Letter from P. Wilson
to Donald McLean Esq.
dated 28th. July 1856.
28th. July 1856.
My dear Mac,
As this is not to go under the Queen's auspices, but under the special cover of the renowned "Tam O'Shanter", I do not mind expending on you a folio of foolscap, as a sort of return for your few hurried lines to my wife, of the 21st. inst. By the way, I fear "Tam" as illustrated by Fred, will greatly disappoint you, as he has done me. The fellow does not appear to have had a single right conception of the poem, and all that can, or ought to be said of the production is that the engravings are excellent. I am going to send home a furious critique thereon, for the honour of the Country, and to demonstrate to those aficiemados, who affect to represent the artistic taste of the 'auld Kintry', that they are far fitter to skart a parritch kettle wi' a hanspoon than to be a Committee of Management for the promotion of the fine arts. This is the
second miserable failure of Fred, that I have seen; for his "Cottar's Saturday Night" is not a whit better than "Tam"; and both are far more illustrative of the fact that he "reads but understands not", than they are of poems. In short, I guess there will be no few this year who will decline further subscription; and they will be the more induced, seeing that Fred is again to try "his prentice hand" n a far more difficult subject, - Ramsay's "Gentle Shepherd", which, no doubt, he will bungle most infamously.
Those vagabonds, the Ngatiruanui, have been pestering our legitimates by invasion, for these last several months; and having recently come down in renewed force, determined to surround Aruma Kareka's Pa, the Ninia, by a new mode of warfare, - Pa investment. However, they only completed one of these approaches, which was without effect. They, therefore, on this day week, made trial of the strategy of surprising a small Pa to the North East of the Ninia, belonging to Isaiah; but being timely observed, were repulsed by a greatly inferior number of the Puketapus, and suffered considerable loss, killed and wounded. The actual numbers cannot be ascertained, but as they admit as many as Arama's party, viz, - five killed
and three wounded, we may believe there were several more of both casualties. It is very remarkable, that, hitherto, in every engagement betwixt the Ngatiruas and Puketapus, that the former have been, on every occasion, numerically the strongest, the latter have invariably given them a drubbing. But as you will have official accounts of all these transactions, I need only say that the swing for peace, by the former, shows pretty clearly that they are tired of Taranaki; and in all probability, will return shortly to their own far inferior land, whether terms are conceded to them, or not. And what then? Katatori, throughout, - i.e. ever since his cowardly massacre of Rawiri and party, has never given his foes an opportunity of taking personal revenge. Hence he now passes under the white feather cognomen, among friends and foes, of the "Queen Bee"; and I think not inaptly. Several of his party have joined Arama's, as they did not approve of his sending for the Ngatiruas. But in the event of those allies abandoning his cause, it seems doubtful if they will not rejoin him; for they still, it seems, concur with him in opinion, as to the main question in dispute. My hope and expectation is that as, single-handed, they are inferior in force to the "Queen Bee", so they will
coerce him into terms of their own dictation, or force him to abandon this district entirely. As to sacrificing himself, there is no fear of that fate befalling him. Mind and matter, and vice versa, always reciprocate, hence is to be observed, here among the natives who have been engaged in this warfare, that the care-worn feature is universal, for they have been living long now - long for such endurance - in a state of unnatural excitement; and nervous energy has become exhausted by excess of action. Deaths from these causes, have been far from infrequent; and no less have frequencies been rare during the period. Other evils, too, have been consequent. Numbers have abandoned themselves to the vice of drunkenness; religion's, that is Christian, bonds have become greatly slackened; old superstitious observances have become rehabilitated; and civilization generally has been retrograde. But the Missionary folks will tell you all about these matters, and they may tell you also that they find their influences much weakened, speaking comparatively.
Mr. Turton is still here; but what determination he has come to for the future, he had not decided when I last saw him. But all here concur that
his Body - the Wesleyan - have treated him most scurvily and shamefully.
I cannot get the scrape of a pen from the old Wanganui duke, but my wife does hear now and again from his better half and daughter. What a lucky fellow her brother has been to get the command of so distinguished a Corps as the "Black Watch." He imputes much of the circumstance to the personal influence of Sir Colin Campbell, who is a warm friend. I expect the Captain will come round here in the Spring, say about September, for a few weeks; when we shall be particularly glad to see your black muzzle sipping your allowance of Amantillado, and, not unlikely, asking for more.
I shall enclose, if I can lay my hands on it, the Prospectus of a newspaper about to be begun at Wanganui. It is an unfortunate time to commence the speculation; for all there are, by the low state of the markets, merchants, and farmers, - not in very good spirits to encourage anything just now. Yet I am very eager to see it go forward, being satisfied that a well-conducted paper is one of the mainsprings of a settlement's prosperity.
Pat writes to me that he has got my thrashing machine erected. It is not one of your moveable
articles, but a fixture; capable, its maker says, of thrashing and winnowing eighty bushels of grain an hour. But I shall be very well satisfied if it does sixty in that time. As, by being a fixture, it is all under cover, we can work it on such bad weather days as precludes other farm work; hence saves much in the year, both money and time.
Ritchie, as you will observe in our last Saturday's "Herald" has got a daughter; and therein also I beg you will specially observe, mark, and inwardly digest the astounding announcement that, - "The lady of J.N. Watt Esq. was safely delivered of a daughter." This I take to be the capstone of that puppy's unblushing effrontry. I shall certainly expect to see the said lady at our next Ball, or fashionable soiree. I wish some one would ask him, through the Press, for his said lady's pedigree, and how he came by her. It is too bad to see the decent conventionalities of society so invaded, and insulted by such a caste of parvenu.
I should have remarked that the powder of the Ngatiruanui is said to be of their own manufacture; but whether or not, is decidedly of very inferior power. Our people of late, how or by what means I cannot say, are said to have an abundant supply of powder. I have
not given any surgical or medical assistance to the Ngatiruanui; not only because earnestly requested by our party not to do so, but because I think it is better they should have a taste of war in all its asperity, seeing they have come so far and wantonly to buy the experience. Hitherto, they, the Maoris of both parties, decline coming into Hospital; and so matters will continue till peace is restored.
Our small farmers are beginning to feel, particularly those of the labouring class, who borrowed money for the honour of proprietorship, the adverse state of our markets; and before these mend, many a farm will have changed hands. Labour is reducing in price; and Pat writes to me that at Wanganui, numbers of workmen are walking about without employment; but he adds that the merchants are suffering most severely from their past advances to the improving, and likely improvident farmers. The only way of safety is to rest on our arms, and live as far as possible within the limits of existing means. I shall suffer more from my sheep stock than any other. Pat's mare, which you may remember I have here, is in foal by that fine Arab of Viskers', Nimrod, so that should she turn out a stallion, he would be of value; for as a mare, there is nothing like the mother here.
Our politics do not disturb me, but C.B. seems to have damaged himself much by his trip to Auckland; and it seems to be a very general opinion that when election time comes, he will have his place as Superintendent contested. Who are to be his opponents, is at present legion; and I know nothing more of the matter.
Mr. Whitely is our next-door neighbour; and as such you may safely congratulate us, in your next, on our great good luck; for a better we could not have had.
my dear Mac ever very faithfully yours
To:- Donald McLean Esq.