H. A. (Herbert Alfred) Birks.

The life and correspondence of Thomas Valpy French, first bishop of Lahore online

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early martyrs of Christ I thought some of their sayings applicable
to you, and that in your sufferings for and with Christ you and
they are one in Him. One of them named Maximus said, ' These
are not torments which are inflicted for the name of Jesus Christ
my Lord, but anointings.'

I love so to hear that the thought of heaven is so dear to you.
One day I was reminding you before I set out for Lidia, how
sweet it is to think there are no disappointments in heaven —

'Wish and Mfilment can severed be ne*er,
Nor the thing wished for come short of the prayer.'

Yesterday I spoke of heaven to the soldiers as that full sight of
Jesus which fulfils His image in us — the beautiful Image of His
Son, which God foreordained all His children to wear. In the
evening I spoke of heaven as God's field with no tares any more,
only fine pure wheat : as Augustine says, * Christ suflFered tares to
be sown among the wheat for the sake of the Church itself in
its pilgrim and stranger state, that we may ardently yearn for
the rest and purity of that country which is the joy of the blessed
angels ' : as a dear Christian worker, as his last day on earth drew
near, thought how nice it would be to find himself —

'Far from a world of strife and sin,
With God eternally shut in.

So Sister Dora's life tells us of a poor boy in her hospital who

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was almost crushed under some cart-wheels, and when he recovered
his consciousness after a while, only remembered that Sister Dora
was kneeling by his bed, saying —

*A noble army, men and boyR,
The matron and the maid.
Around the Saviour's throDe rejoice,

In robes of light arrayed :
They climbed the steep ascent of heaven *—

Your thoughts about heaven have helped and brightened me,
dearest child : God give us grace to meet there in Jesus' presence.

To Edith. (The last that could have reached her.)

Dearest Edith, Train, Lalla Moosa, Dec. 22.

I must send one little word of Christmas love and blessing.
I was suffering from pain of limbs yesterday, and two days before,
and could not either sleep or think much. But this should help
me to feel the more for you. . . . For Christmas I am trying to
write on the words in Is. xlv, * Verily Thou art a God that hidest
Thyself,* You must have felt this sometimes in your long days of
weakness and nights of suffering. *' Why has God permitted this
to me so young? and taken from me so many joys which others
have ? ' This is hidden from your understanding and reason, yet
He reveals a little of it to babes, to the child-like and simple soul,
which strives to have one will with His : and what He has
taught you lately about heaven and its bright happy prospects
shows tiiat He has been preparing you for it, as well as it for

*Ho alone,* says Dr. Pusey in a passage I quoted yesterday,
* is the medicine to heal our wounded souls. He alone the true
riches. Himself the robe of righteousness, holiness, and im-
mortality, which will fold around our scars, and wounds, and
shame, and sin, and give us perfect soundness, covering us with
His own glorious light as with a garment.' I must not write
more to-day, but am for ever

Your own fond father,

Thomas V. Lahore.

To Mrs. French.

Thursday, Dec. 25, 1884.

My thoughts you may be sure have been much drawn to you
and our precious child to-day. I longed that it could be as last
year, when we could enjoy Christmas together. Dear Lydia and
my brother* and the two babes are spending it quietly here.

Mr. Frank French.

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We are to have our home letters to-night (D.V.). I have been
dreading continually to receive the telegraphic news that all is
over. I ought hardly, for your sake at least, to wish this terrible
suspense and heart-breaking suffering alternation between life
and death to be prolonged. You are so good in labouring to
tell me all. ... I cannot help feeling depressed by our home

It was intense effort to get ready for this morning's service in
the pro-cathedral. I celebrated at 8, and stayed in the vestry till
the II service to correct my MS., written at odd hours and half-
hours as I could manage it the last two days, and sketched out
partly in the rail from Eawul Pindi on Monday. Little thoughts
of dearest Edith and you will find their way even into my

To-day, speaking of what it would have been if Christ had not
come in our flesh, I said, ' The sick and suffering child wasted by
lingering illness, the spark of life waning, would have missed the
strong arm of the Friend and Brother who now unweariedly and
gently supports and bears across the swelling river.'

It is a sad yet pleasurable break into my hardest efforts to dwell
on the recollections of the half-hours and quarter-hours spent by
the dear bedside, treasured they will be while reason lasts. It
is a sore parting for us, however long protracted the issue may be.
My text was, ' Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of
Israel, the Saviour,' specially of course dwelling on the mystery
of the incarnation, yet its being also a very blessed revelation of
the Father. It was an immense congregation. Government House
all there, of course. Some carriages had to drive away through
lack of room.

I got back [to Lahore] at 5 p.m. [on Monday], read home
letters, and then got dressed for Government House dinner, where
I was placed between the Duchess of Connaught and Lady Downe.
It must be a little vexatious to the judges to see me put in such
a great place, but I must do as I am told. The Duchess was very
agreeable and chatty, asking even about the Vedas and where she
could get the best account of them. I recommended Dr. John
Muir's five volumes on Yedic texts, which she said she should get
as soon as she got to England. I told her a little about the
Punjab, its races and missions, and she seemed quite to take an
interest in all.

To Mrs. French. ^

Jan. 4, 1885.

The Queen's (Empress') Proclamation Day occupied us on
Thursday, Jan. i. There was an enormous crowd of natives on
the plain underneath the fort. All Lahore pretty well was there.
A platform contained the whole European population, who seemed
like a little flock of kids before a multitude of Hindus and

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On January 17 the message came, * Edith at rest/ The
bishop at once shut himself up in his room and poured out
his whole heart in a long letter, from which a few sentences
only may be quoted : —

To Mbs. Fbskch.

Jan. 17.

Truest thaaks for venturing the telegram, which reached me
just as I was already packed, and starting in ten minutes for
Amritsar to begin my three months' visitation. I telegraphed at
once not to expect me for to-morrow. I could not really break
into the deep sacredness of this sorrow by forcing myself to fulfil
even such engagements. The gracious Saviour will count it
enough that I have torn myself away for nearly four months from
the i^icted home and the partner of all my life's joys and sorrows.
What agony of soul it was and wrench none can know beside.
You will get the three poor words I telegraphed. It seemed as
if I must send thenu ... It seems very hard not to be with you
now. ... It was a wonderful grace of her loving Saviour to
give her that refreshment in the grasp she had of the truth and
nearness of the heavenly home, as if the last enemy was indeed
destroyed. How strangely delightful must be the relief of that
anguished frame, so marked with suffering, but now released at
length, to have printed upon it the marks of the Lord Jesus far
more fully and perfectly and lovelily than ever before, though
I am sure the growing sweetness of that face must have been the
shining through of His own inner presence. His own joy pre-
vailing over the outward sorrow and suflFering I I do think it
such a rich blessing to have had the teaching of that last twelve
months, in seeing how gradually there was the perfect work of
patience wrought out, and that my time to leave was not ap-
pointed me till I could be of little or no good, as my little
glimpses and snatches of intercourse were almost too much for
her. . . . All this was ordered in love and mercy. . . . But it is
almost more than I can bear to think that I shall never look on
earth on that pure child-Hke. Christ-like face again. Yet ' precious
in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.' It seems to
bind me < if possible) closer than ever to you that we have a child
of our own tcith Christ in Paradise.

Jan. 18. I have resolved to keep two and a half days till to-
morrow evening quite quiet upstairs, except perhaps for an hour
in the evening with the Matthews and the Sisters for a little
reading on subjects in hannony with present thoughts. ... I feel
that before a three months' visitation a day or two of retreat and
prayerful self-searching, and intercession for the diocese, is so
urgently needed ; yet I should not have got them except our
dear Lord had Himself shut me up in my room by this home-

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sorrow ; and I love to associate you with myself in all my
prayers and readings, and ask, if possible, most for you and ours
what I ask for myself. . . . Wednesday I hope to get to Glarkabad,
a village of poor Christian cultivators, so much more to my mind
than one of the big military and civil stations. I wish I had not
to go to Sealkote the Sunday after, but I shall be in rush and
whirl of work again shortly ! The Matthews' heart has been so
much drawn out by this afQiction.

To Mbs. Fbengh.

Ash Wednesday, Feb. 19, 1885.

