Project Canterbury

In Memoriam. Robert Henry Codrington, D.D.

From Southern Cross Log (English Edition), October 1922, pages 114-122.

Transcribed by the Right Reverend Dr. Terry Brown
Bishop of Malaita, Church of the Province of Melanesia, 2008

[114] In Memoriam.


Dr. Codrington passed to his well-earned rest on September 11th, wanting but four days to complete his 92nd year. Though it is some time now since he appeared in public, and the failure of his eyesight was a sore trial to him, he retained the freshness and vigour of his mind to the last. We now feel that the greatest witness to the glories of the heroic age of the Melanesian Mission has been removed from among us. It meant a great deal to have still with us one who had been Bishop Patteson's right-hand man, who might have been his successor had he so willed it, and who kept the Mission together during the difficult time that followed immediately on Bishop Patteson's martyrdom; who also, by his scholarly researches and his two published books on Melanesian languages and customs respectively, vindicated the claim of the Melanesian race to the serious attention of students of philology and anthropology. There are still remaining old members of the Mission Staff to whom his death means the loss of one of the dearest of friends, and numbers who will mourn his loss in the far-away islands. Missionaries of a more recent date who visited him in his picturesque and hospitable retreat at Chichester never failed to experience a most sympathetic welcome.

Born in 1830, Robert Henry Codrington was educated at Charterhouse, and as a scholar of Wadham College, Oxford. Here one of his friends and fellow-scholars was Mr. Frederic Harrison, a year younger than himself, with whom, after long years spent in widely divergent paths of life, his old friendship was renewed not long before his death, as is testified by Mr. Harrison in a letter to the Times. Mr. Harrison relates a curious incident of his Oxford days: that when reading for his final schools he fancied that a squirrel came down his curtain every night and sat on his Greek Lexicon. Mr. Harrison [114/115] persuaded him to recognise in this a serious symptom of brain fatigue, with the result that by Dr. Acland's order he gave up all brain-work for a time.

Mr. Codrington was elected to a Wadham Fellowship in 1855, and was ordained to an Oxford Curacy. But from early days his thoughts had been drawn towards missionary work. In 1863 he went to New Zealand, met Bishop Patteson, and went with him on the Island Voyage in the "Southern Cross" as an experiment. The companionship of such a scholarly and cultured mind, fresh from Oxford, was an especial delight to the Bishop. Mr. Codrington returned to England to decide whether he should finally throw in his lot with the Melanesian Mission. In 1867 he went out to Norfolk Island, where the Headquarters and Training School of the Mission had just been established. Here he began the distinctive work of his life, based on that close personal friendship and sympathy which never failed to gain him the affection and confidence of Melanesian boys. He also had the supervision of the studies of the younger members of the Mission Staff, and preparation of lay members for Ordination.

Mr. Codrington was at Norfolk Island on that sorrowful day, October 17th, 1871, when the "Southern Cross" arrived with her flag at half-mast; he rode down to the landing-place with Mr. Bice, to make the awful discovery of Bishop Patteson's death. In the critical time that followed he was entrusted with the direction of the Mission, and retained it until John Selwyn was consecrated Bishop in 1877. How much the Mission owed to the confidence inspired among both Europeans and Melanesians by knowing, after the shock caused by the Bishop's murder, that its affairs were in Codrington's hands, it would be hard to over-estimate. It was an open secret that he was offered the Bishopric; but he proved a genuine example of nolo episcopari. The reason which he gave for his refusal, as mentioned by the Warden of Wadham in his recent letter to the Times was characteristic of his modest estimate of himself, viz., that the Mission would gain more by the appointment of a first-rate man straight from England. There were other and sounder reasons, which no doubt weighed with him. He was never quite comfortable at sea, and had none of that nautical instinct or aptitude for boatmanship, which in those days appeared to be necessary requisites in a Bishop of Melanesia. His constitution was hardly fitted to endure the rough and unhealthy conditions and long spells of Melanesian island life which the Bishop has to face. Above all he realised by a true intuition that with his own special gifts he could do more valuable work by building up the characters of individual Melanesian lads at Norfolk Island, and devoting himself to a study, at once scientific and sympathetic, of Melanesian speech and customs and manner of thought, than by assuming the responsibility of organising and governing a missionary diocese. So Codrington's main work was done at Norfolk Island, with occasional visits in the "Southern Cross" to his old scholars when established as teachers or native clergymen in the Melanesian Islands.

