Project Canterbury

Forty Years in Burma

By John Ebenezer Marks

London: Hutchinson and Co., 1917.




To the Rev. the Secretary of the S.P.G.

The British Residency, Mandalay,
Upper Burma, October 20th, 1868.

It is now my duty and pleasure to address you with regard to my Mission to the King of Burma. My former letters have put you in possession of the first stages of the attempt, but I think that it is better that I should here recapitulate them.

In 1863 I met in Rangoon the Thonzai Prince, one of the sons of the King, who had fled from the capital. I gave him several Christian books in Burmese, and spoke to him about their contents. He became reconciled to the King, and on his return to Mandalay asked me to come and see him at the capital. He has since sent me several kind messages, but, as you know, my work and absence in Calcutta and England left me no leisure to visit the capital.

After the Bishop of Calcutta's visit last year, the way seemed open to establish Mission schools and stations along the Irrawaddy; and accordingly in two missionary journeys schools were formed at Zalun, Henzada, Myan-aung and Thayetmyo.

At this time I received several letters from Captain E. B. Sladen, the British Political Agent at the Court of the King of Burma, telling me of conversations with His Majesty on the subject of Christianity, and expressing his belief that a Mission of our Church in Mandalay would not only not be opposed, but would (under God) effect much good.

One of these letters I forwarded to the Bishop of Calcutta, who directed me to proceed to Mandalay with the twofold purpose of ministering to the English residents, and endeavouring to pave the way for an English Mission.

I met in Rangoon Mr. J. S. Manook, an Armenian Burman, who is the King's Kalawun, or minister for foreigners. I told him of our wish to have an S.P.G. Mission in Mandalay, and he promised to lay the matter before the King. Shortly afterwards I received from him the letter, a copy of which I sent you, in which he said His Majesty the King of Burma was pleased at our proposal to establish in Mandalay a Christian school for the benefit of his people, that he would give every possible assistance, and would entrust the children of the officials to us for their education.

I showed the letter to the Chief Commissioner, Colonel Fytche, who was, in 1865, a member of your standing committee, and I sent it to the Bishop. Both agreed that it was an opening of which your Society ought to avail itself, and that I should proceed to Mandalay and there ascertain what could be done. Colonel Fytche furnished me with a letter to the King. It was, however, advised that I should not enter Mandalay until I had heard of the return to that city of Captain Sladen, who had been appointed to lead an exploring expedition to reopen the trade route through Burma to China.

Whilst waiting to hear of the return of Captain Sladen, I received from the Governor-General in Council, on the application of Colonel Fytche, through the Bishop, an appointment as visiting minister of Henzada, etc. I therefore left Rangoon on the 28th of August, accompanied by six of my best first-class boys from Rangoon.

We passed, without stopping, Zalun and Henzada, and arrived at Myan-aung late on Saturday evening, the 30th. On the following day I visited the Mission school, which is under the care of Moung Ba Galé, one of my pupils from Maulmein and Rangoon, whom I baptized at the latter place last year. . . . I next visited Henzada and found that our school there also was doing well. I also visited Prome.

The steamer came in on the Monday, and I left at daylight on Tuesday, arriving at Thayetmyo at two o'clock. At the wharf I was met by our teacher, Arthur Moung Shway, who was baptized by Rev. C. A. Berry from our Rangoon school in 1865, and twenty-seven of his pupils. I remained in Thayetmyo for a fortnight, teaching in our school, and endeavouring, by my Sunday help, to repay in some measure the kindness of the Station Chaplain, who had most energetically and effectually maintained our school in efficiency. We left Thayetmyo on the 1st of October in the steamer Lord William Bentinck, which, with the flat Prome in tow, was crowded with Burmese passengers. I greatly enjoyed the voyage as I was passing through country which I had never seen before. . . .


To the Rev. the Secretary S.P.G.

Clergy House, Mandalay.
June 17th, 1870.

On Wednesday, the 8th of June, I obtained information that a number of men who had been concerned in the recent contemplated rebellion of the Katha Prince were to be publicly beheaded that afternoon in the cemetery near our Mission compound. My informant asked me to allow the princes, our pupils, to leave school earlier on that account, which I did.

It occurred to me that possibly I might, as a Hpôngyi, intercede on their behalf, and I resolved to do so on the consideration that the rebellion had been nipped in the bud, and that no blood had been shed. The King of Burma is firmly seated on his throne; he has earned a character for mercy such as none of his predecessors enjoyed, and I believed that his power would be still further consolidated by an exhibition of royal clemency.

