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Raromi, or, The Maori Chief's Heir

Raromi or The Maori Chief’s Heir by A. A. Fraser. A Temperance Novel with a Twist

Raromi or The Maori Chief’s Heir by A. A. Fraser. A Temperance Novel with a Twist

A. A. Fraser’s novel Raromi or The Maori Cheif’s Heir is “a salvation novel which deals with both individual and collective salvation” (Moffat 46), tracking the journey of the protagonist Falconer and his peers from alcoholic ruin to riches. At the beginning of the melodramatic narrative the dock hand Falconer doubts himself proclaiming “I’m only a – a beach-comber – on my “beam ends”- going to ruin!” (7), yet by the end of the story he has become teetotal and repented his sins, established a successful shipping business and found his long lost fiancé. Didacticism is heavily present throughout and the message is clear, if the example of Falconer is followed salvation and success will be abundant. Fraser’s narrative will be outlined, detailing largely arbitrary episodes which consist of action, romance and cross-cultural encounters. Very little concrete information is known about A. A. Fraser, but what is known will be discussed. Because of the obscurity of Fraser’s identity, this introduction will focus on examining the content of the novel from a historical perspective. Raromi was published in 1888 but it illustrates a period roughly forty year prior to this, depicting the city of Wellington in the early stages of its infancy. Vibrant scenes, containing a degree of historical accuracy are presented, such the infrastructure and settlement of Wellington, judicial process, shipping, trade, and race-relations. While Fraser’s novel is a temperance novel, it is a temperance novel with a twist. Constantly in the backdrop throughout the entire narrative, is the overarching presence of Te Rauparaha. So much so that the novel ends expressing concern that he is a barrier to peace. While Te Rauparaha, the ‘Southern Napoleon’, was a tyrant his representation in the text is incorrect, as historical record suggests that during the period he was not a force of hostility in Wellington, but one of neutrality. However, his presence in the text does provide an almost mythological villain, whose distance from society within the novel is a celebration of peace, prosperity and salvation.

Like many Victorian novels of questionable quality, Raromi or The Maori Chief’s Heir contains an array of almost arbitrary facts, characters, plot twists, action, romance, travel and, specific to its New Zealand setting, racial relations and vivid geographical description. Often characters are introduced solely to provide crucial detail which instigates an action or romance sequence, and then they disappear into thin air. However, Fraser does present a consistent protagonist, Falconer, even though his name and identity are not so uniform. Falconer is a “bonny sailor-lad” (7) who, along with his colleagues, works during the day and hits the bottle during the evening. The novel opens with Falconer repenting his sins to a close pious friend, remaking “In your presence I vow, before God, to give up the company of the drunkards; I’ll touch drink no more, come what may of it!” (10). His friend, suitably named Noble, helps to guide Falconer away from his existence of sin, acting as a paternal figure for a lost soul without family support in the colony. Becoming teetotal allows Falconer’s life to literally take flight (Fraser’s pun excused). He relinquishes his alcoholism and is attributed characteristics and titles which reflect the positive progression and achievement his character has made. Despite his multiple titles such as Raromi and Harold Morpeth, he will be referred to primarily as Falconer to avoid confusion. He is befriended by a Christian Maori chief, Dog’s-Ear, who he rescues from a harrowing cliff face in the Ngauranga Gorge. The Chief pronounces him “Ramori, for your grip is tight, your word straight, and your heart is true.”(108). Adventures within the novel include Falconer successfully defending himself in court against a murder charge, Noble being abducted by hostile associates of Te Rauparaha and taken to Makara, hunting Kaka to survive in the bush, speculation to start a shipping company, blowing up a ship of hostile natives with rockets and getting lost at sea, ending up in Sydney.

