"The Manxman is back"by Hall Caine © 2000
To order quote ref: BEPK/2001 "The Manxman" send personal currency cheques /cash for £8.99.
@ your local exchange rates ( to cover book price of £7.99 plus £1 towards post and packaging )
Cheques made payable to T.P. Taggart
Then post your order to: Olga Gray below.
Isle of Man
and a book will be sent by return post.
( This was published in the " Isle of Man Examiner" newspaper prior to Christmas 2000 )
Finding a Manxman on the Isle of Man is not as easy as it once was.
But their numbers will be substantially boosted when a new version of Hall Caine’s classic novel portraying Island life will be released to bookshops.
Caine was the highest-paid author of his generation, his sales topping ten million books. His plays were also a huge success in the Edwardian theatre, and some of his works became movies.
On a recent visit home, New Zealand-based Manx journalist Paul Taggart picked up a copy of the classic novel, The Manxman, in a Peel secondhand shop and read it on the plane journey back to his adoptive country. The tale evoked memories of an era he knew from stories told by his grandparents - poverty, emigration and fervent Methodism. It all seemed so far from the modern Isle of Man.
The book had been out of print for many years, a point lamented by Vivien Allen in her 1997 biography of Caine.
So in a bid to keep alive the memories of an earlier era, a time when young Manxmen flocked to the South African diamond fields and the goldfields in Australia, New Zealand and California in search of work, Taggart set about having the book reprinted to enable a new generation of Islanders to learn about life in their homeland a century ago. He hopes Caine’s novel will appeal to students as well as adults - providing a history lesson, as well as a lesson in literary skill.
As a former book reviewer and books page editor during his journalism career, Taggart feels the book has enough merit to attract attention in markets other than the island - it is already being sold in New Zealand and there are plans to sell it world-wide through an internet retailer.
Caine was a controversial figure in his day - a shameless self-publicist, he is said to have cultivated his beard to resemble that of William Shakespeare. He fathered a child to a teenage shop girl while working in London as a journalist before marrying the young woman and moving to the Island in 1894.
A number of his books, including The Manxman, were set on the island, where Caine had spent some of his younger days, staying with relatives who gave him the nickname Hommy Veg (Little Tommy in Manx). In 1913 Caine’s book The Woman Thou Gavest Me was banned because it was considered to go a step too far for the censors of that era.
However, the most controversial aspect of the new version of The Manxman, says Taggart, is likely to be the cover, the work of award-winning New Zealand artist Andy Heyward. After receiving the commission, Heyward read that Caine was often criticized for appearing to mock the local people’s ignorance, poverty, superstitions and religious beliefs. Therefore, Heyward’s painting depicts the three leading characters as he felt the old Manx people thought Caine saw them.
Taggart says when he first saw the artwork he was surprised. He pictured Kate, the book’s central character, as looking something like Catherine Zeta Jones, not the Mona Lisa. But he quickly warmed to the artist’s interpretation.
Caine could not have been too disliked by the Manx, however, as he was elected to the House of Keys during his time on the Island. He lived at Greeba Castle, which became a place of pilgrimage for tourists, who were attracted by the author’s enormous fame.
Caine was knighted in 1918 for his contribution to the British war effort, on the recommendation of Prime Minister Lloyd George. It was at this time that he was at the height of his popularity, rubbing shoulders with stars of the stage, ambassadors, prime ministers and presidents.
He died in 1931, aged 78, and was buried at Maughold. His grave is still visited regularly by literature enthusiasts.
A deemster who comes within a whisker of being the Island’s first Manx-born Governor, is just one of the story lines in The Manxman which makes it of interest to contemporary readers.
The characters in the novel were also said to have been based on Manx identities of the day - some of whose descendants are still prominent in Island life.
Colonel Brian Mylchreest was at pains to point out in his 1993 book The Diamond King, that his grandfather, Joseph Mylchreest, who made a huge fortune in the South Island diamond mines, was not the model for Caine’s Pete Quilliam.
But the most interesting aspect of The Manxman is its social comment. The gulf between acceptable standards of morality in Caine’s Isle of Man and today’s Island is enormous - perhaps only exceeded by the difference in the population’s prosperity.
If you want to see how far we’ve come since Philip Christian attended King William’s College and Kate Cregeen sang in Ballaglass Glen, pick up a copy of The Manxman.
Return to Index email: Brian@Kneen.com dated June 15th 2001