Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

James Legge, Missionary and Scholar
Chapter XII. Later Years in Hong Kong

IT is a somewhat difficult task, out of a mass of letters to disentangle the threads of Dr Legge's multifarious activity from 1860 until his final departure from China in 1873. He stands revealed in these letters as a laborious student and writer, a worker in public movements, a pastor to an English congregation, a chaplain to the soldiers, a preacher in the Chinese jail, a visitor to the sick and troubled, a friend to everyone, and above all, a large-minded missionary.

The following letter illustrates two of the phases of character referred to.

The Rev. S. Honeyman Anderson, who was born in Mauritius, writes:—'At the end of the year 1867 I was lying very ill with scarlet fever at Cheshunt College. I had just returned from very arduous preaching work in the Salle Evangilique of the Paris Exposition Universelle, and readily caught the disease which was then affecting some of the inhabitants of Cheshunt.

'Dr Legge visited the College, accompanied, I believe, by a Chinese dignitary. He found that a shadow of sadness was cast over the loving brotherhood by the fact of the grievous illness of one of the students. At family worship, in the large dining-hall, he offered prayer. The Principal, Dr Reynolds, told me years afterwards, how he could not forget the earnestness of that long pleading with God for the recovery of the young man who was thousands of miles from his home in Mauritius, as Dr Legge rose from praying he said, "He'll pull through."

'By God's grace I did. That was thirty-eight years ago.

'A pleasant reminiscence is to be found in part of a speech made by a late Secretary of the London Missionary Society in the old L. M. S. House. He related how he had been shipwrecked, and reached Dr Legge's house in Hong Kong in a most helpless condition. The hospitality of that house was never to be forgotten. The Doctor opened chests of drawers and wardrobes before the distressed fellow missionary, and said, "It is all yours, help yourself to what you want".

'When Dr Legge's turn came to speak at the meeting he said, 'the Secretary had made a very telling narrative, nevertheless, although he must not be accused of having invented what he said about his host's hospitality in China, the host himself does not remember anything of the kind.'

This beautiful self-forgetfulness was a marked characteristic of Dr Legge's character. In the early days of the China Inland Mission he often received, for many days or weeks, those who were going out in connection with the mission founded by Dr Hudson Taylor.

There was one break in these years owing to a call to England on account of his wife's serious illness. Her health had obliged her to leave China, and pressure of work had prevented his accompanyng her. In 1870, however, he left her and their children in Scotland and returned alone to Hong Kong for three years.

One day, before leaving Scotland, he took his two small boys to the field of Bannockburn. No shrine which he ever visited affected him so much as the mound on which the standard of Scotland was reared on that eventful day. 'I took my shoes off my feet upon it and told my boys that if ever they were found hereafter on any side but that of freedom and truth, they would not be true Scotsmen.' He used to say that if Scotland had lost that battle its after history would probably have been similar to that of Ireland—perpetual revolt on one side, repression on the other.

To return to Dr Legge's life in Hong Kong, between 1860 and 1874. In 1861, the Governor of Hong Kong, Sir Hercules Robinson, sent him a rough sketch scheme of the establishment of certain cadetships asking him to alter all or any of the provisions as he might think fit. He was delighted with the scheme as being calculated to supply a great want in the matter of interpreters, and undertook to examine the cadets and student-interpreters in Chinese at intervals of six months.

He wished greatly to see railways in China. 'Think of Han-kow as the great centre, the grand junction of railways to be. A line from Han-kow to Canton would be to the latter city as life from the dead, and restore it to more than its former prosperity, while the immense and unexplored provinces of Sze-chwan, Yun-nan, and Kwei-chow would likewise be moved by it and their productions drawn towards the sea-board. The real difficulty in the way is the Chinese Government'

