Letters from Early New Zealand
Lyttelton. October 14th, 1851
My Dear Mother,
My last letter went off on the 9th by the Duke of Portland, but she had a. contrary wind for a day or two, and could not make a start of it. On Friday last, Mr. and Mrs. Rose came on shore and to spend the day with us, with their two children, and their servants. The poor thing speaks in horror of the voyage, and its accompaniments. They had, too, very bad weather for part of the voyage; the dead lights in for six weeks, and one very bad storm, so as to be in danger, for one night. Then she was sick every day, even in harbour here; • and they had, besides, a very full cuddie, which is a great nusiance, thirty-one, including children (of which there were heaps) in a space little larger than what we thought pretty crowded with thirteen. Some of the passengers, too, not very pleasant; and in short, I think she is fully prepared to like any kind of life on shore. They seemed very glad to sit on our patch of grass in front, and to eat bits of brown bread and fresh butter, and to drink milk; and she went to the evening service, and seemed very much pleased with their first day. On Saturday, they came on shore again, and established themselves at the "Mitre", our best hotel. Sunday they came to tea with us, and he seemed a little disappointed about his land, on finding it wet; but he has had only a very slight look at it as yet, and it seems doubtful whether he really saw anything beyond a flax swamp which is just on the borders, and which will probably be better land, too, than any other part, when it is brought into cultivation. They were to have come again last night, and met the FitzGeralds, and the Cooksons, and Mr. Tancred, but he got home late, and she sent me word she was too much tired. Mr. Cookson is a very old friend of Mr. Rose, but the ladies had not met before. Mr. Rose's servants, of course, were very much disgusted, and very troublesome on board; and the nurse is dismissed, and is, I believe, to be page 244sent home again directly, but she is still with them. They have taken a house at Christchurch, where they mean to live till their house can be put up on their own land. But he seems as innocent as a baby of any notion about how to set to work on the land, and what notions he has are taken apparently from "model" farms at home, which will not answer here, with such high wages. I hope, by these very personal remarks, to make you unable to show my letter about, as I find you did with a former one which he tells me he read! and what might there not be in it? You cannot think how foolish one feels, at such a distance, facing one's own private opinions of many months before. But it is of no use complaining. I dare say, at home, you will hardly understand what I mean; but a sort of presentiment which I had, has often put a strong check upon my pen.
My husband had the other day a letter from Mr. Eyre, saying that he had wanted to come and pay us a visit for a few weeks (!!) and how that he had written to Sir G. Grey, on hearing that the Government Brig was coming here, to know whether it would be consistent with the public good that he should come down here in that way. This was Saturday, and he and Mrs. Eyre went on packing and making preparations, expecting, of course, to get away, as he has had literally nothing to do since Sir G.G. established himself at Wellington, about nine months ago. On Monday, as the brig was to sail that evening, Mr. Eyre, having had no answer, sent his private secretary to ask Sir G.G.'s private secretary, if he could not get at least a verbal answer. So it arrived about the middle of the day, to say that "it would not be consistent with the public good that he should have a passage to Port Cooper in the Govt. Brig". So they had to unpack themselves, and the baby, and to stay where they were. Mr. Eyre pours out his complaints in the most open way to my husband, though as you may believe he has never sought his confidence. I am not personally very sorry about not getting the visit; if they were to come, we should have to entertain them, of course, and then how? We have no dressing-room for Mr. Eyre, nor any accommodation for a nurse and baby; and if we go out of the house, Powles must go with us, for she of course would not stay with page 245strangers, and then what becomes of cooking, etc. We have two such cold days, hail, rain and a sou'-wester. To-day it is quite lovely, and I hope the new arrivals will get into better humour. I think in each ship they expect more, and have less and less courage for the first start; it is quite wearying to hear their complaints, and you can imagine how sick my husband gets of it, for half of them complain in the most unthinking way, about things which are the mere necessary accidents of so young a place; if they would only complain about the real bad points of the place it would be nothing. They have, I hear, a joke in the house against Elisabeth that when she came she expected to get sugar (lump? or brown?) by merely going out to pick it up with a basin. They told her, too, she said, that she would get raisins and currants so, too; but that she contradicted, for she asked Mrs. Wynne about that, and she said "No". So now, when there is snow or hail on the hills, William begs Elisabeth to fetch her basin and go out for sugar.
The Canterbury is not yet come, though the Midlothian, which came with her as far as the Downs, arrived, as I told you in my last, eight days ago, and had not a short passage. I hear several of the people in her talk of going on to Nelson. Even Mr. Rose was reported yesterday very cross, by all those who met him. (You see, I am determined that you shall not show the letter.) Mr. FitzGerald said "another man from what he was in London" She seems very well con tented, though, still (October 17th); and was sitting here in the afternoon, and promised to come back to tea, but they did not appear. We are very angry with Mr. FitzGerald, for he has, I believe, quite settled to go off in the wildest possible way and join a sort of picnic sheep station. He is always, you know, after something new, and now feels behind-hand because he cannot dive into all the barbarity of a station, for the mere fun of it. There is a certain Mr. Jackson, lately come out, with a daughter of fifteen, and a son a little younger, and niece of thirty or more; and with some capital, which he has been persuaded to invest in a sheep station, about sixty miles up the country. Then, two young gentlemen fellow-passengers are to come and join, giving their work; but I believe, no capital; and page 246Mr. FitzGerald is to sell his house, books, and all he has, in order to raise about £500, if he can, which he is to join to the common fund, and the whole party are to live up at the station together, servants, etc., all in common, and the ladies are to help in the work, all as uncomfortable as possible. Conceive living in the rough, in that way, under other people's command; for of course Mr. Jackson will be en chef, and Mrs. FitzGerald, who has known them all since she was a child, and does not like them, or the plan, at all, says he is a most disagreeable man to deal with; though I believe privately that Mr. FitzGerald, being a much cleverer man, and better talker, reckons himself upon taking the lead. I am quite vexed about it for her, but her husband will hear no reason, and for this he gives up £300 a year here, out of which (if he chose to live as roughly here as he must at the station) he might save £200 a year, and each year embark so much capital as a share in one of the many stations where people may get about 20 per cent, or more, for their money. Another consideration is, all his talents will be entirely wasted up there, an honest shepherd at £50 a year would do the work, much better. It is a most foolish plan, and, of course, falls most hardly upon her; they had just got their house so comfortable, too, and spent a great deal upon it, and a garden, and got such a nice servant.
October 20th. There is a certain old Colonel Campbell, who had many dealings with the C. Assoc. in early days, and ended by quarrelling with everyone and writing an insulting letter to Lord Lyttelton, after innumerable statements on his part had turned out to be perfectly false. I dare say Tom must remember him at "the Rooms". Well, this old gentleman came out to Auckland, and has got into great favour with Sir G. Grey, who has just sent him down here as Commissioner of Crown Lands for the district lying immediately round, and outside, our block. He is naturally predisposed to dislike the plan, and the Colonists, and goes about abusing the place, the land, and all belonging to it, to anyone who will listen to him. The new-comers are his especial prey. As his office is to be at Christchurch I hope we shall not come much across him, but he is a very bad element in our society. He is now going over to Akaroa page 247to decide summarily certain claims of some of the old settlers there, and my husband intends to go over and watch what he is about; he can hardly help making mistakes, as he has no knowledge whatever of his subject.
October 21 st. Yesterday, after dinner, a vessel was announced, for about the twentieth time, in sight, and then near the heads; so Mr. FitzGerald, and Mr. Charles Bowen, who is now in my husband's office instead of Mr. Wortley (who, I think I told you, is going to "keep sheep" with Mr. Hanmer), went off to meet her in a boat; but as the vessel was coming from the north, instead of the south, I thought it would turn out to be one expected from Sydney with stock. However, while we were at tea, in walked Captain Simeon and Mr. FitzGerald, with whom he was to spend his first night on shore. He came down here to breakfast, and such a morning we have to meet him; hail, rain and storm after some such warm days! However, he is much too jolly to be cast down by such an accident, and the showers now seem over, and the sun bright. How much like his brother he is, to be sure, voice and manner, exact, and he says, too, just the things his brother would say; we talked as fast as we could, all breakfast-time, and heard all we could, and now he is gone out to "see the place" with my husband. Edward Lloyd, I hear, is come, but no one, I think, has landed yet, but Captain Simeon. By the by, I saw yesterday, Mr. Evans, of Denbigh, come into the port to see Mrs. Rose. He went on, as I told you, very wildly, when he first came; joined some of the same sort, or worse, and at last got into such difficulties that everything belonging to him was sold, and he has been for some time working with his own man that he brought out, who is by trade a blacksmith.
October 22nd, At last, yesterday evening, I did get some letters, and a confirmation of what I had heard before indirectly, that all was well, thank God. But they are not very jolly letters, for you are all so much acted upon by the bustle of London in June, which I well know. I expected to hear just what you say about poor Charles, it seems to me so perfectly natural…. I still think that your letters of Lady Nugent's time must have gone by the Auckland route, page 248for one or two things are mentioned as if I knew them when I didn't; for instance, I had not heard of Vernon's portrait, and so on. Then, too, I find that a short letter I wrote to Sara, by India, did not explain, as I fancied I had done in it, why my box did not come in the Ld. W. Bentinck. I do hope the Robt. Layers had a tolerably quick voyage, and that I may hear of it by the Sir George Pollock, which indeed is now due. Mr. Adams came to breakfast to-day, he is a most marvellous boy of eighteen. Tall, you know he is; but his manner is, if possible, still taller. He is not in the least shy, and talks like a very facetious man of thirty or forty, perfectly au fait about everything. He goes to-morrow (D.V.) to the Plains, to look about him, and when he comes back, he is to live with us; but we cannot give him a bed as we have Captain and Mrs. Simeon.
October 23rd. They came to us yesterday. She is to be confined in a month, so they are not going to venture over the hill till that is over. They will have to build a house, too, and in the meantime, I think, they are trying to make an agreement to stay at the Mitre Hotel until they make their final move; and if, as the landlord seems to say, they can be accommodated there for about £5 a week, it is certainly as cheap as anything that they could arrange. (This turned out all a mistake, it was £4 10s. a day.) They have five children, a governess, nurse, cook, housemaid, and footman and ladies-maid and housekeeper. You can scarcely imagine what an alarming party that is to accommodate, out here; and then, when servants are displeased, and things in general unsettled, and unlike what people are used to, and uncomfortable, it is difficult not to be "put out". The Roses came to tea last night; he is a strong instance of it, and is really unbearably cross and complaining, because he complains about the unavoidable inconveniences, expenses and so on, of a new place, and he is really so cross that it is almost amusing. While she, who was dragged here against her will and judgment, and against all the wishes of her family, makes the best of everything, and far from being cross, is if possible more perfectly amiable than ever. Every-one is enraged with him. But Mrs. Cookson says it is always impossible to please him, and Mr. C. has known page 249him well since he was a boy. He complained even of his town sections, which he had, you know, "into the bargain", and nearly a whole street belongs to him; and he has sold one quarter-acre for £15, and refused £5 a year for another. The children are perfectly well, and so is she since she landed.
[The next letter is a continuation of this one.]