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

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Paper III.

a few remarks on the hackneyed quotation of


[Read before the Hawke’s Bay Philosophical Institute, 12th June, 1882.]

For some considerable time I have been desirous of bringing this subject before you,—New Zealand being now our Country and our home; and should have certainly done so during past Winter Sessions of our Institute, but for two reasons :—(1) that I had already written pretty fully about it, some 15 years ago in the “New Zealander,” Auckland paper;891 and (2) that I had hoped the quoting of it would die out, or that, at all events, some modern authors and writers and public speakers (especially here in New Zealand) would just give themselves the trouble to enquire whether Macaulay was really the author of that saying,—whether the simile originated with him.

I should however, honestly confess, that I am again reminded (as it were) to bring this subject before you, through my having lately read Professor Hutton’s opening Address for 1882, given at the Canterbury College, University of New Zealand, in which Professor Hutton says,—“As individuals have a limited period of existence, so also must it be with nations. This is the leading idea in Lord Macaulay’s celebrated New Zealander sitting on the ruins of London Bridge.”—

My task on this occasion will be a comparatively easy one, through my having several years ago thoroughly worked the subject out; (and, as I have said, published it in one of our first-class Colonial Newspapers;) I purpose showing, 1.—that the “idea” (to use Professor Hutton’s term) is of (at least) twofold origin,—1. general; 2. particular; and 2.—that both were used by authors who preceded Macaulay; whose works, without doubt, Macaulay must have seen and even read; and that from one or more of them Macaulay gathered the striking and famed similes, more than once used by him in his Works.

The radical idea seems to have been rather a favourite one with Macaulay, [37] as I find he has used it on several occasions; three of them I will quote from his Works written at different periods of his life,—viz., in 1824, in 1829, and in 1845,—a period extending over 16 years.892 His predilection for it may, however, (in part, at least,) be owing to the great noise which it made in the daily literary world at the time of its first appearing in his writings (in 1824), for we read in the preface to his Miscellaneous Writings, that “the passage in question was at one time the subject of allusion, two or three times a week, in speeches and leading articles.” And yet it does not appear that any one at that time, or, as far as I know, since, has brought forward the originator.

The first of those three passages (and the one I have just particularly alluded to,) occurs in Macaulay’s Review of Mitford’s History of Greece, (written in 1824,) where, writing of “the gift of Athens to man,” (he goes on to say,)—“although her freedom and her power have for more than twenty centuries been annihilated, her intellectual Empire is imperishable. And when those who have rivalled her greatness shall have shared her fate; when civilization and knowledge shall have fixed their abode in distant continents; when the sceptre shall have passed away from England; when, perhaps, travellers from distant regions shall in vain labour to decipher on some mouldering pedestal the name of our proudest chief; shall hear savage hymns chaunted to some misshappen idol over the ruined dome of our proudest temple; and shall see a single naked fisherman wash his nets in the river of the ten thousand masts; her influence and her glory will stil1 survive—fresh in eternal youth,—immortal.”

Here we have the idea in its inchoate, more general and less defined state; (but of this, too, anon).

The second occurs in his Review of Mill’s Essay on Government, (written in 1829,) here Macaulay says:—“The civilised part of the world has now nothing to fear from the hostility of savage nations.—–—But is it possible that in the bosom of civilization itself may be engendered the malady which shall destroy it?—–—Is it possible that, in two or three hundred years, a few lean half-naked fishermen may divide with owls and foxes the ruins of the greatest European cities,—may wash their nets amidst the relics of her gigantic docks, and build their huts out of the capitals of her stately cathedrals.”—

Here, also, we have the same idea, but still inceptive, still in the rough.

The third is the more particular, the worked-up and finished simile of the artistitic New Zealander, of which the literary world has heard so much. This occurs in his Review of Ranke’s History of the Popes, (written in 1840,)—where Macaulay, writing of the Roman-Catholic Church, says,—“She (the Roman-Catholic Church) may still exist in undiminished vigour, when some traveller from New Zealand shall, in the midst of a vast solitude, take his [38] stand on a broken arch of London Bridge to sketch the ruins of St. Pauls.”

I have found this simile, or idea,—both in its rough and in its more finished state,—in no less than five authors of note who preceded Macaulay; four of whom are English, and one French.

The first is Horace Walpole, the eminent virtuoso of “Strawberry Hill” notoriety, and the author of the celebrated “Letters.” In a published letter of Walpole’s to Mason, written in 1744, he says,—“At last some curious traveller from Lima, will visit England, and give a description of the ruins of St. Paul’s, like the Editions of Baalbec and Palmyra.” [Here it may be noticed, that Macauley wrote a slashingly trenchant Review of Walpole’s Letters, in 1833.]

The second is by the equally celebrated Frenchman Volney,—who travelled in the East (Egypt and Syria) in 1784, and wrote his able work, called the Ruins, or a Survey of the Revolutions of Empires; therein he gives us his “Meditations,” written at the time, while musing among the ruins of those famed and great ancient cities. And be goes on to say:—

—“What are become of so many productions of the hand of man? Where are those ramparts of Nineveh, those walls of Babylon, those palaces of Persepolis, those temples of Balbec and of Jerusalem? Where are those fleets of Tyre, those dock-yards of Arad, those workshops of Sidon, and that multitude of mariners, pilots, merchants, and soldiers? Where those husbandmen, those harvests, that picture of animated nature, of which the Earth seemed proud? Alas! I have traversed this desolate country, I have visited the places that were the theatre of so much splendour, and I have beheld nothing but solitude and desertion!—–—Thus reflecting, that if the places before me had once exhibited this animated picture; who, said I to myself, can assure me that the present desolation will not one day be the lot of our own country? Who knows but that hereafter some traveller like myself will sit down upon the banks of the Seine, the Thames, or the Zuyder Zee, where now, in the tumult of enjoyment, the heart and the eyes are too slow to take in the multitude of sensations; who knows but he will sit down solitary amid silent ruins, and weep a people inurned, and their greatness changed into an empty name?”—

The third is by one of our British poets, Henry Kirke White;893 who, in his poem entitled Time, says:—

“Where now is Britain? where her laurell’d names,

Her palaces and halls? Dash’d in the dust.
—Oe’r her marts,
Her crowded ports, brood Silence; and the cry
Of the lone curlew, and the pensive dash
Of distant billows, breaks alone the void. [39]
Even as the savage sits upon the stone
That marks where stood her capitols, and hears
The bittern booming in the weeds, he shrinks
From the dismaying solitude.”—

The fourth is by another of our celebrated British poets, Shelley,894 (though not written this time in rhyme but in good English prose,) —in his Dedication to Peter Bell, Shelley says:—

—“In the firm expectation, that when London shall be an habitation of bitterns, when St. Paul’s and Westminster Abbey shall stand, shapeless and nameless ruins in the midst of an unpeopled marsh; and when the piers of Waterloo Bridge shall become the nuclei of islets of reeds and osiers, and cast the jagged shadows of their broken arches on the solitary stream, some Transatlantic commentator will be weighing in the scales of some new and now unimagined system of criticism the respective merits of the Bells and the Fudges, and their historians. —

The fifth, and last, and strongest of all, (though doubtlessly written much earlier in time than those two last quoted,)—the one in particular wherein the very term of New Zealander is used;—is to be found in the able preface to the English 4to edition of La Billardiere’s celebrated Voyage to these seas in search of the unfortunate La Perouse; undertaken in 1791–1794; and a translation of the Work published in London in 1800.895 And as this work (the large 4to edition, containing the Translator’s preface,) is scarce and little known, and probably but few if any copies here among us, I shall take the liberty of quoting the more largely from it; especially as some of the words used therein, and that more than 80 years ago, seem to be already (in part) on the way to their fulfilment, and, therefore, will prove to us, Colonists, very interesting. The writer says:—

“Having mentioned Providence, a word not very common in some of our modern Voyages, we are tempted to add a consideration which has often occurred to our minds, in contemplating the probable issue of that zeal for discovering and corresponding with distant regions, which has long animated the maritime powers of Europe. Without obtruding our own sentiments on the reader, we may be permitted to ask, whether appearances do not justify a conjecture, that the Great Arbiter of the destinies of nations may render that zeal subservient to the moral and intellectual, not to say the religious, improvement, and the consequent happiness, of our whole species? or, whether, as has hitherto generally happened, the advantages of civilisation may not, in the progress of events, be transferred from the [40] Europeans, who have but too little prized them, to those remote countries which they have been so diligently exploring? If so, the period may arrive, when New Zealand may produce her Lockes, her Newtons, and her Montesquieus; and when great nations in the immediate region of New Holland, may send their navigators, philosophers, and antiquaries, to contemplate the ruins of ancient London and Paris, and to trace the languid remains of the arts and sciences in this quarter of the globe. Who can tell, whether the rudiments of some great future empire may not already exist at Botany Bay?”—

A few more observations and I close.

