THE Episcopate of John Thomas James, third Bishop of Calcutta, was, like that of his predecessor Reginald Heber, tragically short. A brief memoir of him was published by his brother in the year 1830. The Bishop was educated at Rugby and Charterhouse, where he developed a remarkable talent for drawing. As a school-boy he was remarkable for his considerateness for the feelings of others--a characteristic which he showed markedly in later years. He entered Christ Church, Oxford, where he distinguished himself greatly. After taking his degree he remained at Oxford for some time, instructing private pupils. In the year 1813 he accompanied his friend, Sir James Riddell, Bart., on a long tour on the Continent, visiting Sweden, Germany and Russia, reaching Moscow shortly after the invasion of Napoleon and the burning of that city. "Thence they followed the line of the French retreat to Borodino and visited Kieff, Lemberg, and Cracow (names which have been very familiar in the Great War), eventually reaching Vienna." In 1816 the future Bishop visited Italy with an Oxford friend, George Hartopp. On his return to England he published his work, The Italian Schools of Painting, followed in 1822 by another book on The Flemish, Dutch, and German Schools. He was now a recognised art critic. Shortly after his return from Italy, he resigned his studentship at "the House," was ordained, and presented to his one and only living, Flitton with Silsoe, in Bedfordshire.
Here amongst other things he wrote a book entitled The Semi-Sceptic; or, the Common Sense of Religion Considered, which was favourably reviewed. About this time he married Marian Jane, fourth daughter of Frederick Neaves, Esquire, of Mangalore. Thus by his marriage he first came in contact with India. In the year 1826, on the death of Bishop Heber, Mr. James was offered three times the Bishopric of Calcutta. After considerable heart-searchings and reluctance, he decided that it was his duty to accept it on the third occasion. He was forty years of age when he came out to India. His farewell sermon to his Parish Church was on the text St. Matthew x. 29. On this occasion he spoke as follows: "In going from hence to other duties in a foreign land, in God is my hope and my trust." He received his D.D. from Oxford and was consecrated in Lambeth Palace Chapel. The Consecration Sermon was preached by his brother, the Rev. William James, Fellow of Oriel College, Oxford, who, as Newman tells us, was the first to teach him "the doctrine of Apostolic Succession."
Fourteen years earlier, when Bishop Middleton was consecrated, the sermon preached at his Consecration was not allowed to be published, so fearful were the authorities lest any special notice should be taken of Consecration and so trouble caused in India. On this occasion, however, Bishop James's Consecration Sermon was ordered to be published by the Archbishop of Canterbury. There is a note of great sadness in his farewell address to the S.P.C.K.: "If I have not courted this important office so neither have I shrunk from it, when I thought it my duty to obey."
Leaving his two elder children at East Sheen, Bishop and Mrs. James and their baby, accompanied by Miss Ommaney, a cousin of Mrs. James, and the Rev. S. Hartopp Knapp, his Chaplain, sailed on July 9,1827, in the Mary Ann, bound for Calcutta. It was on the whole a pleasant voyage. Some pleasant days were spent at Madeira, and there was the usual frolic and fun when Neptune visited the ship at the crossing of the line. On October 14 they reached the Cape. The Bishop had important work to do there, and he and his party stayed with Lieutenant-Governor Burke at the Governor's House. The Cape was not then in the Calcutta Diocese, though it was so afterwards for a short time. Bishop James visited it by a special commission from the Crown. There were at this time only five Church of England Clergy at the Cape, three Colonial and one military Chaplain and one missionary of the S.P.G. On October 21 Bishop James confirmed about five hundred people in the Dutch Reformed Church, and at a meeting held a few days later raised no less than £2180 for an English Church, as well as received promises of timber and of labour from carpenters and other artificers.
On January 14, 1828, they reached Saugor roads at the mouth of the Hooghly. Here they were met by Archdeacon Cbrrie, who was then Commissary of the Diocese, and also by Dr. Mills, the Principal of Bishop's College, and Mr. Augustus Prinsep, a member of a family distinguished in India for many generations, who shortly afterwards married Miss Ommaney.