The Sydney excursion is indulgent as it allows Fraser to reference characters and scenes from his previous novel Daddy Crips’s Waifs. Daddy Crips, in Ramori, runs a community orchard where young boys who have fallen from grace, or have been deprived of opportunity, are given employment, shelter and moral guidance. Here Falconer’s identity is revisited again. He is recognised by a former associate from England called Mr. Jarvey, as Harold Morpeth. Falconer tells Jarvey “the young man you knew at Liverpool is not the same you now see – at least, I hope not.” (166). Mr Jarvey sees that Falconer has repented his dipsomania, and conveniently puts him in contact with a lawyer who informs him he is entitled to a considerable inheritance from a distant relative. While Fraser is committed to abolishing sins of the old world in the colonies, such as poverty and alcoholism, he has no desire to repent industrial wealth. Falconer’s teetotalism has provided him with mana, land, wealth, and the possibility for lucrative business enterprise. Realistically, in a temperate New Zealand society how many others would be given the same opportunity? Of course it is only a novel, and a melodramatic one at that. The only remaining loose end in the narrative is Falconer’s long lost fiancé, Clara. During the excursion to Sydney, Daddy Crips holds a community ball, with the mystery guest singer being late to arrive. Thanks to an anonymous tip off from a character introduced solely for that purpose, Falconer embarks on a rescue mission encountering violent bushrangers, or highwaymen, who he pursues and overpowers in an armed conflict. Of course, the singer that Falconer has rescued is his lost fiancé Clara, who becomes overwhelmed with emotion:

Harold, her own Harold, by his daring and bravery had saved her, had saved her at the risk of his own life. And, best of all, that clear, frank look of his – the outlook of a hers; he was true, but chastened, sad, and repentant for the wrong he had thoughtlessly done. (191)

From here, Falconer’s narrative neatly resolves itself. He and Clara return to their cottage in Kaiwharawhara, and his business exporting and importing produce to and from Australia is lucrative. Most plot ends are neatly summarised in a letter by one of Falconer’s associates from Sydney and an inspirational message from Fraser is given: “hard work, energy, and perseverance allied to tact will do more than idle, limp people imagine in this world – they give success.” (211). For a didactic novel which consistently reinforces temperance, this would be a suitable conclusion. The protagonist has successfully sought redemption, all have benefited and now the reader is given the opportunity to do the same if they follow the example Fraser has presented. Yet there are two additional chapters narrating a confrontation between Dog’s-Ear and the hostile tribe of Te Rangihaeata, from whom Dog’s-Ear must claim utu against the fictional Pakihure. Dog’s-Ear is wounded and as he dies he proclaims to Maori and Pakeha spectators that peace must be retained, and that no utu be taken for his death. Fraser ends the novel writing “Pakihure returned home in peace, and saw no more the face of Te Rauparaha, the fierce maker of war. There was peace.” (224). Some of the didacticism in Raromi is hyperbolical, while much of it is merited and informs the reader of the morals and methods that Fraser wanted to transmit, his decision to end the novel with the overarching threat of Te Rauparaha is very interesting, unusual and historically inaccurate.

While Raromi or The Maori Chief’s Heir has not been entirely forgotten by New Zealand literary history, as some studies gloss the narrative, it seems that A. A Fraser’s identity has. No concrete evidence regarding Fraser’s life is available, which is a view reinforced by Stevens, Moffat and Jones. In their respective studies only the content of the novel is discussed. Stevens labels the narrative as “prohibition fiction” (30) outlining the teetotal redemption of Falconer, the protagonist, and the fall of his enemy Black Charlie who dies repenting his alcoholism, praying in the arms of his mother. She also writes that the novel has “much false Maori melodrama, some authentic details such as snaring pigeons, boatbuilding, and so on” (30). Stevens implicitly transmits that she has no knowledge of Fraser’s life, which is something that Moffat makes explicit writing that “my research in the National Library and the Alexander Turnbull Library collections has failed to produce any details about Alexander Fraser’s personal history” (46). Moffat follows Stevens, detailing the redemption of Falconer and Black Charlie, and labelling the work as a salvation novel which deals in both collective and individual salvation (46). Jones gives Fraser’s work even less treatment than the others, briefly glossing themes such as a lost heiress, secrets, kidnappings, capture by Maori villains (a theme that is illustrated on the frontispiece of the novel) and shipwrecks as essential elements for Fraser’s “New Zealand melodramas” (Jones 124).