First, then, I would remind you, that the writings of all those Authors from whom I have just quoted, must certainly have been well-known to Lord Macaulay, for they were among the chiefest and most notable Books of his early days; and that he was an extensive reader his works clearly show.

Second, that this last work I have quoted from, the French Voyage in search of the unfortunate La Perouse, was one that made a great noise throughout Europe. Not merely on account of the mysterious loss of La Perouse and his ships, and the great amount of interest it had excited; (following, too, so closely as it did, the death of the French navigator Marion and 28 of his crew at the Bay of Islands, and the killing of a whole boat’s crew of 10 men belonging to Capt. Furneaux’s ship,—which was Capt. Cook’s consort-vessel on his second voyage to New Zealand;) but also owing to this very voyage of La Billardiere being the next great Expedition fitted out by the French Government to these seas after Capt. Cook’s latest discoveries.

Hence, like those other Voyages to the South Seas and to New Zealand in particular of our celebrated English navigator Cook, the great French Voyage (including that of La Perouse as far as it was known) was a new and fresh work of surpassing interest to all Europe,896 especially to Englishmen and the young of Macaulay’s juvenile years;—much what some of us (elders) may remember as to how thoroughly we enjoyed the Voyages of Capt. Cook;—and therefore must also have been seen and read by Macaulay; and such being the case, it was impossible for him to overlook or forget the very striking simile of the New Zealander. [41]

In conclusion, I may say, that in the letter I wrote to the Auckland Paper, above alluded to, I had also mentioned my belief in the many plagiarisms of Lord Macaulay, as shown in not a few instances in his Works,—patent to the close and large reader; and of which I firmly believe this idea culminating in the travelling New Zealander, to be one. But, after all, it is difficult to say of a learned and comprehensive reader, having also a capacious memory,—what really constitutes a plagiarism. Be this as it may, one thing I think I have pretty clearly shown in this my paper, that that simile of the New Zealander visiting London, and sketching and meditating among her ruins, did not originate with Lord Macaulay; and, therefore, should not be continually quoted as his.897


1883 A further contribution towards making known the Botany of New Zealand.
Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 16: 325-363.

[Read before the Hawke’s Bay Philosophical Institute, 12th November, 1883.]

In bringing before you this evening my usual annual basket of “simples,” or botanical contribution, I would beg permission to offer a few brief remarks by way of introduction and explanation. This seems almost necessary, seeing that my basket is bigger, or my paper is much longer than any of my former ones on this subject, owing to the large number of new species I have been enabled to obtain and describe.

Species, too, illustrative of many Orders of all the Botanical Classes, particularly of the Class Cryptogamia, and of the elegant though lowly Order Hepaticæ; having fortunately discovered several new ones, especially of the curious and little-known genus Symphyogyna. Of this, I have determined no less than 11 new species, which, with 2 others, formerly discovered and described by me in my recent Botanical papers read here before you, and also those 5 species described in the “Handbook of the New Zealand Flora,” make no less than 18 distinct species of Symphyogyna, indigenous to this country alone! which may now, I think, be fairly considered as the head-quarters of this genus.

According to the celebrated cryptogamic authors of the Synopsis Hepaticarum, only 25 species of Symphyogyna were known to them at the date of the publication of their work (1847); of those none were European; yet the genus seems to be a widely scattered one, viz.: In N. America 2, in S. America and the West Indies 8, S. Africa, including the neighbouring isles, 6, Asia (Java) 1, Australia 4, Tasmania 2, New Zealand898 2 = 25. I have good reasons for believing that additional species will yet be found in New Zealand; indeed I have at present two others not yet determined, being in an imperfect state.

And here I may also observe that, to the elucidation of this genus in particular I devoted a very large amount of time—labour in seeking and collecting at various seasons, and close microscopical study and examination; having been also cheerfully and zealously aided by some of our members, especially Mr. A. Hamilton, Mr. D. P. Balfour, and Mr. C. P. Winkelmann, to all of whom (as well as to others) my best thanks are due. [326]

I should also inform you that several of the plants I have now described in my present paper, and also bring specimens of, to show you this evening, were not first detected by me during this past year. A few have been long known to me; others I first knew of two or three years ago, but wanted time to examine them and work them up. Of others I required better or more complete specimens, while, for a few, I am wholly indebted to my botanical friends.

