W hat I believe to be genuine and authentic the collected publications of William Colenso

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Among the numerous British and Foreign plants that I have introduced here in years long past, I think, in writing to Penzance on this subject, I should mention two,—the Primrose and the Blackberry,—as the seeds of both of them came from Penzance in a letter, from my brother, to whom I had written for them. Those of the Blackberry in particular having been collected for me, at my request, from those very prized bushes on the steep hills on the S. side of the Newlyn river, above the high road and nearly opposite to “Zimmerman’s Cot,”—which spot I had so often visited when a boy! The Blackberry is now acclimatized, and spreads largely and is much prized; the plant here grows to an enormous size, certainly, in some spots, as big as a Cornish Cow-house! and bears plenty of fruit. The little pale-eyed and lovely Primrose is much respected in several of our shady gardens, and has often called forth the involuntary sigh! Although, no doubt, to some one of the “Peter Bell” stamps, (to be found here at the Antipodes as well as at home,)—

“A primrose by a river’s brim,”
(or in a garden’s shade,)
“A yellow primrose was to him,
And it was nothing more.” (Wordsworth.)

I remember well, that several years ago, the first English Primrose plant that flowers at Melbourne (in the neighbouring Colony of Victoria), was the cause of hundreds flocking to see it; and of many tears of affection! and it was sold for more than its weight in gold!—

One other little circumstance I think I may also mention, especially in writing for a Penzance Antiquarian Society,—and partly as a reminiscence of old Cornish times. During my youth I not infrequently visited Kenegie, (then the property and country-seat of Mr Arundel Harris-Arundel, (“Squire Harris,” in vulgo dicto,) though he had ceased residing there;) several things tempted me into that neighbourhood: (1) love of rambling alone in strange out-of-the-way places: (2) the enchanting view of Mount’s Bay from Gulval Carn, (put into verse by the Rev. C.V. Le Grice, whom, with Mrs. Le Grice, I knew so well!) and also from Castle-an-Dinas: (3) to mount up and sit astride on the two stone lions at the Entrance gate, &c., &c. In the parterre at Kenegie, just outside the green-house, and in front of a trellis on which was trained a fine Pyrus Japonica, was a circular bed, a half-mound, and in the centre of it a very strange-looking foreign tree, or stout gnarled shrub, bearing curious-looking and aromatic berries, or capsules, by some called, “the spice tree”; this shrub (so the story ran) was brought (in its seed) from the S. Seas by Capt. Cook, or by Sir Joseph Banks. That shrub was my youthful wonder, and I wished much to see its flowers, which I never did. Guess then my delight, when, soon after my landing here in New Zealand, I found it commonly growing about me, bearing both fruits and flowers in profusion. It is the Leptospermum scoparium, of Forster, and was used by Capt. Cook when here as a beverage instead of tea, and also in his manufacture of Spruce Beer for his ship’s company. (See, Cook’s Voyages, 4th ed., 2nd Voy., vol. I., pp. 99-101; plate, No. XXII).

And as I commenced with the Tutsan and its one habitat formerly known to me at Tolcarne, I think, in conclusion, I may just jot down a few more old local Mount’s Bay plants with their habitats, though, I suppose, no longer to be found there! after the lapse of half a century, and its increasing “civilization” caused by the advent of the Iron Horse!—

E.g. On the Eastern Green, between Penzance and Marazion, I have found the Henbane (Hyoscyamus niger), the wild thyme (Thymus serpyllum), the Bird’s-foot Trefoil (Trifolium ornithopoides), the Enyngo (Erygium maritimum), the Borage (Borago officinalis), and the rare sea spurge (Euphorbia paralias),—long a puzzle to me, and over at St. Michael’s Mount the elegant drooping feathery Tamarisk shrub (Tamarix anglica), which, of late years, I have repeatedly rejoiced to see here in a neighbour’s garden. But far above them all (in my young estimation), was the fine floating white water lily (Nymphæa alba), which I not unfrequently admired (but never sacrilegiously gathered) in the still waters of the big reedy lagoon between Long Bridge and Marazion Bridge; going out of my direct way in my frequent visits to Marazion to see it in its solitude and grandeur; taking a course, now perhaps obsolete and scarcely even remembered,—and which, therefore, I may be permitted to mention;—leaving the main road and going down to Long Bridge, and there climbing and dropping over it on to a long narrow dyke which ran the whole length of that lagoon (though sometimes it was under water in several places,) often did I contemplate that fine and beautiful water-plant; occasionally thinking on the poet Cowper’s adventure about one on the banks of the river Ouse, as recorded by him in his short poem on “The Dog and the Water Lily”; Cowper being, even in my boyish days (as he is still) a favourite poet of mine,—having also had while very young at School to learn by heart some of his poems, which I still remember.—

