Chapter V. Calcutta (continued), 1757-1794
DURING the temporary occupation of Calcutta by the troops of the Mughal, the English Settlement was wantonly wrecked, and St. Ann's, our first English Church, was reduced to a heap of ruins. Curiously enough, neither the Roman Catholic Church at Moorgihatta (our Lady of the Rosary), nor the Armenian Church, was injured at all. For the three following years the English residents worshipped in the Portuguese Church, and no French or Portuguese priest was allowed inside the Settlement. The hostility they had shown for so long to the English, coupled with the fact that it was known that they had been intriguing with the enemy in the recent trouble, had raised such a bitter feeling that even their worship was for a time proscribed in Calcutta. It was known, however, that the Court of Directors in London did not approve of this peculiar method of retaliation, and as things became more normal and bitter feelings passed away, the English community itself was unwilling that this state of things should continue. A minute of the Calcutta Council, dated March 24, 1760, reads as follows: "That taking into consideration the unwholesomeness and dampness of the Church now in use, as well as the injustice of detaining it from the Portuguese. . ." Accordingly a large room near the gateway of the old Fort was fitted up as a Chapel, which served as the Presidency Church for twenty-seven years, until the building of St. John's.
During the months which immediately followed his return, Clive was actively engaged in making preparations for the inevitable contest with the Mughal which he knew must be faced. How well he laid his plans and with what brilliant courage he led his tiny army against the Mughal hordes in June 1757, and won the epoch-making victory at Plassy, need not here be told.
On his return to Calcutta Clive at once took in hand the laying of the foundations of a new and much more powerful Fort William and the rebuilding of the Settlement.
The Chaplain first appointed to Calcutta after its recovery was the Rev. Richard Cobbe, whose father had taken so important a part in the building of what is now Bombay Cathedral. Cobbe had been Chaplain on H.M.S. Kent, and was with Admiral Watson in several naval actions. An amusing story is told of him, that, when a certain Nawab was paying a visit to the Admiral, Cobbe with the rest of the officers of the Kent was by the Admiral's orders in full dress. His dress was the conventional style of the period for Clergy, viz. cassock with gown and bands, and a three-cornered hat and wig. Seeing him differently attired from the rest of the officers of the ship, the Nawab asked who he was. On learning, that he was the Chaplain, he at once sent for his own "Chaplain," who turned out to be a half-crazy Fakir with an immense beard and knotted hair, and who, save for a loin cloth and a quantity of iron chains, was quite naked. "The two holy men congratulated each other on their respective offices, and seated themselves in the company."
Cobbe officiated but for a short time. His early death was the result of wounds received at the taking of Chanda-nagore. In his will he left a certain sum to a girl in England (whom he evidently wished to marry), if she was not engaged before a certain date!
Not long afterwards there arrived in Calcutta from South India the Rev. John Zachary Kiernander, whose name must always be famous amongst Indian missionaries. He was a Swede by race, but had been trained at Halle, and was one of many foreigners--Germans, Danes, and Swedes--who had been employed in missionary work in South India by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. After labouring for seventeen years in the Madras Presidency, Cuddalore, where his mission was located, was taken by the French, and his work stopped. While in a state of uncertainty as to the possibility of restarting work, he received an invitation from Clive to come and work in Calcutta. He arrived there in September 1758, and was received with marked favour by Clive and other members of the Bengal Council. A house was assigned to him rent free. The Rev. Henry Butler and the Rev. John Cape, who were then Chaplains of Calcutta, were also most friendly, and opened a subscription list for a school, which he proposed to start. Clive had a feeling of warm friendship for Kier-nander, as was evident from the fact that he and his wife stood sponsors at the baptism of Kiernander's son, who was named Robert after his distinguished god-father.
The following year, 1761, was an Annus Miserabilis for the Church in Calcutta, as both Chaplains were carried away in a terrible epidemic of cholera, and Kiernander also lost his wife Wendela. He himself nearly died, having no less than six relapses. In the following year Kiernander married for a second time a wealthy widow, Mrs. Wolley, which led a contemporary writer to remark sarcastically that "the remembrance of all his former sorrows was obliterated in the silken embraces of opulent beauty."
Of Henry Butler, Hyde remarks that, from the time of Evans to this period, Butler was the only Chaplain of whom we have direct evidence that he engaged in private trade. As he died almost bankrupt in spite of the endeavours of his friends to straighten out his affairs, it is evident that he was by no means successful in his enterprises.
