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A Life of J. C. Beaglehole: New Zealand Scholar

1 — Forebears

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Beaglehole was a not uncommon name in eighteenth-century Cornwall. It was derived from bugel hal, meaning herdsman on the moors. As time passed, however, Beagleholes were largely found clustered in the mining villages of the county. The spelling varied; Bagelhole, Begelhole, Bugelhoal, Buglehole and more appear in parish registers, as well as Beaglehole. Christian names showed less variety: John, William, Henry, Elizabeth and Jane constantly recur. There were clearly a number of families in the west, in Helston and its nearby villages of Breage, Sithney and Germoe, and the first John Beaglehole in whom we are interested was born in Breage in 1805, the son of Margaret and William, a miner.1 John moved from Breage to the St Austell area and became, according to family tradition, a copper miner. Most of his children were baptised in St Austell. He died in Liskeard, however, where his youngest son was born. In the 1871 death notice of his widow Margaret she is referred to as 'relict of the late John Beaglehole of St Cleer Cornwall'.

The copper mines of the St Austell district, lying to the east of the town, became prominent only after 1812. St Austell had been a tin-mining village which grew steadily in size in the second half of the eighteenth century, once china clay was discovered in 1755 and began to be mined. By the end of the century the population was just under 4000, and while the china clay industry came to dominate the town – and, in time, the huge heaps of white spoil equally dominate its surrounding landscape – copper and tin mining were significant in the first half of the nineteenth century. Copper and tin miners, indeed, regarded clay-working as an inferior occupation that called for none of their skills as miners. Copper miners from St Austell were among those who in the late 1830s and 1840s developed mines in the Caradon district near the village of St Cleer, a few miles from Liskeard. More and more miners and capital were attracted. A railway page 24built from Liskeard to the new mines enabled the ore to be taken by barge down the Liskeard and Looe canal and shipped out of Looe. By 1850 the Caradon district was recognised as one of the richest mineral areas in Cornwall and the Caradon Hill Mine, employing some 4000 men, perhaps the greatest of the Cornish copper mines.

John Beaglehole's initial move from Breage to St Austell and the subsequent move to Liskeard or St Cleer, which seems to have taken place between the birth of his son Joseph in St Austell in 1843 and that of Sampson in Liskeard in 1848, were as much a part of a common pattern as was his family's subsequent move to South Australia after his death. Whether there were more specific reasons for the move from St Austell we can only conjecture. The winter of 1846–47 was particularly hard. Hungry workers believed they were being starved in order to benefit profiteering corn merchants, and in May 1847 there were riots in Wadebridge, in which St Austell miners played a part, seeking to prevent the export of corn to other parts of the country and to have it available locally at a fair price.2The men did little more than threaten, but a month later a mob of casual mine-labourers and clay-workers invaded St Austell itself and started looting some shops. Troops eventually restored order and ten men were given sentences of imprisonment ranging from six months to two years.3 It was a time when a family man might well decide to try his luck at the flourishing new mines at Caradon, not least because his eldest son, John, was already old enough to be working and the second, William, soon would be.

John had married Jane Rickard on 26 July 1826 in St Austell.4Both registered their names with a mark. Jane bore eight children in fifteen years of marriage before dying of 'inflammation of the lungs'. Only four of those children survived to adulthood: John, born in 1829, William Henry, 1833, Mary, 1838, and Absalom, born in 1840 and losing his mother before his first birthday. On 20 April 1842 John remarried. Margaret Williams was a widow whose husband, Thomas Williams, had died nine years earlier. Margaret was thirty-six and had two young sons of her own. She too was the child of a miner, Joseph Watters. And if Margaret signed the register with a cross, this time John wrote his name, spelling it Beagelhole. John and Margaret went on to have two sons, Joseph Watters (named after his grandfather) in 1843, and Sampson in 1848. Two years after Sampson's birth, John died at Liskeard, leaving Margaret with the care of eight children, ranging from her stepson John in his early twenties down to two-year-old Sampson. The 1851 census return for St Cleer village lists Margaret as a 'lodgings housekeeper' and her page 25sons Thomas and John Williams as well as John and William Henry Beaglehole as miners. Later that year Margaret and her family, with the exception of her elder sons and her eldest stepson, John, sailed to a new life in South Australia.