Before meeting the Bishop it is evident that Archdeacon Corrie had heard reports which led him to feel very doubtful as to the wisdom of the appointment. Kaye the historian has mentioned a rumour current at the time, that the Bishopric had been conferred "not on a missionary priest but on a pictorial critic." We can therefore understand how it was that certain forebodings about his appointment had already filled the minds of some of the most earnest Churchmen in Bengal. "Our late beloved Bishop was so entirely a missionary, we can scarcely hope to see one like him," are words recorded in the life of Archdeacon Corrie. He soon found out his mistake.
Bishop James was at once taken to Government House to see the Governor-General Lord Amherst, who was about to retire. On January 19, 1828, he was enthroned in St. John's Church, which was then the Cathedral Church at Calcutta.
Bishop Heber had died on April 3, 1726, so nearly two years had elapsed before his successor arrived. On their arrival the Bishop and Mrs. James took up their residence in the house in which Bishop Heber had lived, the present Y.M.C.A. House in Russell Street. It was a large building with a deep colonnade to each story, built on the lines of Greek architecture.
His health at once began to give way. He had suffered from his liver in England, and it soon became apparent that he ought never to have been allowed to come to India Archdeacon Corrie tells us that he saw in him a great resemblance to Bishop Heber, both in appearance and manner.
From the first it was clear that the Bishop and his Archdeacon did not see eye to eye on missionary organisation. Bishop James thought that as missionary work was an essential part of the Church's work, it should be under the control and guidance of the Bishop. Archdeacon Corrie thought otherwise. He wished the Bishop to sit on the missionary committees, but only as an ordinary member.
On March 27 Bishop James consecrated the Church of St. Peter in Fort William, which had been built some years before. A difficulty had arisen about its Consecration during the time of Dr. Middleton, the first Bishop, who had demanded from Government an explicit transferance of the property on which the Church stood previous to its Consecration. As we have already seen, Bishop Middleton wished everything to be done in India as it was done in England. To meet his views, however, Government had instructed its local officer to prepare the requisite deed, though it is clear that Government did not think this procedure necessary. Before, however, the deed was executed Bishop Middleton had died. Within three weeks of his arrival Bishop Heber had claimed the declaration from Government which they said was all that was necessary. He had then consecrated St. Stephen's, Dum Dum, and St. James's, Calcutta. The same declaration was now made when St. Peter's, Fort William, was consecrated. After certain preliminaries it runs as follows:--
"The Governor-General in Council entirely concurs in the expediency of your Lordship's suggestion with regard to the property of the Churches of Dum Dum and St. James's, Calcutta, being consecrated, and it is the wish of the Governor-General in Council that the solemnity in question should take place at such time as may suit your Lordship's convenience. I am at the same time directed to intimate your Lordship that it is the intention of the Government to preserve the sacred edifices referred to from desecration of all kinds, and to dedicate them to the exclusive service of the Church of England (Government Department (Ecclesiastical), October 20, 1823)." On this guarantee Bishop James consecrated the Fort Church. For years the Church of England had been pleading for a suitable Church for its soldiers. When built St. Peter's was certainly one of the finest Churches in India. It cost Government one lakh fifty thousand rupees.
Bishop James was a firm believer in the parochial system, and during his short Episcopate he divided Calcutta into four parochial districts:
