Diaries of Désiré Louis Maigret, Picpus Father, Bishop of Arathia in partibus infidelium, Apostolic Vicar for the Sandwich Islands[i]

Jean Charlot



In 1834, Désiré Louis Maigret, missionary of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts, began to keep a diary.  He was to keep it faithfully for close to half a century.  The last entries are dated 1880.  Maigret dies in 1882. 

The manuscript fills four notebooks, somewhat frayed, kept in the archives of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace, Honolulu.  Some nine hundred pages of tiny script prove somewhat of a challenge to the present-day reader. 

Written in French, the diary remains for its major part untranslated and unpublished.  Maigret’s life is part of the history of French Catholic missions in Oceania.  The setting shifts from the Gambier Islands to Tahiti, to Ponape, and for its final phase, to Hawai‘i. 

As an epilogue to the second notebook, Maigret has left us a calendar of early events that antedate those in his journal:

Born September 14, 1804.

First communion and confirmation at St. Michel, Picpus, June 2, 1816. 

My vows in the Picpus chapel, January 1822. 

Tonsure and minor orders at Seez, September 23/26. 

Sub-deacon, Seez, Sept. 24/26.

Deacon, Seez, Dec. 22/27.

Ordained priest at Rouen, Sept. 20/28. 

I leave for Oceania from Le Havre, Oct. 29/34.  

The diary opens on that day.  Maigret is not yet thirty years old.  The Holy See has just chosen Father Jerome Rouchouze to be Vicar Apostolic of a newly opened field of missions, Eastern Oceania.  The newly created Bishop of Nilopolis makes ready to sail for his far-flung domain.  Three brothers and three priests leave with him from France, Maigret being one of them. 

From the first, the diary mingles important events and personal minutiae: 

Oct. 29/34

As I board ship, my missal falls overboard.  It keeps afloat for some ten minutes and in the end I am lucky enough to retrieve it.

In February 1835, the ship calls at Valparaiso, Chile, where the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts is permanently represented.  At leisure for the while, Maigret copies in his journal Spanish documents in a swift cursive that proves his familiarity with the language.  These are letters from Franciscan missionaries who wish to share with the newcomers their secular experience in ministering to “savages,” in their case, Arauco Indians.

Full of wisdom though they are, the letters are not without humor.  Msgr. Rouchouze had attempted in an early correspondence Latin as a common tongue, and the friar remarks, “Tell his Lordship that his Latin is Greek to me.” 

From Valparaiso the French missionaries leave for the Gambier Islands, which they reach May 9.  Rouchouze plans to establish his headquarters in Akena.

May 14/35 

Solemn High Mass at Mangareva.

Awed at the sight of miter and crosier, processional cross and cassock, the natives acclaim the bishop as a god.  Young Maigret plunges into a dynamic adventure, that of bringing to the faith some two thousand idolaters. 

Archeologists and art lovers may shudder somewhat at the side products of this zeal.  The cult of primitive art was not yet born and would not be for another century.  

Of the Gambier carvings, Father Laval, one of the missionaries, has this to say:

The idols are wooden beams tipped with human figurations of an obscene nature. 

Maigret obviously agrees, as he feels no qualms at his job: 

July 6/35

This morning, as Msgr. and I were saying our breviary on the beach, Maritua arrived, flushed with pride, saying that a chief had brought in another god, called rongo, the rainbow.  

He invited Msgr. to knock it on the head, having himself mistreated it in our presence.    

At this very moment, the stake is being made ready where all the gods will be burned together.  We’ll add the remains of the one that has been smouldering all night besides our hut, the one on which Mr. Cyprien kept warm his infusions. 

To learn the language of the islands, Maigret improvises a method.  He writes in French and then in Mangarevan such phrases as: 

To whirl swiftly one’s umbrella.   

Take care or you’ll tear up my cassock.  

Zealously the young missionary compiles a scholarly list of the gods that dwell in the Mangarevan pantheon, these same gods whose images he burns with equal zeal.  

His contacts with the natives, docile though they prove to be, at times puzzle him:

April 10/36

As would a child, the king peeps furtively through the cracks in the rush partition of our hut.  I ask him, “Who are you?”  He answers, “I am me.”  “Who you?”  “Maputeo.”  “What are you after?”  “I am looking.”  A passing strange conversation between His Mangarevan Majesty and I.

July 19/36  

Never have I seen such eagerness at learning to read.  Since morning, the whole island, youngsters, oldsters, all, congregate in front of our alphabet board.

July 5 

Baptized and confirmed close to 170 people.  At their head, Maputeo, King of Mangareva and his little a daughter, aged 5 or 6. 

Maputeo was baptized Gregorio, in honor of the reigning pope, Gregory XVI.  Msgr. de Nilopolis felt somewhat cramped in the Gambier Islands.  Having priority of choice, the Protestant missionaries had established themselves in strength in Tahiti and the Sandwich Islands.  The times were far from ecumenical and Rome, for them, was still the bawd of the Apocalypse.  On their side, the Catholic missionaries rolled up their sleeves to make war on two fronts, against the pagan sorcerers, and, with equal zeal, against the Protestants. 

In November 1836, Msgr. Rouchouze hazarded two of his priests in hostile territory.  They reached Papeete, but the Tahitian queen, Pomare, denied them the right of residence.  Soon, the incident was blown to international scale.  On the Protestant side, the Reverend George Pritchard, English consul and close adviser to the queen.  His opposite, the Belgian trader Moerenhout, rated a most imposing title, Consul General of the United States in the Oceanic Islands.  Moerenhout, accepting to represent France as well, allied himself with the Catholic party.  

Resenting the snub to his envoys, Msgr. de Nilopolis sent the fathers Maigret and Caret to present a formal complaint before the French consul residing in Chile. 

Sailing from Mangareva in January 1837, the fathers reached Valparaiso in March.  To be ready, Maigret has copied in extenso in his notebook the dossier of the Tahitian affray.  Undaunted by linguistics, he writes equally fluently in English, Pritchard’s language, in Tahitian, used by Queen Pomare, and, of course, in French, Moerenhout’s choice. 

