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8 January 1846 - Letter from Guillaume Douarre to Madame des Ternes, benefactress

Translated by Natalie Keen, March 2010

From source APM Douarre documents (to Madame des Ternes).

One sheet, “Bath” paper, forming four pages with three handwritten, the fourth page bearing only the address and Poupinel’s annotation; the short address appearing at the bottom of the first page.


France *Madame* Madame Desternes née Depretat * at Yssac la Tourette *near Riom * Puy de Dôme

[in Poupinel’s hand]
N(ew) Caledonia *8 January 1846* M(onsei)-g(neu)r Douarre

[p.1, at the bottom of the page]

[short address]
To Madame Desternes at la Tourette.


Madame and kind mother,
I wrote only a few words to you on the last occasion. I won’t write much more this time as I am always too pressed for time and obliged to write many business letters; but you are so kind that I can always count on your indulgence. I do not know, Madame, if I was telling you of our troubles, which would have saddened you; today I can reassure you completely by telling you that we have plenty of everything.
Although our natives, according to the sailors who have visited us, might be the most backward of the savages, we are hoping none the less to have some success with them, several thousand know how to pray, a little catechism; some of them recite the rosary. Before long, three or four weeks at the most, we will have erected our first church which won’t be a bad thing, its soaring steeple surmounted with the cross will make an impression on my poor savages who will never before have seen anything so lofty on their land. It was going to be impossible for us to decorate it. Luckily the priest administrator came to visit us and bring us a stations of the cross which will do splendidly to make our catechumens understand the sufferings of a God. We would decorate this temple with red materials which would work wonders; but, as our folk are still very light-fingered and are passionately fond of these materials, this would expose them to too great a temptation. If we had priests we would erect two altars at the same time or rather two churches; the tribe we have feared the most is the one which will give us the greatest consolation; and those who nearly cost us our lives will probably be our most ardent champions, they are also and even more advanced than those who are near us, this last church will be dedicated to S(ain)t Austremoine and be all the more remarkable in that it will be made in Sydney and decorated with two fine stained glass windows gifted by Mr Thévenot.
You will have learned, my kind mother, and you will have been deeply moved by it, that Monseigneur at Clermont[1]has reputedly been ill-disposed towards your adoptive son: I am very happy to tell you that this is but one trial that providence has contrived for me, and that Monseigneur, once he has been given information on the matter which upset him, His Lordship cannot fail to take the same interest in me and my mission. I had received from Monseigneur the Archbishop of Paris[2] a fairly sizeable gift with the condition that I give the name of S(ain)t Denis to the first church I erect; I had written to His Lordship to remind him of my promise, my letter having been inserted in the newspapers, it was generally concluded that as the first church would be dedicated to S(ain)t Denis the mission would be also which is entirely wrong as I could easily prove by speaking to him of certain written records which it is usual to prepare, for the first patron saint of a church or a mission, records which we have always made in favour of Saint Austremoine and never for Saint Denis.
If you were less devoted to me, Madame, and if I valued less the regard you have for me I would never have mentioned these things which have had enough repercussions in Clermont for me to be able to get word of them in New Caledonia.
We shall receive a visit in seven to eight months time; by then I shall have made several journeys into the interior, now that I can give something to the chiefs. At that time I shall send you the account of my travel.
The captain of the “Heroine” has just sent for my letters. I’m therefore obliged to go along with that willy-nilly. It only remains for me to beg you, Madame and kind mother, never to forget in your earnest prayers your little bishop who doesn’t forget you and who never will. Please give my news to all your family and accept renewed assurance of the deep respect and great gratitude, with which I will always be, Madame and kind mother, your most humble and obedient servant
+ G(uillaume) Bishop of Amata


  1. Louis-Charles Féron, Bishop of Clermont-Ferrand from 20 January 1834 (cf. Ritzler et Sefrin, vol. 7, p. 153).
  2. Denis-Auguste Affre, Archbishop of Paris from 13 July 1840 (cf. Ritzler et Sefrin, vol. 7, p. 299).