Fiji and the Fijians 1835-1856
Chapter XII — language and literature
language and literature
It will be clear that the training of teachers was essential for the extension of the influence of Christianity throughout Fiji, and the Methodist missionaries deserve great credit for the zeal with which they applied themselves to it especially after 1849; but this was not the only way by which they hoped to exert a powerful and enduring influence on the whole of the people in the archipelago. Equally important in their opinion was the translation of the Scriptures into the Fijian language, and several other books needed for the interpretation of them. In many ways the missionaries had been assisted in their work of civilizing and christianizing the natives by other white men who visited or resided in Fiji; and for many of their trained teachers in the thirties and forties they had been dependent upon generous contributions from the Friendly Islands; but the credit for putting into the hands of the Fijians valuable, and helpful literature in their own language belongs exclusively to the Methodist missionaries. They and they alone settled the qualities and powers of the Fijian alphabet, translated the New and the Old Testaments, and prepared the best grammar and dictionary of the language that has yet appeared. Their main object in doing this was, of course, religious; but it also provided an intellectual stimulus which the natives sorely needed, not only for the development of their minds, but also to give more solid content to their evangelistic fervour and make it more enduring in its effects. The influence of the page 185translation of the Bible and especially the New Testament was far-reaching. In 1874 the natives of Fiji were definitely committed to the ways and usages of European civilization. It was fortunate that for many years they had been trained in the knowledge of a book which for centuries had exerted a stupendous influence on Christendom.
Much preparatory work was needed before the missionaries could venture on the task of translating the Bible: the quality and power of each letter of the alphabet had to be definitely agreed upon, and some familiarity with the genius and idiom of the language was indispensable. This was no easy task, and no reasonable person who has any acquaintance with the difficulty of rendering thoughts and feelings from one language into another would expect that their translation of the New Testament in 1847, after only twelve years residence in the archipelago, would be free from imperfections. John Hunt and David Hazlewood were the two missionaries to whom the credit chiefly belongs for the translation of the New and Old Testaments. The result of their labours has been both highly praised and contemptuously condemned. The writer of this book makes no pretence of a knowledge of the Fijian language sufficient to enable him to offer any independent judgment on the merits or demerits of their translations; but he is quite sure that one of the most unfavourable critics, Monseigneur Blanc, whose work on the Religious History of the Fijian Archipelago will come under review in the next chapter, is quite incapable of forming any unbiased opinion on any branch of the work of the Methodist missionaries in Fiji. He is also quite sure that John Hunt and David Hazlewood were capable students of language, and that the strain of carrying on their work of translating their respective portions of the Bible to a finish was the cause of the premature death of both of them.page 186
The visitor to Fiji will find himself intrigued with a few peculiarities of orthography the like of which he has probably never encountered in any other part of the world. As he approaches the entrance to Suva harbour he will pass an island called Mbengga which is written in Fijian books Beqa. Strolling past the Grand Pacific Hotel after his arrival he will notice a signpost near the entrance to the Botanic gardens on which is written Cakobau Road. That must be pronounced Thakombau, the name by which Tui Viti (King of Fiji) was commonly known. If he inquires further into these mysteries he will find that wherever the letters d and g occur in Fijian he must pronounce them as though they were preceded by the letter n in order to reproduce the nasal sound that is characteristic of Polynesian languages. There are other peculiarities to be mentioned later which admit of a more or less reasonable explanation; but unless the inquirer has seen some of the earliest records dealing with the history of the written language he will probably not solve the problem of Beqa and Cakobau. He will perhaps be told as I once was that the missionaries who printed the first books ran short of type, and had to do the best they could with the letters they had. But that is a mistake.
The men who are responsible for these orthographical peculiarities or conventions are David Cargill and William Cross the first two Methodist missionaries to arrive in Fiji. They taught the natives to read and write, and found after a little experience that their pupils had almost insuperable difficulty in pronouncing an English word in which two consonants came together. They displayed an irresistible tendency not only to put a vowel between them, but also to insert a consonant of their own in front of some of the consonants so separated. This led to such confusion that Cargill, who was chiefly responsible for this branch of the page 187mission work, decided to adopt the conventions already referred to. As this is a matter of importance it will be advantageous to quote what he says in his Grammar of the Fijian Language and also in a letter which he wrote to London on 31 December 1838.