Maigret’s stay in Chile lasted six months.  For relaxation, he worked at a dictionary French-Mangarevan.  As to his official mission, it was to bear fruit.  Soon a French war frigate, its guns aimed at Papeete, would teach Queen Pomare a lesson, and to the Reverend Pritchard too! 

In June 1837, Msgr. Pompallier, Apostolic Vicar for Western Oceania, arrived at Valparaiso.  He was on his way to the Caroline Islands and planned to call at the Gambiers to confer with his colleague, the Apostolic Vicar of Eastern Oceania.  For Maigret, this meant an opportunity to return to his station. 

Leave for Mangareva with Msgr. Pompallier, August 10,1837.  

Akena is reached September 13.  No sooner had he landed when Maigret was sent on still another errand, one quite as hazardous as the Tahitian adventure.  Together with the Irish priest Columban Murphy, he is to attempt a toe hold at the Sandwich Islands, jealously guarded though they  are against intrusion from Rome. 

At this very moment, Father Alexis Bachelot, Apostolic Prefect for the Sandwich Islands, is in Honolulu waiting to be deported after one more fruitless attempt to reside in his prefecture. 

October 6, 1837

Leave for Sandwich. 

Oct. 30  

In sight of Owahii.

Nov. l 

In sight of Maui.

Nov. 2

At the mouth of the harbor [of Honolulu] Bachelot and Walsh are awaiting us.  Kekuanaoa comes on board.

Father ArsŹne Walsh, English citizen and a Catholic priest, had won right of residence to minister to foreigners exclusively.  Governor Kekūanao‘a, in charge of harbor traffic and of immigration, questions the new arrivals.  The English consul vouches for Columban Murphy, and he is allowed to land.  Maigret, however, must stay on board and is to sail away at the first opportunity.  And, together with Maigret, Kekūanao‘a plans to get rid of another undesirable, the patient Father Bachelot, who, as it happens, is not only a priest but a very sick man.  

Maigret copies in extenso in his journal the dossier of this new episode.  Eventually, an official report will reach the French consul in Chile.  Eventually, King Kamehameha III will play unwilling host to the officers and crew of an aggressively armed French warship. 

For the moment, Maigret, a State prisoner on board ship, plumbs an uncertain and a frightening future:

Mr. Dudoit, agent for France, and Mr. Walsh, come to see me.  The rumor has it that I am to be deported to China. 

Things shall not be that drastic.  A first deposit of one thousand piasters secures for the Oceanic missions one of Dudoit’s commercial schooners, Le Honolulu.  It will carry the fathers Bachelot and Maigret to the Island of the Ascension––Ponape––in Oceania Occidental.  Le Honolulu is renamed Notre Dame de la Paix. 

 Nov. 17, 1837 

At last I find myself on the schooner Our Lady of Peace. 

Nov. 23 

We set sail for Ascencion. 

Dec. 5 

Death of Father Bachelot at 2 a.m. 

Maigret decides against a funeral at sea, hoping to build, in time, a monument worthy of this pioneer, who truly suffered for the faith. 

Dec. 13

The Island of Ascension is sighted.

Dec. 14 

Burial of Fr. Bachelot at Nara.  I return aboard. 

Dec. 21

I sleep on land, in the hut that the King has had built for me.  He brings me food. 

Dec. 31 

I begin to study the local language. 

Maigret will stay at Ponape the better part of the year 1838, until the schooner is able to return for him.

April 30

I work at the tomb of Fr. Alexis [Bachelot].  An epidemic rages, its symptoms headaches and stomach aches.  I am not immune.  

May 1 

I pass a fitful night.  Despite stomach aches I labor all day.  I made a cross sixteen feet high.  The king helped me raise one of the beams.  In one hand he held a fish that was his gift to me.  With the other he helped the men who raised the beam. 

May 2

A bad night.  Impossible to sleep. 

May 3 

I keep thinking of my wish to raise that cross on the day of the feast of the Finding of  the Holy Cross [May 3].  I raised it as best I could but, lacking help, it is not all I could wish it to be. 

Naturally enough, Maigret attempted to convert the natives, but with no outstanding success. 

July 2/38

Schooner sighted.  It is Our Lady of Peace.  The captain visits.

 July 29

I leave Ascension.  

Sept. 3 

[At sea.]  I eat shark meat.

 Dec. 22 

Arrive Valparaiso.

At Valparaiso the missions have ready credit: 

Dec. 31

By paying 1,000 piasters I take possession of the schooner. 

Jan. 27/39 

[Leave for Gambier Islands.]

Feb. 12 

A fight between the cook and some of the crew.  Insults are exchanged.  Attempting to make peace, the captain tells the cook to shut up.  The cook does not shut up.  The captain strikes him.  The cook jumps overboard shouting that he wants to drown. 

The ship is stopped.  We pray to Our Lady not to allow him to drown.  The wretch sights a shark making ready to devour him.  He throws his shirt at the brute and hurries back on board. 

Back in Mangareva Maigret is on Christian ground.  Those natives who have not yet been baptized are receiving instruction. 

March 28/39

Over 800 communions on the big island.

Maigret falls into a pastoral routine.  Between January and March 1840, his diary remains blank. 

Sudden flurry as a commercial brig owned by Dudoit arrives, its cargo of wines and brandies earmarked for the Sandwich Islands. 

March 26/40

La Clementine.  From Hawaii, by Tahiti and Valparaiso.  Columban [Murphy] is on board.  Freedom of conscience in the Sandwich Islands. 

The portentous news are stale by ten months.  It was in July 1839 that a French officer, Laplace, had aimed the guns of his warship at the city of Honolulu.  Against his better judgment, the King saw no other choice than to sign a treaty lowering to five per cent the tax on wines and brandies.  And France also ruled that, from now on, French missionaries would have free entry. 

Msgr. Rouchouze had felt cramped in Akena.  He prepared to transfer immediately the seat of his vicariate to Hawai‘i.  Three priests went with him, one of them Maigret.