In November 1865, he was presented at Government House with a silver tea and coffee service from the Government of Hong Kong 'for many valuable public services readily and gratuitously rendered.' In his speech, thanking the Governor, he said—'There have been many times indeed, when I have been very busy and the sight of a letter "On Her Majesty's Service" has been very distasteful. But I have been glad whenever by a little extra labour and self-denial I have been able to be useful either to the Government or to individuals. I have been resident in the Colony almost from its commencement. Three things struck me in the beginning as greatly needed. First, that many of its public offices should be filled by those who could speak the Chinese language, and this could only be realised by having men out to qualify themselves by the study of it; second, that the Government should assist education among the Chinese on a generous, comprehensive, and far-reaching plan. For many years and to successive governors I prepared and sometimes obtruded my views on those two subjects, and at last I had the satisfaction to find them substantially adopted, and successfully carried out under the incumbency of our late excellent Governor, Sir Hercules Robinson. The third subject which pressed itself on me was the desirableness of Christian instruction being given to the heathen inmates of our prisons and given regularly and systematically. For thirteen years by myself and my colleagues a Christian service has been conducted on the Sabbath with the prisoners. We ought to do what we can to see that they leave our jails, not only with the fear of man upon them, but taught their duty also to fear God.'

No matter how fully his time and brain were occupied, he set all aside whenever called upon to give personal help to anyone in need. In 1866, the governor of the jail wrote to him about some Chinamen lying under sentence of death, and he felt constrained to visit them. Evidence came before him which led him to believe one of the prisoners to be innocent. He writes, that though greatly burdened by pressure of work, a necessity of conscience was laid on him to investigate the matter. His following entries are: 'August 2nd. Every moment from breakfast to dinner occupied in putting together a long statement to the Colonial Secretary on this case.' 'August 3rd. Had a private note from the acting Colonial Secretary that the man for whom I memorialised him was not down to be hanged with the others.' ' August 8th. After an almost sleepless night I was up this morning at half past four and over to the gaol by five o'clock. Of the nine prisoners seven were then executed. The remaining two have been reprieved.'

In 1866, occurred such a fire as he had not seen in Hong Kong for many years. Some warehouses were full of tubs of oil which blazed up with an intense heat. There were no orderly arrangements, no force of police, no sufficient supply of water. In fact the usual precaution of the Chinese against fire was to place on their roofs large jars, which, containing rainwater, they supposed would be efficacious if a fire broke out. At least a thousand people were rendered homeless, and the loss of property was over half a million of dollars. The following week Dr Legge and his co-pastor, Ho-tsun-sheen, prepared a paper in Chinese addressed to the native merchants and shopkeepers, asking them to assist the sufferers by the late conflagration. In one morning alone Dr Legge went into between two and three hundred shops and places of business on this errand. 'I was astonished at the amount of wealth and extent of business manifest in many of them. The owners and many of the employes were gentlemen, according to the ways and training of China. For the most part I got a most cordial, even flattering reception. Many knew me by sight; others knew me as "the great scholar who was familiar with all their Classics." The occasion was one which it would have been sinful in me to neglect I must give Friday forenoon to complete the visitation.'

Dr Legge took great interest in all public measures. 'I met the Governor to-day, he is full of anxiety as his new ordinances are just coming into operation. He stopped his chair and had a long talk to see if I could give him any comfort An ordinance affecting the Chinese shipping is most vehemently opposed, and a hundred junks and passage-boats have cleared out of the harbour in consequence of it. Its most objectionable features have been modified owing, I believe, to my known disapproval of them, and the government should now insist upon carrying it out There will be difficulty, for the boats that bring our provisions will keep away for a time.'

In 1868, Dr Legge received a letter from the Inspector-General of Chinese customs which shows the writer's opinion that when the Chinese people rise up in hostility against foreigners it means that there is an order from the Government at the back of it. 'Experience has shown that unless instigated by Mandarin agency, the Chinese people usually evince a friendly bearing towards foreigners.'

On February 12, 1871 he writes: 'To-day I have sent in to the acting governor here, a petition to Lord Kimberley against the gambling-houses, signed by 318 names. I wrote the petition on my birthday and the result has been obtained by the co-operation of Welch, Crichton, Walker and Mr Smale. With Mr Hitchcock I moved the Chamber of Commerce to get up a similar petition, and with Mr Turner the Chinese to get up one, which has nearly 1000 signatures.'