This apparent peculiarity in the powers of the letters b, c, d, g, j and q is occasioned by the difficulty which the natives experience in enunciating two consonants without an intermediate vowel. For instance, if the letter m were to precede b in the Fijian word Lakemba, that would be generally pronounced Lakemaba, not Lakemba. To prevent, therefore, such inaccuracies as well as to retain simplicity in the orthography of the language, and facilitate the progress of the natives in spelling and reading it seemed necessary to attach to the letters of the alphabet these powers which they now possess. This arrangement affects the orthography of some of the foreign words which it is indispensably necessary to introduce into the Fijian language. Thus p is employed to express the sound of the English b and t that of d; e.g., the word papitaiso to baptize if written with a b would be pronounced by the natives 'mbapitaiso; David if the D were retained would be Ndevinda. It is better, therefore, in all foreign words which are introduced into the Fijian language to write p to express the sound of b, and t that of d than to mutilate words and encumber the language with an uncouth jargon.
In the letter to London after explaining the sound of each of the twenty-four letters of the Fijian alphabet he goes on to say "the sound mb is expressed by the letter b only. This arrangement tends to simplify the language; prevent confusion in the names of persons and places, and in other words which may be introduced, and to facilitate the progress of the natives in reading and spelling.… For a similar reason c is sounded as th in that; g as ng in King; and q as ng-ga; j is sometimes sounded as ch in church, as e.g., jini (chini) ten, Viji (Vichi) Feejee."
In a later letter dated 18 June 1839 Cargill makes a statement which will help the reader to understand a little page 188more clearly why these conventions were adopted: "We at first wrote two consonants where these compound sounds occur; but the natives could not pronounce the two consonants without putting a vowel between them. We, therefore, substituted a consonant for the two, and the natives were quite delighted with the improvement and joyfully exclaimed 'You have just now known the nature of our language. We are now able to read the books which you have written.' " "These consonants," he adds, "are never found at the termination, but invariably at the beginning of syllables and words, e.g., Lake-ba is Lake-mba, not Lakemba; Ndo-ndo-nu not don-do-nu; Ko-mbau not Kom-bau."
The student will observe that though Cargill called his book a Grammar of the Fijian Language, it was really a grammar of the Lau dialect only. Nevertheless nearly all the conventions he introduced were retained when the Mbau dialect was fixed upon for general use. They are still in use in the Fijian language, and sometimes find their way into books written for the general public outside Fiji.1
It was David Cargill's ambition to compile a Fijian grammar and dictionary, and to translate the whole of the New Testament into the native language before leaving page 189Lakemba. From the time of his arrival in October 1835 he applied himself assiduously to both tasks, and although not entirely successful in either, the work he accomplished there in three years and nine months before his departure for Rewa entitles him to a distinguished place among the pioneers of the written language. Before the end of 1836 Cargill had compiled a list of three thousand words used in the Lau group, with notes on their meaning, derivation and pronunciation. Two years later the list had increased to approximately six thousand words.2 A grammar of the language had been prepared, and he was busy translating the Four Gospels. Before actually leaving Lakemba he must also have translated a part of the Acts of the Apostles, for in his Journal under date 26 September 1839 James Calvert has this entry: "Finished copying the Gospels and part of the Acts from Cargill's manuscript which he has kindly left me."
In addition to all this Cargill had written an illuminating essay on the character of the language, drawing attention to its copiousness, expressiveness and adaptation to the genius of the people; its precision, simplicity and euphony; its resemblances to and differences from other Polynesian languages and finally, the rules which he had followed in making his translations.
Meantime, William Cross had been busy. In August 1838 he translated the Psalms into the Rewa dialect and in April of the following year an abridgment of the Four Gospels. In his translations Cross was, of course, overshadowed by Cargill; that was why Cargill, not he, had been appointed first chairman of the District notwithstanding Cross's seniority in service at the Friendly Islands. Nevertheless John Hunt who spent six months with Cross before going to Somosomo found his translations very helpful. "I beg leave to say," writes Hunt, "that so far as I am able page 190to judge, his talents as a translator are very good. He is not learned; but he is careful and judicious, and these qualities are very necessary."
