Instead of speaking of Dr. Stewart
of Lovedale, his friends would naturally speak of Dr. and Mrs. Stewart.
She was a large part of the Institution, and one with her husband in mind
and heart. ‘They brought duality near to the borders of identity,’ as
Gladstone said of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Often at night, when
all the rest in the house were in bed, they would spend an hour in
consultation and prayer about their work.
In her own sphere she was as
influential as he was in his. He always maintained that she was wiser and
more efficient than himself. He thoroughly appreciated the spirit in which
she accepted the trials and anxieties inseparable from his pioneering
work. He wrote: ‘Her complete sympathy with missionary work and her sound
judgment and activity have been a great source of strength to me.’ The
Report of Lovedale for 1906 closes with these words: ‘To her many other
gracious gifts Mrs. Stewart added that of a gifted speaker, a capable
organiser, and one whose personal influence was very marked. Forty years
of such service in Love-dale is a great and worthy record.’ The native
name for Mrs. Stewart was ‘Nobantu,’ the mother of the people.
His many letters to his children reveal the father’s
heart. Several of them are long and carefully printed for the tiny reader.
Here is one addressed to his ‘dear wee singing bird ‘:—
‘How I miss your singing in the
morning... I try to recall that sweet smile of yours—sweet to look
at—sweeter still to remember—and sweetest of all to see again if God shall
so spare us.
‘A gift of God you are to us. May He
who has given you, long continue the gift to gladden us and freshen all
our lives. Sweet token of God’s love, may you be one of His own, made
still purer and sweeter by the Spirit’s grace and the Lamb’s blood.’
Again he writes:—
‘I will tell you now what I am
doing. I go about the streets and into the offices, and I say to this man,
"Give me a hundred pounds for Lovedale," and to another who is not so rich
I say, "Give me fifty pounds." And they give me that money, and I thank
them before I go, and thank God too, because it is He that puts it into
the hearts of these men to give me money for Lovedale. And they give it
because they love Christ and have already given Him their hearts.
‘Now I am going to ask
you to give
Jesus some-thing too. Go into the garden and see if there are any flowers.
Then go into another garden and you will find a flower. Take it and say,
"Lord Jesus, I have nothing else to give you. But I give you this; it is a
little flower, it is my heart. I give it to you because you love me. You
loved me so much that long ago you died for me. And now I give the little
flower of my life, and I pray to you:
"In the Kingdom of Thy grace
Give a little child a place."
And He wili give you that place, and
you will be a glad and happy little girl, and we shall be so happy when we
hear that you have given this little flower to Christ.
‘Do you remember London, that great
place, nothing but houses and people, nearly as far as from Lovedale to
Beaufort? There are many poor children in London, and when I see them, I
think of you and F. . . . Do you remember anything I said about a little
flower in one of my letters? What has become of it?
‘I am wearying to see you, and hope
to come in two months after you get this. I hope you will pull hard on the
ropes and make the ship come fast to Cape Town.
‘. . . There is the line of a hymn that has been in my
mind this morning—it is this:
"I heard the voice of Jesus
Come unto me and rest.
Lay down, thou little one, lay down
Thy head upon my breast."
‘Now, dear little M., I should like
if you could tell me some day that you had heard Jesus say this, and that
you had just done what He bids you. He is very good and kind to those who
come to Him.’
One of his daughters writes:—
‘All I can say is that as each year
goes by I miss father’s wonderful tenderness and sympathy more and more. I
often think of his love and gentleness to M. (a grandson) during the war.
[M.’s father was the little boy from whose wounds Dr. Stewart sucked the
poison. See p. 99.] In the study at Lovedale I sometimes found the two
with their fingers all inky, and father so pleased and laughing because M.
was "making his fingers like Grand-daddy’s, and Granddaddy was a dirty boy
too." I was not allowed to take the wee chap away, as they "were enjoying
themselves," father said.’
They had one son and eight
daughters, one of whom died early. Their large, happy, and loyal family
was an effective object-lesson upon the Christian home, and a source of
power to the mission.
Their son for some time assisted his
father in the office at Lovedale, and is now in business in South Africa.
Three of his daughters are married—two in South Africa, and one in
Scotland. Another daughter was on the teaching staff at Lovedale.
The hospitality at Lovedale was
unbounded. They had heart-room for all their guests; but as the children
knew right well, they were often puzzled to find house-room. Especially in
the early days when their house was small, Dr. and Mrs. Stewart often
slept in the study, while their children slept on the floor, or in
outhouses, or were billeted among the teachers. When the new house was
built, Dr. and Mrs. Stewart’s friends spent upon it £800 in addition to
the sum granted by the Committee. Their idea of hospitality was like that
of the Arab chief in Bible lands. He gallops on his swiftest steed to
welcome, the coming stranger. Stewart surpassed him, for when he learned
that a friend of his or of the mission was in the land, he flashed a
telegraphic invitation to him. The Principal’s house was thus a hostelry.
