Henry Lawson Among Maoris
Appendix I — Lawson's Letters from Mangamaunu*
Lawson's Letters from Mangamaunu*
May 10th 1897
I reached Mangamaunu Wednesday afternoon (May 5) and opened the School the following morning. The Chairman of the Committee-Pene Tahui-was absent, down the coast, and I did not see him until Friday morning, when he only stayed for a few minutes. Nine children attended the first day, 11 the next and 14 today, (Monday). I expect a few more this week. Several of the Native children have died lately. I found the pupils very backward-the result of the school having been closed so long-but exceedingly willing, and eager to learn.
The articles referred to in appended requisition form are not to hand. Have enquired at the Post Office Kaikoura, and of the Chairman of the School Committee, but can hear nothing of parcel.-Foolscap, official envelopes, and requisition forms required in school.-There is no "summary" nor record of any kind in the school, and I am without reliable reference for ages of children and other particulars concerning them. Trusting that these matters will receive your attention.
I remain, Yours respectfully
Dear Mr Macallum,Many thanks for your kind letter. Such letters brighten me up and help me a lot when I feel inclined to brood over mine own old folly;page 170which brooding, which only happens now on rainy days and in hours of enforced idleness, encreases the magnitude and blackness of the world's apparent ingratitude and treachery towards myself to such an extent that I feel like a danger to vested interests and a menace to society at large. I have dismissed the young heathen for Midwinter Holidays with a week added on account of the Record Reign foolery. We parted on the best of terms-the said heathen with a fixed idea that the extra holidays were of my own giving, and their gratitude to me is only tempered by their thankfulness towards Mrs Lawson who first reported the holidays to them, and who, I have reason to believe, they fancy, persuaded me, in the face of some opposition to grant the boon. They said that the last teacher wouldn't do that for them. I looked up the names and dates in English History and explained the matter; they listened with inforced school attention, but weren't interested. Seems to me that when an impression does get on their minds, like say a clot of flax gum on their hair, it stays there, and other stray impressions stay too, or drop off if there's no room, just as the case may be. Old impressions must be rubbed out with considerable force, or not at all, and new ons rubbed in with more.
The prevalent impression on the 23rd of May* was that next day was St Patricks day. I have thought it out and come to the conclusion that that impression can be traced to the fact that most of the Maoris here are Catholics. Some of the children thought it was their birthday (the church records are lost and mothers seem to depend, as does Department strictly-on such little matters as the ages of their children, on the school master-in event of any formal emergency) Well, the youngest picaniny in the school said it was our, (Mrs Lawson's and my birthday) Anyway, they knew there'd be no school, and thats all they wanted to know. But we are haunted just now by the eldest girl (16) a pure blooded aborigine-if there ever was one-of the heavy negro type, whose father killed her mother 11 years ago, (fit of jealousy) and on whose family (3 or 4 sisters) there seems to be a brooding cloud. This girl, they say, would take to the bush, if the last teacher punished her, and climb a tree and sit there and brood for hours-for days if they didn't find her and get her home. Poor girl-but I shouldnt care to punish her if there were knives handy. The father, by-the way, was "teased" (favourite Maori word for expressing it) by other Maoris concerning his wifes easy nature, and, coming home, he called her out to turn the grindstone while he sharpened a butcher's knife for "pighunting". She turned away mechanically or naturally like-a Maori wife, I suppose, and presently he felt the edge of the knife, and, being satisfied, he grabbed her suddenly and cut her throat-Well, he got 11 years, and is just out, (but not here); the girls were babies then, but it left an impression on them that anybody with a knack of observation could see today. I think I could tell a member of that family anywhere, in twenty years time, by the brooding cloud on their forheads and in their eyes.Well, Mary haunts the school and will continue to do so during the holidays. She hangs round the wife like a dog, poor girl. "They're allpage 171away" she said once. "and I do feel so awefully lonely. Mrs Lawson." You need to hear a Maori woman say that to get at the pathos of it. Mary, by the way, as I found yesterday, still takes to the bush and broods. She, in her slow brooding way, cut a portrait out of the Illustrated London News, letterpress and all, and carefully trimmed it and pasted it on the wall at home-place of honour second to catholic frame, (half picture half fresco) representing the birth of Christ-and she would have put it in that place, no doubt, if she could.