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Life of John Coleridge Patteson: Missionary Bishop of the Melanesian Islands
by Charlotte Mary Yonge
There are of course peculiar advantages as well as disadvantages in endeavouring to write the life of one recently departed. On the one hand, the remembrances connected with him are far fresher; his contemporaries can he consulted, and much can be made matter of certainty, for which a few years would have made it necessary to trust to hearsay or probable conjecture. On the other, there is necessarily much more reserve; nor are the results of the actions, nor even their comparative importance, so clearly discernible as when there has been time to ripen the fruit.
These latter drawbacks are doubled when the subject of the biography has passed away in comparatively early life: when the persons with whom his life is chiefly interwoven are still in full activity; and when he has only lived to sow his seed in many waters, and has barely gathered any portion of his harvest.
Thus what I have written of Bishop Patteson, far more what I have copied of his letters, is necessarily only partial, although his nearest relations and closest friends have most kindly permitted the full use of all that could build up a complete idea of the man as he was. Many letters relate to home and family matters, such as it would be useless and impertinent to divulge; and yet it is necessary to mention that these exist, because without them we might not know how deep was the lonely man's interest and sympathy in all that concerned his kindred and friends. Other letters only repeat the narrative or the reflections given elsewhere; and of these, it has seemed best only to print that which appeared to have the fullest or the clearest expression. In general, the story is best told in letters to the home party; while thoughts are generally best expressed in the correspondence with Sir John Taylor Coleridge, to whom the Nephew seems to have written with a kind of unconscious carefulness of diction. There is as voluminous a correspondence with the Brother, and letters to many Cousins; but as these either repeat the same adventures or else are purely domestic, they have been little brought forward, except where any gap occurred in the correspondence which has formed the staple material.
Letters upon the unhappy Maori war have been purposely omitted; and, as far as possible, such criticisms on living personages as it seemed fair towards the writer to omit. Criticisms upon their publications are of course a different thing. My desire has been to give enough expression of Bishop Patteson's opinions upon Church and State affairs, to represent his manner of thinking, without transcribing every detail of remarks, which were often made upon an imperfect report, and were, in fact, only written down, instead of spoken and forgotten, because correspondence served him instead of conversation.
I think I have represented fairly, for I have done my best faithfully to select passages giving his mind even where it does not coincide completely with my own opinions; being quite convinced that not only should a biographer never attempt either to twist or conceal the sentiments of the subject, but that either to apologise for, or as it were to argue with them, is vain in both senses of the word.
The real disadvantage of the work is my own very slight personal acquaintance with the externals of the man, and my ignorance of the scenes in which the chief part of his life was passed. There are those who would have been far more qualified in these respects than myself, and, above all, in that full and sympathetic masculine grasp of a man's powerful mind, which is necessarily denied to me. But these fittest of all being withheld by causes which are too well known to need mention, I could only endeavour to fulfil the work as best I might; trusting that these unavoidable deficiencies may be supplied, partly by Coleridge Patteson's own habit of writing unreservedly, so that he speaks for himself, and partly by the very full notes and records with which his friends have kindly supplied me, portraying him from their point of view; so that I could really trust that little more was needed than ordinary judgment in connecting and selecting. Nor until the work is less fresh from my hand will it be possible to judge whether I have in any way been allowed to succeed in my earnest hope and endeavour to bring the statue out of the block, and as it were to carve the figure of the Saint for his niche among those who have given themselves soul and body to God's Work.
It has been an almost solemn work of anxiety, as well as one of love. May I only have succeeded in causing these letters and descriptions to leave a true and definite impression of the man and of his example!
Let me here record my obligations for materials--I need hardly say to the immediate family and relations--for, in truth, I act chiefly as their amanuensis; but likewise to the Bishop of Lichfield, Bishop Abraham.
