Memoir of the Life and Episcopate of Edward Feild, D.D., Bishop of Newfoundland, 1844-1875. By the Rev. H. W. TUCKER, M. A. London: 1879.
FIVE and twenty years ago the name of Bishop Feild brought hope and comfort to many who, amid the controversies at home, looked abroad and found in Newfoundland the pledge and token of a living Church. But the more recent memories of Mackenzie, Patteson, and Gray, seem to have crowded out of the minds of the present generation the labors of one who was still earlier in the field, and inferior to none in zeal and self-sacrifice. There is nothing of the sensational in the career of Bishop Feild; his work was what the world might call commonplace. While laborers in other parts of the mission field are led to see the utmost height to which a non-Christian civilization can raise mankind, as well as the depths to which heathenism and barbarism can degrade, the Bishop of Newfoundland had only to minister to those who by baptism are of the household of faith, but who, if neglected by their spiritual mother, are in a fair way to become as the heathen.
Edward Feild was born at Worcester, on June 7, 1801, the third son of James Feild, Esq., the representative of an ancient family long settled in the county of Worcester. Nothing of special interest is chronicled of his boyhood, and after some years at school at Bewdley, he went, in 1814, to Rugby, where, in 1820, he carried off the first prize out of four awarded for Latin composition. From Rugby he took an exhibition to Queen's College, Oxford, where he gained a Michel scholarship. He, graduated B. A. in Easter Term, 1823, obtaining a second class in the classical school, and his name stands alone in the first class of the mathematical school. He became a Fellow on the Michel Foundation as a matter of course, and in due time was appointed Lecturer of the College.
In the spring of 1826 he was an unsuccessful candidate for a Fellowship at Oriel; there were two vacancies and twelve competitors, the fortunate ones being Richard Hurrell Froude and Robert Isaac Wilberforce. But it is with Edward Feild's life and work as priest and bishop that we are especially concerned. On May 21, 1826, he was admitted to the Diaconate by Bishop Legge, then Bishop of Oxford, his Fellowship being his title. At Christmas, 1827, he was ordained priest by Bishop Lloyd, having a few weeks previously been licensed to the curacy of Kidlington; and here began that life of ministerial activity and profound devotion to duty so undeviating and unhesitating as to seem to have been rendered without effort. At all times and in all respects he was in advance of his contemporaries in his estimate of duty, and in his treatment of the many problems social and political, as well as moral and ecclesiastical, which must occupy the mind of every clergyman. The standard of obligation in 1827 was very different from now. Fifty years ago, even those saintly men with whose memories we connect the glorious movement which, under GOD, has made the Church what we now see it, were content to reside in Oxford, going out to their parishes, in some cases twelve or fifteen miles away, for their Sunday duties. But Mr. Feild set a better example. Though his parish was only five miles distant, he made it his chief work, and lived on the spot, coming to Oxford for his lectures. A friend writes: "When I went into residence at Wadham, in 1829, Mr. Feild was soon pointed out to me riding past the college every morning from one of the northern parishes of which he was curate,--reversing the practice of clerical Fellows, for instead of living in college, he lodged in his curacy. The result of his residence and teaching was remarkable. Kidlington was a bad parish, and its village green noted for its fights, and these the young Curate made a point of attending; and at length, by suasion, by personal influence, by loving interference, and when all other means failed, by the strong arm of the law, he wrought a real change in this and other respects. He was a pioneer in the work of education, and built schools at Kidlington which were regarded as models for the neighborhood." A contemporary writes of him at this time: "The energy with which Feild commenced his work rather grated on the good, though high and dry, feelings of his rector. Feild did not rest until efficient schools were built; and infant schools were then few and far between. Whenever I think of them, I think of Feild and his, so to speak, magical power over the infants; his whole soul seemed cast into the work. I fancy that I can now see the infant children in the school contending for his caresses whilst he held one in his arms."
These were stirring times, and Mr. Feild's active mind was keen to take in all that was going an around him, and to direct the minds of his parishioners. The "Irving Riots" were in full vigor, and burnings and other acts of violence were of frequent occurrence, and the whole rural population was in a state of ferment. In the schools which he had been instrumental in building, he was wont to assemble and address his people, and on Nov. 28, 1830, he delivered an address on the state of the country, which was printed, and found readers far beyond the circle for which it was written, running through six editions. The whole pamphlet is full of the soundest political economy; and while the sanguine hopes of the Curate of Kidlington in 1831 have not, it is feared, been realized, it will be observed that a famous dictum of the present Bishop of Peterborough, when speaking on this subject in the House of Lords, was but an echo (unconscious, no doubt) of the words of Mr. Feild spoken more than forty years previously. His great antipathy to what he called "the self-righteous absurdities of teetotalism," appears on several occasions in his letters and reports. Intemperance caused him great anxiety, both in England and in Newfoundland, and he was himself almost a total abstainer, but he objected to the pledge as superfluous.
In 1834 he became Rector of English Bicknor, a college living in the most beautiful part of Gloucestershire, and within the limits of this parish he found occupation that amply satisfied his unselfish ambition, and here the next ten years of his life were spent. His successor, the Rev. I. Burden, sends the following description of the traditions and results of Mr. Feild's incumbency:--
The Bishop is remembered with affectionate regard to this day. His great influence was through schools, which he built at a time when nobody troubled themselves about such things; and he exercised wonderful influence over the children, though strict even to severity in his management. They were afraid of him, and yet they liked him very much. The last time he was over, several rather elderly people had stories about their school days, and how the Bishop had thrashed them, and such like agreeable reminiscences, which I retailed to the Bishop, greatly to his amusement. One fact I remember which always struck me as very singular. He had not the slightest ear for music, and yet he contrived to teach the children to sing by note. They sang in parts, and formed the choir. None but the children sang in church, and really the singing was very fair; and the Bishop did it' all, or nearly all, himself, and yet he was utterly deficient both in voice and ear. He had printed a little book for teaching singing, of which I think I still have copies by me. This was quite of a piece with his character, which took delight in grappling with difficulties.
