Maggie Paton (1841 – 1905) is one of my best friends, despite the fact that we have never met and she has been dead for more than a century. My mother gave me her Letters and Sketches from the New Hebrides just before I was married, and I have taken it with me everywhere we have lived, loaned it out to people, and read it again and again.
One of the things I love about the book is the story. Here is a young bride going with a husband half-way around the word to minister to a violent, primitive people. The situations, people, and places which the Patons experience are colourful and diverse – almost unbelievable in some cases.
Another thing I love about the book is it’s personal nature. The letters were all written by Maggie to family back in Scotland, so the contents are very real and open, even when expressed in Victorian language.
But the biggest thing I love about the book is Maggie’s example of godliness. Homesickness, fear, grief, weariness, loneliness, illness – all are present, but lived out and told through the filter of God’s providence and sustaining grace. Maggie’s attitude is marked submission, trust, and a cheerful, never trite, willingness to follow the Lord’s leading and do the work to which He called her.
If you’re looking for a good read – or even a good friend – this volume of letters is a great find. But it’s now officially out of print, so if you want it, get it sooner since it might not be there later.