I have wept many tears over your precious letter, telling me of
those last hours. ... In my confirmation address I was too full
of thought of poor dearest Edith not to tell them of her last
request to have sung *For ever with the Lord.' . . . They listened,
all the thii*ty-six candidates, soldiers and young ladies, with such
solemnity and deep interest. I have so wanted our dear child's
love to Jesus to help to kindle some love in other hearts too.

I so love to have your exact description of the spot (in Bust-
hall churchyard). I learnt that side pretty well, imagining it
to contain (in prospect) the last earthly home of our precious
child. ... I wonder whether I shall ever stand over that sacred
ground \

From the first years of his appointment the bishop always
cherished the desire of returning at some time to more
purely missionary work ; but after Edith's death the burden
of the bishopric was felt to be more pressing, and his mind
reverted frequently to thoughts of his retirement ; and he was
soon engaged in definite negotiations to secure a suitable
successor to the see. The events of 1885, which had begun
so sadly in his home, were little calculated to diminish his
feeling of responsibility — the year was destined to bring
with it the close of the Soudan War and death of Charles
Gordon, the arrival of Lord Dufferin and the excitement
of the Penjdeh incident, and all the heavy strain in-
volved in the third synod. At its close the archdeacon
took furlough in England, and Bishop French's dread that

* On May 28, 1889. this entry occurs in his diary:— * Very pleasant
day at Tunbridge Wells with the Barkworths. Solemn half-hour at
sacred spot of dearest Edith's grave. Only epitaph, *' Till He come." '

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he might receive preferment at home, by which India would
lose his services, combined with the fact that an old school-
fellow, Lord Cross, who was ready to enter into his plans,
was at this time Secretary of State for India, decided him
not to delay action until some positive breakdown com-
pelled it, but to seek for a release at the close of a ten years'
service. The next year 1886 was saddened by the loss of
three old friends, Mr. Raikes, Dr. Kay, and Mr. Golightly.
' I could scarcely find a trio more steadily attached than that,'
he said in a letter to Mrs. Gregg, in February, 1886.
A few more letters of that year may be given.

To Mbs. Knox.

May 20, 1886.

You are not forgotten by us in times of weakness and suffering,
and I pray that you may be abundantly upheld and supported by
the Everlasting Arm, which so wonderfully in so many varied
scenes of life has been to us as a family 'The shield of our
strength and the sword of our excellency.' I am still, though
with faintness of heart, enabled to bear the burden of this weighty
diocese. ... As one gets older the sense of weakness and need of
clinging tight to the Guiding-hand is more than ever felt, and to
remember the charge so specially suitable to ciitical days like
these — 'Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them
not.' . . . To-night the decision of the great struggle in the Irish
question takes place, I suppose. It makes a great matter to us
out here, for the former Government (Lord Salisbury's) was
feared and respected, but not the present Ck>nfusion and inde-
cision in our home counsels at once excites a bad spirit among
our Indian subjects. I pray God to remember His tender mercies
and loving-kindnesses ever of old. Your large towns (such as
Leicester) seem to be very steadfast to the Gladstone influenca
Mr. Chamberlain's secession must have been a terrible blow to
it, however. The future no one seems able to divine. I saw
poor Bishop Hannington for a few hours at Eastbourne three
years since, but not enough to form an estimate of his character.
He seems to have had much of the martyr-like character of my
friend Gordon. One wishes only that such men could be spared
till later in their course.

It must be about two years since we last met. The dear
children will all but have forgotten me. But it is not likely
I shall soon find my way back to England, and then (if ever) as
a worn-out, decrepit old man to get out of sight and out of mind !
I must be thankful to be as well as I am. I wonder whether you
managed a simultaneous C. M. S. meeting.

VOL. 11. o

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To Mrs. Knox. (On the birth of a son.)

Simla, Jwm 24, 1886.