May 11/40

Hawaii sighted.   

May 13 

We enter Honolulu harbor.  We land.  No Te Deum was ever sung with better heart.

May 17

[Pontifical Mass.]  Nearly 5,000 souls attend.  

May 21

We are busy making plans for a church. 

May 29 

Alphabets are printed at 200 copies in the Hawaiian tongue.

June 13

Visit of a French marine officer and of a missionary.

Maigret writes missionary pointedly in English, to underline the denomination.

The Reverend Lowell Smith, pastor at Kaumakapili, was bold enough or simple enough to undertake to convert the fathers to his point of view.  Dialogue ensued and pious leaflets were exchanged, without budging anyone from his entrenched position.  In his official report to Picpus, Msgr. Rouchouze gives Lowell Smith this accolade, “I believe that this young man acted in good faith.”

Saturday, June 20, a French corvette, La Danaēde, enters the harbor.  Its officers and crew land, and an occasion is at hand to deploy the flag––red, white and blue––and to alternate plain chant and alarums. 

June 21

[Sunday.]  Military Mass.  The King is present with his staff.  He visits with Msgr.

June 22

We have an audience with the King.  A contract for 13,000 piasters is signed.  The church shall be built for this amount. 

July 9 

We begin digging the foundations of our future church. 

Aug. 3 

Bingham leaves on the Flore for the United States.

In Hawai‘i since 1820, Bingham had worked hard to consolidate the hold the missionaries had on King and State.  His model was the Geneva of Calvin.  A new era opens that Bingham is not ready to understand or to  condone.  His departure is somehow symbolical. 

Aug. 6

Blessing of the cornerstone of our church. 

For only this once, Maigret attempts a sketch.  It shows the stone and its incised inscription.  One feels that the draftsman has a quiet pride of authorship in the classically balanced effect: 




Maigret is reticent as to the ceremony itself, doubtless trusting his memory in the matter.  We must turn to the Polynesian, August 8, for details: 

The cornerstone of the new Roman Catholic chapel was laid on the 6th.  His Majesty, Governor Kekuanaoa, and the officers of La Danaēde being present. 

At the end of the year 1840, Maigret jots down this balance sheet: 

Vicariate of Oceania.  

Catholics: 3,000

Heretics: 30,000 

Unbelievers: 100,000 

To awake interest in his missions at home, Msgr. Rouchouze sails for France January 3, l841.  Though his intention is to return, Hawai‘i will not see him again.  He and his helpers are lost at sea, nobody knows for sure where, when, or how. 

As the Bishop departs, Maigret, pro-vicar and prefect of the Islands, shoulders most of his responsibilities.  On his own, he proves to be an excellent organizer and a zealous builder.  At his death in 1882 , over thirty-eight churches built of stone will be chalked to his credit.

Education is a problem.  In 1840, the only teachers with proper credentials were of the Protestant faith.  Maigret tries a shortcut.  In a letter to his superior in Picpus he writes:

I gathered together our Catholic youths and elected some of them teachers.  I distributed diplomas worded as follows: “Salutations to you, N.; by power of the treaty of July 13, 1840, I empower you to act as teacher in the Catholic school of… 

Maigret adds, somewhat uncertainly, “I await the repercussions of this gesture.”  Maigret’s homemade diplomas came to be accepted as valid. 

July 27/42 

Public examinations.  The King, the Kuhina, Kuakini, Poki, Kekuanao are in attendance. 

The students were tested on Christian doctrine, reading, writing, geography, arithmetic, history, and singing.  One of the fathers remarks:

It seems at first bizarre but here everything is done in song.  Such is the manner of this land, everything is done rhythmically.  

Formal diplomatic relations did not exist as yet between the European powers and the Hawaiian Kingdom.  And always, overt or unspoken, a threat of annexation was in the air.  Russia, France, England, from time to time would send warships to Hawai‘i to display their political muscle and force from the King concessions.  France was actively engaged in a politic of conquest in the Pacific.

Aug. 5/42  

On returning from Heeia, I learn that France has taken possession of the Marquesas Islands.

And in 1843 Tahiti will fall into the net.

Aug. 22/42 

L’Embuscade, a French corvette, arrives.  Capt. Mallet. 

Aug. 28 

Dinner on board ship.  The sailors sing canticles in honor of Our Blessed Lady.  

Sept. l 

The commanding officer and his staff are received by the King.  I am present at the interview. 

Maigret understates his role.  Captain Mallet spoke for him, presenting imperious demands: The newly opened schools to be supervised by Catholic inspectors.  Marriages validated by the church to be valid in law, without need of a civil document.  

The King met these demands cautiously.  A special envoy, said he, was on his way to Paris.  He would be instructed to treat of these points with the French government.  The interview ended on this inconclusive note. 

Maigret, by now, occupied a place of importance in the community.  References to the advisers of the king become common entries:

Sept. 10 

Jean Ii apologizes. 

Nov. 9 

Kekuanaoa writes me. 

A guarded friendship is implied with some of the missionaries, foremost with the “missionary in the palace,” Dr. Judd. 

Sept. 12/42

Mr. Judd writes me, asking for a loan of some of our books. 

Constantly and most lovingly, Maigret notes the progress of his cathedral:

Nov. 5/42  

The carpenters have begun work on our church. 

Dec. 31 

The steeple is raised atop our church. 

The following year, 1843, Maigret saw the town once more under the potential fire of a warship, but this time it did not fly the tricolor. 

Feb. 10/43

Arrival of the frigate Carysfort, Captain G. Paulet.

Feb. 18

Lord Paulet was ready to fire upon the city should his terms be rejected. 

The cathedral under construction lies within range of the foreign guns.  Ultimatum follows ultimatum.  Unable to pacify Paulet, the King gives up his kingdom rather than risk deaths and destructions.  In a gloomy ceremony, the Hawaiian flag is lowered and in its stead the Britannic pennant is raised.

Feb. 25 

Lord Paulet, captain of the Carysfort, takes possession of the Sandwich Islands. 

