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The diaries and correspondence of David Cargill, 1832-1843

CollectionsANU Press (1965- Present)
Title: The diaries and correspondence of David Cargill, 1832-1843
Author(s): Cargill, David
Date published: 1977
Publisher: Canberra, ACT : Australian National University Press
The diaries and correspondence of David Cargill, Wesleyan missionary in the Pacific, reveal the story of a tragic life. His greatest success came early in his life in the 1830s, when he achieved a mass conversion of thousands of Tongans. His story in Tonga was a happy one, for there he found satisfaction in the fellowship of his colleagues and his achievements as the only trained linguist at the mission. In 1835 he was transferred to Fiji as the first Wesleyan missionary. Here he found life increasingly bitter; four years of work on translations were wasted because the dialect he used was not appropriate as a lingua franca. He quarrelled with his colleagues. He was nauseated by horrifying scenes of widow-strangling, cannibalism and warfare. His beloved wife and one of his children died. Cargill returned to England, remarried, and went back to Tonga and to disappointment: many of his converts had reverted to their old ways. Now known by his colleagues as an alcoholic, sick, and depressed as the aftermath of dengue fever, he committed suicide. Cargill{u2019}s diaries and letters show in graphic detail the impact of two alien cultures on a sensitive man unable to come to grips with these two cultures, a man of high ideals who died a tragic failure.


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