I must send one line to express a father's loving sympathy and
congratulation on the birth of your third boy. I can scarcely
believe that a group of five already share among them your
mother's care and watchful tending : that you have been brought
so graciously through this fi-esh trial was a true joy to us all.
I try from all your little picturesque notices of each to form as
complete an idea of the character of each separate and distinct, as
is possible without seeing them grow up day by day under one's
own eye. How strange these various idiost/ncrasies in the same
family appear to me as I muse upon them. It is a comfort for
you that one of their grandfathers will at least be remembered by
the elders of your party in future life with loving a|fection.
What remains for me, alas! but to plead that the God before
whom my fathers walked, who has led me all my life long unto
this day, the angel who defended me, will bless the lad, the
youngest, with his brethren and sisters. ^Thou remainest, the
children also of thy servants shall continue, and their seed shall
stand fast in thy sight.' How delightful is that thought — His
concern for the children of His faithful ones, ever green and fresh
jmd rich in blessing, while old age makes us worn, withered, and
weary often, so that we can contribute so little (wish it as we
may) to the blitheness and joyousness of the little ones, even if
distance and time does not estrange : nor are we told much of
family reunions in the after-world, though one gladly believes
they may be one of the joys growing and blooming instead of
fading in the great Father's house through eternity. ... I was so
grieved not to see the Exton party in their own home. This is
one of the saddest things in my life — its forced unsociableness.
Should T live to return I shall be fit, I fear, for nothing and nobody
but for the life of a forlorn recluse. . . . Had my life been successful
in winning souls there would have been less to mourn. The
relationship at least between fathers and children in Christ seems
preserved and its joys intensified in the world beyond. ... I had
not realized that Whitsunday was your dear child's baptismal
day — one of bright omen indeed. Part of my text for that day
will be often his realized portion, I trust, *The Lord will give
strength unto His people, the Lord will give His people the blessing
of peace.'

To Basil.

Simla, c7t%, 1886.

I have been rather pleased with a Life of King Alfred by
Thomas Hughes. It supplies many interesting facts and ideas
for children. His chapters on the codes of legislature drawn
up by Alfred are curious, based on Hebrew laws in part, and

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in part on those of Ina and OfFa. I don't think I had under-
stood before how much the English nation owes to his statesman-
ship and kingcraft. Thomas Hughes seems thoroughly to have
found a character most wondrously akin to his own. ... I fear
Mr. Gladstone has hardly a friend out here, though he has still
a very large following in England. The Kelts stick to him all
over England, but not the Saxon race. I pray God to shelter and
overshadow us, for the time is full of perils. I wish our witness
in India were more faithful and consistent. The head of the
Brahmo Samaj told me a few days ago he would accept the
doctrines of the Christians, but never their practices.

To Mrs. Gbegg.

Between Karachi and Lahore by rail, Af4g. 20,

I have lectured at two or three places lately on the Uganda
Mission through its ten years' history down to Bishop Hanning-
ton's martyrdom. It is singularly interesting, and the best and
truest sort of romance. Hilda would have beaten me hollow,
I expect, in the examination, even on the Uganda Mission, though
I have read almost every line about the Rubaga and Almasi and
the other princesses. How true it is ' kings' daughters are among
thine honourable women.' I have just finished nearly a three
weeks' visitation at Karachi. . . . There was a Masonic f^te for the
children in the public garden. Many would have laughed to see
me adjudging the skipping-rope prizes, so far at least as to count
the number of skips taken in a minute by one of the rival players.
For the Parsee and Hindu youths I gave a lecture on the ^ Life
and Character of Cyrus.' . . . The Chief Commissioner of Sindh,
Mr. Erskine, kindly took the chair. The Parsees are the most
strictly fortified and citadelled against the Gospel of all the races
we meet in India, I think. ... I leave, I fear, not in very good
odour with the upper and worldlier class in Karachi, as I had to
warn the young people in the address against some theatricals in
the place, some farces which have made very light of some very
questionable (to say the least) positions. I am obliged to take
a strong line in the diocese on this head, and have incurred much
unpopularity in some quarters in consequence, but it is in-
evitable. . . . My old house-fellow at Rugby, Sir R. Cross, is now
a peer and Secretary of State for India. We used to read our
Sophocles and Demosthenes together day by day, little thinking
that after forty years events at the world's end should associate us

This mention of Lord Cross will make it natural to notice
some letters from the archbishop and himself to Bishop
French at this time with reference to his retirement.


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From the Archbishop of Canterbury to Bishop French.

Lambeth Palace, S.E., Jtdy 26, 1886.

