Project Canterbury

Charles Perry Scott
First Bishop in North China

By the Right Reverend Bishop Montgomery, D.D.

[London] Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, 1928.

Chapter V. Marriage. Life from 1889-1900

The next eleven years overflowed with happiness: central, surely, from more than one point of view for the bishop: ending in sorrow indeed yet nothing could obliterate the memories of his married life.

On August 8, 1889, he was married to Frances Emily Burrows, in St. Giles', Oxford. Her father was Professor Montagu Burrows, Fellow of All Souls, and Chichele Professor of History; her mother was related to the famous French family of Brocas. It is remarkable also that her father had been a captain in the navy before he returned to university life, continuing his work for the Church at all times.

Frances, brought up in a deeply religious home always entered whole-heartedly into religious and social questions: she also had a beautiful voice and was chiefly instrumental in forming the Oxford "Glee Club." Deep within her was a vein of romance which called her to take wide views, and the story of the Church overseas naturally fascinated her. Thus it was that she became devoted to the welfare of the Universities' Mission to Central Africa, and wrote, in 1880, the pamphlet The Key to Africa, the motive being approval of the removing of the centre of the mission to Zanzibar.

Then followed a visit to Ceylon to her brother. It is right to mention such facts, for nothing could shew better how she seemed to have been unconsciously prepared to be the helpmeet of Charles Scott. Her letters shew also that she abounded in humour and was full of vitality, able also to meet difficulties with a cheery courage.

(The above facts, and others to follow, are taken from a long article in the Land of Sinim, January, 1901.)

It was a happy party, which left England for China on September 20, 1889, in the S.S. Shannon. The bishop and his wife were accompanied by four new workers--and such workers: F. L. Norris, G. D. Iliff, Dr. Alice Marston, Miss Jackson. The two men did not know that they were both to become bishops: Dr. Alice went to start medical work in the diocese. The bishop, three days afterwards, writes of the parting service at St. Peter's, and cannot forget the humour as well as the deep feelings, and the handshakes from hundreds. He continues, speaking of the partings at the docks: "The whole surroundings were (could not but be) typical to me of the changed circumstances of my own lot, of the vast differences between this and my other partings. It was a great wonder to me as I said good-bye to the dear brothers with a gulp, and turned to find Frances by my side, how I had ever managed to do it alone; but true it is that grace sufficient for the day is ever given."

"We six can just crowd into our cabin for our daily prayers. I preach on Sunday morning at the saloon service, Norris in the evening. He is an able man and a charming reader, which goes a long way with me. He makes friends wherever he goes."

At Hong Kong they heard of thirty inches of rain in thirty-three hours; ten inches in five hours.


January 2, 1890.

Charles writes: "Frances is much amused because people look straight at her, sum her up carefully, and then say something of this sort. 'We all knew Bishop Scott had such good taste that he would choose somebody who would be very acceptable to his friends as well as himself.'"

And again: "I believe she has written to you and there is nothing left for me to say; she is quite a voracious (if not quite a veracious) letter writer. I occasionally insert a 'not' here and there, and destroy a lovely picturesque effect by a dash of cold water, or a handful of Peking dust."

Sickness and Floods.--For brevity's sake I here put together four events which occurred between 1890 and 1894. The first, Frances' serious illness (August, 1890). Fever could not check her high spirit. Her husband writes: "I quite understand the old Oxford doctor's description of her as admirably made for travel and enterprise and endurance; a wonderfully wiry constitution with highly strung nerves, and therefore plenty of suffering."

To this letter Frances adds a line about her husband: "Truly in sickness and in health he has fulfilled his marriage vow."

To shew what floods in China can be. "Alas! it is a fearful year, such rain as has been unknown since 1870, millions homeless from flood, and our premises, of course, sharing with the rest."

I pass on to July, 1893.


"We have quite broken the record in the way of rain: we have had a very opening of the windows of heaven, and before we knew where we were, master and mistress, bishop and priest, coolie and carpenter were all working for their lives to remove (as Frances says) everything which had not legs on to something which had legs! We are below the level of the street, and the barrier gave way, sending a limitless rush of filthy street water which never ceased till, in two or three hours, dining room, drawing room, hall, bedrooms were nearly two feet deep. . . . We saw why we had been permitted to build our upper storey (only one small room). . . . None of our houses has fallen, and thank God we are not ill yet; but the doctor has ordered us all to sleep off the Compound. . . . The poor church is dismantled, furniture falling to pieces, organ voiceless. . . . Access to the study can alone be had along perilously insecure forms and boxes."

