, after all, it would prove but a mutilated performance. The idea, therefore, of folio inipressions was indispensably dropped ; and the only accomrnodation that could be resorted to was adopted, by forming a few quarto sized copies of the Bible and Liturgy, from the type of the octavo edition) in manner hereafter mentioned.


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