-She told Mrs Lawson, in confidence that she loved that man-(the portrait). It is a portrait of the Czar of Russia of all the men in the world-son of him who was killed. Mary's Mother was killed, and-theres a chance for a psychological sketch for me I think! The other children are bright-cheerful would describe it betterwith the exeption of one or two half and quarter castes, in whom it was almost startling to me to see that discontented, sulky-resentful is nearer the word-spirit* that Olive Schreiner mentions in her article on South African mixed blood. The nearer the white the more so-it seems to me; but it is not so noticible in the girls-because they are girls I suppose. I was going to say that all my nigs, are bright; and, and in the school, though only 20 on the roll, and average attendance "13-05"-I have material for all possible Maori Child character-and outside for adults. I'd be crowded and do worse in a large school. White or full blooded Maori children, but give me the Maori child by a long chalk. They read better than white children and earlier, but there might be something yet in the contention that you can only teach the Maori to a certain point-Well, I don't know, but must find out. The few examples the Government puts to controvert this idea may go for nothing. Whites here intensely clannish, in the narrow sence of the word. Regard the Maoris either with contempt or aggressive dislike, for no reason that I can see, except localism-or that they could explain; But you must read all about it in my book. Corporal punishment no good, I tried it a little in one case for example. Taken chee[r]fully and seriously in that case, but no effect. When you understand the school you don't want a cane. Children sensitive and very truthful, so much so that in one or two cases I find it painful to tax a child with "copying" or anything of that kind, or where "meanness" is suggested. Children speak Maori and English. Boys read with none of that maddening repetition and droning you hear in white schools. This is due partly to strick and sensible instructions in the "Code". The child that repeats a word fails in that branch with our inspector. Boys read boldly and well, but the difference between them and the girls in this respect is very marked. Girls, I think are the best pupils in white schools-the boys are in every way in mine. Sarah Barnett, the Ishmeal and bad scholar of the school-who would grow to be a Sarah Bernhardt or greater if she were white-has just wholloped and scratched Clifford Renwick, a freckled, typical "flaxstick" from across the river, notable for his championsp of his sisters, and the local ill feeling towards the Maori (his father fought in the war (scare)) Sarah gets in her fierce little report first. "Please" with her eyes flashing and dark face more dusky with indigna-
* 24 May, the Queen's Birthday, was a school holiday.page 172tion. "Please Mr "Lorrence" Clifford Renwick called me a-a-Black Nigger!"
* spirit] expression written above, MS.
Clifford says that he can't help it Mrs Lawson, If they call him and his sisters "white somethings" hes gone to call them black niggers!"
The "something" is probably a string of fierce and excited Maori, sounding savagely abusive and scandelous but to the effect that Clifford is a "remnant of the feast" and they wouldn't eat his head-an old Maori "oath" the literal meaning of which as little known to the children, as ours to us, or our children.
The book will be mostly N Z Character sketches, personal reflections some old debts paid to one or two unfair critics, literary and otherwise, and scenery-with the Native School as a peg to hang on. The chapters characters & seem to fall into place of their own accord and I feel happier over it and more enthusiastic than I ever did in my life before. Have written well on into the book but will have to write all the holidays and spare time to keep up with the chapters. Two Australian scenes, called the Cinematograph, with the darkening snowey peaks of the Kaikouras for a ground, and "Out on the Wastes of the NeverNever" and "Clancy" for accompaniments have dropped into the book, and read like a summary of all I have ever written or may write about Australia. I felt like writing to you, somehow, perhaps because of your kind reference to Mrs Lawson. I knew she was a gem, from the first. I was right in that as in most other things where drink did not madden my instinct. She is a favourite everywhere and worshipped here; which reminds that when a Maori woman opens her heart to a white woman, she loves that white woman and would trust her with her life, and might lay it down for her. It may be so with the men, but they are more like us now-mixing more with the whites.
I wan't to show some of my kind relatives (who never assisted me or thought of me except perhaps as a soft idiotic fool to get money and work out of) who advised Bertha against me from the first, and kindly told her all my worst points-whilst, on the other hand, and in common with one or two good but mistaken friends, they persuaded me against being "trapped" and ruining my prospects when I "ought marry money"-I want to show them, if they be worth showing, that I have made a success of my married life-and hers. I think I've married money too, as well as fame, but that will be seen. And I want to show the true friends, bushmen and others, who trusted and believed in me through it all-I want for their sake to write myself up to the top of the Australian gum But Bob Pohar[a]ma has come home with no wild pig-save the tusks of an old Captain Cook Boar that chased him a good part of the way before he could reload his rifle; and he hasn't succeeded in getting a "wild sheep" either-probably because mustering is going on on the hill station-So I must go down to old Mrs Hehii-who was a baby left over from Rapaurahah's (the Conqueror from North Island) last victorious and cannabalistic feast-and stretch out my neck and flap my wings and "quack" at her to make her understand that I have no meat and want to by one of her geese. And, like as not, she'll mistake the pantomine, or add another detail to it and send me up a dozen duck eggs. She did once, having, no doubt, taken my gestures and quacks for an exaggerated page 173representation of the pakeha's idea of a goose or duck laying eggs. By-the-way-old Hehii-and a very cannabel he looks-understands English, but doesn't "savey" "goose" only geese-geese a gander, and a goose are and is alike "geese" to them. They laughed so when I asked for goose that I got a suspicion it might "mean something" in maori (especially when I thought of the eggs) so I was at some pains to explain by the aid of a flock of geese with one solitary one at a distance; but don't think I succeeded for they only laughed more happily [Two lines of script torn from the bottom of the sheet]
With kindest regards from Mrs Lawson and myself.
