Project Canterbury

John Steward's Memories

Papers Written by the Late Bishop Steward of Melanesia

Edited with an Introduction by M. R. Newbolt

Chester: Phillipson and Golder Ltd., 1939.


The author of these papers was one of those men who are content to do good work and are quite indifferent whether they get the credit for it or not, and as his task was done in a remote part of the world, in the service of a Mission more intimately linked with the Church in New Zealand than the Church in England, his name is not as well known as it deserves to be.

His father was Vicar of Shoreham, in Sussex, and died while Steward was an undergraduate. After a short period of indecision, during which he was an assistant master at the Mercers' School in Holborn, Steward entered the Theological College at Ely where he and I were fellow students with another future missionary Bishop, Walter Carey, and where Gerald Douglas, destined to be Bishop of Nyasaland, was Vice-Principal. After a two years' curacy at Watford, he offered himself to the Melanesian Mission, which he joined in 1902. When he had completed seventeen years of service he was chosen, at the desire of his fellow priests in the Mission, to become Bishop of the diocese at a difficult moment in its history and was consecrated to the see made illustrious by the names of Selwyn and Patteson, on St. Matthias' Day, 1919. The consecration took place in St. Paul's Pro-Cathedral, Wellington. The life which he describes in these reminiscences made great demands on his considerable strength, and on the very eve of returning to his diocese after a short visit to England in 1923 he was seized with sudden illness and had to undergo a severe operation. He did five more years of work in Melanesia, but continuous sea travel in an exhausting climate proved too much for him and in 1928 he was compelled to resign and come home. At first he was unfit for work but his strength began to come back: he [5/6] had no ties and, being unmarried and free to live anywhere, he hoped he might be offered some not too strenuous a post where he might make a home and still do service to the Church. However no such offer came to him. He got through a good deal of work in his retirement, conducting confirmations for more than one Diocesan and taking Sunday duty for the neighbouring clergy, besides preaching for the Melanesian Mission. For a time he acted as a voluntary curate to his friend Andrew Hunt, Rector of Rivenhall, in Essex, with whose family he was on terms of very happy intimacy, and in this neighbourhood he made his home until he decided to buy himself a house at Haywards Heath in order to be near his only surviving sister. But less than a year after moving into his new home he was stricken with fatal illness and died in September, 1937.

A little while after his death, his manservant, Fred. Stringfellow, told me that among the Bishop's belongings were some papers about his life in the Islands which it would be a thousand pities to destroy. These proved to consist of a bundle of typescript obviously written at different times, several alternative beginnings of a projected book of reminiscences, studies of Melanesian character and customs, a travel diary and essays on matters ecclesiastical and political concerning the Pacific. Hardly any of this varied material was ready for publication; it represented the thoughts of a man used to living alone among natives, flung down on paper at the end of the day, probably among constant interruptions, carelessly phrased and full of repetitions, in a style sometimes complicated by the writer's dislike of the letter "I," (he persisted in saying "one" did this or that, when the subject of the sentence was obviously himself; I have changed this at the risk of making him egotistical); yet the whole series of papers gives a vivid impression of unfamiliar places and strange people seen through the medium of an unusual mind.

[7] I have done my best, with the permission of his sister, Mrs. Lewes, to get his papers into shape, wishing that the author had lived to do it for himself.

Steward, in spite of his love of talk, was a man of great reticences, and intimately as I knew him, I was amazed as I read to find how much there was in him I did not know. It was natural that much of his life should be a closed book to me; the South Seas are a long way off and twenty five years is a big slice out of a life-long friendship. But he was apt to be silent about his enthusiasms. I am told by an old colleague of Steward's that his little Cathedral at Siota was mainly the child of his own brain, his great joy and achievement, that it is built in native style and a mighty fine piece of work, but beyond that I know nothing about it. I cannot remember him referring to it though we often talked on kindred matters, and there is no mention of it in these papers. I know that at one time his mind was working on the vexed question of Native versus European art, and it appears that eventually, when he came to build his Cathedral in the heart of The Islands, he came down on the Native side of the fence. This is all of a piece with general convictions which he held, and I feel sure he did not make up his mind without thinking the matter out pretty deeply. He would not have been swayed by aesthetic predilections, but he would have been dominated by his conviction that, if the Church was to take root and grow, it must be grafted on to Melanesian life. The Melanesian's personal preference, it appears, was all for the earlier "Jones and Willis" forms of art; machine-made symmetry appealed to his desire to be like the European and the very strangeness of our ways made a clean cut between "The New Teaching" and the sordid associations of his heathen past. Steward saw that here was a people just emerging from the stone age to whom the cheapest Woolworth ornament was a treasure of great price, the product and symbol of a civilisation far beyond reach. [7/8] In such a world our third rate throw-outs are marvels of splendour and skill. To the young native Church the early missionary could only give what he himself was used to, the hackneyed hymn tune, the conventional chant, the lacquered brass of altar furniture and all that goes with Churchwarden Gothic and offertory bags of the colour of the season. To the native all these things soon became clothed with the sanctity of association; they had become holy and numinous, they had the fragrance of a world of wonder, far beyond the sea. It was the native Christian, not the missionary, whose conservatism mistrusted any reform in the direction of the use of indigenous art. The alternative meant taking a risk and implied some knowledge of the dark Melanesian mind. Steward had imagination enough to believe that the spirit of Christ would liberate a creative force in the Melanesian and blossom into forms at once native to the islands, yet, because Christian, unlike any product of the heathen past. He felt in his very bones that for the Melanesian, Westernisation was the road to death. In this as in other matters he had big, imaginative ideas, not always in line with the conservative spirit of Home Missionary Boards.

Steward's character was always wonderfully consistent. He remained oddly unchanged from childhood to his premature death and very little altered from the boy he was at Radley. We entered the school together in 1887 and among the "inky little fags" in whose company he proceeded up the school to the glories of the Prefects' Study were Sir R. M. Hodgson, who has been British Agent in Russia, Spain and other uncomfortable countries, Sir P. A. M. Nash, Director General of Transport to the B.E.F. in 1917, Sir H. R. M. Bourne who became Secretary for Defence in South Africa, Lord Latymer, then H. B. M. Coutts, Sir H. F. Badeley, Principal Clerk in the Judicial Department of the House of Lords, Dr. Randall MacIver, the archaeologist, and T. H. E. Stretch, one of the finest heavyweights who [8/9] ever rowed for Oxford and one of the most attractive characters that I remember. Future ecclesiastics were K. D. Mackenzie, Bishop of Brechin, E. L. Henderson, Dean of Salisbury, who has done wonders for the school as Chairman of its Governing Body, and, among the older boys of our time, Father Pollock, of St. Peter's, London Docks.

Radley, then a school of only one hundred and fifty boys, set an indelible stamp on Steward's character. He absorbed more from the ethos of the school than from its class rooms; work was not fashionable in the Radley of those days and the only one of our contemporaries who became world-famous for pure scholarship attained his end in the face of that almost brutal opposition of which only boys are capable. Steward himself was much more interested in getting into the Eight than in any other object of ambition. It was far from being a pious school, but "Chapel" was an integral part of our life. We sang Morning and Evening Prayer daily with all the psalms appointed for the day, and I believe that the liturgical teaching of the Church services had more influence upon us than we knew. The only bits of any sermon that I can recollect are a few phrases of misplaced grandiloquence which Steward, I regret to say, was fond of reproducing in most unseemly contexts. (From this I ought to except the Confirmation addresses of Bishop Stubbs. I think he impressed us all by the contrast between his deep solemnity in Chapel and the witticisms of his speech at the subsequent luncheon.) I am sure that these Chapel services, which would nowadays be considered excessive, but seemed to us quite natural, had their effect and formed a vital part of our education. A parishioner of mine at Iffley, an Oxford "scout" who was dying of consumption, once said to me: "We had a lot of Radley gentlemen at Magdalen, and I always liked them because they knew how to behave to the College servants, unlike the gentlemen from . . . other famous schools." This has always [9/10] seemed to me to be a testimonial well worth having, and it was certainly true of Steward. He was a standing refutation of the saying that no man is a hero to his valet. His servants, whether native Melanesians or Englishmen, loved him. At school and at Oxford he and I were both of us slaves of the oar, and besides the kind of rowing which goes with a Leander tie, a dignity which he attained but I did not, we did a lot of "messing about in boats" together on the Thames, little foreseeing how much of his life was to be spent as a boatman on waters less tranquil than the Nuneham reach and in exploring streams far more adventurous than the Cherwell. A boat seems to have meant much the same to him in Melanesia as it did when he was at Radley or at Magdalen. His pride in his crew of young natives who took him over five hundred miles of open sea is very like the solicitude of the coach of a crew entered for The Ladies Plate at Henley, and he seems to have dosed his tired boys with port wine and quinine in the same spirit in which "Buffy" Evans used to cosset a Radley Eight with champagne when it seemed to him that they shewed signs of staleness.

