FRANCIS GARDINER was the fifth son of Samuel Gardiner, Esq., of Coombe Lodge, in the county of Oxford. He was born on the 28th of June 1794, at Basildon, Berks. where his parents were residing, while building Coombe Lodge.
There are few traditions of his boyhood left to us, but it is known that lie was carefully trained in the principles of religion, and in after-life he was deeply sensible of the blessing afforded him in having God-fearing parents. He very early chose the navy as his profession, and, while a mere child, exercised his ingenuity in drawing plans for cutting the French fleet out of Rochelle harbour. He copied a small vocabulary out of Mungo Park's Travels, which he imagined might be turned to account in view of future explorations, and on one occasion was found asleep on the floor, when he ought to have teen in bed, giving as his reason when aroused, that it was his intention to travel all over the world, and that he therefore wished to accustom himself to hardships, all which incidents, though trifling, show how decided was the bent of his mind for travel and adventure.
He entered the Naval College at Portsmouth on the 13th of February 1808, and remained there two years, during which time he received much kindness from the Commissioner of the Dockyard, Sir George Grey, and from Lady Grey, whom he regarded throughout life as a second mother. Her letters and advice at a later period were of much use to him.
He first went to sea as a volunteer in the Fortune, Captain Vansittart, on the 20th of June 1810, at Plymouth, and removed to the Phoebe, Captain Hillyar, at the Isle of France, in March of the following year. He served in this ship as midshipman till August 1814, when, having distinguished himself in the action between the Phoebe and the Essex, off Valparaiso, he was one of the officers selected to be put in charge of the prize, and was sent home in the Essex, as acting lieutenant.
In 1815 we find him serving as lieutenant in the Ganymede, then cruising in the Channel; and in 1819 he joined the Leander, carrying the flag of Rear-Admiral Sir Henry Blackwood, and sailed to the Cape of Good Hope, and thence to Trincomalee. The following year he exchanged into the Dauntless, Captain the Hon. Valentyn Gardner, and sailed to Madras, Penang, Malacca, Singapore, Manilla, and Macao. Here some of the merchants having applied to the admiral to allow a ship of war to fetch a cargo of specie from the Pacific, the Dauntless was detached for that service, and returned to Trincomalee. There she was refitted, and her captain having retired in ill-health, Captain Gambier took the command, and sailed to Port Jackson, and thence to Chili and Peru. Returning to China, they touched at the Marquesas and at Tahiti. On arriving at Sydney, Allen Gardiner invalided from the ship, and took passage to the Cape of Good Hope; from whence, after a short delay, he sailed to England, and landed at Portsmouth on the 31st of October 1822.
His sketch-books and journals give ample and interesting accounts of his rambles and adventures in the various countries above enumerated, for he was always able to obtain leave of absence for some excursion, and his pen was equally ready for description or for sketching.
His connexion with the Dauntless marks a memorable era in his life, for it includes the time in which he steadily set his face toward the service of God, and in which he began to take that deep interest in favour of the aborigines of South America, and especially of Chili, which never afterwards left him. It was on this voyage, moreover, that he made his first acquaintance with missionaries, and had an opportunity of acquainting himself with the effect of their labours at Singapore, and again at Tahiti.
From this time we have, in addition to the journals before mentioned, a series of sacred meditations, written at intervals, chiefly on Sundays, and extending over a period of nearly thirty years. A few extracts shall be given, but only so far as is deemed necessary to illustrate the character, and show the actuating motives of a man whose conduct was before the world:--
"Cape Town, August 1822.--The last time I visited this colony, I was walking in the broad way, and hastening by rapid strides to the brink of eternal ruin. Blessed be His name who loved us, and gave Himself for us; a great change has been wrought in my heart, and I am now enabled to derive pleasure and satisfaction in hearing and reading the Word of God, and in attending the means of grace. I trust that this alteration has, indeed, been effected by the Spirit of God; yet I would not pause a moment to draw the contrast, except to give praise and gratitude to its merciful Author, lest I should he drawn into the fatal snare of presumptuous self-confidence; hut, adoring my God for His goodness in not having consigned my soul long ago to the terrors of His indignation, I would carefully examine my heart as to the sincerity of its professions, and humbly implore at the throne of grace pardon for all that is past, and assistance to guide and strengthen me for the time to come."