It was as much addicted to hospitality as were the hospices of the Middle
Ages, but with a difference. These had been richly endowed for the very
purpose of entertaining travellers, whereas the hospice of Lovedale was
endowed out of the patrimony of the missionary’s family.
From all parts of the world visitors
came to Love-dale. Before the railway reached his neighbourhood, Stewart’s
‘spider’ and horses had often to be sent twenty, thirty, forty, or sixty
miles to the nearest railway station to meet his guests. He required five
or six horses, and they were at the service of the staff. Dr. and Mrs.
Stewart kept open house, and almost every week they were speeding the
parting and welcoming the coming guest. If the family had kept a visitors’
book, it would have been a bulky volume. There was a hearty welcome for
all, especially for those who were opposed to missions. They might stay as
long as they liked and examine every department of the Institution. They
had often from one to thirteen guests at a time. During six months the
family never once sat down alone at the table. A frequent guest writes:
‘It was Mrs. Stewart’s kindness and winsome graciousness which made the
Principal’s home at Lovedale the most hospitable in South Africa. At times
she was the ministering presence, at others the wise and trusted
counsellor, with a woman’s clear discernment and instinct; at others again
the worker and the helper, ever ready to ease the burden and further the
Another writes: ‘Jesuit fathers,
[Seven Roman Catholic priests once sat down together at their table.]
ministers of the Dutch Church, an Anglican archbishop, a visiting
deputation from Scotland—all alike were welcome, and all alike went away
delighted with Dr. Stewart’s generous hospitality, his kindly
consideration, and, above all, the fascination of his conversation. He was
a close personal friend of men like General Gordon, Edmund Garrett, Sir
Bartle Frere, Cecil Rhodes, and Lord Milner. No one who knew him or his
work could have failed to come under the spell of his imagination.’
The missionaries on the staff were
usually the inmates of the family till they got a home of their own. One
of them writes: ‘I felt at home with Mrs. Stewart from the first hour.’
The staff usually had a social meeting in the Principal’s house every
Monday evening, and also at other times to meet some distinguished
Stewart thoroughly enjoyed congenial
society, though his abundant labours left him little time for it. When
free, he was eminently ‘clubbable,’ and he made friends among all classes.
His Ulyssean experience of men and cities had given him a rich fund of
incident of travel, but his rooted aversion to speaking about himself
rarely allowed him to give bits from his own Odyssey.
‘He was very fond of good music,
especially of plaintive music—that which holds within it the "sad, low
notes of our humanity," like the best Scottish song. Joined to his love of
music was his delight in art of all kinds. Much of this no doubt came from
his love of all that was beautiful and harmonious.’
The Rev. J. E. Somerville, B.D., of
‘No words are sufficient to express
the admiration which Dr. Stewart’s whole bearing and conversation
awakened. Anax andron Agamemnon (Agamemnon, prince of men) were the
words that came to one’s lips. He was a giant in every sense of the term.
. . . On Saturday he was engaged till late at night with Kafirs, who came
to talk about things temporal and spiritual. . . . I came away from
Lovedale and the happy and beautiful family in its manse thanking God that
He had given us as a missionary one of the grandest men it has been my
privilege to know.’
Dr. Roberts writes: ‘Lord Milner had
a warm affection for him. About the last letter he wrote from Government
House, amid the press of many distracting concerns, was the following
good-bye to Dr. Stewart:—
"JOHANNESBURG, 2nd April 1905.
"DEAR DR. STEWART,—I cannot leave
South Africa without sending you one line of farewell. I am living in a
perfect whirl, and hardly know what I am doing. But I shall often think,
in moments of greater leisure, with pleasure and gratitude of your
friendship.—With deepest esteem and all good wishes, yours very sincerely,
‘Lord Milner spent four or five days
at Lovedale, gleaning facts about native affairs. He opened a new hail,
and declared that Dr. Stewart was "the biggest human in South Africa."
‘The deep affection that Gordon had
for him is well known. When the hero of Khartoum was at Lovedale in 1882,
the comradeship of the two men was pleasant to see. There was a remarkable
affinity and a striking similarity between them.’
After one of his visits General Gordon wrote: ‘I am
truly sorry to leave your quiet abode and come back into a whirl.’ When
leaving South Africa in 1882, he wrote :—
‘Mv DEAR DR. STEWART,—! am sorry to
leave without seeing you and Mrs. Stewart and your family and my friends
at Lovedale. I leave for England via Natal on Tuesday or Wednesday
next. I am sorry I could not do anything for the Colony except write
reports. My heart often goes out to you all. I should wish to have seen
more of you.— With kindest regards to Mrs. Stewart, yourself, and the
children, and trusting for help to your prayers, believe me, my dear
friend, yours sincerely,
‘C. E. GORDON.’
Stewart’s only son was called James
Gordon as a memorial of this friendship.
Visitors of all creeds came from
nearly all parts of the world. Among these were Baron Rothschild, who
wrote: ‘I think our visit to Lovedale was the most interesting part of our
journey in South Africa.’
A special welcome was given to young
missionaries who wished to inquire about missionary methods.
The native often came for counsel
about his trivial affairs. Stewart shook hands with his humble guest, took
him straight to the kitchen for refreshments. He would listen patiently to
the poor man’s story. People used to say that a native could get what he
wanted from the Principal far more easily than a white man could. Often
food was sent daily to sick natives in the neighbouring location. Dr. and
Mrs. Stewart were the Lord and Lady Bountiful of the Tyumie Valley. Many
thought that they were generous to a fault. ‘The old people of the
Love-dale location,’ writes one of his staff, ‘were his special charge.
Every Sunday there was a dinner-party of old men at the house, and if any
were too feeble to come for it, the meal was sent to them.’ They also knew
that he had a canvas bag in which he kept money for helping the needy.
Towards his poorest guests Stewart’s
was no bare giving. It was rather the spontaneous outflow of the heart
than the outcome of intention or endeavour; and it was done with a
refinement of Christian charity and chivalry. He thus enlarged the joys he
possessed by sharing those he bestowed.
This splendid hospitality was a
powerful aid to the mission. A visit to Lovedale often made a deep
impression upon visitors who were sceptical about missions. The splendid
avenue, the well-kept gardens; the happy family; the thoroughly competent
staff; the hive-like hum of happy activity; the immense array of young
life; the girls tripping along, their eyes full of girlish merriment, in
striking contrast with the sheep-like, ox-like stare of their heathen
sisters at the kraals; the genius of the place—all these united to create
the right mood in the critic.
Mr. Bryce, in his Impressions of
South Africa, p. 374, thus describes Lovedale: ‘It is admitted even by
those who are least friendly to mission-work to have rendered immense
service to the native. I visited it, and was greatly struck by the tone
and spirit which seemed to pervade it, a spiril whose results are seen in
the character and career of many of its graduates. A race in the present
condition of the Kafirs needs nothing more than the creation of a body of
intelligent and educated persons of its own blood, who are able to enter
into the difficulties of their humble kinsfolk and guide them wisely. Dr.
Stewart possesses the best kind of missionary temperament, in which a
hopeful spirit and an inexhaustible sympathy are balanced by Scottish
shrewdness and cool judgment.’
When Stewart heard that there were
severe critics of missions in the neighbourhood, he used to say: ‘Ask them
over, and let them see the work and judge for themselves.’ Regarding a
sceptical critic on missions, the late R. W. Barbour of Bonskeid
wrote: ‘A visit to Lovedale gave him new light. If it were nothing else,
that home at Lovedale does a work that one cannot well value, in disarming
prejudice and affording at least the opportunity to some who would
otherwise not see what was going on, to give the natives a helping hand.’
Mr. Barbour himself was so
fascinated by Love-dale that he seriously considered whether he should
devote himself to it as an honorary missionary. Dr. George Adam Smith
tells us that when visiting Africa, ‘Mr. Barbour came under another of the
great influences of his life—Dr. Stewart of Lovedale.’
S. Macarthur, Esq., the discoverer of the
cyanide gold-extracting process, thus describes his visit to Lovedale: ‘I
was impressed by Dr. Stewart’s quiet, strong, kindly manner.. With him
there was no excitement, no noise, everything went smoothly and
peacefully, but everything did go. . . . I left
on Monday afternoon, having spent in Lovedale two of the quietest
and happiest days of my life. Whilst there I did not know in the least
that Dr. Stewart was teaching me—I do not think he knew—but after I left I
found that I knew very much more than when I went. He had impressed on me
the foolishness of trying to convert a heathen and then leave him idle to
drop back into his old, lazy, loafing, quarrelling ways.’
Let another example stand for many.
A visitor to Lovedale thus describes his experience, in one of the African
newspapers: ‘After welcoming me to Lovedale, Dr. Stewart invited me to
have a look over the place, and here it was that all the arguments that I
had prepared, vanished as chaff before the wind. For one of the first
observations the doctor made was this: "Our object is to teach the native
to work; work he must a certain portion of the day, or go. We cannot
afford to keep idlers here; lazy fellows must leave us. We endeavour to
civilise and teach them to fear God at the same time, and hope that some
at least will turn out useful men and women." I could scarcely avoid
applauding the doctor’s sentiments, with a hearty "hear, hear," having all
the ground knocked from under me. . . . I left, convinced that the
Institution ought to have every support and encouragement.’