Writing Lines 4

Notes (I add a few notes from memory.), undated 

I add a few notes from memory. I did not see Glenavon again for many years and then it was a perfect ruin so that I look back with interest to every incident connected with that visit.

There were five ladies: Mrs Richardson and her two daughters, Mrs Des Voeux, Mrs W. King, Alice Reynolds and myself. We were some little time waiting in the street before all were ready to start and in the meantime we received more than one warning message from the officers of the mess room on the opposite side of the street. The General I believe was very anxious about our going but he could not issue an order instanto that no one should go outside the trenches in the middle of the day. But we all considered the General an old muff and if Mr Des Voeux and Mr William King thought it safe it was all we cared for. Two of the gentlemen who accompanied us I had not seen before: Major Stoney and Capt. Miller. We all felt an interest in Capt. Miller from his gallant conduct a short time before in trying to save the life of a little child who had been swept out to sea by the tide. The child was drowned and he was with great difficulty rescued by George Hoby who brought him to the shore quite insensible. I thought Capt. Miller very noble looking and for a fair man the handsomest I had ever seen. Major Stoney was also a handsome man but much older.

A miserable little dog came running down the street with a tin paint-can tied to its tail. Just after it came an extremely tall slight young officer, Lieut-Colonel Leslie, in full regimentals. I suppose it was his looking so very consequential that made Major Stoney say, pointing to the dog, Ah! Leslie is that some of your work? We were all amused at the haughty manner in which he strode by without deigning a reply. Major Stoney, taking out a pocket knife, caught the dog and freed the poor little thing from its encumbrance.

We were soon beyond the town, in the country which looked lovely but very desolate. Major Stoney spoke of Tasmania and drew comparisons on the scenery (he and Capt. Miller had been quartered there for some years). Tasmania would be greener looking I said? No he replied, this is the greenest and freshest looking. Tasmania, a new name for Van Diemen’s Land, had always been associated in my mind with the worst of convict criminals, a place hardly to be mentioned.

When about half way someone riding into town passed us saying we had better turn back for shots had been heard. We still went on when one of our advance party came riding back to know if we meant to go on. We halted at a pretty spot where some willows grew to consider but in a few minutes determined to go on. We arrived at Glenavon in safety and went all through the two houses. Some with painful feelings, a few months ago one of the houses had been just completed and both had been beautifully furnished. I could not help lingering with regret over a splendid engraving torn and dirty lying in the garden path. We had all assembled in a deserted drawing-room when Major Stoney produced some packets of delicately cut sandwiches, he and some young officers had spent an hour or two after breakfast in cutting them. We then went into the garden but very soon they all wandered away except Mrs Richardson, Capt. Miller and I, we were determined to make the best of our time and he did not like to leave us, he was amused at the quickness with which my hand went in and out without injury while he was for ever getting scratched. When our baskets were full the rest of the party had returned from rambling with lots of flowers. Oh! I thought they will soon be going and I have not a single flower. I must have a few. So off I went straight for the dell, Capt. Miller followed. I had often [been] warned [by] Mr Des Voeux not to go into the dell, for fifty Natives might be in ambush there, but now all thought of danger had flown. I went on very quickly because I wanted to go all over it. Picking a flower here and there making a few remarks and lamenting the weeds that had grown so high, we came to one small open space, in the middle of which grew a pink hawthorn in full bloom. I had often seen the tree but not the flower, my exclamations of surprise and delight and efforts to reach the blossom made my companion smile, he got some of the flowers for me, we stayed a few minutes it was a lovely spot, beautiful ferns and native shrubs growing all round. You should have brought a pencil and paper and written some lines here, he said. Strange to have said that to me, I believe I was at that time the only girl in all Taranaki who ever wrote a line.

I did write some verses in the evening but never showed them to him.

Lines Written on Visiting Glenavon during
               the War 1860.
Oh! I could sit and gaze for hours,
               Musing alone
Upon thy lovely blooming flowers
Dreaming that fairies in their bowers
               First tinted them.

Or on that tiny winding stream
             O’er grown with weeds
That erst would gaily flash and gleam
Like silver neath the golden beam
             Of summer’s sun.

Or upward turn my wondering eye
             Above the trees,
To watch the gauzy clouds float by
A snowy veil athwart a sky
             Of deepest blue.

But now my stay so short so brief
             I may not pause,
To linger o’er one bud or leaf
Or twine one fair or fragrant wreath
             With thy sweet flowers.

One rapid glance around me cast
             Noting the trace
Of River’s step I onward passed
With painful thought that t’were the last
             For years perchance.

Sweet Peace we little knew how dear
             Thou wert to us.
Until we mark’d the widow’s tear
And saw extended on his bier
             One gone for ever.