From the evidence given in the text itself it is possible to deduce some information about Fraser. Raromi was published by the Religious Tract Society, which, along with the novel’s content, would suggest that he was a committed evangelical Christian. The title page labels Fraser as the “Author of ‘Daddy Crips’s Waifs’ Etc”, which suggests he approached writing with a degree of seriousness, as he published multiple novels. It is also possible to suggest that while he may not have permanently lived in Wellington, he was defiantly a resident at some point as he is very familiar with the geographical details of the city. During the sensationalised excursion to Sydney, the narrative becomes sloppy and erratic, providing arbitrary details that neatly boost the plot, but are laughable in their implausibility. However, at the start of ‘Chapter XXX. Home Sweet Home’, when Falconer returns to Wellington harbour Fraser provides an accurate geographical description, confidently depicting the harbour, native bush and hills:

Some three months later a smart, swift, topsail schooner swept around the outer edge of Barrett’s Reef, ran close-hauled through the entrance between the Reef and Pencarrow Head, and stood boldly into the harbour with a smart breeze. Tacking off Ngahauranga, the schooner ran quickly to an anchorage off Port Nic. and drooped anchor. . . looking through a telescope, swept the picturesque western shore, the heights above it, and the straggling town, which, though poor in itself, was set in a rich framework of wild scenery. (204)

No such confidence in specificity is expressed when narrating Sydney and other parts of Australia, making Fraser’s sudden attention to geographical detail a stark contrast to previous episodes. This passage, along with countless others which accurately detail Wellington locations and landmarks make it obvious that Fraser lived, for at least a period of his life, in Wellington.

Fraser’s previous novel Daddy Crip’s Waifs: A Tale of Australasian Life and Adventure, published in 1886, is set in Wanganui. Due to Fraser’s familiarity with Wellington transmitted in Raromi, it is plausible to assume that he spent some time inhabiting Wanganui in order to complete Daddy Crip’s Wife. Therefore, a non-conclusive argument can be proposed that ‘Mr A Fraser’ (Figure One) is the author in question. The photograph was taken in the studio of William James Harding, Wanganui. No specific date is given, but the photos from the collection that ‘Mr A Fraser’ is a part of were taken between 1856 and 1889, which encompasses the years Fraser was writing.

As with Fraser’s identity, the date in which the narrative is set is also non-conclusive. The novel was published in 1888 and not once within the text is a date, specific or approximate, given. However there are multiple details within the text that suggest that the story is situated in a distant, yet still living, memory of the past. Throughout Ramori both Te Rangihaeata and his uncle Te Rauparaha are portrayed as overarching villains, constantly threatening the security and prosperity of Wellington. The fictionalisation of these historical figures provides an end date in which the narrative must occur before. Te Rangihaeata died in November 1855 (“Te Rangihaeata” www.teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/1t63/te-rangihaeata) and Te Rauparaha died in November 1849 (“Te Rauparaha” http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/1t74/te-rauparaha), making 1849 a cut-off date. Another date marker is the inhabitation of central Wellington. “Te Aro Flat, now dotted over with wooden shanties” (Fraser 84) is “filled by colonists unaccustomed to war” (Fraser 37), and there is no mention of co-habitation with Maori, who are only at the fringes of settled areas, notability inhabiting Porirua. By December 1847 the majority of Te Aro Maori had been relocated out of the central city, accepting an offer from Governor George Grey for a 526 acre block out of town, allowing for wharf construction. Consequentially Grey could now sign off a Colonial Office report announcing that all land disputes in the vicinity of Wellington were settled (Rutherford 164).

Another aspect of interest, which also helps to provide an approximate date, is the settler desire to replicate civic practices consistent with those in Britain. In one of Fraser’s direct didactic addresses to the reader, he details that

It must be explained that the young settlement had just received a judge sent down from Sydney to act in criminal cases. Englishmen in the colonies like to have a doctor to tell them when they are ill; a lawyer to settle their disputes; and a governor to hoist the Union Jack, and remind them of home . . . Sad to say, one of the judge’s first trials was that of Falconer, for the wilful murder of Garry; and the trial, stripped of much of its ceremony – as conducted at home – was fixed for the morrow. (47-8)

