Lighted Windows

Lighted Windows: The Death and Resurrection of Corbyn Harris

We present a sequence of archival fragments surrounding the death of Hugh Corbyn Harris 28 July 1860 and some of the memorialising events that followed. Chief among these is the series of works by Corbyn’s father Edwin depicting the town of New Plymouth under siege in 1860. We have written about these works and their direct relation to Corbyn’s death, see ‘Some Lighted Windows’ (22 Aug 2019), proposing that Edwin’s stunning optical amusement represents spiritual hope as well as historical fact, and that the lights shining from windows, doors, tents and the risen moon are symbols of resurrection in a dark time. Our objective in gathering the current selection is to bring other voices from the archive into play, imagining by these means how the news of Corbyn’s death permeated the settlement where he lived for 20 of his 25 years. Contradictions of detail abound in the records set down by friends, townspeople and the local papers, and it is in these gaps and uncertainties that we feel most urgently the power of the archive to show but also mask its assemblages. The voices act out a drama we may construct and reconstruct as we become aware of what has slipped away and will not be found again. The selection is presented in three movements: Prelude: February-June 1860, Siege: July-December 1860 and Memorials: 1861-1922.

Michele Leggott
December 2020

Voices from the archive:

Arthur Atkinson (27, Taranaki volunteer rifle corps, husband of Maria, father of Edith)
Charles Brown (40, Commanding Officer, Taranaki Militia)
Matthew Fitzpatrick (27, Private, 65th Regiment)
Thomas Gilbert (51, Baptist pastor and farmer)
Harriet Halse (22, wife of William Halse, mother of Loeta and George)
Edwin Harris (54, father of Corbyn, farmer, artist, surveyor, Taranaki Volunteer rifle corps)
Emily Harris (23, sister of Corbyn)
Sarah Harris (54, mother of Corbyn)
Robert Clinton Hughes (13, attending Beardsworth’s School)
William King Hulke (41, Taranaki Militia signalman, Hua fort)
Sergeant William Marjouram (32, Royal Artillery)
Nelson Examiner Taranaki correspondent (anon)
John Newland (64, farmer)
Mary Moutnjoy Paddon (73, writing in 1922, English cousin)
William Richmond (41, brother-in-law of Arthur Atkinson)
Henry Butler Stoney (44, Captain, 40th Regiment)
Taranaki Herald Journal of Events (Garland William Woon, 29, editor)

Prelude: February-June 1860

Siege: July-December 1860

Memorials: 1861-1922

 

Bibliography