Project Canterbury

Frank, Bishop of Zanzibar
by H. Maynard Smith

London: SPCK, 1926.

WHENCE was his Faith? A rushing mighty Wind
First hurled her fierce infections among men.
Why flamed she thus? Faith had her flame-tongues then
At Pentecost to rouse the deaf and blind:
But we, inoculating heart and mind
With spilth of pulpit and with spray of pen,
Shiver, immune from Faith's contagion, when
Serving the Son of Man we serve mankind.
Not so he served. For him Emmanuel glow'd
In gleaming Hosts: in faces dark and wild
The Burning Babe of Bethlehem on him smil'd:
The Christ, Faith hides from us, to him she shew'd--
To him converted, him become a child--
A Black Christ bowed beneath a Heart-Break load.



FRANK WESTON was sensitive and winced under criticism: he was also modest and hated praise. He was very conscious of his own failures, and hoped that they would be buried in his grave. He did not overestimate his achievements, and certainly did not think them worthy of record. He forbade anyone to write his Life, or even to print an obituary notice about him.

In the other world I hope he will forgive my disregarding his wishes, and understand that, however natural those wishes were, he was wrong. He was asking an impossibility when he asked to be forgotten.

A man who lived so much in the public eye must expect to be discussed, both when he is alive and after he is dead; but the value of the discussion will depend on accurate information; and, in a world of gossip and exaggeration, it is best that the truth should be told, not only for the sake of the person discussed, but for the sake of the causes to which he devoted his life.

Secondly, none of us are good judges of our own conduct; and even Frank's adversaries would attribute more importance to his actions than he did himself. He would have said that he had only done what he was bound in conscience to do, and that as far as he could see he had failed. We see that what he did will continue to have consequences for good or ill, and think that care should be taken, lest some men in the future should follow a corrupt tradition.

Thirdly, Frank did not live for himself but for others. He devoted his whole life to God, and to God's African children. He died penniless in a native house, little better than a hut, but he left the story of his life as a rich legacy behind him; and it is our duty that the legacy should be preserved intact. His friends treasure his memory, and would have others share in what to them is a priceless possession.

Lastly, Frank was drawn to the priesthood by reading the Life of Father Mackonochie, and he acquired his first missionary ideals from reading the Life of Bishop Steere. May not his own life be an inspiration to others, and in the providence of God the means of bringing to Africa another Saint?

A case for a biography having been made out, the Mission asked me to write it. I had certain obvious qualifications. I had known the Bishop intimately for more than thirty years and had kept a great number of his letters. I knew several members of the staff, and was so able to tap sources of information. I was a member of the Committee of U.M.C.A. and in touch with the Office in Dartmouth Street. I had written several books; and, being a Canon, had time to write another. This, I may say, is my one and only biography.

On the other hand, my disqualifications are equally obvious. I have never been in East Africa, and cannot pretend to understand the African's point of view. In consequence, my book is for Europeans only, and not for African readers. I hope that soon some African priest will write in Swahili a Life of the Bishop. It should be an inspiration for the African Church in the future, and give to Africans a standard and an ideal for life and conduct.

Secondly, I am by nature more of a critic than a hero-worshipper, which disqualifies mje from writing that panegyric which Frank's admirers regard as his due-- but then I know how he would have hated it. By nature also I am of a cautious temperament, and perhaps in consequence unfitted to write the life of an impulsive enthusiast. I can only plead that, in spite of my temperament, I looked up to Frank with wonder and admiration.

Thirdly, Frank reached heights and plumbed depths of spiritual experience which are altogether beyond me. I cannot do justice to the Saint, but I hope I have shown that this Saint was human and lovable. It was upon the human level that we met; and it was because of his humanity that he called me friend.

Anyhow, notwithstanding my limitations, I undertook the work and have done my best. It has been by no means an easy task; and I am afraid that those who were good enough to give me advice will not be satisfied. They were all very eager and positive as to the book which ought to be written, and also about what might be omitted; but unfortunately they did not agree.

One wrote: 'In the Life of Bishop Weston you have a splendid opportunity for writing an apologia of Anglo-Catholicism, and of illustrating its aims.' Another wrote: 'We don't want to hear about the Denominational Squadron-Leader of the Church of England, but of the real soldier-man of flaming indiscretions, who withstood all those who would enslave Africa.' Another wrote: 'Please do not waste space over his theological controversies and political squabbles about Labour; but give us a picture of the Great Pastor, who loved and shepherded souls.' Another wrote: 'The Diocese of Zanzibar has made great progress under Bishop Weston's episcopate, and it should be your first aim to illustrate this.'