It is worth detailing some plot. Falconer had refused to drink with his fellow sailors at the local bar, enraging them. Later that evening a murder was committed and Black Charlie, the leader of the gang, attempts to frame Falconer for the crime because of their disagreement. Eventually the truth is revealed and the innocence of Falconer is proved – his temperate nature provides salvation. Aside from overtly clichéd nostalgia for the motherland, this passage represents a relative realism to the civic development of Wellington during this period. Echoes of Fraser’s judge resonate with two of New Zealand’s first judges, William Martin and Henry Samuel Chapman. Martin was appointed chief justice of New Zealand in January 1841 and was the first judge to sentence a crown subject, Wiremu Kingi Maketu, to death (“William Martin” http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/1m21/martin-william). However, he resided in Auckland. Chapman was his Wellington counterpart, being appointed as judge of the supreme court of New Zealand for the southern district in 1843 (“Henry Samuel Chapman” http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/1c14/chapman-henry-samuel). Much like Fraser’s judge, Chapman served in various administrative positions throughout the empire, spending time in Montreal prior to his time in New Zealand, and moving on to both Tasmania and Melbourne afterwards (ibid.). Of interest to the text is conviction of Henare Maroro, the first Wellington convict to be sentenced to death. The New Zealand Evangelist details that “Maroro the Murderer” was brought to trial before Chapman. Maroro was angered at the four months he had just spent in a newly established government prison, and upon release he murdered John, William and Catherine Banks at random for their property and possessions. The author of the article then remarks “If every, or any native, be disposed to carry out the old native practice of extracting utu or payment for any one in the tribe which they suppose has injured then, no white man’s life is safe.” (263). Fraser also makes appropriating comments about utu writing “to a Maori – complete revenge – is the dominant passion of his untutored heart.” (37). While the trial of Henare Maroro is not identical to that of Falconer the two cases do have similarities, as both are early murder trials in Wellington, reinforcing that the narrative of Raromi firmly belongs in this historical period. From the evidence discussed it can be argued that the narrative is set between 1847, when the Te Aro area was supposedly “cleared” of Maori, and 1849 when Te Rauparaha died. The case of Henare Maroro also reinforces this. It is probable that Fraser simply decided to place his narrative forty years prior to its publication, which was in 1888.

Throughout the novel Falconer’s sobriety repeatedly results in improved circumstance, which is reflected by multiple changes of identity, as he becomes a more reputable character. This improvement of circumstance includes gaining the respect of the Maori chief Dog’s-Ear, who gives him the title Raromi, and rekindling his romance with Clara, who evokes Falconer’s previous identity, Harold Morpeth. One aspect of interest is Falconer’s upward social mobility through his employment. Falconer, initially a dock hand and sailor, removes himself from the company of his drunken peers and speculates his future: “This is just the country to do something good in by-and-by. But I want to strike in now, and be ready for it. Instead of being a common sailor, I want to employ them, and help them and myself, too” (80) Falconer and his associate Scotty plan to build a ship of fifteen to twenty tons, trading potatoes, onions and timber under the name “Falconer, Scott, and Co” (84). During chapter XVII the narrative details a colourful episode in the forest of Kaiwharawhara, where Falconer’s ship Kahawai is built. Many adventures are had in this ship including a scuffle with hostile Maori involving explosives, and a near death experience in the middle of the Tasman Sea. The Kahawai sinks, but thankfully Falconer and his friends are saved with only seconds to spare. Near the end of the novel once Falconer has received investment, the ship is rebuilt and his enterprising ideas are put into practice with great success: A letter received from an Australian trade partner states that “the cargoes you send are so well selected and arrive in such good condition that people look out for the Kahawai, money in hand” (211).

In this instance Fraser’s retrospective representation of Wellington again provides a degree of historical accuracy. As argued above, the novel is set in Wellington in the 1840s. Historical material from this period reflects Fraser’s depiction of shipping and naval activity. Two industries which were being prospected were whaling and timber exports, both of which Falconer engages in within the novel. Notable Wellington politician, commercial printer and newspaper proprietor Samuel Revans speculated investing in whaling, writing

Many of us . . . are convinced that a Whaling Co. would pay well and advance the place [Wellington] rapidly. We should like a Co. to be got up at home, capital £150,000 for the purchase of 25 ships or 50 brigs. In addition to a London board a local direction should be reserved for that purpose. I should be happy to be a director here, 25 vessels would have 1,000 seamen. Their earnings would not be less than £70,000 which would be expended by them in this place. I reckon a Co. of this kind would benefit Port Nicholson to the extent of £100,000. Get Wakefield to take the matter up. (Revans Letters, July 7th 1841)