On Sundays Dr Legge visited the gaol, accompanied by one or more native Chinese converts who spoke to the Chinese prisoners after he had addressed them, and distributed tracts. He was much pleased once at receiving an application for baptism from a man in good worldly circumstances living at a village some distance off. On enquiry as to how he had heard of the religion of Christ, it turned out that he had been led to the knowledge of Christianity by means of one of the convicts of the gaol who had attained his discharge.

For many years he conducted a service on the Lord's day with the prisoners, amounting generally to more than 200 souls. One morning early he was sent for to one of them who had been attacked with cholera. While it was yet dark he stood by the man's bed. 'I am sorry,' he said, 'to find you in such suffering.' 'Pastor,' replied the convict, 'be of good cheer, I am relying on Christ' This man had been completely changed by hearing the word of God, and had been remarkable for his quickness of understanding and earnest work among his fellow prisoners. In the afternoon Dr Legge visited him again before he died. Some of the other prisoners followed him to the sick ward, and seeing their friend in great pain and exhaustion, began to weep. 'Tell my brethren,' he said, 'not to mourn. We should all give glory to God. I am escaped from sin and chains to heaven. Tell them to pray for God's help that they may glorify the Saviour here in the prison.'

He writes in 1870: 'I accepted the appointment to act as Presbyterian chaplain, and I think it will increase my influence with the soldiers. I visit the military hospital once a week, and I have a service in the school-room in the barracks at five o'clock on Wednesdays. On Thursdays I go from five to seven to the vestry to meet with any who wish to talk with me on religious topics. On Sunday at 2.30 I go to the gaol and give the English prisoners an address. Very attentive they are, and very glad apparently to see me.' Through the summer weather he held, by their own wish, a service specially for the soldiers at 6.30 on Sunday mornings. That gave him five services every Sunday.

A significant testimony to his influence over the soldiers was given by a Colonel who called on him some days after Christmas. '1 came to thank you, Dr Legge,' he said, 'for achieving what I had not dared to expect. Owing to your exhortations and personal influence, Christmas has come and gone without a single case of drunkenness among the soldiers.'

In 1871 four soldiers came to him at the barracks and asked him to begin a weekly Bible Class, which he accordingly did. When the regiment left for the Cape the members of the Bible Class brought him a large photograph of themselves. The nine men who had formed the choir wrote to him, 'If we dared, we would endeavour to tell you the very warm feelings of regard towards you experienced by ourselves and our comrades—not only for your masterly lectures, but also for your affectionate ministration to our sick.'

In 1863 a meeting was held in Union Chapel on the question of erecting a new and larger edifice. Through the liberality of the community Dr Legge collected by the end of 1863 twenty-one thousand dollars, and the building was begun. In 1865 Mrs Legge writes:—' I have been into the new Chapel. Its architecture is lofty and light. I did feel proud of my dear husband to have achieved so much. The tesselated aisles have come from England. The windows are stained glass. The ship bringing its iron gates is lost, we fear; it has not been heard of for eight months. There is a stone verandah all round, and I have learnt to know that there is no such effectual protection from the heat as a stone wall.' Faithfully did Dr Legge minister to the English congregation, and many grateful letters did he receive. One friend wrote from Ceylon in 1873: 'I cannot let you say farewell to China and the East without a line from me to express my gratitude to you for all that you did, as much indirectly as directly, for us young men in Hong Kong. Your Sabbath services I indeed found most refreshing—I look back with great pleasure to the old Chapel—verily it was to me a Sabbath home. For more than two and a half years I had the pleasure of worshipping with you every Sunday. After returning home from service I used to delight in putting down on paper the heads of your discourses. At tiffin and at dinner on Sundays we, that is Guild and I, used to talk over the sermon, and indeed all the week through it was more or less a subject of conversation, especially if Walker or Bain came to see us. And then both Mrs Legge and you were so extremely kind to us all' Another man writes: '1 am about to leave this Colony, and I cannot go without giving you my humble testimony to the goodness of God. I have been led under your ministry and the teaching of the Holy Spirit to see the way wherein I ought to go, and my peace has become as a river. Your labours have not been in vain in the Lord.'

