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The Life of James Stewart
The Author

From Who’s Who ?—Appreciation of the Press—Literary Style—A Unique Book on Missions—Dawn in the Dark Continent.

Half a mans life is too little for writing a book, the other half too little for correcting it when written. ‘—Rousseau.

A good book is the best of friends, the same to-day and for ever.— Tuner.

WHO’S WHO? for 1904 gives the following list of Dr. Stewart’s publications:—

  • Lovedale, Past and Present, 1884.

  • Lovedale Illustrated, 1894.

  • Livingstonia, its Origin, 1894.

  • Contributions to Good Words, the Sunday Magazine, and Royal Geographical Society Magazine.

  • Kafir Phrase Book and Vocabulary, 1898.

  • Outlines of Kafir Grammar, 1902.

  • Dawn in the Dark Continent, 1903.

This list, however, does not fully represent his literary output, which was astonishing in so busy a man. The most of his writing was done at night or early in the morning when the house was quiet, and all the other inmates were asleep, and after a day’s work that would have exhausted an ordinary man.

The two beautifully illustrated botanical books mentioned on pages 24 and 25 are not in this list.

Stewart had the instincts of a journalist, and he established two papers, The Lovedale News and the Christian Express. The latter had a prominent place in his thoughts. It was called The Spectator of South Africa. His opinions were often quoted in the newspapers, and they had great influence with the leading men in the country. For many years it was the only publication that discussed missionary and related questions. Stewart edited it for several years, and wrote probably about three hundred of its leading articles. These ranged over nearly every subject affecting the weal of South Africa. Indeed, it has been proposed to print many of them in book form, as they are a storehouse of facts and ideas about the questions which occupy, and will continue to occupy, the South African mind. Recent writers on Ethiopianism acknowledge their obligations to the articles in the Christian Express. Stewart was an authority, not only on mission questions, but on native labour and on the government of the natives. Africa had become to him the native land of his heart, the land in and for which he lived, in which he expected to die and be buried, and so nothing pertaining to it could be uninteresting to him.

Even in his student days he wrote for magazines on practical and semi-scientific subjects. ‘Early in my life,’ he wrote to a friend, ‘I got the smell of printer’s ink, and I have never got away from it.’ He believed in the power of the Press, and employed it during the whole of his public life. From his watch-tower he steadily surveyed a wide field. He was ever on the alert for every expression of opinion bearing upon the causes that were dear to him, and by his articles he did much to imbue a wide circle with his favourite ideas. It is largely due to him that there is now a growing interest in South African missions.

In his youth he was a great reader, and his magnificent memory enabled him to quote his favourite authors correctly to the end of his life. Now and again he would indulge in apt poetical quotations, but his ardent practical temperament and want of time indisposed him for the niceties and curious felicities of finished literary culture.

For him, the man of action, the greater part of his library lay out of doors, and earnestly and closely did he study nature and human nature, finding, with Lord Bacon, that men are the best books.

There is a French saying, ‘The style is the man.’ Stewart’s style is in harmony with the man and reveals his peculiarities. It is as downright and direct as Wellington’s despatches. It had the two qualities which the poet Cowper liked best: it was plain and neat. While he had no time for cultivating the niceties of literature, his statements were usually vigorous and impressive. A hater of all many-syllabled ambiguities, he keeps his eye full on the subject, never using words instead of thoughts or words hard to be understood. His sentences resemble Euclid’s straight line, being the shortest distance possible between two points. He always knew what he would be at, and made for it, and nowhere else.

He revised his articles again and again, and was never satisfied. His hatred of flimsy work extended to all the productions of his pen.

In addition to his literary work, he lectured frequently. A lecture delivered to the Royal Geographical Society about his pioneering in Central Africa secured for him the honour of membership in that society.

His heart is revealed in his writings as in a clear mirror. His two chief books are: Lovedale, Past and Present, and Dawn in the Dark Continent.

Lovedale is probably unique in the history of missions. In it he supplies, not missionary opinion, but an immense array of missionary facts, from which every one can draw his own inferences. Its spirit is admirable, for it is equally fitted to propitiate those fervent friends of evangelism who are suspicious of educational missions, and also all fair-minded critics of missionary work. Pen and picture unite in making a very effective explanation of the ‘Lovedale Method.’

Dawn in the Dark Continent [To make this volume useful for missionary objects, I kept down the price, and forfeited my royalty. ‘—Dr. Stewart.] (now in its second edition) is his greatest literary effort. ‘A very helpful and excellent book,’ says a missionary, ‘that every one should read who puts his hand to the Gospel plough in Africa.’ It is a missionary classic, and has been used as the text-book in many mission circles in Britain and America. It contains the lectures delivered in 1902 when he held the post of the Duff Missionary Lectureship, which had been founded by Dr. Duff of Calcutta. In these lectures he makes the first effort to review all the Protestant missions in Africa. He gives sketches of all the Missionary Societies in the Dark Continent, their methods and their fruits. He portrays the struggle in Africa between Paganism, Mahomedanism, and Christianity. It will, he thinks, probably be the final struggle. The book reveals wide reading on the subject, a passion for accuracy, a literary conscience, and a fine catholicity. He gives a very generous estimate of the endeavours of all his fellow-workers in Africa.

It is evident that he cherished a special sympathy with the Moravians, the missionary pioneers in South Africa.

This book will be of great service to the future historians of missions and civilisation.

‘Dr. Stewart’s personality,’ writes the Rev. H. T. C. Weatherhead of Uganda, ‘captured me in his books.’

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