In this moment of national uncertainty, Maigret’s thoughts are for his cathedral:

April 17 

The planking of the floor of our church is started.

Having exceeded his instructions, Lord Paulet is swiftly punished:

July 26

The Dublin, Admiral Thomas, arrives from Valparaiso. 

July 31

This morning, the troops of the admiral land at Vaikiki.  Immense crowd.  The ancient flag of Sandwich is raised anew. 

As long as the Kingdom endured, July 31 was celebrated as Restoration Day. 

Outside the city, at Ahuimanu, Maigret has now a country retreat that he refers to by the Hawaiian word māla.  It is a combination garden, orchard and kitchen garden.  Nuhou describes it, “The venerable bishop has built his own vineyard and planted his own orchard…His retreat in the mountain, his “garden in the air” as he terms it, is a pleasant and profitable sight…with a small stone-walled cottage about fifteen feet by ten.[ii] 

When the pressure of events allows it, Maigret takes refuge there. 

Dec. 12/45

I seed melons and oranges, and plant banana trees. 

By then, the death of Msgr. Rouchouze has been confirmed or rather inferred.  Maigret, who is pro-vicar, will become Apostolic Vicar.  July 11, 1847, he leaves on board La Sarcelle for Valparaiso to be anointed a bishop.  At sea, his entries acquire a nautical flavor. 

Sept. 8

Winds SE, SEE, SE.  Fair speed.  Oihana Epo. 

The puzzling two words that end this line pair a Latin word, episcopus, with a Hawaiian one, ‘oihana.  They refer to the title of a treatise that Maigret composes on board ship, O na Oihana e pili ana i ka Hoolaa ana i ka Epikopo.  The booklet, printed in Valparaiso that same year, describes the character and privileges of his coming elevation.

Entries with Hawaiian words and phrases increase as Maigret gets older.  The language is a sort of code to jot down private opinions he wished to be kept private.  Thus, when in Rome to attend the Vatican Council, the bishop’s gloss on the proceedings is in Hawaiian.

Valparaiso is reached October 18, 1847.  

Oct. 30

Msgr. Itura invests me with the purple.  

Oct. 31

In the cathedral of Santiago I receive the Episcopal consecration from the hands of Msgr. Hilarion Itura, Episcopo Augustopolitano. 

Maigret is now Bishop of Arathia, in partibus infidelium. 

Nov. 5

I write to Admiral de Tromelin.  He comes to me in the evening. 

Presumably, the conversation touched on points of French and Roman policies.  We meet de Tromelin again in 1849, in the act of besieging Honolulu.

Nov. 7 

I see Mr. Dillon, [French] Consul for the Sandwich Islands.

Guillaume Patrice Dillon was the Irish son-in-law of Monsieur Guizot, Prime Minister to King Louis-Philippe.  In 1846, France had recognized Hawai‘i as a sovereign state.  Dillon’s coming opens the formal relations between the two kingdoms.  He sails for Hawai‘i together with Maigret on La Sarcelle.  Lima, Peru, is a first stop.  

Dec. 17/47 

I witness the butchering of a whale on board the American whaler Ch. Carrol.

Feb. l/48  

We reach Honolulu.  Te Deum.  A crowd.

Feb. 2

Solemn Pontifical Mass of thanksgiving. 

Feb. 15 

Translation of the portrait of Louis-Philippe. 

This terse entry sums up quite an event.  King Louis-Philippe had entrusted Dillon with his likeness, en pied as well as in oils, meant as gift for the king of Hawai‘i.  The giving was somewhat ostentatious.  A parade started from the French Consulate.  At its head, the military brass band of La Sarcelle, the tricolor flag deployed high.  Veiled with scarves, the framed portrait followed, carried on the shoulders of twelve sailors escorted by marines.  The consul and the bishop followed, Msgr. Maigret exposing for a first time his violet robes to the sun.  The parade tapered off into the motley group of all the French residents, barely a dozen. 

On reaching the royal palace, the portrait was unveiled before Kamehameha III.  Court News describes how the Hawaiian King gazed up a long time at the features of the French King, and then shook hands with Dillon “with unfeigned emotion.”  

Ten days later, in faraway France, Louis-Philippe, victim of a revolution, will seek refuge in England.  As to Dillon, he kept his post, swearing fealty first to the Second Republic and, after that, to the Second Empire.

Diplomat Dillon was not diplomatic.  When in difficulties, he knew no better than to conjure such a well-worn deus ex machina as a French Admiral on his flagship.  Thus it is that Legoarant de Tromelin, on his war frigate, La Poursuivante, dropped anchor in Honolulu harbor August l2, 1849.  Two days later, a French war steamer, Le Gassendi, joined him. 

Having weighed Dillon’s complaint, the admiral redacted the expected ultimatum to the Hawaiian King.  But its French text still had to be translated into Hawaiian and printed as broadsheets to be distributed at large.  

Aug. 20

I receive a letter from Admiral Legoarant de Tromelin. 

Maigret accepted to do the translation, and the mission press did the printing. 

Aug. 25 

The French forces disarm the Fort of Honolulu. 

As Lord Paulet had learned to his discomfiture, there lurked political drawbacks in the bare use of force.  De Tromelin could hardly miss the obvious parallel.  So cautious was his ultimatum as to annul the intended frightfulness.   

The French forces are in possession of all military installations in the harbor.  Nevertheless, the Hawaiian flag still waves over the Fort and will remain waving.  The undersigned neither aims at an occupation nor at a protectorate for France… 

Admiral de Tromelin

Aug. 28

Negotiations on board ship prove inconclusive. 

Aug. 29

All local shipping is seized. 

Now the French turned their guns on the town.  An American sloop, the Prebble, bravely turned its own guns on the French, swearing to shoot if they did.  Startled by the magnitude of the commotion, Dillon took refuge on board the Gassendi.  De Tromelin, equally uneasy, had his ships sail away September 5, without waiting further. 