A note in Dr Legge's hand says: '1 received to-day a note from a young man named Young. It contained an order for 100 rupees for the Chapel "because he had often been built up and refreshed within its walls."'

To Dr Legge as a friend in trouble or difficulty came appeals from all sorts and conditions of men. The following letter, written in 1861, was the beginning of a long friendship.

'Victoria, Hong Kong, October 14, 1861.

'Reverend Sir,

'I beg most respectfully that you will favour me with an interview for the purpose of religious enquiry.I am a Roman Catholic and have always yielded the most implicit belief in the doctrines of the Roman Church. Nevertheless I consider it my duty, as it is the duty of every man who attains the use of reason, to investigate for myself the great truths of the Christian religion, and, in a spirit of humility and faith, convince myself that that which I before believed, on the authority of my parents and teachers, is founded upon reason and the gospel.

'To you, as the minister in this island of that Church which represents the spirit of the Reformation and which is opposed in doctrines and ceremonies to the Church of Rome, I apply for assistance in the task I have imposed upon myself. With the doctrines of my own church I am well acquainted. With the doctrines of the Reformed Churches, and with the reasons that influenced the reformers in their separation from the See of Rome, I am acquainted only through the writings of Roman Catholics. These may not be altogether free from misrepresentation or prejudice. And therefore is it that I presume to address myself to you; and I cannot believe that one who is so faithful a servant of his Divine Master will refuse to grant me an opportunity of obeying that divine command, and receiving the fulfilment of that gracious promise: "Seek, and you shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you."

The writer remained a Roman Catholic, as is shown by another letter from him written twenty-five years later (1886), but the affection and gratitude expressed in it, justify a quotation from it

'My Dear Dr Legge,

'I have no words to thank you for your very great kindness. If it had not been for you I must have gone under. . . . That I am now prosperous and happy I owe entirely, under God, to you. I feel more and more every day how great is the debt of gratitude I owe you. I congratulate you on your age, seventy, on your good health and on your ability and readiness to work at that age, but you were always a wonderful worker, and you will work, I do not doubt, to the end. You will be glad to hear that His Holiness the Pope has just made me a Knight of St Gregory the Great, and I hope shortly to write myself Q.C.'

In midst of missionary labours and literary labours Dr Legge had to help and write letters on behalf of many folk in trouble, both English and Chinese— for one Chinaman, for instance, whose child had been kidnapped, while he was away in Australia. The child was recovered after much labour, anxiety, and a payment of sixty dollars. Dr Legge wrote:— 'Such a thing could not well occur in a well-governed country.' In one letter he draws a dark picture of life around him. 'Many cases of distress there are, waifs cast ashore on the island, reduced to misery almost invariably by their own drunkenness and other misconduct; among them many scions of good families, well-educated ne'er-do-weels, who now and then make a rally and then fall into the slough again. I have had to do with some specimens of Irish poor, but worse were English and especially Scotch destitutes, men capable of better things and of rising in society, but lost, utterly lost, through various vices.' In his notes are many details of 'strange and eventful histories' related to him by men seeking help and counsel. Still more frequently do entries occur of visits to sick and dying men and women. He writes :—4 Cases of suffering and misery come before me every day. A family here is in absolute want. I resolved to raise between two and three hundred dollars to keep them going until he can get a situation. I have got in less than two hours' visiting 170 dollars—all, except ten dollars, from Scotsmen, and not in large sums.'

But in nothing did Dr Legge's innate courtesy manifest itself more strongly than in the trouble he took in answering letters. Not only to those who wrote asking for details concerning the illness and last days of relations who had died in Hong Kong, but to all who asked for information on any point, his replies were not merely adequate but minute. Truly even to the end of his life the saying of the Chinese Master might have been applied to Dr Legge 'From the man bringing the bundles of dried flax upwards, I have never refused instruction to anyone.'

