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

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1877 Manibus Parkinsonibus sacrum. A brief Memoir of the First Artist who visited New Zealand; together with several little-known Items of Interest extracted from his Journal.263
Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 10: 108-134.

[Read before the Hawke Bay Philosophical Institute, 13th August, 1877.]

Our Institute having been “founded for the advancement of science, literature, and art,” it cannot be considered amiss to bring to your notice the first artist who visited our shores.

I confess I like to do something of this kind. To commemorate those dear fellow-labourers, those true disciples of nature, who preceded us in this [109] country, and who have gone before us! Especially when, as in the present case, the person is almost totally unknown to fame, through several adverse and wholly unforeseen circumstances having operated to rob him of his due; and yet, one who did much, very much, under many great and serious disadvantages, of which, experimentally, we now know but little.

Often indeed have I, when, 30–40 (et ultra) years ago, botanizing in the forests of New Zealand, thought on this young artist of whom I am about to write; when I have considered how greatly delighted he must have been when he first gathered and drew those flowers which then pleased me, and which I knew he and his botanical friends and companions had also seen; and further, that, of all the scores of New Zealand plants and flowers (which he had the privilege of first viewing as novelties with an intelligent and loving eye and heart, and so truthfully and beautifully delineating), not one has yet been selected to bear his honoured name! At such times, beautiful and appropriate lines from our English poets—Milton, Gray, and Words-worth—would rush into my memory, as if evoked from the depths by some potent spell! Wordsworth truly and feelingly says (though many do not understand him)—

“To me, the meanest flower that blows can give

Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.”

It is indeed remarkable (at least in contrast, and worthy of a passing remark), in looking over the names of the hundreds of plants discovered in New Zealand by its first scientific visitors, to find so few bearing the name of the finder or of any individual. Then, and for many years after, the disciples of Linnæus acted up to the Linnæan canons; but now, in our modern day, almost every other newly-discovered (or newly-named) plant or animal among us, is honoured or lowered with the name of its gatherer or lucky owner, or even with that of the child or patron of its describer or namer, no matter whether he or she is or is not a true lover and patron of science!

Dr. Hawkesworth, the editor of Cook’s First Voyage, tells us in his introduction, that Mr. (afterwards Sir Joseph) Banks, in his equipping for a voyage to the South Seas with Captain Cook in the “Endeavour,” was determined to spare no expense in the execution of his plan. He first engaged Dr. Solander, a Swede, and educated under Linnæus; and he also took with him two draughtsmen—one to delineate views of figures, the other to paint such subjects of natural history as might offer; together with a secretary and four servants, two of whom were negroes.” The first-mentioned of these “two draughtsmen,” a Mr. Buchan, died early, within a week after their arrival at Tahiti (their first port of call in the Pacific), deeply regretted by all on board; the other, the gentleman whose [110] duty it was to paint subjects of natural history, was Mr. Sydney Parkinson, the subject of this memoir, on whom (through the death of his colleague) the whole work of drawing, delineating, and painting now devolved.

Most, if not all, of us are conversant from boyhood with the many and varied figures in Cook’s voyages; of tattooed chiefs and great personages in extraordinary dresses; of processions and dances; of canoes and implements; and of peculiar and romantic scenery; and these are still being continually republished in various sizes to suit many modern works. Many of these were executed by our Mr. Sydney Parkinson; but these are as nothing when compared with the hundreds of coloured drawings of plants faithfully and beautifully made by the same person, which, though unpublished, are still preserved in the Banksian collection in the British Museum. Dr. Hooker, when preparing his “Botany of New Zealand,” examined those drawings, and says:— “For the earliest account of the plants of these islands we are indebted to two of the most illustrious botanists of their age, and to the voyages of the greatest of modern navigators; for the first and to this day the finest and best illustrated herbarium that has ever been made in the islands by individual exertions, is that of Sir Joseph Banks and Dr. Solander during Captain Cook’s first voyage in 1769. Upwards of 360 species of plants were collected during the five months that were devoted to the exploration of these coasts, at various points between the Bay of Islands and Otago, including the shores of Cook Strait; and the results are admirable, whether we consider the excellence of the specimens, the judgment with which they were selected, the artistic drawings by which they are illustrated, and above all the accurate MS. descriptions and observations that accompany them. That the latter, which include a complete flora of New Zealand as far as then known, systematically arranged, illustrated by 200 copper-plate engravings, and all ready for the press, should have been withheld from publication by its illustrious authors, is (considering the circumstances under which it was prepared) a national loss, and to science a grievous one; since, had it been otherwise, the botany of New Zealand would have been better known fifty years ago than it now is. This herbarium and Ms. form part of the Banksian collection, and are deposited in the British Museum. I feel that I cannot over-estimate the benefit which I have derived from these materials, and it is much to be regretted that they were not duly consulted by my predecessors. The names by which Dr. Solander designated the species have in most cases been replaced by others, often applied with far less judgment; and his descriptions have never been surpassed for fulness, terseness, and accuracy. The total number of drawings of New Zealand plants is about 212, of which 176 are engraved on copper, but the [111] engravings have never been published.”264 And I have good reasons for adding, that the number of drawings of plants and animals discovered by them in other places during that voyage would far exceed this.

Mr. John Edward Gray (late keeper of the Zoological collections in the British Museum) also bears testimony to Mr. Parkinson’s abilities in his notes on the Fauna of New Zealand, published in Vol. II. of Dieffenbach’s Travels in New Zealand. Mr. Gray says:— “Nothing was known of the natural productions of New Zealand until Captain Cook’s first voyage, in which he was accompanied by Mr. (afterwards Sir Joseph) Banks, Dr. Solander, and Mr. Sydney Parkinson, an artist of considerable merit, who was employed by Sir Joseph Banks to draw the specimens of animals and plants which were discovered during the voyage. The drawings made by Sydney Parkinson, together with the manuscript notes of Dr. Solander, are with the Banksian collection of plants in the British Museum, and form part of the very extensive and magnificent collection of natural history drawings belonging to that institution.” 265 To which I will merely add that those drawings are folio size.

Unfortunately this good, able, and active young man died at sea on their voyage home from the South Seas, in January, 1771, about a month after leaving Batavia. His published journal, which is profusely illustrated, contains, among other interesting drawings, a few which are not to be found in Cook’s Voyage, one being the Tahitian lad Taiota, the hero of Cape Kidnappers; another that of a New Zealand chief bearing a style of tattooing which has long become extinct, and of which I only saw a few specimens some forty years ago; there are also views of scenery here on our east coast, and a portrait of himself. In his journal he gives the common and Latin names of nearly eighty plants of the Society Islands, with their descriptions and uses; occupying no less than fourteen large 4to. pages; and several copious vocabularies of the various languages which he had noticed during the voyage. Several of his entries made throughout the voyage are not to be found in Cook—that is, as published. A few of the most striking of these being but little known, I shall copy into this paper.

The Journal was published in London in the year 1773, in 4to., (same size as Cook’s Voyages and in the same year), entitled, “A Journal of a Voyage to the South Seas, in His Majesty’s ship the ‘Endeavour,’ faithfully transcribed from the papers of the late Sydney Parkinson, draughtsman to Joseph Banks, Esq., on his late expedition with Dr. Solander round the world.” His brother, Stanfield Parkinson, was the editor, who it appears had very great difficulty in obtaining it, with other things, from [112] Mr. Banks, as is fully shown in a long preface of twenty closely-printed pages containing several letters respecting the whole transaction. Subsequently, Mr. Banks and Dr. Hawkesworth also attempted to stop even its publication by an injunction from the Court of Chancery, which, however, was finally dissolved and the work published. From its extreme scarceness (I having sought more than ten years for a copy before I could get one), and from its not having been quoted or referred to by any modern writer on New Zealand—(not even mentioned by Dr. Thomson, in his long list of everything on New Zealand—good, bad, and indifferent)—I have always been of opinion that it was in a great measure sought to be suppressed by buying it up. Stanfield Parkinson complains bitterly and feelingly of the conduct of both Mr. Banks and Dr. Hawkesworth in the whole affair; among other things, pointing out their meanness and invidiousness in not allowing his deceased brother’s name as draughtsman to be inserted in the plates to Cook’s Voyage, while that “of the engraver is pompously displayed.” From the preface already mentioned I extract the following:—

“Sydney Parkinson was the younger son of the late Joel Parkinson of Edinburgh, one of the people commonly called Quakers. Sydney, taking a great delight in drawing flowers, fruits, and other objects of natural history, became soon so proficient in that style of painting as to attract the notice of the most celebrated botanists and connoisseurs in that study. In consequence of this he was, some time after his arrival in London, recommended to Joseph Banks, Esq., whose very numerous collection of numerous and highly-finished drawings of that kind, executed by Sydney Parkinson, is a sufficient testimony both of his talents and application.