Messers Angus & Robertson
I trust you will understand that I feel deeply and sincerely grateful for your kindness and consideration in forwarding the copies of my book. I have just received very flattering (and, on at least one side, very "business-like") letters from Wm Blackwood of "Blackwoods Magazine" Eng, "Chambers Journal" editor (who doesn't want "questionable subjects as his is a "family magazine); and from the "Northern Newspaper Syndicate" Kendal, Eng, which last wan't 3,500 words for £3.3-"cheque on receipt of MS." Blackwood offers £2-2. per thousand words, and all the usual rights, and says that his attention has been directed to "While the Billy Boils" by one of his contributers who expressed high &c of the merits &c. Chambers want them, stories & sketches as good as in "WBB". The Northern Newspaper Shyndicate (probably a Jew and a drunken journalist) would also be glad of any other MS. I may have by me-(with prices). Blackwood mentions a proposal to your firm. Have never been able to feel as contented with "WBB" as "The Days When the World was Wide, but am well on with a connected Book called the "Native School"-descriptive, reminiscent, and personal matter-in an altogether new style, for me. I have quiet, oppotunity, all the characters, and the school as a peg to hang all my fragmentary idea's incidents and emotions on; and if the book gives as much pleasure in reading as it does me in writing, I think, I'll succeed. The chapters seem to fall into place and fill without an effort. There is a sketch of mine called "The Three Roads" still in your office also some newspapers and clippings "Truth" and Freemans Journal. I would be very thankful if you would forward sketch, as Australian Xmas orders crowd on me, and I am doing no short work save verse, and must make some guineas by Xmas. Also I would be glad to remit price and postage of any back number magazines you wish to clear, for get little or nothing to read here, and, in fact, only see a white page 174face about once a month. Trusting that Mr Angus is better in health, and the publishing business succeeding I remain,
Henry Lawson Teacher
Yours trulyNative School
P.S. Am getting request for copy at Australian prices from NZ papers, notably the Christchuch Press which paper has started a column or so of sgd Literary articles and-"to supply" as the editor says, "the want of a New Zealand Magazine-and already has the names of the leading men of NZ (the Dean of Dunedin &c). Will not be able to spare any as all my ideas & NZ copy is working into the "Native School" (title private) But I want to write up Boake for the NZ press at large. Would you let me have advanced sheets.* Australian stuff read well and wanted in New Zealand.
HL[Written sideways in space to the left of signature] "Chambers uses the name of John Arthur Barry† -and say they have published some of his work and have more in hand-an inducement. Am writing and will mention Boake Banjo &c. I would like in some way to repay you for past trouble and abandoned agreements H L [At top of first page] If "The Three Roads" is found and Banjo cares to use it for his Magazine, he can have it. Could he have typewriter copy?
Two letters from Mangamaunu concerned with an attempt by Louisa Lawson to reissue, without Lawson's knowledge or authority, Short Stories in Prose and Verse (1894), have been omitted. The first, dated 25 June 1897, is to Lawson's mother, addressed 'Sir or Sirs or Madam', and the second, dated 26 June 1897, is to Angus and Robertson. Both letters are in the Mitchell Library Uncat. MSS. Set 184, Item 8.Native School
29th June 1897.
The Secretary for Education
SirI beg to report that the School "Summary" for 1897 and Daily Attendance Registers for 1896 & 1897 were not in the school when I tookpage 175charge. I have made a thorough search, and all possible enquiries, since writing to the Department on the matter, but without success. It may be possible, in view of a statement made to me to the effect that the Church Register, here, is lost-and provided that the records were not sent to the Department and overlooked-that the missing School records were borrowed by one of the Maoris or the Committee for reference for childrens ages or some such purpose. The Committee and most of the parents are still absent, whaling, &c; the Church records are not accessable; the mother of the youngest child in the school does not herself know the child's age, and for these reasons I beg to submit that the statement of ages in the case of three or four of the younger children in my quarterly returns for June, may be open to amendment. I was unable to go to Kaikoura and see the District Register there before posting returns, but will ascertain correct ages as soon as possible. Maria Poharama stated in my copy of returns for last December to be 10 yrs 3 mth, cannot be less, now, than 13 yrs.
The only stock missing from the school, as far as I could judge was stationery. I have no blotting paper nor Contingency Voucher forms in stock. Kindly forward a supply of blotting paper at your earliest convenience.