The following, for instance, is merely part of a long letter addressed (in 1863) to a stranger who had written to tell him that certain Chinese porcelain seals had been dug up in Ireland, and asking how they might have got there. Not content with replying—'The question as to how the seals found in Ireland found their way there, will probably ever remain a problem not easily solved. It was during the Ming dynasty that such articles came to be "the rage" in China and it was at the same time that European commerce with the Empire commenced. Queen Elizabeth sent an envoy to the Emperor in 1596. Some of the earliest visitors from England and Ireland must have taken the seals back with them from China'—he enlarged further upon the subject as follows—*Porcelain seals were first made during the Sung dynasty, a.d. 975-1279. No mention of them can be found before that time. Previous to the Ts'in dynasty (b.c. 220) seals were made of jade and other precious stones, and also of silver. Under the Han dynasty (b.c. 201) seals cast of brass came into vogue and were long used9 till towards the end of the Yuen dynasty (a.d. 1367) they were in a great measure superseded by soapstone seals. Under the Sung dynasty, however, porcelain seals had been made.

'The name of a pottery where many were produced between the years 1111 and 1118 a.d. is still famous. But it was under the Ming dynasty, immediately preceding the present, that these seals were most in vogue. "The Green Kiln" with more than 300 furnaces was constantly at work in the last quarter of the fourteenth century, producing all sorts of small articles. Since the Ming dynasty porcelain seals have very much fallen into disuse.'

In 1866 a Chinese bell was sent to him by another stranger asking its age, and his answer is as follows:—

'The bell belonged to the Buddhist temple or monastery of Tae-shan (so named after a famous mountain in Shan-tung) in Ning-po, and was cast in the 7th year of Kia-K'ing, corresponding to our 1802. This is commemorated in the inscription, with the name of the then abbot, and of the maker. There were four collecting books to get the funds for the undertaking together. The names of the collectors are given and of the subscribers also. Some of the collectors were ladies, and of the subscribers about three-fourths were women; so true is it that everywhere they are the most forward in all religious works. The highest donation appears to have been 12,000 cash.'

Missionary duties, as ever, lay nearest his heart. In 1861, when the first and second volumes of the Classics were coming out, he writes:—'I had occasion last week to visit two or three spots where there was hardly a house two years ago, and I found thronging multitudes. My soul was saddened at the sight of so many sheep without a shepherd, and I felt as if I ought to go home and burn all my dictionaries and classics, and give every hour to the preaching of the gospel to those thousands perishing for lack of knowledge.'

It was the opinion of Dr Legge that though Taoism in its popular aspect is a system of debased superstition, yet, when its votaries confine themselves to the study of its ancient books and cultivate the self-denial and humility there so strongly enforced, they are far more receptive and sympathetic to Christian truth than the Confucian literati. For the Confucian idea fosters pride, while Taoism exalts humility.

A certain Taoist dignitary, eighty years of age, came to visit him at Hong Kong. He said that he had studied the writings of Lao-tze for fifty years but felt that he had not power to attain the ideal life inculcated by that sage. It was beyond his reach. He was in despair, yearning for some truth which his human soul could live by, when some Christian tracts were brought to his monastery on the Lo-fow mountain. He read them and found the light and teaching he needed. 'Of all whom I knew in my long missionary experience,' said Dr Legge, 'he was the one most prepared for belief in the gospel.'

Another most interesting convert was a Taoist 'wise woman.' Her occupation as a priestess had sharpened her faculties. She became a wonderfully useful member of the Chinese Church in Hong Kong, and was welcomed by the Chinese into their houses where she constantly visited and talked to them of the truths of the Bible. She fell very ill, and Dr Legge entered her house one morning to find her married daughter clothing her in her best garments. He knew by this that the end must be near. The dying woman looked at him, but, unable to speak, turned her eyes upward and pointed towards heaven, and in this attitude she passed away.

At the end of 1863 Dr Legge wrote the following short report of the labours of Liong Man-shing, employed as a colporteur among the Cantonese-speaking population of Hong Kong during 1863.