They were but a tiny part of a great exodus of peoples from Europe to the new worlds in the mid-nineteenth century. What precipitated the move we do not know. Certainly, life in a Cornish mining community was far from comfortable. Before the Caradon discoveries, St Cleer was an agricultural parish with a population of 984 in 1830; then copper was discovered and in thirty years the population had reached almost 4000.5 Mining boomed and brought prosperity to some, but a heavy price was paid. The overcrowded, insanitary hovels of cob and thatch thrown up by the miners consisted of little more than walls and a roof; water supply was a secondary consideration and sanitation came last of all. Disease was rife. The St Cleer parish burial registers 'show an alarming increase in the proportion of infants dying under five years, and the virtual halving of the average expectancy of life from over 40 to less than 22 years'. Much the same tragedy is revealed in the burial registers of other mining parishes. The miners' poverty was reflected in their average weekly wage in the second quarter of the nineteenth century: less than 13 shillings, a bare living wage and nothing more. All too often meals 'consisted of sour barley bread washed down with boiled water slightly discoloured with tea, occasionally varied with a few turnips … fried in grease that had been purloined from the mine engines'.

Margaret and her family left Plymouth, about eighteen miles from Liskeard, on 7 May 1851 on the Sultana and arrived at Port Adelaide just over three months later, on 10 August. In the shipping list they are entered as
BeagleholeMargaretaged 38housekeeper

There is a discrepancy between the ages given for Margaret and Absalom and those recorded in the 1851 census for Liskeard (taken in March), where they given as forty-five and ten – the ten for Absalom being apparently correct. The differences may have arisen from ignorance or from error. From the way she signed the marriage page 26register Margaret almost certainly could not write; quite probably she could not read either. Her death notice in 1871 gave her age as sixty-seven, which would give a birth date of 1804 and suggests that she was at least forty-five when they sailed. It may have been expedient to supply the younger age to meet the conditions for the passage to Australia. The Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners in London regulated the supply of assisted immigrants by altering the terms of eligibility. Margaret got away just in time, because that year assistance was withdrawn from widows, widowers with children, single women with illegitimate children and habitual paupers.6 The other enigma is the listing of Job. No record has been found of him being born as Job Beaglehole nor as Job Williams, so he does not appear to be a son of Margaret. After the family arrived in Australia, there is also no record of Job as a Beaglehole. Perhaps some other family asked Margaret to bring him out to relatives and he travelled under her name to make it legal.

Why South Australia? First, assisted passages were available, and without these a widow in Margaret's circumstances could never have considered making such a move. Second, it seems possible that she was following relatives who had already made the voyage. Another widow, Elizabeth Beaglehole (1801–74), whose husband William Henry Beaglehole (1800–33) may have been related to Margaret's husband John, left Helston and made the passage out with her two sons, John and William Henry, on the Prince Regent in 1849. Another William Beaglehole had arrived in Adelaide about 1845 with his wife and family. Maybe the two widows went out to join him; such a pattern of chain migration was not unusual at that time. The provision of assisted passages was explained by the colony's place as the first example of the Wakefield system in practice. Edward Gibbon Wakefield's theory of colonisation sought to 'synchronise flows of labour and capital with the release of land for settlement'7and to ensure an adequate supply of labour by funding migration from the proceeds of land sales. During the first phase of South Australia's development, 1836–57, population growth depended heavily on assisted immigration and about 160,000 immigrants arrived in the colony. A disproportionate number of these migrants came from the south of England, and for several years in the mid-century more than 10 per cent of arrivals were from Cornwall. Miners, especially those recruited from the Cornish copper-mining towns, had little difficulty finding employment at most times, and a concentration of 'Cornish' villages and towns grew about the copper fields at Kooringa (later known as Burra), Kapunda, Moonta and page 27Walleroo. It was widely said that, wherever in the world a deep hole was dug for minerals, you would find a Cornish miner at the bottom of it, 'highly skilled, self-reliant, with the tradition of centuries of mining enriching all his work, and most probably with the teaching and tunes of Methodism giving direction and rhythm to his life'.8South Australia may not at first have seemed a great improvement on Cornwall. In Kooringa, where the family first settled, 1600 out of the 4400 residents in 1851 were living in caves dug into the bank of the river, and that year there were 153 deaths from cholera and typhoid, most of them children.

