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The Long White Cloud


page 9


The need for a new edition of The Long White Cloud after twenty-five years was so evident that I felt compelled to accept the invitation to assist in its production. Some of what the author wrote is now out of date, but it has been thought better not to alter it, in order to make available once more the text as approved by Reeves himself. An exception to this rule is the incorporation of parts of Reeves's final chapter (Part III of the 1924 edition) in the last chapter of this edition.

New illustrations have been provided in an attempt to do justice to the matchless beauty of New Zealand scenery pictured so eloquently by Reeves.

Any attempt to portray the last fifty years of New Zealand's story with the same thoroughness as Reeves describes the first fifty would require a whole additional volume. I have contented myself in the space limits prescribed with a brief commentary on the main political and economic events and wherever possible I have tried to give sketches of the personalities involved. The reader will, however, have to wait for another Reeves to arise in a New Zealand Cabinet to give us masterly chapters about the 30's and 40's to match those depicting the 80's and 90's in this volume.

Reeves, as Agent-General for New Zealand in obscure premises in Victoria Street, overcame, by his personal magnetism and the charm of his wife, many of the obstacles confronting the representative of a struggling colony in those far-off days. He wrote much about his beloved country and in one passage of a chapter contributed to The Empire and the Century in 1905 he said:

“As yet the little nascent island race has done nothing in art and hardly anything in literature. In practical statesmanship its name is linked with some bold experiments, rumours of which have gone abroad and which are much disliked by the educated and wealthy classes everywhere. So far its contribution to the world's intellectual stock has been page 10 nought. It seems, therefore, a daring, almost absurd, suggestion to hint that certain aspects of the New Zealand character show some signs of a likeness to the Greek. The sunny mountainous islands themselves are Greek in contour and atmosphere. You may see there the outlines of the Cretan coast and the colouring of Corfu. And the people, subdivided by sea-straits and mountain ranges, have the local life, keen local jealousies, particularist politics and restless hypercritical interest in public affairs which history associates with the Greek democracies.”

Reeves, in drawing this parallel, could not have dreamed that New Zealanders would one day fight for the liberty of Greece and Crete and discover for themselves an affinity with the people there who gave them flowers when they came and flowers again when they were compelled to go. Reeves dedicated the third edition of his book to the memory of New Zealanders who fell in the first world war. I trust that this edition will be deemed a worthy memorial to the life and work of the author himself. Maroi artifact