Things were still very unsettled in Bengal and Bihar in 1763. An insurrection was only nipped in the bud, and in 1764 Calcutta was horrified at the news of the treacherous massacre of 150 English people at Patna by the dethroned Nawab of Bengal. It is interesting to note that a fortnight's mourning was proclaimed in Calcutta, beginning with a day of fasting!
Butler's immediate successor as Chaplain was a Mr. Stavely, a Cambridge graduate, who had been a Chaplain in the Navy. He died within a few months of taking over charge. He was succeeded by the Rev. William Hurst, a Fellow of the Royal Society, who was one of the most distinguished Chaplains who ever served in India. He held his Chaplaincy for two years only. Later on he was appointed as Chaplain to a Commission to investigate the state of things in Bengal. The frigate on which the Commission sailed left the Cape of Good Hope, December 27, 1769, and was never heard of again.
f> Kiernander was a whole-hearted missionary. His missionary zeal, however, led him just as strongly towards the conversion of the Roman Catholic community as it did towards that of the non-Christian world. After eight years' work in Calcutta, he reported to the S.P.C.K. that from December 1, 1758, to the end of the year 1766, he had made 189 converts, of whom one-half were Romanists, one-third the children of Roman Catholic parents, and thirty were heathen. Of his Roman Catholic converts no less than five were priests of that Church. Several of the priests afterwards assisted in his work.
In 1767 Kiernander conceived the idea of building a permanent Church. The foundations were laid in May of that year, and it was completed three and a half years later. He himself always called it Beth Tephillah (House of Prayer). The architect was a Dane. The original estimate for Rs.30,000 was exceeded by as much again. Its cost was met almost entirely out of his own (or his wife's) pocket, as private subscriptions only amounted to Rs.1818, and the S.P.C.K. gave nothing. Canon Sandys, in his One Hundred and Forty-five Years at the Old Church, quotes the following passage from an unnamed writer, in which eloquent tribute is paid to Kiernander:--
"It is no small thing that he, mainly at his own expense, erected a Church where no Church Was, and thus restored to the inhabitants of the chief city of British India the long-forfeited privileges of worshipping God in a public place consecrated to His Service. Calcutta was without a Protestant Church, and without a Protestant Church it would have remained many years longer, if Kiernander had not thought of erecting one for missionary purposes at his own expense."
Certainly no Church in India has passed through such strange vicissitudes of fortune, or has ministered more effectively to the spiritual needs of men, than has the Old Mission Church in Calcutta. Seventeen years after its erection this Church was actually up for sale. Kiernander had stood surety for his son Robert for a large sum of money. Some building operations in which his son was engaged had turned out badly, and his creditors demanded immediate payment. All Kiernander's property was marked down for sate, including the Church, and sold it would have been had not a wealthy and devout Churchman, Mr. Charles Grant, stepped forward and paid anonymously Rs. 10,000, the pnoe at which this building, which had cost Rs.70,000, was valued. The Church, which before this seems to have been Kiernander's private property (for though he was an agent of S.P.C.K. they had apparently given nothing towards its erection), was then transferred to three Trustees: the Rev. David Brown, Mr. William Chambers, and Mr. Charles Grant.
From this time onwards this Church became famous as a great centre of evangelicalism in India. Here preachers such as David Brown, Claudius Buchanan, Henry Martyn, Daniel Corrie (first Bishop of Madras), and Dealtry (third Bishop of Madras) and many others drew large crowds, which often included the leaders of Calcutta society. More than once the Church was enlarged, big sums being spent on improvements to meet the constant demands of its large and important congregation. Of late years, it must be admitted, the old Mission Church, though still an important Church with various institutions connected with it (which are cared for by the Church Missionary Society), has lost something of its ancient glory, mainly owing to the change in Calcutta life. The leaders of Calcutta society no longer live in the neighbourhood of the Lai Dighi--Dalhousie Square--as they once did, and Churches like St. Paul's Cathedral and St. John's attract many who a century ago would have been found worshipping every Sunday in the Old Church.