The low average attendance, compared with the roll, is due to sickness and the whaling season. The mother of four of the children, who brought them from the whaling station to attend School, had to return to attend to her husband who is sick there, and was obliged to take the children with her. The attendance of three of the Europeans depends on the state of the river crossing
The children bring what firewood they can, but, as they are poorly clothed for the most part, and get wet and invariably lose time when they go for wood, and as the men are away and there is no convenience for carting in the pa. I might be permitted to order a load of firewood for the school to last the winter.
Henry Lawson Teacher.The late teacher left a good garden here to be kept for his successor; but it was totally destroyed by the sheep. I would be glad of a pamphlet on kitchen gardening, suitable for this district. The Maoris here express great sorrow at Mr Steel's death and sympathy for Mrs Steel. Would be glad of her address so that we might forward some token of sympathy.
H. L.Native School
The Secretary for Education
I have to inform you that the School Records &c, about which I wrote to the Department, have lain till this date, in an unnoticed drawer in the page 176School table; and I trust that my expanation and apologies will be accepted.
Henry Lawson Teacher.Memo.
Five or six of the pupils are absent and I only expect a bare average of ten this quarter.
Sept. 10th 97.
The Secretary for Education
I regret to have to report that only seven and eight children have been attending school lately. The Martin family (4)-mentioned in previous report as having been brought here from the whaling station to attend school and taken back shortly afterwards on account of the father's illness-have not returned. It now appears that they have no house here, but one at South Bay. The eldest girl, Mary Jacobs, about 17 years of age, has left school. The attendance of the children (3) from the white family across the river, is very irregular, the boy (13 yrs) being kept away to assist his father; one girl sent for a week or so, then the other (domestic duties); and as none of the children (the girls are eight and nine) knew the alphabet when they came, it is hopeless to expect marks for them, under the circumstance. One girl is temporarily absent, on account of her mother's illness, at South Bay; the rest that went up to make up the original so, have been absent from the pa. since early in the first quarter. Members of the Committee have promised to try to secure the return of one child, and as far as I can see, they are at present unable to do more in the matter. The return of the people to the pa after the whaling season, which ends this month, will not alter the situationunless the Martins make arrangements to live here. Their children and others with the exception of six or seven, whose attendances have been regular and fairly regular, might, in justice to present teacher, be consider to have been practically absent from school since the school was closed at the end of last year, as they had to be taught, in the first place, all that which they had forgotten during the six months' interval. None of the infants in the pa will be old enough to attend school for the next three or four years.
Henry Lawson Teacher.page 177Native School
We're full of work and worry just now and I can only write a note to catch the mail. Bertha expects to be confined early in January & I am taking her to Wellington next week. If I don't get a good billet there, and the doctor thinks its safe, I'll run across to Sydney. I've got a good deal of work from England and hope to get there next year. I will write you as soon as I get to Wgton; but I'm nearly certain to go over. Remember me to the boys. Love from Bertha
The Secretary for Education
Resignation posted before I received notice of examination. Would be glad to be able to stay, but must take Mrs Lawson away at the end of October. No medical attendance to be depended on-Only one horse and trap available for hire, and not always-River crossing unreliable. Could examination be arranged for earlier?
Yours truly and respectfully
* I.e. Emma Brooks.page 178
† Square brackets in MS.Mangamaunu
Oct 10th 97.
You won't be surprised to hear that we are more than full up of this place and can stand the lonliness no longer. Will be up early next month. Tell you all my news and compare notes then. I'll stay in Wgtn if I get anything, if not, and it's safe I'll run for Sydney Am getting orders from leading Eng and Scottish magazines. But we cant yarn in a letter after this interval. Will take unfur rooms or small cottage if I stay in Wgton; but I don't see the fun of writing for Australian prises and living at New Zealand rates. Give my regards to Mrs Mills.
Yours truly.[In another hand:] and love from me.
[Although the full stops after 'Dear Tom' and after the signature were in the original letter, unfortunately they do not appear on the facsimile opposite.]
[Collect Telegram 3 November 1897 to Secretary for Education] Maoris will not understand school closed wire chairman to stop his nonsense
Henry Lawson Kaikoura
[Collect Telegram 6 November 1897 to Secretary for Education] Waiting for Wakatu
Henry Lawson Kaikoura
Note on locations: The letters and telegrams addressed to the Secretary for Education are in the Mangamaunu School file, Education Department, N.Z. The letter to Hugh MacCallum (25 June 1897) is in the Mitchell Library Uncat. MSS. Set 184, Item 7 and the letter to Angus and Robertson, same date, in Item 8; the letter to Emma Brooks (19 September 1897) is in the Mitchell Library MSS. Al 29/-2; the letter to Tom Mills (10 October 1897) is in the Alexander Turnbull Library scrapbook, Sydney Bulletin Writers: Manuscripts and Portraits, vol. i, p. 170, Q 091.page 179