Lady Martin, the Rev. B. T. Dudley, the Rev. E. Codrington, and Captain Tilly, for their valuable aid--the two first mentioned by correction and revision, the others by contributions such as could only be supplied by eye-witnesses and fellow-workers. Many others I must thank for kindly supplying me with letters.
CHARLOTTE MARY YONGE. ELDERFIELD, September 19, 1873.
CHILDHOOD AT HOME AND AT SCHOOL, 1827-1838.
So much of a man's cast of character depends upon his home and parentage, that no biography can be complete which does not look back at least as far as the lives of the father and mother, from whom the disposition is sure to be in part inherited, and by whom it must often be formed. Indeed, the happiest natures are generally those which have enjoyed the full benefit of parental training without dictation, and have been led, but not forced, into the way in which they should go.
Therefore it will not be irrelevant to dwell on the career of the father whose name, though still of great weight in his own profession, may not be equally known to the younger generation who have grown up since the words 'Mr. Justice Patteson' were of frequent occurrence in law reports.
John Patteson, father of the subject of the present memoir, was son to a clergyman of a Norfolk family, and was born at Coney Weston, on February 11, 1790. He was educated at Eton, and there formed more than one friendship, which not only lasted throughout his life, but extended beyond his own generation. Sport and study flourished alike among such lads as these; and while they were taught by Dr. Groodall to delight in the peculiarly elegant and accurate scholarship which was the characteristic of the highest education of their day, their boyhood and youth were full of the unstained mirth that gives such radiance to recollections of the past, and often causes the loyalty of affectionate association to be handed on to succeeding generations. The thorough Etonian impress, with all that it involved, was of no small account in his life, as well as in that of his son.
The elder John Patteson was a colleger, and passed on to King's College, Cambridge, whence, in 1813, he came to London to study law. In 1816 he opened his chambers as a special pleader, and on February 23, 1818, was married to his cousin, Elizabeth Lee, after a long engagement. The next year, 1819, he was called to the Bar, and began to go the Northern circuit. On April 3, 1820, Mrs. Patteson died, leaving one daughter, Joanna Elizabeth. Four years later, on April 22, 1824, Mr. Patteson married Frances Duke Coleridge, sister of his friend and fellow-barrister, John Taylor Coleridge. This lady, whose name to all who remember her calls up a fair and sweet memory of all that was good, bright, and beloved, was the daughter of James Coleridge, of Heath's Court, Ottery St. Mary, Devon, Colonel of the South Devon Volunteers. He was the eldest of the numerous family of the Rev. John Coleridge, Master of Ottery St. Mary School, and the poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, was the youngest.
The strong family affection that existed between all Colonel Coleridge's children, and concentrated itself upon the only sister among them, made marriage with her an adoption into a group that could not fail to exercise a strong influence on all connected with it, and the ties of kindred will be found throughout this memoir to have had peculiar force.
John Coleridge Patteson, his mother's second child and eldest son, was born at No. 9, Grower Street, Bedford Square, on the 1st of April, 1827, and baptized on the 8th. Besides the elder half-sister already mentioned, another sister, Frances Sophia Coleridge, a year older than, and one brother, James Henry, nearly two years younger than Coleridge, made up the family.
Three years later, in 1830, Mr. Patteson was raised to the Bench, at the unusually early age of forty.
It is probable that there never was a period when the Judicial Bench could reckon a larger number of men distinguished not only for legal ability but for the highest culture and for the substantial qualities that command confidence and respect. The middle of the nineteenth century was a time when England might well be proud of her Judges.
There was much in the habits of the Bench and Bar to lead to close and friendly intimacy, especially on the circuits. When legal etiquette forbade the use of any public conveyance, and junior barristers shared post-chaises, while the leaders travelled in their own carriages, all spent a good deal of time together, and it was not unusual for ladies to go a great part of the circuit with their husbands, especially when it lay in the direction of their own neighbourhood. The Judges' families often accompanied them, especially at the summer assize, and thus there grew up close
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