'Liong Man-shing had brought me a regular journal of his proceedings from day to day. The volumes given away by him amount to 667 copies of the New Testament. They might be many more but I have charged him to force the Scriptures on no one, and never to give a volume where he had not some evidence that it would be read. I have received into the Christian Church two men first awakened by him to think about their souls, and there are several others who appear to be seriously seeking the way of salvation'

In the following year he again reports:—'I am happy to bear testimony again to the diligence and faithfulness of the colporteur Liong Man-shing. At least four of those whom I have baptised during the year were first stimulated by him to think about their spiritual condition. He distributed this year 1842 volumes.'

In 1864 Dr Legge engaged to print at the mission press an edition of 5000 copies of the entire Scriptures in large type, and a pocket edition of 5000 copies of the New Testament. Among the existing versions of the Scriptures of the Chinese language, he considered the 'Delegate's Version' very much superior to any of the others.

In 1865 a Chinaman, indignant at the exactions of a Mandarin in his own neighbourhood, came to Hong Kong and there became a convert to Christianity. The following summer he went back to his own home, taking with him tracts and copies of the New Testament. One of the tracts fell into the hands of a Chinese officer connected with the Salt Department and so arrested his attention that he came to Hong Kong to learn more fully of the Christian religion, and gave such proofs of his sincerity that Dr Legge, after three months, felt justified in baptising him.

Nothing gave Dr Legge more joy than to preach in Chinese. In 1866 he writes:—'I went down to Wan-tsye to preach. Mr Macgowan went with me. We took a boat there and back. The congregation was immense, so that there was no room left for the people to stand. Macgowan was surprised at the order which I was able to maintain with such a crowd and the length of time for which I could compel their attention. He had never seen anything like it. It is true that to preach in Chinese always soothes and gratifies my own mind.'

Again in 1867:—'In my Chinese services I find the greatest freedom and the largest measure of enjoy-merit. Last Sunday my sermon was followed by an interesting conversation with many of my hearers.'

The following remark demonstrates his belief in mission work. 'I often think of a sentence I read about the little wisdom with which the world is governed. It really is so both in civil and military affairs. Here in Hong Kong have millions of dollars been squandered which might all have been saved by foresight and discreet management. People talk of the little result obtained for our missionary expenditure. I believe that ten times the result is got for it than any equivalent expenditure realises in the department of government and war. This might be made good by anyone who would take the trouble to make the calculations, and should do something to stop the mouth of gainsayers.'

Twice, during three years and a half that he was away from his family, did he sustain a serious accident. The first occasion happened on the voyage out when he fell into a hatchway which had been opened for a short time and happened to be just opposite his cabin. Instinctively he threw his arms out and was brought up with a tremendous thud. His left side struck the hatchway, and he was pulled up by the stewards. He thought at first that his arms were wrenched out of their sockets and that all the ribs on his left side were broken. Mercifully he had escaped with severe bruising and shaking.

The second accident seemed a more serious one. In July 1872, when he was living alone in Hong Kong, he retired to rest one evening after working on the Chinese Classics until long after midnight About three o'clock he woke and walked into the verandah to look out into the night. He remembered nothing more until he came to himself in bed next morning and saw a doctor bending over him. A Chinese policeman reported that at about three o'clock, when passing the house, he heard the noise of a fall inside, succeeded by a sound of moaning. Coming round to the back he found the servants astir, and on going inside they saw Dr Legge lying unconscious on the stairs, bleeding from the head. They carried him up to his bed and actually left him there alone, insensible and bleeding for over three hours.. About seven o'clock the Chinese boy went in with the usual cup of tea and found his master still insensible, the pillow covered with blood and his left arm swollen from wrist to elbow. Even then they had no thought of fetching a doctor, but one of them went up the hill to the house of Dr Legge's married daughter and informed her that they did not know whether their master was alive or dead. Yet, on the following Sunday, five days later, he preached once, with his arm in a sling, and after a few more days felt quite recovered.