The sums suggested by Revans are astronomical, but nothing came of this speculation (Miller 130-1). Constantine Augustus Dillon, the political secretary of Governor George Grey, wrote to William Fox, the future premier of the colony, suggesting timber exports to locations as distant as California: “speculation will give a great spur to the timber trade . . . . if this cargo pays we shall probably export £50,000 to £100,000 worth of timber annually for this port – if hands can be got to saw it.” Dillon Letters, February 8th 1850). This strongly echoes Falconer’s behaviour in the novel, which sees him export timber to Sydney and Melbourne. However what we do not see depicted by Fraser is the environmental damage caused by these exports. Miller suggests that between 1840 and 1850 “the indiscriminate destruction of native trees reduced the countryside to a wilderness of stumps” (132). It is important to note that Falconer does not deforest indiscriminately in the novel. He only culls trees from Kaiwharahara glen, which his friend Dog’s-Ear inhabits, acquiring this area legitimately “by purchase or lease” (212).
Another episode involving shipping in the novel has less obvious historical application. During “Chapter XX. The Fire-Demon at Work” a series of arbitrary events occur which eventually result in Falconer and his gang destroying a ship filled with hostile Maori. At the climax of the episode, Falconer discovers ballistic rockets:

‘Fire away!’ said falconer, and away flew a big rocket into the hold with great force. It struck one, then another, rebounded and returned, hissing, darting, and striking on all sides with great force, with great noise, until it finished with a fearful explosion! (139)

Throughout the novel there is much depiction of conflict but none with such preposterous intensity as this. The question must be asked, why rockets? A possible explanation is Fort Buckley, which is located in Kaiwharawhara and was built in 1885, only three years before the novel was published. Fraser displays an accurate in-depth geographical knowledge of Kaiwharawhara throughout his narrative, so it is highly likely he was aware of fort’s existence. The fort contained two sixty-four pound guns, one of which is pictured below (Figure Two). Around the time Fraser would have been writing the novel, shell practices and shows were plentiful, with the Evening Post regularly reporting these events in “The Volunteers” column. One particularly enlightening column, on the 14th of February 1887 describes the artillery as follows

The range was 1800 yards, 20 min., right deflection, and after each shell was fired the detachments changed rounds, so that each man present laid the gun and fired his own shot. The shooting, with the exception of one solitary shot, was capital, and had the mark fired at been a ship instead of a barrel, she would have had an exceedingly rough time of it. (Evening Post)

The “exceedingly rough time” described here is experienced by Fraser’s hostile Maori who do “not like the “bang-bang”” (139). Fort Buckley, along with multiple other artillery emplacements, were built in 1885, during one of many so-called Russian scares that New Zealand experienced in the second half of the 19th century. The Russian iron cruiser Afrika, had visited Auckland in 1881, and continued to patrol the Pacific for quite some time (Cooke 48). Tensions had been mounting between Russia and Britain over disputed territory in Afghanistan and this, alongside a supposed report about planned Russian raids on various Australian cites that was received by the New Zealand Government, sparked concerns that New Zealand was vulnerable. (Cooke 49). However, according to Fraser, the real danger to the colony was from hostile Maori who had grievances with the settler population, and the most prominent of these Maori was Te Rauparaha.

Te Rauparaha is represented by Fraser as an almost mythological figure who is never seen, but is constantly present: his haunting and fierce image always looms over the narrative. Hostile Maori chiefs such as Te Rangihaeata and others are depicted, but their danger comes from their association with Te Rauparaha, not the very real threat that they pose themselves. While many other details represented by Fraser in his novel are soundly based historically, how accurate is his representation of Te Rauparaha? Te Rauparaha had a fierce reputation within New Zealand prior to serious European settlement. He and his Ngati Toa people drastically changed the nature of inter-tribal warfare through their early adoption of muskets. They migrated to the lower North Island and based themselves on Kapti Island. From this base much territory was conquered including parts of the Lower North Island and Upper South Island. Once the pace of colonisation accelerated, after Te Rauparaha and many others had signed the treaty of Waitangi, he began to contest land sales made. This ultimately resulted in a violent conflict dubbed the Wairau affray, where many settlers were killed attempting to arrest Te Rauparaha for crimes he believed he did not commit. His mana is such that a haka he composed, “Ka Mate”, is regularly preformed by the All Blacks.