I intimated to Major McMahon my intention of going to the King, and he reminded me that if I did I must go in my private capacity. I went, therefore, as a Christian clergyman, who has the honour of being known to the King, and who is entrusted with the education of his sons. My colleague, H. Powell, Esq., kindly accompanied me. We walked to the Palace and arrived before the princes. I was advised that if I met the procession on the way to execution, I could, in virtue of my office as a Hpôngyi, stop it until the result of my intercession with His Majesty was known, and this I resolved to attempt if I met it, but I did not.

On the princes' arrival they at once informed the King that I wished to see him on urgent business. His Majesty immediately called us into the Hman-nan-daw. The King was attended by two of the principal queens and by a large number of officers. He was particularly kind, and inquired what was the matter, and whether I was still anxious about the church building not going on so fast as I could wish.

I began by praising His Majesty's well-known clemency and humanity, and then prayed for the lives of the foolish men who were to be led to execution that day. The King said that judgment had not been given and that he knew of no execution. I assured His Majesty that my information was correct. The King asked if anyone else knew about it, and was told by an officer present that there was to be an execution that afternoon. The King at once sent him with his royal order to stop it. I thanked His Majesty earnestly for his merciful care for the lives of his subjects. The King replied very kindly, and after a few moments sent another officer, a Than daw zin, or herald, with the following order: "Go, stop the men from being led out to execution; and if they have already left, my royal order to the Myo wun is that they are to be brought back and not to be killed." . . . On our return we found large numbers of people assembled on the road leading from the Palace to the cemetery waiting to see the procession.

On the following day I obtained from what I must consider an authentic source a list of those who were pardoned on my intercession, and at the head of the list was the name of the Katha Prince himself. I was assured that everything, even to the scarlet velvet bag, was prepared ready for the execution. . . .


To Bishop Milman of Calcutta.

Clergy House, Mandalay.
July 12th, 1870.


We think it most probable that your Lordship by this time will have reached Thayetmyo en route for Mandalay. I now look forward with real joy to see your Lordship, and I trust and feel sure that your visit will be a real benefit to our infant Mission. I wish that I had cheering news to give, but, alas! after hoping against hope, I am obliged to say that there is no prospect of the church being in any way ready--I did not believe that Burman lying and deceit could have been carried on so persistently. The King arranged that if I would call up a contractor, he would pay out Rs. 5,000 at a time. This again encouraged me that we might push the work on. I was deceived. I have appealed and begged until I have been ashamed, and yet up to the present we have only nine logs in and a few more on the ground, and we have neither timber nor money to go on with. We have here a steam saw-mill, the manager of which would gladly cut timber for me, but we have no wood or money. It is all a mass of chicanery. I do not believe the King himself to be at fault. Our opponent I believe to be Dr. M., who, by making himself useful to the King, has been appointed forest officer, and in that capacity is able to hinder our work.

I remain, your most faithful Servant,


To Bishop Milman.

August 19th, 1870.


Since I last wrote to your Lordship, my brother has arrived, and together we have visited the Palace three times. On the first day we went by special invitation, but were kept waiting outside for an hour and a half, when we left. No one was there to receive us, so we returned home. We had scarcely arrived at the Clergy House when messengers arrived from the King to express his regret at the way we had been treated. We returned civil replies, but said that, having waited so long without seeing anyone in authority, not even the princes, we had felt that it was our duty to return home. In the evening the King sent all the princes to us to apologize for their neglect in the morning, and to invite us to come as a special favour on the morrow--Sunday. This, of course, I declined to do, but we agreed to go on Monday. On our arrival we were met by the princes and immediately received by the King, who was remarkably kind and courteous. After some time I delivered your Lordship's message, which H.M. received with evident pleasure, but made no remark except that he said that it was his intention to fill the school with boys from all parts of the country. Yesterday we were again at the Palace. A capital English breakfast had been prepared for us with tables, knives and forks, etc., and the princes sat down with us. It is the King's orders that in future we are to be received in the princes' rooms, where chairs and tables are allowed. The King received us yesterday in perfect privacy, none but the princes, one officer and one of my boys being present, under the tree in the garden house. He talked philosophy, on the value of true friendship, in his desire to get a closer intimacy with my brother and self. This is to be obtained by the interchange of private and confidential letters under seal, in which each is to express himself freely and without reserve on any point he may wish to bring to the other's notice, and will bear "with patience" the other's remarks thereon. The King is behaving with real kindness to my brother, though there is no sign of the books he is to take to Ceylon being ready. All goes on as usual here. School is filling up and callers and talkers becoming daily freer and more numerous. On my return from Rangoon I hope to commence gradually and quietly more aggressive work, beginning with the Kyoungs and parents' houses. The Church goes on well, though I hope to improve upon our plans with my brother's aid.