“His recommendation being so effectually confirmed by these proofs of ingenuity and industry, Joseph Banks made him the proposal of going in the capacity of botanical draughtsman on the then intended voyage to the South Seas. An insatiable curiosity for such researches prevailed over every consideration of danger that reasonably suggested itself, as the necessary attendant of so long, so perilous, and, to my poor brother, so fatal a voyage! He accordingly accepted Joseph Banks’s offer, though by no means an alluring one, if either views of profit, or perhaps even prudence, had influenced his determination. His appointment, for executing drawings of botanical subjects and curious objects of natural history, was settled at £80 per annum. In this capacity, and under this moderate encouragement, Sydney Parkinson undertook to accompany Joseph Banks to the South Seas; making his will before his departure, in which he bequeathed the salary which might be due to him at the time of his decease, to his sister Britannia, and appointed me his residuary legatee.

“I have heard many of the surviving companions of this amiable young [113] man dwell with pleasure on the relation of his singular simplicity of conduct, his sincere regard for truth, his ardent thirst after knowledge, his indefatigable industry to obtain it, and his generous disposition in freely communicating with the most friendly participation to others, that information which none but himself could have obtained. That this is more than probable will appear, on comparing the different manner in which Sydney and his associates passed their time in the most interesting situations. While many others, for want of a more innocent curiosity or amusement, were indulging themselves in sensual gratifications,—we find him gratifying no other passion than that of a laudable curiosity, which enabled him inoffensively to employ his time and escape those snares into which the vicious appetites of some others betrayed them. It doth equal honour to his ingenuousness and ingenuity, to find him protected by his own innocence, securely exercising his pleasing art amidst a savage, ignorant, and hostile people; engaging their attention by the powers of his pencil, disarming them of their native ferocity, and rendering them even serviceable to the great end of the voyage in cheerfully furnishing him with the choicest productions of the soil and climate, which neither force or stratagem might otherwise have procured.

“By such honest arts and mild demeanour he soon acquired the confidence of the inhabitants of most places at which the voyagers went on shore; obtaining thus, as I am well-informed, with remarkable facility, the knowledge of many words in various languages hitherto little, if at all, known in Europe.

“These paved the way also to his success in acquiring a choice and rare collection of curiosities, consisting of garments, domestic utensils, rural implements, instruments of war, uncommon shells, and other natural curiosities of considerable value—of so much value, indeed, as even to seduce men of reputed sense, fortune, and character, to attempt, by means unworthy of themselves, to deprive me of what, after the loss sustained in the death of so deserving a brother, one would think none ought to envy me the gain.


“Of these curiosities, the shells alone Dr. John Fothergill (a common friend of my late brother and Joseph Banks) had valued at £200; yet neither the shells, nor anything else, hath Joseph Banks to this day returned me. The reasons he gives for the detention are—that I have used him ill; that he hath given me a valuable consideration for them; and, in short, that he will keep them. Of this pretended valuable consideration I am now to speak. On the readiness I showed to oblige Joseph Banks with such of the shells as he might not have in his collection, Dr. Fothergill informed me [114] that Joseph Banks told him he had much reason to be satisfied with the services of Sydney Parkinson, and the cheerfulness with which he executed other drawings than those of his own department; supplying, in fact, the loss of Joseph Banks’s other draughtsman who died in the beginning of the voyage. On this account Joseph Banks was pleased to say, it had been his constant intention to make Sydney Parkinson a very handsome present had he lived to return to England. His intention was now to take place, therefore, towards his brother and sister, to whom he would make the like present in consideration of such extra service, or, as Joseph Banks himself expressed it, a douceur to the family for the loss sustained in the death of so valuable a relation. There being due to the deceased upwards of £150 salary, the sole property of my sister Britannia, and Joseph Banks choosing to keep some of the effects bequeathed to me as before mentioned, it was agreed between Dr. Fothergill and Joseph Banks that the latter should make up the sum of £500, to be paid into the hands of me and my sister.....

