"His life was gentle; and the elements
So mixed in him that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world, 'This was a man.' "
YES, and "a man of the world in the best sense of the term," as one of his fellow-workers remarked; whilst the officials and traders in British Central Africa and the chance travellers he met with on his many journeys by land and water, were wont to say that Chauncy Maples was "not like a missionary"--an expression on their .part meant to convey high praise! For perhaps the missionary in his profession, as so many other men in theirs, is apt to get narrow and exclusive. Certainly one of the strongest points in Maples' character was his sympathy, true and wide, with "all sorts and conditions of men."
A scientific traveller--Mr. G. F. Scott-Elliot, a man accustomed to weigh facts and the words by which facts are to be expressed--writes of Chauncy Maples as "an ideal missionary. ... I feel I shall never see again a missionary so near to the spirit of the first Evangelists;" and he further described him as "one whose sympathies extend even to Europeans."
CHILDHOOD AND YOUTH.
CHAUNCY MAPLES was born at Bound's Green, Middlesex, on the 17th February, 1852. He was the third son and sixth child of Frederick Maples, and of Charlotte Elizabeth, his wife, his father coming of a Yorkshire family, formerly settled at Thorne and elsewhere in the West Biding. But Mr. Frederick Maples' father settled in London in 1805, and practised there as a solicitor. [At 6, Frederick's Place, Old Jewry, City, of which firm the Bishop's father, Mr. Frederick Maples, is now the head.] Yorkshiremen are generally credited with certain qualities, to wit, shrewdness, firmness of character, and considerable powers of argument. Therefore, to those who still believe in heredity I think one may say that Chauncy Maples inherited all these qualifications from his north country forefathers. And while talking of the north of England I may just go over the border to remark that his grandmother on his mother's side was of Scottish descent. Scots' blood is good blood to have in one's veins, and perhaps the Scot, even more than the Englishman, is a born pioneer and colonist.
His mother was a daughter of Nathaniel Snell Chauney, of Little Munden, Herts. The Chauncys are a Norman family, who settled first in Yorkshire, where they were Barons of Scirpenbeck. They afterwards migrated to Hertfordshire; and in 1637 a Chauncy of that period, being vicar of Ware and a Puritan, came into unpleasant collision with Archbishop Laud, and finally emigrated to America, where he became the second President of Harvard College, and was the ancestor of the numerous Chauncys to be found in America at the present day. History repeats itself, though not always on the same lines, for in the reign of Henry VIII. Maurice Chauncy, of the order of Carthusians, settled in a monastery in London, resisted, with seventeen more of the brethren, the king's command for the dissolution of their community, and was imprisoned for many years, though at last he managed to escape, and became prior of a Carthusian monastery at Bruges. Later on he returned to England, and was confessor to Queen Mary. It was this Carthusian monastery in London which afterwards became the Charterhouse School, and in the quiet cloisters of the monks the boys of a later generation played football. Of these boys Chauncy Maples was one, and he was always proud to call himself an old Carthusian.
In writing of Maples' childhood and boyhood the central figure of the story must always be his mother. She would not have put herself there, but without a doubt her strong, consistent Christian life and teaching were an immense influence for good with her children, even when, as in the case of her boys, so much of their life was necessarily passed away from her immediate presence. Only a few months before he started on his last journey, Chauncy said how strongly he felt that he owed all that was best in him to his mother. There is little that need be said of his early childhood. An old friend writes: "As a small child he was particularly interesting and of a remarkably happy disposition, never fretful or cross; lively and very sensitive where his feelings were concerned. He had an intense love of music, and would sit quietly engrossed with it. From the few things from which I can judge it seems to me that his early training left a deep impression on his character."
Another very old lady and dear friend says: "From his earliest boyhood I remember him as gentle and well-mannered; rather retiring and thoughtful, yet not indifferent to the interests of young life. In after years, when visiting his old friend (the husband of the writer of these memories, who, like himself, has passed away), they went to take a last leave of the old church where they had both worshipped many years. They knelt together, no others being present, and the old friend who loved the youth gave him his blessing, repeating the beautiful verse from the 2nd Epistle of St. Paul to the Thessalonians--'I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.' This was in March, 1876, just before his departure for Africa on his missionary labours. In proof that it was impressed on his memory he recalled the incident in after years. His kindness of heart was 'dearly appreciated when, on his last important visit to England (1895), he made time to come some distance and pay a visit to this aged friend; and again, before he finally left home, he came to take a last farewell, and he said, 'We shall not meet again in this world, but hereafter we shall meet,' and he tenderly and devoutly placed his hands on her head and gave her his episcopal blessing, which has been ever since felt to unite still closer the bonds of a long and very sincere affection and admiration for this faithful and holy man of God."
School days soon came; first he was sent to a private school at Wimbledon, and then, when he was about fourteen, to the Charterhouse. One of his school friends at Wimbledon speaks of him as "the sort of boy one instinctively knew would go straight." Maples' school friendships were many and firm; they lasted, in spite of the separation of half a sphere, through all his life.
And then the holidays! what happy holidays they used to have, those brothers and sisters, together! Several summer holidays were spent in the Isle of Wight, at Freshwater and Sea View, and Chauncy was always the life and soul of the party, suggesting and then organizing expeditions to places of interest. One of his chief pleasures consisted in taking long walks, sometimes alone, sometimes with his companion sister. He was then about fifteen, and she two or three years younger. He loved to walk across country, map in hand, scorning any other guide. Happy days of healthy exercise and confidential talk were those. "Come on," he would say to his companion cheerily if she showed signs of nagging. One famous walk he took alone, from Chester to Lichfield, via Nantwich. This walk was about 50 miles at a stretch, but he had set out with the intention of walking to London! Thus he was unconsciously preparing himself for his long, forced tramps in Africa.
Another favourite pursuit in those youthful days was sailing--sometimes in a small yacht, sometimes in a centreboard boat. They generally kept in the Solent, or just off the Isle of Wight. But he went for one or two cruises to Dartmouth, and once had a narrow escape of his life in Portland Race.
When Maples was nearly fourteen years old a break occurred in his school life on account of an affection of the ear from which he suffered, which necessitated a long and painful course of treatment from an aurist, the late Mr. James Hinton, who perhaps now is almost better known as a philosopher than a medical man. Thanks to Mr. Hinton's skill, Chauncy was practically cured, for the deafness which remained in one ear was but slight. Even when suffering great pain at the aurist's hands his patient would take the liveliest interest in Mr. Hinton's talk, and the latter, recognizing in him a kindred spirit, would initiate philosophical discussions, till his mother said she used to feel quite ashamed when she thought of the many patients waiting in the room near by while these two were discussing lofty subjects barely akin to the matter in hand. One of Chauncy's strongest characteristics was his faculty for making friends--friends amongst all classes of men. He possessed that indefinable quality--personal charm, fascination--call it what you will. And this power of attraction grew with his growth and strengthened with his strength.
As an athlete he was fairly good at running, not very great nor very enthusiastic in cricket, rather more fond of football, a good swimmer, and, as before mentioned, a very good walker. During the last years of his school life he studied English literature, and began to take an interest in science; also he gained the Thackeray prize at the Charterhouse for an essay on "English Sonnets and Sonneteers."
And here I give a short "impression" from the pen of one of Maples' fellow-Carthusians, the Rev. E. P. Brown, of the Oxford Mission, Calcutta, who was soon I admitted to the inner circle of his friends:--
"I went to Charterhouse in the year when Scott, now Bishop of North China, was captain of the cricket eleven, and Gibson, who has just been appointed to be vicar of Leeds, captained a never-vanquished eleven at football. I found there, my senior by a few months and in the same house, one of those delightful boys who take a whole school by storm. Playful, sweet-tempered, and with an endless capacity for amusement, Chauncy Maples was popular both with boys and masters. It was not long before I became his willing captive, and we made our way up the school together."
At Christmas, 1869, Chauncy Maples left the Charterhouse, and for some months went to a private tutor, Mr. J. B. Mozley, of King's College, London, to prepare for Oxford. Failing to matriculate in October, 1870, he worked hard for a month or two with Mr. Ward at Oxford, and entered University College in January, 1871. Dr. Bradley, now Dean of Westminster, was then Master of the College. And here again, for an epitome of his Oxford career, we quote the words of this same school friend and of another college friend. [Both these friends have told me that it was Maples' example which decided them to take holy orders.--E. M.]
"Afterwards," he continues, "I followed him to the University. He was the same there; no brighter, happier, or--it must be added--more careless undergraduate could be found at Oxford. Perhaps it was his very versatility which prevented him from achieving any great distinction. He would settle down to what he called a good morning's steady reading, but presently he would dash from his seat and execute a brilliant fantasia--as often as not improvised--upon the piano, or he would rush out, with a hunch of bread in his pocket, and spend a long day in the woods. Then there would be talks far into the night, or till the day was breaking, leaving him too much exhausted to do any serious work the next day. In after days, when I read Jeaffreson Hogg's description of his own and Shelley's undergraduate life, it seemed to me that I had had just such another 'incomparable friend.' But in Maples' case, amidst all his vagaries--and they were always wholly innocent--there was the sure anchorage of a home whose tender sanctities had never been violated. What was to become of this radiant, irresponsible creature?--for such at times he seemed. And an older, wiser friend than myself might have asked in some anxiety what fruitage there could be of a life which seemed only to put forth ever fresh flowers. Such anxious questionings would have been in vain, for the net was already thrown which was to land this glittering prey at the feet of the Eternal Fisherman--to make him in turn one of His own ' fishers of men.' It came through a college friend, one who survives him in Africa, where he still wields his Herculean powers of body and soul in his Master's service, and who some day will be known, if he is not known already, as one of the great missionaries of the world's history. I shall never forget the quick step on the stairs one morning long before the hour at which Maples was usually up, the sudden opening of the door, and the silence which seemed an hour while I waited for the interpretation of the alternate cloud and sunshine chasing each other over his face; and then the short, sharp sentence, 'Johnson is going out to Africa with Bishop Steere, and, of course--I am going too.' The words struck a chill to my heart--they seemed a death knell to our friendship; but I was just able to refrain from telling him so. ... He had indeed chosen well! From that day he was a new man. All the old charm was there--the delightfulness of companionship, the brilliancy of temper, the keen, quick play of sympathy--but now all was directed to a noble object, and the sense of fruitlessness and waste was gone. 'Blessed is the man who has found his life's work,' says Carlyle. In his case the blessing was apparent, and an almost visible consecration descended upon all his powers."
His other friend, the Rev. J. M. Lester, says: "At Oxford he seemed to cling more to his Carthusian friends than to the members of his own college, though it would be a mistake to think that he was not a popular man in college, or that he did not join in the ordinary pursuits ftnd pleasures of his contemporaries there. The college was then head of the river, and he was as keen as the rest of us about boating matters. And so with other things in which the college then excelled; the public school boy had not forgotten the lesson of esprit de corps. But there were things that interested him more than athletics. Music was his great delight: he was an excellent pianist. Indeed, Church music took up a little too much of his time in view of the inevitable 'Schools.' He was constantly to be found at Magdalen enjoying the splendid organ playing and the perfect singing of the choir. Of reading, especially after he had passed moderations, he did a good deal, perhaps not very systematically. But in theology, in which school he took honours, he was certainly very much interested. And generally it was noticed that he was a man of wide reading, and especially well grounded in the English classics."
A correspondent to the Times of India in November, 1895, probably also a school friend, in writing of him, says: "Young Maples was one of the most popular Carthusians that have ever been at Charterhouse."
In January, 1874, Maples, instead of returning to Oxford, went down to Liphook in Hampshire to read with the Rev. W. W. Capes, staying down there over two terms. He took this step on account of his health, for he suffered from continual headaches when in Oxford. And it was during his residence at Liphook that he made the acquaintance of the venerable judge Sir William Erie, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas. Sir William, then about eighty years of age, was fond of young people, and the old man and the youth quickly became firm friends. Sir William was a great lover of Wordsworth, and Chauncy shared his admiration of that poet in his finer moods. "I found he was a true Wordsworthian," Maples writes, "and so we talked on, and he pulled down his copy of the poems and made me mark a number of passages for him." Indeed, they had many tastes in common, and Sir William up to the day of his death followed Maples' career with great interest, sending him books to his far-off home in Africa, and occasionally writing him letters in that charming old world style which has now died out.
Chauncy learnt a great deal during his quiet retreat at Liphook; and when the summer came he moved into still greater isolation, lodging in a cottage in Woolmer Forest, from which, however, Sir William used to rout out the would-be hermit, riding down to visit him on his quiet pony.
When Maples made up his mind to read for honours in the theological school it is clear he had almost decided to take holy orders. But the idea of being a clergyman--nay, more, of being a missionary--must have been simmering in his mind for many years, for in the year 1891, when he was talking to the children of the school at Freshwater, Isle of Wight, as they sat in rows on the grass at his feet, he said, pointing to a little boy of about twelve years, who was listening with open-mouthed interest to his stories of life in Africa, "Ah! my boy, I must have been about your age when I first began to think of being a missionary, and I was staying down here in Freshwater then too."
In the letter to his mother in which Maples announces his intention of going out to Africa to work under Bishop Steere he says that this is no "sudden idea" on his part. "I have often hinted to Ellen and Alice (two of his sisters) that I might at some future time become a missionary. This time has now come." In this same letter, which we print elsewhere, will be found a detailed account of the circumstances under which he offered himself, and was accepted, for work in Africa.
It was in the Michaelmas term of 1874 that the famous missionary, Bishop Steere, came to Oxford, where he addressed a crowded meeting. Maples did not attend this meeting. But in the Oxford Union, Bishop Steere put up a simple notice on a scrap of blue paper. This was an appeal for men. "This paper," Maples said, "attracted first Johnson's attention, and then my own." And it was in response to this appeal that Chauncy Maples offered himself--body, soul, and spirit--for missionary work in Central Africa.
Before this time he had accepted a curacy at St. Leonards-on-Sea with the understanding that he should in due course succeed the vicar, an old personal friend of his father's, who had the next presentation to the living in his gift. This plan was now given up. He took his degree in June, 1875, after obtaining, owing to ill health, only a third class in the honour school of theology. For some months he worked as a layman under the Rev. John Eyre in Liverpool, and in the following Michaelmas was ordained deacon at Cuddesdon, and began work as curate in St. Mary Magdalene's parish in Oxford under the Rev. Cecil Deedes. He did not, however, remain long in Oxford, for in the following spring, on March 18th, 1876, he sailed for Africa. His passage money was paid by the mission, and a sum of £20 a year given him for clothes, &c.; "board and lodging" was also provided by the mission. These are the terms on which the members of the staff of the Universities' Mission to Central Africa work--priests and laymen alike.