Your faithful Servant,


To Bishop Milman.

December 21st, 1870.


Since I last wrote to your Lordship, I have been to Rangoon. Before I left, I asked General Fytche privately whether, on my return to Mandalay, I should make any difference in my conduct with regard to the King of Burma's Court pending the decision of Government. General Fytche replied: "Certainly not."

On my return here, the King at first received me coldly. H.M. inquired about your Lordship. He entered again fully into the difficulty which prevented your Lordship's . interview, reminding me of what he had said before, that had you consented to come with only the Clergy following, all your wishes should have been complied with, but in the presence of the Political Agent, H.M. could not allow anything which had not been conceded to Generals Phayre and Fytche, who came as ambassadors. He regretted the result, but told me ever to assure your Lordship of his great respect for you and your office. The church had not made much progress: scarcely one of the King's boys were at school, and the school bills were unpaid, including the master's salary. I waited for a fortnight and then solicited another interview with H.M.., whom I found as pleasant as ever. I asked what had been the cause of the delays. H.M. replied that I must not think too much of such things, as he had many cares and anxieties which I could not know, but that I was always to be assured of his real interest in my work. The complaints were discussed seriatim and all removed. H.M. repeated his intention of sending two hundred boys to the school on my return from Bhamo. He gave me a lot of small coin to distribute on my way up, and placed at my disposal a gilded boat with sixty rowers to take me to the steamer. We arrived at Bhamo on December 1st. A large number of Kachin sawbwas, or chiefs, were awaiting the steamer Through a Burmese interpreter I had much conversation with them. They told me, in reply to my inquiries, that they would gladly welcome a Christian teacher. They said that they hoped that such a teacher would protect them from the oppressions of the Burmese, but, of course, I rapidly disabused their minds of any idea of this being a political move.

On returning to Mandalay I was told that during my absence our premises had been watched, and one monk, who had come as usual to visit us, had been marched off to punishment. On the following day the watchman and his attendants were pointed out to me, and I called them and asked them their business. They replied that they had been sent by the sayadawgyi, or chief monk, to arrest any monk who entered our compound, and that the Hlut daw, or High Court, had ratified the order.

I inquired if they had any written order to act, and on their replying in the negative, I said that I had no reason to believe their story, and as it was contrary to the King's promise I ordered them to leave the compound, and threatened to send them to the magistrate if they came again.

I have been advised to put before you the points of the controversy between me and Major McMahon, the British Political Agent. Neither from your Lordship, the Society, or General Fytche, have I ever been ordered to limit my visits to the King or to consult the Political Agent concerning them. Such directions would have placed me, instead of a missionary, as an agent of the British Government, and an object of distrust to the King.

With regard to the Burmese order of the Tsalwè, I never asked for or obtained it for myself or others. When the King gave it to two of my present and one of my late pupils, he did it of his own accord. I look forward with patience to a settlement of the matter. I have the honour to be, My Lord Bishop, Your obedient faithful Servant,



To one of the King's Ministers.

January 2nd, 1871.

I received the King's instructions to have the princes and Lapetyedawthas taught in the Palace instead of in the Royal School. I am anxious in all things that I possibly can to please H.M., but I do not think that this plan will be good for the princes or Lapetyedawthas. They have now been absent from school for more than five months, in which time they have forgotten much that they had learnt. They should be taught by myself or Mr. Powell and not by an under teacher. When we began this school, it was on the understanding that the princes and a very large number of sons would be sent by H.M. Only twenty-five have been sent. We cannot, without the Lord Bishop's permission, daily leave our school to teach in the Palace. I will, however, write to the Bishop and tell him the King's wishes. Meanwhile, I will daily send one of the pupil teachers into the Palace and will come occasionally and see what is done. I can but pray, however, that H.M. will fulfil his royal promise, and send a large number of boys here, and to let the Lapetyedawthas come to this school. I ask this for the benefit of H.M. and his subjects.



To Bishop Milman.

Clergy House, Mandalay.
January 21st, 1871.


A short time ago the King called me and said that it was his wish that the princes and Palace boys should learn in the Palace instead of going to the city to school; that there were state reasons for this, of which he could not speak particularly. These, I believe, to be a prophecy by the Brahmins that during the next few months some great calamity is impending over him and his family. H.M. said he would build a school in the Palace, and that I myself or one of the teachers should go daily to teach. I replied in a letter that such a proposal involved a change in the plan on which the Mission school was founded, and that I must therefore consult your Lordship. But that meanwhile I would not object, under the circumstances, to the princes learning in the Palace under a pupil teacher, and that I would supervise their education; but that I could not consent to the other Palace boys being withdrawn. H.M. at once consented, called all the pages, and insisted on their punctual attendance at school, threatening that in case of irregularity he would punish them and dismiss their parents. School has grown wonderfully since. The pupil teachers go daily in turn to the Palace to teach the princes, bringing their reports and exercises to me, and I go to see them once or twice a week until your Lordship's orders are received.

