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The Long White Cloud


page 11


Ibelieve that there is amongst the people of the Mother-country a minority, now ceasing to be small, which takes a quickening interest in the Colonies. It no longer consists merely of would-be investors, or emigrants who want to inquire into the resources, industries, and finances of one or other of the self-governing parts of the Empire. Many of its members never expect to see a colony. But they have come to recognize that those new-comers into the circle of civilized communities, the daughter nations of Britain, are not unworthy of English study and English pride. They have begun to suspect that the story of their struggles into existence and prosperity may be stirring, romantic, and interesting, and that some of their political institutions and experiments may be instructive, though others may seem less safe than curious. Some of those who think thus complain that it is not always easy to find an account of a colony which shall be neither an official advertisement, the sketch of a globe-trotting impressionist, nor yet an article manufactured to order by some honest but untravelled maker of books. They ask—or at least some of them, to my knowledge, ask—for a history in which the picturesque side of the story shall not be ignored, written simply and concisely by a writer who has made a special study of his subject, or who has lived and moved amongst the places, persons, and incidents he describes.

I have lived in New Zealand, have seen it and studied it from end to end, and have had to do with its affairs: it is my country. But I should not have presumed to endeavour to supply in its case the want above indicated had any short descriptive history of the Colony from its discovery to the present year been available. Among the many scores of books about the Islands—some of which are good, more of which are bad—I know of none which does what is aimed at in this volume. I have, therefore, taken in hand a short sketch- page 12 history of mine, published some six months ago, have cut out some of it and have revised the rest, and blended it with the material of the following chapters, of which it forms nearly one-third. The result is something not quite so meagre in quantity or staccato in style, though even now less full than I should have liked to make it, had it been other than the work of an unknown writer telling the story of a small archipelago which is at once the most distant and wellnigh the youngest of English states. I have done my best in the later chapters to describe certain men and experiments without letting personal likes and dislikes run away with my pen; have taken pains to avoid loading my pages with the names of places and persons of no particular interest to British readers; and at the same time have tried not to forget the value of local colour and atmosphere in a book of this kind.

If The Long White Cloud should fail to please a discerning public, it will not prove that a good, well-written history of a colony like New Zealand is not wanted, and may not succeed, but merely that I have not done the work well enough. That may easily be, inasmuch as until this year my encounters with English prose have almost all taken the form of political articles or official correspondence. Doubtless these do not afford the best possible training. But of the quality of the material awaiting a capable writer there can be no question. There, ready to his hand, are the beauty of those islands of mid-ocean, the grandeur of their Alps and fiords, the strangeness of the volcanic districts, the lavishness, yet grace, of the forests; the mixture of quaintness, poetry, and ferocity in the Maori, and the gallant drama of their struggle against our overwhelming strength; the adventures of the gold-seekers and other pioneers; the high aims of the Colony's founders, and the venturesome democratic experiments of those who have succeeded them. If in these there is not the stuff for a fine book, then I am most strangely mistaken. And if I have failed in the following pages, then let me hope that some fellow-countryman, and better craftsman, will come to the rescue, and will do with a firmer hand and a lighter touch the work attempted here.

September 1898