But my choice floral prizes were not by any means confined to the Eastern Green; there were others also to the West of Penzance and much nearer to it,—as the Barberry (Berberis

vulgata), and the handsome and pleasing Traveller’s Joy (Clematis vitalba), both near to Alverton Bridge, or rather to the entrance into Love-lane; and down in that Lane the Periwinkle (Vinca minor), the Daffodil (Narcissus pseudo-narcissus,)—found, also in the steps above the Paper mills at Castle-Horneck,—and, again, the Barberry; while at the Minney the quaint-looking Water Betony (Scrophularia aquatica) had its home; and in the old hedge of the hilly roadway field leading from the South Parade to the Minney the Yellow star-flowered Stone-crop (Sedum acne), the childs wonder! was plentiful, and with it a small (and scarce) Blue-bottle (? Centaurea sp.), that I never found anywhere else. And close by, in a narrow muddy and all but impassable lane, leading from that pathway towards the Western Green, grew the Columbine (Aquilegia vulgaris), the wild Hyacinth, Bluebell, or Cuckoo flower (Hyacinthus non-scriptus); and in the marshy land adjoining, the yellow water-iris (Iris pseudo-acorus), and the common Reed (Arundo phragmites) were found. This last very valuable to me, (i.e. to us, boys,) as, cut up into lengths, it formed the cases of small squibs in preparing our boyish fireworks for St. John’s Eve! And of it I have also made useful pens for writing when hard pushed,—good quills being scarce and dear, and steel pens unknown! And still further West, up on the heights of Tolcarne, in a very secluded spot not far from

the Tutsan’s home, grew the Snowdrop (Galanthium nivalis), Spring’s harbinger; and at the bases of the cliffs between Newlyn and Mousehole, the little lowly cushioned Sea-gilliflower (Armeria maritima), flourished in safety, unvisited unnoticed! And I suppose this, at least, still abides at home!-

But I must close my long recital with two of my favourite and most valued wild Western flowers:—one, a very graceful and delicate Geranium (possibly G. striatum), from the shady grove at Castle-horneck; and one, the sweet little climbing and trailing Ivy-leaved Toad-flax (Linaria cymbalaria), from the hedge outside “the Lodge,”—Near Castle-Horneck entrance gate, formerly, in my Penzance days, occupied by Miss Tremenheere. And I may also mention, that some 25 years ago, in writing to Penzance, I requested specimens of this last little gem from that same locality, and they were sought, gathered, and sent out! And I have them here, with a few other prized dried specimens of wild flowers from Home),—to look at, occasionally, after the fashion of Hans Andersen’s “Old Student” (supra).

Exeunt omnes!”—as the old printed plays had it at the close: it is now Xmas. Day in the morning,—and I am physically tired.

Wm Colenso.
Napier, Hawke’s Bay, N.Zealand.


1 1881 Historical Incidents and Traditions….
Trans. N.Z.I.14: 3-33.

2 1878 Tracts for the times; No. 1, On the Sabbath and its due observance—below.

3 James Thomson 1700–1748 seems rather turgid today, but “his commerce with the more familiar aspects of nature was direct and unimpeded. ... No one… since Milton had given so much attention to the varied aspects of nature, and, consequently, Thomson’s description of the stock elements of conventional scenery... was governed by an accuracy of observation and depth of enjoyment ....” (The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21). Volume X. The Age of Johnson. Elsewhere Colenso wrote that Ossian or Longfellow or Cowper were his favorite poet.