Hong Kong was startled one day in January 1867 by an event which he described in a letter. 'While I was calling on Mr and Mrs Cairns the windows of the room were suddenly blown in upon us, and the glass all smashed to shivers by a tremendous convulsion in the atmosphere, accompanied by a horrid noise of some explosion and a rumbling underground movement which was very frightful. Was it an earthquake? Was it preliminary to some general rising of the Chinese? Mrs Cairns disappeared instantly. Her instinct had carried her to her baby. Cairns turned pale and jumped about the room. We soon discovered what had happened.

Anchored near Stonecutter's Island was a hulk in which merchants stored their powder and which had on board some eighty tons. A schooner was alongside taking powder from it; and somehow —how, will never be known—the whole ignited and blew up. When we ran out on the terrace, nothing was to be seen but an immense dense cloud of black smoke brooding on the water. Gradually it rose up in the air, and spread out a sulphurous pall, stretching from Stonecutter's Island to Mount Davis, heavy, gloomy, grand and terrible. Below, nothing was to be seen. Of the two vessels and two junks that had been near, not a fragment could be discovered. The sea was moved and one mighty wave was driven till it broke over the praya, when the waters subsided to their former placidity. I don't suppose there is one house in the place which has not sustained some damage. My study door, opening on to the verandah, was locked, but so forcibly had the air been driven against it that the nut in which the bolt slides was bent and the large screens torn an inch out of the wood. Most melancholy is the loss of life.'

He was much delighted by meeting Mr Seward, President Lincoln's Secretary of State, at dinner one evening. 'He has been visiting Japan and China and came on to Hong Kong last week. I sat next him on his right. At first sight one is surprised that so old and shattered a man should venture so far away from home. One attempt, at least, was made, you know, to assassinate him. The consequence is that his legs and arms are of comparatively little use to him, and it is with an awkward difficulty that he is able to feed himself. He is a little man but with a wonderful vivacity in work and action. The head is well shaped and the whole face indicative of strength of character. His jaw was broken and had healed, it seemed to me, so as to give a development to the lower part of the face on one side that does not deform, but intensifies the natural show of determination. How he does talk, and how well,— roundly, rapidly, eloquently. Of course controversial subjects were avoided, but we had up Freemasonry, Gambling, Mormonism, Women's Rights, and the Divine Decrees and Responsibility, and on all those subjects he expressed himself admirably. He discussed, I held forth a little now and then; the others queried, suggested doubts, seemed astonished at the play of intellect, and got thoughts on which they might chew the cud of ordinary lumbering English intellect. The impression on my mind was that I was for once brought into contact with a man of large discourse of mind—a clear intellect and resolute will, such as God gives, to fit men to be kings and rulers among their fellows—powers, for good or for evil according to the channels into which their energies flow.'

A glimpse into Dr Legge's study is afforded by an entry of July I, 1871. 'It is a delicious morning —the thermometer in my verandah stands at 87 and in the course of the day it will no doubt rise to 90 and more, but in the meantime there is a gentle breeze coming in through the windows, and at intervals fluttering the light leaves of the Chinese volumes that lie open all about over the room.'

The following letter to the Marquis d'Hervey St

Denys, written on Jan. 14, 1873, foreshadows the retirement of the scholar-missionary from the field of his labours in China :—

'I had the honour, a few days ago, to receive your letter of the 30th October, informing me that you had received, through M. Stanislas Julien, the copy which I asked him to hand to you of the fourth volume of my work on the Chinese Classics.

'By the mail steamer which leaves here on the 16th, I intend sending to M. Julien a copy of the fifth volume, and will enclose a copy for you, of which I venture to beg your acceptance.

'Allow me to congratulate you on your appointment to succeed M. Julien in the Chair of Chinese Literature in the College of France. You will worthily maintain the character which the astonishing and indefatigable labours of our friend have given to the Chair for so many years.

I am much flattered by the opinion which you are pleased to express of my labours in the Chinese field, and will feel honoured to receive a copy of your translation of a most important part of the great work of Men Twan-sen. I intend leaving China in a few months.'

Return to Book Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus