Charles Elliot Fox Papers, 1924 (MSS 18)


Extent: 0.6 Linear feet (2 archives boxes)

Photostatic copies of papers of Charles Elliot Fox (1878-1977), a British missionary who served on San Cristobal in the Solomon Islands and elsewhere in Melanesia. Materials consist of Fox's manuscript for a dictionary, grammar, and transcribed tales of the Arosi language of San Cristobal island, ca 1924; and a dictionary and grammar of the Lau language of Malaita, undated. The Arosi tales have not been translated. Also included is a photocopy of Fox's article Beliefs and Tales of San Cristobal (1915).

Charles Elliot Fox was born in Stalbridge, Dorset, England in 1878. He was educated in New Zealand and graduated from the University of New Zealand in 1901. In 1902 he received a degree in theology from St. John's College in Auckland. He joined the staff of the Anglican Melanesian Mission in 1903 and was ordained the same year. During his more than seventy years of service as a missionary and teacher, Fox lived and worked in most of the islands of the Solomon chain, on the Banks, and in the New Hebrides.

Fox's activities embraced a much wider field than the customary missionary tasks of teaching and baptizing. During his first assignment of duty, as housemaster at St. Barnabas School on Norfolk Island, from 1903 to 1911, he was introduced to the new science of anthropology by the British Anthropologist R.H. Rivers. Fox's association with Rivers, which lasted until Rivers' death in 1922, contributed to Fox's interest in the scientific study of Melanesian culture.

Fox did much of his work on the island of St. Cristobal, in the Solomon chain, where he lived from 1911 to 1924. There and elsewhere in Melanesia he acquired a thorough knowledge of many Austronesian languages. He wrote dictionaries of the languages of Arosi, Mota, Lau, and Gela, and grammars for Arosi and Gela. Fox also published many scientific papers on the comparative linguistics of the Austronesian languages.

In 1932 Fox declined an offer of the post of Bishop of the Melanesian Missionary Church. In the same year he was admitted as the only white member to the Melanesian Brotherhood, an Anglican monastic order founded by indigenous Melanesians and dedicated to the principles of the church. In 1962 Fox's autobiography, Kakamora, was published in London. The title came from the name of a major spiritual being of the Arosi culture. Fox's last major work, The Story of the Solomons (1967), was intended to describe Melanesian culture and history to native schoolchildren. He died in 1977.

Through his anthropological research and his linguistic studies, Charles Fox gained empathy and respect for the culture of the Melanesians. He took the position that superimposition of English civilization could not effect a permanent conversion of the Melanesian mind to Christian thinking. Transformation of the Melaniesians, he thought, must begin with the recognition of the environmental and historical influences that had conditioned their minds.

The papers of Charles Elliot Fox consist largely of photostatic copies of two manuscripts: "Dictionary of the Language of Arosi" and a dictionary of the Lau language. The photostats were sent to Professor Leonard Bloomfield of Yale University by Lieutenant Commander John Burke, USN, from San Francisco in 1946. The materials were later found in an office at Yale by Professor Isadore Dyen, who sent them to UC San Diego in August of 1984.

Fox's "Dictionary of the Language of Arosi" consists of four parts: a bibliography, a grammar, the dictionary, and tales in the Arosi language. The tales have not been translated into English. Fox compiled the dictionary during his stay on San Cristobal from 1911 to 1924. He collected the tales while living in the homes of the island's natives.

Fox wrote the dictionary of the Lau language while working in the mission village at Fouia on the mainland of Malaita. The actual date of the manuscript is unknown, but the dictionary was published in 1974 by the Linguistic Circle of Canberra (Australia) in Pacific Linguistics.

Also included in the collection is a photocopy of Fox's article "Beliefs and Tales of San Cristobal," from the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain 45 (1915), pp. 13-228. Fox incorporated this material in his book The Threshold of the Pacific in 1925.

Container List


Dictionary of the Language of Arosi

Box 1 Folder 1
Bibliography and Grammar, 1925
Box 1 Folder 2-6
Dictionary, 1925
Box 2 Folder 1
Tales, 1925
Box 2 Folder 2-3
Lau Dictionary
Box 2 Folder 4
Beliefs and Tales of San Cristobal