Kiernander's closing days were clouded with sorrow. He had lost his second wife in 1773, and in 1778 his eyesight was seriously affected. An operation in 1782 gave him temporary relief, but as old age came on his eye-sight entirely failed. Bankrupt, almost blind, cut off by physical weakness from his beloved mission work, he presented indeed a pitiable old figure. Only once again did he appear in public, when the new chancel of his Old Church was opened. On that occasion he administered the Blessed Sacrament, and expressed great joy at the improvements to the Church. Seeing his destitution, Mr. DavidBrown wrote to the S.P.C.K., who sent him £40. He ministered to the* Dutch Settlement at Chinsurah during the latter years of his lif e, and died at the advanced age of 88. A tablet was erected to his memory in the Mission Cemetery by his great-grandson. A portrait of the old man was painted in 1773 by Christof Von Imhoff, which was unfortunately destroyed some twenty-five years ago. An engraving of the original painting is in the Old Church vestry, Calcutta, and underneath it is the following inscription, supposed to have been written by Kiernander himself:--
"JOHANN ZACHRIAS KIERNANDER,
born in Sweden on 1st December 1710, Went
in 1739 as English Missionary to Cuddalore, Founded
in 1758 the Mission in Bengal, and built for the same
out of his own money a Church which he called
"Not to thy wintry Sweden, No,
Thou must and wilt
To Ganges as God's herald go."
After the building of the Old Mission Church, one of the biggest events in Church lif e in Calcutta was the building of St. John's Church, which was for over thirty years our first Cathedral in India. The prime mover in its building was the Rev. W. Johnson, an Oxford graduate, who arrived in Calcutta as second Chaplain in 1772, two years after Kiernander's Church was finished. Johnson was a man of immense energy, great assurance, and not easily discouraged by opposition. In 1776, while still Junior Chaplain (the Senior Chaplain, Dr. Brown, seems to have taken little or no part in this Church-building scheme), Johnson sent out his appeal to the Governor-General and Council. He refers to the destruction of St. Ann's in terms which make it apparent that he thought it had been built entirely at the expense of the East India Company. He dwelt on the want of room in the Fort Chapel, which could hardly accommodate one-twentieth of the Protestants of Calcutta. Johnson's letter was received favourably by Warren Hastings and his Council, who, however, stated that they did not believe they had any power to comply with it, but would send it on to the Court of Directors in London. The Court of Directors, however, were not prepared to spend money at that time, and so for seven years the matter was allowed to drop.
Johnson, however, was not the man to abandon hope. Even if the Company had refused to build a Church at their expense, there were other ways of raising money. A public subscription list was opened, and a strong appeal was made to the Provincial Grand Lodge of Bengal, of which he was chaplain. Nearly every one responded to the appeal, and in 1783 nearly Rs.35,000 had been collected. Warren Hastings took a keen personal interest in the matter, and through his influence the Maharajah Nob Kissen (Nobo Krishna Dey) was willing to part with a piece of ground measuring six bighas, close to the old burying-ground and known as the Old Powder Magazine Yard. Warren Hastings, when informing the Church Building Committee of this great act of generosity of the Maharajah in giving them the ground, omitted to state that the gift had cost him personally ten thousand rupees!
But Rs.35,000 was not half the sum needed to build the Church which they desired to erect, and so after much discussion it was decided to raise the money by a Lottery. Mr. Hyde, in his Parochial Annals of Bengal, gives us such an amusing and interesting account of this event, which held Calcutta in a state of the greatest excitement for five months, that his words may well be quoted somewhat fully.
"According to the fashion of the time, the first idea of the Building Committee with a view of raising funds was a scheme for a lottery, and the first number of 'the Calcutta Gazette and Oriental Advertiser published by authority'--that for the 11th March, 1784--contains full details of the enterprise. A Mr. Bartholomew Hartley, a Company's surgeon--not a member of the Committee--lent his name as the leading promoter. There were to be three thousand tickets at ten gold mohurs or 160 sicca rupees each, of which 335 were to indicate prizes, the largest of which was fixed at 100,000 and the smallest at 500 sicca rupees. In addition to these prizes the holder of the first ticket drawn from the wheel was to receive sicca Rs. 10,000, and the holder of the last double that amount. The whole of the proceeds of the sale of tickets, namely 480,000 sicca rupees, were to be assigned away in prizes, the profit of the Building Committee being a charge of five per cent, upon each prize, a further five per cent, being charged for expenses. A special Lottery Commission of nine gentlemen was appointed to carry the scheme into execution.