4 BagnallAG, Petersen GC 1948: William Colenso, his life and journeys. Wellington, Reed. p17.

5 “I am now occupied—entirely so—with Greek and Latin, &c., which I shall not regret to lay aside.” Colenso to JD Hooker 12 April 1844 from St. John’s College, Waimate.

6 Stearn WT 1966. Botanical Latin. Nelson, London.

7 Wevers L 2002. Country of writing, AUP, Auckland; Ch.3: Adventures of the printer.

8 Despite his “To understand (the myths) they should be read ... not in either the meagre, or the polished semi-classical, dress, which some of them have been made to assume in translations.”

9 Head L 2006. Land, authority and the forgetting of being in early colonial Maori history. PhD thesis, University of Canterbury.

10 Colenso to JD Hooker 26 October 1863.

11 The Hawke’s Bay Herald of 16 February 1887 reported that Colenso would leave all his money and books to Penzance, but Colenso corrected that in a letter published on 1 March, “I did not say— ‘His books and money’ (meaning, the whole) ‘would now go to his native town of Penzance in Cornwall’:—but, part only.” The Morrab (Penzance) Library catalogue includes three volumes by Colenso, probably donated by John Ralfs: (574.9931)—Articles on Botany & Zoology of New Zealand from Trans. N.Z.I.Vol.19, 1886—inscribed by John Ralfs; (c082)—A Classification and Description of Some Newly Discovered Ferns Collected in the Northern Island of New Zealand in the summer of 1841-2; (499.4) A Maori-English Lexicon.

12 Harding to G. Robertson 1 March 1899, ATL MS-Papers-0792.

13 Hawkes’ Bay Herald 9 September 1899. One book from Colenso’s library was recently acquired in Melbourne; it is Wake W. (Ed.), 1693. The genuine epistles of the Apostolic Fathers. S. Barnabas, S. Ignatius, S. Clement, S. Polycarp. The Shepherd of Hermas, and the Martyrdoms of St. Ignatius and St. Polycarp...., inscribed “W. Colenso, St. John’s, Waimate, 1843”, and bears notes in his hand. He quoted verbatim from this in papers published in 1878, 1893 and 1898, so it seems likely he kept it, and it was among those purchased by Angus & Robertson on his death. He told RC Harding in a letter dated 20 January 1898 that he had sold his Breeches Bible in Wellington: “I sent it thither w. sevl. other books & articles for auction in 1853 when I was very hard up—not a 1/- to call my own!”

14 The Trans. report of the meeting at which Colenso presented this paper concludes, “A long and animated discussion followed the reading of this paper, in which the President, Mr. Colenso, Mr. Locke, and others, took part, and Mr. Stack's views were generally opposed and condemned.”

15 Drawn from a photograph, apparently—see Colenso to Balfour 27 September 1887.

16 Colenso to Balfour 12 March 1884.

17 There is little remaining evidence of contact between the two, though William Colenso’s letter to the editor of the Daily Telegraph of 20 December 1884 states, “I, on my part, feel the more inclined to write on this error of yours, from the fact of my being a firm believer in the arithmetic and teachings of Bishop Colenso respecting all those legends and tales of the ancient Jews, (which, I may further say, I have also proved to be correct, and which have not and cannot be logically refuted,) as well as from my being his nearest relative living, and therefore doubly ready to take up any charge of that nature against his teaching,—or, rather, the only reasonable deductions from those given premises.”

18 Plain and practical thoughts on New Zealand botany. Trans. N.Z.I.1891; 24: 400-409.

19 The concept of protection of prisoners in the “law of war” goes back to Deuteronomy.

20 Mechanics Institutes were set up for the education of working men, and usually had libraries.

21 Boase GC, Courtney WP 1878. Bibliotheca Cornubiensis vol II, P–Z. London, Green, Reader & Dyer, p713.

22 Which does mention Phoenicians—see below.

23 The 1864 issue mentions (p.12) “Collections of Phænogamous plants from New Zealand” (listed as a “Donation to the Society 1851”): “Your council have to acknowledge the receipt of a small, but interesting, collection of flowering plants from New Zealand, from the Rev. Mr. Colenso, a native of this town; these, the council would advise, should at once be preserved, by being placed in a book similar to the one used for the Algæ.” (p12). Colenso mentions plants sent to J.Ralphs and W.Curnow of Penzance in his letters to Hooker—see Colenso’s collections.