The Rev. G. Machen, of Eastback Court, adds a characteristic reminiscence. He says,--
My earliest remembrances of Bishop Feild date from 1834, when he came to take possession of English Bicknor. It was soon seen what manner of man he was. He had not been many weeks in the parish before all felt that they had a real man among them to whom they could look up with respect and reverence; but it was only by degrees that the gentle, tender nature made itself felt through a certain sternness and ruggedness of exterior, and we found we could not only esteem him highly, but love him heartily. Shortly after his arrival, he was invited to preach a school anniversary sermon at a neighboring church. There was a large gathering of the neighboring clergy and gentry, and all were invited by the clergyman of the parish to luncheon. But Feild declined. He had heard of a sick person in a distant part of his own parish which he had not yet explored, and I well remember his asking me to point out the road to it. This may seem a trifle to put on record, but it exactly shows the manner of the man,--always duty before pleasure, in small things as well as great.
The fame of his powers in school matters was now widely spread. Education was becoming a foremost and pressing question; and existing schools were known to be as bad as it was possible to conceive. Diocesan boards of education had begun to be established in various places, and the National Society determined to appoint a number of inspectors whose duty it should be to visit all the schools of a particular Diocese, with the sanction of the Bishop. The first person selected for this tentative position was Mr. Feild. His inspection was thorough and minute, extending to questions of drainage, ventilation (little thought of in those days), and even to the supply of hat-pegs. His two reports (which were in addition to the confidential reports sent to the Bishop on each parish) occupy twenty-seven and seventy-six pages of closely printed matter in the Reports of the National Society for 1840 and 1841 respectively; and it may be doubted whether the Privy Council Office contains more statesmanlike documents on the great question with which they deal. In other parts of the country, where education was attracting the thoughts of the clergy, men looked to Mr. Feild and his experience before venturing on plans of their own. Among those who thus sat at his feet was the honored Primus of Scotland, and the friendship thus begun secured the most valuable sympathy and material assistance when the famous inspector became Bishop of Newfoundland.
The Diocese of Worcester having been thus inspected, Mr. Feild returned to his parish in 1841, and there continued until, in 1844, he was summoned to Newfoundland, where for thirty-two years he was abundant in labors which may, without exaggeration, be said to have been uninterrupted and unparalleled.
On the fact of his nomination being known, offers of material help came to him from all sides. The Provost and Fellows of his college immediately began the formation of a fund for ecclesiastical purposes, to be placed at his disposal, "feeling confident that the well-known character of Mr. Feild, his sound judgment and discretion, his past labors in the Church, and his zealous performance of the duties of a parish priest for many years, afford a sufficient guarantee that his office as chief pastor will be efficiently discharged while health and strength are afforded him, and that the sum placed in his hands will be employed in the way best calculated to advance the spiritual welfare of those committed to his charge." This was testimony as creditable to those who offered it as to him who was the subject of it; and certainly if faithful and long-continued labors for GOD and the Church, if simple piety, and hardness endured not only voluntarily, but without complaint, if statesmanlike forethought, and practical wisdom in the founding and subsequent government of a Church, and a life lived as in the very presence of GOD and guided always by the spirit and teaching of the Gospel, be subjects of legitimate admiration to those who witness them, Queen's College, Oxford, has no nobler or more distinguished member in this generation than he to whom his contemporaries united in doing honor before he left his native country for the sterile shores of Newfoundland.
The Island of Newfoundland in its early days had suffered, perhaps irretrievably, from the neglect of the Mother Church. As long ago as 1704 there were English clergy settled in the country and ministering to the resident population, then very limited in numbers, and to the thousands of seafaring folk who in the fishing season crowded the harbors with their ships. Ecclesiastically, Newfoundland was a part of the Diocese of Nova Scotia, but it may be truly said that its quota of Episcopal care was wholly nominal,--for though the See of Nova Scotia was established in 1787, it was not until forty years had elapsed that a bishop of that Diocese was enabled to visit this distant portion of his charge. Whatever was done in those days was the result of private devotion and zeal. In 1823 a Newfoundland merchant, Samuel Codner, grieved at the lamentable state of ignorance in which the people were living, founded a School Society for the education of poor children. This society, begun with excellent intentions, was often ill-managed, and gave infinite trouble to the Bishop, but it has an interest of its own, as the free-will offering of a layman in days of great spiritual apathy. In 1830 a courageous clergyman, Archdeacon Wix, who is worthy of more than a passing allusion, made a tour of the southern shore of the island and a considerable tract of the Labrador coast. In 1835, he spent six months in similar labors, and appears to have made a complete visitation of the whole coast line.
Newfoundland has been well described as a "rough shore with no interior," and this is true, for although in area it is equal to Ireland, there are no roads except in the neighborhood of the capital; the queen's highway is to be found only on the water, and in the winter, on the ice. A glance at the map shows a jagged coast-line making a series of coves and creeks, and lanes of water locally called "tickles," and these separated from one another in a way that renders communication between the populations of the several coves a matter of much difficulty, while inland it is an untraversed and almost unknown country, abounding with bogs and rocks; isolation is a fruitful source of ignorance and vice, and Mr. Wix's account of his experience is in all respects consistent with what we should expect to find. He wrote,--
I was frequently struck with surprise at the very marked difference which might be observed between the inhabitants of places only separated by a few leagues from each other. The inhabitants of Conception Bay, although only a neck of land of only a few miles in extent separates them from Trinity Bay, differ from the inhabitants of the latter as much as if they were a distant nation. But a single league may often carry the traveller upon the same shore from a people whose habits are extremely coarse and revolting to a population which has suffered nothing, perhaps gained, from its being far removed from the seat of advanced civilization and refinement. Much of the character of a settlement must depend, for several generations, upon the character of its original settlers. The descendants of some profane runaway man-of-war's men or other characters as regardless of decorum and delicacy, are likely to show, to the third and fourth generation, a general licentiousness of conversation and conduct which betrays the foul origin of their stock. There were acts of profligacy practised in the Bay of Islands at which the Nucinac Indians expressed their horror and disgust. I found more delicacy in the wigwams of the Indians than in the tilts of many of our own people. Except some sympathy be excited for the improvement of our people in this and similar places, they must fast merge into a state similar to that in which the first missionaries found the inhabitants of the South Sea Islands, unless Nature vindicates herself, and they are exterminated by their own vices and excesses.