"At Sea, September 1822.--If Christians are in the main more culpable than Jews, how much must they have to answer for who have, like Timothy, been taught the Holy Scriptures from their childhood, and yet have despised their contents? Such are the aggravated sins which, if unpardoned, must weigh my guilty soul to the lowest hell. What return shall I make to the Lord for so early, so unmerited a display of His goodness. Alas, how slow, how reluctant have I been to admit the heavenly Guest, who stood knocking without! Nor had He ever been admitted, had He not Himself prepared the way. And how is He now entertained? Too frequently am I ashamed to acknowledge the Hand that was stretched out for my relief, to own the Word that warned me on the brink of ruin, or to he seen supplicating that assistance by which alone I can he prevented from stumbling over the dreadful abyss. Is this religion? Is this love to God? Is such my usual conduct when warned of any temporal danger?" i; About this time he had seriously in mind to change his profession, and had some communication with the Bishop of Gloucester on the subject of taking holy orders, but his ultimate decision was founded on the words of St Paul, "Let every man wherein he is called therein abide with God.'
On July 1, 1823, he was married to Julia Susanna, daughter of John Reade, Esq., of Ipsden House, Oxfordshire, and in the following year was again called to active service in his profession, as second lieutenant to H.M.S. Jupiter, in January 1824, and a few months later sailed for Newfoundland. On May 30, 1825, he was put in charge of E.M.B. Clinker, and remained in command of that vessel till he received orders to bring her to England, when he obtained his promotion as commander, September 13, 1826; but though he retained his early fondness for the service, and often applied for employment, he was never after this period actively engaged in it.
Captain and Mrs Gardiner lived successively at Maidenhead, Clifton, Southsea, Reading, and at Swanmore House, near Droxford, removing from place to place as his roving disposition and her delicate health gave occasion. Five children were given them, two of whom survive their parents. Wherever they went, the welfare of the poor was an object of interest to them both, and their memory is still dear to many persons. The various religious societies found an advocate in Captain Gardiner, and he once or twice accompanied his brother-in-law, the Rev. T. Woodrooffe, Canon of Winchester, in a tour for the Church Missionary Society. At length, Mrs Gardiner's increasing illness induced them in the year 1833 to remove to the Isle of Wight, in the hope of arresting consumption; but she gradually declined, and died full of hope and peace on May 23, 1834,--a day the anniversary of which was devoted by her husband to fasting and humiliation to the end of his life. He writes:--
"Ramsgate, June 29, 1834.--Within the last twelve months the Lord in His wisdom has seen fit to take from me a beloved child and a tender and affectionate wife. My earthly comforts have been removed, and I pass my days in sorrow. Blessed be God! He remembers that we are but dust. In my deep affliction, He has not left me without mercy and great sources of comfort. The chief of these is drawn from a review of the manifold grace and love which He vouchsafed to my dearest wife, making her last days the brightest and happiest of her life. Oh, what assurance of pardon, what joy, and peace, and heavenly tranquillity, and ardent desire to be with her Saviour, did He infuse into her soul! He has prepared her for the enjoyment of His love, and is now filling her happy spirit with all the fulness of His grace and glory. Tasting, as I do, that the Lord is gracious, and feeling somewhat of His redeeming love to my soul, my spirit exults in her blessedness. It is only my earthly affections that weep, and would call her back. Such hope have I likewise, blessed be the Lord our Righteousness, in the departure of my dear child, who is now, I doubt not, with her sainted parent. I sorrow not as those who have no hope, but have every encouragement to make my calling and election sure, that I like them may enter into rest."
