Maria's Diary 27
Happy the righteous! come what may,
Though heaven dissolve and earth decay;
Happy the righteous man for he
Belongs to immortality.
Papa continued to be unhappy about his life in Canton. He didn’t feel like he was achieving any of the goals he had been set. But then, the Governor of Hong Kong, Sir George Bonham, went on leave, and Papa was asked if he would step in for the period he was gone as Acting Governor which has no salary. He also was deputising as Plenipotentiary for Trade for Sir Bonham which was for the whole East region - including not only all of China, but Siam and Japan and the Phillipines and all the countries in between. That did have a salary, but only half what Sir Bonham was getting.
But that job was not to his liking either. He found out that the main decisions were made by someone else - the deputy-Governor, Major General Gervois. As he was frustrated and bored, he decided to go to Siam to try to organise a Trade Treaty with their King, who had been corresponding with him.
So they went on a war ship, fully manned, so that they looked powerful and intimidating, and taking John Charles along with him as his secretary, and a new man who had taken over his job of Consul in Canton, Harry Parkes. They had a wonderful trip, and came back with the sort of treaty that was just to everyone’s liking. So finally he had done something that he felt justified his time In China. I won’t write up the details of the trip, as he has done that himself, and I understand that Mr. Parkes has written up his version of it too.
I will put in a few things that John Charles told me about Canton that Papa probably won’t include in his writing. Mr. Parkes said, “I was asked to perform a wedding between one of Jardines tea tasters, Mr. John Williams and his girlfriend, Augusta Fisher.
"Courtings and weddings have hitherto been entirely unknown here. Everything here is so very public and we are so very close together, with doors and windows opening into each other’s houses, that the necessary retirement is not available. If you wish to make love, there is positively no place to do it in. You can never meet a young lady alone at home, and if you walk with her in the garden it must be in the face of 275 witnesses, the number of the whole community. How Williams therefore managed the business I can’t fathom." *
The other story was about the King of Siam’s lady teacher, who he was very enamoured with. She was an English lady, and she taught some of his many children, and him, no doubt. He had several wives, and John Charles doesn’t think she was his mistress, but not without him trying.
He brought back many gifts from the King, including some for him to give directly to Queen Victoria, which included a golden box containing five hairs from a sacred elephant. Although it sounds very odd, it was considered a very special gift.
When Papa got back from his trip which was lauded as a huge success, the Governor had returned, so he had to give up that part of his work. But he was allowed to continue working as Plenipotentiary. He found things in Hong Kong so unpleasant, and he had the fever many times, and came close to dying several times. So he asked for leave to go home, and to visit Java on the way, and it was granted to him.
He very much enjoyed his time in Java, visiting Jakarta, Bogor, Cirebon, Jogjakarta, the Borobudur temple and the Bromo volcano in east Java. He also went to Bangka, the tin-producing island near Singapore where most of the workers were Chinese. Not only did he appreciate Java’s beauty, but he said “The teeming population, the prolific soil, the excellent roads and fine harbours of Java give it advantages rarely enjoyed by any colonial possession plus the resources of Borneo and Sumatra.”
Things with us in Exeter had changed somewhat. Emily continues as teacher in the Grammar school, but I have been involved in the Ragged Schools. My friend York Stevenson and I became managers of the Ragged School, which, according to the newspaper article about it, “was the means of humanizing and giving instruction both secular and religious to some hundreds of children who could otherwise remain in utter ignorance and debasedness.” The article was appealing for support, since, as always, what we could do was impaired for want of funds.
The Ragged Schools started in Exeter in 1847, offering evening classes for both boys and girls aged 10-15. By 1848 a second school was opened called Free Evening school, but it was restricted to orphans and the absolute destitute.
By this time there were 300 students in the first school, so it changed to being a proper full time day school. In 1852, after I had recovered from my episode with the nuns, I felt able to apply for the full time teacher post which they were advertising, and I got the job, and from there went on to be part of the management of the school.
* John Williams was my late husband's great great uncle. (Jean)