Joseph and Sampson followed the family tradition and became miners, moving from the copper mines of South Australia to the silver mines of Broken Hill when the copper ran out. Sampson eventually moved to Kalgoorlie and the gold mines of Western Australia, while Joseph remained with silver. They both married and had large families, though eight of Sampson's and his wife Elizabeth's thirteen children died in infancy. Their sister Mary married William Henry Snell in 1856 at Kooringa and had a family. Absalom decided on farming and, apparently the victim of false pretences, travelled to Western Australia to take up land that proved to have no water and very little feed for stock. He returned and eventually settled on a mallee block near Tailem Bend east of Adelaide. It was an arid area of low rainfall where he and his family would have barely made enough to live on. Of what William Henry did in his first years in South Australia we know very little. Years later, in a letter to one of William's sons, Absalom wrote 'I have the Deeds of your fathers land but I think they are no good sold for rates or gone otherwise …'9 The deed, 10 in which William was described as 'of Kooringa Miner', showed the land, bought from Charles Tompkins on 5 August 1852 for £18, to have been in the village of Kensington near Adelaide. Whatever his interest it was not enough to hold him and, probably in 1857,* William Henry crossed the Tasman to New Zealand.

We know almost nothing of what he did in the following eight years. Family tradition has it that he tried his luck on the Otago goldfields before moving to Wellington, where he is said to have worked on the wharves before he found a job, later a partnership, in the brickworks in Taranaki Street. The brickworks, part of the original Wellington acre 86, were on the eastern side of Taranaki

* William's death certificate, dated 27 July 1910, recorded that he had been in New Zealand fifty-three years.

page 28Street; the site, later occupied by Odlin's timber yard, is now part of the playing field of Wellington High School. The first definite date and event we have is that of his wedding on 4 January 1866 to Mary Jane, daughter of David Robertson.

David Robertson was born on 8 December 1813 and spent his early years in Fifeshire near Newburgh, a town on the Firth of Tay.11 His father, James Robertson, was a Chelsea Pensioner who farmed at Lindores. The few surviving letters of his parents are dictated, presumably because they could not write, but David, unusually for the time, had some schooling. His father wished him to study for the ministry, but after a period of study in Edinburgh he turned to horticulture and in his early twenties went to England, where he was a gardener on a series of estates in Hertfordshire. For about seven years from 1840, David, now with a wife named Ann, was at Bedwell Park, near Essendon, apparently as head gardener. Bedwell Park was the home of Sir Culling Eardley Eardley, a religious philanthropist, friend of Dr David Livingstone and founder of the Evangelical Alliance, established to promote religious freedom throughout the world. It would have been a congenial position for Robertson, whose surviving letters and gardening diary show a thoughtful man, Godfearing, respectful of the ways of Providence, and committed to total abstinence. It was at Bedwell Park that Mary Jane (known as Jane) was born in 1842, followed two years later by a second daughter, Annie. On 24 August 1846, a few months after the birth of a son, Ann died; ten days later the baby died. The following year David married Mary Walker. There were seven children from this second marriage, the two youngest being born in Wellington.

What led to the decision to migrate to New Zealand we do not know. There are some signs of restlessness in David's letters in the years after his second marriage. He contemplated moving to Ireland, though it seems unlikely that he actually did so. Early in 1854 he was on the estate of Waresley Park in Huntingdonshire, which belonged at that time to the Feversham family. It was probably from there that the family left for New Zealand, arriving in Wellington on the barque Alma in May 1857. Jane, the eldest child, was fifteen, and her youngest stepsister, Helen, was born nine days after the ship berthed.

Three months later David Robertson was appointed sexton at the Wellington public cemetery in Sydney Street, a position he was to hold for thirty years. A small four-roomed cottage was built for the family, into which they somehow all fitted. David's botanical knowledge brought him into contact with Sir George Grey and in page 29the 1860s, during Grey's second term as Governor, the two used to make collecting expeditions into the bush around Wellington. At the government's request, David classified and named many native plants, ferns, trees and shrubs. He was also friendly with a later Governor, Sir William Jervois.