Steward had in his composition more than a little of what Middleton Murry calls "the Shakespeare man," that is, the sort of imaginary character who seems to represent Shakespeare's ideal Englishman--the Bastard in King John, Falstaff or Bottom. He had, I think, the very real courage of Faulconbridge who is proud of his birth and of his big limbs, yet cynical about himself, "simply because he hates to strike an attitude in his own eyes," ready to mock at his own best qualities, doing big things yet laughing at himself in the doing of them. There is a soliliquy of The Bastard's in King John (Act I, Scene 2) which might have been drawn direct from Steward. The Bastard, just made a knight, is intensely proud of his new dignity. He pictures to himself, in a spirit of pure buffoonery, the intolerable airs and graces which he imagines himself assuming in the future [10/11]--"And if his name be George, I'll call him Peter: For new-made honour doth forget men's names." Steward could never tolerate pretentiousness, and his humour would always flash out at the sight of it despite himself. A puckish streak in him kept on singing delightedly:
"Lord, what fools these mortals be,"

but, unlike Puck, he was very well aware that he himself was mortal. He had a pretty gift of drawing caricatures, it was in fact almost his favourite relaxation, but quite half of them were ludicrous self-portraits.

It has been said that we are born originals but die copies--but Steward refused to become a copy of any standardised type; he was one of the rare sort that stays original. He tried hard during his last nine years in England to conform to the conventional Episcopal pattern, for he had a strong respect for conventionality, but he never quite succeeded; profoundly a Bishop in essentials, he was perhaps too indelibly moulded into the pattern of Father in God to his own simple flock ever to feel at ease in all points in what is appropriate to gaiters and an apron here in England.

