Letters from New Zealand 1857-1911
My dear, St. John,
This is a postscript to my last letter. Sailing from Plymouth in a gale, we hit the Bay of Biscay in one of its bad humours, but I did not miss the number of my mess at any meal, though very few passengers appeared for a day or two. Friends came to see me off, and wish me God-speed in my future work. I own that it was no small wrench to leave the old world again, but no doubt, once at work again, the limitations of life in a new country will find their true perspective, and will be forgotten in the happiness and encouragement of something attempted, something done.
We are bowling along at a fine rate in Southern latitudes, after a day at the Cape, albatrosses, Cape pigeons, and mollymawks, circling round the vessel with the greatest ease, as if they despised our feeble efforts to make the pace with them. A pleasant lot of passengers, all going well under the genial command of Captain Greenstreet, well-known to all who travel by this line, of whom it is said that no complaints, either from crew or passengers, are ever heard in vessels which he commands. Nearing Tasmania, and finding a general desire to present the Captain with an address, thanking him for his constant care of the page 260ship and ourselves, I undertook to compose it and obtain signatures. There are always some eccentrics on board, and on this occasion a passenger who had kept much to himself refused to sign. "Sir, the Captain has only done his duty." "Yes," I replied, "but he has done more than his mere duty; we wish to thank him for his constant personal kindness to everyone on board; this is not a testimonial in the shape of any gift, but just a few grateful words of recognition of what he has done for us."
"Don't want to sign; leave me out."
"But, I hear you are a well-known colonist and a member of your Legislature; I should be sorry that yours should be the only signature wanting in the address which we present to-night."
"Well, sir, I'll sign on one condition: that there are no quotations from Shakespeare in it!"
When I returned last May to England from the Continent, I had some time in South Wales with old friends, and there met Bishop Smythies of Zanzibar and Uganda, recruiting after an attack of malarial fever. He is doing a great work there; a man of powerful build, accustomed to walk in the African jungle for days on end, with his native bearers. He is a good shot, and with a Winchester double-barrel for shot and bullet, keeps his camp in game on the march. Coming to a native village, he found its inhabitants terrorized by a huge hippopotamus, ravaging their crops by night, and impervious to their spears and arrows. "I went down at nightfall to the riverside, and by good luck, catching sight of the beast's head emerging from the water within thirty yards' distance, I shot him in the eye; great was the rejoicing; they dragged the dead monster ashore, page 261dancing round it, and were almost inclined to worship me." The hardships of missionary work in Africa, in a climate which so often undermines the constitution of the white man, makes one's work in a country like New Zealand seem scarcely worth talking about. Uganda itself, with its high tableland may prove to be an exception; the approach to it through a long belt of poisonous lowland is the difficulty; this may be met in future years by a railway; it is infested with lions, especially dangerous at night, so that it was necessary to entrench themselves in a zariba of thorns, and keep fires going. "On one occasion," said the Bishop, "we had an adventure which, I admit, you may find it hard to believe. A big fire had been lit, guarding the entrance to the zariba, with a native boy in charge, —the boy fell asleep; the fire sunk down; a lion stole in, disturbing the boy, who shrieked loudly, whereat the lion, shoving his head into an iron pot full of mealie porridge prepared for breakfast and unable to extricate it, promptly bolted. Such was the boy's story. In the morning it was verified; the pot was found some distance from the camp, upset, as if the lion had tried its contents and found them too hot for his liking."
I was at Eton in June, and preached in the College Chapel, spending a few days there in my old haunts. At Windsor Castle, having tea with the Dean and Mrs. Davidson, I met the author of John Inglesant, Shorthouse. His book, I believe, took him fifteen years to write; it is certainly a masterpiece, as a history-romance, full of romantic adventure, in one of the most critical times of our National and Church history; in its ultimate knowledge of Italian life during the same period; its treatment of theological page 262and spiritual problems which are with us to-day, as they were in old days, though under different conditions of life,—all this also enhanced with the charm of a singularly attractive literary style. Somehow, I imagine, when much interested in any such book, one forms a mental image of the author. I wonder whether it is not often better to be content with that, than to see some great writer, poet, or thinker in the flesh. Certainly I was taken aback on this occasion. "John Inglesant,"—the courtly cavalier, the faithful follower of his Royal Master, even to the scaffold at Whitehall; the accomplished swordsman, the mystic, ever seeking the true Light of Spiritual guidance; courted and flattered by the Church of Rome, but always faithful to his Mother Church; entered the room, by no means my ideal of the man.