Typhus.--At the end of 1893--(was it really in consequence of that flood?)--the Bishop had a very serious attack of typhus fever.

"Typhus (he says) is really what plain people call 'brain fever,' and nearly all my inconveniences and discomfort have come from the queer sensations in my head. . . . Sounds come to me all wrong, and if I whistle, the effect is most peculiar. ... I have never, to my conscious knowledge, had an illness before, and it is very odd to me to feel the helpless weakness when one first gets up from a sick bed. Frances, helped by Norris and Dr. Alice Marston, took the greatest care of me."

October, 1893.

Dr. Nevius.--He records the sudden death of his friend and benefactor, Dr. Nevius, from heart failure. "We had not seen him for four years. We came down to Chefoo this autumn for ten days; Dr. Nevius rode over to call, and they asked us all, Bishop Corfe, Greenwood, Brown, Pownall and ourselves to spend an hour or two with them. . . . (Two days afterwards he was dead.) . . . Mrs. Nevius wanted me and Greenwood to read the English service at the grave. . . . Everyone in the community was present, and in the little cemetery (and looking down on the first house where we lived before my consecration) we laid our kind old friend to rest. . . . 'Now the labourer's task is o'er' was a great favourite of his." To turn to his own work.

October, 1892.

Tai-an-fu.--On SS. Simon and Jude's Day. Iliff was ordained, the service wholly in Chinese, In the afternoon four men were baptised, and confirmed immediately afterwards. "All this, you may imagine, is a very deep delight to me. God has indeed blessed this far inland station, and I have seen no such work in connexion with our Mission since I came out. The men who are gathering round us are comfortably off, quiet, respectable small farmers or scholars, mostly members of some obscure religious sect which looks like an offshoot of Buddhism."

Greenwood.--Mrs. Scott writes in 1891: "Charlie is deep in inventories for Mr. Greenwood. Poor, dear man! Settling him up tidylike with goods and chattels is very much the same thing as pouring water into a bucket with a hole in the bottom. Chefoo is too much of a thing for him to be in sole charge of much longer; though, through his munificence, Chinese work has really been started at last."

This humble man of God was laid to rest in the cemetery at Chefoo in 1899.

Home in 1894.--The bishop and Mrs. Scott paid a visit to England in 1894.

St. Hilary's.--I must give one letter of the bishop's, almost in full. It explains itself.


St. Hilary's House of Rest, Western Hills.
July 30, 1896.

"You must have a letter dated on your birthday from this sweet spot where Frances and I have secured a too brief 'honeymoon' of a week, before 'the ladies' come out in force. We are so thankful to have got this little place, and I do hope it will prove a lightener of some of the 'Compound' burdens. It is pleasing to me, viewing the very romantic nature of the spot and surroundings, to think that our dear Aunt Elizabeth's money has gone in the acquirement of this habitation for the Mission; though it has cost us much more than that. But I am quite satisfied that it is a very justifiable and, indeed, necessary expenditure. . . . Imagine yourself riding on a mule, a donkey, or a cart through very foul and dirty streets, with huge mud lakes to traverse or negotiate in other fashion; this for forty minutes or so, when a vast gateway lets you out into the open-air, and you catch an enchanting view of a long moat, a high city wall (in perspective), a great bold gate with double towers, shooting out at right angles to the wall, and clearly cut out against mountains which rise, range over range, into the Northern sky, while the side of the moat shows quite sufficient foliage to make the scene perfect as a picture. This is the first sort of breath of heaven and country; it passes, and a somewhat deadly suburb has to be traversed even more fertile in mud swamps than the city; but all the time glimpses are caught of the 'Western Hills,' which is our destination, and after twenty minutes or so of ever lightening surroundings, we leave houses and pursue our way--if in a cart, along a deep-cut country road with picturesque graveyards and groves on either side; if on donkey or on foot, leaving the road, we take a charming upper footpath with sweet fields of grain, groves of figs, a cottage here and there, a graveyard everywhere, till a magnificent pagoda stands before us, surrounded by the old moss-covered walls of a hoary town, and the various accompaniments of beauty in the way of trees and roofs which a Chinese temple always brings with it. The view here is lovely: we pass through the somewhat commonplace town, stopping or not at one of the Chinese inns for a 'cup of tea and other refreshments,' and as we emerge from the gateway at the other end, feel with a strange joy that there is nothing but road between us and the hills, which now fill the whole horizon. We work on for an hour till, from the ranges of every size and shape, one low 'cup-like hollow' in the foreground catches the eye, and keeps it, by means of a dead-white pagoda planted about 150 or 200 feet above the plain, and cut out against a background of dark trees, etc., etc., the hills rising abruptly behind it, and forming themselves into a rough amphitheatre, seamed with sharp deep gullies, each marked with groves of trees, while at every hundred feet or two lovely old roofs of nestling temples look out from spots where the foliage is so dense as almost to conceal the buildings entirely.

