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William Rolleston : a New Zealand statesman



The foregoing has dealt with Rolleston's general views on immigration. I will conclude it by inserting an interesting letter with regard to immigrants from Alfred Domett, who was Prime Minister in 1863. He was the original of Browning's "Waring", and his poem "Ranolf and Amohia" was described by Browning as "a great and astonishing performance of very varied beauty and power. I rank it", he said, "under nothing that has appeared in my day and generation for subtle yet clear writing about subjects of all others the most urgent for expression and the least easy in treatment." Tennyson gave it similar praise. The letter is interesting for its reference to Browning and his wife, and the early association of Domett and Rolleston in Native affairs.

25 Upper Phillimore Place, Kensington, London, W. 26th June, 1873.

My dear Rolleston,

I have been requested by Robert Browning (the poet) to give a letter or two that might possibly be useful to a married couple about to migrate to New Zealand (Canterbury), in whom he is much interested.

page 58

The husband, Henry James Chapman, is "a smith—a fitter—whatever that may be" (I quote Browning), who wants to get work on the railways. Browning says he "has the highest character for sobriety and industry".

The wife, Helen Chapman, was a servant of "Arabel Barrett", sister of Mrs E. Barrett Browning (the poetess), who wishes to get employment "as cook, housekeeper, or what not"—(Browning again). He says he knows her to be "of absolute honesty, conscientiousness, with every talent requisite for ordinary employment—and really superior education".

I am convinced you may rely on Browning's sincerity in his recommendation of these good people, and therefore I do not hesitate to ask you as a favour to me to do what you can to put them in a way of getting their livelihood in Canterbury, or elsewhere in New Zealand should they not stay in your province. I have not seen Canterbury papers lately to be certain whether or not you are still Superintendent—but whether or not, I am sure your good work and position would be amply sufficient in influence to secure the accomplishment of their reasonable wishes for employment….

I always have a pleasant reminiscence of the days when we two used to do public business together, or concurrently at all events, in connection with the "Hairybogines" (aborigines)—and, I think, found ourselves almost always coinciding in opinion, both theoretically and practically.

With all kinds of good wishes—

Believe me,

Yours ever sincerely,

Alfred Domett.

Hon. W. Rolleston, Esqr.