I had another experience of a great man, thinker and preacher, but in this case the personality of the man was akin to his books, Phillips Brooks, the American. Such a fine specimen of manhood, with abundance of flowing hair, but in his dress hardly suggestive of the parson; a suit of brown stuff and a black tie. He was keen to know all I could tell him of the Church in New Zealand. "My people are so generous to me; they insist on arranging for a holiday travel every year, and some day I may even get as far as New Zealand. Have you done anything in the way of revision of the Prayer book? We have in America; for instance, the addition of other sentences to those which precede Morning and Evening Prayer; the omission of the last four verses in the Venite, substituting in their place the words '0 worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: let the whole Earth stand in awe of Him. For He cometh, for He page 263cometh to judge the Earth, and with righteousness to judge the world and the people with His truth.' We made this alteration because those verses about our fathers in the Wilderness seemed out of place in the invitation to worship." I confess I couldn't see the force of this. "Then," he continued, "we drew up for use, if desired, a selection of Psalms on all days except when Proper Psalms are appointed, thus shortening the service, and getting rid of some Psalms which do not suit our times. In the versides after the Creed we omit the words, 'Because there is none other that fighteth for us, but only Thou O God,' and substitute, 'For it is Thou Lord only that maketh us dwell in safety.' It seems a contradiction to fact to say that none fighteth for us save God." Again I was unable to see the force of this. "And in the Litany, in the response, 'O Lord deal not with us after our sins, Neither reward us after our iniquities,' we substitute 'according to' for 'after,' as such an archaic phrase is not easily understood." Again I demurred; surely if there is any difficulty, it is an advantage to everyone to have to think out, at times, the meaning of the Church prayers. Other changes he spoke of which seem very useful. "We have added several prayers for special occasions, such as for Unity, for Missions, Family Prayers for a sick person, or child, for persons under affliction, for travellers by sea, with corresponding thanksgivings. We have made an important change in the Order of Administration of Holy Communion; introducing the Prayer of Oblation, the Invocation, and the offering of ourselves, with prayer for worthy Communion, after the Consecration, and before actual Communion, thus bringing the service into line with the Ancient Litur-page 264gies; whilst before the actual Communion a hymn is allowed. There is also another variation permitted in the use of the Decalogue; in the case of two or more Celebrations the same morning, it is permitted to use only our Lord's words about our Duty to God and Neighbour. We have also substituted for the Commination Service a Penitential Office for Ash Wednesday, which may be used at other times. We omit the Athanasian Creed, and have only included in the Eighth Article of Religion the Apostles' and the Nicene Creeds." "But," he added, "in the new Preface which introduces our Prayer book, we have been careful to assert 'that this Church is far from intending to depart from the Church of England in any essential point of doctrine, discipline, or worship, or further than local circumstances require.'"
"How does your system of the election of Bishops succeed?" I replied that it was still on its trial, as we had as yet very limited experience of it. "Well," he said, "it is not a perfect success with us; in a Synodical election it often happens that the best man does not come out atop."
I had also opportunity of hearing such men as Bishop Magee and Boyd Carpenter. Few things struck me more than the thronged attendance in St. Paul's, the Abbey, and many other churches; fair evidence, it seems, of the vitality of Church work, to say nothing of the numerous parochial organizations which abound everywhere.
Long absence from home quickens one's perception of the great changes which have taken place in so short a time as the last twenty years. When my Father went to New Zealand, he had never been at an Early Celebration or an Evening Service; there page 265were few surpliced choirs outside the cathedrals; hymns were an innovation; preaching in surplice regarded with suspicion; weekly Communions rare; parochial missions scarcely known; only the first tentative beginnings of sisterhood life and work; little organized lay work in the slums of large cities. Cathedrals, and such places as the Abbey and St. Paul's, were attended by scanty congregations, as if they were no longer needed for centres of Diocesan life and work, mere survivals of a past age.
Yet there was much to set against this. I recall, for example, the case of our parish church at Mortimer, and probably no very exceptional example of those days. At the Sunday morning service there was a gathering of the country gentlemen in the parish, the yeomen and tenant farmers, which seldom failed to fill the church; in the afternoon a similar attendance of labourers and servants. Absentees from church were noted, and comment made on their negligence. It was a good hunting and shooting neighbourhood; the landowners and county folk, as also the labourers with their families regularly resident in the parish, seldom leaving it except for a short occasional holiday, occupying the same farms and properties which their forefathers had held for many generations. I remember, as a lad, on Sunday mornings, going down with my Father, for the service after his Sunday School, and always finding, at the Lychgate, which led into the churchyard, a gathering of parishioners, ready to welcome the Vicar; a sort of weekly rendezvous, full of talk of the crops, the last good run, the next fixtures, and family gossip, until the time came for Service to begin. It was part of my business to take a small bottle of egg and sherry for the Vicar's page 266use before his sermon, for which, during a hymn, he was duly escorted to the vestry by the Clerk. I wonder, in these temperate days, what my parishioners would think of this. The Clerk, too, a fine old fellow, over six feet, in his long coat, breeches and gaiters, almost an episcopal figure; a survival of old days, regarding himself as the guardian of the Parish and the special mentor of Vicar and Curate.