From this time he devoted himself afresh to the service of God, and with all the force of his strong character, set himself upon a new course. As a work into which he might throw his whole energy, and might hope, under the divine blessing, to be of some use in the world, he chose that of a missionary pioneer. With this view he went to Africa, and explored the Zulu country, and started the first missionary station at Port Natal. A few years later, he devoted many months to an attempt to obtain entrance into New Guinea. He went from island to island of the Indian Archipelago, and from governor to magistrate, and from magistrate to governor, but all his efforts were baffled. Our limits will not allow us to follow him into any of these countries, but we shall proceed to trace out his various explorations in the continent of South America, and to record the triumph of faith on the shore of Tierra del Fuego, prefacing the narrative with the following solemn words of self-dedication and prayer, at the beginning of his missionary work:--
"Barque Wellington, at Sea, Nov. 11, 1834.--We are now, by the good hand of our God upon us, within one day's sail of our destination; and as it is my earnest desire to take nothing in hand without seeking the aid and guidance of the Holy Spirit, I purpose to set this day solemnly apart for fasting and prayer, in the full expectation that the Lord will graciously attend to my cry, and make my path clear before me.
"O most holy and merciful Lord God, I beseech Thee to prepare my heart now for solemn prayer. Make me to feel abased in Thy sight for all my sins and provocations against Thee. No longer would I regard myself as my own, but bought with a price. Lord, make me cheerfully to give up all, and to follow Thee. Thou, Lord, hast put it into my heart to devote myself to the service of the heathen: oh that, if it be Thy will, I may be a humble instrument in Thy hand for good to their souls! But I am as unequal as I air unworthy to do Thee any service. I know, O Lord, that without Thee I can do nothing that is pleasing in Thy sight, but at the same time, I thankfully believe that with Thee all things are possible. As a little child, I would therefore come to Thee. Lord, undertake for me, prepare my way, incline the hearts of Thy people to further my errand. Show me clearly the path of duty. Lord, if it be not Thy will that I should go to the heathen, permit me not to deceive myself; but if otherwise, oh be Thou my Light, my Way, my Refuge. Direct me, O Lord, what I should do, to whom I should apply, and where I should go. If it is not from Thee, I desire not to go one step further. And I would plead before Thee Thy gracious promise, 'Come unto Me, all ye that are weary and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.' Lord, I am. laden with pride and selfishness. This is the sin which (Thou knowest) doth most easily beset me. It is my burden. Save me from its galling yoke, and bring me wholly to submit myself cheerfully to Thy yoke, which is indeed easy. Having put my hand to the plough, may I never turn back! May Thy strength be made perfect in my weakness!"
Having devoted his time and fortune for three years and more to the cause of the gospel at Port Natal, and in the Zulu country, he left South Africa on the breaking out of war between the Zulus and the emigrant Boers; but in doing so, it was his opinion that there were missionaries enough in the field to carry on the work, as soon as the restoration of peace should make it possible.
His mind naturally reverted to the Indians of the Pampas and of Chili, whose heroic maintenance of their own independence had, years before, excited his admiration, while their continued Paganism was in his view a standing reproach to the supineness of the Christian world.
Captain Gardiner married again in the month of October 1836. His second wife was the eldest daughter of the Rev. Edward Garrard Marsh, then of Hampstead, and afterwards vicar of Aylesford, Kent. For the next six years, she and his children were the companions of his wanderings, though he frequently left them for a time in some frontier town, while he extended his researches alone into the interior of the country. This kind of life involved, of course, some privations, but no one would pity the travellers who could have witnessed the happiness that was experienced in tent and waggon, the merry play that went on in pannier and palanquin, the health that was secured in the long sea voyages, or the thankfulness that was nurtured by the unfailing mercy and goodness which shielded them from every danger.