"For the next five months the lottery was the furore of the Settlement. Not a number of the Gazette was issued without a column or more devoted to its prospects. Speculators, of course, invested in the tickets and retailed fractional chances. On Friday, August 6, 1784, the drawing commenced with great ceremony at the Old Court House. The wheels, it would seem, were turned by boys of the Charity School. Each of these boys (judging from the frequent allusions in the Vestry minutes of the next few years to 'Lottery boy' with a small bonus reckoned to each name) appears to have been rewarded for his service by some small interest in the adventure, his profits being made over to him by the Vestry on leaving school. The scene of the drawing must have been one of the utmost gaiety and excitement. The great Assembly Room was crowded with all the fashion of Calcutta, a band of music playing between whiles. The first ticket drawn out of the wheel--most likely by a charity infant--was number 1359, which turned out a blank; nevertheless it entitled its owner to 10,000 rupees. After two or three hundred numbers had been drawn the proceedings ceased for the day, and the market price of the remaining tickets went up from ten to thirteen gold mohurs. The drawings continued ten days, the value of the surviving chances rising day by day--after the second to fifteen, after the third to twenty, after the fourth to twenty-five and thirty-five sicca rupees, and so on, evidently the chief prizes continuing undrawn, the last-drawn ticket on the last day representing the advertised 20,000 sicca rupees. The Gazette of the 19th August contains some racy satirical verses upon the whole proceedings, of which the following is a specimen:--
'TO A FRIEND.
'Dear Jack, the Lott'ry being done,
And all the blanks and prizes gone,
For your amusement, I'll describe,
Well as I can, th' advent'rous tribe.
Had you been here, you'd seen such faces,
Such frowns, such smiles, such airs and graces!
The happy few, with bright'ned eyes,
Enjoy'd and triumph'd, in their prize;
While some, with visage wond'rous lank,
Sunk at the dreadful sound of--Blank!
These told the joyful tale about,
Those damn'd their luck, and waddl'd out,
Each with his numbers in his fist,
Groan'd as he marked them off the list.
Yet still, in expectation's rack,
Hop'd he should gain the glorious Lack.
Till empty wheels, the latter day,
Puff'd all his golden hopes away.
Here might you see in brilliant rows
Beauties balloon'd and powder'd beaus.
Such anxious fidgets,--"How d'ye feel?"
"Lord, sir, my ticket's in the wheel."
"I hope, dear ma'am, 'twill be a prize."
"I hope so too "--dear ma'am replies.
Oh, but, dear Jack, I'll tell you partly
Of Breakfast given by Doctor H------y.
For I could only go to one,
And just dropped in as that was done,
A concert too and then a dance,
This H------y sure was bred in France;
For all was manag'd with such grace,
That satisfaction mark'd each face.
The lengthen'd table filled the room,
And joy revived the ancient dome;
Here art and nature spread their hoard,
And joined to crown the plenteous board.
The breakfast o'er, they fly
To platform raised some three feet high;
Full in the front of all, where they
Might view the business of the day.
'Calcutta, August 22nd, 1784. A. B.'
"The actual amount realised for the Church-Building Fund by the lottery was Rs.26,088-6-8, besides Rs.10,764-12-9 received from the prizes. Doubtless some of the adventurers had presented their tickets to the Fund.
"In the meanwhile the erection of the sacred edifice was going on rapidly. On Tuesday, April 6, 1784, the Governor-General being then up-country, Mr. Wheeler, Senior Member of Council, gave a public breakfast at the Old Court House, at which were present the other members of Council and many of the principal inhabitants of Calcutta.
"From the Court House they proceeded to the ground upon which the new Church was to be built, and the first stone was laid by Mr. Wheler with the usual ceremonies (that is to say, Masonic ceremonies).
"A prayer was read upon the occasion by the Rev. Mr. Johnson, head Chaplain of this Presidency.
"The following is the inscription on the foundation-stone:
"'The first stone of this sacred building,
Raised by the liberal and voluntary
Subscription of British subjects
Was laid under the auspices of
The Hon'ble Wabben Hastings, Esquire,
Governor of India,
On the 6th day of the month of April 1784,
And the 13th year of his Government.'
"The inscription plate was of brass, and cost C. Rs.232. It was at first intended to build the spire on the spot where the old magazine stood, but this would have brought the Altar to the west instead of to the east end, and it must have been for this reason that the idea was abandoned, and the foundations laid wholly (unless those of the eastern portico be excepted) within the limits of the old burying-ground, with the spire as it now stands, at the west. Mr. Law, on March 23, offered to provide the Church with a stone gateway, the stone to be brought from Gaya. If this gateway were ever erected, it has long since disappeared.