“It was in vain I expected Joseph Banks would keep his word with me. He sent me back, indeed, my brother’s drawers and boxes quite empty, without the civility of even a message by the bearers. I complained, of course, to Dr. Fothergill, who afterwards said he could obtain no satisfaction for me. After several fruitless attempts to obtain it myself I wrote to Joseph Banks acquainting him that if he did not immediately return the curiosities I would inform the world of the whole transaction between us, and endeavour to indemnify myself by publishing also my brother’s journal.

“As I made no secret of my design, and was known to have employed the proper artists to execute it, I was now solicited and entreated by Joseph Banks’s friends to desist; Dr. Fothergill, in particular, offered me at different times, several sums of money to drop my intended publication, notwith-standing he knew Joseph Banks still detained my curiosities contrary to agreement, and refused to come to any accommodation.

“To delay this design and, if possible, suppress my book, which was almost ready to appear, Dr. Hawkesworth, whose compilation was not so forward, filed a bill in chancery against me, setting forth that I had invaded his property by printing manuscripts and engraving designs which I sold to Joseph Banks, and which Joseph Banks afterwards sold to him. On this application an injunction was granted by the Court of Chancery to stop the printing and publishing of my work. Put thus to the trouble and expense of defending a suit in chancery, and the publication of my work being delayed when just ready to appear, I had yet no remedy but that of putting in a full answer to the bill and praying a dissolution of the injunction. This I at length obtained, the reasons for continuing the injunction not appearing [115] satisfactory to the Court. … Indeed, the whole purpose appears to be litigious, and calculated to answer no other end than to delay my publication till he should get the start of me and publish his own, and this end, to my great damage and loss, it hath answered.”

In conclusion, the editor says:— “Having thus given a simple, unvarnished narrative of the causes of the delay of this publication, I submit its encouragement to the judgment and candour of the public. In respect to the comparative merits of Dr. Hawkesworth’s book and mine, it is not for me to say anything. If I have justified myself in the eye of the impartial world for persisting in this publication, I shall leave the works of my brother to speak his talents, thinking I have paid a proper respect to his memory, though it should be said of his journal that its only ornament is truth, and its best recommendation, characteristic of himself, its genuine simplicity.”

In making a few extracts from Sydney Parkinson’s Journal, I have confined myself to such as are not particularly mentioned in Cook’s Voyage; paying especial attention to those which refer to our own immediate sea of Hawke Bay and the east coast of the North Island. It is a notable fact (though, perhaps, little known) that though Capt. Cook visited New Zealand several times and spent many months altogether in the bays and harbours and on the coasts of this country, the only bay which he fully explored and sailed all round its shores was our Hawke Bay, and that on his first voyage when Sydney Parkinson was with him.

Their whole number in their little barque the “Endeavour,” of 370 tons, was ninety-six. At Madeira they had the misfortune to lose their chief mate, Mr. Ware, by drowning, which is thus related:— “His death was occasioned by an unlucky accident which happened to him while he stood in the boat to see one of the anchors slipped. The buoy-rope happening to entangle one of his legs, he was drawn overboard and drowned before we could lend him any assistance. He was a very honest, worthy man, and one of our best seamen.” And a similar misadventure happened at their next port-of-call, Rio, where, “in coming out of the harbour, Mr. Flowers, an experienced seaman, fell from the main shrouds into the sea and was drowned before we could reach him.”

These circumstances and others like them are brought to your notice in this memoir, that you should know that the successful voyage of our illustrious navigator cost a great sacrifice of human life from among his own ship’s company. This has, I think, been almost, if not altogether, overlooked by the public at large, in reading or in hearing of Cook’s famous voyage! The halo that justly surrounds his imperishable name is so grand, so overpowering, that the loss of so many of his brave companions during [116] that first eventful voyage, is, as it were, lost sight of; and yet I question if there has been another voyage of modern times in which so many skilled and useful men died, and not through battle or storm or dangers.