I remain . . .



To the Rev. F. R. Vallings.

St. Matthias' Day, 1871.

I greatly regret that the Bishop of Calcutta did not see the King when he was in Mandalay. Despite of all patriotism, I cannot but think that the King was right. If the Bishop came up as he professed in his private capacity, and not as a Government official, the Political Agent would not have insisted in accompanying him to the Palace. The King's argument was this: If the Bishop comes alone--i.e., without the Political Agent--I will accord to him the highest honours accorded to any cleric of my own people. If he comes politically with the Political Agent, I will give him all I gave to Generals Fytche and Phayre. This, McMahon, acting for the Bishop, declined. The King gave way and said: "Come both and I will do all." McMahon's answer was that it was too late, though they were here six days afterwards! The princes have not been to school here since the Bishop left. There is a farce of a teacher being sent daily, and I go occasionally to see how they are getting on, but it is a farce. The other Palace boys come better, but not in increasing numbers. Meanwhile the school grows from town boys. We have altogether twenty boarders, all of whose expenses are paid by the King, though most of them are Rangoon or Maulmein boys.

You have, I daresay, heard of the unfortunate difference between McMahon and myself, now settled by reference to Council. While my brother was here, McMahon wrote to me to say that he should complain to Fytche of my frequent visits to the King, though I had only been at that time nine times in ten months. I, of course, said: "Do so." On the following day--Sunday--he sent his clerk to tell the Burmese Minister that I was not to be received into the Palace without his consent and this without a word to me on the subject except the one letter. Without knowing of this, my brother and I went to the Palace on the Monday to say good-bye, when we were told of this by the King as a joke. I disbelieved it. The clerk was sent for to repeat his message. The matter then was referred to Fytche, and by him to the Governor-General, and by me to the Bishop. The reply came by last mail that I have no political status, and have nothing to do with McMahon, while yet a Government stipend is assured.

Yours faithfully,



To Bishop Milman.

April 13th, 1871.


I have delayed to write to your Lordship in the hope that I might have better news to convey to you in regard to the prospects of the Mission, but I now feel it better at once to let your Lordship know exactly our position and prospects, in spite of his repeated promises, the King has sent no new boys to the school. We have now only eleven Palace boys and about as many others sent with H.M.'s permission. The total number is about seventy.

The princes have not been to school since your Lordship's visit to Mandalay. The King says that there are political reasons why he could not send his sons daily through the city to school, and that though he had sent them at the opening of the school for encouragement, it could not be continued. But he promised to build a school within the Palace where I might live and sleep and teach the princes. I said that such a change in the arrangements could not be made without your permission. I pointed out from the register that the princes had lost more than half of each month, and that they were the most backward pupils in the school.

In a letter to the King, dated the 11th inst., I pointed out that the church was only half finished, and that there was neither funds nor timber to go on with. That the English builder had already, in eleven months, received Rs. 2,200, at Rs. 200 per month, and that the dilatoriness in supplying material was adding considerably to the cost. I have had no answer as yet.

Six weeks ago I applied to the King to fulfil his promise to grant us the remaining piece of the compound to the west of the church. The King replied that he had given us a larger piece than the English Government had given him for his Monastery in Rangoon! Of course, I pointed out that the King's grant was a free gift and not a mere exchange, but that I had heard from General Fytche that morning that the King's agent wanted twenty acres in cantonments, and that the plot required would include the rifle butts and the commissariat and elephant sheds, and that the amount granted by the Government to the King of Burma was more than twice that granted to the King of Siam for similar purposes. The King said that he was not to be compared with the King of Siam!

The Buddhist monks are still afraid to come to see me, but I still go out to them in the evenings and talk with them, and I have given away a large number of books and tracts. I am enabled to place a complete copy of the Bible in Burmese in sixty of the largest monasteries in Mandalay.

There is not work enough in our small school of fifty or sixty in attendance for so large a staff. With myself, a schoolmaster by nature, it would be desirable to send Mr. Powell to Maulmein.

Your faithful Servant,



To Mr. Jones, Merchant, Rangoon.

Mandalay, April 27th, 1871.


