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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Canterbury Provincial District]


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It is with much satisfaction that the Directors of The Cyclopedia of New Zealand place the third volume of the work in the hands of subscribers. The volume deals with the provincial district of Canterbury, concerning the colonisation, growth, present condition, and prospective future of which much that is of first-rate value may be gathered from its pages. When Canterbury was founded in the year 1850, the London Times described it with evident satisfaction as a slice of England from top to bottom. This statement was then in a certain sense true, and it is still true in a certain sense, but with a difference. At the outset Canterbury was a Church of England settlement, to the extent that special provision was made for the ordinances and adjuncts of that church—services by regular clergy, a bishopric, and the establishment and maintenance of a college; but the fact of men belonging to other religious bodies was no bar to their becoming settlers in the infant colony. Churchmen, however, had a great deal to do with the founding of the settlement. The Archbishop of Canterbury was at the head of the association under the auspices of which it was established, and the Archbishop of Dublin and seven English bishops were on the committee, together with many other clergymen, numerous noblemen, and gentlemen of good standing in English society and public life. Still all that this amounted to was, simply, that a body of capable and enterprising Englishmen of good repute clubbed together to do what Æneas and his companions had done thousands of years previously when, in leaving Troy for Italy, they took their household gods with them and endeavoured to perpetuate in the land of their adoption the customs of the land of their birth. Under the circumstances, it was only natural that, at first, Canterbury should be, at least on a small scale, a replica of the parent community.

But with different climatic and other conditions, colonists gradually develop characteristics peculiar to themselves, and sometimes these begin to appear at the outset of a new settlement. This was the case with Canterbury. Though the first colonists comprised a considerable number of specially selected artisans and workmen with their families, there were also amongst them many men of birth and wealth and education, and women of the utmost social refinement; yet even these had to labour with their hands in the early days, when all employers were practically only working overseers. It does not, therefore, require much imagination to realise how soon and how thoroughly a social spirit almost impossible in the feudalised England just left behind them, must have begun to page iv leaven life amongst the colonists. The change was all the more inevitable, because those who had to work for wages were—with no large towns, and few if any temptations to spend money wastefully—able to save their earnings, and soon passed into the ranks of the employers, or at least bought land which they cultivated for themselves. With this potent factor at work for fifty-three years in a climate like that of New Zealand, it follows that, though Canterbury still retains many distinctively English characteristics, it is no longer, to the extent implied in the phrase of The Times, a slice of England from top to bottom.

Still its history teems not only with testimonies to the Englishman's talent as a coloniser, but to the persistency with which his dominant traits live on under new conditions in the lands which he reclaims from the wilderness. Dramatic evidences of this were especially apparent at the time of the province's Jubilee in December, 1900. In the picturesque memorial procession which was then conducted through the streets of Christchurch, the section devoted to religious bodies illustrated, in itself, the whole ethical history of the province. It contained things not dreamt of by the founders of the settlement, and which, if they had dreamt about then, would have made the dream, not a dream, but a nightmare. Foremost in the section marched corps of the Salvation Army, followed by members of the Socialist Church, after whom came Presbyterians, Roman Catholics, Wesleyan Methodists, and, last of all, the bishop and clergy of the Anglican diocese of Christchurch. This arrangement showed plainly enough that Canterbury had not been kept to the plan of its founders; but it also showed something of far more importance— namely, that its inhabitants remembered how to maintain with liberality and honour the highest traditions of their native land, in the matter of that constitutionalism which gives scope to all individualities in a community of British men.

Of all this and much else, every reader of insight will find interesting, trustworthy, and instructive proofs in this volume of The Cyclopedia of New Zealand.

It will not be amiss to refer here to the Cyclopedia as a whole. The first (or Wellington) volume consists of 1525 pages; the Auckland volume, of 1024 pages; and the Canterbury volume—the third of the full set of six—which is here presented to subscribers, has, exclusive of preface, indices, and late photographs, 1111 pages. The Otago and Southland volume, now in its preparatory stages, is expected to equal in size that of Canterbury; then will come the Nelson, Marlborough and Westland volume, and the sixth volume will cover Taranaki and Hawke's Bay.

Notwithstanding this mass of work, the publication of the Cyclopedia would have been further ahead had it not been for the action of a Publishing House in breaking up copies of the first volume, cutting off the headlines, and then canvassing on these mutilated specimens. With their hold on the copyright thus threatened, the Directors were page v compelled to cover the entire Colony so as to secure representative colonists and typical institutions in every town and district. In doing this, Sectional Parts were brought out at a cost of several thousands of pounds. These parts ran into about 2000 pages of printed matter and illustrations; and, brought up to date, have been, or will be, reproduced in the volumes covering the districts to which the articles and illustrations belong. In this way the Directors provide for subscribers receiving large, complete and valuable volumes, instead of incomplete volumes. The cost of this has been great, and it has necessarily taken time; but as the interest of subscribers and shareholders has been secured, it may fairly be held that the end justifies the monetary expense, and the extension of time with respect to the completion of the work.

In various ways, many persons besides the agents and editorial staff employed by the Directors have contributed to the completeness of this volume as it now reaches the reader. Some have supplied valuable information, and some have presented photographs, which give a distinctive interest to the sections which they help to illustrate. To all these courteous coadjutors, the Directors and their staff tender the most cordial thanks; fully realising that the assistance which has been thus so obligingly given, has been an effective factor in the production of a volume which must necessarily be interesting and valuable to the present generation, and which contains so much with respect to the past and present, that future writers with dramatic insight will be able to reconstruct from its pages the social and public life and industrial activity of Canterbury's first half-century.

This character of present interest combined with special literary and historical value for the future, is shared by all the volumes of The Cyclopedia of New Zealand, but that for Canterbury has it in a pre-eminent degree. Yet the fourth (or Otago and Southland) volume, which is already well in hand, promises to still further excel in this respect; and the proprietors will spare no pains to make the Nelson, Marlborough and Westland volume, and the sixth and last of the full set—that for Taranaki and Hawke's Bay— equal to the best of their predecessors.

The Cyclopedia Company, Limited.