[116] Of Dr. Codrington's work at Norfolk Island it is difficult to speak at all adequately. It went on so quietly and unostentatiously, yet it meant so much. His intercourse with the boys was based on friendliness and sympathy, without any assumption of superiority. The Melanesian, always a gentleman in his fundamental instincts, was ready to respond to this treatment; and Dr. Codrington, like Bishop Patteson, was able to open to him regions of thought and knowledge which a superficial observer would never have supposed him capable of entering.

In acquiring information about languages or folk-lore his industry and patience were inexhaustible. The only things with which he had no patience were "cock-sureness," and hurry to jump to conclusions. The youthful enthusiast who, on the strength of a season or two in the islands, was eager to produce a Prayer-book and extracts from the New Testament in the language of the district he was in charge of, was gravely told of the number of years spent by Bishop Patteson in deciding on words to express conceptions so strange to the native mind as "repentance," "sin," "faith," and warned of the danger of stereotyping erroneous ideas on vital subjects. Codrington was often satirical as to the omniscience of younger men; but in his satire there was a sparkle and kindly humour, indicated by the well-known twinkle of his eye, which deprived it of venom. For any attempt to acquire knowledge of native languages for purposes of speech through books, or information derived from white men, he had nothing but unsparing condemnation. He always insisted that the only way was to take a note-book about with one, and at every possible time, as when engaged in outdoor work with the boys at Norfolk Island, to obtain words and phrases, and record them phonetically. For "Mota as she is spoke" by average members of the Mission Staff, Dr. Codrington had a supreme and probably not ill-founded contempt; and he deeply regretted that "Mission Mota" had so corrupted habitual speech that the language could hardly be heard in its pristine purity, even on its native island. He himself always disclaimed any pretensions to being a linguist in the colloquial sense, and indeed he was too cautious and critical to acquire an easy familiarity with a new language in a short time; but he never attempted to speak without being sure of his own accuracy. For the average Mission standard it might be said that most of the Missionaries only spent a short time each year at Norfolk Island, and their serious interest in languages centred for each in the district of which he was put in charge in the islands, that among the boys and girls gathered at Norfolk Island there were very few to whom Mota was their mother-tongue, though it was used there as the common vehicle of speech; and that in these circumstances it was inevitable that a more or less conventional dialect should grow up to meet the urgent calls of every kind of work, rather than that everyone should wait to speak till he or she had followed the slow but scientific course dear to Dr. Codrington's heart. It has never been given to anyone else, in Melanesia at any rate, to combine scientific insight with conversational facility in the same degree as Codrington's great ideal, Bishop Patteson.

[117] By his patient and laborious inquiries Dr. Codrington accumulated materials for his two great books: "Melanesian Languages," and "The Melanesians; their Anthropology and Folk-Lore." Though these works necessarily interested only a small circle of readers, they are pronounced by competent authorities to be the very models of what such works should be. And if more light has been thrown upon the matters they treat of by later and special local investigations, still Dr. Codrington's work remains indubitably that of the pioneer, who has contributed so much to make the success of later workers possible. In conjunction with the Rev. John Palmer (afterwards Archdeacon), and with the assistance of various native clergymen and teachers, Dr. Codrington produced the complete Mota version of the New Testament, and went to England in 1883 to arrange for its publication; during which visit, as recalled by the Warden of Wadham, he spent much time at Oxford, and received the honorary degree of D.D. from the University. The New Testament in Mota is a marvellous example of the way in which a South Sea language can be made to express thoughts so unfamiliar to the native mind as e.g., many in St. Paul's Epistles. And even those to whom the New Testament is already familiar in Greek and English can sometimes gain a new sense of the full meaning of a passage by studying it in Mota.

After this visit to England, and the publication of his books and the Mota New Testament, Dr. Codrington decided that his work at Norfolk Island was done. He remained only a short time after his return, and retired in 1887, much to the grief of the many who looked on him as a father, both in the Norfolk Island School and among the Melanesian clergy and teachers, with whom he afterwards kept up an extensive correspondence. He accepted the living of Wadhurst, Sussex, from his College; but the charge of a large country parish was not an occupation well suited to him, and he did not retain it long. He visited Norfolk Island again at the end of 1892, and remained there six months. His purpose was to see his old friends once more, to give help in the interregnum which followed Bishop John Selwyn's retirement in 1891, and to obtain materials for his Mota Dictionary. Mr. Palmer, whose connection with the Mission dated as far back as his own, and who had been appointed acting-head of the Mission, was in great grief owing to the death of his wife, which occurred while he was making a voyage round the islands with Bishop Montgomery, then of Tasmania; to him Dr. Codrington's visit was a great comfort. During this visit he used to give sixpence (then a great prize) for every list of a thousand Mota words brought him by the boys. Whether this plan sometimes encouraged, as was suggested by the frivolous, the production of words hitherto unknown to any language, the present writer is unable to say. At any rate, after Dr. Codrington's return to England, the Mota Dictionary appeared, compiled with the same patient and careful accuracy as his other works. He also revised the translation of the complete Mota Bible, except the Apocrypha, and saw it through the press, though himself not altogether convinced of the utility of giving Melanesians the whole of the Old Testament.

[118] As a Prebendary of Chichester, Dr. Codrington lived mostly a retired life, full of literary and philological interests, and for some years he continued to attend Melanesian committees at the Church House, and other meetings to him with the Archbishop of Canterbury and Bishop John Selwyn, the staff delegated the choice of a successor to the last, which resulted in the appointment of the Rev. Cecil Wilson, Vicar of Moordown. He used to say that he felt altogether out of touch with the later developments of the Mission; and his temperament and his supreme veneration for Bishop Patteson both disposed him to look to the past for the golden age. But his love for the Mission never failed; he never lost his sympathy with the young; and the newest recruits for Melanesia found a warm welcome in S. Richard's Walk.


On September 15th, the 92nd anniversary of his birth, the body of Dr. Codrington was laid to rest in the Chichester Cemetery. There was a grand simplicity about the funeral in keeping with the combined dignity and humility that characterised the man. The first part of the service took place in the Cathedral, the Lesson being read by the Bishop, the Dean reciting the Opening Sentences and all the prayers. A large number of robed clergy joined in the procession, and the boys of the choir; and the joyful hymn chosen ("Ye holy Angels bright") was entirely appropriate. So also, one felt, was the soft sunshine in the cemetery, where a little group of friends gave heartfelt thanks that the aged traveller whom they loved and revered had reached his bourne. The famous anthropologist and linguist, the devoted fellow-worker of Patteson and Selwyn, was after all just our dear old Mission-father and most generous-hearted friend, at rest from the labours of a long working day.

Amongst others, beside relatives, who were present, were the Master of Wadham, representing Dr. Codrington's old college, the Rev. A. E. Corner and Miss F. E. Coombe representing the Mission, and the Rev. Chas. Palmer, son of the late Archdeacon Palmer, of Melanesia and New Zealand.--R.I.P.

We feel that the following notice from the Times should he quoted in the Log: "By the death of the Rev. Robert Henry Codrington, D.D., the world loses one of its greatest scholars and the Christian Church one of its greatest saints. He was nearly 92 (having been born on September 15th, 1830), but in heart and mind and in outlook he remained young. His intellect was keen as his sympathy was true, despite the length of his days. Except that, quite lately, his eyesight failed, all his powers of mind and body were untouched by time--memory and judgment were bright and strong. He lives as the Apostle of the Pacific, the great missionary teacher of Melanesia. He wrote the grammars and vocabularies of thirty-four languages; he also recorded the folk-lore of the Melanesians, and translated the Bible into their tongues. (One tongue, Mota.,--ED.)

"Educated at Charterhouse and Wadham College, Oxford, he lived to be probably their oldest alumnus, and he was certainly the oldest of the honorary Fellows of Wadham, older than Mr. Frederic Harrison by more than a year. He was elected a Fellow of Wadham in 1855, and was ordained to an Oxford curacy. But he soon went out to New Zealand, and joined Bishop Patteson, and continued with Bishop Selwyn as head of the teaching staff on Norfolk Island. Thither came to him the children of chiefs from all the islands of the Archipelago. He was a great traveller in every continent, and was the friend of many great men--John Keble, Wordsworth,* [* Probably Christopher Wordsworth, Bishop of Lincoln, is meant. Codrington was only 20 years old when Wordsworth the Poet died.] Lewis Carroll, Hans Andersen, Shorthouse, Mr. Gladstone, Samuel Wilberforce, Dr. Routh, Dean Burgon, Newman, Manning, James Mozley. When compelled in 1887 to [118/119] leave the work he loved in Melanesia, he returned to England and became Vicar of Wadhurst, and Prebendary of Chichester. For 25 years he was lecturer at Chichester Theological College, and Oxford gave him her honorary D.D. His personality won the hearts of young people, with whom he never failed to be in sympathy. A few days ago, when I visited him, he presented me with his own copies of his books on the languages and folk-lore of the Melanesians; in both volumes he wrote his own name, and mine, with the date, September 9th, 1922. I do not know that he ever again held a pen. As president of the Chichester Clerical Society he did untold good to his neighbours. He was the soundest of scholars, kindliest of teachers, most practical of saints, most genial and tolerant of friends."


On receiving an invitation to write a few lines commemorative of the late--sad it is so to speak of a dear friend--Dr. Codrington's early days in the Mission, I took down my diary of 1866 and 1867, when I myself was new to the work, and strange indeed is the miscellany their pages present; yet it is no wonder, for miscellaneous indeed were the calls upon brain and muscle in those early days. For when I asked the Bishop what my work would be, the answer was: "All I can say is I will never ask you to do anything I would not do myself." Mr. Codrington, as he then was, formed no exception to that general rule; though owing to his special gifts and qualifications he gradually became chiefly occupied with the literary and linguistic side of the work. Yet I can well remember how he and I in two separate boats were rowing off to get water at Maewo, bailing the clear water into our canvas tanks at the foot of a sparkling cascade on the shore; bathing and the washing of clothes being the next items of our programme. He was seldom well at sea.

There was never any self-assertion about Dr. Codrington, though it must have cost him considerable self-restraint to put up with my own very self-assertive self. But he knew how to reduce one to one's proper level without wounding one's rather sensitive pride. He never, or rarely, used superlatives himself, and wrought havoc with my youthful stock. I really think a little more encouragement would have been good for me; but that came later, when it was sorely needed; for as someone has remarked so truly, "he was a genial and tolerant friend," to whom my heart goes out in gratitude.

After an entry recording that I had scrubbed the cabin-floor of the first "Southern Cross" (92-tons), involving much sliding to leeward of scrubber, soap and bucket, and a close inspection of corners with the penknife of Lieut. Tilly, R.N., our then commander, I find that Mr. Codrington and Mr. Bice arrived on Monday, March the 4th, 1867, and immediately after the first mention of his name I read: "His pleasantness," and then: "A new order of things," whatever that may have meant. Well, there were Mr. Bice and I, and Joseph Atkin to be prepared for Ordination; and since St. Barnabas, Norfolk Island was to be an echo of Eton and Oxford, I think that so far as Theology and Ecclesiastical History went, our advantages were equal to those whose studies were pursued in the University itself; for what adds to the miscellaneous character of these open pages is the fact that my copious notes of Dr. Codrington's lectures are mixed up with latitude and longitude and lists of articles to be remembered for the voyage.

I am struck with the world-wide comprehensiveness of these lectures and their completeness, together with their illustrative studies in the Books of the Old Testament, feeling sure that if I were to get these lectures up again I could pass the stiffest examination possible in the subject. Although as I read over the questions now before me, requiring "some account of the Diet of Worms and the Diet of Spires" I rejoice that I have not to face that ordeal to-day.

But at St. Barnabas' we were more monastically ordered than at the University; for to this intellectual strain we came straight from hoeing the corn or planting kumeras, and the noon day temperature of Norfolk Island marks a higher degree than that of Oxford High Street; so that before beginning our studies we were urged by our practical instructor to take a sniff of some powerful kind of smelling-salts placed ready for us upon the table to be used as required.

[120] Dr. Codrington took the greatest interest in the building of the Old Chapel, never allowing structure or strength to be sacrificed to ornament; while he enlisted our aid by giving us thin slabs of wood to be fretted into transparent designs for the upper parts of the windows, according to our individual taste.

Like Bishop Patteson, he loved the "Boys" for their own sake, and asked for no better society; affording as they did a rich mine of philological knowledge and island folk-lore, with which, and by indefatigable labours (or love), combined with consummate skill, he enriched the brilliant and instructive pages of his two standard works: "Melanesian Languages," and "The Melanesians." Their author wrote to me as follows a year ago: "I have been engaged in settling about my books. . . . All that I have left are being packed up to go to Mr. Ray. Such things it seems ought not to be altogether thrown away, yet there are few indeed who care for them. There is something pathetic in parting with old MS. notes, etc., that recall old times and the people of old times. . . . It seems like digging one's own grave. That my language work has been useful Ray is a proof."* [*Mr. Ray's wonderful skill in classifying Oceanic languages is known to those interested in the subject.]

I have a general and most precious recollection of endless walks and talks together among the pines of Norfolk Island--talks full of kindly criticism of his companion and the Norfolkers, and bantering remarks concerning all self-satisfied folk. Reality was the key-note of all he said and did; and not until you needed it would you discover the warm sympathy and deep attachments that lay beneath the rather chilling surface; but of course, at that time I was a raw rash youth who needed snubbing, and it is only now in recalling those early days at Norfolk Island that I realise how much of whatever is good and sound in me I owe to my intimate association with such a wise and candid friend--faithful and true to everyone he met. C.H.B. [Charles Hyde Brooke]


A Memory.

When I joined the Melanesian Mission (in 1875) during the interval between Bishop Patteson's death and Bishop John Selwyn's consecration, Dr. Codrington was in charge of the Diocese, and among other duties he was head of the Training College for Native Teachers at Norfolk Island. And nothing surprised me so much among my new surroundings there as his wonderful influence over the scholars. He held them in the hollow of his hand. They loved him and respected him, and therefore they obeyed him implicitly. It was a remarkable situation, and I remember how it struck another stranger, the captain of a whale-ship, who had landed at Norfolk Island and who had come to see our school. "You white men would be in a bad way," he said to me, "if these niggers were to rise." And this was a fair comment upon what he saw--from his point of view--for he did not realise the influence that kept the young men in hand.

How did Dr. Codrington gain his influence over these people? Many of them sons of cannibals or head-hunters, and not one who had ever known the power of love in his native land. I think it was his unselfishness that appealed to them first of all, more than any of his other endearing characteristics. The Warden of Wadham, in his letter to the Times, has given one reason why Dr. Codrington declined the Bishopric of Melanesia, namely, his desire to get a man fresh from England as Bishop; but there was another reason also. He was a [120/121] hopelessly bad sailor. Life on board our little ship was nothing short of torture to him. I saw him start for an island voyage, while he was in charge of the Mission and because it was his duty to visit the Mission Schools, and he looked a hale and hearty man, and I saw him come back a perfect wreck of a man to all appearances. I verily believe he had lost three stone in weight during the three months that he had been away. And was this surprising when a bit of dry biscuit and one sardine was, as he admitted, all that he could force himself to eat as his daily ration. Now, nothing impressed the Melanesians more than the unselfishness of sticking to these voyages for their sakes. I have heard them refer to it with wonder and admiration long after his sea-going responsibility was over.

Again, he never forgot his old scholars. He kept in touch with them by writing to them regularly after they had finished their training and returned to their homes. To do this--for these letters came to be numbered by scores--he used to get up in the morning at Norfolk Island sooner than he need have done. And how he dealt with his correspondence at Wadhurst or Chichester, when it included letters to the sons and even the grandsons of his old scholars, to whom his name must have been handed down as a sort of household word, I don't know. I only vouch for the fact that it continued to the end of his life.

It was the same spirit of unselfishness that made him such an excellent nurse when a boy in his house at Norfolk Island was ill. And how tenderly he ministered to those doomed to die--consumptives, for example--only the Master, for Whose sake he did it, fully knows. Is it strange that the Melanesians loved him, and that he exercised an influence over them that will never die? But Codrington's influence was not limited to Melanesians; we were all--white people as well as brown--more or less guided by it; especially on critical occasions. Here is an instance: When the news of the "Sand-fly" massacre reached Norfolk Island we were uncertain what it was wise to do. The story is too long to repeat, and it has been told many times--more or less accurately; but its main features were these. The commanding officer of a small man-o'-war schooner, H.M.S. "Sandfly," and all his whale-boat's crew, save one man, had been killed by Florida natives. And the tidings reached us at Norfolk Island accidentally by a trading-ship from Sydney bringing a newspaper with an account of the outrage. The Bishop, Dr. Codrington and I, who was Priest-in-charge of the Florida district, together with Charles Sapibuana and Alfred Lombu--two Florida head-teachers, who were training at Norfolk Island for the Diaconate--met to consider what we ought to do. Two courses were open to us: one was to charter the trading-schooner that had brought the news, and for the Bishop, or for myself, or for both of us to go in her to Sydney, to accompany the man-of-war cruiser, which the newspapers said was to be sent on a punitive expedition to Florida. The other plan was to wait for the next island voyage of the "Southern Cross," and to go in our own ship to Florida. There was much to be said for both of these proposals, and the Bishop and I were strongly in favour of the first. [121/122] We wanted to do something at once; whereas to wait for the Mission vessel would, for various solid reasons, involve a delay of three months. Sapi and Alfred Lombu, on the other hand, were equally strong for the second plan. Don't go to Florida in a man-of-war they said, lest the people class you as their enemies, and all our work is hindered. Let the Bishop go there in our own ship.

It was here that Codrington's advice was of such inestimable value. I remember how he summed up the case, dealing with the pros and cons of each proposal; how clearly and emphatically he agreed with Sapi and Alfred, and how what he advised was actually done. The Bishop in due course went to Florida in the "Southern Cross," and in conjunction with a second man-of-war-the first sent there having failed to get hold of any of the guilty people--he gave most valuable help in bringing the principal murderers to justice. He was thanked in Parliament for his services. But in recalling the memory of this stirring incident, I always think how much we had to thank God for Dr. Codrington's wise counsel, and for his influence to which our unanimous decision was due.

Another of Codrington's winning characteristics was his keen sense of humour. Whether it was Mrs. Colenso's devotion to homoepathy--her patients, to Dr. Codrington's amusement, used to call her medicine "tank water"; or the weird eccentricities of the Norfolk Islanders; or the mistakes we made as new chums, in trying to speak with Melanesian tongues, he always saw the amusing side of a situation--but in a kindly spirit, and increasing years had no effect upon his merry heart.

But he could be stern also, and even alarming. I have seen Melanesians, who had been behaving badly, cower under the lash of his rebuke; but I never saw him lose his temper with them, though I recollect seeing two Norfolkers running away from the verandah of his house as if escaping from a fire. They had visited him to discuss a question of "Seventh Day Adventism," that a ship's cook, who had deserted his whaler and established himself as a preacher at Norfolk Island, had been expounding to them. And they had come to Dr. Codrington, not to ask his advice, but to argue with him, presumably in the hope of effecting his conversion. When these visitors had gone I went to his house, and he said to me: "I now know how it was possible for men no worse than I am to burn people."

In his latter years at Chichester we have often laughed over such memories as these, and his recollection of them was ever fresh and keen. We shall never forget him, nor his hospitable house, nor his garden so characteristic of himself. The banana-tree, whose fruiting he came to despair of seeing, was, strange to say, actually bearing fruit at the time of his death.

And thus we think of the end of his long life; his wanderings over and resting among the friends who loved him: waiting for the Master to call him Home.

The Close, Lichfield.


From Southern Cross Log (English Edition), January, 1923, pages 7-9.

To the Editor of the Southern Cross Log,

You said, Mr. Editor, when we met the other day in London, that you would consider some more of my memories of Dr. Codrington for the Log, so I will draw again upon my store of recollections of him, and submit the result to your consideration.

People have said that his manner was sometimes "Donnish," I will give you what I think was an instance of this: One day, long ago, a private yacht anchored off Norfolk Island, and the doctor of the ship came on shore. In the course of his wandering, seeing what there was to be seen, he reached the Mission College, where he was received by Dr. Codrington--then in charge of the Diocese--and invited to inspect the premises. This the doctor consented to do, but he was careful to explain, first of all, that he was not interested in so-called heathen missions, and that his willingness to look at mission buildings must not be regarded as implying any such interest. With this somewhat chilling introductory remark, which I believe met with no response, the two men started on their round; but the doctor was an educated man, and soon discovered that he was in the company of an educated man. He modified his supercilious manner, and began to talk to his guide on terms of equality. But from conversation they got to discussion, and here Codrington's wider and more accurate knowledge of things in general gave him again and again the best of the argument. Their last disagreement was about the colour of some insect, and the doctor, in support of his contention that this was green, took off his pith helmet and pointed to the lining of the brim. "Green," he said, "like this." But his finger directed attention not only to his hat but to his head. And to Codrington's surprise, he saw that the doctor's abundant crop of hair, as the sun shone upon it, was green also. Something had evidently gone wrong with one of his toilette accessories. The glance was only momentary, but the astonished expression that accompanied it, must have told the doctor what had happened. For without another word about the Praying Mantis, or whatever the insect was that they had been discussing, he clapped on his helmet and said good-bye. And I fancy, from what I have been told, that when he got back to his friends on board the yacht he described Codrington's manner as "donnish."

Increasing years made few changes in these mannerisms, but some were apparent. A time was when Codrington never allowed anything of which he disapproved, and which was addressed to him in conversation, to pass unchallenged; but latterly this was not so. A man had been preaching in my church, and after the service he tried to draw an expression of opinion from Codrington upon the subject of the sermon; but instead of criticizing it--as he had been invited to do, and as he would have done drastically--once upon a time, he only made evasive comments, and answered direct questions [7/8] as far as possible in monosyllables. He told me afterwards, when the preacher had taken his departure, that he neither liked the man's matter or his manner, and he could not have shown his disapproval of both more plainly than he did; but taking refuge in silence was not his former way of dealing with an obnoxious person or subject. When he felt himself thoroughly at home in the company he was in, and among friends, he was always his old delightful self, and under such conditions he enjoyed an argument as much as he ever did, almost up to the end of his days.