To-day, by H.M.'s own request, I wrote him a private letter on the growls of Englishmen against H.M., and the way to satisfy them. I deprecated his nomination of so many royal agents, which I assured him was not for his interest. I suggested that such as you, men of capital and energy, should be called first-class agents, and that there should be agents of the second and third class. I will tell you the result as soon as I know. I have already taken steps in the matter of the Tsalwè, and believe that there will be no difficulty in getting the extra three strings.

When I was with H.M. on Tuesday last, Dr. W. was showing drawings, etc., from engines and carriages, for a railway from Mandalay to Toungoo. I believe he is trying to negotiate a loan of some lacs, and I shall strongly urge H.M. not to accept.

Trade seems improving and confidence is gradually being restored.

Yours ever sincerely,



Mandalay, May 5th, 1871.

To F. W. Rhys Davids, Esq., C.C.S.

I am ashamed to have kept you so long, but, as mentioned before, this is not the region of rapid action, and I am afraid that I am becoming infected with the genius loci.

Yesterday I took advantage of an opportunity, when I was alone with the King, to mention your wants. H.M. at once bade me write and tell you that he will be happy to supply you with a copy, not alone of the Dipa Vansa, but of the whole nine books of the series, and that he will forward them through me at an early date.

May I ask if a key to the Burmese characters in which the Pali is written would be of use to you? If so, I will send you one that I drew up some time ago to accompany the MSS. which I sent home to England. Believe me, yours sincerely,



To J. Talboys Wheeler, Esq.

Mandalay, May 29th, 1871.

In a previous letter to you some time ago I mentioned that while H.M. himself did not hate Major Sladen, or care about his return to Mandalay, H.M.'s Ministers could not work with Major Sladen. To-day, repeating this, H.M. informs me that I quite misunderstood his remark. That H.M. has himself the strongest possible objection to Major Sladen's return as Political Agent, if only on the grounds before mentioned, viz., that his Ministers cannot get on with him. The King asked me to let this correction of the meaning of his remark be sent everywhere I had sent my former statement.

Yours most truly,



To the Rev. F. R. Vallings.

Mandalay, June 24th, 1871.


All is going on fairly here. We have our trials. The King got terribly out of temper with me one day when he heard that Sladen was returning to Mandalay, and threatened to turn me out of the country unless I promised to write to the Government against him. Of course I refused, and there was a small scene. But it was .soon over. H.M. made love to me hard, showed more kindness than ever, and respects me, I am sure, more than ever for refusing to deceive him.

Can you count on the S.P.C.K.'s help with a revision of the Burmese Prayer Book? The first edition is now out of print, and we want now to issue the Litany, Confirmation, Marriage and Baptism service.

The water is rising, and we shall soon be inundated, but we are better prepared. The church gets on well. I have now a goodly number of communicants.

Heartily yours,



To J. Talboys Wheeler, Esq.

Mandalay, July 11th, 1871.


You may not be aware that Sladen is one of my best friends; that it was through him, mainly, if not entirely, that this Mission was started, and that I came to Mandalay. When he left, his enemies, unofficial as I am, began to slander him, especially to the King. On my return from Rangoon in November, 1869, the King at my first interview repeated some of these slanders as truths. I replied that I knew them to be false. Whereupon he waxed wrath and left the room. A month after, when I was present, the Yaw atwin wun related to H.M. the same tales, whereupon I rebuked him sharply. The King laughed this time and said that I was bad tempered, but that we would talk of something else.

For a year and nine months Sladen's name was not mentioned to me by H.M. until one day when he was speaking of his universal benevolence, how he loved English, French, Chinese, etc.; he wound up by saying: "And I do not hate Sladen. It was only my Ministers who could not get on with him." All believed that H.M. was opening the door of reconciliation should Sladen return. I gladly wrote this to you, Fytche, Sladen and others, but to none officially, of course.

I certainly must be acquitted of all desire to interfere in politics. Ever since McMahon's unwise attempt to make the Burmese Government look upon me as his subordinate, I have zealously tried to convince the King that I have no connection with the Government of India. The Bishop wrote to me: "It will be better that you should be free from Residential authority, except what due friendliness and patriotism may require." You assure me, and I feel that you do so kindly, that my position would be seriously imperilled if it were known or supposed that I discussed the merits of political officers with the King. So then, in the same spirit, I would reply that I do not do so.

My position here is no enviable one, but it is one from which I cannot be relieved. The King threatens to burn the school if I leave, and the Bishop, to whom I had applied for relief, wrote me, in his last letter: "You must stick to your post at all hazard."

Sincerely yours,



To the Sec., S.P.G.

Mandalay, October 2nd, 1871.