24 http://west-penwith.org.uk/pnhas.htm gives the membership list. Other societies predated the Natural History Society, and (for example) John William Colenso read a paper to the Royal Geographical Society of Cornwall in 1829.

25 # 76 in Parkinson P, Griffiths P 2004. Books in Māori 1815-1900 (BiM). Raupo Publishing (NZ) Ltd. Colenso adopted the nom de plume Aroha Pono (True Love).

26 Books in Māori #76 & #77.

27 Books in Māori #110.

28 Books in Māori #374. Colenso now calls himself the Watchman.

29 Printed on his private press at Waitangi (Books in Māori #374).

30 He Matenga totika: “Happy Deaths”, not specifically anti-Catholic.

31 He wrote to TM Hocken (16 March 1895) giving a list of accounts of the Maori translations of the Scriptures.

32 Interestingly, T. Tegg, Cheapside, was the London distributor of the Mount’s Bay booklet.

33 Hobson had arrived in 1840 and Colenso’s press was swamped with Governmental work on top of the already onerous missionary printing; the “outsourcing” to William Wade in Hobart resulted, however, from the CMS’s disapproval of the content of Colenso’s tracts (Parkinson P, pers. comm.).

34 vol 3, p.220, on a “second species of New Zealand flax.”

35 Bagnall & Petersen (Appendix D, p464) dicuss the accusation of plagiarism against Colenso at some length.

36 Floræ Insularum Novæ Zelandiæ Precursor; or a Specimen of the Botany of the Islands of New Zealand.

37 Cyclopedia of NZ 1908.

38 Transactions 31: 723.

39 Fleming C 1987. Science, settlers and scholars : the centennial history of the Royal Society of New Zealand. RSNZ, Wellington.

40 Dr Eccles 1821–1904 qualified as a surgeon in London, emigrated to Otago in 1861, becoming the first Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons to practise in the province. He was involved in the origins of the Otago Medical School. He returned to live in his home county of Devon in 1871.

41 Eccles scrawled “Beastly” in the margins, and Hector noted, “Colenso’s is not well written but it is valuable if correct.”

42 see Colenso’s collections p326. On 3 March 1866 he had written, “I believe the good Scotch commee. have latterly found fault with some of my “notes” (from old visitors) and remarks as being too free.”

43 By this he meant his Lexicon.

44 ATL ref: QMS0494.

45 Mitchell ref: A237; essay pp. 103-265, notes pp. 266-278.

46 Colenso to JD Hooker 23 September 1896.

47 Colenso to Thiselton Dyer 6 July 1892, “I have recently received my little lot of ‘Author’s Copies’ of my Papers in ‘Trans. N.Z. Instit.’ for 1891, and in distributing them I send you one of each pamphlet. And as I wish, also, to send copies to the Editor of ‘Nature’, and don’t recollect his address, I venture to enclose his parcel & little note to your care.” He sent prints of several papers and booklets to Nature and though he never wrote directly for that prestigious journal, was often quoted in its pages.

48 “Some reminiscences of the Maoris. Mr. W. Colenso, F.R.S., has often been asked to record some of his reminiscences of the Maoris, whom he has for very many years had opportunity of studying. This he has now done in a paper printed in the Trans. N.Z.I.(vol. xxiv), some extracts from which may be of interest for various classes of readers. He says....” Nature Vol 47 10 November 1892: 41–45.

49 “The close of so interesting a life, which for more than half a century has been intimately associated with the progress of science and education in the antipodes, is one that demands more than a passing reference in the columns of NATURE.” (Obituary. Nature 2 March 1899; 59: 420).

50 Colenso boasted (letter to his nephew 26 February 1895) that seven boys had been christened “William Colenso”.

51 Subtitle to Bagnall & Petersen.

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