1. Cathedral: Saint John's.
2. Old Mission Church.
3. Saint James's.
4. Saint Peter's, Fort William.
He seems to have had an extraordinary power of getting at the heart of things and seeing through difficulties. Bishop Middleton had complained with some bitterness that the granting of marriage licences had been kept out of his hands and retained by the Supreme Court in Calcutta. In the earliest days legal permission to marry in India had been granted by the Governor-General, who was therefore placed in the position of a parent. Then by terms of the charter the Supreme Court was empowered to exercise ecclesiastical jurisdiction in the same manner as is exercised in the Diocese of London. These terms were originally intended merely to refer to the decision of matrimonial causes, divorce, etc., and not to the granting of marriage licences. It had occurred to some, however, that it might be a source of emolument to the lawyer, so the Supreme Court took to granting licences. Bishop Middleton was strongly opposed to this practice on the grounds of English Canon Law, which connects licences and banns with a spiritual order. He entered a strong but unavailing protest. Bishop Heber clearly disliked the practice, but left it alone. It was reserved for Bishop James to win the lawyers over to his side and to secure for the Bishops the right of issuing licences through their appointed Surrogates.
One of the great events of the Episcopate of Bishop James was the Consecration of the Chapel of Bishop's College. It is, however, clear that the same critical faculty which placed the Bishop in the first rank of art critics was equallyat his disposal when considering the various problems of his gigantic Diocese. He saw at a glance that Bishop's College could never be what his predecessor Bishop Middleton had wished it to be, even though he strove to the utmost of his power to carry out loyally the intention of the founder. India, he saw, was too vast a country to have its needs met by any one College, and it was quite clear to him that a College run on the lines laid down by its founder and suitable for the home country, was hardly likely to suit India.
His interest in missions was profound. He had studied closely the life of Schwartz, and thought that a copy of his Life should be placed in the hands of every student of the College and every missionary in India.
Ascension Day, May 15, 1828, was the day fixed for the Consecration of the Chapel. The event is described fully in the life of Bishop Come. Three days afterwards the Bishop held his first Ordination on May 18, in his Cathedral, when the Rev. Charles Wimberley of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and the Rev. J. W. Adlington of the Church Missionary Society, were ordained.
In his early days the Bishop had been remarkable in his thoughtfulness for others. This characteristic was soon manifest in India, especially in connection with the health of his missionary clergy. It is to him first that the idea of finding health resorts in the hills is to be attributed. He had appointed Mr. Robinson, the distinguished Chaplain of Bishop Heber, to the Archdeaconry of Madras. He at once got into touch with Archdeacon Robinson about a sanatorium for missionaries in "the Nelly Grey Hills," as the Nilgiris were then popularly described. He was also much interested in the question of a Eurasian ministry. Then came the crowning act of his Episcopate, his first and only Visitation. It was held on June 20, 1828. In his Charge he dwelt on the need of greater brotherliness and unanimity not only amongst the Clergy but amongst all Christians in India. Only with the greatest difficulty was he able to get through his Visitation. The condition of his health had become quite alarming, and the doctors in Calcutta were anxious to get him away on his tour as soon as possible. He started on June 24. His intention was to journey as far as Allahabad by boat and then onwards, like Bishop Heber, in the cold weather into Upper India. It is interesting to note that in those days the Ganges was the great highway to Northern India. The Grand Trunk Road belongs to later days. The journey from Calcutta to Buxar by boat lasted two months, and the journey to Allahabad, which to-day takes eighteen hours by train, took in those days three months!
Everything was done to make the Bishop's voyage comfortable, as far as it could be done in days when punkahs and ice were unknown. The Bishop and his wife and baby were in the first boat, and the second boat carried Mr. and Mrs. Prinsep (Miss Ommaney had recently changed her name to Prinsep). There were also the usual cook-boats. For the first few days the Bishop seemed to find relief, and it really seemed as if his health was improving. When, however, they reached Bhagalpore, he was attacked with terrible pain in his side, and it was then quite clear that he was suffering from abscess of the liver, and his only chance of life was a sea-voyage. The doctor pronounced most strongly that he must never return to India. The voyage back to Calcutta was quickly accomplished, but so ill was the Bishop that he was not allowed to land at Calcutta to see the new Governor-General, Lord William Bentinck. He at once embarked on the Marquis of Huntly, which was bound for Penang, one of the East India Company's boats. Again for a few days his health seemed to improve, and again the symptoms became more and more alarming. By the middle of August it was perfectly clear that his end was approaching, and on August 17, Mrs. James, when reading to him the eighteenth chapter of St. Matthew, spoke to him of his approaching death. "If it is so," said the Bishop, "my hope and my firm faith is in Jesus Christ." One other hope he expressed before his death, viz. that his wife and children might be provided for. On Friday, August 22, he received the Holy Communion and passed away that evening. He was buried at sea, as the ship was many days from Penang. It gives one some idea of the difference between those days and the days we live in, when we read that while he died on August 22, 1828, no news of his death reached India before October 17. To-day the tragic news would have taken perhaps less than half an hour; then it took nearly two months.
Mrs. James went back to her father, and it is only right to say that the dying hope of the Bishop was not overlooked. His Episcopate had lasted only seven months. He had been a sick man from the time he had put his foot in India, but he had accomplished a great deal, and his noble life and beautiful patience and faith have left behind a lasting heritage to the Church in India.
II. Bishop Turner, 1829-1831
Of Bishop Turner, who succeeded Bishop James, we have but little to record. No Life of him was ever written. It is to Hough, the historian of Christianity in India, that we are indebted for what we do know. The Rev. John Matthias Turner was, previous to his appointment as Bishop of Calcutta, Rector of Willslow, in Cheshire, and Prebendary of Lincoln. News had reached England of the unsatisfactory condition of Bishop James's health. Lord Ellenborough, writing to the Governor of Bombay, says, "I am going to send you a very excellent new Bishop when Dr. James resigns; mild and firm." When the appointment was offered him he determined to accept it, largely influenced by the dying injunction of his wife, recently deceased. She urged him, "at whatever sacrifice of ease or health and favourable prospects at home, to go out in the spirit of a martyr to that distant land; not counting his life dear to himself, if by any means he might promote the glory of his Redeemer and the welfare of immortal souls for whom He died." "She had before her eyes the names and early loss of Middleton, Heber, and James, but she bid him that none of these things move him, but in the faith and strength of the Lord go wherever his vows and fidelity as a servant and ambassador of Jesus Christ impelled him." Bishop Turner embarked for India July 15, 1829, spending a few days at Madeira, Rio Janeiro, and the Cape of Good Hope. He was commissioned by the Colonial Office to confer with the Governor of the Cape on matters connected with an ecclesiastical establishment for that Colony.
He arrived in Calcutta on December 10, and appears to have at once made a very favourable impression. Archdeacon Corrie, writing of him, says, "Bishop Turner seems to come in the spirit of Christian conciliation, he promises everything desirable in his station." Shortly after his arrival his Chaplain was obliged, through ill health, to return to Europe. This led him to ask Archdeacon and Mrs. Corrie to come and live with him in Bishop's House. The invitation was accepted: Archdeacon Corrie remarked, "I find his conversation very improving; he is naturally cheerful, and our intercourse is easy and agreeable." Bishop Turner had unquestionably a wonderful knowledge of parochial work, and he was soon in a position to start many improvements in Calcutta. Writing of his work he says, "I preach twice on Sundays--in the morning at Calcutta, and in the evening at Bishop's College. I have a catechetical lecture to a class of about one hundred and fifty every Wednesday morning during Lent, at the Cathedral, and an evening lecture, very largely attended, on Friday evening. I am engaged in reforming the mode of teaching in the native English Schools connected with the Establishment: I have carried into effect a District Visiting Society for the whole of Calcutta and its neighbourhood: I have laid the ground, and shall soon, I trust, get accomplished a Society for the Protection and Religious Instruction of Seamen in the Port of Calcutta, and for a savings' bank: and, furthermore, I have three Churches building. You will agree that I must at least be a busy man. Would that I were more a man of business! Some of the detail of these things, which are now very embarrassing would then become easy.