My four correspondents will all be disappointed. I have not written either an ecclesiastical tract or a political pamphlet. Neither have I written an Aid to Devotion, nor a Diocesan History. I have only written the Life of a man. Throughout the book I have kept my eyes on him, have tried to make him manifest to others, and have tried to interpret him for those who have hitherto misunderstood his conduct. I hope my book will not stir up again old controversies or lead to recriminations. I have tried to be fair to the Bishop's opponents, and to those with whom I also disagree. Without concealing my own views, I have written in the belief that peace cometh by understanding.

The book has entailed a vast amount of correspondence, and I am very grateful to all who have answered my letters, supplied me with information, and helped me by criticism.

First I would thank those who have helped me throughout the book: his mother, brother, sister, and niece--their kindness, sympathy, and forbearance have never failed; the Office, which has lent me twenty-six volumes of Central Africa and The Annual Reports; Archdeacon Mackay, Canon Spanton, and Miss D. Y. Mills, who have corrected each chapter as written, and saved me from many errors. Canon Spanton has also read the proofs. Miss Abdy, Miss Atwool, and Miss Choveaux have provided me with translations from Swahili, and many reminiscences; the Treasurer, Mr. F. B. Palmer, has more than once searched the files of the Church Times, and so provided me with much information.

Next on special points I would thank: the Rev. A. S. Cripps for allowing me to reprint his sonnet, and for other help; the Bishop of Grantham and Dr. Howard for notes; Miss Voules for her two stories; the Dean of Canterbury for special help with regard to the Lambeth Conference; Mr. J. H. Oldham for special help in regard to 'Forced Labour.'

For information about Frank's childhood I am indebted to his family.

For information about his schooldays I am indebted to Colonel Hindley, M.C., M.D., to Sir Arthur Hirtzel, K.C.B., Mr. R. G. Routh, and the present Headmaster of Dulwich.

For information about Oxford I am indebted to Dr. Robert Howard, Professor Lofthouse, Mr. H. B. Shepheard, Mr. W. Muir, and Mr. H. O. Daniels.

For information about Stratford I am indebted to Dr. Howard, the Rev. Hugh Legge, Mr. E. Potter, Mr. B. C. Rayner, Mr. T. Gooding.

For information about St. Matthew's I am indebted to the Rev. W. B. Trevelyan, the Rev. H. E. Simpson, the Ven. Guy Hockley, Archdeacon of Truro, and the Rev. Canon Atlay.

I have to thank the following among the past and present members of the Mission: the Bishop of Grantham, the Bishop of Zanzibar; Archdeacon Mackay, Archdeacon Douglas, and Archdeacon Swainson; Canon Dale, Canon Pearse, Canon Spanton, Canon Travers; the Rev. H. A. Keates, the Rev. Father Cyril Whit-worth, S.S.M., the Rev. T. Vickers, the Rev. P. M. Wathen, the Rev. Raymond Adam; Dr. Howard and Mr. McLean; the Rev. Mother, C.S.P.; Sister Frances, C.S.P.; Sister Marjorie, C.S.P.; Miss Abdy, Miss Atwool, Miss Choveaux, Miss Mills, Miss Voules, Mrs. Vickers.

I have to thank the following residents in Zanzibar: Mr. J. H. Sinclair, C.M.G., Mr. H. A. Mitchell, Mr. B. C. Johnstone, Dr. Copland, and Mr. Bland.

For affairs at home I have to thank the Archbishop of Canterbury, who, with his multitudinous engagements, has kindly written me five letters; the Primus of Scotland, the Bishop of Durham, the Bishop of Winchester, the Bishop of Hereford, the Bishop of Worcester, the Bishop of Manchester, the Bishop of Nassau; Bishop Chavasse, Bishop Gore, and Bishop Talbot; the Dean of Canterbury; Mr. J. H. Oldham, Mr. F. B. Palmer, Dr. Leys; the Editor of The Green Quarterly, and others.

Feast of S. Theodore of Canterbury, 1926.

Project Canterbury