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Octavius Hadfield

Letter written by Octavius Hadfield to his mother September 17, 1844

To his mother.

I forget whether I mentioned in my last letter that I was unwell; if I did, you will doubtless have been anxious to hear again from me; but if I had written during that period I could not have given a very favourable account of myself, nor can I now. I have been very ill, and still am in very delicate health. I have indeed cause to be thankful, that considering how weak my constitution was when a boy, I have enjoyed so great a measure of health as I have, and have moreover been enabled to devote a few years to the work of the Lord.

But to proceed; I must give you some account of myself. In March last I was attacked with a complaint in my kidneys which confined me to my page 183 bed for some time; subsequently I recovered a moderate degree of strength and attended to my duties as usual; but having a good deal of work about Easter and some time afterwards I could not spare time to put myself under medical treatment and consequently continued till the beginning of June without taking any steps to have the pain in my back removed, which was by that time rather serious. On the 4th of June I went to Wellington having been previously visited by my friend Mr. St. Hill, and took up my abode at his house. Dr Fitzgerald, who attended me before, visited me, and having brought Dr. Featherston, another very clever man to see me, they told me it was necessary for me to put myself entirely under their directions, as my complaint ought to have been attended to long before. I continued at Wellington three months, and was visited by Dr. Fitzgerald every day, who tried various remedies—bleeding, cupping, tartar-emetic applications, but without much success. Having passed so much time at Wellington, I requested them to give me a decided opinion about my state of health, that I might be prepared to act accordingly. They give me no hopes of an ultimate recovery, though they tell me that with great care and by being very quiet, I may live tolerably free from pain. I returned home about a fortnight ago as they thought with me that change of air might do me good, especially as the air of this place is better than that of Wellington.

I am forbidden to exert myself, so I content myself with very moderate duties. I was nine Sundays without being able even to go to church, but I have preached once each of the last four Sundays without suffering much by it. I am not now in much pain but then I am daily using very strong medicines, which may be expected ere long to lose their effect. I am determined to take care of myself, and try every remedy that is in my power, believing this to be my duty, and as I am now in my new house which is very comfortable, I can do so; but to do this in N.Z. and at the same time continue in the attempt to discharge my dudes among my flock, seems impossible for any length of time. If I find myself totally unable to do anything here I may be induced to attempt a voyage to England, especially as one of my medical advisers strongly recommends it; but I should take such a step with great reluctance and consequently only mention it as a possibility.

The Bishop happened to come into Wellington for an hour while I was there and was much grieved to find I was so unwell. He spoke and acted with the greatest kindness. He told me not to be anxious about my work, that he would send me somebody to assist me, and added that though I possessed but little strength I might be still very useful, especially in superintending matters at this end of the Island which, being at so great a distance from him, he could not well attend to himself.

I do not think that the prospects of this colony are very encouraging at the present time. The greater part of the colonists are very little acquainted with the various employments which would fit them to be useful settlers, and even those who take the lead in matters here show great ignorance of the first principles of political economy: they are aware that N.Z. will not produce everything they require and yet up to this time they have thought page 184 of no export in exchange for the necessary imports; though I am convinced that the country may produce many. The consequence is that the little capital which was brought here has been drained out of the colony and many of the settlers, I think, will shortly take their leave of it. I regret this state of things as I am quite convinced that the resources of this place are various and available. Nor do I take a very cheering view of the condition of the native population. I believe they are no longer on the advance but rather the reverse; but this idea I mink I have previously expressed. The natives are not advancing in civilisation, not because they are not aware of its advantages over barbarism, but because there is no system for effecting such an object; many talk upon the subject, but none use any efforts towards accomplishing it. The introduction of Christianity, they say, will not do it alone: they therefore throw impediments in the way of the missionaries, but in the mean time do nothing themselves.