Still I have been very fortunate during the past year. I have spent a much longer time in patient research in our woods, and deep-secluded glens, and quiet far-off hill-tops and sides, both in winter and in summer, in frost and in heat; and nature has bounteously rewarded her patient plodding disciple and faithful follower, as she always does all such who serve her heartily and simply, and not for pecuniary gain.

Among the principal or first-class prizes with which I have been honoured, and which I wish to bring prominently to your notice, are a handsome white-flowering standard Metrosideros, a curious small-leaved Panax, a large-leaved Tupeia, and a fine Fagus; 4 Orchids (one being a new and rare Bolbophyllum, two others of the beautiful gem-like genus Corysanthes, and one a very fine and handsome Thelymitra); of Liliaceæ, a Dianella, and an Astelia (the male flower—another single specimen—of the one female flower I discovered three years ago); and a few of Cyperaceæ, among them a most peculiar Carex, having slender trailing culms more than two yards long. Of Cryptogams a few ferns, among them a neat little Polypodium and a pretty Lindsæa, which latter will serve to fill up a gap or natural sequence in our known species; several other curious Hepaticæ, besides the Symphyogyna already mentioned, particularly of the genera Petalophyllum, Aneura, Fimbriaria, and Anthoceros; a handsome Lichen, giving another distinct species to a small natural genus; and a few highly curious Fungi.

Specimens of all of them, both dry and in spirits, some of them being also mounted on cardboard, will be severally laid before you; and may you all have as much pleasure in going over and examining them as I have had, over and over, in the finding and gathering, examining and describing them.

Class I. Dicotyledons.

Order IV.899 Violarieæ.

Genus I. Viola, Linn.

Viola perexigua,900 sp. nov.

A very small tufted perennial herb, its crown of leaves and flowers springing from a thick woody root having many fine and long fibres, without branches or stolons. Leaves, 8–12, broadly cordate-orbicular, ¼–½ inch long, glabrous, regularly and deeply crenate, obtuse and rounded at [327] apex, almost truncate at base, petioles ½–1 inch long, channelled above and closely ciliate on the edges with 2 rows of short white erect hairs, bracts at base diverging, long, linear, very acuminate and acute, with a few (2–4) fine teeth or laciniations that are obtuse and knobbed. Peduncles, ½–1½ inches long, quadrangular, succulent, purple-striped, bracts linear-acuminate, acute, usually not opposite; flowers small, 3 lines diameter, white, occasionally one having a few narrow faint-blue stripes; the two lateral petals woolly inside in a small circular patch just opposite the anthers; spur short, gibbous; sepals rather large, oblong-ovate, acute, scarious at edges.

Hab. On dry open upland heaths between Matamau and Danneverke, Waipawa county; also, in adjoining “scrub,” among Leptospermum and other shrubs, 1880–1883: W.C.

Obs. I have long known this pretty little plant, but have hitherto delayed describing it, thinking it (without close examination) to be a variety of the well-known and common species V. cunninghamii, and not wishing to add another species to this extensive and cosmopolitan genus. This spring, however, having again visited its habitat, and fully examined it in its fresh and living state, I am satisfied of its distinctness from V. cunninghamii and its other congeners. It is a very lowly plant, and although common there, and bearing a great profusion of flowers, it is scarcely perceptible among the numerous small heath plants and mosses that grow thickly with it.

Order XXVIII. Myrtaceæ.

Genus 2. Metrosideros, Br.

Metrosideros vesiculata,901 sp. nov.

