Elsie Inglis Chapter II - The Rock from which She was
"It is not the weariness of mortality, but
the Strength of Divinity which we have to recognize in all mighty
In the centre stands Elsie Inglis, the
"woman of gentle breeding, short of stature, alert, and with the eyes of
a seer," and "a smile like sunshine"; and on either side and behind this
central figure the stage is crowded with men and women of long ago, the
people of her race. One by one they catch our eye, and we note their
connection with the central figure.
Far back in the group (for it is near two
hundred years ago) stands Hugh Inglis, hailing from Inverness-shire. He
was a loyal supporter of Prince Charlie, and the owner of a yacht, which
he used in gun-running in the service of the Prince.
A little nearer are two of Elsie's
great-grandfathers, John Fendall and Alexander Inglis. John Fendall was
Governor of Java at the time when the island was restored to the Dutch.
The Dutch fleet arrived to take it over before Fendall had received his
instructions from the Government, and he refused to give it up till they
reached him—a gesture not without a parallel in the later years of the
life of his descendant. Alexander Inglis, leaving Inverness-shire,
emigrated to South Carolina, and was there killed in a duel fought on
some point of honour. Through his wife, Mary Deas, Elsie's descent runs
up to Robert the Bruce on the one hand, and, on the other, to a family
who left France after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, and settled
As we thread our way through the
various figures on the stage we are attracted by a group of three women.
They are the daughters of the Governor of Java,
"the three Miss Fendalls." One of them, Harriet, is Elsie's grandmother.
All three married, and their descendants in the second generation
numbered well over a hundred! Harriet Fendall married George Powney
Thompson, whose father was at one time secretary to Warren Hastings.
George Thompson himself was a member of the East India Company, and
ruled over large provinces in India. One of their nine daughters,
Harriet Thompson, was Elsie's mother.
On the other side of the stage, in the same
generation as the Miss Fendalls, is another group of women. These are
the three sisters of Elsie's grandfather, David Inglis, son of
Alexander, who fared forth to South Carolina, and counted honour more
dear than life.
David was evidently a restless, keen,
adventurous man; many years of his life were spent in India in the
service of the East India Company. Of his three sisters—Katherine,
painted by Raeburn; Mary, gentle and quiet; and Elizabeth—we linger
longest near Elizabeth. She never married, and was an outstanding
personality in the little family. She was evidently conversant with all
the questions of the day, and commented on them in the long, closely
written letters which have been preserved.
After David's return from India he must have
intended at one time to stand for Parliament. Elizabeth writes to him
from her "far corner" in Inverness-shire, giving him stirring advice,
and demanding from him an uncompromising, high standard. She tells him
to "unfurl his banner"; she knows "he will carry his religion into his
politics." "Separate religion from politics!" cries Elizabeth; "as well
talk of separating our every duty from religion!"
Needless anxiety, one would think, on the
part of the good Highland lady, for the temptation to leave religion out
of any of his activities can scarcely have assailed David. We read that
when Elsie's grandfather had returned from the East to England he used
to give missionary addresses, not, one would think, a common form of
activity in a retired servant of the East India Company. One hears this
note of genuine religion in the lives of those forebears of Elsie's.
Lady D'Oyly Mrs. Lowis Mrs. Thompson (Elsie's Grandmother)
THE MISSES FENDALL
FROM A DRAWING IN THE POSSESSION OF
BRIGADIER-GENERAL C. FENDALL, C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., ETC.
"The extraordinary thing in all the
were written by an Inglis, a Deas, or a Money, is the pervading note of
strong religious faith. They not only refer to religion, but often, in
truly Scottish fashion, they enter on long theological dissertations."
David married Martha Money. Close to Martha
on the stage stands her brother, William Taylor Money, Elsie's
great-uncle. We greet him gladly, for he was a man of character. He was
a friend of Wilberforce, and a Member of Parliament when the
Anti-Slavery Bill was passed. Afterwards "he owned a merchant vessel,
and gained great honour by his capture of several of the Dutch fleet,
who mistook him for a British man-of-war, the smart appearance of his
vessel with its manned guns deceiving them." There is a picture in
Trinity House of his vessel bringing in the Dutch ships. Later, he was
Consul-General at Venice and the north of Italy, where he died, in 1834,
in his gondola! He had strong religious convictions, and would never
infringe the sacredness of the Sabbath-day by any "secular work." In a
short biography of him, written in 1835, the weight of his religious
beliefs, which made themselves felt both in Parliament and when Consul,
is dwelt on at length. A son of David and Martha Inglis, John Forbes
David Inglis, was Elsie's father. John went to India in 1840, following
his father's footsteps in the service of the East India Company.
Thirty-six years of his life were spent there, with only one short
furlough home. He rose to distinction in the service, and gained the
love and trust of the Indian peoples. After he retired in 1876 one of
his Indian friends addressed a letter to him, "John Inglis, England,
Tasmania, or wherever else he may be, this shall be delivered to him,"
and through the ingenuity of the British Post Office it was delivered in
Elsie's mother, Harriet Thompson, went out
to India when she was seventeen to her father, George Powney Thompson.
She married when she was eighteen.
She met her future husband, John
Inglis, at a dance in her father's house. Her children were often told
by their father of the white muslin dress, with large purple flowers all
over it, worn by her that evening, and how he and several of his
friends, young men in the district, drove fifty miles to have the chance
of dancing with her!
"She must have had a steady nerve, for her
letters are full of various adventures in camp and tiger-haunted
jungles, and most of them narrate the presence of one of her infants,
who was accompanying the parents on their routine of Indian official
life." In 1858, when John Inglis was coming home on his one short
furlough, she trekked down from Lahore to Calcutta with the six children
in country conveyances. The journey took four months; then came the
voyage round the Cape, another four months. Of course she had the help
of ayahs and bearers on the journeys, but even with such help it was no
John Inglis saw his family settled in
Southampton, and almost immediately had to return to India, on the
outbreak of the Mutiny. His wife stayed at home with the children, until
India was again a safe place for English women, when she rejoined her
husband in 1863.
They crowd round Elsie Inglis, these men and
women in their quaint and attractive costumes of long ago; we feel their
influence on her; we see their spirit mingling with hers. As we run our
eye over the crowded stage, we see the dim outline of the rock from
which she was hewn, we feel the spirit which was hers, and we hail it
again as it drives her forth to play her part in the great drama of the
last three years of her life.
The members of every family, every group of
blood relations, are held together by the unseen spirit of their
generations. It matters little whether they can trace their descent or
not; the peculiar spirit of that race which is theirs fashions them for
particular purposes and work. And what are they all but the varied
expressions of the One Divine Mind, of the Endless Life of God?
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