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Fiji and the Fijians 1835-1856

II. missionary manuscripts

II. missionary manuscripts

The information given in the body of my book is based upon a study of a large number of important original documents in the archives of the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society, Bishopsgate, London; the Mitchell Library in Sydney; the Admiralty Annexe at Cornwall House; the Record Office; and the Roman Catholic mission station at Sumi in the island of Rotumah.

The most complete and valuable collection is the one in the possession of the Methodist Missionary Society in London. It ranges over the years from 1835 to 1856—the great missionary period in Fiji—with a few letters and reports in 1857. It includes general reports from the District Meetings in Fiji, some of which are missing; special reports from each of the mission centres—Lakemba, Rewa, Vewa, Somosomo, Nandy (Vanua Levu), Mbua Bay and Mbau; letters page 319(with extracts from their journals) and reports from William Cross, David Cargill, John Hunt, James Calvert, Thomas Jaggar, Dr R. B. Lyth, Thomas Williams, John Watsford, David Hazlewood, John Malvern, William Moore, John Polglase, Joseph Waterhouse, Samuel Waterhouse, John Smith Fordham, William Wilson, and W. Collis, teacher at Lakemba. The most important of the letters and reports are those written by David Cargill, John Hunt, Dr Lyth, Thomas Williams. These men were in Fiji in the very early years; they remained long enough to correct first impressions, and they had a seeing eye that looked into detail. James Calvert is the most voluminous writer and his letters and reports are valuable, but more as a running commentary on events than an analysis of the customs, institutions, beliefs and character of the Fijians. There is one serious defect in this collection of documents at Bishopsgate: the number of outgoing letters to Fiji and Tonga is disappointingly small. But it is a very valuable collection, and I cannot see how any authoritative work on the history of Fiji in the transition period can be compiled without making use of it. I have not actually counted the number of original documents in the Bishopsgate collection; but I have an impression that it is not less than a thousand; and every one of them was written under a sense of responsibility.

The collection in the Mitchell Library in Sydney comes next in importance. It is different in character from the collection in Bishopsgate. There is more material for a study of the life and work of Dr R. B. Lyth and Thomas Williams than is to be found in the Methodist Missionary Society collection, and it includes a large number of private letters of both Lyth and Williams which are very valuable. The letters written by Thomas Williams to his father in Horncastle are more numerous, lengthy and even more valu-page 320able than the letters and reports he addressed to the Committee in London. The journals of Lyth, Williams and Hazlewood are in this collection too. A list of the Mitchellian manuscripts relating to the history of Fiji in this period includes: R. b. lyth: Journal 1836-54, 9 vols; Day-books, 3 vols; notes on Fijian Customs; Tongan and Fijian reminiscences, 4 vols; notes on Fiji in Fijian; sketches of John Hunt and Fijian chiefs; district returns for 1854; circuit returns from 1850; personal account book; translation of the Bible in Fijian, 3 vols; short record of events, 1837-59; index to Lyth manuscripts; miscellaneous papers chiefly in Fijian, notes on grammar, etc. There is also a short diary by Mrs Lyth 1836-8. thomas williams: Journal, 2 vols; letters to and by Thomas Williams, 1832-59, 4 vols; letters by Thomas Williams to his father, 1839-43; account book 1839-57, 2 vols; short account of the translation of the Bible into the Fijian language; miscellaneous notes, chiefly concerning Fiji and the Fijians, 1843-52, 3 vols; sketch book; Somosomo Quarterly Letter; major portion of the manuscript of the first volume of Fiji and the Fijians; copy of Fiji and the Fijians interleaved with manuscript corrections and additions; index rerum; account of the Wesleyan mission in Fiji; note books; trade account book, 1843-51; translations, mostly printed. david cargill: Grammar of the Fijian language. david hazlewood: Journal, 1843-4 and 1846-50, 3 vols, john hunt: Journal, 1839-41. james watkin: Journals, 1830—, 2 vols. williams and barrff: Journal of a voyage undertaken by, for the purpose of introducing Christianity among the Feejees and Samoas, 1830 (2 copies).

A number of original documents relating to the progress of the Roman Catholic mission in Rotumah have been preserved, and were in the possession of Father Griffon when I visited the island in 1928. I was informed before leaving page 321Fiji that they would probably be transferred to the church at Thawathi in Ovalau where the Roman Catholic archives of the archipelago are stored. I had expected to find at Thawathi some manuscripts of the priests stationed at Lakemba from 1844 to 1855, but was informed that there were none, and that it was possible a few might be preserved at the headquarters of the mission in Rome.