This letter, dated 2 November 1885, from “Father Julian” to “My dear Sir William”, was written from the mountains behind Osaka in Japan.
Fr Julian Tenison Woods had retreated here to indulge his love of botany, geology and solitude. He seemed to be quite intrigued with Japan, its houses and people and was only too happy to be confined here longer than he expected due to a cholera epidemic “in the plains below”.
It is obvious, once again, that Fr Julian valued being able to share his thoughts with William Archer, even if postal arrangements didn’t always deliver his sporadic letters!
Fr Julian’s travels had been extensive – the Philippines, Cochin China, Singapore, Penang – and he had explored with great satisfaction, even though at times his living conditions left much to be desired. He was quite content wandering from country to country and, despite being poor, he wanted for nothing. Interestingly, he attributed this to confidence in Mary, Mother of God.
This letter shows Fr Julian’s wonderful command of the English language and his sense of humour but it also gives us a glimpse into a life where scientific and religious practices intermingle. Fr Julian obviously enjoyed travel, exploration and making notes, but he was also committed to saying Mass, baptising people and trusting in a higher realm.
This is a letter to be read slowly and to enjoy. It gives context for many articles that Fr Julian later wrote.
This month, we present a twentieth letter, written on 2 November, 1885: