April 1844: Wesleyan religious conversion fails in Somosomo and Thomas Williams turns to anthropological research: starts work which will lead to “Fiji and the Fijians”

English Wesleyan missionary, Thomas Williams, in his Journal under date 10 April 1844 he writes: “Commenced the first of a series of chapters on the customs, etc., of Feejee. I labour in concert with Bro. Lyth.”
Missionary turns anthropologist: “This is an important entry. It marks the beginning of a course of careful investigations that ended in the publication of Fiji and the Fijians fourteen years later. Up to the date of this entry Williams had displayed a lively interest in native customs and beliefs, and many valuable observations had been made in his letters to his father, and recorded in his Notes on the Fijians; but it was from April 1844 that he became the man whom Dr Lyth described as “my observant colleague who is always all-eye and all-ear.”
” a born anthropologist”: “The born anthropologist soon realized that he had found congenial work, and every year after this up to the time he left Somosomo found him more and more absorbed in it. That was a piece of rare good fortune for Thomas Williams coming, as it did, so soon after his arrival at Somosomo. There was little chance of doing effective religious work in that Circuit. The natives almost to a man declined to abandon their heathen worship; and had Williams found no other outlet for his energy, his spiritual acquiescence in the will of God, sustaining as it was, would not of itself have saved him from chafing, disappointment and discontent.

A man who needed a work:” To be at peace in his mind Thomas Williams needed not only a spiritual conviction, but also a definite lasting work on which he could exercise the gifts that Nature had bestowed upon him. There was nothing of the dilettante in his nature} the urge to do and to do well was strong within him. Work, continuous work, was necessary even for his bodily health. His medical practice, translation of parts of the Bible, philanthropic work and the voyages he made in canoes helped to fill in time; but intermittent work was not enough. What he needed was some absorbing occupation that had in it the quality of permanence and the prospect of success. Such an occupation he found in anthropological research”.
The Journal Of Thomas Williams, Missionary In Fiji, 1840-1853 By G. C. Henderson, M.a. (Oxon.) Emeritus Professor Of History, Adelaide University Author Of Sir George Grey : Founder Of Empire In Southern Lands, Fiji And The Fijians 1845-1856 In Two Volumes Vol. I Australia Angus & Robertson Ltd,1931. The manuscript is in the Mitchell Library, Sydney, in two folios, containing 874 pages and about 250,000 words.


One Response

  1. Levuka, can you help with any reference material suggestions – I am writing a book set in Levuka around 1880?
    Hello kamhnz,
    Is it fiction or non-fiction? What kind of theme?

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