"Of the three churches here mentioned, one was at the Free School, the second was a Mariners' Church at the Custom House, and the third at Howrah. The last two of these Churches were to be served by Clergymen appointed by the Gospel Propagation Society. These arrangements were all effected without any expense to Government "
The Bishop was a strong Sabbatarian. He drew up a form of association for the better observance of the Lord's Day. The circular was published in the Government Gazette, but hardly seems to have been a success, as it aroused a considerable hostility amongst certain people, and does not seem to have led to any great improvement in Sunday observance. So thorough was Bishop Turner in his work that Archdeacon Come, after six months' acquaintance with him, writes: He is by far best suited for this appointment of any who have occupied it. With more practical knowledge of men and of parochial matters than any of them, he his large views of usefulness; and, with perfect propriety of language states them to Government. Had we a man who had any fixed views of Government at the head of affairs something effectual might be accomplished for the religious welfare of India; but when ... is on one hand, and on the other, of Government, what can be expected but fancies and crudities?"
The Bishop from the first took a keen interest in the Bishop's College; entered much into its affairs, and generally preached there on Sunday evenings. The Bishop was also unremitting in his attention to the objects of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, as well as of the Church Missionary Society. During his time a High School was started m Calcutta for the purpose of meeting the wants of the European and East Indian community. The East Indians at this time were increasing rapidly in numbers and respectability. While Calcutta was supplied with Charity Schools in which there were no less than five hundred boarders, it had been greatly in need of a school for children of a superior class. This need was now met.
On June 20, 1830, accompanied by Archdeacon Corrie, he started on a Visitation tour of the Northern Provinces. He had not, however, proceeded further north than Chunar, when circumstances compelled him to alter his plans. He therefore returned to Calcutta towards the end of September. On October 15 he sailed from Calcutta on a Visitation tour in the Madras and Bombay Presidencies. His visit to Madras was fully occupied with Confirmations and the examination of schools. From Madras he journeyed to Bangalore, a large military cantonment on the north of Mysore. Writing of this he says, "I have very interesting communications with the Mysore Christians, sixteen candidates for Confirmation and nearly thirty communicants. We set apart and dedicated a portion of ground near the Fort as a site for a Church, and the first stone was laid." On his route to Bombay the Bishop spent a few days in the Nilgiris. While there he was touched by the miserable condition of its Hill-people, the "Todas," and drew up a plan for their improvement. After spending some time in Bombay, where he remained for Christmas, he landed at Colombo on February 17, 1831. He seems to have been a good deal depressed by what he saw in Ceylon, which is the more remarkable because the feelings of his predecessors seem to have been so different. His depression, however, may probably be accounted for by the fact that hard work and the climate had begun to tell on him.
When he arrived in Calcutta on May 4, 1831, every one was struck by the change in his appearance. He appeared to be suffering from some internal illness which was excited into activity by the fatigue and heat he had to endure in his Visitation. From this time onward his health rapidly gave way. His closing days were days of great suffering marked by wonderful resignation. He often spoke to Archdeacon Corrie of his higher hopes. He said, "I have an assured hope," and added, "we want God to do some great thing for us, that shall prevent the necessity of humiliation and closing with Christ." When dying he broke out into prayer: "O Thou God of all grace, establish, strengthen and settle us: have mercy on all, that they may come to a knowledge of the truth, and be saved. There is none other Name given by which they can be saved. Other foundation can no man lay."
His appearance during the last few days exhibited a perfect picture of patient endurance. "There was an entire submission to the Divine will, increasing patience under intense sufferings, calmness in viewing the dark valley he was to pass through, and full assurance of those glories that were shortly to open upon him."
He was a little more than forty-five at the time of his death, and had been Bishop of Calcutta a little more than a year and a half.
Between 1815 and the day of his death, hardly sixteen years had elapsed, and during that period Calcutta had received no less than four Bishops, two of whom are buried in Calcutta, one was buried at sea, and the fourth Bishop Heber, at Trichinopoly, South India. It was growingly clear that the burden of touring and work laid on India s one English Bishop was more than one man could bear.