Frank Leward: Memorials
Frank to Bampton
Frank to Bampton.
Wellington New Zealand Feb. 1847.
My dear Bampton I feel your kindness in writing so often and giving me so many details of your life. I know you do it in hopes that it will take my thoughts away from myself God knows they are sad enough and could not be taken from a more wretched individual. Though I don't write often its not because I don't think page 156about you. About the only thing I look forward to is hearing all about you and how you are getting on. Its some consolation to find every one is not so miserable as I am.
Don't be discouraged about briefs they'll come fast enough too fast soon I expect I shall see you Attorney-General of England yet I know, I suppose that's the height of your ambition. As for me I've no ambition. I go on doing what I've got to do in a poor sort of way. Its the same thing year after year. Our places are improving by degrees but at any time the Maoris might get troublesome and do us a lot of harm. It wouldn't be our fault if they did nor theirs either. They are sometimes shamefully treated and robbed by the English, you cant wonder at their retaliating sometimes. If one tribe is badly used at one end of the Island they know of it all over the place directly and though we have got on very well with those about us I can see some of them look suspicious sometimes. We are the first Pakehas who have been in this part and they think we have come to make way for a lot more. Still if you do them any little kindness they are awfully grateful. I believe I might walk out of my place and be away for weeks and come back and find everything there just as I left it.
My partner wants me to buy him out he thinks he could do better right down in the South where they are opening up some very good land. I suppose I shall have to raise the money and take the whole place over and live quite alone. I could easily get the money from the Bank but we already owe a lot and the interest is page 157so high it takes away most of our profit. However I shouldn't like to keep him here if he wants to go so I suppose before long I shall be left alone to muse on nature by myself. You may well talk about the fresh breezes its a wonderful place for them. You never saw such a place as Wellington where Im staying just now for wind its blow blow blow all the year round. I shall be sorry to lose Johnson though we havn't much in common hes not a bad sort of fellow. All his talk and all the talk of every one here in Wellington is wool wool it's the one perpetual subject of conversation that and grumbling at everything.
That debate at home did us a lot of good. The new Governor Cap. Grey is a fine fellow stands no nonsense from the missionaries or any one else. He's a liberal-minded energetic sort of man if he had only been here before things would have been very different. Theres a jolly old French priest comes along here sometimes. He left France Lyons I think some years ago he and about a dozen more they've done a lot with the Maoris. They scarcely know a word of English but speak Maori quite well. We couldn't get on much together in either French or English so we always talk Maori together. Doesn't it seem rum two people Pakehas as they call us coming from two places so near together in Europe and having to talk together in the unwritten language of these poor people. You may call it unwritten but these French priests have translated their prayers and hymns and things into Maori and taught a lot of them to read it and learn them off by heart. It did seem odd when page 158I went with the Frenchman to the pah near our place and he had his service in the big whare where they meet to have their councils and big feasts and their sort of religion surrounded by the most curious carvings you ever saw awfully rough and ugly and a lot of them with meanings I suppose the good priest didn't understand for the Maori has a different sort of idea of whats proper and what isn't to what we are supposed to have. They went in for the prayers pretty well a few awfully religious and they sang out the hymns and things like anything to their own tunes some of them rather pretty tunes but when he began to preach the children began larking about the women began suckling their babies and the chiefs lay flat down on the ground and went bang off to sleep and snored loud enough to wake the dead there was no mistake about their being asleep and no rotten pretence they wern't asleep. The young fellows went bolt outside and stopped there yarning when they had enough of the sermon and didn't come back till the singing began again and then they came in like a shot. The old priest went on and didn't take any notice of it but cut his sermon rather short. He is a good old fellow perfect gentleman and although he's lived so long among them just like one of them and has to wash his own things he's as gentle and polite in his ways as though he'd lived all the time in a big town. I met the French Bishop in Auckland when I was there Monsignor Pompalier I think his name is an awfully polite hospitable old man I used to like to see him he looked so jolly and did a tremendous lot of good. But page 159the man I like best of all out here is Bishop Selwyn my Bishop I call him to the French priests he's an awfully fine fellow. He was staying at our place lately he hadn't been in that part before and I took him right away up the country and had tremendous long yarns with him. I didn't say much about his missionaries to him nor he to me but I dont think he cares much about some of them. He's as strong and active as a well-bred horse and all the go in him of one. He's as different as possible to the whimpering missionaries. You should see him take off his toggery do it up on his back and swim a river and some of these rivers are no joke to swim over. The worst of it was when he went away I'd got to like him awfully I thought I could do any mortal thing for him but you can't tell a man that well. It was the best time Ive had for a long time when we were riding about together he can ride like anything. There was something to look at in him and listen to as different as possible to what there is in most of the people out here. I should like to have given the whole thing up and gone after him when he went away.
I think your friend Buller is too hard on the Maoris they are much better than people think. I have changed my mind about them a good deal. It's very difficult for outsiders to understand them. If you cheat them, theyll cheat you if whites lie to them they'll tell you lies. Pakehas sold them gunpowder which they're very anxious to get and give a lot for and put powder at the top and sand all the way down. Maoris couldn't understand it at first but when they found they were being done they page 160began to cheat the Pakeha. And so it goes on. We killed and outraged a lot of them and they retaliated but never began it. They are perfectly just among themselves and if any one of them does do anything they think wrong they punish it directly. The tribe you see is something like a big family with a lot of land and servants in common if one happens to make anything or gets some money by working for the Pakeha all the rest of the tribe think they've a right to share it with him. So some people who dont understand them think theyre thieves among themselves. They are awfully pure and good in that way among themselves. Its hardly known that any of them interfere with another's wife if one does the two are both killed straight off. The only thing I cant get over among them is the careless way they treat the old ones their father and mother. When they get old they turn them out to do as well as they can for themselves. I saw an old couple one day half starved living in a beastly sort of place trying to get fern roots to eat and I said to one of their sons why dont you look after your father better all he said was "Oh he too old he no good." As to their intelligence Buller isn't quite fair. Put a Maori boy and an English boy to school together and you'll find the Maori boy will learn much quicker. Some have been tried and got on wonderfully but they always go back after a bit to their wild way of living. I darsay they're right taking it altogether, anyhow they're happy and jolly all day long and awfully healthy.
Do you know Ive got awfully studious. Ive a Shake- page 161speare and one or two more books and I read like anything. I want yon to send me an Italian dictionary and grammar and one or two Italian books. I promised Bishop Selwyn I would do something of the sort and I dont care about French it's too fiddle de de if you know what that is. Saunders is always at me to read Dante. Poor old Saunders I was awfully glad to hear your account of him, he sent me the kindest letter you ever read a long time a go and Ive never answered it I will some day I wish he would write again.
It isnt often I can rouse myself up to write and now Ive done it I feel all the better for it, and perhaps you will wonder when Im going to stop. Mind if they dont soon make you Attorney General at home you come out here. There's a lot of work for a good lawyer they say and you would soon get to the top, and when they begin to govern themselves as I expect they will some day you would be head of the lot I know. Now I must shut up.—Yours always old man,