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The Farmer in New Zealand

2. Early Settlement and Farming

2. Early Settlement and Farming

Charles Darwin's well-known description of Waimate is from Vol. iii of Narrative of the Voyages of H.M.S. Adventure and Beagle (London, 1839). Charles Darwin paid a short visit to New Zealand in December 1835; he had sailed as naturalist in the Beagle.

There is ample literary material for building up a conception of the vicissitudes of early European farming. A great number of early settlers published books giving accounts of their experiences, while the Company's servants were positively strident in their voluminous descriptive writings, aimed at that unprotected target, the prospective settler. The classic among these experiences, for its manner as well as for its matter, is that amusing and insouciant chronicle, Adventure in New Zealand (London, 1845) by Edward Jerningham Wakefield. He was further the unacknowledged author of a Handbook for emigrants (London, 1848), which with G. B. Earp's New Zealand: its Emigration and Goldfields (London, 1853), and its earlier editions, existed to smooth the path of the would-be settler. These publications are just as page 146interesting for what they allow us to read between the lines as for their main story. This too is the merit of Francis Fuller's observations on Canterbury in his Five Years' Residence in New Zealand (London, 1859). William Brown's New Zealand and its Aborigines (London, 1845) mentions early farming in Auckland. Edward Shortland's The Southern Districts of New Zealand (London, 1851) shows the success of the Scots who broke away from the Company settlements to colonise Canterbury before the Pilgrims, a theme developed even more fascinatingly in the robust letters of William and John Deans printed in Pioneers of Canterbury (Dunedin, 1937), which make one regret that more of the descendants of their contemporaries have not published their family papers, or at least given copies of them to libraries. Excellent exceptions to this dismal rule of indifference to the value of original historical material in private hands are James Hay's reminiscences, Earliest Canterbury (Christchurch, 1915), George Rhodes of the Leve's and his Brothers by [Mrs] A. E. Woodhouse (Christchurch, 1937), and Bidwill of Pihautea (Christchurch, 1927) by W. E. Bidwill and A. E.Wood-house. Among the richest of the material evoked by an English appeal on behalf of Centennial history, an appeal answered more generously by the English descendants of pioneers than by people in New Zealand, are the Dillon letters, referring to the decade 1843-53. There is already in the Alexander Turnbull Library the interesting Pharazyn diary, and another Centennial acquisition, the Coote diary, also contains some slender gleams of farming page 147interest. The Ward diary throws vivid light on pioneer farming in Nelson in the forties. The early days of Otago are chronicled in Dr T. M. Hocken's Contributions to the Early History of New Zealand (London, 1898). A small pamphlet published in Dunedin by the Otago Early Settlers' Association in 1903, Early Days in Otago, contains the cautionary tale of a newspaper that flouted influential public opinion on an agricultural topic.

The development of farming in Britain during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries is admirably related in that classic, Lord Ernle's English Farming Past and Present (revised edition, London, 1936).