In mid-nineteenth century, niceties never ceased to be observed, even at such trying times.  On the eve of departure, the admiral’s secretary sent Robert Crichton Wyllie, Hawai‘i’s Secretary of Foreign Affairs, the following courteous note: 

  La Poursuivante is to sail tomorrow…The Admiral charged me to tell Mr. Wyllie that La Poursuivante is ready to receive his dispatches, packets, and other things destined for the American continent and for Europe.

Wyllie was a Scotsman possessed of a very dry wit.  His answer was equally polite, though negative: 

Having suffered for the last thirteen days from lumbago and from having so many French documents to translate, Mr. Wyllie fears that he is not prepared to profit by the Admiral’s offer.  

Before boarding the Gassendi, Dillon had left with the bishop a statement of his side of the affair, asking that it be released.  Maigret complied.  No sooner had the French disappeared over the horizon than Maigret received the following note from Wyllie: 

Sept. 7 

My Reverend friend: 

Yesterday a pamphlet was shown to me, as printed by the Catholic Press, emanating from Mr. Dillon, and circulated subsequently to his departure.  You will greatly oblige me by sending me by the bearer twelve copies of that pamphlet… 

P. S.: I address you in the belief that everything relating to the French Mission in these Islands, the press included, is under your cognizance and direction.

Wyllie pointedly uses the full title that was Maigret’s by right on the cover of the letter: “To His Lordship the Bishop of Arathia, in Partibus Infidelium.”  The Latin can be paraphrased as “in charge of regions peopled by unbelievers.” 

A diary is history in the making, but it is not clear-cut history.  In a diary historical events and daily minutiae do appear cheek by jowl.  Should a historian search Maigret’s manuscript for a mention of the death of Kamehameha III, he will not find it easily.  While the King lay dying in Honolulu, Maigret was on Kaua‘i in the act of consecrating a chapel. 

Dec. 4/54

Father Denis and I leave for Kauai. 

Dec. 9 

We work at the grounds, church, and parsonage. 

Dec. 12 

Weeding.  Raking.

Dec. 14  

Weeding.  Raking.  Cattle are brought in for the feast.  People gather. 

Dec. 16 

All houses are filled.  Oxen killed and cooked. 

Dec. 17

Solemn dedication of the church.  Baptisms.  Confirmations.  Three masses.

Dec. 18

Rain.  Melons.  

Dec. 19

Good weather.  The little patch of onions.  We learn of the death of the King. 

Kamehameha III had died December 15.  Kamehameha IV ascends the throne.  In 1856 he marries Emma Rooke. 

May 20/58

Volley of 21 gun shots.  Birth of a royal prince. 

Aug. 27/62 

Death of the Hawaiian Prince.  Catechism classes cancelled.

These two entries sum up a drama, private and dynastic, that resulted in profound changes in the religious complexion of the Islands.  Having accepted to be godmother to the child, Queen Victoria of England sent as her envoy the Anglican Bishop Thomas Nettleship Staley.  He reached Hawai‘i in October, too late to baptize the prince.  Instead the royal parents were baptized into the Church of England, one feels as a pious gesture to honor the child they mourned. 

The Reverend Staley was High Church and loved ceremonies.  A Calvinist eyewitness describes him as he strode on the scene, “with surplice and stole, with alb and cope and crosier, with rochet and mitre and pastoral staff, with Episcopal ring and banner…robings, intonations, processions and attitudes.”  In his turn, Staley judged the American missionaries to be slightly uncouth, though he stated in a sermon, “We owe them many thanks for having prepared the way for us.” 

Given his leanings, the Right Reverend Staley, Bishop of Honolulu, felt an immediate affinity for Msgr. Maigret, Bishop of Arathia. 

Nov. 5/62 

The Bishop visits.

In the manuscript, Bishop is written in English, leaving no doubt as to who is meant.

Come Christmas, a fir tree with its trimmings adorned the royal palace.  At midnight a procession, headed by the King, wove its way through the streets with the bishop and his clergy in surplices.  Retainers carried kukui torches.  Courtiers held candles and sang NoĎls. 

Near 1 a.m. the singers stopped in front of Maigret’s residence and serenaded him by name, his Hawaiian name, Luis Makale.  So full of obvious good will were these heretics that Maigret sent Father Walsh to give thanks. 

The Christmas procession constituted a precedent.  Come the feast of Corpus Christi, Maigret too came out in the open: 

June 4/63  

Pontifical Mass.  At 4 p.m. procession in the streets.  Good weather. 

June 5

Everybody speaks well of our procession.

The following Christmas:

At about l0 p.m. in a brilliant moonlight, our courtyard filled up.  At 11, baptisms.  At 12, High Mass.  The whole town is here.  Over a thousand candles.

Between bishops, services are exchanged.  Dr. Staley has eased the way towards public ceremonies.  Now Maigret lends him his presses:

May 10/65

Printing of Anglican ordinations.[iii]  

The Islands can be pleasant and they can be brutal.  Maigret learns the hard way that other facet of Hawai‘i that the ancients conjured by the name of Pele. 

April 11/68

We learn of the destruction of Kau by the eruption.  Church wrecked.  Houses swallowed by the ocean from Kualua to Punaluu.  Many dead.  All are struck with terror.  Poor little Father Nicaise!!! 

April 13 

The King [Kamehameha V], Mr. de Varigny, Madame de Varigny, their son, board the Kilauea. 

April 17 [Hilo]

The King gathers his people, distributes alms to sufferers from the recent disasters.

April 19

We anchor at Keauhou.  Distribution of alms to those in need. 

April 20

Lands upraised by the eruption, burnt and still smoking.  Our two beautiful churches of Kamaoa and Naohuleluu[iv] standing but out of use. 

April 21

At Kuhuku, the lava throws itself into the sea.

In May of the following year 1869, Maigret leaves for Rome.  Bishops the world over converge on the Vatican where the Council is to open in December.  The long and tiring trip ends in November.

Nov. 28

The Papal chapel in St. Peter.  I see and hear the Holy Father. 

Dec. 7

All bells are pealing.  Rain.

Dec. 8 

The Council opens.  Magnificent display.  St. Peter is crammed to choking in spite of the rain.