It was to a country whose inhabitants could be thus described without exaggeration, and whose physical features, combined with a winter of six months' duration, tend to make it a place of residence unattractive in the last degree to all save seekers of gold or of souls, that in 1839 the Episcopate was tardily given. Bishop Spencer, better known as having for many years held the See of Jamaica, became first Bishop of Newfoundland, and to him belongs the credit of first grappling with the confusion and chaos in which all ecclesiastical matters were involved. He made two long visitations by sea, for the most part in open boats; he found alarming spiritual destitution everywhere. The absolute dearth of clergy induced him to admit to the Diaconate some of the schoolmasters of the School Society already mentioned, with the understanding that they would continue as deacons their work as schoolmasters; he confirmed nearly three thousand person's; he mapped out the Diocese into rural deaneries; he established a seminary for Divinity students which became the nucleus of a theological college, and raised a considerable sum of money with the hope of building a cathedral, the first stone of which he laid before quitting the Diocese. The severity of the climate and difficulty of locomotion seem to have disheartened him, however, and his translation to the See of Jamaica, in 1843, was welcomed as a relief from a burden under which he was evidently sinking. He left Newfoundland too late in the year to allow of a successor being sent out until the following spring, and the authorities of Mother Church had therefore ample time in which to make their selection; and for their guidance Bishop Spencer wrote the following memorandum:
The missionary in Newfoundland has certainly greater hardships to endure and more difficult obstacles to surmount than those which await the messenger of the Gospel in any field of labor yet opened to the known world. He must have strength of constitution to support him under a climate as rigorous as that of Iceland; a stomach insensible to attacks of sea-sickness; pedestrian powers beyond those of an Irish gossoon, and an ability to rest occasionally on the bed of a fisherman or the hard boards in a woodman's tilt. With these physical capabilities he must combine a patient temper, an energetic spirit, a facility to adapt his speech to the lowest grade of intellect, a ready power of illustrating and explaining the leading doctrines of the Gospel and the Church to the earnest though ill-informed inquirer, and a thorough preparation for controversy with the Romanist, together with the discretion and charity which will induce him to live, as far as may be possible, peaceably with all men.
Those who know what manner of man was the second Bishop of Newfoundland, well know that all these qualifications were found in him as well as others not less valuable, though more uncommon. With profound learning he combined humility and simplicity of character, a sense of humor which was simply unfailing, and a sustaining power under continual discouragements. Whether as priest or bishop, he had the grace to disregard and even despise popularity,--the snare of the present day. "If I were popular," he wrote on one occasion, "I could do much,--much to exalt myself, degrade the Church, and ruin souls."
He was consecrated in the chapel of Lambeth Palace, in April 28, 1844, and on June 4, he sailed from Liverpool in the "Acadia." He had the privilege of celebrating Holy Communion in S. Martin's, Liverpool, the Church of which his friend the Rev. Cecil May was vicar; and a large body of Churchmen went with him immediately after the service to the ship. A fortnight was spent in Halifax for the purpose of conferring with the Bishop of Nova Scotia, and on July 4, he landed at S. John's amid ceremonies of welcome, distasteful in themselves, but accepted for the sake of the kindly spirit which prompted them. Of his reception he wrote as follows:--
I found, to my surprise, great preparations made to receive me. Two boats came off to meet the packet on her entering the harbor, one containing the clergy of S. John's with their Church Wardens and other respectable inhabitants, the other from H. M. S. 'Eurydice,' having on board the Governor's son and private secretary. I was directed to enter the latter, into which also the two clergymen (for alas! there are but two in the district of S. John's, containing nearly twenty thousand souls widely scattered) entered, having first ascended the packet to salute me. In three or four minutes we were at the wharf, and there I found the Royal Newfoundland Companies, with their officers, drawn up to receive me, who presented arms, and the officers most kindly and courteously welcomed me to Newfoundland. The two clergymen still accompanied me, and we soon reached Government House, where I was received by His Excellency, Sir John Harvey.
Little time was lost making plans, but before any schemes were published for the good of the Diocese, the spiritual life of the capital was cared for. The new Bishop immediately began daily morning prayer in S. Thomas' Church, and announced that as soon as he could take possession of his own home,--for at first he was the guest of the Governor,--he should have daily Evensong as well, and it may be here stated that this rule of the Church has been the diligently observed rule of the Diocese. In S. Thomas' Church there was no font; and pulpit, desk, and clerk's desk occupied the centre of the Church, obscuring the altar. As a visitation of the clergy and an ordination were to be held in this Church in September, the Bishop determined at once to make such alterations as might "exhibit to the clergy the proper arrangements of a church." His own house was no sooner occupied than he opened a school for children of the upper classes who attended Church in the morning.
The theological seminary which his predecessor had established was found to be a poor wooden building in which six students attended daily to receive instruction from the clergyman of S. Thomas' Church. They lived in lodgings and were under no surveillance. These the Bishop required to attend daily prayers in Church; and he caused them to be instructed in Church music, that they might take part in the services. He saw the need of their living under collegiate discipline, and in time a theological college was established which has trained many clergy for the Diocese, and by the Bishop's exertions was ultimately endowed to the amount of £7,500. Amid his many plans he felt the obvious necessity for more clergy; but although fresh from England and her endowments, he consistently, and from the very beginning, insisted that Churchmen should help themselves.
By the kindness of the present Primus of Scotland, then Rector of Leigh in Essex, the Bishop was not allowed to suffer as his predecessor had suffered, for lack of a suitable vessel in which to make his visitations. Mr. Eden presented to the Diocese the "Emma Eden," a brig of eighty tons, which should be the Church ship; but as her rig and size did not fit her for the new work for which she was intended, the generous donor allowed her to be sold, and with the proceeds a smaller but more handy vessel, the "Hawk," was purchased.
When the necessary alterations were completed, Bishop Blomfield visited the ship at Blackwall on August 10, and held a solemn and impressive service of dedication on board. Her voyage was prosperous, and the Bishop welcomed her and her precious freight of missionaries, present and prospective, with thankfulness. The cost of her outfit and other expenses were already pressing on Bishop Feild and making him anxious. It may here be stated that his Episcopal income was £1,200 per annum, and the following letter will serve as an instance of the profuse liberality with which he ever spent all that he had for the good of the Church, while his personal expenditure was altogether insignificant.
