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H. A. (Herbert Alfred) Birks.

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

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rencontre, is it not? So the day has not been an idle^ or
uneventful one, though I could wish it to have been one of
more quiet reflection in my own room, for to have passed my
sixty-sixth birthday might well solemnize. ... I feel one has
much need of the inner iiie hidden with Christ in God.'

Mr. Maitland was so closely associated with Bishop
Frenches latest hours, that some short notice of his own
too brief career seems not unnatural. Alexander Charles
Maitland was bom in 1853, the son of the well-known
author, the Eev. Brownlow Maitland. His mother, two
brothers, and a sister all died of consumption, and his
own life from 1869, when he was obliged to leave Marl-
borough through a threat of the same trouble, may be
said to have been one long fight with the disease. He
entered at Trinity College, Cambridge, and took his degree
in 1880, his course having been much interrupted by the
need of wintering abroad. In 1876 he first came to Delhi
on his way to Cashmere for a shooting tour, for he was
a keen sportsman. There he became attached to Mr. and
Mrs. Winter, and, after his degree, he accepted their warm
invitation to settle down and labour in that place. In 1882
he was ordained as deacon by Bishop French at Simla,
and three years later as priest. To the bishop he always
looked up with filial reverence and affection. After the death
of Mrs. Winter in 1881 he became almost like a son to



^ In the morning he had visited Miss Whately's schools.



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348 LIFE OF BISHOP FRENCH

Mr. Winter, and he nursed him through his last long illness
in the Eipon Hospital at Simla in 1891. Later in the same
year he married Miss Boyd of the Delhi Zenana Mission.
In the summer of 1894, when in lowered health, he caught
a chill, and succumbed at Delhi to acute pneumonia and
phthisis on Sunday, July 22. On the Sunday morning
he received the Holy Communion with seven or eight of
those most dear to him, being at the time perfectly con-
scious; it was the last food that he took. Two hours
afterwards he died; and he was buried in the native
cemetery outside the Ajmere gate, so that he should lie
in death, as was his wish, amongst those to whom his
life had been given.

The Punjab Mission News wrote thus of him ; —

* There was an intense power of sympathy, tenderness, and
affection, which, being coupled in a high degree with an inex-
plicable charm of personal manner and attractive power, had
made his circle of real friends unusually large . . . Together with
this almost womanly tenderness, there was an indomitable
strength of will and vigour of purpose, which revealed itself
to those who knew him best. It came out in many ways. His
accurate and thorough execution of any piece of work he under-
took, however comparatively trivial it might be, was a lesson
to all his fellow-workers, although at times one was tempted
to think that in such respects his conscientiousness was almost
excessive. The simplicity of his personal life, though he was
possessed of ample piivate means *, was extreme.

' He never used for himself alone a punkah by day or night,
was a rigid teetotaller, and in a variety of ways put to shame
many of those who, with far less excuse on the ground of
natural weakness, were yet unable to imitate him in such
respects.

*' His fearlessness of death was, as might be supposed, entire.
He had constantly been face to face with it, he knew it might
come any day, must, humanly speaking, come before very long,
and it was in very deed and truth for him only the vejl which
separated him from many he dearly loved, as well as from that
Presence, absolute devotion or passionate attachment to which
had been the keynote of his life.'



^ His services at Delhi were wholly honorary, and from his own purse
he largely supported the work both of the mission and the diocese, fiy
his will he had provided for the continuance of such assistance.



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JEDDA 349

At this time Mr. Maitland was in some trouble and
depression, but as usual he found his consolation in minis-
tries of helpfulness ; his great experience in travelling, and
his congenial character and disposition, made him a most
useftd companion to the bishop, who again and again speaks
of his presence as a perfect godsend. Even the delicacy of
his constitution was not without advantages, as the bishop
might by it be led to spare himself some rash exposures,
which thought for his own personal comfort would never
have debarred him from incurring. They left Suez on
January 9 by Turkish steamer to visit Arab towns along
the Red Sea coast.

To Mrs. French.

Bed Sea, Jan, 11, 1891.

I chose the E^hediviyah (Turkish vessel) partly because I hoped
to meet with more Arabs, and see more of the Arabian and
Egj'ptian coast, and learn more about their present condition,
and partly because the passage costs less than the same length of
time (fourteen days) would have cost, divided between a P. and O.
or a Messagerie vessel's charges, and eight or nine days' hotel
charges in Aden. Moreover, the comparative quiet after the
sojourn in AJexandria and Cairo was worth securing. ... I can
read with a few young Aj^bs, but I am not so very successful
on this vessel, as on the ELhediviyah steamer between Beyrout
and Constantinople. Every day makes a sensible heightening
of temperature, but I push on with my work. They have 800
or even 900 pilgiims on board in the pilgrim season, which will
be in June this year, and the stifling crowd and crush will
be something too dreadful to think of. We are to reach Jed da,
please God, about 10 a.m. to-morrow. In order not to reach
its perilous rocks too early, we are only steaming six or seven
knots an hour. We had a morning service to-day on the poop
of the vessel, which seemed the quietest and coolest part of
the ship. I read one of Canon Liddon's sermons rather than
preach to so small an audience. . . .

Tuesday, 13th, We got to Jedda at 12 yesterday, and anchored
about a mile and a half ofiF land to avoid the coral reefs, which
render the whole length of coast almost so inaccessible. Even
the small ^sambuks' or sailing boats have to perform long circum-
volutions to avoid them. The whole coast with its low hill
ranges is perfectly barren and uninviting. The city of Jedda
is full of lofty and handsomely built houses, each house abounding
in richly carved lattice works, three or four stages high, chiefly
wood-work of elaborate device. Except at the pilgrim season



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350 LIFE OF BISHOP FRENCH

these are mostly closed, and the roads outside of the bazaars
trodden by few by-passers. The bazaars are crowded as usual
in Eastern cities : numbers of Indian pilgrims in their drab-yellow
dresses begging for alms in the shape of a few corn grains. I put
an Aiabic Bible in each of my large pockets, and so ventured
forth. I got two occasions to give short Arabic addresses within
the city, one in a learned old moollah's house, whom I induced to
invite me in and listen to the story of God's plan of salvation.
The other opportunity was in a more open space, sitting on the
door-step of an old blind man, whose friends gathered round to
listen. The moollah wished to have the Bible, so I left it with
him. I seldom leave the New Testiiment without the Psalms and
Prophets, though our American brethren and most missionaries in
India are content with the New Testament only, for its convenient
size, partly, also from incorrect views (as I think) of the relations
between the Old and New Testament, the Law and the Gospel.
Three years ago General Haig entered the town with a bag of
Bibles, which were all taken from him and never restored. This
I avoided, filling my pockets only, while my hands looked most
innocently empty ^ I

I felt the heat rather yesterday afternoon, and shall stop quiet
this morning. You would gladly exchange your cold for this heat,
I expect, though I cannot say this suits my health so well. I read
yesterday General Haig's journeys and journals, in which he has
forcibly expounded his views as to what parts of Arabia are most
accessible, as regards climate and people and approach by periodical
steamers. He mentions Hodaida and Muscat as amongst the most
hopeful.

The young American on board (Mr. Zwemer ^) talks of their



^ This Bible distribution was probably not without risks of its own,
for, referring to the seizure of his books, General Haig says : * I do not
suppose, however, that even if the books had not been seized I should
have disposed of a single copy in Jedda. Mr. Spillenaer, a missionary
in Egypt who made the attempt under more favourable circumstances
a few years ago, failed to sell a single book, and was quietly told by
some Mohammedans, who saw his Bibles in his room, that if they had
him in the street they would cut his throat. Even the Greeks said they
were afraid to be seen purchasing a Testament. People are too closely
watched, and there is an unruly and fanatical mob, who showed by the
massacre of the French and English Consuls, and other Europeans, in
1858, what they are prepared to do if occasion requires. It seems plain,
too, from what the governor said, that there has been of late increased
vigilance on the part of the authorities, indicative of increased alarm as
to the possible results of the word of (jodi* —Church Missionary Intelli-
gencer^ May, 1887, p. 277.

* A Presbyterian, trained at Leyden ^Holland) and Princeton (U.S A.),
who was hoping to be joined by two friends in mission work in these



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SUAKIM 351

settling down in Muscat ; but, as I tell him, I have pledged
myself to the C. M. S. to report on its suitableness for founding
a mission, according to Mackay's urgent entreaties, and that
I preached in the bazaars there in 1884 as being a part of my
own diocese. It is singular, the rapidity of occupation of all
these Eastern lands by American bands of workers.

Jedda has about a dozen European families, consuls or mer-
chants, only one lady here, the French consul's wife, but they
have a charming palatial sort of house. The French regard
the East as their own proper sphere of influence, and are very
jealous of English entrance of course. However, I had no trouble
at Tunis. I wore a black fez (which is the mourning dress of the
Turks) in my walk in Jedda alone yesterday, and something
like the white Tunisian burnous down to the feet, so that I really
think they scarcely took me for a foreigner, and I think you would
yourself regard it as a very becoming dress, and Agnes too. I am
not sure dear little Gladys would recognize Ga-pa in the metamor-
phose of costume ! There is such a vast variety of pilgrim dresses
in Jedda, that with something at all Eastern one has a good chance
of passing unnoticed. The bazaars are many of them arched over,
as in Tunis and Ispahan. . . .

January 14th. Just off shore at Suakim, in sight of its green
expanse of coast, due to rains which always fall at this season.
Above it some twenty miles off, beneath a lofty imposing range
of hilLs, is Handowa, Osman Digna's camp. It seems he has
a very small and insignificant following at present, yet the whole
country is at his mercy. The ofl&cera do not even venture to ride
out to shoot.

To Mrs. Frekch.

Hodaida Eoadstead,
Coast of Arabia on Ked Sea, Jan. 20, 1891.
I should much more have hesitated and shrunk back from
places like Jedda and Hodaida, had I not been led to venture
on such ground as Kairowan almost at first starting, which seemed
to put to the proof the measure of strength God had in reserve for
me to use yet once again for His kingdom and glory. About Jedda
I told you last week. The voyage from thence across to Suakim
was rather distressing, and the place itself seemed to possess but
little interest. We held two services on the Thui-sday for the few
English there, of which only five in the morning (Holy Communion
and sermon) took advantage, and four in the evening. . . . Mr. M.
and myself divided the services. Of course General Haig was
present at both. He lives in a spacious upper room, with barely
chair, table, and bedstead, with a nice sea view, and expects to

parts. He is now, I believe, at Bahrein, and his younger brother, the
Rev. Peter Zwemer, has joined the same mission, and actually settled at
Muscat.— Ed.



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352 LIFE OF BISHOP FRENCH

leave this week with Mrs. Haig ; and as his plan for an orphanage
is disapproved by the governor here and his officials, he has no
special object for remaining. He was kind and courteous, but did
not encourage any views for Muscat. I am not sure he does not
greatly prefer the occupation of the place by the young American
missionaries. However he did not actually tiy to dissuade me.
He took us after the early service to see his earihdh or fence
constructed of bush and bramble of the desert, with a. few mats
to roof and wall it in, where on the floor lay a number of sick,
emaciated, half-starved children and poor women, remnants of the
crowd of relief-patients which two months since numbered two
thousand daily or more, and a large number of lives were thus
saved, as by Gordon at Shiraz. One did not hear Osman
Digna's guns, which lie about twenty miles ofiF, but the Arabs
seem tired of him, and only long now for a stable government,
and safety from being plundered and invaded constantly.

From thence a day and a half brought us to Massowa, now
under Italian protection and strongly garrisoned. It is a capital
of large pretension and proportion, spreading itself over several
islands, and a large extent of mainland. The Abyssinian part
of the population is chiefly settled on the mainland, and the wild
Arab tribes and Hadendowa races (with a distinct language and
habits and customs of their own, also Moslems) are on the islands,
mostly in wretched hovels and black tents and zaribahs. We
spent the Sunday there : the morning in some rather unsuccessful
missionary efforts in the city. In the evening we held a little
service on board, at which the chief engineer, an Englishman,
attended, and seemed thankful. I gave him a copy of the Bishop
of Truro's How to begin a New Life. There is a little Swedish
mission o^u the mainland, two Swedish pastors and two ladies.
Two of them reminded me of meeting them at Bnimana in the
Lebanon, and having a prayer with them. They are feeding now
eight hundred starved sufferers every day, through supplies they
get from Sweden and America. I could only give them a sovereign,
as to Colonel Haig also, but there are so many missions visited
in succession ! I tell them I have no pension.