As discussed earlier, at the end of the novel he is referred to as “the fierce maker of war” (224). Peace can only flourish when he is out of the picture. However, race relations during the 1840s in Wellington suggest that Te Rauparaha, having learnt from the mistakes made during the Wairau affray, had become a leader who was willing to reason, cooperate and negotiate with Pakeha, while Te Rangihaeata was more hostile. Wards comments on the position that both chiefs held towards the settlers writing that

Te Rauparaha was following a line that was consistent with his behaviour during . . . the previous year [1845], that his preference was for all to live in peace, that he would use the influence he had to this end, but that the final solution [to the inter racial hostilities] lay with Te Rangihaeata whom he would not encourage, but whom he would not encourage. (251)

During March 1846 shots were exchanged between Lower Hutt Maori and the settlers there, and on April 2nd some Maori killed two settlers. Te Rangihaeata probably did not instigate this act but he declined to forfeit those responsible, thus becoming the main British target (Belich 73-4). Later, after more encounters, Te Rangihaeata retreated from the Hutt Valley to his pa in Pauatahanui. From here Governor Grey mounted an expedition against the pa which resulted in Te Rangihaeata and his followers retreating northwards. Belich comments on this period of conflict, remarking that

The major British success was not a military event, but the seizure of the neutral chief Te Rauparaha on 23 July. Grey accused Te Rauparaha of secretly supporting Te Rangihaeata, but another motive was that the former chief could be captured, whereas the latter could not. The arrest of so important a Maori leader was a bold assertion of government power. (74)

Te Rauparaha was victimised not necessarily because of his actions, but because of the circumstance he found himself in. It is worth noting that in this situation the settlers are the aggressors, forcing Maori out of the Wellington region to free up land for settlement, thus creating conflict. Prior to his arrest Te Rauparaha wrote to the Commissioner of Crown Lands, Mathew Richmond: “Take care lest Pakeha attack the Maori. The Maori will not be the first to attack; they will leave it to the Pakeha to strike the first blow.” (Rauparaha to Richmond, 19th May 1845). Te Rauparaha certainly was a fierce war chief, especially if one was his enemy. But the Pakeha were not his enemy, as he saw trade and cooperation as a way to better both his own people and those of reason who were making their home in New Zealand. During one of Fraser’s bush scenes he depicts two Maori who

were outlawed warriors, employed covertly by Te Rauparaha to harass the settlers, spy out their affairs, rob them if they could, and, in fact, do anything that might sow animosity between the settlers and Maoris. (67)

This is one of countless examples from the novel. Fraser’s account certainly clashes with both Te Rauparaha’s own words, and Ward’s assessment of him. It seems that Fraser has taken his literary representation from the myth of Te Rauparaha, rather than the man.
But perhaps Fraser can be forgiven. There were consistent racial tensions throughout New Zealand during the 19th Century and the infamous Te Rauparaha made an adequate scapegoat. It seems as though Te Rauparaha has suffered a crisis of representation, and this may be because he existed during a time when accurate historical record was extremely scarce in New Zealand. Over a hundred and twenty years after the publication of Raromi or The Maori Chief’s Heir his figure still haunts Wellington literature. Hamish Clayton’s debut novel Wulf, written somewhere in-between prose and verse, depicts New Zealand during a period somewhere in-between mythology and history. The novel is structured around absence – the absence that the traders feel from civilisation, the absence of the protagonist’s identity, the absence of a workable and harmonious historical accord between two very different cultures. In fact, the name of the novel comes from an old English poem 'Wulf and Eadwacer' in which a definitive interpretation is absent. The narrative follows the journey of both the protagonist and the crew of the trading brig Elizabeth to Kapti during 1830, a time when “That country lay in far and unstable waters. History lay in wait for that far and unstable country.” (13) The main trading partner they hope to engage with is Te Rauparaha who much like his representation in Fraser’s novel, is always present in the narrative but never actually makes an appearance

Every word spoken, sent like a raft of smoke onto the air of that strange country, smelled like the blood riding the breath of their great chief, fearful to us, the Southern Napoleon. Amongst ourselves we’d taken to calling him the Great Wolf, for the men imagined him falling upon us when our backs were turned . . . We knew he was coming.(13-4)