One of the notebooks ends here.  With the year 1870, Maigret starts another.  Its opening pages are filled with scholarly jottings: the beginnings of a French-Hawaiian dictionary completed to Awanei.  An essay on the Chinese language.  Written in Rome, these notes are proof that Maigret longs for his flock, so far from him in the middle of the Pacific. 

March 7/70 

Forty Hours at St. Anastasia, near St. George.  The crucial question will be raised.

The reference is to the dogma of infallibility, introduced as an afterthought into the Council’s agenda.  It promises to be hotly discussed.  Cardinal Manning of England champions it.  Msgr. Dupanloup of Paris is against it. 

April 17

Most splendid feast of my life.  Benediction urbi et orbi.  Beautiful weather.

April 18

At the Pincio fireworks representing the Heavenly Jerusalem. 

April 24 

General assembly.  Placet unamime.  The Pope presides.  Aole hanohano a koe.[v]

A discreet gloss in idiomatic Hawaiian.  The sense, minus the nuance, “Not exactly a glorious affair.”

The first flare-up of the Franco-Prussian war meshes narrowly with the dissolution of a council that was never to reach a formal conclusion. 

July 18

Definition of Infallibility.

The next day, July 19, the first skirmishes of the war.  The gathering of bishops disperses.  Maigret reaches Paris August 3.

Aug. 5/70

Rumor of a great victory proved false.

Aug. 7 

Rumor of a great defeat. 

Aug. 8 

State of siege. 

Aug. 9 

Widespread anxiety.

Aug. 15 

Battle of Metz. 

Aug. 18

Making ready the defenses of Paris.

To escape being trapped indefinitely in the besieged city, Maigret crosses the channel, embarks at Liverpool, and reaches the Pacific via Canada. 

Oct. 13  

Brisk breeze.  Molokai is sighted. 

Oct. 14 

We land [at Honolulu].  Our Christians on shore.  Te Deum. 

Oct. 23

High Mass.  Instruction, with Father Damien as catechist. 

Father Damien is, of course, Damien de Veuster, the apostle of the lepers.  Present-day Hawai‘i has chosen him as one of its two major heroes to represent the State in the National Hall of Fame.  And in Rome, his beatification is in process.  It was perhaps best that Maigret should have no inkling of the future. 

By 1870, Damien had already served the bishop for six years with all his heart and with a robust body that relished manual exertions, carpentering and bricklaying.  Hagiographers who suggest that a deep bond of friendship tied at first sight the old bishop and the newcomer could hardly document their pleasant premise by quotes from the diary.

Damien enters the scene in 1864.  Now in his sixties, the bishop, whenever possible, passes the weekends at his country māla.  At times, groups of friends are his guests.  The mood is bucolic.  That February, he plays host to American missionaries:  

Feb. 17/64

Mala.  Strong winds.  Messrs. Titcomb, Coffin, Hon. G. Judd. 

Feb. 18 

My guests leave.  Rain.  A new handle for my small scythe. 

The following month he passes another weekend at his māla.

March 19

On returning to Honolulu, G. Judd breaks the news on the way that our travelers have arrived.  I have the happiness of embracing them ca. l p.m…. 

March 26

Ordained sub-deacons the Fathers Lievine and Damien. 

May 21

Ordained deacons and priests the Fathers Lievine, Clement, and Damien.  

Damien writes home:

Our first two months were spent on Oahu, where Msgr. Maigret resides permanently…We were ordained priests on the Ember Sunday in Whitsun week.  The next day we said our first Masses in the cathedral of Honolulu.  Two days after our ordination, Msgr. assigned to each his post….  Father Clement and I are sent to the big island, Hawai‘i. 

Maigret shepherds the fledgling missionaries to their posts: 

June 7

We leave, Fathers Clement, Damien, and I for Hawai‘i, ca. 5 p.m. on board the Kilauea.  

June 8

Ca. 7 a.m. we reach Lahaina.  Damien says mass.  We leave at 9, touch at Molokai.  On our way to Kalepolepo, there is a fire on board.  We return to Lahaina.

   Damien’s version:

The ship caught fire and we returned to Maui.

Maigret and Damien are terse.  Not so Damien’s biographers.  John Farrow tells it this way: 

Conrad in Lord Jim has described fitly the panic that can sweep through a vessel on fire.  At such times the hysteria of the fear-crazed mob is more dangerous than the flames…The bishop and two priests, with remarkable calm, walked among the mob…Confidence was restored. 

Stranded on Maui, the bishop was desirous to reach Hawai‘i on the feast day of Sts. Peter and Paul, there to consecrate a new chapel.  While Damien was away to hear confessions, the bishop, with Father Clement, boarded a schooner that chanced by.

June 19

Clement and I go on board.  Damien is absent. 

Maigret reaches Hawai‘i sans Damien.

June 27 

Saw the beautiful church of St. Paul.

June 30

We leave, Father Charles, Vicar Regis, and I for Kau. 

July 11

We leave for Puna.

Meanwhile, Damien, abandoned on Maui, thumbs a sailing and eventually reaches Hawai‘i, following the cold trail of his bishop.  The wandering lonely search, begun June 19, lasted until the end of July. 

July 23 

Father Damien arrives via Kona, Kohala, Hamakua, and the palis of Hilo.

How could the bishop, a good executive, leave this tenderfoot alone for so long in a country he does not know?  Though no well-defined incident can be brought to the fore, Damien is not treated quite on a par with other priests.  He shall remain, for the moment, odd man out.  In 1869, the brother of Damien, Pamphile, met Maigret in Versailles and eagerly asked news of his brother.  The kind bishop wished to please.  This is what he had to say: 

The natives are in constant wonder at it [his strength].  They think it is a miracle when they see Father Damien carry a wooden beam up the hill all by himself, which three or four of them together could scarcely lift. 

In 1867, the bishop returns to Hawai‘i, to consecrate yet another church. 

June 28 

We leave for Kavanui, the Fathers Celestin, Damien, and I.

July 15 

Evening we leave for Moaula, where we dig in haste a privy. 

Privy in English in the manuscript.