"In July arrangements were made for procuring building stone from the ruins of the old city of Gaur, and the blue marble for the flooring of the Church from the tombs of the kings existing there. The Committee transactions, after this date, show that large quantities of stone were imported from Chunar. The steeple is wholly built with this material. "The work of construction was carried on with great vigour, and Sunday, June 24, 1787, was eventually fixed as the day of Consecration. Numerous gifts, some of great value, poured in for the new Church. The Court of Directors granted £1200 towards the provision of Communion plate; an organ, a clock, bells, and velvet for the pulpit, desk, and Communion table.
"About this time Mr. John Zoffany, a Royal Academician, was in Calcutta engaged in painting a great picture of the Last Supper. Drawn into the atmosphere of the prevailing enthusiasm for the new Church, he offered this picture to the Committee as an Altar piece. The Committee's acceptance of Mr. Zoffany's gift is worth recording:--
"* We should do a violence to your delicacy were we to express or endeavour to express in such terms as the occasion calls for our sense of the favour you have conferr'd upon the Settlement by presenting to their place of worship so capital a painting that it would adorn the first Church in Europe, and should excite in the breasts of its spectators those sentiments of virtue and piety which are so happily pourtrayed in its figures.'
"It is believed that the Apostles in this famous picture, which now hangs at the west end of St. John's, are mostly portraits of leading merchants in Calcutta, and that Father Parthenio, the Greek Clergyman, sat for the figure of our lord. There is a tradition that Mr. Tulloh, a wealthy auctioneer, finding his portrait in this picture on the shoulders of Judas Iscariot, took an action against Zoffany for libel.
"The Church cost over a lakh of rupees. A Commission to consecrate was sent out by the Archbishop of Canterbury, constituting Johnson his Surrogate at the Consecration. The Consecration took place, as was arranged, on St. John Baptist's Day, 1787, June 24.
"The Gazette of June 28 records the solemn event in the following manner:--
"'A very numerous and respectable company of ladies and gentlemen assembled on this occasion. The Right Honourable the Governor-General, General Carnack, Colonel Ross, Colonel Pearce, Sir Robert Chambers, Mr. Justice Hyde, etc., etc., were of the number. After the act of Consecration was performed a collection was made amongst the audience, which we hear amounted to sicca rupees three thousand. A sermon was then preached by the Rev. Mr. Johnson, who chose for his text on this occasion a part of the last verse of the 93rd Psalm, "Holiness becometh Thy House for ever," after which the Sacrament was administered, and the whole was concluded with the Consecration of the Church ground.'
"Amongst those strangers who attended the Consecration Service by special invitation was the Priest of the Armenians, a community always treated with marked friendship by the English in Calcutta.
"About this time the cost of living in Calcutta seems to have gone up considerably. Whereas in 1759 the wages of a cook per month were Rs.5, in 1785 they had risen to Rs.30. A syce or groom in 1759 received Rs.2, in 1785 Rs.6; washerman to a family received in 1759 Rs.3, in 1785 Rs.20.
"Taking this fact into consideration, the pay of the senior Chaplains was for a time raised from Rs.580 per mensem to Rs.1200. It was, however, later on again brought back to the old figure, to the great disappointment and embarrasment of many of the Chaplains. At the earlier period, during Clive's administration, some Chaplains had been allowed a share in the salt, betel-nut, and tobacco monopoly, and we read that Mr. Parry, a Calcutta Chaplain, had in the first year received his share of the dividends of £2824 sterling and at the close of the second £2221. The Calcutta Chaplains' fees, however, seem to have been very liberal, as we read that at baptism five gold mohurs were frequently presented, and as much as twenty gold mohurs at a wedding.
"In 1780 the Court of Directors complained to the Council about the irregular transmission of records of Births, Deaths, and Marriages, which led to a fresh order being passed to all Chaplains in the Presidency to 'send in duplicate complete registers,' which are to be sent to England."
Mr. Hyde, in his Parochial Annals of Bengal, gives us a number of extracts from the brilliant, if frivolous, letters of Sophie Goldborne, representing life in Calcutta during this period. They represent certain aspects of its society so vividly that they are well worth quoting.
"I have been at Church, my dear girl, in my new palanquin (the mode of genteel conveyance), where all ladies are approached, by sanction of ancient custom, by all gentlemen indiscriminately, known or unknown, with offers of their hand to conduct them to their seat; accordingly, those gentlemen who wish to change their condition (which, between ourselves, are chiefly old fellows, for the young ones either chuse country-born ladies for wealth, or, having left their hearts behind them, enrich themselves, in order to be united to their favourite Dulcineas in their native land), on hearing of a ship's arrival, make a point of repairing to this holy dome, and eagerly tender their services to the fair strangers; who, if this stolen view happens to captivate, often without undergoing the ceremony of a formal introduction, receive matrimonial overtures, and, becoming brides in the utmost possible splendor, have their rank instantaneously established, and are visited and paid every honour to which the consequence of their husbands entitles them. But not so your friend; for, having accompanied my father to India, no overtures of that nature will be attempted, previous to an acquaintance with him, or at least under his encouraging auspices, nor did any gentleman break in upon the circle of any surrounding intimates, on this first public exhibition of my person, though every male creature in Calcutta entitled to that privilege bid Mr. and Mrs. Hartly expect an early visit from them.
"On my mentioning the Church, you will perhaps fancy I ought to recount to you it's magnificence and style of architecture; but the edifice dignified at present with that appellation does not deserve notice. It is situated at the Old Fort, and consists solely of a ground floor, with an arrangement of plain pews; nor is the Governor himself much better accommodated than the rest; and of course the Padra, as the Clergyman is called, has little to boast of: the windows are, however, verandahs which are pleasing to me in their appearance, independent of the blessing of air enjoyed through them.
"At Calcutta Sunday is the only day of public devotion, and that only in the morning; though the Padra's salary is liberal and his perquisites immense."
In another place she speaks of weddings:--"Weddings here, Arabella, are very joyous things to all parties; especially, I should suppose, to the Padra or Clergyman, who frequently receives twenty gold mohurs for his trouble of performing the ceremony. The bride and bride-groom's friends assemble, all elegantly dressed, at one or other of the young couple's nearest relatives, and are most sumptuously entertained; and the congratulatory visits on the occasion put the whole town in motion. It is a festival, which I have not, however, the smallest desire to treat my friends with; for even was my choice fixed, and every obstacle obviated, I should have unconquerable objections to making so public an exhibition of myself on so solemn a change of condition ... an idea I cannot say I have in common with my acquaintances; for I have reason to believe I am the only person in Calcutta, not even my well-beloved Mrs. Hartly excepted, that has the same idea in this instance . . . which is entirely the effect of custom."
Later on she describes the funerals of the period:--"Funerals are indeed solemn and affecting things at Calcutta, no hearses being here introduced, or hired mourners employed; for, as it often happens in the gay circles, that a friend is dined with one day and the next in eternity . . . the feelings are interested, the sensations awful, and the mental question, for the period of interment at least, which will be to-morrow's victim? The departed one, of whatever rank, is carried on men's shoulders (like your walking funerals in England), and a procession of gentlemen equally numerous and respectable from the extent of genteel connexions, following . . . the well-situated and the worthy being universally esteemed and caressed whilst living, and lamented when dead. The Padra, however, has his ample profits; who performs this last pious act with the greatest propriety: but such is the elasticity of European minds, that the ensuing day, the tavern is again visited by those very gentlemen, who know, and acknowledge it to have been the bane of their lost friend."
In another letter she describes the cemeteries, those now known as of Park Street North and South:--
"The house of prayer at Calcutta is not the house of sepulchre. Burying-grounds are provided some miles from the town, which I am given to understand are well worth the visit of a stranger. I will only add that though this measure may have arisen from the fervid heat of this climate (where death is busy) which gives the idea of rapid putridity, yet surely it is disgracing the temple of the Divinity (admitting even that in England no bad consequence results from such deposits) to make it a charnel-house."
"Alas! Arabella, the Bengal burying-grounds (for there are two of them), though they greatly resemble that Churchyard (of St. Pancras, London) in monumental erections, bear a melancholy testimony to the truth of my observations on the short date of existence in this climate.
"Born just to bloom and fade, is the chief intelligence you receive from the abundant memorials of dissolved attachments and lamented relatives.