He is present in the minds of the characters because of his mana. He is evasive like Wulf of 'Wulf and Eadwacer' who is craved but never experienced. Clayton’s goal when representing Te Rauparaha, which he explained during an undergraduate lecture, was “to write this poetic impression of the place that Te Rauparaha might have occupied in the imagination” (Clayton, “Wulf”). What Wulf essentially does is depict a period in New Zealand’s past where imagination, myth and historiography combine. The three factors collide at the novel’s conclusion during Te Rauparaha’s sack of Takapuneke (near Akaroa), where he captured and tortured Te Maiharanui along with his wife and daughter. Te Rauparaha enlisted the help of Capitan John Stewart and his ship Elizabeth (the vessel central of Clayton’s novel) to achieve this. The complicity of Pakeha traders in inter-tribal warfare concerned English authorities, causing the appointment of the first official British resident in New Zealand, James Busby, essentially beginning the process which would encompass New Zealand into the Empire. Clayton concludes his novel with this event, presenting a small verse

When she came aboard. When we went into the hold. When she strangled her daughter. When we threw the body into the sea. Then we entered each other’s histories.(231)

Te Maiharanui and his strangled their daughter to spare her from a cruel and prolonged death, and the involvement of the Elizabeth in this incident has caused the history of Pakeha and Maori to become one.

As Clayton’s novel suggests, the histories of Maori began to weave with that of the Pakeha during the 1830s, but a strong rope was not instantly created. The literary fibres that compile Te Rauparaha’s representation have been grown in this country, but have not been properly woven. For Clayton Te Rauparaha existed in a distant past somewhere between myth and history. For Fraser he existed as a distant memory, conveniently filling the role of the hostile Maori outlander, whose mythical presence can be evoked whenever conflict is required for the narrative. Like Te Rauparaha’s identity, Fraser’s has been diluted largely because of the obscurity of his career. He produced two novels of questionable quality, probably lived in Wellington and Wanganui, and judging by his inactivity in the public record, probably mostly kept to himself and his evangelical associates. Raromi or The Maori Chief’s Heir is a melodramatic temperance novel which details the successful salvation of Falconer, the protagonist of reputable upbringing who has fallen from grace in the colonies. In this sense it is a heavily didactic novel. It provides the reader with a template, realistic or not, for reparation of sin, or the ability to help lift others out of sin, with the end result being lavish success. The narrative is often laughable and implausible, but is generally entertaining. However, if there is any real value in this work, it comes from its vibrant literary representation of a city, our city, Wellington, during the crack of dawn. The content of Fraser’s novel vibrantly details Wellington during the 1840s, with a good degree of accuracy. He depicts various civic practices, shipping and trade, adventure in the bush and something that could not be avoided, contact with Maori, both positive and negative. When surveying literature of this period Jones highlights Alan Mulgan’s Spur of Morning as one of the novels of merit composed during the late colonial period (135). Mulgan writes that his story “is set in a time that to-day seems distant although it is within my own generation” (vi), much like Fraser’s narrative, written in 1888, depicting a period roughly forty years earlier. While the quality of Raromi is questionable, it can be seen as one of many early novels that helped to lay the foundation for reputable future of New Zealand literature. Fraser’s novel shows the country in first light, while Alan Mulgan’s transmits the excitement and possibility of the morning. It would take another generation for the glorious heat of noon to appear, when more than just one Man Alone would be seeking shelter from the sun.

Mr A Fraser

Mr A Fraser

Sixty-Four Pound Gun at Fort Buckley, 1886

Sixty-Four Pound Gun at Fort Buckley, 1886

Works Cited

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  • Belich, James. The Victorian Interpreation of Racial Conflict: The Maori, the British and the New Zealand Wars. Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1986, Print.
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  • Clayton, Hamish “Wulf.” Victoria University Wellington, New Zealand, 29 May 2014. Lecture.
  • Cooke, Peter. Defending New Zealand: Ramparts on the Sea 1840-1950s. Wellington: Defence of New Zealand Study Group, 2000, Print.
  • Dillon, Constantine Augustus, Dillion Letters. 8 February 1850. From Miller, John.Early Victorian New Zealand: A Study of Racial tension and Social Attitudes 1839-1852. London: Oxford University Press, 1958, Print.
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