Hildesley, Mark

, a worthy prelate, appears by his pedigree given by his biographer, compared with that of the preceding Mr. Hildersham, to have been descended in the same line from the royal family of England, but as this circumstance seems to have escaped Mr. Butler’s notice, we are unable to say whether the name Hildersham and Hildesley were originally the same. It is certain that Hildersham occurs in t:ie descents in cardinal Pole’s pedigree, and that Hildesley does not. The subject of this article was the eldest surviving son of the rev. Mark Hildesley, rector of the valuable living of Houghton, held with the chapel of Witton, or Wyton All Saints, in the county of Huntingdon, who died in 1729. He was born Dec. 9, 1698, at Murston, near Sittingbourne, in Kent, of which his father was at that time rector. He was educated at the Charter-house, and at the age of nineteen was sent to Trinity-college, Cambridge, where he to >k his degree of A. B. in 1720, and of A. M. in 1724-, having been elected a fellow the year preceding. He was ordained deacon in 1722 and in 172.1 was appointed domestic chaplain to lord Cobham. In 1725 he was nominated a preacher at Whitehall, by Dr. Gibson, bishop of London; and from 1725 to 1729 held the curacy of Yelling in Huntingdonshire. In Feb. 1731 he was presented by his college to the vicarage of Hitchin in Hertfordshire, and the same year married miss Elizabeth Stoker, with whom he lived in the utmost conjugal airection for upwards of thirty years, but by whom it does not appear that he had any issue.

At Hitchin, the value of which would not admit the expence of a curate, he began that attention to the duties of his function which predominated through his life, and having advanced considerably to repair the vicarage-house, he was obliged to add to his labours by undertaking the education of from four to six select pupils, as boarders. It was his general custom at this time to preach either from memory, or short notes; and at a visitation at Baldock he delivered a discourse to the clergy from memory alone, | with very singular and agreeable address. In Oct. 1735, he succeeded to the neighbouring-rectory of Holwell, in the county of Bedford, upon the presentation of Ralph Radcliffe, esq. This living he held about thirty-two years, and during the twenty years of his residence, executed all the duties of his important function with a truly primitive fidelity, not only by frequent public preaching, but by private visiting, exhortation, and catechising, distributing good books, &c. At length his exemplary conduct became known to the duke of Athol, lord and patron of the bishopric of Sodor and Mann, who justly considered him as a proper person to succeed the excellent and venerable bishop Wilson, who died in 1755. He was accordingly consecrated in Whitehall chapel in April of that year, after being created D. D. by archbishop Herring; and on Aug. 6, was installed in the cathedral of St. German on Peel, in the Isle of Mann.

His removal took place, as he terms it in one of his letters, at a critical juncture, when the double charge of his pupils, and a large parochial cure together, began to be too heavy for his “weak shoulders.” He added, that he had “in his new province, as much care, but not quite so much labour” For some time after his promotion to the diocese, he had been obliged to retain by commendam the rectory of Holwell, o’n account of the smallness of his episcopal income, which was too slender to support the dignity of his station. Indeed it appears that the expences, fees, and other charges attendant or consequent on his acceptance of the bishopric, amounted to no less than 92&1. a sum which must have greatly embarrassed him. As soon, however, as was possible, he resigned Holwell, and the same year, 1767, was presented, by the bishop of Durham, Dr. Trevor, to the mastership of Siierburn hospital; and he had also a prebend of Lincoln given him, but at what time does not appear.

Having thus succeeded bishop Wilson, he made it the invariable rule of his conduct to tread as nearly as possible in the steps of his truly excellent predecessor, of whom, both in his letters and conversation, he always spoke with a kind of filial respect and veneration. He accordingly devoted himself to the various duties of his charge with a generous assiduity, and amongst the very chief of those duties, undertook to execute the arduous task of getting the Holy Scriptures translated into the Manks language, | and printed for the use of the native inhabitants. This had been already begun by bishop Wilson, who, at his own expence, proceeded so far as to print the gospel of St. Matthew; and had also prepared for the press a manuscript version of the other evangelists, and the Acts of the Apostles, which afterwards underwent a very careful revision. Impressed, therefore, with deep solicitude and concern for the spiritual welfare of a flock, which providence had so unexpectedly entrusted to his care, bishop Hildesley could have no rest till he had accomplished this glorious design. It lay, indeed, so much at his heart, that he was often heard to say, “he only wished to live tosee it finished and he then should be happy, die when he would” and his wish was accomplished. He lived to see the work completed, by the divine blessing on his own endeavours, and on those of his clergy, in consequence of a successful application made to the society for promoting Christian knowledge who, immediately, and in the most liberal manner, espoused the cause together with the aid of many persons of eminence and distinction, who were pleased to honour themselves by patronizing the undertaking.

At first, with the sanction and support of the society, Dn Hildesley printed only the New Testament; the “Book of Common Prayer” translated, untler his direction, by the clergy of his diocese; “The Christian Monitor;” Mr. Lewis’s “Exposition of the Catechism,” and bishop Wilson’s “Form of Prayer” for the use of the Herring-fishery. But the benefactions came in so far beyond their expectation, that about 1766 they were encouraged to set on foot a Manks version of the Old Testament, which had scarcely, been accomplished, when the good prelate’s health, which was always delicate, showed alarming symptoms of approaching dissolution, and although he had alternations of apparent recovery, and in June 1772 had gained firmness enough to visit his hospital near Durham, yet his usual vivacity was visibly much reduced, and application to business of any kind proved rather irksome. This continued till about the middle of November following, when he was ao-ain enabled to dispatch common affairs without apparent fatio-ue. and performed the duties of his ministerial office with ereat alacrity. On Saturday, Nov. 28, he received the last part of the translation of the Bible, so long the sbject of his ardent prayers upon which occasion, accord | in’g to his own repeated promise, he very emphatically sang Nunc, Dentine, Dimtitis, in the presence of his congratulating family. Next Sunday he officiated in his own chapel, and preached “on the uncertainty of human life,” which subject he repeated in private exhortation to his family in the evening. On the Monday following, Nov. 30, after dining and cheerfully conversing in his palace, with his family and one of the neighbouring clergy around him, he was seized with a stroke of apoplexy on the left side, which in a moment deprived him of his intellectual powers, and in that situation he remained, until Dec. 7, when he calmly expired, deeply regretted by the clergy and inhabitants of his diocese, to whom his amiable manners and active benevolence had endeared him. In the work to which we are indebted for the particulars of this sketch, may be found many proofs of his piety, liberality, and anxiety for the best concerns of his flock. A narrative, indeed, like that of Mr. Butler’s, strengthened by so much authentic and minute information, and interesting correspondence, cannot be too frequently consulted by the junior clergy. Bishop Hildesley is known as an author, only by a small tract which he published without his name, entitled “Plain Instructions for young persons in the principles of the Christian religion in six conferences, between a minister and his disciple designed for the use of the isle and diocese of Mann. By a resident clergyman,” in two parts, 1762 and 1767. 1


Memoirs of Mark Hildesley, D. D. by the rev. Weedea Butler, H99, 8vo.