Plant small, “a bushy shrub 2–3 feet high,” of erect fastigiate growth and very leafy; branches densely tomentose and hairy. Leaves decussate, broadly elliptic or ovate-elliptic, 5 lines long, 3–3½ lines broad, obtuse, pellucid-dotted, glabrous, coriaceous, 3-nerved, sub-revolute, petiolate, petioles short, stout, pubescent, paler green and sub-muricated below with small raised black spots; young leaves very tomentose and sub-strigosely hairy below. Flowers sub-terminal, axillary, white, single or ternate; peduncle 1–1½ lines long, stout, hairy; pedicels jointed, glabrous, very short. Calyx glabrous with a few scattered weak hairs, tube broadly campanulate, vesicular, 5-lobed; lobes elliptic or sub-rotund at top, persistent, margins thin and slightly ciliate. Corolla white, petals small, sessile, broadly oblong or sub-orbicular, sinuate and slightly toothed at edges, concave, crowded at centre with raised orbicular vesicles, 1-nerved, coloured in the centre (dry specimens). Stamens numerous, spreading, 4 lines long. Style very stout, simple, 6 lines long, persistent. Capsule sub-rotund, 1½ lines diameter, glabrous, vesicular, rather thin, 4-loculicidal, girt below the middle. [328]

Hab. Hills, forests on the east coast between Wainui and Akitio rivers, “900 feet elevation;” January, 1883: Mr. Horace Baker, in lit.

Obs. I.—A species near to M. perforata, A. Richard, as described at length by him;902 his specimens were also obtained from Cook Straits, but differing largely in its vesicular capsule calyx and corolla, which plain and constant characters, even in dried specimens, could never, I think, have been overlooked by Richard.

II.—Sir J.D. Hooker has also made but one species of the above-mentioned plant (M. perforata) and A. Cunningham’s M. buxifolia: I, however, have ever believed (with A. Cunningham) their being distinct; although I have never seen specimens of Richard’s (and Forster’s) Southern New Zealand plant, which is, also, not a climber (apud Richard, loc. cit.): this “erect” character, however, does not belong to A. Cunningham’s M. buxifolia, which is a climbing species, and is as common in the forests here (Hawke’s Bay) as it is at the north.

III.—This species, from its short bushy size, small neat leaves, and very numerous flowers, is likely to become a favourite garden shrub. Although I have never seen it living, I have received several good specimens from Mr. Baker, and they are very uniform.

Order XXXIV. Araliaceæ.

Genus 2. Panax, Linn.

Panax microphylla,903 sp. nov.

Plant a small hard-wooded shrub of diffuse growth, 4–5 feet high; branches few, long, slender, straggling, and irregular; branchlets brachiate, roughish, sub-muricated with minute tubercles, and occasionally on the younger branchlets a few scattered very small linear-ovate obtuse scales. Leaves small, sub-membranaceous, glabrous, alternate, sometimes in pairs, scattered rather distant, compound and simple, flat, spreading, usually sub-orbicular, 4–5 lines diameter, rounded and very obtuse at apex—sometimes rhombic and apiculate, sometimes lanceolate and very small, sometimes trifoliolate on long slender petiolules, the middle leaflet being the largest, and sometimes a simple leaf having a pair of minute leaflets just below its base—the upper half of the leaf being slightly crenulate, each crenature generally bearing a small incurved sharp tooth,—the lower portion cuneate, decurrent, margins conniving, jointed to petiole with 4–6 minute linear acute stipellæ at junction, and several similar stipules at base of petiole; colour bright green with minute white dots on the upper surface, paler green below; margins coloured purple; veins indistinct; petioles purple-brown, deeply channelled, slender, glabrous, 1–2 lines long. Fruit axillary orbicular, about 1½ lines diameter, sub-compressed, smooth, on [329] short slender bracteolated stalks (peduncles or pedicels), having many small bracts at their bases, white or pinkish-white, with sculptured dark (black) effigurate spots or blotches, having a peculiar sunken or burnt appearance, and bearing a calycine crown of 5 teeth; styles 2 persistent, long, slender, divergent and recurved; sometimes 2 or 3 fruits spring together; carpels lunate, gibbous, flattish, rugulose without longitudinal ridges; seed with plain sides. Flowers not seen.

Hab. In shady open forests near Norsewood (S.), Waipawa County, 1882–3: W.C.

Obs.—A species having pretty close affinity with P. anomalum, Hook., but differing from that species in its smaller and variously shaped leaves with glabrous (not pubescent) and deeply channelled petioles—in its smaller and differently coloured fruit bearing plain-surfaced carpels and seeds—and particularly in its branches not being densely hairy (“setoso-squamulatis”) as in P. anomalum. P. anomalum is also a much larger shrub; and I have never once met with it in these southern parts, nor, indeed, anywhere else besides the forests in the Waikato, where I discovered it, 1842 (“Tasmanian Journal of Natural Science,” vol. ii., p. 277).

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