S. JOHN'S, Sept. 6, 1844.
While I have any grace left I hope I shall never speak or think of any of your labors or proceedings on my behalf but with the sincerest and warmest gratitude; but what is to be done respecting these bills? I am obliged to put some furniture into my house and to provide for housekeeping; and though all is done in the most economical way, there will and must be an outlay of nearly £300, no very large sum for furnishing an Episcopal residence for a bishop, chaplain, schoolmaster, two catechists, and two students. I have bought nothing new but of plain deal, and have no curtains in the house, no looking-glasses,--except little hand-mirrors stuck against the walls,--no carpets upstairs. Then I am just about to open the Collegiate School, and am obliged to pay for all books and furniture, and to take another house on my own risk and responsibility. At this time I have not a farthing of money, either private or Episcopal. My goods and effects were only just enough to pay my debts in England.
The ordination over, the Bishop turned his attention to a very dissimilar part of his Diocese. The Bermudas, which had formed part of the original Diocese of Nova Scotia, were added to the charge of the Bishop of Newfoundland when that See was founded. They are a cluster of islets connected by bridges, in the midst of the great Atlantic, extending from one end to the other for about twenty-five miles, while nowhere are they more than three miles in breadth. To most persons it would have been a welcome change to spend the winter in these sunny islands, and to leave the larger and more important Island of Newfoundland to the mercy of storm and ice; to Bishop Feild it was a perpetual source of regret to have to make a long voyage of more than twelve hundred miles across the Atlantic, distracted by the thought that the Diocese must at all times suffer loss in one extremity or the other by the absence of its chief pastor. In the autumn of 1844 his first visit enabled him thoroughly to grasp the needs of the island, and largely to supply them. He wrote,--
I thus became acquainted with every parish and part of the islands, no very difficult or long task. I preached three times in each of the Churches but one, and in that twice, and in S. George's, in Paget's, and in Warwick, much more frequently. I visited and preached in each of the three convict hulks, visited all the parochial and free schools, and carefully examined the children, baptized four adult negroes, confirmed eight times, in as many different Churches, held a Visitation of the Clergy of the Islands, when I delivered an address which was printed at their request. I addressed copious articles of inquiry to all the clergy, both rectors of parishes and chaplains of the hulks, and in other ways endeavored to make myself acquainted with their circumstances, and offered such advice and direction as seemed to me necessary in each case.
His work in Bermuda was characteristic of his whole Episcopate: nothing was overlooked; none were too poor or too degraded--indeed, poverty and degradation seemed ever to call forth his especial sympathy and care. There was much to discourage him; the Governor alone issued marriage licenses, and the clergy were accustomed to marry in private houses, and at any hour; and Holy Matrimony was supplanted by profane wedlock, which was regarded merely as a civil contract. His efforts to adjust these anomalies were highly offensive to the Governor, though approved by both clergy and laity. Early in the spring of 1845, he returned to S. John's to discover that he had not yet learned the extent of his Diocese. He wrote,--
Do tell me whether or not the coast of Labrador is part of my Diocese? It is not mentioned in my commission. Hundreds of our people go to the Labrador with their families every summer, and never see a church or clergyman during their stay. Then I have applications from all parts of this island, and what can I do? Nothing but hurry-skurry, run and drive here and there, which indeed is worse than nothing; and is it really so, that no clergyman of the Church of England can be found to put his life in his hand and go forth among them for CHRIST and His Church's sake?
This picture of a bishop overwhelmed with work and harassed by demands for ministrations which it was out of his power to supply, is surely one that merits sympathy. But he wasted no time in vain regrets; as soon as the waters were open, the "Hawk" was put in commission, and the Bishop visited the eastern coast as far as Twillingate and Fogo. At both places churches were consecrated, and at the Bishop's desire, the people who had been accustomed to possess pews, which were bought and sold as private property, now made the buildings over to himself, in trust, for the perpetual use of all the inhabitants. After a week, the "Hawk" again spread her wings, beating along the southern shore, stopping at Cape Ray and Sandy Point, where the Bishop confirmed sixty-two persons. On the return trip, the Bishop came upon coves and settlements whose inhabitants were seventy miles from the nearest clergyman. He found traces of Archdeacon Wix's visit of ten years before, but the lack of religious instruction and means of grace was distressing. Thousands of Church people scattered along the coast, a line of probably four hundred miles in extent, and only one clergyman. It was no pleasure excursion to the Bishop, when he was continually solicited, even with tears, to provide some relief for this wretched destitution, but at least he had the satisfaction of knowing he had not spared himself. He had sailed sixteen hundred miles, and had been afloat three months, had visited the sick, baptized, confirmed, and made all possible provision for their spiritual needs. His own impressions may be judged by the following extract from a letter to the Rev. Cecil May:--
Can you by any possibility find any men who, for love of souls and CHRIST'S sake, will come over and help us in this most forlorn and forsaken colony? Oh, that the men who are tearing the bowels of our dear mother would direct their zeal and devotion to the relief of their suffering brethren in CHRIST as well as in race! I have visited thousands who have not seen a clergyman for two three, five, twelve years; for five hundred miles of stormy coast I have two deacons and one priest, and all these a short time ago (one of them still) Newfoundland schoolmasters! One clergyman represents the missionary zeal of the two famous universities, as far as my Diocese is concerned. Pray for us!
But while thus appealing to the chivalrous devotion of the Mother Church, the far-seeing Bishop knew full well that if the Church of Newfoundland would flourish, she must trust to herself. He insisted with all his power on the Church Society being supported throughout the Diocese as the financial machinery of the whole Church, and endeavored, in spite of unceasing opposition, to make the pledge to contribute to this the sign of Church-membership and of the desire to receive the ministrations of the clergy. Here were sound principles, both of finance and of something far more important; and high must have been the courage of the Bishop who in little more than twelve months made such sweeping changes. No doubt his popularity was shipwrecked, but popularity he held very cheaply; and thus it came to pass that in Newfoundland, with exceptional poverty, the Church had developed a spirit of self-sacrifice and independence, while in the wealthiest Diocese of Australia the recent withdrawal, after more than twenty years' enjoyment, and with five years' notice, of a government subsidy of no less than £23,000 per annum, made Churchmen, both clerical and lay, wring their hands in despair, no remedy being apparently left to them but shamelessly to beg from England.
The need of clergy pressed sorely upon the Bishop; and to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel he offered to give up the £500 per annum which that society paid himself, if by doing so five clergymen could be procured, to whom he said he could promise they should live as well as he did; and he had little patience with those who were not content to live as plainly and hardly as their bishop. Of a Scripture reader who had obtained ordination and then disappointed him, he wrote,--
Mr. ---- is constantly telling me that he is called to preach the Gospel to every creature, but he seems to have no intention of preaching it, even to a small flock, for less than £200 a year and a house.