At Rio our voyagers received harsh treatment from the Viceroy, who prohibited any person coming on shore from the ship. This is fully related by Cook. Our artist says: “We were displeased in receiving this intelligence; Mr. Banks and Dr. Solander appeared much chagrined at their disappointment, but notwithstanding all the Viceroy’s precautions we determined to gratify our curiosity in some measure, and having obtained a sufficient knowledge of the river and the harbour by the surveys we had made of the country, we frequently, unknown to the sentinel, stole out of the cabin window at midnight, letting ourselves down into a boat by a rope, and driving away with the tide until we were out of hearing, we then rowed to some unfrequented part of the shore where we landed and made excursions up into the country, though not so far as we could have wished to have done. The morning after we went on shore my eyes were feasted with the pleasing prospects that opened to my view on every hand. I soon discovered a hedge in which were many very curious plants in bloom, and all of them quite new to me. There were so many that I even loaded myself with them. We found also many curious plants in the salading that was sent off to us.” From Rio he wrote to his brother saying he had “finished 100 drawings on various subjects and taken sketches of many more.” He narrates that terrible night of Mr. Banks and Dr. Solander and their party in the snows on the mountains of Terra del Fuego, in which two men of the party were frozen to death, (which we have at full length and well told in Cook), adding,— “The dog that had been with them all night had survived them; he was found sitting close by his master’s corpse, and seemed reluctant to leave it, but at length the dog forsook it, and went back to the company and to the ship.” His remarks, in passing the straits of Le Maine and round Cape Horn, are worthy of notice:—

“The land on both sides, particularly Staten-land, affords a most dismal prospect, being made up chiefly of barren rocks and tremendous precipices, covered with snow and uninhabited, forming one of those natural views which human nature can scarcely behold without shuddering. How amazingly diversified are the works of the Deity within the narrow limits of this globe we inhabit, which, compared with the vast aggregate of systems that compose the universe, appears but a dark speck in the creation! A curiosity, perhaps equal to Solomon’s, though accompanied with less wisdom than was possessed by the Royal Philosopher, induced some of us to quit our native land, to investigate the heavenly bodies minutely in distant regions, as well as to trace the signatures of the Supreme Power [117] and Intelligence throughout several species of animals, and different genera of plants in the vegetable system,— ‘from the cedar that is in Lebanon, even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall;’ and the more we investigate the more we ought to admire the power, wisdom, and goodness of the Great Superintendent of the universe; which attributes are amply displayed throughout all his works; the smallest object seen through the microscope declares its origin to be divine, as well as those larger ones which the unassisted eye is capable of contemplating: but to proceed. We saw Cape Horn at first at about five leagues distance, which, contrary to our expectations, we doubled with as little danger as the North Foreland on the Kentish coast; the heavens were fair, the wind temperate, the weather pleasant, and being within one mile of the shore, we had a more distinct view of this coast than perhaps any former voyagers have had on this ocean.”

His mention of their landing at Tahiti, and what soon followed, is entertaining:— “In the morning we went ashore and pitched the marquee; Mr. Banks, the captain, and myself took a walk in the woods, and were afterwards joined by Mr. Hicks (the first lieutenant) and Mr. Green (the astronomer). While we were walking and enjoying the rural scene, we heard the report of some fire-arms, and presently saw the natives fleeing into the woods like frighted fawns, carrying with them their little movables. Alarmed at this unexpected event, we immediately quitted the wood and made to the side of the river, where we saw several of our men, who had been left to guard the tent, pursuing the natives, who were terrified to the last degree; some of them skulked behind the bushes, and others leaped into the river. Hearing the shot rattle amongst the branches of the trees over my head, I thought it not safe to continue there any longer, and fled to the tent, where I soon learned the cause of the catastrophe. A sentinel being off his guard, one of the natives snatched a musket out of his hand, which occasioned the fray. A boy, a midshipman, was the commanding officer, and giving orders to fire, they obeyed with the greatest glee imaginable, as if they had been shooting at wild ducks, killed one stout man, and wounded many others. What a pity that such brutality should be exercised by civilized people upon unarmed, ignorant Indians! When Mr. Banks heard of the affair, he was highly displeased, saying, ‘If we quarrelled with those Indians we should not agree with angels;’ and he did all he could to accommodate the difference, going across the river, and, through the mediation of an old man, prevailed on many of the natives to come over to us, bearing plantain trees (which is a signal of peace amongst them), and, clapping their hands to their breasts, cried ‘Tyau!’ which signifies friendship. They sat down by us, sent for cocoa-nuts, and we drank the milk with them. They were very social, more so than could have

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