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13 May 1842, Jean-Baptiste Comte to Victor Poupinel, Bay of Islands

Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM, July 2008

To Reverend Father Poupinel of the Society of Mary, Lyons
J[esus] M[ary] J[oseph]
Bay of Islands, this 13th May 1842

Very dear Father
Non recuso laborum[1] I am not refusing the work.
I left Akaroa for the Bay of Islands on 16 March 1842. I left behind Father Tripe who will not be long in coming to the Bay of Islands as well. The colonists and the natives are not numerous enough to occupy two missionaries. But what will become of my poor natives whom I had regenerated in Jesus Christ? I will no longer be there to defend them from the teeth of the infernal wolf. Dear Josephs, whom I had dressed in a precious robe, would it be taken from you after a few days of marriage, and on your entering on the road which leads into that land which you would not go into so often if it was beautiful, if it was fertile and if you were happy there? [2] No. I will commend you to friends, after having commended you to Mary, friends who will remember you often in the presence of the God of mercies, and divine mercy is greater than the distance separating Europe from New Zealand. You, Father, are one of those whom I have chosen to care for my dear children. So you will remember them when you speak to the mother, and if the mother puts them under her protection, who will be able to harm them?
I have just been informed that I have to leave tomorrow for Maketu. Maketu is near the East Cape. Fathers Pézant, Séon, Borjon[3], Rozet[4] and Baty are in that direction, a short distance from each other, with the exception of Father Baty who is the most distant.[5] Perhaps we will be able to see ourselves all gathered together and to experience for a moment the sweetness of the quam jucundum and the quam bonum habitare fratres in unum.[6] I believe I wrote to you from Akaroa on 17th December 1841. I will also write to you from the place to which I am going. I hope that this time I will have some interesting things to tell you. I will make observations on everything I can.
In my letter from Akaroa, I asked you for some spectacles. I am glad that you are quite able to realise that they are half of the life of someone who is short-sighted. I beg you as well to be kind enough to write a few words to my sister, before missionaries leave, so that she can write to me. Her letters edify me a great deal. You lead me to hope that I will see Father Dupont again: we are twin brothers; on almost the same day and the same hour we saw ourselves born into the Society.[7]
So you see we must be close to each other – write to him[8] as well, if he hasn’t already left. I hope that you will remember me to him. For your part, you are condemned, you tell me, to never see beautiful Oceania. May God be blessed; in a few days from now you will see something more beautiful than the one to be found in the seas. I rejoice in the progress that the Society is making. However it seems that the Parians[9] are late. Poor men, they don’t dare lose sight of the rock of St Michel.
Very Reverend Father, I beg you to kindly do something for me, that is, to send me Cousin-Depreau.[10] The one you sent is not for my use. It will always remain at the Bay of Islands, and as I will never stay there I will always be deprived of it. That publication is not expensive. I would very much like to have it. So I hope you will have it sent to me. Goodbye, my dear brother, whom I will see again in heaven.
You will not send me the publication requested.[11]
E nui toku aroha nou. Great is my love for you.
Kia nui hoki tou aroha moku. May your love for me also be great.
Haere ra, taku rata, ki taku hoa. Go, my letter, to my friend.
E hari taku gakau, mo te mea he tagata pai koe. My heart is glad, because you are a good man.
Kia koha tou inoüya ki te Atua moky. May your prayer to God be strong for me.
E noho ra ki oropi. Stay in Europe.
Tena ra ko koe. There you are. I have made some progress in this language. Farewell.


  1. sic – laborem?
  2. From Dear Josephs onwards, Comte seems to be seeing the fate of his Maori converts in the light of the story of Joseph in the Bible (Genesis 37ff). As Jacob had given his specially beloved son Joseph a beautiful coat, so Comte had given these people the precious robe of Catholic faith. Joseph had been sold into slavery, and Comte sees his converts as under the risk of being sold into Protestant slavery - translator’s note
  3. Written “Bourjeon”
  4. Written “Roset”
  5. The stations of Pézant (Tauranga), Borjon (Maketu) and Rozet (Opotiki) were all on the Bay of Plenty coast, and Séon’s at Matamata was pretty close to Tauranga (cf Doc 114 [3-4], 124 [7], 129 [4, 8], 1131) but Baty’s was at Te Auroa “on the northern part of Mahia Peninsula” (Doc 114 [2], 113 [1], 216 [1-2]).
  6. Ps 132 (133):1 How pleasant and how good it is for brothers to live together
  7. Charles Dupont (1810-79) and Comte entered the Lyons novitiate on 14th July 1838. (But Dupont had already entered the novitiate at Belley 1st November 1836). Comte was professed on 19th May 1839 – Victor Poupinel was professed with Dupont. Both came from the southwest of Calvados (Bayeux diocese). Although he never left for the missions, he perhaps showed some interest in them; during his time as a Marist in Paris 8144-1864 he was commissioner at the Missions procure. (There are other details of Dupont’s life in the original footnote)
  8. this seems implied, though not said - translator’s note
  9. Very likely some young men from Val-Saint-Pair (Manache), some kilometres from Mt St Michel, whom Poupinel could have known and who could have expressed some interest in the missions, but none entered the Marist novitiate.
  10. A work of Louis Cousin-Dupreaux (1743-1818), very likely the Leçons de la Nature our l’histoire naturelle, la physique et la chîmie presenté à l’esprit et au coeur which he published about 1800.
  11. Vous ne m’enverrez pas l’ouvrage demandé