On December 8, the Bishop left for Halifax, en route to Bermuda, and this second voyage was even more perilous than the first. In May the "Hawk" fetched him back to S. John's, and he states that "the voyage was made without any discomfort, though I gave up my cabin to a gentleman and lady."
On arriving at S. John's he found an offer awaiting him, the refusal of which utterly destroyed for him all chance of popularity for some years; this was the Presidentship of the Local Branch of the British and Foreign Bible Society. He justified his refusal by showing (i) that there was no necessity for the existence of such a society in the island, as the Sacred Scriptures were already procurable at the cheapest possible rate; and (2) that the organization of the Society was not such as a Churchman could consistently join.
On Trinity Sunday an ordination was held, and the Bishop was preparing for his next cruise, when a calamity befell the whole community at St. John's, which has since formed an era from which the good people fix all their dates. "The year of the fire" is a well-understood chronological fact even to those who have since been born, and the Bishop wrote to a frequent correspondent,--
Little did I think when on Sunday last I ordained two priests and eight deacons in our old Church, and complained that such a structure, so mean and miserable, was ill adapted to the sacred services, that I should never officiate again there, and that in two days not a vestige of the building would remain, and I should wish in vain for half the accommodation I perhaps too lightly esteemed! But such, alas! and far more dreadful and extensive than I can describe, is the destruction wrought in one day by a furious and fatal fire.
In fact, not only the Church, but by far the larger part of the city was destroyed; the distress of the twelve thousand poor houseless people was of course excessive; and for the poor Bishop the prospect of that self-support which he had so earnestly pressed on the people seemed dark indeed. Then the claims of neglected Labrador were pressing upon him, and his voyage of visitation could not be delayed unless the summer was to be lost. On July 10, the "Hawk" again sailed northward, the Bishop everywhere examining, confirming, baptizing, preaching. The wind being dead ahead, he ran back to S. John's after three weeks, his presence being much needed in the distressing condition of the people, but on August 18, he again sailed with a fair wind, and this time reached Twillingate and Fogo on September 2.
Meanwhile kindly aid was coming from England in answer to the Bishop's sorrowful letters, but on his return to S. John's he was urged by clergy and laity to visit England and secure substantial aid for. the impoverished Church and people. He hesitated much,--but not long; he saw it was the proper course, and the "Hawk" was put in requisition. She was graciously preserved in a hurricane "which strewed the Atlantic with wreck," and on October 6, she made Torbay, having lost mainsail, gaff, topmast, and staysail; her bulwarks were started in several places, and other damage done, so she was laid up at Teignmouth for repairs, having been in commission for six months, and having sailed in direct course five thousand miles.
In the first days of 1847, the Bishop was again on the Atlantic, having made known the wants of his people with a force of which he was the last person to feel conscious; and although he was disheartened at his failure to find clergy, he had attracted several young men who lived to do good service in his barren Diocese. One indeed threw in his lot with the Bishop, and set a brilliant example of primitive simplicity and Apostolic zeal to which it would be difficult in any land to find a parallel. But the career of the Rev. Jacob G. Mountain in the mission of Harbor Briton has been chronicled elsewhere.
While on board the steamer bound to Halifax, Bishop Field wrote,--
THE 'HIBERNIA,' Jan. 14, 1847.
. . . After inquiring and proposing in every way and direction, I have not been able absolutely to secure for my Diocese the services of one clergyman or of one person regularly educated for the sacred office.1 Three priests and three deacons have been removed from us during the year, and thus nearly two thousand members of our Church are deprived of all religious superintendence and instruction. It is plain that it is not the separation from friends and home,--that is no bar in the case of secular office; it is not poor payments or trying climate,--these do not keep at home soldiers or civil officers. How many sons and brothers are cheerfully sent to the camp on the Sutlejn in New Zealand with the clear prospect of war added to the trials of a new country and climate! But I am sadly conscious that I am not in a condition to discuss such a subject calmly. Almost all other professions are overstocked, but the ministry of the Church is quite unequal to the calls upon it, both abroad and at home. Is the Church alone, or shall I say, the Church of England alone, condemned to the 'barren womb and dry breasts'? Will not our rulers devise some remedy before it is too late?
It was characteristic of the Bishop thus to exalt the service of the Church, and to mourn that others did not, like himself, regard the hardest post of missionary labor as the one of special honor. But it may with truth be said that nowhere have the clergy been more patient, more contented, more united, than on this desolate island. Bishop Feild, with the simplicity that adorned his character, never suspected that the power which kept these men devotedly at their post was the example of his own hard and devoted life; nor when, as happened more than once or twice, men were led to make sacrifices and to leave England for hard and voluntary service in Newfoundland, that the real magnet was himself. It may be well to give a layman's estimate of the clergy of this Diocese:--
In the faces of all the men I saw engaged in this work contentment and peace were unmistakably stamped. Nor is it alone to poor living, absence of comfort, that their hard lot extends. This might be borne amid humble domestic joys, and a circle of duty close at hand, but that circle extends for decades upon decades of weary, inhospitable miles, from fishing-cove to fishing-cove, when the Sunday services come round to each, once in so many weeks of service. Upon the instant must the parson rouse and trudge through snow and ice, no matter the weather, no matter the distance, on a summons from a parishioner.
He describes a picnic party of which he was a member, and which brought him face to face with an example of the devotion of which he had heard:--
Suddenly from behind a fir grove was heard the tinkle of a vesper-bell. Except from a Roman source, it was almost the last thing one might have expected in such a place. Yet we soon found the invitation came from an Orthodox offshoot of the 'Anglican branch of the Catholic Faith,' as some folk here love to style it. Just as we entered the neat wooden edifice, a thin, elderly man who had been tolling his own summons, began the Daily Evening Service. None but ourselves were there, and my friend whispered me that this was another blessing brought by the influence of the Bishop. They were friends and first class men at Oxford; and like the Bishop, this man, besides being the possessor of ample private means, gave up his living in England and came out to work under his old friend in a remote fishing village on the edge of the wild Atlantic. After service he asked us to enter his cottage, and a strange interior it was,--boxes, trunks, chests, lying in every direction covered with pamphlets and letters scattered broadcast. The uncarpeted room served for parlor and bedroom, and the parson's fare,--tea, bread, two eggs boiled with his own hands, and a basin of butter, cut with a spoon,--soon appeared on the table. He kept no servant and depended for a scrub and the simple necessities of his daily life on his friends in the village below. If they came to his need, well and good; if not, he rubbed on, not heeding his necessities so that he had but strength and health to ring his little bell for Matins and Evensong, and watch over the sick beds of all who needed him.
This is no solitary case; stranger can be put on record.
The Bishop now had his hands unusually full; he was expecting the Church ship with her passengers, and was preparing for the erection of at least the nave of a cathedral church. Money had been raised in England by the authority of a Queen's Letter for the relief of the sufferers by the fire in the previous year, and it had been announced at the time that part of these sums would be spent in rebuilding the church. But the majority of the sufferers were Romanists, and the Roman Catholic Bishop took, as was natural, an active part against the Anglican one; but no opposition could blunt Bishop Feild's sense of justice, and he wrote of his opponent:--
He is, to my mind, cast in the very type of a primitive bishop; and mark you, he will return with men! The Protestant Bishop comes back with money! His priests are indefatigable, postponing everything to making converts; mine have to make provision for wives and children.
In the midst of this letter the "Hawk" arrives, and the tenderness of his warm heart breaks through all barriers in welcoming the precious cargo. He adds,--
Oh, joy! I must leave all subjects to tell you of the arrival of the dear Church ship, safe and sound.--I mean her cargo safe, for the little bird herself has been sadly beaten and battered. I brought all ashore; and it being Whitsun Tuesday, I celebrated the Holy Communion, and administered to them all. Another auspicious event marked the day; we began to dig out the foundations of the cathedral, and I had as many as fifty men giving volunteer labor. The church would be very beautiful, but I do not see the use of talking of the choir and sacrarium as if I would ever have anything to do with them!
The work of the builders was pressed on till frost, and the busy Bishop was now contemplating the establishment of a girls' school; but the most urgent work was the establishment of the theological college and school, to be called "Queen's College," with Episcopal residence and all necessary surroundings. The scheme was an ambitious one, but has only been so far realized as the excellent theological college is the outcome of the effort.
Voyage after voyage in the brave little "Hawk," alternating with unceasing pleading for his scattered sheep, fill up the years until 1850, when the cathedral was consecrated on the festival of S. Matthew, and almost immediately the Bishop held the first general ordination in it. On Christmas Day, 1851, the vessels, books, and pastoral staff, presented by anonymous friends in England to the cathedral, were solemnly consecrated by the Bishop. He was careful to instruct the people as to the propriety of the service, and the great authorities for its use; and all present seemed to be much impressed by its solemnity and fitness.
In January, 1853, the Bishop was in England after an absence of six years, but his stay was a brief one. In March he set forth again from Liverpool, where again he had the comfort of the Holy Eucharist with his friends in the church of the Rev. Cecil May. Truly he needed all support; he was sick in mind and body, and the discomforts awaiting him were many. When his double voyage was over, and he was landed in Bermuda, he delivered his charge to the clergy on S. Mark's Day, and it was of special interest, as it contained the impressions made upon the Bishop's mind during his brief stay in England.
On Trinity Sunday an ordination was held, and on June 15, the "Hawk," having been refitted, was ready for sea. The cruise was intended to include a thorough visitation of Labrador; and the course shaped was along the eastern shore of Newfoundland, where the mission of Greenspond was visited. Fair winds brought the ship rapidly to one after another mission station, bringing everywhere a joy that can be understood by none who have not known a like isolation. At Battle Harbor the Bishop introduced the Rev. G. Hutchinson to his future flock, and consecrated the church, which was designed on a previous voyage. On the northeast coast, the eagerness with which the ministrations of the Church were received, added much to the regret with which the poor people were left again to their destitute state. At Twillingate, with its church and schools and resident clergyman, things afforded a bright contrast. The Bishop spent a Sunday here, visiting the Sunday School, and "really almost feeling at home again, a happy English parson."
At Ward's Harbor even pleasanter things awaited him. Here a church was consecrated whose very existence testified to much piety and zeal. In the mission of Trinity, "the most polished and picturesque of all Newfoundland settlements," a more lengthened stay was made. On the festival of S. Matthew, the anniversary of the consecration of the cathedral, a little church was consecrated in Trouty Cove; and before this mission was left, an ordination was held in its church, when two were added as deacons to the ministry of the Church, and two deacons were ordained priests.
The seventh voyage of the Bishop now drew to a close, and his life was even fuller than heretofore of trials and anxieties. Unscrupulous attempts were made to upset the financial system he had instituted; and popular feeling, encouraged by persons who were offended at the Bishop's action with regard to the Church Society, ran high. But as may be expected, the Bishop was unmoved. "The Church is gaining strength," said he, "and strength of the right sort,--strength to suffer as GOD sees fit."
The year 1856 opened full of hope and promise, but it proved to be full of sorrows. Two devoted priests were lost by death,--one frozen in a drift, and one carried off by fever; others were incapacitated by illness; and amid these graver sorrows came the decision of the Court of Arches. "I shall conform," the Bishop wrote, "but it must be reversed, and then I can put back the credence table." The next year came another blow in the loss of a young deacon, M. Le Gallais. He was sent for in a case of illness, and in an open boat he set forth for Isle aux Morts; but the upturned boat washed ashore was the only sign ever vouchsafed to make known his not inglorious death.
Early in 1859, the Bishop paid a brief visit to England to give an account of what he called "my stewardship or apprenticeship." And his resume of nearly fifteen years' labors is all that any one could desire, especially when two facts are taken into account: (i) The exceptional conditions of Newfoundland and its people; (2) That all this progress was without the slightest sacrifice of principle, by a bishop who despised popularity. He says,--
Since 1846 we have nine new missions; four, once served by schoolmasters, now served by missionary priests; twenty-five or six churches finished and consecrated; thirteen parsonages built or purchased; new stone church built in S. John's, with parsonage built and partly endowed; college built and partly endowed.
In May the Bishop was again in S. John's, and another voyage planned in the "Hawk." A voyage of discovery was now begun in the direction of White Bay, where there was a large population professing to belong to the Church of England, but living in a condition of dense ignorance almost incredible. In summer they occupy by themselves this large harbor shut in by immense cliffs, and in winter they occupy the Horse Islands, lying several miles from shore, and surrounded for months by ice.
