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Octavius Hadfield

Letter written by Octavius Hadfield to brother George October 25, 1845

To brother George.

I have frequently lamented my neglect of the many opportunities which I possessed when I had the benefit of your instructions of acquiring knowledge and learning how to use it: the little however that I did acquire I often feel grateful to you for. I meet with men here, possessed of consider- page 187 able knowledge, who seem incapable of generalisation, unable to separate that which is merely accidental from what is essential, and consequently puzzled on all occasions in new circumstances in a new country.

I suffer so much from headache now that I am not able to think much; I am however, trying to do a little towards improving the mode of acquiring this language. I contend that the literal mode of translation is bad, because corresponding words in a language of a civilised and an uncivilised people are not identical, that is, that a complex idea, represented by a word, in the one, will not be found when analysed to be composed of the same ingredients as the corresponding complex idea in the other, and consequently that a literal or verbal translation will not give a correct version of ideas: but I find only two or three persons who will care about these matters; in the meantime people are teaching religion while grossly ignorant of the language. There is another subject on which I am somewhat engaged, and that is a plan to be recommended to the Governor for making the natives understand and submit to our laws; no plan has hitherto been adopted. The Judge here, Mr. Chapman, and others approve much of its outline. We are expecting our new Governor, when I hope something will be done. Everybody seems able to find faults with the existing system, but nobody seems inclined to take the trouble to propose a better. I am afraid I shall have exhausted your patience with my prolixity; but though I am confined to bed, it being the only place where I have any ease, I should not wish you to think that I am unable to amuse myself, or altogether unable occasionally to assist others who have now more to do, but have less time to think. My complaint remains as ever. I sometimes entertain an idea of trying to visit you, if my life should be prolonged, but as even now I am subject to violent vomiting which gives me intense pain in the back, I can scarcely venture to attempt it.

I do not think I have heard from you since Feb., but as we hear an English mail has arrived at Auckland I am expecting to hear daily. The feeling and conduct of the natives generally through the island is good, and though the accounts of matters in the North which you may see in the papers may lead you to suppose the reverse, I do not think there is any material change in their religious feelings.