"This spot is Ssu-p'ing t'ai (four level terraces), and is famous for the eight fine temples, most of which have been or are occupied by Europeans during summer. The last hour of your journey you forsake big roads, and find your way on beast or on foot across the fields with grain of various kinds and heights on all sides; but to the very end you keep your white pagoda as the lodestar. Often coming out in the evening you see it to the last glimmer of daylight when you could hardly find your way without it. And oh! how one gazes at and loves that old white pillar, which comes to mean, what shall I say? everything which contrasts with Peking: as you enter the valley it stands just on your left among many fine temple buildings, of which it is the centre. The great gullies, full of stones, converge just here into a broad rivet-bed, with no water save just after a storm. We turn away to the right and ascend the opposite slope, till we are about the level of the foot of the pagoda, when we are at the gate of St. Hilary's. If not over-wearied, you take a turn for a few steps and gaze back on the magnificent view of the city, as it really is in many conditions of the atmosphere, and you feel very much as Christian must have done when he looked back on the Slough of Despond. But there you are, on the heights once more--sky, clouds, trees, hills, country sounds and sights; and, above all, fresh, sweet air, which gets sweeter with every step up the hills behind you.

"Our property is a small dwelling-house, built by a Mandarin for an invalid wife, whom he loved, and who used to frequent it in summer. It is wonderful how it has adapted itself to our purpose with little change beyond actual--extensive--repairs. Our sitting room is open along the whole west front, and looks right up the beautiful gorge, with the white pagoda standing in the summer moonlight like a glorious ghost. We breakfast and dine outside, when there is no rain, and have luncheon under shelter in the dining-room. . . ."

A summary of mercies.--The following details, unequal in importance, but having cumulative effect, will give us a sense of thankfulness for the Bishop and his faithful, but overweighted workers, during the years 1889 to 1899.

The growth of literature at home.--Scott wrote single letters home for some years, and these were printed and circulated; but in 1893 this plan expanded into a Quarterly Paper, with a cover, and on the cover the Cross, copied from the Nestorian Stone of 781 A.D. in Shensi. This paper was called The Land of Sinim.

The Staff.--Mention has already been made of the four who accompanied Bishop and Mrs. Scott to China in 1889:--

In 1892 Harry Vine Norman joined the Mission.

In 1894 F. J. Griffith was ordained for the Mission.

In 1895 the Rev. Roland Allen came out, also Deaconess Jessie Ransome.

In the same year Henry Mathews and W. Pigrum were ordained in China.

In the same year Sidney Brooks, brother of Mrs. Benham Brown; and in 1898, Charles Robinson also joined the Mission.

Churches.--The permanent church (St. Andrew) at Chefoo was built in 1895.

Two interesting gifts.--In the same year the bishop was presented with a pastoral staff, designed by Frank Norris, and made wholly by Chinese.

In 1897 a tenor bell was presented to All Saints' Church, Tientsin, by the Rev. O. P. Wardell Yerburgh, who had already given fifty hand-bells. The boys of the Peking School used to play on these bells quite successfully. Of course, the bells were all lost in 1900, when the Mission was looted and burned; but some years later a few were found exposed for sale on the streets of Peking, and were bought back. One especially sweet one has been the church bell for St. Hilary's Chapel at the Western Hills for many years.

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