My dear Bishop anb Brother,

Let me once for all assure you that I thank you heartily
for writing to me of what is in your own heart, and at once
honouring me and humbling me by what I read.

I have seen both Crowfoot and Archdeacon Matthew and held
long conyersations with them. . . . Besides other matters which
they say you would be (being all you are) unable to appreciate as
others do in respect of the service you are rendering to the Church
of God, they consider that your very presence in your place has
liffced and daily lifts the mission-cause proper into its true position
for the first time . . . the missionary commands a different sphere
of thought in men's minds from what he has done before. This
(as well as the other considerations, which with great gratitude
and love to you they urge) is very important.

I will not wholly decline to entertain the idea which is urged
upon me, with so much that I must respect as coming from you,
but for weighty reasons I doubt whether, except on being referred
to, I could help. But this is only to show you that I have tried
to see the matter in various ways, and that I cannot add that, as
at present advised, I could with an easy conscience advocate your
proposal if it were more likely than I think to be attended to. . . .
I only hope 3'ou can believe that I desire what you desire, and
love what you love, in spite of all.

Your faithful and loving brother in Christ,

Edward Cantuar.

Bishop French to Archdeacon Matthew.

Aug. 27, 1886.
I earnestly wish that I had the strength left to work by your
side as heretofore, but the sense of growing prostration makes me
dread taking some unwise and hasty step, or being betrayed into
some irritability which might work harm to the Church. How-
ever, I will do my best (please God), if it be found necessary to
hold out till Christmas twelvemonth, as I said before. I have told
Lord Cross the same also, as he was an old house-fellow of mine at
Bugb}^ and I could speak with more frankness and confidence.

The Archbishop of Canterbury to Bishop French.

Addington Park, Croydon, Sept 6, i88d
My dear Bishop and Brother,

I had an interview with Archdeacon Matthew, and, after
comparing my impressions with his own, I really felt unable to
proceed further in the business you so confidingly entrusted to me.

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I hardened my heart to all the pathos of the situation, and I felt
sure I had no right to further your love of evangelization at such
a loss to Kv^epuntris as your retirement would be.

At a second interview the other day, he showed me your last
letter to him, and when I read your real anxiety about your health,
and found also that you had mentioned to him your wish that
he should succeed you (I had not told him of this point), I felt
that if I had no right to promote your evangelization, I had
still less desire to prepare for your canonization. With prayer
to be guided aright, and that any mistakes might be over-
ruled, and sorrowfully — for I have deeply rejoiced in the power
of Christ through His Bishop of Lahore. — I could not after this
conversation, in spite of Archdeacon Matthew's reluctance to have
himself mentioned, let myself off from writing to the Secretary
for India to ask him simply whether it would be possible for him
to listen to such an application. Lord Cross replies that he has
entered into my letter with much interest, and will do what he
can. He thinks the proposed arrangement a very proper one
(though I am sure he does not hint any more than I do that your
retirement ought to take place unless it is really necessary; it
ought not to be allowed simply because you can find a good suc-
cessor — that is not the genius of the episcopal rule).

However, he proceeds that he must consult the Viceroy on the
matter, and he wrote to him upon the 2nd instant.

If, therefore, you have any interest which you can use with the
Viceroy against yourself and your diocese and the Church of
India, it is right that I should tell you that it is possible for you
now to use it.

I felt that this was a good time for an ill matter, because no
Secretary would be more likely than Lord Cross to look at the
matter impartially on one side, and with the spirit of a good and
true Churchman on the other.

I pray your prayers, and will offer my own for your true

Believe me, with deep respect and affection,

Yours always,

Edw. Cantuar.

Lord Cross, in two letters dated Sept. 22 and Sept. 30 the
same year, spoke of his pleasure in hearing from such an
old schoolfellow, and his wish that there were more of
them, of his regret that the bishop felt compelled to resign,
and of his willingness, after consulting with the Viceroy,
who approved the plan, to take steps for the appointment
of Archdeacon Matthew, on receiving through the Govern-
ment of India his formal resignation.

Online LibraryH. A. (Herbert Alfred) BirksThe life and correspondence of Thomas Valpy French, first bishop of Lahore → online text (page 21 of 46)