John Hunt was indefatigable in his efforts to overcome the difficulties of the language in as short a time as possible. In five months after his arrival he was able to preach a sermon in Fijian without the aid of notes! And while still at Rewa he had drawn up a short grammar of the Somosomo dialect with the assistance of a native teacher.3 He had not been in Somosomo six months before he had completed a translation of St Matthew's Gospel, and was busy with Exodus. Lyth was engaged on the preparation of a book of hymns in the Somosomo dialect; but his medical work occupied much of the time that was not devoted to preaching and teaching. He was not so apt in learning the language as some of his colleagues; but though slow he was sure, and in due course he won a reputation as a critic of the translations of others. There were many Tongans at Somosomo and his knowledge of their language acquired before he went to Fiji served him well: the people of his congregations consisted mainly of Tongans and other visitors. James Calvert and Thomas Jaggar were too busy with the printingpress to have much time for translation.
For the first three years Cargill and Cross had sent their manuscripts to the Friendly Islands to be printed; but in 1838 a printing-press was landed and set up at Lakemba. It did not remain there long. After careful consideration the missionaries decided to take it to Rewa near to which were the big populations of Fiji. The brunt of the printing fell on Thomas Jaggar, and in the opinion of all his colleagues he did it well. The printing-press was a valuable acquisition. In Lakemba the natives flocked to see it working and thought it was a god! Spelling-books, hymn-books, page 191part of the Conference Catechism, portions of the New Testament, especially St Matthew's and St Mark's Gospel were soon printed in the Lakemba, Rewa and Somosomo dialects.
It was the intention of the early missionaries to print separately in each dialect spoken at the established centres. In passing from one district to another they found so many and such important differences in vocabulary and grammatical form that their first impression was that the books printed in one dialect would not be intelligible to people who spoke another. But there was difference of opinion. Cargill, for instance, contended that on his first visit to Rewa he had found the differences in dialect less embarrassing than he had expected. He had preached to a congregation of two hundred people shortly after landing there and was understood of them all. John Hunt too confessed that the difficulties of language experienced in Somosomo were not quite so great as he had expected. But he was decidedly of the opinion that Cargill had estimated them too lightly. The missionaries were in a dilemma. They wanted to make their translations intelligible to all; but there were sixteen or seventeen different dialects in Fiji, and the expense of printing in all of them as the work progressed would be far greater than they would be able to afford.
It is clear from the minutes of the District Meeting in 1841 that the missionaries though still undecided were groping their way half-blindly toward the solution. Two important resolutions were agreed upon: they must aim at securing as much uniformity as possible, and to this end a committee was appointed consisting of John Hunt and Dr Lyth to examine all translations during the ensuing year and report to the next District Meeting. Cargill had contended before he left for England in 1840 that it would not do to allow each missionary to follow his own bent. It was also decided page 192that the New Testament should be translated and printed before any other portion of the Scriptures except Genesis which had already been completed by Mr Cross. It was agreed at the conclusion of the meeting that the New Testament should be printed not in all, but in "as many dialects as possible," and that only the elementary books should be printed in all four dialects—Lakemba, Rewa, Mbau and Somosomo.
To this policy the missionaries adhered for some time. At the District Meeting of 1842 it was reported that Cross had translated the Acts of the Apostles and the Gospel of St Matthew (and also the Psalms) into the Mbau dialect; Lyth and Hunt the Gospel of St John and an abstract of the Liturgy into the Somosomo dialect; Jaggar the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles and an abstract of the Liturgy into the Rewa dialect; and Calvert the Second Conference Catechism into the Lakemba dialect. In accordance with the instruction of the District Meeting for 1841 all these translations had been submitted to Lyth and Hunt for examination and report.
At the next District Meeting in 1843 it was decided that, instead of allowing the missionaries at each of the centres to choose for themselves the part of the New Testament to be translated, specific portions should be allotted so that the whole of the New Testament might be completed as soon as possible. But they were still of the opinion that the different portions should be printed in the four dialects of Lakemba, Rewa, Mbau and Somosomo. They had not yet made up their minds to print in one dialect and let that serve for the whole archipelago, though Hunt expressed the opinion that the major portion of it would be printed in the dialect of Mbau.4
The first intimation in the correspondence that the mis-page 193sionaries had made up their minds to translate the whole of the New Testament in one dialect is given in a letter written by John Hunt on 15 May 1844 in which he says: "We are commencing a translation of the whole of the New Testament into the Mbau dialect that being more generally known. We cannot print in all dialects, there are too many.5 At the District Meeting in that year this opinion was confirmed, and it was definitely decided to go on with a translation in the Mbau dialect. They knew that it would be a long time before Fijians in every part of the archipelago would be able to understand that; but the Society in London had sent out an urgent request that expenditure should be reduced to a minimum, and the missionaries felt that they should retrench in this as in other ways. The Mbau dialect was not only the best known in the archipelago, it also had a future: it was spoken by the tribe that wielded the greatest power and aspired to rule over the whole of Fiji. Other local considerations favoured the selection: the printingpress was now at Vewa close to Mbau, and of the translations handed in during the year those of John Hunt were the best. Hunt was then stationed at Vewa where the natives used the Mbau dialect.