I remember, while he was once staying with us at Wolverhampton--where I was Rector for many years--and what a joy to my wife and to me those visits of his used to be!--a man (we all knew well) came into my study and began to talk about a book on "Second Sight" that had then just been published. And, apropos of the subject, he told us the following story: A lady of his acquaintance, he said, was one day saying her prayers in the ancient church of -------- when, looking up from her devotions, she saw a long procession of monks, the rear of which was brought up by a Bishop under a Baldachino. They passed her by, wending their way up the nave, and entered the sanctuary; and then, after a time, they came back, But now, when the Bishop reached the place where the lady was kneeling, he stopped and addressed her. I am Bishop ---- of Lincoln, he said, and then the vision faded away. We listened in silence to this thrilling tale, and then Codrington said: "There were no monks at ------- Church. It was not a monastic foundation."

Of course, the story-teller could not accept this damaging criticism without protest; but he was gently though firmly driven back through a shower of dates of monasteries and reigns of kings, till he was compelled to yield his point. "And there was no Bishop of Lincoln named Bishop -----," said Codrington, and he went to my book-shelves and took down a "Crockford." "There;" he said, with that merry twinkle in his eyes that we all remember so well, "where do you see Bishop -----?" and he pointed to the lists of Bishops of Lincoln. Then we all laughed, for the story-teller could appreciate a joke--even against himself, when it was kindly made; and he consoled himself for the loss of his prestige as a raconteur by thinking how he would pass on Codrington's criticism to the visionary lady who had betrayed his confidence.

I will not dwell on Codrington's remarkable knowledge of South Sea Island languages. I have as yet said nothing about it, but the subject is too well-known to need any comment from me, and it is too big a one to be sampled by memory snippets, such as these that I am patching together for the Log. But it has been said that he only knew those tongues grammatically and in a scholarly manner--not colloquially, as Bishop Patteson did, and I want to illustrate the opposite contention. The common language at the Mission College at Norfolk Island, as you know, was Mota. The Chapel Services, the [8/9] teaching, the working orders were all given in Mota; but in the houses of the white members of the Staff, where the boys and young men from the islands lived, the language was that of the majority of the inmates. We all spoke Florida, for example, in my house. And I have known Codrington come there and listen to the chatter that was going on, and then say: "What was that word he said? or, he said to you? Does it not mean this, or that?" And "this" or "that" was perfectly correct. I know the Florida people believed that Codrington could speak their language if he chose to do so, and I never disputed their opinion on this point.

Another illustration of his mastery of these languages--colloquially as well as grammatically--was his revision of Florida translations. The "spade-work" was, of course, done at Florida, where the best equivalent in the native language was sought for each corresponding English word; but this was afterwards submitted to Codrington's criticism. He "passed" every phrase that I had chosen with the help of the most intelligent natives I could get hold of before the translation went to the press. And the edition that we thus prepared of the four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles is, I believe, in use now. It has not, I mean, been superseded by a later edition, though the knowledge of the Florida language must have increased in the meantime. A striking testimony to Codrington's colloquial as well as to his grammatical knowledge of one of the most widely spoken of the Solomon Island languages.

"Many tongues on earth, but only one in heaven," is a free translation of a motto that we see sometimes in Greek and in Latin on the title page of Bibles; but if this saying be in any sense true, we wonder how the common language is acquired. Are there teachers in Paradise who have mastered it, and pass it on to others whose strange utterances they only can understand? It is a mystery that we cannot fathom; but we like to think of Codrington's great gift of tongues still working for Christ's Kingdom--not only in the Scriptures that he translated, but perhaps in schools we cannot see. We love to think of him with Islanders he brought out of darkness into light, who went before him to their rest; to picture him leading them still upwards and onwards through Heavenly places, and to fancy how gladly they welcomed him to the Land beyond the Sea.

November 8th, 1922.

Project Canterbury