The Burma Bible and Tract Society furnished me with a very large supply of books and tracts in Burmese. I have distributed them from time to time, but within the last week or so our compound has been thronged with people going to see the gold-covered and jewel-decked umbrella, or Hti, which at enormous expense has been prepared here, and is now on its way down to Rangoon, where it is to crown the Shwé Dagôn pagoda. The Hti has cost, I believe, about £25,000.

As soon as it became known that I had tracts to distribute, I was simply besieged for them. All day long people came, and in such numbers that I was obliged to take measures to prevent accidents. Yesterday--Sunday--my stock began to show signs of exhaustion. A little tract called "Justice and Mercy Reconciled" had been in great demand, and I was reduced to a single copy. So I made all applicants, about three hundred, sit down under our covered way, and read it aloud to them all. I then gave the tract to a venerable old man who had been an earnest listener.

To-day I gave away my last tract and hundreds of applicants have been sent empty away. I would not overrate the importance of the distribution; but I think there is cause for thankfulness that in Mandalay I should be permitted to distribute thousands of Christian tracts, and that I should find thousands glad and anxious to receive them.


To the Sec., S.P.G.

Mandalay, October, 1872.

My opportunities for Mission work are here very restricted. I believe that to attempt bazaar preaching would cause such a disturbance as would endanger any prospect of other usefulness in Mandalay. I cannot hide from myself that even our present efforts are regarded with more toleration than favour by the Hpôngyis and nobles, and it is only the powerful support of the King which enables us to stand our ground.

I embrace every opportunity of visits from Hpôngyis and people to explain the truths of the Gospel. A short time ago one of the Mingyis came here with a large retinue. I gave him a copy of the Bible in Burmese which he read eagerly and accepted thankfully, and by his permission I distributed suitable tracts to all his followers. I have a great number of visitors of all ranks. The roads are so bad that the people gladly come through our compound on their way to and from the cemetery. They have always full permission to come into my house and look round, and then they gladly enter into religious conversation and accept Christian tracts and books. Yet even this has aroused considerable excitement, and more than one undoubted friend of the Mission has advised caution in the work.

1 have been in close connection with His Majesty since I took up teaching the princes in the Palace. His Majesty always listened kindly and attentively when I talked of our holy religion, and he delighted to tell me of his own religion and of his early life. The young princes were making good progress, and a sixth was sent to join them. But at the end of April all this changed.

I felt very poorly, and determined to take a short trip on the river. I left on the 3rd of May and returned on the 9th. On the day that I left, I heard the news of the death of the Myouk nan ma daw, the favourite Queen. His Majesty took this grief much to heart, seeking privacy, and shunning all but absolutely necessary business. Since that time I have seen the King but seldom, and only once in private.

I heartily wish that it were in my power to tell you of more material and visible success in our work. But even if it is not given to us to record numerous conversions and baptisms, it is still matter for thankfulness that we may go on giving Christian instruction to nearly a hundred boys and young men, that we may distribute Christian books and tracts, and that we may hold services for the small band of Europeans and native Christians, without let or hindrance.


To the Sec., S.P.G.

Mandalay, July 23rd, 1874.


I feel that the time has arrived when it would be vain to hope further that the King will pay the money which he owed when he ceased to support the school, and that I must now look to the Society for that help.

We may not hide it from ourselves any longer that the work of the Mission in the future will have to be carried on, not with the aid of the King, but in spite of him. But, speaking for myself, I cannot say that I regret this. Those who come to us will be more in earnest, and less actuated by worldly motives, while for myself, I cannot but rejoice at the termination of my connection with the Palace, and that I have not to spend day after day waiting for an interview with the King and in application for money for the school and church.

I would not appear too urgent, but I would beg to remind the Society that I am personally responsible for the money. Of course, should the King feel it his duty to pay the back money, and I should be at liberty to accept it, I should at once forward it to you. But there is little likelihood of this, for H.M., to use a homely proverb, is killing the goose that lays the golden eggs of commerce and self-reliance among his people, and of course his treasury is in a chronic state of emptiness.

I do not think that the school in Mandalay can be carried on for less than Rs. 350 per month. It is useless, at present, to think of school fees. It is not Mandalay custom, and we should empty the school if we attempted just now to enforce them.

If the Bishop would sanction an appeal to the public, I will submit a draft for his Lordship's approval. I believe it would tide us over till I get to England, when, if my legs will carry me, T believe I shall be able to get substantial help.

I am, dear Sir,

Your faithful Servant,



To Bishop Milman.

Mandalay, October 16th, 1874.


Your kind letter of September igth reached me on the I2th. I beg to express my most sincere thar KS for the kind tone of your Lordship's letter, as well as for your noble letter on my behalf to the Governor-General.