Clearly an educated and thoughtful man, David was said to have helped the young with their lessons. In the case of his eldest daughters, however, what little evidence there is suggests that they had little schooling. Annie, when she married, just before her twenty-first birthday (two years before her sister Jane), signed her marriage certificate with a cross. She later learned to write her name, and she could read. She had also inherited her father's religious interests and social concerns and was one of the first converts to the Salvation Army in Wellington. As Annie Rudman, she became a prominent figure in the Wellington City Corps for over forty years and was joined there by all seven of her children. Two surviving letters by Jane suggest that she too had very limited skill at writing.

Of the circumstances which brought Jane Robertson and William Henry Beaglehole together we know nothing; in all probability it was the Methodist chapel. They were married on 4 January 1866 in David Robertson's cottage in the cemetery, and then Jane joined William in the cottage in the brickyard. There, nine months later, on 8 October, the first of their four children was born: David Ernest, always known as Ernest, or Ern to the family. There followed Edward William (Ted) on 12 March 1870, Joseph Samuel (Joe) on 24 August 1875, and Annie Jane Miriam (known as Annie, and in later life in the family simply as Auntie) on 10 August 1879. Between Ted's birth and Joe's the family moved into a new house in Hopper Street at number 49 (later renumbered 51). William and his partner in the brickworks, George Maslen,* had bought the whole section of ground from Taranaki Street, opposite the brickyard, through to Hopper Street and they built two similar small two-storeyed houses facing the two frontages. Jane, inheriting her father's gift, created a garden remembered by Ern as 'gay with flowers … and sweet with perfume'. William grew vegetables. The Beagleholes reached the brickyard by nipping through a gap in their back fence and then through the Maslens' section, and in his early years Ernest spent

* William and George Maslen later fell out, and William seems to have left the brickworks. In Stone's Directory for 1891–92, and again in 1895–96, William's occupation is given as 'lumper', or waterside worker, though the electoral roll for 1893 and 1896 continued to list him as 'brickmaker'.

page 30a good deal of time about the yard, often in the company of the Maslens' elder son, who was about his own age. They played hide and seek, he remembered,

about the long drying sheds, wheeled the barrows, found endless pleasure in the horses and carts, and were particularly interested in the firing of the kilns … Father supervised most of the kiln work and brick baking, this led to his staying up often through the night; and one of my great joys as a boy was to be allowed to go to the yard in the early evening, sit in front of the openings in the kiln through which the fires were kept up roasting potatoes with great, very long-handled shovels with much gusto and listening to the gossip … [of] men working in the yard with their friends [who] made a practice of assembling round the kiln in the evenings till bedtime smoking and yarning.12

William and Jane's was a Wesleyan Methodist household. William became a lay preacher at the Primitive Methodist chapel in Webb Street, opposite the bottom of Hopper Street, 'and would sometimes make the long journey through Karori to Makara to take his turn at preaching there'.13 Jane, in spite of her limited education, became Ernest's first teacher of writing and reading, taking him through Line upon Line and Precept upon Precept, children's books that were based largely on incidents in the Old and New Testaments, and were popular in those days in chapel-going households. These, together with the Bible, were the first books he read. Fairy tales and nursery rhymes, he later wrote, did not come his way – only when he had children of his own did he discover such things – and he wondered if his parents had even known of their existence.

Ernest went to the Wesleyan Day School, where he received a book prize for progress in 1876, and to the Wesleyan Methodist Sunday School in Manners Street. A number of books, rewards 'for Good Conduct and Attendance', have survived, works of rather oppressive piety. 'It is a delightful employment to discover and trace the operations of divine grace, as they are manifested in the dispositions and lives of God's real children', one of these, Annals of the Poor by the Rev. Legh Richmond, opens. Whatever Ernest made of these particular volumes, books came to assume a place of extraordinary importance in his life. Methodism represented not simply a set of religious beliefs but also a way to self-improvement, with the printed word providing the key to progress towards that end.

Whether Ernest went on from the Wesleyan Day School to Mount Cook School, as his brother Edward later did, we do not know, but from 1879 to the end of 1881 he attended Morton's Private Academy on The Terrace. Conducted by Mr Robert Morton 'of Aberdeen page 31University' (simply 'of', no degree is given), this was one of a number of private schools, short-lived in most cases, that were started in Wellington in the first few decades of settlement. The academy claimed to offer 'all the essentials of a Liberal English Education' and Ernest's half-yearly reports list a formidable array of subjects: reading, recitation, spelling, grammar, composition, geography, history, arithmetic, mental arithmetic, writing, ornamental writing, drawing, mapping, Euclid, algebra, Latin and elementary science. Pupils were tested in most subjects every Monday and allocated marks for their performance every other day, as well as for attendance and conduct. By his second year Ernest was first in a class of eight in almost every subject, though a 99.6 per cent in mental arithmetic pulled him down to second. Tuition cost £4 4s per quarter, and even with a discount of 20 per cent for prompt payment this could not have been easy for the Beagleholes to pay. Secondary schooling was the exception rather than the rule for a working-class family then, and Ernest was probably lucky to have had what the academy could offer. Joe and Annie had no secondary schooling. Ted was more successful. After three years at the Wesleyan Day School he went on to Mount Cook School, and from there was awarded a scholarship which took him to Wellington College. Dux in 1888, he won the senior half-mile twice, and on leaving became a pupil-teacher back at Mount Cook School.

Leaving the academy marked the end of Ernest's formal schooling, but he left with a thirst for further education. The Evening Post of 14 July 1884 has a letter to the editor:

Are you aware of any classes for the study of practical chemistry, natural philosophy, or botany? Being desirous of prosecuting those studies, I should be grateful for any information.

I am, etc.,

Ernest Beaglehole

The editor replied that it was 'scarcely creditable that in a city such as Wellington we should have to answer the above question in the negative'.

By this time Ernest was deeply involved in the activities of the Young Men's Wesleyan Mutual Improvement Society, which he had joined the year after he left the academy. The society had been formed in 1869 for 'Mutual Improvement and Instruction in Theology Etc.'14 Candidates for membership had to believe in the inspiration of the Holy Scripture, but the early preoccupation with theological questions steadily broadened and became more varied and secular. The young men met weekly, with perhaps fifteen to twenty members page 32attending, a minister generally presided, and there were 'readings, recitations and impromptu speeches' followed by 'criticisms'. During the 1880s debating increased in popularity, both within the society and against similar societies: in 1885 there were debates on the abolition of the House of Lords, the abolition of capital punishment, and Home Rule for Ireland. As well as playing a full part in these activities, Ernest also served at different times as a member of the committee, as librarian, as treasurer, and as secretary.

Ernest read essays to the society on Gladstone and Ireland, on Charles Kingsley, Charles Darwin, Samuel Johnson and Thomas Chatterton, and gave a lecture on Lord Tennyson at a meeting open to the public at which the Wesleyan church choir sang 'Come into the garden Maud', and other appropriate songs. As editor of the society's journal (a manuscript volume in which pieces could be written to be read aloud at forthcoming meetings) he read out editorials he had written on 'Agnosticism, Positivism and Christianity' (subsequently published in the Leader, a newspaper dedicated to the 'interests of Christian and Temperance Work')15 and on 'Scientific Education'. He gave a recitation of Walt Whitman's 'Hymn to Death'. He debated in favour of evolution, affirmed that 'Carlyle has had greater influence than Dickens' (losing by four votes to ten), opposed the granting of Home Rule to Ireland, and affirmed that the press 'is wielding its power for the good of the community'. In many ways the society (together with the Mechanics Institute, also active in Wellington at that time) was a precursor of the later Workers' Educational Association, or WEA, and if Ernest learned little of 'practical chemistry, natural philosophy, or botany' he was clearly reading widely and taking a keen interest in intellectual and political questions.

As secretary and editor of the journal, he was developing a fluent if solemn prose style with a distinct gift for the purple passage. Reviewing the second half-year of 1889 he concluded: 'The dark mists of gloomy anticipation, the lowering skies of chilly prognostications have given way to the brightness of summer sunshine, of realized aspirations and the fulfilment of cherished desires.' (This does not appear to have been a direct reference to the fact that following a change of rule eight young women had joined the society during that session.) Two years later, on the eve of perhaps its most successful period, he called on the flagging members of a society that 'has helped in so large a measure to keep burning the lamp of truth and learning' to protest against the prevailing climate of 'boorishness, conviction based upon ignorance or indifference, and the insubstantial pageant page 33of passing show, the despising of all the more graceful sides of life, an utter want of appreciation of the beautiful in art and letters' – all, he asserted, 'the characteristics of present day life and thought'.

