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Br Jacques Peloux to Fr Victor Poupinel, Savai, Samoa, 29 December 1850

D’après la copie, APM dossier Peloux, Jacques

Clisby Letter 89. Girard doc. 973

Introduction and translation by Br Edward Clisby FMS


Jacques’ second letter of 1850 survives only as a copy in the files of the APM. It does not include an address but the recipient was almost certainly Fr Poupinel. The brother’s post-script, and the longer one supplied by Violette, appear to have been added some time after the body of the letter, probably to take advantage of a visit to Savai’i by Dubreuil.

Jacques refers to several additions, albeit temporary, to the mission of Samoa. Francois Palazy (1816-1882), professed in 1846, had only just arrived from Futuna where he had been since his landing in Oceania in 1848. He had less than 2 years in Samoa before transferring for health reasons to New Caledonia. He returned to France in 1870. Br Sorlin’s appointment to Apia was his first in the missions. His group, the last sent by Colin, had left France in July 1849 and transferred to the warship ”Alcmene” at Tahiti. Sorlin (Fabien Gentes 1819-1903), received into the Society at Le Begude in 1846, also had only a brief time in Samoa before being assigned to the Fiji mission in 1851. Eugene Ducrettet (1819-1902) also a Marist since 1846, had previously served in the Solomons and was on his way to Wallis. Bataillon employed him later as a teacher at his seminary at Clydesdale in Australia, but he also worked in Samoa before returning to France in the 1880s

With Palazy, there were now three missionaries in residence at Lealatele. The church Jacques describes in his January letter had been completed. The priests could turn their attention to establishing another station in the neighbourhood, but exactly where Violette does not say [12]. This does not mean that the number of converts was growing. The decline in influence of the Protestant missions, racked by internal dissensions, does not appear to have benefitted the Catholics much at this stage.

Violette was something of a scholar. His writings [7] were later printed, the catechism in 1862, the Samoan-French-English dictionary and the grammar in 1879, his “notes” (“Notes of a missionary in the Samoa islands”) published in Missions catholiques in 1870. He was also responsible for a Samoan translation of Schuster’s Bible Stories (1875) and a Samoan prayer book (1878). ‘These works show us a missionary accustomed to writing, posessing a good grasp of Samoan, and anxious to put his experience at the service of his Marist confreres and of linguists. [1] The confrere to whom he fears to send his work, Isidore Ducorneau, then resident at Puylata, was collecting material on the history of the Society.

This translation is made from a photocopy supplied by Fr Gaston Lessard.

Text of the Letter

Reverend Father,
We are bound by many ties. Now you have added another by being willing to encourage my relatives at every opportunity to write to me, by writing yourself, etc, etc. I am truly overwhelmed and I don’t know how to express my gratitude. I wish I were able to converse with you at greater length, but it is impossible because I have very little time.
Today, at midday, Fr Ducrete (sic) arrived on an English ship from Sydney. He leaves again at noon tomorrow for Upolu where he will wait for an opportunity to travel to Wallis to our bishop. We were very pleased to se him and he has given us very interesting news about France and Europe, etc.
Last Sunday I was poisoned by a species of crayfish the natives brought us. I was very ill for three days and I think I might have died without Fr Violette’s care. I have not yet been able to see Fr Dubreuil since he has returned to Oceania, although he has already been eight months in Samoa, and I don’t know when I will have the pleasure of speaking to him. I did not see any of the Fathers of Brothers who came on the “Alcmene” either, not even the good Brother Sorlin who remained at Apia.
There are three of us at present at the establishment of Lealatele. Fr Palazi (sic) has joined Fr Violette. We have built a church there. It is completely finished. I am not giving you any news of Samoa. I have given some in the letters I am sending my relatives. You can read them and then see that they are sent on to their addresses.
We will be starting a new year in three days time. So I wish you, with all my heart, all sorts of blessings, according to the custom in St Bonnet. It is very late, or to be strictly accurate, it is morning, and I have to think about going to bed. I am in my usual good health and very happy in my vocation. Please pray to the good God for me that he will give me the grace of being faithful to the vows I have taken, and of becoming humble as a Brother ought to be.
I am, my reverend Father, with profound respect, your very humble and very obedient servant,
Br J. Peloux SM.
The letters I am sending I wrote some day ago while waiting for Fr Dubreul to give them to him.

[Postscript from Fr Violette]

Reverend Father, do not condemn me without a hearing. I have just finished the translation of a good catechism. I have my big historical dictionary to finish as well as a Samoan grammar. I am continually adding to my notes. I arrange them according to the time and knowledge given me, in order to be able to paint the ancient features of Samoa. If to all that I add that I have got myself involved in being a farmer and a builder, you will have the pity and compassion to exclaim: “He is certainly worthy of pardon.”
But I am suffocating in this hot climate. The sleeves of my soutane are torn from being too narrow, and I don’t know what will happen to my chest if the front from the stomach up to below the neck is not widened in a hurry by at least a good inch.
Pass on my apologies for the moment to Fr Ducorneau. I can tell you I am afraid of risking what little reputation I have in sending something too hastily put together to that man of letters.
The number and influence of the Protestant Ministers are much diminished. But they leave behind them only indifference.
Best wishes for the New Year to all those there to receive them.
Fr Palazy is with me at present. He is well. We have just established a new station. Please pray for it, and get others to pray, for it will make us a little more secure.
I am, with profound respect, my reverend Father, your very devoted confrere,
Violette. M. Ap. SM.
We have heard nothing of M. Marceau. Please remember me to him.


  1. P. O’Reilly, Joseph Allais, Bibliographie des publications de la mission mariste des Iles Samoa, 1977, p 19.

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