I must confess my intense surprise at the action of the Governor-General in this matter. From what I had heard of Lord Northbrook, I certainly expected very different treatment. That he should withdraw the subsidy for the maintenance "of state services," as the official letter put it, was of course within Government power, and this action was known to the King at least on the same day as it was known to me, and H.M. publicly interpreted it to mean that the English Government concurred with his conduct towards me.

Lord Northbrook is perhaps not aware that I was sent up here in 1868 by your Lordship, with the full consent of Sir John Lawrence, at the recommendation of General Fytche, who had known me since 1860, and at the particular invitation of H.M.

That the King not only asked your Lordship in 1873 not to send another clergyman here instead of me, but so late as December last, when I had made all arrangements to go home on medical leave, and a locum tenens was already in Rangoon, the King asked me, as a personal favour, to postpone my departure for a year, and I did so.

I can only recollect two or three instances in which my conduct here has not met with your Lordship's entire approbation, or has been the subject of correspondence with Government.

The King has been exceedingly angry at my repeated and determined refusal to write his wishes to the Governor-General.

I would venture to remark that even if on either of the above occasions my conduct was blameworthy, it was the reverse of offence against the Burmese Government.

It has ever been my wish to abstain from interference in politics or business. But this has been exceedingly difficult. The King has ever been accustomed for clergymen to take part in these matters. At the present day the monks are the virtual rulers of the country. In the embassy of Colonel Phayre he had the assistance of the Very Rev. P. Abbona, and H.M. Government of India made a suitable verbal and pecuniary acknowledgment of his aid.

In an interview with the King in the early part of the year, he complained that although he had done so much for me, I had been of no use to him. Whilst the Roman Catholic clergy worked for his interest with the Italian and French embassies, H.M. could not understand the abstention from politics on my part.

I cannot accept the entire responsibility of the publication of my reports. Some of these have been published against my wish. I venture to submit that it is my duty to write my reports truthfully, plainly and fearlessly, to give facts and my impressions. The responsibility of publishing these reports must rest with those to whom they are addressed.

I am perfectly willing to accept all responsibility for every one of the facts in my published reports. I challenge the fullest inquiry. That which I reported to the Bible Society a year ago is perfectly true now. I frequently distribute hundreds of tracts in a day. I gave away more than two hundred in my own house the day before yesterday. The matter with the King is simply one of money, and he seized the occasion of that report, misrepresented to him, to try to avoid the payments which had fallen into arrears.

Since April 10th, the day on which the King told me to leave his country, H,M. has not paid the arrears for which Captain Strover twice asked him, but neither have I feared or suffered the least annoyance, injury or insult. I still have no door to my house nor closed gate to my compound. The princes, my former pupils, keep up intercourse with me, and from the heir-apparent, the Thagara Prince, I have this week received very kind and friendly communications. The monks visit us more frequently and in greater numbers than ever.

Mr. Eden wrote to me his belief that when the King ceased to fear that we should trouble him for money, he would be glad to listen to me again, and your Lordship said the same. In a country where the confidential minister of to-day is in prison to-morrow (as I have seen), who can expect always to be in favour? Your Lordship will not forget how that the King was wishing to ask you to request the Governor-General to remove Captain Strover, who was then out of favour. For my own part, as I informed your Lordship in a previous letter, I will not leave Mandalay until matters are settled by those whose duty it is to decide. I am just now in a very bad state of health and am in the doctor's hands; but were I much worse and much poorer, I should still feel it my duty to adhere to my resolve. When I can honourably leave Mandalay, nothing would delight me better than to resume the work which ten years ago I commenced in Rangoon.

Your lordship's faithful Servant,



To the Sec., S.P.G.

Mandalay, October 20th, 1874,


My telegram, sent with the full consent of Captain Strover, will have informed you that that gentleman has consented to audit the accounts of this Mission, and has certified to their correctness. The result has not been arrived at without considerable trouble to Captain Strover, due, I am afraid, chiefly from my method, or rather want of method, in the keeping of my accounts. We began here in a hand-to-mouth method, and I fear that we have kept to it. But yet all items of receipts and expenditure have been entered, though not all in the same book. This has given Captain Strover so much trouble in balancing all, and I fear that though he has satisfied himself with the correctness of my accounts, he has formed a very poor opinion of my abilities as a book-keeper. This is what has always troubled me in my work more than anything else, and I will certainly ask you to allow me to be relieved of it in Rangoon.