"Obelisks, pagodas, etc., are erected at great expense; and the whole spot is surrounded by as well-turned a walk as those you traverse in Kensington Gardens, ornamented with a double row of aromatic trees, which afford a solemn and beautiful shade: in a word, not old Windsor Churchyard, with all its cypress and yews, is in the smallest degree comparable to them: and I quitted them with unspeakable reluctance.
"There is no difference between these two grounds, but in the expense of the monuments, which denote that persons of large fortune are there interred, and vice versa: whence, in order to preserve this difference in the appearance, the first ranks pay five hundred rupees, the second three hundred for opening the ground; and they are disjoined merely by a broad road."
In 1788 the Rev. William Johnson resigned his Chaplaincy after sixteen years in Calcutta, and returned to England. He had married in 1774, Mrs. Frances Watts, a lady who had previously buried three husbands. Her third husband had been a distinguished official. Possessed of considerable wealth, in addition to peculiar charm and ability which made her a great favourite in Calcutta, she had evidently not found Johnson indispensable to her life's happiness, so that when he left India on retirement, she decided to remain there. She lived on in Calcutta to the great age of eighty-eight, and was generally known as the Begum Johnson. There is a handsome monument in St. John's Churchyard, on which a lengthy description of her life is inscribed. In her will she mentioned her husband by name, but left nothing to him.
Before closing this period some reference should be made to the Rev. John Owen, who was appointed Junior Chaplain of Calcutta at the time of Johnson's retirement. Owen's family were amongst John Wesley's most intimate friends. Educated at Charterhouse and Worcester College, Oxford, he had obtained a Fellowship at New College, Oxford. He remained in India for over twelve years, and seems to have exercised an immense influence for good in his ministry. His address to the Governor-General in Council on the importance of Government English schools for the natives anticipated by several decades the efforts of Duff and Macaulay, and reveals clearly how deeply he, Owen, thought of our big responsibilities to the people we were ruling:--
"It is by means of the English language alone that the people could in their own persons with speed and certainty prefer their complaints without trusting their interests to papers and petitions in a tongue where the ignorance or knavery of an agent so often sets down the opposite of his instructions. The Mahomedans introduced their language with their conquest, and they felt the benefit of it, not only in the immediate intercourse it afforded them with the natives, but as it became the medium of Public Business and of Records. It would be needless to recount in how many forms the use of our Language would prove a bond of Union; no one can judge better than your Lordship of the various political benefits which would arise from it. It has been our wish to address you on the subject with a more immediate view to their moral and religious improvement."
One institution in Calcutta owes its existence to the thoughtfulness of this Chaplain. Realising the immense amount of silent and unrelieved suffering around him i the native city, he urged the starting of a native Hospital. This Hospital, enlarged and developed, is now known as the Mayo Hospital. Of its foundation "Asiaticus" writes:--
"For the Native Hospital we are indebted to the humane suggestions and pious industry of the Rev. John Owen, Junior Chaplain of Fort William, an active pastor, who, when in Bengal, boldly wielded his pen and commented on those who presumed to infringe on the rights of the Clergy."
It is worthy of record that in the year 1793, a sum of no less than Rs.54,000 was subscribed to this object, and that Mr. Owen's name stood first on the list. It would seem that even at this early date the European Hospital in Calcutta was well established and excellently run.
Hyde has thought well to place in his Parochial Annals a number of Owen's letters to friends and relations, many of them on the importance of the education of the young. Though he himself never married, he was devoted to children. On returning from India, where he seems to have accumulated a large fortune, he was appointed Archdeacon of Richmond in Yorkshire and Chaplain-General to His Majesty's forces. He served with the Duke of Wellington's army in Belgium, and died at the age of seventy, leaving his property in Surrey, which was valued at £100,000, to his unmarried nieces.
We have already remarked on the trading Chaplains of earner days. It is clear that there were still such means recognised by which Chaplains towards the end of the eighteenth century augmented their slender incomes, as Kiernander in his diary (though he is probably recording a bit of gossip!) speaks of Thomas Blanshard, Senior Presidency Chaplain, retiring after twenty-three years' service with a fortune of five lakhs of rupees.
Perhaps we need to be reminded that this was the eighteenth and not the twentieth century. Slavery was still common amongst Europeans in India. Even Mrs. Kiernander had her two slave-girls, who were "bound to their mistress by the bonds of affection as well as service, and one of Kiernander's Portuguese Catechists actually bequeathed to him a slave named Rebecca."