Open Call for Emily’s Letters

Who did Emily Harris write to during her long life and where are those letters now? Her descendants have done an admirable job of preserving family papers and artifacts, and so it is that we have access to a history of Emily and her family in their own words through the 1840s and early 1850s. Later decades are also represented in the collections of Roseanne Cranstone and Godfrey Briant and in the Emily Harris collection at Puke Ariki, donated by Ruth Moore and her sister Ella Grace Hobbs in 1961.

The Moore and Hobbs donation shows Emily’s strong instinct for archival preservation. Here are 10 letters and a set of notes copied into two small booklets (fascicles) that include the two surviving poems she wrote in 1860. That she wrote more poems is certain. (‘I should like to hear of the safe arrival of the box I sent before I venture to send anything again,’ she wrote to her mother in Nelson 4 Feb 1861. ‘In the box is a letter and some verses of mine which I should like to have returned as I have not even time to copy or even to write out correctly.’)

The close association of letters and poems tells us that Emily Harris was in the habit of showing her work to family and friends, and that she sometimes enclosed poems with her letters. We should also note that the request for the return of her verses here indicates that she was keeping a file of fair copies for reference. It is from such a file that she copied out her poem ‘Lines Written on Visiting Glenavon during the War 1860.’

Our quest is a simple one: to find out what happened to the file of poems (it has not appeared in any of the collections her descendants know about) and to trace letters sent by Emily to her family and those beyond her immediate circle in the hope that more poems will come to light.

The letters (and poems that might be associated with them) could turn up almost anywhere, in anyone’s shoebox of old papers or in the mass of uncatalogued documents in libraries and archives around the world. We think it is time to put out a call for Emily’s lost poems and letters, wherever they might be. Below is a list of some of the people she knew or wrote to and in whose papers a letter or a poem might once have existed. Fire and flood, chaos and ruin sweep away vast tracts of our written heritage. But sometimes paper and ink survive the most arduous of time’s trials. If you come across an Emily Harris letter or poem, we would love to hear about it.

Emily Cumming Harris. ‘My dear Frances.’ Puke Ariki ARC2002-190.


Family (see also Who’s Who: Harris Family in England and New Zealand)

Gretchen Briant, nee Weyergang (NZ, niece)

Elizabeth Dyer Cole, nee Hill (England, aunt)

Emma Court, nee Harris (England, aunt)

Catherine (Katie) Court (England, cousin)

Augusta Dobson, nee Harris (England, aunt)

Frances Mary Dobson (England, wife of cousin Austin)

Henry Austin Dobson (England, writer and poet, cousin)

Augusta Harris (NZ, sister)

Edwin Harris (NZ, father)

Elizabeth Corker (Bessie) Harris (England, cousin)

Ellen Harris (NZ, sister)

Frances Emma Harris (NZ, sister)

Sarah Harris, nee Hill (NZ, mother)

Emma Jane Hill (England, teacher, aunt, mentor)

Alfred Henry (Harry) Moore (NSW, nephew)

Catherine Moore, nee Harris (NZ, sister)

Constance Catherine Moore (NZ, niece)

Ruth Moore (NZ, niece)

Ann Mountjoy Paddon, nee Hill (England, aunt)

Mary Mountjoy Paddon (England, cousin)

Alexander Meadows Rendel (England, cousin)

Catherine Jane (Kate) Rendel, nee Harris (England, aunt)

Clarice Margaret Rendel (England, second cousin)

Edith Rendel (England, second cousin)

Eliza (Lila) Rendel, nee Hobson (England, wife of cousin alexander)

Lady Ellen Sophie Rendel, nee Hubbard (England, wife of cousin Stuart)

Lord Stuart Rendel (England, cousin)

Carl Herman Alexander Weyergang (NZ, nephew)

Mary Rendel Weyergang, nee Harris (NZ, sister)

Otto Philip August Weyergang (NZ, England, France, nephew)


Friends and associates

Dora Box (England, secretary to Clarice Rendel)

Colonel Benjamin Aylett Branfill (NZ, artist and friend)

Susan Brind, nee Newland (NZ, India, friend)

Charles Callis (NZ, exhibition administrator)

Mrs Callis (NZ, wife of exhibition administrator)

Helen Hammond de Caux, nee Branfill (NZ, artist and friend)

Catherine Sarah Angelica Des Voeux, nee Richardson (NZ, Australia, England, employer)

Charles Champagne Des Voeux (NZ, Australia, England, employer)

Beatrice Marguerite (Daisy) Fabling, nee Hyatt (England, NZ, nurse)

George Fowlds (NZ, politician)

Jane Gully (NZ, wife of artist)

John Gully (NZ, artist and friend)

Julius Von Haast (NZ, exhibition commissioner)

James Hector (NZ, Colonial Museum curator)

Henry Douglas Jackson (NZ, bookseller and publisher)

Nina Jones (NZ, artist and friend)

Thomas Kirk (NZ, botanist and author)

Catherine Ann Ledger, nee Watts (NZ, England, friend)

Cecil Solomon Levien (NZ, friend and executor)

Henrietta Levien (NZ, friend and neighbour)

Miss Mayling (NZ, ferning friend)

Ambrose Eyles Moore (NZ, friend and neighbour)

Elsie Myra Moore (NZ, friend and neighbour)

Harold and Clarice Moore (NZ, friends, witnesses to 1910 will)

Sarah Rebecca Moore (NZ, author and neighbour)

Lady Florence Onslow (NZ, England, wife of Governor)

H Leigh Pemberton (England, friend)

Mary Gertrude Pullen (England, NZ, teacher)

Alfred Barton Rendle (England, British Museum curator)

Dora Isobel (Bel) Stephenson Smith (NZ, friend)

Frank Stephenson Smith (NZ, surveyor, friend)

Mary Standish (NZ, friend and mentor)

Rev James Taylor, DD (NZ, England, friend and mentor)

Juliet Alice Topliss, nee Doyle (NZ, artist and friend)

Alexander Horsburgh Turnbull (NZ, collector)

James Upfill Wilson (NZ, friend)

Lead writer: Michele Leggott
Research support: Makyla Curtis, Betty Davis

2 thoughts on “Open Call for Emily’s Letters

  1. I would be interested to know if you have found any sources for letters or diaries from the daughters of lord Stuart Rendel? I have been researching the lives of the Czech musicians Marianne, Clara and Emmy Eissler, who were friends of the Rendels, especially of Clarice and Maud. I have not yet found any original material that throws any light on their relationship, despite there being thousands of letters to and from Lord Rendel, mostly about business and politics.

    1. Hello Jenny

      Harris descendants hold a handful of letters 1902-1916 addressed to Emily Harris in Nelson, NZ, from Lady Ellen Sophie Rendel, her daughter Clarice and Clarice’s secretary Dora Box. We would be happy to send you transcripts if you think they might be useful to your research. There is also some Rendel material in the family photograph album we have put online. Some photos carry identification but many others do not and it may be worth a look in case Clarice and Maud are there. See

      Best wishes
      Michele Leggott

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