Perhaps to some persons it seems very much like chopping a block with a razor, to have sent such a man as Bishop Feild to minister to these poor dull souls. "A waste of power" is the frequent verdict of superior cynicism, when a man fitted to take his place among the foremost, for the love of GOD and of souls devotes himself to the lowliest; but no record of any wistful looking back finds place in Bishop Feild's letters or journals. His protracted voyages seem to have given the Bishop time to read up the current literature of the mother country, for he alludes about this time to several new books, among them one by the late Rev. F. D. Maurice, of which he says: "How bitter and feeble! He writes indeed like a man who has himself been under censure." The then famous Essays and Reviews, in which he saw nothing new, he regarded as the "recoil of thoughtful and serious minds from the unsatisfied longings that have carried so many thoughtful and serious men into the Church of Rome."
The unfriendly article in the Edinburgh Review on the Colonial Episcopate was regarded by the Bishop as "a heavy blow and discouragement," and he wrote an exhaustive "Plea for Colonial Dioceses" in which he turned the tables against his accusers in a very effective way. His interest in the affairs of the Church at home was keen and unflagging, and his letters were filled with intelligent criticisms on the literature and doings of the period. On the question so much debated since that time, of the position of the celebrant at the time of consecration of the Holy Eucharist, the Bishop's views were singular. He had no sort of doubt that what is known as the "Eastward posture" was the proper one; but he laid great stress on the people being able to see the manual acts of the priest. His custom from the beginning of his ministerial life was to stand facing East, but to turn toward the people during the actions of breaking the bread, coram populo, and of taking the cup into his hands.
On the subject of confession the Bishop's words were very plain and definite. He reminded the clergy of the invitation they were instructed to make when giving warning of the celebration of the Holy Communion; and, " I need scarcely add," he said, " we are equally bound to hear and consider the grief of all who come in answer to that invitation. It is not with you a question of opinion or of choice, but of duty; and shame to that minister who through ignorance or indifference shrinks from or neglects it. Does any one who has received the authority and commission hesitate in misconceived humility,--thinking rather of himself than his MASTER, or of his own ability or inability rather than of the gift and grace of GOD,--does any minister of JESUS CHRIST hesitate, in his MASTER'S name, to absolve the penitent? and does he think nothing of pronouncing over the child conceived and born in sin, 'I baptize thee, in the name of the FATHER and of the SON and of the HOLY GHOST'? Is it so much more presumptuous to say, when the same LORD has given us the commission, 'I absolve thee'? Did not the same LORD who said to His Apostles, 'Go ye and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them,' say also to them, the same Apostles, 'Whosoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them'?"
With regard to the "Ornaments of the Church and the Ministers thereof," the Bishop was clearly of opinion that it was "the intention or rather perhaps the wish of those who undertook the last revision of the Prayer Book to restore the symbolical ornaments of the Church and appropriate habits of the clergy, especially in the chancel and ministration of the Holy Communion."
Late in the year 1866 the Bishop came to England. Fie was a passenger on board the "Great Eastern" steamer, which had laid the telegraphic cable of 1866, and recovered and completed the cable of 1865. His time in England was incessantly occupied with travelling and correspondence; for though it was hateful to him to stand on a platform, yet in this instance the interests of his Diocese were concerned, and he refused no possible invitations. He did not shrink from preaching in cathedrals and large churches; and much sympathy was thus evoked for the Diocese in which he had labored so continuously. During this sojourn in England the Bishop was enabled, with the consent of the Colonial Office and with the entire concurrence of Archbishop Longley, to obtain what he had long desired, the appointment of a coadjutor. He was also enabled to nominate his own assistant, and Archdeacon Kelly arrived in England in the summer, and was consecrated on August 25; he was the junior bishop present at the Lambeth Conference, held in the following month.
In the spring of this year Bishop Feild was married to the widow of his well-loved friend and colleague, Jacob Mountain, a lady who during the years of her widowhood had pursued an active career of those works of beneficence and charity which she had begun as a wife, for the comfort of the poor of her adopted country. On his return to Newfoundland, the Bishop prepared for a voyage which he alluded to as being in all likelihood his "last visitation;" but he did live to visit once again the barren coast of Labrador. An ordination was held on Trinity Sunday, and on July I, the "Hawk" set sail. The voyage was unusually laborious, and twice the ship was on the rocks, but got off without much damage. The Bishop was now in his sixty-seventh year; but he set out in good spirits, and the missions on the southern shore were visited in order. Channel was reached on July 21, but high winds prevented progress till the 24, and then the Bishop spent three days in an open boat, visiting the different harbors, confirming in two, and consecrating a burial-ground in a third. On the occasion of his first visit in 1845, not one person in Channel could be induced to receive the Holy Communion with him. On this visit, at eight in the morning, there were forty-five lay communicants, and the Sunday previous, at eleven o'clock, the number was larger. After administering confirmation at several points, the Bishop returned in October, and offered thanks in the cathedral for his preservation from the unusually great perils of the voyage. The temporal condition of the Diocese he found sad in the extreme. The fisheries had been everywhere deficient, with the exception of the Labrador coast. From this region the fishermen were returning with their holds well filled, and anticipating an easy winter, when they were caught by a hurricane, and the loss of life as well as property overwhelmed the whole population with grief and poverty.
In December the Bishop went to Bermuda, leaving the Coadjutor-Bishop at S. John's. The severity of weather and scarcity of food now culminated, and in every house there was a cry for bread.
The Bishop remained in Bermuda until Ascension Day, when he delivered his charge, "feeling constrained to avail himself of every opportunity, and knowing that many more would not be granted him."
In the autumn of this year the See of Montreal became vacant by the death of Bishop Fulford, and the prelates of that Province endeavored to persuade Bishop Feild to leave his poor Diocese for this more important and less'laborious position; but he never seriously entertained the offer, and to live and die as Bishop of Newfoundland was all that he desired.
In the spring of this year the Bishop had to suffer the pang of parting from his beloved Church ship, now become unseaworthy. One of the clergy who accompanied him on his earlier voyages, wrote,--
The Bishop seemed always happy and contented on board the old 'Hawk,' and enjoyed pacing the deck in the summer's twilight, singing aloud the Fifteenth and Thirty-fourth Psalms, which were his special favorites.