"Mr. Henry," he said to me, as I was visiting him in his old age, "I've had a sight o' Curates under me in my time; take an old man's advice, don't be only in the pulpit; go and see the people in their homes." For more than fifty years he had given loyal service to the Church; village schoolmaster; friend, adviser, and counsellor of several generations who had passed through his hands.
Before leaving, I went with some friends for a month's run in Ireland. Irishmen there are, not a few, in New Zealand, good colonists, and doing well, but it is another matter to find yourself in Ireland. Interesting as Ireland is in its contrast to England, its pastures everywhere, its wild western scenery, and spots of beauty like Killarney, its relics of the past, ruins of abbeys and monasteries which covered the land in the old times of the Celtic Church, it is the general character of the people that impressed me most. Not that they are a people of alien lips, or different nationality, yet so different to the Anglo-Saxon in temperament, unfailing humour, kindly welcoming friendliness, the absence of self-consciousness, readiness of repartee, and always a sense of the joy of living. Imagine the contrast between a London hansom cabby and the driver of an outside car in Dublin, which we engaged for a day's excursion topage 267
Clondalkin and its Round Tower. Returning, I was about to pay him; the tariff of fares being very low as compared with England, I decided to give him something in excess. It so happened that, in addition to the sum I had in my hand, there was an extra sixpence. "Will this do?" I said. "Sure, your honour, it will do,—but it is meself that would like that other sixpence."
At Killarney we went for an excursion on ponies through the Gap of Dunloe to the head of the Upper Lake, thence by boat, on our return. Several other tourists were in the party. Dismounting and walking up the Pass, two English ladies gathering ferns were pestered by a woman who emerged from a cottage, a picturesque figure, her head covered with a shawl, her feet bare. She wanted them to have some milk and "potheen," an excuse, of course, for begging. I went to their rescue and remonstrated. She struck an attitude, and said, "To think that he should have so hard a heart as to deny the ladies what they are wishin' for!" Result, of course, she got her tip. Leaving Limerick, and arriving at Athlone, a typical Irish town, with a main street of whitewashed houses and thatched roofs in many cases, we made arrangements to stay at an inn for the night, ordering dinner at seven, whilst we went down to the Shannon, a noble river, for some boating. Returning, we found an excellent meal in the small dining-room, and had just finished it, when there was the sound of wheels outside, and voices in altercation. In came our waiter, an elderly man, evidently full of suppressed merriment.
"You see, sorr, it's Mr. Trench, the Land Agent and his lady; they often come and stay here for a page 268night, and two days ago they sent and ordered dinner here for eight o'clock."
"Well, and what then?"
"Why, the landlady thought, when you came, that perhaps he mightn't come after all, and—you've eaten their dinner!"
How the landlady got out of the difficulty, I don't know, but the situation, in the waiter's view of it, was a huge joke.
From Cong with its ruined abbey, and the spacious domain of Lord Ardilaun, we drove in an out-side car to Galway, by a route which is a sample of much of the country in the West; long undulating stretches of limestone land, so closely covered with slabs of stone that one wonders what use can be made of it. It is, however, good grazing land, a sweet growth of grass springing up between the stones. Then miles of bog land, with ridges and stacks of peat; black pools of water, desolate in appearance, but remunerative. Then much better land, principally valleys separated by low ranges. Looking down on one of these in a very fertile bit of country, the driver told us it was once Captain Boycott's place. So, to draw him out, I said, "What sort of man was he?" "The best landlord, a fine man, liberal to all, and his wife and daughters always ready to help the poor."
"Then why did you drive him out of the country?"
His answer was characteristic. Standing up in his perch, he looked here and there, as if someone might overhear, though there was neither hedge or tree under which anyone could have hidden, in a whisper he replied,—"It was accordin' to the Orders!"
It is difficult to understand that such a generous hearted people, so affectionate, and open-handed, can page 269do such injustice to themselves, and such harm to their own best interests, until one remembers the fatal power for evil which secret societies can exert in Ireland.
The North differs widely from the South. Belfast, with its great linen mills and shipping interests, and indeed the Northern part of Ireland generally, is so different to the South, both in the character of the country and its people, that one can hardly realize that it is Ireland. We had a most interesting day in one of the largest linen factories, and then, crossing from Larne to Stranraer, by rail through the heather-clad hills of Dumfrieshire, down to Carlisle, made our way back to London.
The vessel is nearing Wellington, whence I go South by a local boat to Christchurch.
H. W. H.