July 19

At the heiau of Punaluu we discover excellent cornerstones. 

July 22

Stones and cornerstones carried and placed to mark the boundaries of the future church. 

July 27 

Father Damien baptizes a dying Chinaman.

Aug. 5 

Fathers Charles, Damien, and I we leave for Puoha.  We arrive by a beautiful sunset. 

Aug. 13

Our mules balk at fording the kahavai of Vaiaka.  Neighbor women volunteer to help.  They throw us a long rope.  We tie it to the nose of Father Damien’s mule.  The women take hold of the other end of the rope and tug at it.  Willy-nilly, the mule gets into the water.  Ours follow, and we are saved. 

Aug. 21

Superb weather.  Solemn blessing of the church of the Sacred Heart––30 x l8’––A crowd.  Meal excellent, served under tents.  At our right, Maui’s Haleakala.  At left the three mountains of Hawaii loom high.  The ocean facing us!!!  

The seeds of the saga of Damien, apostle to the lepers, are sown most casually.  To enhance the consecration of a chapel on Maui, the bishop assembled his ecclesiastical flock in Wailuku.  Damien joined him from Hawai‘i. 

May 4, 1873, was the day of the ceremony.  We turn to Nuhou for details: 

The music for the occasion was very fine.  Besides several sweet female voices from Honolulu and elsewhere, the French commissioner assisted with his well trained and powerful voice. 

May 9/73

We leave for Lahaina on horseback.  Lunch, Hawaiian style, at Ukumehame, supper, Irish style, at Lele. 

May 10 

Our masses over, we board the Kilauea.  We reach Kalaupapa at 11 a.m.  Visit to the leprosarium.  We enter the humble chapel just completed by our Father Bertrand.  The new converts gather in substantial numbers.  I say a few words.  They seem pleased to see us.  Father Damien is to stay with them for two weeks. 

A petition is presented with over two hundred names, asking that a priest be appointed permanently to the post.  But where am I to find him?  

At 5 p.m. we return on board, set for Honolulu.

It is crucial to realize that Maigret’s wondering thought, “Where am I to find him?” was written as was his usage, that same day, Saturday, May l0, before retiring.  As far as the bishop knew, Damien’s stay on Moloka‘i was to last two weeks.  The bishop was a humane master and arranged to rotate priests and brothers in short shifts in this unusually trying post.

On his return, Maigret, to his surprise, finds himself acclaimed by the town at large.  Tuesday, May 13, Nuhou trumpets in its headline the reason. 

A Christian Hero.

When the Kilauea touched at Kalawao last Saturday, Msgr. Maigret and Father Damien, a Belgian priest, went ashore.  The venerable Bishop addressed the lepers with many comforting words, and introduced to them the good father, who had volunteered to live with them and for them.  Fr. Damien…was left ashore among the lepers without a home or a change of clothing, except such as the lepers had to offer.  We care not what this man’s theology may be.  He surely is a Christian hero. 

Maigret, a responsible man, would naturally resent the dubious suggestion that he could send one of his priests anywhere with only the shirt on his back, and that for a lifetime!  On the other hand, the bishop basked in a consensus of good will such as he had never known.  Subscriptions were started among town people and money began coming in. 

For the next three days the bishop must have been sorely tempted to make the newspaper’s garbled version come true!  

May 16

A letter from Father Damien, from Kalavao. 

Damien had not heard as yet of the strange happenings in the capital.  On his own, he offered his bishop to stay at his post for his lifetime. 

Maigret’s uneasy dilemma was solved! 

In 1875, Maigret returned to Kalavao to confirm the faithful.  

June 8 

We leave for Puakoo, Fr. Aubert and I, on a whaling dinghy, with three kanakas and Limaki, the captain.  We reach Kalavao at 5:30.  Bila, Fr. Damien, our lepers.  Fair weather. 

June l0   

Sixty confirmations.  High Mass.  In the afternoon confirmed at Kalaupapa.  Fr. Aubert preaches for more than an hour.  Return to Kalavao.  After supper, serenade in the moonlight given by our young lepers.  Twenty musicians.  Four bass drums.  The older people are also there, seated around on the grass. 

What was Damien’s status on Moloka‘i?  In mid-year 1873, some government bureaucrat attempted to stop him from leaving the leprosarium.  Steps were taken by the French consul that made him a free man by November.  From then on, Damien shuttles at will between Moloka‘i and Honolulu.  He officiates at the cathedral, says the high mass on Sundays, preaches, teaches catechism, accompanies Maigret on a visit to the King.  The strict seclusion that is the rule in his later life is not as yet in force. 

The Anglican bishop, assured of the royal favor, had expected the subjects to follow the example of their sovereign.  He had dismissed the American missionaries with a gracious adieu, “Many thanks for having prepared the way for us.”  But the Americans, in their schools, had sown a dangerous seed, that of a democratic ideal.  And their students, come to maturity, had written such a clause in the Constitution of the Kingdom. 

When Kamehameha V died in 1873, Lunalilo ascended the throne not by dynastic right, but by election.  When Lunalilo died the following year, both pretendants to the crown, in need of votes, felt impelled to court the people at large, American style.

Feb. 3, 1874

The King is dead!!

Feb. 5 

The chief Kalakaua issues a proclamation.  [Dowager] Queen Emma issues a proclamation.  I correct the proofs.

For the last time, the bishop is party to a political gamble.  The Queen’s secretary was a brilliant lay Catholic.  Baptized Zephyrin, he is known in history by the Hawaiian version of his name, Kepelino.  It is at Kepelino’s suggestion that Maigret put the mission press at the Queen’s service.  The diary reflects the troubles that followed: 

Feb. 12

Kalakaua is elected.  Mayhem.  The assembly hall is invaded, its windows shattered, its furniture thrown out.  Fist fights.  Club fights.  Some are wounded.  Troops land from the three ships lying in harbor and order is resumed. 

The new king did not hold it against Maigret that he had backed Queen Emma: 

Feb. 22 

Short preach.  High Mass.  The King, the Consul.  After mass the King comes to see us.  After that, he visits with the sisters.  Father Damien, catechist. 

