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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 3 (July 1, 1933)


“Old New Zealand,” by Judge Maning, is a classic in the Dominion's literature. Maning was the first writer to give the world a vivid sketch of life in New Zealand in the period immediately before the establishment of British sovereignty, from the point of view of a pioneer trader and settler. In this article the personality and career of the famous “Pakeha-Maori” are discussed, and some facts and documents hitherto unpublished are given. It is exactly one hundred years ago this month since Maning landed in New Zealand.

F. E. Maning when a young man. (From a drawing by Mr. John Webster, at Hokianga, in the early Forties.)

F. E. Maning when a young man. (From a drawing by Mr. John Webster, at Hokianga, in the early Forties.)

There are two books which describe intimately the conditions of life in North New Zealand in the transition period when the old Maori rule of No Man's Land was still untouched by pakeha law. The writers saw the country in its unspoiled beauty, and lived with the Maoris when the patriarchal mana of the chiefs was still little impaired by the levelling influences of the European invasion. The tribes still welcomed the pakeha, they were eager to get a few white traders to live with them; they were not yet alarmed by the incoming of crowded immigrant ships. One of those writers was Frederick Edward Maning, the Irishman whose “Old New Zealand” is a familiar work, quoted so much that its best passages became somewhat tedious by frequent repetition. The other was Sir John Logan Campbell, whose “Poenamo” is not well known but deserves reprinting for its perfect pictures of pakeha-Maori life on the shores of the Hauraki in 1840. Both writers saw the adventurous era of settlement, the glorious freedom of a day when commercialism and many laws had not yet interfered with the primitive, honest simplicity of the Maori and his pakeha friends. Maning and Campbell were great friends in their days of vigorous young manhood; their friendship continued through life, and Campbell's last duty to his old comrade was the writing of that eloquent epitaph on the “Pakeha-Maori's” tomb in Auckland.

It is fitting that their books should be coupled as the two authentic narratives of a long-vanished life. Of the two, Maning was by far the better acquainted with the Maori people, for he lived among them many years of his life, and he married a Hokianga Maori woman. Campbell's “Poenamo,” however, charms one with its unaffected and sympathetic description of the early trading-station ways, the Maori at home, the pleasures, tribulations and humours of the white man's endeavour to fit himself into the ways of this wonderful new land. What Sir George Grey did for the olden Maori, whose only library was his mind and his mental store of tradition and song, in “Polynesian Mythology,” Maning and Campbell, in their separate ways, did for the race when the ancient regime was about to give way, gradually but surely, to the new.