I have written to my successor my view as to what would be advisable for him to do here, and I may say that those views have been endorsed by Captain Strover. I say this: Be friendly with, if possible, but by all means be independent of the King. Never ask him for money. Never receive any without, as the Bishop directed me, sending it to the secretary at Calcutta. So long as he does not ask him for money, H.M. will love and respect him. But if once, induced by royal promises and temporary favour, he becomes involved in a large boarding school or costly day school, he will sooner or later have to "eat dirt."

To-morrow I take my last journey to Bhamo. The kindness of the Company allows me to take sixteen boys free of cost.

Believe me, ever sincerely yours,



To the Sec., S.P.G.

St. John's College.
January 23rd, 1875.

You cannot tell how pleased I am to be in Rangoon again, and how pleased everybody is to see me. I am holding levees of my boys of many generations back daily, and the school is mounting up. It and the Mission will require all my energies. We have a palatial High School to do battle with, but I have no fear. I am really sorry to think of leaving a work which seems to need me so much. I cannot yet say definitely whether I can leave it at all. It depends on other matters.


Dr. Marks to King Thibaw on his Accession. [Translation.]

The English Priest salutes the King.

The Priest has heard with much sorrow of the death of the royal father from whom he received many and great gifts for his schools, his pupils and himself.

But the Priest is very glad that your Majesty his royal pupil (tabyidaw) has been chosen to reign, and he prays that you may have a long and prosperous reign filled with the blessings of peace and plenty, and that your subjects may be under your rule, numerous, happy, loyal and contented.

The Priest wishes that like your royal father, your Majesty may be famous for your mercy and kindness to all your subjects, and especially he would ask your royal kindness and clemency for the princes, your royal brothers and schoolfellows; that as it is known in England and other countries that your Majesty learned in an English school, so it may be known that when you ascended the throne, your first act was to show mercy and kindness. So all nations will praise you, and know how great and firm your government is.

The Priest has now much work. His school contains 550 boys, with more than 120 boarders. He cannot leave this just now; but in about three months' time he hopes to be able to come to Mandalay to see the power and dignity of his royal pupil.


Dr. Williams to Dr. Marks (referring to the above letter).

October 24th, 1878.


I duly received your letter for the King, with your note of the 12th. I did not expect that Mr. Shaw would exactly approve. The very fact of your showing it to the Chief Commissioner and the Resident tends to lend it that character which the official mind not unnaturally dislikes. Officials do not care what is said or done by a total outsider, as an outsider, but if there is the slightest chance of a communication being regarded as somehow emanating from, or permitted by, the officials of Government, those officials become responsible in a measure for the tone as well as the meaning of the letter.

I have no doubt that the English version was all that could be desired, but the Burmese is not perfect. The object of the letter is, of course, what all sympathize with. I showed the letter to the S. Byu, who evidently did not like it. As to presenting it without the sanction of the Wungyis, that is of course out of the question.

The young King is not a king in the sense that his father was. The object of the letter is, I am glad to say, not urgent just now, and I am sorry to say that your tabyidaw is not showing a docile disposition, and I am myself afraid that he would resent the letter. You spoke of the young fellow as determined; that is the goody word for obstinate. He has been playing the fool worse and worse, has begun to speak slightingly of the Ministers, and has opened his mouth unequivocally as to the kalas. The Hpôngyis, too, don't come off better. He says he knows them!

The insecurity of the present state of things is considerable. The feeling of the people is that the Ministers have been clever in making a puppet, but the puppet is turning out a very ungovernable "human boy" with a strong touch of the devil in him. I suppose he is clever in learning by rote, but he certainly looks a stubborn, sly, unsympathetic lad, and he always has worn that look since I have known him.

The princes in prison are all safe and well; those at the Residency are safer and better. Of course, peace is assured, and a new regime has begun on parabike. But the real feeling in the majority of the men in power is one of more dislike to the English than in the old King's time. As to your young Linban Prince returning here under guarantee, it would be a piece of folly on his part, and certain cruelty on the part of those that persuaded him to do so.

If the Kinwun Mingyi approves of your letter, it will be presented, but I expect it will be, ma to thay bu. Wait a little.

Yours sincerely,



Sir Charles Aitchison to Dr. Marks.

Government House, Rangoon.
February 13th, 1879.


In this and in all similar matters there is really only one answer I can give. The Government have a representative at Mandalay who has a very ticklish game to play. I cannot say what use the King or his Ministers may make of a private correspondence with you, however harmless that correspondence may be in itself.

It is quite possible that a bad use may be made of it to the embarrassment of Mr. Shaw, and, therefore, when my opinion is asked, I can only advise that nothing should be done of which Mr. Shaw is not fully informed. The case would be very different if the Mandalay Court were less barbarous.

Yours very sincerely,


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