Whether or not in response to this exhortation, the society in 1892 had a number of successful public meetings and lectures, sometimes illustrated by magic-lantern slides and enlivened by 'musical selections'. These attracted large audiences and the admission charge raised money for the library. Membership rose to a high point of ninety-one. At the end of 1893 Ernest retired from the committee and as editor. He was still listed as a member the following year but there is no record of him taking part in any activities. By then he had become totally absorbed in the Forward Movement.

The Forward Movement had its origins in London, in the mixture of social work and evangelism among the working classes in east London initiated by Wesleyans in the 1880s and later centred on Toynbee Hall and Mansfield House. These were Anglican and Congregational foundations, where young graduates of Oxford and Cambridge lived and worked to promote education and temperance and the general welfare of the community. The movement in Wellington was begun by two Congregational ministers, the Rev. W.A. Evans and the Rev. G.H. Bradbury, who resigned their ministries in Nelson and in Canterbury in order to take up this work. Evans was married to Kate Edger, the first woman to graduate from the University of New Zealand. Before her marriage she had been principal of the Nelson College for Girls and on moving to Wellington she largely supported her husband (and the movement, which never had the resources to pay Evans and Bradbury adequately) by coaching pupils and opening a private school in their home.

The first meeting was held on 27 August 1893, and appointed a committee of management which included Ernest Beaglehole as well as several of the redoubtable Richmond–Atkinson clan. Among them were Arthur Richmond Atkinson, lawyer, journalist and later member of the House of Representatives for Wellington; his wife Lily, a great temperance campaigner, suffragist and feminist; and Maurice Richmond, later professor of law at Victoria University College. Within six months Ernest had become the committee's secretary.

Evans described the Forward Movement as 'a faithful attempt to bring the cardinal principles of Christianity, as conceived and interpreted by its best exponents, to bear on the complex conditions of modern society'.16 Its purpose was at once religious, educational and philanthropic. In religion, Evans believed the movement to page 34represent 'the expression in modern times of true Evangelical faith',17and in severing formal links with any institutional church he hoped it would appeal directly to those whose interest was primarily in the 'social spirit of Christianity'. In education, a number of classes were started; there were public meetings on current social issues and regular lectures on history, literature, philosophy, civics and economics. They were given by Evans and his wife, by her Theosophist sister, Lilian Edger, by Bradbury, and by other Wellingtonians of note: Atkinson and Richmond from the committee; Sir Robert Stout, former prime minister and soon to be appointed chief justice; and later, when he had moved to Wellington to become Secretary of the Department of Education, George Hogben. The philanthropic or social work of the movement was carried out largely by Evans, who became a familiar figure in Wellington's slum areas and something of an authority on charitable aid.

The Forward Movement classes and lectures in their way marked a step towards the founding of a university college in Wellington. Evans was one of its most energetic promoters and, following the passing of the Victoria College Act 1897, he became a member of the new College Council together with the college's greatest advocate, Sir Robert Stout. When the college opened, the Forward Movement largely discontinued its lectures. By this time it had passed its peak. The heady excitement of its first years was over, and in 1904 Evans followed Bradbury back into a church appointment, becoming minister at the Newtown Congregational Church.

For Ernest, the early years of the movement had been important in several ways. Fired as he was with that passion for self-improvement that was characteristic of many working-class families of the time, he can only have been gratified by his place in the movement alongside some of Wellington's most eminent citizens. For the rest of his life, while he remained a modest man, he was not one who showed undue deference towards those with greater worldly success. In material terms he had not achieved a great deal. His first job was in Brittains, a chemist's shop in Manners Street. Later, for two years, he worked for Blundell Brothers, publishers of the Evening Post. He was sacked from that job when one of the Blundell sons wanted to join the office and a vacancy had to be made,18 an event which left a certain bitterness. After that he found a position as an accounts clerk with Sharlands, wholesale chemists in Dixon Street, and he remained with them for the rest of his working life. But it was not self-improvement in the material sense which stirred him.

It was through books and his reading of English literature that page 35Ernest sought to better himself. The intellectual life, he affirmed in an article he wrote on Matthew Arnold, 'so far from being mere elegant trifling, helps us more than all other studies to the companionship of wise thoughts and right feelings'.19 That was the companionship he sought. Arnold, he believed, represented more than anyone else 'the intellectual spirit of the closing years of the nineteenth century', and in his poetry his 'rare and delicate genius' found 'purest and noblest expression'. Purity, nobility, beauty, truth – the words recur. Another article by Ernest, published in the Forward Movement's journal,20 was on Robert Browning's long poem 'The Ring and the Book'. Ernest gave a straightforward account of the poem's narrative content and affirmed that the 'work contains the most beautiful and lofty thoughts nobly uttered, passages of supreme beauty and great power'. What he hoped to do in writing the article, he said, was 'simply to induce others, lovers of good books, and admirers of the great and beautiful and true … to turn to' this poem. Ernest does not show any remarkable insight or imagination; what he wrote at this time tells us much more about himself than the poets he writes about. As a young man, in his mid-twenties, he was discovering in literature what he had not found in the Wesleyan church of his boyhood. It was not an abrupt break, but rather a shifting balance. Sharing some of the doubts of that age of doubt, Ernest found solace in a verse by Matthew Arnold:

Is it so small a thing
To have enjoy'd the sun
To have lived light in the spring,
To have loved, to have thought, to have done;
To have advanced true friends, and beat down
baffling foes?

It is perhaps not surprising that a young man such as this should have fallen in love, and on 23 July 1895 Ernest was married to Jane (generally known as Jenny), the daughter of Joseph Cawte Butler and his wife Jane Tiller.

Joseph, born in 1844, was one of the six children of John William Butler and Jane Cawte. Jane Tiller was the daughter of Edmund Tiller and Sarah South. The Butler and Tiller families both lived in Southampton, where Joseph is said to have worked in the timber yard owned by the Tillers. Joseph and Jane were married in 1866 and Jenny, their eldest child, was born two years later on 22 February 1868. She was followed by Ada and then by George, the only son. After George came Annie, Winifred, Amy and finally, after the family arrived in Wellington, Jessie Marian.

page 36

They emigrated in 1883, sailing from Plymouth to Wellington on the steamship Ionic, together with Jane's brother William (Bill) Tiller, his wife Harriet (Polly) and their young family. Polly was pregnant and had a miserable trip. During the cold crossing of the Indian Ocean, 'Polly as usual [was] groaning and bewailing her fate, expecting every minute to be swallowed up', wrote Joseph with a certain lack of sympathy in the diary he kept on the voyage.21 The rest of the party seemed to enjoy the voyage, and Joseph was pleased to meet 'a good many Colonials who have been home for a trip and are now returning and the general verdict seems to be that if a man is energetic and sober, there is not much fear but he will do very well in New Zealand'. Arriving in Wellington, they rejoined Jane's eldest sister, Mary Tiller, and her husband James Brown, who had made the voyage out with another Tiller son, George, nineteen years before and were well settled in Wellington with three children. Joseph Butler established himself as a builder and the family settled in a house in Cuba Street. Jenny was fifteen when they arrived. She had finished her schooling in Southampton and had worked there in a bookshop. After the family arrived in Wellington she got a position in Te Aro House (the name by which the retailer James Smith's was then commonly known), but we know little else about her early years in Wellington.

It was hardly surprising that Ernest Beaglehole came into contact with the Butler family. Cuba Street was not far from Hopper Street. Bill Tiller became a prominent member of the Wesleyan church in Taranaki Street, and a Miss A. Butler is recorded as singing at an early social evening of the Forward Movement (probably Ada, who had performed on the Ionic on the voyage out, though all the Butler girls sang). There was clearly an overlapping of family activity. Family tradition has it that Ernest courted Jenny doggedly for years, but the first time he proposed she turned him down. She was deeply devoted to her cousin Jim Brown, a lively young man and a great sportsman, son of James and Mary, and he to her, but they believed they should not marry because of the closeness of their relationship. Ernest eventually proposed again and this time, to the surprise of her family, Jenny accepted him.22 They were married at the Butlers' house by the Rev. W.A. Evans and moved into a house at 49 Hopper Street built for them by Joseph Butler with assistance from his son George and Joe Beaglehole. The house stood in what had been the garden of William and Jane Beaglehole's house, where Ernest had lived almost all his life.