Oh! we may learn to wear a smile
             And heedless laugh
Twill but the careless eye beguile
For still we feel beneath the wile
             A mournful heart

One hour can loosen War’s red hands
             And set him free
But grey exiles in many lands,
Can tell how hard to clasp the bands
             Strife once has severed.

We heard shouts and had to hurry on he complimenting me on my lightness in springing over every little obstacle. They were all in the cart when we came and did not fail to laugh at us. We had a pleasant drive and got a branch of white hawthorn from one of the hedges. Capt. Miller quoted Byron and begged a few flowers from me. Miss Reynolds immediately insisted upon his taking all her flowers. I believe our safe return was quite a relief from anxiety about us to those in town.

The next morning I was helping Mrs Richardson to put the gooseberries in bottles when Colonel Wyatt called. He was a tall thin elderly [man] who looked as if he had been made of parchment; however he was very pleasant and helped to do the gooseberries.

Who proposed it I do not know but Mrs Des Voeux made up her mind to have a dance the next evening. Col. W. was delighted at the idea, and promised to send his man to help move the furniture; he also came & helped himself. The Des Voeux’s & Kings were living in a large store divided into rooms by curtains & rough boards. It was uncomfortably filled with handsome furniture from three houses. Two curtained rooms were thrown into one for the dance and the walls being lined with white calico it looked very nice. Mrs King and I spent some hours in making a very pretty thing out of a very primitive chandelier. For the Commissariat Department Mrs King got a first-rate confectioner to take command of the kitchen so that part was not likely to fail.

I came into the little drawing room very late in the evening. Living in the house I could not well stay away although everything connected with music or dancing recalled such painful feelings, however I thought I would not dance. Being in such deep mourning I had some difficulty in contriving an evening dress, none of my white dresses however much trimmed with black would do. I had a girl to come and make me a plain black barege skirt which, with a nicely fitting low silk body trimmed with crape & ribbon, full white sleeves and frill made I was told the most becoming dress I had ever worn.

I found Capt. Miller in the room. He had just come and was teasing on a pair of white kid gloves which in consequence had split all to pieces. I cannot ask you to dance with gloves in this state, but I can introduce you to a partner. I can send a servant to Mrs Hoskin’s for another pair if you like I said. It was a pouring wet night, a joke was going about that to avoid getting wet and muddy some of the gentlemen had ridden across the road on their men’s backs. All the servants would do anything for me so one of them went out in the wet & mud to get the gloves. After my first dance the gloves were given me with a message that they had been stretched and dried, Mrs Hoskin was sure those would not split.

Oh! thank you how very kind, said Capt. M. and then with a change of countenance that made me feel deeply mortified he said why, they are enormous! and turned away before I could explain that being stretched made them appear so. He soon came back full of compliments: the gloves fitted beautifully, how could I have guessed the size. The party went off delightfully, I danced with Major Stoney, Capt. Miller, Colonel Wyatt and many others. The temptation to dance was too strong; for a few hours I felt happy and forgot our great sorrow and troubles.

The next day Major Stoney and Capt. Miller called, they were so pleased with the party that they also determined to give one in a few days. They invited us all & asked Mrs Des Voeux to kindly come early to receive the ladies. Major Stoney brought a book he had promised to lend Mr Des Voeux. It was a work on Tasmania written by himself.

It was handsomely bound & illustrated, Mrs Des Voeux and I soon skimmed through it with great curiosity & interest but we came to the conclusion that the poetical quotations at the head of each chapter were the best part of it. Yet the book had great influence on our future life.

I wrote at Mrs Des Voeux’s request a note to papa asking him to allow her to take me to the party. He wrote back saying that he had no objection to my going anywhere with her.

Major Stoney and half a dozen others lived in a stone cottage close to the beach outside the trenches. No one was permitted to go outside the gates after a certain hour. Major Stoney promised to tell the guard to let us pass, but when we got to the gate he had not been told and he would not let us through, so we had to go a long way round to another gate and then we had some trouble in getting through: the guards had been changed and one told and the other not.

We found a little dressing room nicely fitted up for us with pins, hairpins etc and a bouquet of lovely flowers for each lady. We found everything beautifully arranged, the rooms tastefully decorated with flowers and ferns. Besides those I had met before there were some nice young officers, papa had no chance of being invited to the one or two parties given. One poor fellow was shot in a fight a very short time after. Mr Des Voeux about ten or eleven o’clock was walking in the garden, it was moonlight, when a shot came whizzing over his head and rattled upon the roof of the house. There was hardly time to wonder what it could mean when Major Paul came in, quite out of breath. He explained that he could not get away from his duties earlier and when he got outside the gate he set off running. The sentinel on Mount Elliot seeing a man running along the beach challenged him and after repeating it twice or three times & not hearing the answer fired, but happily without effect or our pleasure would soon have changed.

The party was quite a success and was followed in a short time by one given by Mr & Mrs King, also very delightful but of which I only remember one incident. The store had a sort of cellar which, divided, made a large kitchen and store room. The stairs to go down to it were outside but which in wet weather were so inconvenient that the servants used to get down a trap door in the corner of the passage. It was so dangerous that it was ordered to be kept shut but on the night of the party the servants would keep it open. I heard a scream and seeing a group of ladies all looking down the trap door I thought one had fallen in so I swung myself down in a moment. To my surprise I saw some one in a red jacket picking himself up from the ground. We looked at each other then I said, will you allow me to pass. Knowing the way I soon ran up the stairs outside and came in at the door. To be both quizzed and praised for jumping down to help a gentleman. The poor fellow was terribly shaken but when he had recovered a little he came and thanked me very warmly and begged me to let him have one dance with me. I saw him once after in the street after a very severe illness brought on partly he thought by the fall.

These three parties broke for a time the sadness and weariness that was wearing our lives away. Some people thought it heartless but it was not so and those who gave them ever proved themselves ready and willing to help and sympathize with their more afflicted neighbours.

MS notes on Glenavon visit, including poem and account of three parties in New Plymouth. Undated. Puke Ariki. ARC2002-190. Fascicle 1, pp. [6]-[16].

I did not see Glenavon again for many years and then it was a perfect ruin
Emily rehearses the Glenavon visit for a third time, building in detail recalled after long absence and adding the crucial interlude in the dell that produced her poem about the impact of the return in late 1860. A British victory at Mahotahi 6 November made venturing north outside the lines feasible for a party of women with a mounted escort. Emily gives no date for the visit but her estimate of about three weeks before her 5 December letter to her mother puts the excursion into mid-November.

if Mr Des Voeux and Mr William King thought it safe it was all we cared for
Brothers-in-law, married to daughters of TW Richardson. William Cutfield King (1829-1861) was the only child of Captain Henry King and his wife Mary Anne. The Kings arrived in Taranaki on the Amelia Thompson in 1841 and established themselves at Brooklands. William King married Eliza Mary Richardson in 1855 and the couple had two daughters. William was a captain in the Taranaki Militia 1860-61. He was elected MP for Grey and Bell in the third NZ Government in November 1860 but was killed in ambush before he could take his seat. WC King was buried in St Mary’s Churchyard, New Plymouth with his wife and father in law TW Richardson.

Lieut Colonel Leslie, in full regimentals
Lieutenant Colonel Leslie arrived in Taranaki from Melbourne 24 July 1860 in command of 40th Regiment reinforcements. Paymaster Captain Stoney was part of the contingent.

Major Stoney produced some packets of delicately cut sandwiches,
Stoney too was taking stock of the excursion to Glenavon. In his novel, hero Herbert St Pierre, a veteran of campaigns in India, the Crimea and China, returns to Taranaki after a year’s absence and observes sad changes:

His own feelings, as they are expressed in the next letter to his mother, will explain all better than we can. It is dated the 12th December, 1860.

“My last letter told you of my intention to obtain leave to retire from the army and settle at Taranaki, or bring home our friends from there. The accounts I had from my uncle and cousin were sad indeed, and yet they fell short of the reality. Neither, in truth, can I describe the change of that once lovely province to the now desolated region; no description can convey a correct idea of the ruin caused to all the fair homesteads I so loved to admire and wander over during my former visit. You must fancy, therefore, how I felt when I again entered the bay of Taranaki, and saw the smiling village and blooming country converted into an embattled town and wild waste around. The town is, in fact, regularly beseiged, and no one allowed to go outside the blockhouses, of which there are six, forming a cordon round, the furthest from the town entrenchment not half a mile; these forts are strongly built of planks, loop-holed, surrounded with foss and embankment, and contain each about thirty men. As, however, I considered myself a stranger, and not owing allegiance to any one, I made repeated excursions to see minutely the amount of destruction to property, and to gratify my curiosity besides; in such venturesome trips there was an excitement to drown my feelings of sorrow at all I saw. Words fail me in very truth to tell to you, my dear mother, the sad change on every hand, from a smiling country rich in pastures, full of herds, and neatly-clipped hedges of furze (the prevailing fences of the fields), once so luxuriant with yellow corn or other crop; now no herd or animal was to be seen save close to the town, and there only a straggling few. Hedges, either overgrown and extending over half the fields, or broken open and burnt down, whilst thistles and weeds usurped the place of the former crop of the bountiful harvest; and where the comfortable cottage and fruitful garden adorned the glen or hill side, now a heap of ashes, a blackened chimney marked the spot, and the garden had become a dense wild of bramble.

“Such were scenes that in my rambles each day I visited. At length even these were stopped. (Stoney 88-89)

So off I went straight for the dell
Emily’s description of the home and gardens of Glenavon is matched in Stoney’s novel by romance elements that locate Glenfairy on a fictional version of the Waiwhakaiho that also features The Retreat (Brooklands) and The Mount (Ratanui). Chapter II leads off with a quote from Tennyson’s poem ‘Oenone’ (‘There lies a vale in Ida, lovelier / Than all the valleys of Ionian hills’), then introduces its local equivalent:

Within a few miles of the Town of New Plymouth, there is a winding stream leading through a deep ravine for several miles from the foot of the mountain range of Egmont to the sea. This stream, known as “Matu Taku,” winds through a valley of the most romantic scenery.

Along its borders, and in the glens and lawns, or valleys, formed in its tortuous course, were several of the more wealthy settlers located, whose homes, for the most part, were picturesquely built on some jutting eminence above the dell, or on the brink of the bush that clothed its precipitous sides.

In a corner overlooking one of the most charming scenes on this river, with an extended plateau of level land reaching down to the sea, was situated the then happy homestead of Mr. Wellman, who had emigrated to the Colony some ten years previously, and purchased a large tract of land in and around the locality in which his home was built, which, though as a matter of course, in that early stage of the Colony’s existence, was not of any great pretensions to architectural beauty, was, nevertheless, a handsome, comfortable two-storied house in cottage style, with a deep verandah encircling it, and a luxuriant and blooming flower and fruit garden, at the time we write, surrounding it.

Such was the appearance of Glenfairy in the month of August, 1859. (11-12)

A few lines later the Wellman sisters go to meet their mother in the garden:

The becoming little hats and feathers, and neat cloaks, were soon donned, and the girls joined their mother, a lady of quiet and endearing manner, though, to strangers, seeming proud and reserved, which soon thawed off under her real kind nature. She was much loved by all who knew her, though from the reserve and quiet manner natural to her, she seldom mixed with her neighbours. A pleased and happy smile greeted the fair sisters.

“I have been, whilst waiting for you, my children, enjoying a little quiet thought in viewing our beautiful gardens and the pretty view of our fertile fields; how grateful and happy we should be after all our wanderings to have so sweet a home in so healthy a clime.” (13-14)

Lines Written on Visiting Glenavon during the War 1860
Emily Harris’s return to a place where pre-war memories are abundant gives rise to a lament for current difficulties and the recent loss of her brother. Her poem is unusual in its form, a five-line stanza in which first, third and fourth lines rhyme but second and fifth (shorter and functioning as percussive emphasis) are unrhymed. See Michele Leggott, ‘Writing Lines: Emily Harris’s Taranaki War.’

The Des Voeux’s & Kings were living in a large store divided into rooms by curtains & rough boards
Emily’s description of the store room above John Veale’s shop in lower Brougham St matches Stoney’s account of the St Pierre family’s lodging in New Plymouth: ‘A house lately built and fitted as a goods store was taken by the St. Pierres, and though much cramped as to room, and changed from the spacious mansion they had left, […] their position compared to that of many others was enviable.’ (53)

I can send a servant to Mrs Hoskin’s
Mrs Hoskin was the widow of storekeeper Peter Facey Hoskin, who died 22 Oct 1860, aged 47. (Taranaki Herald 27 Oct 1860: 2)

It was a work on Tasmania written by himself
Emily and Catherine Des Voeux assess Stoney’s 1856 edition of A Residence in Tasmania and find it wanting in substance and style. According to Tony Marshall, their response was shared by contemporary reviewers: ‘Indeed, a review in the London Spectator commented, rather harshly, that the contributions by Stoney’s friends “exhibit fuller characteristics of Tasmanian life than anything the author himself records.”’ (40) Emily comments in hindsight that Stoney’s experience of Tasmania influenced Charles Des Voeux’s decision to move his family to Hobart in 1861.

Major Paul came in, quite out of breath
Major James Paul (born 1825) was Major of Brigade, 65th Regiment. See ‘Officers of the 65th in New Zealand.

One poor fellow was shot in a fight a very short time after.
(Perhaps Lieutenant Jackson (died 23 Jan 1861), who arrived in Taranaki from Melbourne 24 Apr 1860 with 40th Regiment reinforcements. He was killed in action at Huirangi during the Māori attack on No. 3 Redoubt.

Taranaki Herald 26 Jan 1861: 2. Continuation of Journal of Events. Thursday [24 Jan]. Lieut. Jackson, with George Chubb, R.E., and Ed. Archer, 12th Regt., were buried at St. Mary’s Churchyard, with military honors, at 4 p.m., the 65th and Rifle Volunteers’ Bands playing the funeral march. This young and gallant officer was followed to the grave by a numerous procession of military and civilians, anxious to show every mark of respect to his memory.