But the meeting had not yet decided to place the translation of the whole of the New Testament in the hands of one man. This is clear from a letter written by David Hazlewood on 23 June 1845 in which he encloses an extract from his diary under date 7 April stating that "Brother Williams and I began revising and rewriting his translation of the portion of the New Testament assigned to this circuit. This work occupied most of our time for two months." Nor page 194was there any change of policy agreed upon at the District Meeting for that year. It is significant, however, that John Hunt was asked to revise and submit for printing four thousand copies of his translation of St Matthew and the Acts, and to reserve one thousand copies for incorporation into the complete edition of the New Testament.
But it was inevitable that the chief responsibility should fall into the hands of the one man best fitted to perform it. Every one of the missionaries was eager to have the best translation available. John Hunt's ability had already been recognized, and he had a better general equipment in languages than any of his colleagues except Cargill who had gone never to return. He had studied Greek and Hebrew. Besides that he was living and working in the centre where the Mbau dialect was spoken, and every year of his residence there gave him a great advantage over his colleagues after they had decided to print in that dialect.
At the District Meeting of 1846 it was decided that John Hunt should take over the whole of the work of translating the New Testament, and that Dr Lyth should come over from Lakemba to help him by examining, revising and correcting the text. It was hoped that it would be ready for the press at the next meeting in 1847. There was a special reason for speeding up the work. The Roman Catholics had begun work in Lakemba in 1844, and it was now clear that they intended to stay and push on their mission in the archipelago. The best way to counteract their influence would be to put the New Testament into the hands of the natives as soon as possible, and let them judge for themselves on the relative merits of the two systems. The salvation of souls was the grand object; but the thought uppermost in the minds of the missionaries at the moment was the rivalry of the Roman Catholics. Hunt and Lyth set to work with a will. They were both very strongly anti-papal.page 195
And so it came about that the work which David Cargill had done in Lau was soon to be superseded and—forgotten. His Grammar and Dictionary as well as his translation of the Four Gospels and the Acts were exceedingly helpful for some years to the men stationed at Lakemba and Somosomo; and they paid him the compliment of copying out for their own use what he had written. But it was far better that, if any one dialect were to be used for the whole of the archipelago, it should be Mbauan and not the one spoken at Lakemba. Besides that Hunt's translation to which all the missionaries contributed something helpful was better than Cargill's, and David Hazlewood's Grammar and Dictionary of the language was on a higher plane altogether. But, notwithstanding that, Cargill's contributions were creditable alike to his industry and ability. He did not get the credit he deserved even before he left Fiji, from his colleagues, for he was not a persona grata to them; and after his unfortunate death at Vavau he was not honoured with a memoir as Cross and Hunt were. No doubt the Society in London, and the early missionaries in Fiji felt justified in the policy they adopted. But their reasons carry little or no weight with me, and in taking my leave of David Cargill and his work I should like to place on record my opinion that he was the most brilliant of all the missionaries in Fiji at this period, and that had he remained in Fiji and conquered his intemperate habit John Hunt would not have been the man best qualified to translate the New Testament, nor Thomas Williams the best original authority on the customs and beliefs of the Fijians of his time. There is no description in the correspondence of Thomas Williams that is as good as David Cargill's account of the death and burial of a great chief at Rewa, and John Hunt's translation is better and more valuable than Cargill's because he had been twice as long in the archipelago when he completed it than David page 196Cargill had when he finished his. Hunt, too, received assistance from his colleagues, especially Dr Lyth; but Cargill got no help at all.
