A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-Of-War
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, Aug 13, 2012 - 214 pages
A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War was published in 1872 and recounts the south sea voyages of Constance Frederica Gordon-Cumming. The journey was at the bequest of the Bishop of Samoa who was interested in seeing his widespread parsonage. The book was originally planned to be in two volumes, the first which published on the date given and the second lost to time and publication.In spring of 1875, after Sir Arthur Hamilton Gordon becomes the first governor of Fiji, C.F. Gordon-Cumming, a British woman, accepts an invitation to travel to Fiji as part of Lady Gordon's party. Told from her own viewpoint, Gordon-Cumming writes about her time spent in Fiji where she falls in love with the isles. At the end of two years, Monseigneur Elloi, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Samoa, invites Gordon-Cumming on a mission to visit parts of his diocese located in more than half of the South Seas. She delightedly accepts this unique and exceptional opportunity and prepares for the cruise of a lifetime. Written in a series of journalistic letters to Lady Gordon, Elisa, and her sister, Nell, Gordon-Cumming writes about her experiences on the cruise in a French man-of-war, the Seignelay. Accompanying Gordon-Cumming on the cruise are Monseigneur Elloi, the Bishop of Samoa; Captain Aube; M. de Gironde, the host of the Seignelay; Sister Anna; Soeur (Sister) Marie des Anges; Soeur Marie des Cinq Plaies; Soeur Marie-Jesu; M. Pinart, another guest; and the officers of the French man-of-war. In her letters, Gordon-Cumming remarks on the cordiality of all the clergy, officers, and guests. M. de Gironde provides Gordon-Cumming with a comfortable trip surrounded by friendly passengers, officers, and plenty of food. He even allows her to stay in his cabin, which is furnished with a bookcase, while he stays in the chart-room. As the Seignelay reaches its first stop at Tonga, which is known as the Friendly Isles, the Sisters ask Gordon-Cumming to stay with them while the French man-of-war is in harbor. Gordon-Cumming becomes acquainted with convent life while in Maofanga, a village in Tonga. She explores the peaceful scenery of Tonga and catches a glimpse of King George's house as King George is expecting a visit from Captain Aube and Monseigneur Elloi. Gordon-Cumming, M. Pinart, and M. Berryer discover the Wesleyan church and its history of a commander of an English man-of-war forty years ago as well as the missionaries who came to the South Pacific in 1799. With 125 chapels and an average attendance of 19,000 people, the Wesleyan Mission thrives in the South Seas. Gordon-Cumming also notes and laments European influences, such as dress and hairstyles, on Tonga. Similar to a current day anthropologist, Gordon-Cumming notes these cultural changes throughout her cruise on the South Seas. She then travels to Mua, the main Roman Catholic station, with Monseigneur Elloi, his party, and Tongan students. M. Pinart leads the group to visit the tombs of Toui-Tongas, the former kings of Tonga, and Gordon-Cumming becomes wrapped up in the mysterious creation of the tombs as well as the pyramids. After experiencing convent life and the history and mysteries of Tonga, Gordon-Cumming and the mission sail to Vavau. The Wesleyan Mission also has a large presence in Vavau. Life in Vavau is different from Gordon-Cumming's expectations as the nearest doctor is 2,000 miles away. Tensions rise as she and the local reverend try to help an ill young woman who recently gave birth to her first child. Gordon-Cumming also takes advantage of Vavau's culture by enjoying oranges, sketching the beautiful scenery, riding side-saddle, and visiting a cave. She is most enthralled by the cave's tale of love and scandal.
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