He had a strong dramatic sense and always instinctively staged himself and his surroundings, but his dramatisation was invariably that of comedy; he enjoyed the melodramatic, but only as it lends itself to burlesque. Far be it from me to give the impression that he was what is called facetious, yet I have never known anyone who could reduce me to more helpless exhaustion of laughter. With him, humorousness was not a matter of moods, it was an essential and constant element in his composition; he was amusing on his deathbed. There are people who can sparkle divertingly in company; his brilliance, and it was genuine brilliance, only displayed itself when he was among friends and could let himself go without disguise or reserve. "I am only my real self," he confessed, "when I can be idiotic," and on occasions of ceremony or among people who expected him to be punctilious, he seemed to feel a [11/12] constraint which made him appear ponderous or even dull. Laughter stood him in good stead in the hardships and discomforts of his work. I can picture him at the end of a grilling day of travel, when he had to share the canoe house crowded with natives, settling his bulky form with many groans and grumbles into a comfortable position, and presently, after giving their orders to his boat's crew, growing quite oblivious to his surroundings and shaking with amusement over one of his favourite authors, P. G. Wodehouse for a guess, or Surtees or perhaps Kenneth Grahame, whose "Wind in the Willows" he would quote by the yard. This trait in his character might not only astonish the natives but also lead the serious minded to raise their eyebrows. It might seem to them for instance, hardly becoming for a Bishop to beguile the tedious hours of a long sea journey by singing Music Hall songs with his chaplain. But do we not read that the early followers of St. Francis were taken by the "unco guid" for secular songsters and buffoons? Considering his queasiness about food and love of comfort, his reminiscences show something not only of the gaiety but also of the stern self-mastery of the genuine Franciscan. His gift of humour was undoubtedly a source of strength to him; it kept him sane and well balanced; he refused to see any thing frightful or impressive in the dark side of native life, which after all was murderous enough, but affected to describe it as something a little ludicrous. His philosophy of life was to him a sovereign remedy against conceit, and pride was I think a temptation to his nature. So he went through the world reminding himself how comic human beings really are. "Laugh very seldom at others" was his rule, "unless they are taking small things or themselves too seriously, but laugh often at yourself, specially when you are in any bad misfortune or are tempted to feel particularly pleased with yourself." For this reason he is never at his best in speaking of his greatest moments, when he writes of the Brothers, a subject [12/13] closer than any other to his heart, he is tongue-tied; but at the end of his laconic and formal account he brings in a characteristic touch. He was asked by the natives to exorcise an evil spirit believed to inhabit some kind of walled enclosure full of trees, the fear of which held the villagers back from Christianity. Like St. Boniface who felled the oak of Thor at Geismar, he proceeded to attack this local god, but when he heard that the demon took the form of a large rat he congratulated himself upon the happy error by which his vestments had been left behind: "A rat hunt, in a thicket, in cope and mitre, in the tropics, when I was already very hot and rather tired would have been neither pleasant nor dignified." This quality of his certainly helped others; many a time his apparently irresponsible badinage exorcised bitterness which would not yield to any other treatment; he laughed at you till you ended by laughing at yourself. Behind the jesting exterior one felt the solid strength and sympathetic kindness of the man. No one could have been less pietistic, his fierce honesty and dread of shams made him unduly shy of seeming to claim a reputation for spirituality of which he thought himself unworthy. It was a surprise to find from his papers how great was his affection for the De Imitatione Christi. He had translated it into Mota, presumably for his people, and had also made a complete and careful English rendering of it, "in rhyme and rhythm." It bears the dates, Siota, Lent, 1926; Pawa, Lent, 1927; Siota, Lent, 1928; Shoreham, Lent, 1929. This was a private spiritual exercise not meant for other people's eyes.

"One thing is certain," writes Dr. Fox, who joined the Mission with him and is still working in its service, "no Bishop of Melanesia has ever been so loved by the Melanesians," and he in, his turn understood and loved the Melanesians as few white men have done. Yet he was not what is sometimes called a "negrophile." Unlike some missionaries who [13/14] espouse the cause of the native with such zeal that they become unbalanced cranks, he was ready to give credit where it is due to the benefits of contact between the indigenous population and the civilisation of the West. He did not believe in trying to live like a native in order to establish closer contact with them, for he knew that the difference in race runs so deep that no man could bridge in a lifetime the gulf which separates their world from ours. It is obvious to any reader of these papers that his knowledge of their psychology and customs was first hand and profound and the caution of his conclusions gives them additional impressiveness. He knew several native languages and once told me that he habitually thought in Mota. The Melanesian character interested him intensely, he lost no opportunity of picking up information about their traditions, practices and beliefs, but he was, I think, more concerned to understand them as living, breathing human beings than to collect specimens of interesting types of behaviour. The knowledge which he had was gained by the slow process of living with them year after year with his eyes and ears open and this sometimes led him to correct theories which he had formed in his earlier days by the light of riper experience. The missionary's knowledge of a primitive people is different from that of the anthropologist. He "overhears" things about which no native will ever speak freely to a European, for primitive people are very shy and secretive about their most intimate affairs, religious or domestic. The average missionary has not the specialised training of the scientist (though Steward devoured the latest books on anthropology); he can seldom be more than an intelligent amateur of the subject, and may lack the faculty of trained observation, but, on the other hand, he is free from the fatal tendency to look for data which shall support some favourite hypothesis. By reason of the fact that he shares the people's sorrows and amusements, teaches their children and is often with them when they are sick or at the [14/15] paint of death, he is in a position to obtain an insight into their true character. He is constantly coming across unexpected aspects of their life and is very loath to generalise rashly from a few facts.

