August 25th 1873
My dear Mr. McLean,
I cannot allow another steamer to return to Wellington without acknowledging your note of the 15th inst. At the same time I am as far off as ever from being able to make some proposal about the Lexicon." Ever since the receipt of your note the subject, has been uppermost in my mind: (indeed, I may truly say, it has been so from July 23, when I received the off1. telegram concerning it) so that between it and Rheumatism I have had a jolly life of it! Not being able to offer, or even to think of, anything that would be satisfactory and at the same time practicable, has caused me to delay writing you.
I have felt not a little vexed at what has been said in the House about it and me -- with no one there (apparently) to shew (or willing, or able to shew,) how the whole matter really stood. I am repeatedly blamed, and made the scape-goat for the Govt. laches (not however, your Govt,) had the Govt. kept faith with me, the work would have been very far advanced, and in a very different state to what it now is. I have since seen in the Hansard what was said, and I find you were all wrong: -- You, in saying, I had received £1180 (here is an error of nearly £200, as the Treasury has always lumped together the payments for the Lexicon and those for the Elementary Books etc., lately published: this latter being a separate affair, arranged for in '63, when Dr. Shortland was N. M.,) -- and also, in your not saying that I
I had never in any shape or form received that aid from the Government which was expressly stipulated for; and, further, in your not clearly stating, -- that, from the time when the Govt. broke their faith and ceased to pay me, they had no longer any other than a quasi moral claim, which they could not press: that(s the position. At the same time I notice that you spoke kindly of me, for which I thank you. On the second occasion, Mr. Reader Wood was wrong altogether, -- as to time and as to money: What he could possibly mean by saying, "it ought to be stopped at once," -- I cannot comprehend. Did he not see that the Govt. had already "stopped" payment? -- or, did he think I was still being paid?, or that I could, or would, continue slaving at it year after year, since March '70, for the paltry £100 at completion."?
Last year I had serious thoughts of getting a Select Comee. appointed to enquire into it, -- so that the House may know all about it, and justice should be done me in the matter: -- and a Commee. may yet be appointed. Were printing cheaper I would have had the whole history of it printed as a pamphlet -- for the information of Members and of the Public.
You ask me to make some proposal: well, what I would do, if I had the means, (if, say, I had sheep, and was a monetary gainer through the late rise in wool, -- whereas I am a great loser through this very prosperity!) -- I would just hand back to the Govt. every farthing I have ever received (including for expenses and outlay,) and burn all my Mss. or possibly sell, or give, them to France or Germany: states which value and patronize literature and scholarship. Do
not think, my dear sir, this is a new thought; -- not so: I told Mr. Ormond so, in 1870; when the Govt. cut me adrift. I feel, and I have long felt, that I was a great fool to have ever entered into any such an agreement with them -- devoting my whole life and energies for something over £200 per ann., and then to be repeatedly taken to task, and snubbed and spurned, year after year, by persons who know nothing at all of the matter, or the Work! The fable of the dying lion and the ass is as nothing to it.
I will, however, write you again in a day or two, when Mr. Ormond returns, by which time I may (?) he able to think of something.
You make any use you please of this,
yours very truly,