She was replaced by the "Star," mainly built through the efforts of the Rev. M. K. S. Frith, of Allesten. The first voyage of the new ship was also the first voyage of the Bishop-Coadjutor, and was an event of painful interest. Evensong was sung in the cathedral, and the whole congregation adjourned to the harbor, and many to the ship, among them the venerable Bishop, now resigning to younger hands the work which for twenty-five years had occupied so much of his thoughts and prayers. He said a few touching words to the company, and gave his blessing in accents broken by intense emotion, and then the order was given to weigh anchor.
The very next year, however, the "Star" was wrecked on the south coast, and there was good ground for thinking the visitations by sea would have to be given up, when the munificence of one person set all anxieties on this score wholly at rest.
An officer of the Royal Engineers, Lieutenant Curling, who had served in Bermuda and there learned to admire the Apostolic Bishop, determined to replace the lost "Star" by his own yacht, the "Lavrock;" and in the spring of 1872, the kind donor navigated the yacht across the Atlantic and consecrated her to the service of GOD. The Bishop wrote,--
What a noble gift that was!--a yacht with every article and item required for a Church ship, even to surplices for the chaplain, communion table and plate, etc., and all given so modestly and cheerfully. I believe I told you that he has given a beautiful organ, and five windows by Clayton and Bell, a corona lucis, standards for lights, candlesticks and vases, to our Trinity Church in Bermuda.
And a little later, the donor of the "Lavrock" added to his munificent gift the still nobler and more valuable surrender of himself, coupling with his offer the expression of a desire that if deemed worthy of being ordained, he might be sent to some mission which it had been found more than ordinarily difficult to fill.
In January, 1875, it became necessary for the minister at Port-de-Grave, the Rev. I. C. Harvey, to visit England for medical advice. There was no one to place in charge of the mission during, his absence; and the Bishop at once wrote to ask if Mrs. Harvey would receive him at the parsonage. It was decided that the Bishop and Mrs. Feild should remain there during Mr. Harvey's absence, and they started around the bay in sleighs to travel sixty miles in snow and wind for ten hours or more. At Brigus, fifty miles from the capital, they stopped for the night with the Rev. R. H. Taylor, who writes,--
Had it been any other person than the Bishop, I should never have expected him, so cold, so wild, so stormy a day. The thick shades of night were closing in upon us, and the bell tolling for Evensong, when sleigh-bells were heard, and the Bishop and Mrs. Feild drove up to the door. They were soon in my sitting-room, where tea was all ready, and I ventured to suggest that they should gradually thaw while I went to Church. To my utter astonishment, the Bishop at once expressed his intention of attending service, without waiting to warm himself or even taking off his overcoat and wrappers, refusing even to partake of any bodily refreshment before going to join in the holy service in the poor little wooden church of Brigus.
In the fourteen weeks spent at Port-de-Grave, the Bishop preached sixty-seven times, celebrated the Holy Communion twenty-one times, and in addition to all the functions of a parish priest, was visiting the sick and the well in all weathers and at all times. The deacon who was sent to assist him writes,--
Though nominally helping the Bishop, I could not see how I did so to any material extent, as he still came to Bare Need for service, and visited the sick people in my district as much as before, while he never would allow me to help him in the Port-de-Grave end of the mission. On Good Friday, when the winter was beginning to break up, it blew a gale, and rain poured in torrents. We did not for a moment expect the Bishop, but punctually he came, and wet through. So stormy was the weather that he only saved himself from being carried off his feet by firm pressure on a stout walking-staff; and his thumb was in consequence badly swollen. The gale moderated about noon, but he would not allow me to go to my service at Northern Gut, five miles off, and on my venturing to remonstrate at the apparent inconsistency between his own conduct and his rule for us, he replied, with that beautiful, placid smile of his, that it didn't matter about himself, as he was old and useless (!), but that I was young, and therefore must take care of myself.
There is no doubt that the good Bishop gave his life to the people of Port-de-Grave. He had barely returned to S. John's when he became seriously ill, and in a letter written then he signed himself, "Edward Newfoundland, a colonial bishop used up." With the approach of autumn he rallied, and was able to fulfil his intention of visiting Bermuda once more officially. But the genial climate did not produce the effect which was hoped for; it was increasingly clear, day by day, that the saintly prelate's rest was nearly won. In March, he gave notice to the authorities of the Colonial Office that he intended to resign his See, the resignation to take effect July 31, "if my life is spared so long." On June 8 he closed his eyes (and this he did with his own hands) on his earthly labors, and all who knew and loved him were glad that he entered into his rest as Bishop of Newfoundland.
He was buried in the parish churchyard, in a spot which he himself had selected; and a feeling of absolute bereavement pervaded all parts of the extended Diocese which had been the scene of his self-denying labors.
It is often the case that personal qualities of amiability, generosity, and the like, are combined with incapacity for government and the performance of the functions of public life; and again we see administrative genius marred by self-seeking or defective morality. But from the earliest record to the close of Bishop Feild's life, it is marked by uniform consistency. He took no step without being assured that it was the right step, and it was not in him to yield to clamor, however loud. In S. John's, the cathedral which he may be said to have built, stands now the most imposing specimen of pointed architecture on that side of the Atlantic: and in Bermuda the beautiful church of the Holy Trinity, begun by him with prayer and hope, while everybody foretold the certainty of ignominious failure, remains a monument of his perseverance and liberality, the sole example of correct ecclesiastical architecture in the island, and what is still better, by its reverent and frequent services is nurturing a generation of devout and intelligent Churchmen.
The intense zeal which subordinated everything to the highest good of his people led him to be reckoned by some persons autocratic and imperious; but it is just those leaders who in times of peace have been called martinets by the idle and undisciplined, who in the hour of peril have led enthusiastic followers to victory and to triumph. As his glorious career drew to a close, those who had opposed and misrepresented him retired, and there came to him, not indeed the popularity which he despised, but the respect and affection of all good men. Yet no one who knew Bishop Feild would have wondered at being told that he regarded the whole of his Episcopal labors as but the complement of the designs and aspirations of his predecessor. Of his intellectual powers nothing has been said, and nothing need be said; they were recognized by all who knew him, and it is characteristic of his marvellous simplicity that while he could not but be aware that he was competent to fill any position, however high, he always spoke of his office as one for which many better fitted could have been found, and in which another would probably have effected more.
 Lost amid the Fogs, by Colonel Macrae.