The anthropologist in a period of "field work" which may extend over a few years, is compelled to ask questions, and these are often "leading questions," put through an interpreter. Steward admired the work of Dr. Malinowski and was in hearty agreement with his conclusion that the family is not only the origin but also the essential of any civilisation, but though he respected his learning he was puzzled by some features in his book "Sexual Life among Savages," which is based upon observation of the people among whom Steward lived on such intimate terms. Here is an extract from a letter which he wrote me on the subject.

"His book paints a picture that is utterly unlike anything that I know about the Melanesians with whom I lived, in some things not only unlike but absolutely contradictory. There are only two alternatives that I can see, either he has found an absolutely unique colony of natives, and it may be said that Melanesia is a term as wide as Europe, i.e., covers many very different manners and customs, and probably races too. If this is the case his deductions are not likely to be of much value since they deal with exceptional conditions (it would be like taking the Basques as representative Europeans).

"The other alternative, and the one to which I incline, is that he has had his leg well and truly pulled." Here he quotes an example of a lewd story which he says, "sounds to me very like a 'traveller's tale.'" . . . "The young native man," he continues, 'is very like the young men of all nations in this respect. I can well understand the somewhat Rabelaisian youth of the village simply delighting in filling up a foreigner who discussed matters generally considered somewhat [15/16] 'broad' with all sorts of improper yarns. The scientific discussion of such subjects would not, I think, occur to them even as a possibility. I know of only one case of such discussion, and that was simply, and from the native point of view, inevitably, the prelude to immorality. I can conceive of no native people who would dream of discussing things of that sort with a foreigner of another race and colour. I may be wrong and Malinowski may be right, but I don't think so Since the Lambeth Conference Resolution No. 15 such matters have been much discussed and we in this diocese were advised by a Christian doctor to 'hear the other side' so that we could, if necessary, give an answer with understanding."--(Written from Shoreham, November 19th, 1930).

Steward's name will always be remembered in Melanesia, and possibly further afield as well, in connection with the remarkable movement known as The Brothers, a religious order of native laymen whose numbers, in the latest account, now exceed one hundred. This order owes its origin to a Melanesian, Ini Kopuria, who was originally fired with the desire "to be a monk" by lectures on Church History, given by Dr. Codrington when he was at school; but it was Steward who set the match to Ini's enthusiasm and it was his wise and sympathetic guidance which launched the Brotherhood on the lines which it has followed. I am told that Steward himself at one time wished to form a Brotherhood of priests who should build their monastery in the most savage part of Malaita, and often talked the project over with my informant. Later on, when Ini came to him, he welcomed his scheme as a thing after his own heart. There is no need to add much to what he himself has written on the subject. The Brothers, whose numbers far exceed those of the little band which their Bishop left behind him when he had to say goodbye to Melanesia, follow a rule very [16/17] similar in essentials to the Franciscan and are missionaries to their own people. They have attracted to themselves a considerable body of Companions, Melanesian men and women who follow ordinary occupations but are bound by rules of prayer and service to support thee community. Ini Kopuria has now been ordained Deacon and one Englishman has joined the Order. This is a development of the first importance in the history of our communion overseas and a proof that the native convert has a real contribution to make to the life of the Church. A native evangelist can travel more quickly and with less impedimenta than a European, doors are open to him which no white man can enter, but at the same time he encounters greater risks, he may be looked upon with hatred as a renegade and he is less protected than a white man. Melanesians do not travel far beyond their own island and find themselves strangers in a foreign land when they leave their native region.

It always annoyed Steward to hear people say that the native Melanesian was getting mercenary, that he was reluctant to pay his Church dues and was apt to demand a high rate of salary as a teacher. He maintained that if he was niggardly it was because we had taught him to be so and that generosity was a native virtue which the white man did not appreciate. It was a bold thing to ask, not merely for punctuality in the payment of a few pence in return for religious privileges, but for literally everything a man can give. The Melanesians responded to the challenge, because they recognised in their Bishop a man who treated them like men, who believed in them and shewed that he trusted them. Ini, the native ex-policeman, made his vow in these words--"Trinity All Holy, from to-day until the hour of my death I promise three things, I give myself and my land, together with all that is mine to Thee. I will take no payment from the Mission for the work to which Thou sendest me. I will remain Thy celibate always till my death." The words and the intention [17/18] were his own, but, as the short history of the Brothers published in 1935 bears witness, Ini and the Brotherhood owe more than can be estimated to the insight and wisdom of their Bishop and to his self-effacing direction in their early days. Self-effacement and willingness to trust others were characteristics of the man. As Bishop of his diocese he believed strongly in synodical government and had the greatest dislike of the practically autocratic position too often assumed by Bishops in scattered sees like his. I have been told that he was at his best as chairman of his Synod, patient with everyone yet firm in his ruling. His dream of an Oceanic Province was based on the same principle--that in order to get the best results you must trust the men on the spot; it may have involved difficulties in New Zealand of which I know nothing, to an outside observer it seems an obvious step in the development of the Church in the Pacific. I think its rejection was a bitter disappointment to him.

Steward gave a great deal of thought to the Pacific, that vast ocean covering practically half our world space. He read about it, dreamed about it and wrote about it and his view-point was not that of an Englishman at home, to whom the whole Pacific is distant and remote, nor of an Englishman who lives in the islands but necessarily sees them first and foremost in terms of commerce or of western politics. He looked through native eyes and visualised the Pacific problem as something affecting, and partly governed by, the character of the peoples who have always inhabited the lands where he made his temporary home. It would not be worth while to print his essay on the Pacific here, much of it refers to circumstances which are already out of date.

He believed that the hegemony of the Pacific was likely to be in the future a prize whose possession would lead to war and that the Power which has command of the Pacific would rule the world. He believed in the [18/19] political importance of the Islands of the Pacific--"they command the commercial highways, they are rich in natural harbours, they are full of possibilities for tropical trade." He was under no illusion about the natives' love for the white man, English or continental, and he believed that in the event of a war with an Asiatic Power the natural sense of affinity with a race of similar colour would very likely, bring about a state of affairs in which no white man's life would be safe, for only a minority of the South Sea islanders are Christian nor is the record of their contact with the West in every respect a pleasant one.

I suspect it was this line of thought which led him to develop his favourite project of an Island Province, a project doomed to receive a far from favourable reception in the Missionary world. As set out in his papers it was roughly as follows:

Steward found himself in charge of a single diocese, started years ago, as so many of our Anglican dioceses have been, as a more or less private venture, a self-contained unit attached to Missionary Boards in New Zealand and Australia and to a great extent governed by a joint Board of A.B.M. and N.Z.B.M.* [Footnote: See next paragraph] To this distant and remote body he had to resort from time to time, and in their hands was the direction of the affairs of the diocese. The sort of question about which he [19/20] needed guidance was the respective qualifications of native and European clergy, the right proportion of one to the other, methods of education in view of rapidly changing conditions, disputes between native and trader or Government official, English or Continental, method of electing a Bishop and the like. In all these matters his instinct was to govern synodically, that is to take counsel with his priests on the spot who were handling the problems every day and knew the practical difficulties. Melanesia itself was too small a unit for the purpose but on either side of him were other Island dioceses faced with similar conditions, specially with the perennial problem of the relation between the native and the European settler. "As civilisation spreads," he writes, "this burden is going to get too great for the shoulders of any one Bishop. How often one [20/21] wonders how they deal with this kind of case in New Guinea." His desire was to link together, into one Province, under a Metropolitan of their own, the scattered portions of the Island Church. They could then, he believed, evolve a common policy, achieve a greater measure of that unity which makes for strength, and lay the foundations of a great South Sea Island Church which might be a bulwark against anarchy in possibly troublous times ahead. Here is his outline of a possible Province of six dioceses. (1) The Islands of The Bismark Archipelago; (2) Buka, Bougainville, Vella Lavella, New Georgia and perhaps Ysabel; (3) Guadalcanar, Florida, Mala, San Cristoval, Rennel and Bellona, Santa Cruz and Reef groups, Utupua and Vanikoro, Sikyana, Cherry Island and Tikopia; (4) The Torres and Banks Islands and the New Hebrides; (5) The Gilbert, Ellice, Phoenix and Union Groups, together with Fanning and Christmas Islands, a vast and sparsely populated district that can hardly be associated with any other group; (6) Figi, Samoa, the Friendly, Cook, Society and Marquesas with other little islands now administered by New Zealand. Figi, the seat of government in the Western Pacific and the most civilised portion of these Islands should, he believed, be the administrative centre of the Province.

[Footnote from above: [19 note] *George Augustus Selwyn was consecrated by Archbishop Howley in 1841 as Bishop of New Zealand, with an additional commission, expressed in very vague geographical terms, "to extend the knowledge of the gospel to the Isles of the Pacific." Thus the work in Melanesia started from New Zealand. Selwyn saw that a Bishop was necessary for the new Melanesian Mission and John Coleridge Patteson was chosen for the post, Norfolk Island, then in the diocese of Tasmania, and the home of the Pitcairn Islanders, being taken as a centre for training Melanesians to become teachers to their own people. For some thirty years the missionaries returned to Norfolk Island every year and spent their furlough in New Zealand; but as [19n/20n] circumstances changed many of them took to remaining in the Islands for three or four years without a break and might spend a long period of service without visiting New Zealand at all.

In 1919 the Bishop ceased to have a home in Norfolk Island and resided in the Islands, and as the Bishops of Melanesia came less and less in touch with the Bishops of New Zealand the traditional connection with that country lost reality. Steward's feeling about this question may be given in his own words--"The little Church of Melanesia began to feel its personal existence and must be forgiven if it seems to desire to take the reins into its own hands . . . Institutions and human beings are much alike, to both there comes a time when the child begins to resent the parent's control. With both this is a time of difficulty, but mutual love and forbearance should prevent a quarrel which cannot but be disastrous to both."

The expansion and intensification of the work inevitably drew the strategic centre of the Mission into the heart of the Islands, until the Bishop, from being a resident in New Zealand, became only an occasional visitor to that country. At the same time, as the burden of the work increased and fresh problems kept on arising, Steward felt a growing sense of isolation from the greater world, and a strong desire for intercourse and exchange of ideas with other Island Dioceses.] [end of footnote]

[21] This, we must agree, is an ambitious dream, probably beyond the bounds of practical politics at present, most likely very annoying to the conservative members of the A.B.M. and N.Z.B.M., but it is not a bad thing for the Church to have servants who are not afraid to dream.

Steward's intuitions were generally sound though his advocacy may not always have been skilful.

During the last nine years of his life Steward left one with the impression of a man who spent much of his time beaming benevolently in an armchair, avoiding exercise like the plague, well content to potter about, [21/22] to read books with his feet on the fender, to play with children, who adored him, or to amuse himself after the manner of old sailors the world over by making model ships. His burly and robust appearance made one forget that he had spent twenty-five strenuous years not far from the Equator. There is no doubt that Melanesia broke his health and that the conditions of his work sowed the seeds of the malady from which he died.--"A great man and a saint, if ever I knew one," was the verdict of a friend who ministered to him at the last.


Project Canterbury