David Cargill was the pioneer of literary enterprise in Fiji. He laid the foundations on which his successors built, and, if the structure they raised was better than his—as it undoubtedly was-he, at least, provided them with a lot of material that was helpful to them in their work. As for his regrettable end at Vavau after his return from England I am of the opinion that he acted in that dread hour from high and honourable motives. Finding that his intemperance was getting the better of him he decided to put an end to his life rather than take the risk of bringing discredit on the mission which he had so brilliantly and faithfully served.
At the District Meeting of 1847 printed copies of the New Testament in Fijian were on the table. The missionaries examined them, and showed their appreciation by asking John Hunt to undertake the work of translating the Old Testament. They decided that one thousand copies of the New Testament should be printed at Vewa forthwith, and that the British and Foreign Bible Society should be asked to publish a larger edition.
Dr Lyth's opinion is worthy of respectful consideration. He had then been eight years in Fiji, a member of the revising and correcting committee since its inception, and he had worked with John Hunt the whole year examining his translation.
The whole had passed through the press by the middle of July. Now that it is finished I may be allowed to say a word or two respecting its execution, and more particularly as I have only to speak of others. I consider it an excellent translation. You have already had the principles, on which it was proposed to make a translation, sent by Mr Hunt. These have been faithfully followed, and the result is a translation at once faithful and idiomatic. The sense is always given in pure and good Fijian. In doubtful passages the authorised version has been generally followed. Some improved renderings have been adopted on the authority of Dr Bloomfield; but only taken when there was satisfactory evidence in their favour. Dr Bloomfield's notes have proved invaluable, and, indeed, have been our text-book. But at the same time Mr Hunt, our translator, has carefully studied every passage in the New Testament in the original Greek. The style is pure and dignified, and, what is more, clear and forcible; and the whole being an entirely new translation, possesses great correctness and uniformity. The printing is neat and clear, and as correct as it is beautiful. Although the translating department has been, with little exception, in Mr Hunt's, hands, yet he has wisely availed himself of the knowledge of the rest of his brethren, and the result of his labours has given entire satisfaction, and proved that he was deserving of the confidence reposed in him. As the best proof of this the translation of the Old Testament has been committed into his hands by the unanimous vote of the District Meeting. I hope that as soon as possible we shall be able to page 198send home a revised copy with a request that our Missionary Committee solicit the Directors of the Bible Society to add to their former favours by printing a large English edition. Till then our present impression of one thousand copies will, with care, meet our existing wants.
Great praise was bestowed on Thomas Jaggar the printer for the manner in which he had performed his part of the work. Dr Lyth's tribute has already been quoted. Thomas Williams was at Somosomo when he received his copy on 10 August 1847. It was for him a day of days. "Blessed day! My eyes behold a complete copy of the New Testament in Fijian… I scarce know which most excites my surprise—the excellence of such parts of the translation at which I have looked, or the manner in which it is printed."
The immediate demand for the book was much greater than the missionaries had anticipated. The British and Foreign Bible Society wrote in 1849 to say that they would print an edition of five thousand; but these copies did not arrive in Fiji till 1854. In the meantime three thousand additional copies had to be printed in Fiji to supply the natives.
While John Hunt and Dr Lyth were engaged in the translation of the New Testament another important work was in course of preparation. This was David Hazlewood's Grammar and Dictionary of the Fijian Language. David Cargill as we have seen had prepared a grammar and dictionary of the dialect spoken in the Lau group, and John Hunt from the time of his landing in Rewa had busied himself with another which he intended to use in Somosomo, but later on was to be modified for general use in the page 199Western Islands. Hunt was, however, too busy with more urgent matters to complete it.
David Hazlewood arrived at Lakemba on the same day as John Watsford, 31 July 1844. After attending the District Meeting at Vewa he proceeded to his station at Somosomo where Thomas Williams was then at work, and arrived on 23 August. He had no sooner settled than he began to apply himself to a study of the grammar and vocabulary of the language. On 16 September he tells us in his Journal that he has finished transcribing Mr Cargill's Vocabulary of 219 pages and on the 11th had begun to copy John Hunt's Grammar. Christianity was practically at a standstill in the Somosomo circuit, so he was able to devote himself to a careful study of the native language. In 1847 the mission at Somosomo was abandoned, and he went to Ono for a year, and thence to Nandy on Vanua Levu. It was there that he finished his investigations into the subject in 1850 and completed his manuscript. The Examining Committee was impressed with the quality of his book, and the District Meeting decided to print both the Grammar and the Vocabulary which he had prepared. But it remained in the press for a long time. Thomas Jaggar the printer had been obliged to leave, and James Calvert's time was very much taken up interviewing Thakombau and captains of visiting men-of-war on urgent business. At the District Meeting in 1851 it was reported that four hundred and fifty copies of the Grammar had been printed and twelve pages of the Dictionary.
Help came eventually from an unexpected source. Edward Martin, an educated young Frenchman, came to Fiji in an American ship which was wrecked in a hurricane. After wandering about the islands he settled down in Vewa where he applied himself to the work of book-binding and afterwards printing. The demands on the printing-press were page 200heavy because of the inadequate supply of copies of the New Testament, and the need for elementary books used in the schools. Mr Martin worked hard and in 1852 Hazlewood's book was printed and published in two parts, the first under the title a Compendious Grammar of the Fijian Language with examples of Native Idioms extending over 72 pages 12mo; the second a Fijian and English Dictionary with examples of common and peculiar modes of expression and uses of words. Also containing brief hints on native customs, proverbs, the native names of the natural productions of the islands, notices of islands of Fiji and a list of Scripture names Fijianized. This part extended over 350 pages 12mo. At the District Meeting in June Hazlewood was cordially thanked by his brethren. In 1914, sixty-two years after their first publication, the Grammar and Dictionary were reprinted and issued in a single volume. No better work on the subject has yet been published.
Seeing that David Hazlewood did not arrive in Fiji till July 1844 and that he had to carry on his regular missionary duties in three different circuits this book furnishes another proof of the strenuous life lived by these early missionaries; and, since it has not yet been superseded, of the ability of the author. Hazlewood crammed a vast amount of knowledge of things Fijian into his. little book. Students who read it through a dozen times generally findthat they have still something to learn from its contents.
After the death of John Hunt in October 1848 it was; recognized that David Hazlewood was the man best equipped for carrying on the translation of the Old Testament. In addition to his intimate knowledge of Fijian, he had worked hard at Hebrew and Greek. At the District Meeting in 1850 he was requested to undertake the work. Hunt had completed the translation of Genesis, Exodus, and page 201some of the Psalms before he was stricken with the illness that carried him off; but his manuscripts were unfortunately lost before Hazlewood began. Many portions of the Old Testament had been translated by other missionaries, and he was at liberty to make use of them. But in such work, the best man cannot delegate his responsibilities; he must use his own knowledge and judgment throughout. But the work in addition to the ordinary duties of the mission was very exacting, and his health gave way under the strain. Fortune had dealt him heavy blows in 1849: in February of that year his wife and child died at Nandy. He was a silent man in the years that followed. No reports from him reached London. He buried himself in his work—translating the books of the Old Testament, and preaching the Gospel along the south coast of Vanua Levu from Nasavu to Nakama where the natives cooked their food in the hot springs.
On 23 May 1853 the rough translation was completed; but he needed two years for revision before it could be handed to the printer. He was then a young man of thirty-three years; but the strain of suffering and work had been too much for him. On 1 March 1853 Calvert wrote saying: "Brother Hazlewood has difficulty in breathing and spits blood." Soon afterwards he was moved to Vewa in the hope that a change would be beneficial; but he got worse and on 18 November left in the John Wesley for New South Wales.
Kindly fortune spared him just long enough to complete his revision. After residing at Parramatta for a short time he went to West Maitland, working all the time at both places though the hand of death was upon him. It was only with a struggle that he reached the end: on the last page was the impress of his hand made by the enfeebling perspiration that lasted till his soul had taken its flight.page 202
It is an interesting fact that the two men who did so much for the language and literature of Fiji—John Hunt and David Hazlewood—died about their thirty-sixth year. The concentrated study that is needed for the accomplishment of such tasks kept them indoors working at a stretch for long intervals. The climate of Fiji is not unhealthy for those who can take regular exercise in the open air. William Cross found that his spirits revived, after a severe illness, by taking exercise every day in his garden. Sir John Thurston found that a walk of twenty miles a day at more or less regular intervals kept him in robust health. But John Hunt and David Hazlewood allowed themselves far too little time for care-free recreation. Both died from overwork; but they left enduring monuments behind them.
