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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria University, Wellington N.Z. Vol. 22, No. 4. April 27, 1959

Book Review — Visit to New Zealand

Book Review

Visit to New Zealand

"Arrived in a storm, the last twenty-four hours being doleful, with all the passengers down, and even the officers looking askance at their food."

This was the way Beatrice Webb was introduced to Auckland in 1898, and this sentence begins a book of extracts from her and her husband's diary describing her visit to New Zealand.

Their comments on New Zealand of 1898 are now published for the first time, under the title "Visit to New Zealand," by Price, Milburn and Company, of Wellington.

While in Auckland the Webbs visited the University and had this to say about it:

"The University College is housed in quaint ramshackle wooden buildings . . .

"Its income is £4000 government grant and £800 fees. It has 83 matriculated students, and about 120 attendants at courses of lectures. Nearly all the students are teachers actual or prospective, and have little time or inclination for intellectual work.

"The half a dozen professors—entirely English university men—seem well paid—the chemistry man gets £800—but lack stimulus. The Auckland business and professional world seems to supply practically no students—not even their unemployed daughters.

"The University has clearly failed to make itself popular in any sense—attracting neither endowments nor students other than teachers. No joint action with Christchurch or Dunedin—the other colleges of the New Zealand University—in fact, mutual jealousy . . .

"Our general impression of education as shown in Auckland: seedy in appliances, imitative of old English models in method, honourable and gentlemanly in its spirit but quite without originality, independence, or modern ideas." I wonder if 61 years have changed all that.

The diary itself is full of fascinating sidelights of a developing colony seen through the eyes of two of the world's greatest humanists. Seddon is "vulgar" but "a giant." They approve of his reforms but not of his methods and there is a strangely familiar ring to Webb's suggestion that he takes too much on himself.

New Zealand architecture they find even in those far away times to be uninteresting if not downright ugly.

In one month the Webbs packed in a great deal of social survey and, if nothing else, the diary serves to prove in no small way the old adage "La plus que change, la plus c'est la meme chose."

Mr Hugh Price is to be congratulated on his editing, the firm for the publishing of the book and the State Literary Fund, which so often comes in for unnecessary abuse, for its grant to the publishers.