The Italians are building fine palatial-looking buildings for
Government House — posts, telegraphs, barracks. &c. — and evidently
intend to make it a star of the first magnitude in their little colonial
empire. Caf^s and trattorias abound all along the seaside, at which
Maltese, Italians, and a few French sit out in colonnades, sipping
wines and coffee, many of them looking as if sprung from the lowest
types and strata of the population. I suppose in the general strife
for African dominion, so strong a power as Italy would not con-
sent to be left out in the cold. Italian comes now largely to be
spoken on both shores of the Ked Sea : of English one meets none.

My most interesting work has been here to-day at Hodaida,
reached last evening after a very bad and stormy time in crossing



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MASSOWA, HODAIDA. ADEN 353

tlie Bed Sea again. The vessel seemed terribly strained, and the
turbulence of elements cruel. We had about thirty-two hours of
it, and right glad I was when we reached, not a port indeed, but
a roadstead, where we anchored two miles from the land, on
a wave-beaten sea, which I was glad to cross again this afternoon
without being well drenched in passage from city to steamer.
The sail was well handled by the boatmen, so as to save us from
the force of the waves to the utmost. I walked alone through the
town and its bazaars, got a refreshing draught of milk, and then
got out into the country beyond among some palm-groves, and sat
under an arcade facing a large house by the roadside, and had an
interesting reading of striking passages of the Bible and address-
ing of appeals to a fairly large gathering, some learned and
disposed to controvert ; but on the whole I learnt more of the
impressibility of the people, and the power of the Truth to arrest
deeper thinkers among them than I had before made proof of.
I got back into the city again, and at a house aside sat on a flight
of steps with an open space in front, where I had another little
body of hearei-s, the most interested of whom seemed to be
a Turkish high officer in his fine uniform, who sat and listened
and seemed much struck, more by my message I trust than
myself. When he retreated he sent down a handsome and really
useful walking-stick to me, which I felt bound to recognize by
making my way up, as best my wearied feet could, to his fine
room at the top of the step& (I had no idea I had thus invaded
a Turkish officer's quaiiers and made a preaching-place of it !)
However, somehow he was drawn towards the message and the
preacher, and the way he kissed my hands with an affectionate
transport of giatitude quite amused and pleased Mr. Maitland, who
was with me. Thus it is now and again one gets little proofs of
God's blessing and helpful countenance in work which cannot
help being often discouraging. The old officer accepted a copy of
the entire Bible at my hands. So this place as well as Jedda —
]>oth bigoted cities — have not wholly cast out the Word of God,
though the Wali of the place has entirely forbidden the Bible
Society's agent Mr. Stephanos (starting for Sennaa to-morrow
with a stock of Bibles) to take any Arabic books, but only Hebrew
ones for the Jews !

I hope to finish this at Aden, and that thus you may have it in
hand, dearest, before many days are over. I shall have twenty
days' news from home to make up on arrival, and perhaps I may
find letters from the C. M. S. How long I remain at Aden will
probably depend on the number of days before the next British-
India steamer starts for the gulf from Aden.

Aden, Hotel d'Europe, Jem. 26, 1891.
This will probably reach you by the same mail as my last, but
it will convey later news of my plana Untowardly there are no
VOL. II. A a



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354 LIFE OF BISHOP FRENCH

steamers direct from this to Bushire and Muscat, as I fully expected.
It is a terribly wearisome and circuitous route by steamer, so that
I shall have traversed pretty well the Mediterranean and Eed
Seas, and now the Persian Gulf, round by Bombay and Karachi
(unhappily), actually having to stay some thirty hours in Karachi,
in sight of one of the most beautiful of my diocesan churches, and
of the mission station I have taken so much interest in. It is
tantalizing, and almost depressing; especiaUy with a beloved
child it would so gladden one's heart to see and talk with, and try
to brighten her up if possible. . . . However, it is not my own
doing. It is the inevitable irony of events, which in God's
providence actually brings me back for a passing moment to the
old land and centre of work. . . . We start early to-morrow for
Bombay by P. and O. steamer, if all is well: Mr. M. and
myself — for he seems bent on going to Muscat with me, and
sharing my first weeks there. I have been .making a few pur-
chases of tea, soap, candles, paper, &c., at a Parsee shop here, as
I know not what Muscat may contain of the necessities of life. . . .
The chaplain here, Mr. Grove, begged me to help him yesterday,
as he is alone here (there are usually two chaplains) and in weak
health. So I took both the sermons —on one text worked out as
carefully as I could — on the words * That I may win Christ and
be found in Him.' It was a wonderfully good congi-egation in
the evening in the large Church, officers and ladies, very many of
the English artillery men and some British sailors ; one of those
vsre and choice audiences one could only be privileged to address
in such scenes and places. A really good choir and choral
service in the evening. Dear Agnes would both have been
saddened and yet gladdened by the sight. I had to preach
without book, the pulpit and punkhas being so awkwardly
arranged ; but I was fairly helped, and the theme was inspiring,
the more so as it was St. Paul's Conversion Festival, the fourth
anniversary of the consecration of the cathedral. . . .

This last day (a6th) is full of business, and we have spent a full
half of it in going over to Sheikh Osman, nine miles ofif, to see
the little bungalow in which the saintly Keith-Falconer breathed
his last. It is within a walled enclosure, rather spacious, and
planted with young palms and flowering shrubs, which give it
a fairly pleasant appearance, but the climate is evidently mias-
matic and almost deadly. We found two newly-manied Scotch
missionaries (Gardner by name), settled in an adjoining and
much healthier bungalow, newly built, and much less extensively
planted, and not within walls, so they may do better. We visited
the camp afterwards and its wondrous fortifications and tunnellings
through giant rocks, the mountains themselves enclosing the
whole of the stately defences with colossal walls not of human
masonry; and the town from whose bazaars the supplies are
drawn, shut in and fortressed by an outlying circuit of lofty



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KEITH-FALCONERS GRAVE. OXFORD HOUSE 355

ridges. It is a marrellous feat of engineering work and ingeniously
devised structures climbing up hillsides, and perched above them
in what might seem inaccessible ledges of cliff. We replenished
our stock of Arabic Bibles there at the Bible Society's Depository,
which must be an exhaustless resource for the Arabian and
African coast We visited Keith-Falconer's gi'ave in the English
military cemetery, in a fine situation between rocky heights on
the one hand and an arm of the sea on the other.

To Basil.

Steamer Siam, Jan. 30, 1891.

In the Arcadia (which transferred its passengers at Aden into
this vessel for India) there seems to have been a noble band of
Oxford or Cantab, men going out to join the Bishop of Corea:
■ a Mr. TroUope is especially spoken of admiringly as of colossal
and herculean stature, and a first rate scholar, and two men much
of the same stamp as his colleagues. In May last the Bishop of
Corea at the S. P. G. anniversary was mourning so plaintively
over his want of success in enlisting recruits that I cannot help
rejoicing in this turn of the tide in his favour. There was also
in the same ship a small host of ladies— some of good family, it is
said— bound for the Inland China Mission. So year by year,
like David's forces, the staff seems to grow * like the host of God.'
I have been reading with interest to-day the Guardian's account of
the Oxford Bethnal Green Mission. Its lines seem thoroughly
independent and such as would have shocked the Puritans — boys
taught the use of the boxing- gloves, &c. It is a grand idea, nearly
thirty Oxford men taking up their quarters among almost the
lowest social types of the working classes. *Pure religion and
undefiled,' St. James would have called this.

Such movements seem to have originated heretofore mostly in
the Eoman Church, as the revival of the St. Vincent de Paul
movement for the Paris operatives, and those of other cities
during the present century. Now our own Church seems nobly
rising to take the stroke oar in these matches of faith, strength,
and courage! It is something to live to see. It seems as if
mine were the only grey hairs embarked on these expeditions.
I hope my small effort may not evaporate in empty and aimless
ambitions.

Some of the passengers seem to think we made a great move in
taking the Turkish steamer down the Eed Sea, and so gaining
access to such places as Jedda, Suakim, and Hodaida. I did it
with some little fear and trembling, I confess; but Tunis
experiences created hope, and I should have been sorry to miss
seeing places of such rai-e and singular interest. I should almost
have thought it incredible that scenes of such reputed bigotry
should prove so accessible. Of course it was a great pull for

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356 LIFE OF BISHOP FRENCH

pushing on Arabic studies. I hope the Bibles left behind under
promise of being read and preserved may be set not under a bushel,
but on a candlestick. What is before me I can't as yet foresee : it
may be little more remains to be done, but I want at least to try



Online LibraryH. A. (Herbert Alfred) BirksThe life and correspondence of Thomas Valpy French, first bishop of Lahore → online text (page 38 of 46)