It was David Hazlewood's translation that James Calvert took with him to England in 1856. An arrangement was made with the British and Foreign Bible Society to publish five thousand copies of the whole Bible and ten thousand copies of the New Testament. James Calvert undertook the revision of Hazlewood's translation under the superintendence of Mr T. W. Meller at Woodbridge until Dr Lyth relieved him and set him free for more open-air mission work. Thomas Williams tells us in a short essay he wrote on the translations of the Scriptures into Fijian that the missionaries were disappointed with the final publication, because of the liberties that had been taken with Hazlewood's manuscript.
The story of the translation of the New and the Old Testament is now before the reader, and he will, at least, be able to make up his own mind concerning the earnestness, ability and industry of the men engaged upon the work, and especially of David Cargill, John Hunt and David Hazlewood. We have seen what Richard Burdsall Lyth thought of the translation of the New Testament, and the respon-page 203sibility undertaken by the British and Foreign Bible Society in printing large editions of both the New and the Old Testaments. I have already referred to the opinion expressed by Monseigneur Blanc, S.M., Vicar Apostolic of Central Oceania who in 1926 published a book in two volumes on the Religious History of the Fijian Archipelago. In a passage reeking with contempt,7 he quotes with approval a remark made by the author of Four Lectures (probably Father Deniau) concluding with, the statement that the Fijian Bible is "a travesty from one end to the other." What Monseigneur Blanc's opinion on any work performed by the Methodist missionaries in Fiji is worth we shall see in the succeeding chapter.
1 No doubt these conventions did help the natives to read and spell and understand books translated into their own language, and that was sufficient justification for adopting them in the early days; but trouble arose when the natives began to learn English and found that c had quite different powers from th and that the sound of q was nothing like ng-ga. This trouble became more serious after the establishment of British sovereignty when natives were trained for positions in the public service. The use of these conventions in books about Fiji intended for people in other countries, and even for advertisements in the larger towns of Fiji itself appears to me to be a mistake. In Suva, for instance, where there is a mixed population, and a goodly proportion of British, to say nothing of visitors, would it not be better to write Thakombau Road instead of Cakobau Road? As to the books intended for circulation in Australia, or indeed any country but Fiji, I can see no justification for their use. The British Admiralty has not used them on charts; and indeed the missionaries themselves fall into spelling familiar names as they are sounded very frequently. They almost invariably spell Tui Viti's name Thakombau, and they use Lakemba more frequently than Lakeba in their correspondence. The complete abandonment of the conventions would no doubt cause much difficulty and confusion for a time; but the difficulties will increase the longer they are retained. Meantime, English is spoken by a large number of Fijians now; and it is the language used by other races in the archipelago.
2 See his letters dated 18 October 1836 and 31 December 1838 (M.M.S.M.).
3 See Hunt's letter dated 30 December 1839 (M.M.S.M.).
4 See John Hunt's letter dated 26 August 1843 (M.M.S.M.).
5 It is difficult to say how many dialects there were in Fiji at the time. It depends on the definition of a dialect as distinct from a mere variation. In a letter dated 25 August 1843 John Hunt says: "There are ten different dialects: Lakemba, Somosomo, Bau, Rewa, Rakiraki, Ba, Nandronga, Deumba, Bua, Mathuata. If smaller varieties especially of the inland tribes be taken into account there are fifty different dialects. But the greatest difference is between the Eastern and Western dialects."
6 In an earlier letter in February 1846 he had said: "Mr Cargill found it easy to translate; but he translated carelessly, and used a kind of Anglo-Fijian idiom." His criticisms of the work of Cargill may or may not be just, I am not qualified to judge; but the manner of expressing them is somewhat objectionable, and with him unusual.
7 Here is the passage: "Ils baptisaient quelques insulaires après une instruction rapide et sommaire, et, avec la même hâte, donnaient leur traduction de la Bible, et surtout la vendaient. 'Quelle traduction! On ne peut s'empêcher de se récrier, quand on examine un des rares exemplaires qui en existent encore; et dire qu'ils osaient appeler cela lâ Parole de Dieu! D'un bout à l'autre, elle y est travestie.' " See Histoire Religieuse de L'Archipel Fidjien par Monseigneur Joseph Blanc, S.M., Vicaire apostolique de l'Océanie Centrale (Toulon, 1926).