Feb. 23  

The Fathers Modest, Herman, Damien, and I, we pay a visit to His Majesty.  Father Damien returns [to Molokai] at 10 p.m. 

Besides the slanting light it throws on history, Maigret’s diary gives us a forceful self-portrait.  His relation to Hawai‘i evolved with time.  On arrival, still a malihini, the immediate realities, political and religious, he has to cope with mean more to him than the natural beauty that surrounds him.

As was the case with the Calvinist missionaries, Hawai‘i, in time, modifies Maigret’s ways of thinking.  In his māla, in the suburbs, he cultivates with his own hands his garden, his orchard, his vegetable patches.  In those peaceful interludes, the thought comes close to being expressed that the lily of the fields is clothed in more splendor than even a French Admiral in full uniform. 

Jan. 23/61

Another cherimoya has fallen to the ground.  Some hala fruits are ripe.  Others are in flower. 

Aug. 31/65 

The turtle dove that had escaped returns of its own will. 

Nov. 9/65

A bunch of grapes is ripe in my vine arbor. 

[ed: uncertain date]  

Mauka.  Coffee bushes in flower.  Peaches ripening. 

The bishop’s seat is in the city but his mission grounds are all the islands.  His Episcopal visitations happen on mule or horseback, many of them through primitive Hawai‘i.  Only native words can describe it:

Aug. 12/67 

We follow the mountain trail.  The fog lies thick over the forest.  Koa, pilo trees straight as I and over fifty feet in height.  Some okalas, some naios, some opalas, le kahavai of Honapuoe… 

At times, in the hala groves once sacred, the bishop feels at work the mana of gods not his own.  And he gathers heart by using subterfuges close to whistling in the dark: 

June 13/66  

We leave for Hilo.  Look at a patch of land called Halauloa-ulu-hola.  Pineapple, orange and lemon trees, fountain, ohia ai, kukui &&  As we go through the forest we sing the hymn of the Popes. 

In the 1870s Maigret’s thoughts shape themselves to fit the subtleties of the native tongue: idioms and proverbs come to him instinctively.  At the end of a day passed in guiding an early tourist through points of interest he writes:

May 21/72 

Mauka me ka malihini.

And in this case it appears that the visitor was a Frenchman!

Even as regards church tasks, the modified point of view asserts itself:

Aug. l2/76 

Children’s catechism e like me ka mea mau. 

Catechism, always the same routine––approximates the meaning. 

The bishop is seventy-four years old when he jots down a heartfelt thought: 

March 25/78 

Ma uka.  Palupalu aole hana.   

Perhaps he has worked too hard in his garden in the heat of the day.  Perhaps he has chanced still one more long ride on horseback in the brush!  “Too old to work” is the substance of his complaint, but the Hawaiian saying shows more finesse, somewhat like, “An overripe fruit, of what use is it?”  

Maigret is now immune to the shifting political scene.  In 1872, the French admiral de Lapelin, having arrived on La Flore, received His Hawaiian Majesty on board ship.  Maigret notices mostly the noise of the double volley of forty-two shots fired ceremonially from ship and fort. 

April 11/72   

Volleys, volleys, the whole day long. 

Maigret and his colleagues are growing old together.

Aug. 7/76 

Our house is like a hospital. 

Nov. 30/77

Father Lebret loses his last teeth.

[ed: uncertain date]

Father Denis is 76 today. 

Aug. 2/79 

Father Denis says mass with utmost difficulty. 

Aug. 16/79 

Father Denis’ soul goes to God. 

The bishop is not immune.  Each September 14, on his birthday, the entries underline the change:

1876.  My 73rd year begins.  Alas!

l 877.  My 74th year begins!  Heu mihi!! 

April 29/79 

I faint while saying mass. 

The bishop’s handwriting, for so long tiny and crisp, becomes erratic and wide.  After September 1880, the last pages of the year remain blank.  Diary’s end.

Maigret died on June 11, 1882.  Obituaries befriended him as one who had lived in a Hawai‘i so remote that it acquired a mythical flavor, also as one who had helped at the birth of the new Hawai‘i.  Before burial he was laid in state with much solemnity.  

The Pacific Commercial Advertiser in its obituary adds this detail: “Queen Kapiolani sent a large number of pure white jasmine wreaths which were draped around the coffin of the deceased prelate.” 

Maigret was buried close to the main altar in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace that he had built.


[i] The original typescript of this article––dated October 16, 1969––is in the Jean Charlot Collection, Hamilton Library, University of Hawai‘i, and was used as the basis of the French version: “Le ‘Journal’ du Picpucien Louis Maigret, 1804–1882, Évźque d’Arathie et Vicaire Apostolique des Žles Sandwich. Notes et Analyses,” Journal de la Société des Océanistes: Les Missions dans le Pacifique, Volume 25, December 1969, pp. 320–335.  The text republished now in Textes Franćais contains later changes and corrections by Charlot as well as by the editor. 

Charlot did not make an exact copy of the journal but regularized the spelling and punctuation and expanded the abbreviations.  The majority of changes made by Charlot follow the sense of the original and have been kept in the present text.  For more on the text, see the version in Textes Franćais.  Minor changes have been made silently.  I have corrected the English text against the French.  All endnotes are the editor’s, John Charlot. 

[ii] Ka Nuhou Hawaii, Hawaiian- and English-language newspaper, Honolulu, 1873–1874. 

[iii] Charlot is mistaken on this point.  The book he refers to disputes the validity of Anglican orders: [no first name] Fletcher, The Ordinations of the Church of England, Printed at the Catholic Mission, Honolulu, 1865.  G. Mason replied to Fletcher in A Vindication of the Orders of the Ancient Catholic Church of England, against the objections of One Dr. Fletcher, Printed at the Hawaiian Gazette Office, Honolulu, 1865. 

[iv] Probably Nā‘ōhule‘elua. 

[v] The expression is usually Aole hanohano e koe.  It could be translated also: “No gloriousness remained unused.”