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Sketches of the early days of New Zealand, Romance and Reality of Antipodean life in the infancy of a New Colony by John Logan Campbell (1881)


THE manuscript from which these pages have been printed was not written with any intention that it should ever be published. It was meant merely as a narrative for the perusal of the writer's own children, depicting as it does his own early life. This could never have been known to them unless it had been set down in some such succinct form as the writer has made his manuscript assume..

Chapters from it having been at various times read to friends who desired to hear some "plain unvarnished tales" of the early days of Poenamo, and the result being invariably an urgent request that time whole should be put in print, an assent has been somewhat reluctantly given. For, in fact, it is putting a private life before the public which the owners of the manuscript would have preferred should remain' known to themselves only.

Written currente calamo, as it was, and without any pretension at artistic composition, it is hoped that, after this explanation, critics will be lenient.

POLYNESIA, March, 1880.

To My Children

I DO not sit down to pen these memoirs under the vain delusion that the small events of my small life are worthy of record.

But I think when I have passed away you ought not to be in ignorance of your father's life, nor' be placed in the position of having to ask some stranger about those days and myself when allusion is made to events of a long-ago past in which it fell to my lot to act a somewhat prominent part.

A simple narrative of my own writing seems to me the most natural and fitting source from which you should become acquainted with all I have passed through in the early days of the first colonisation of the country which has become the land of my adoption and will be your own future home.

To that far-distant land you are as yet strangers. Born in the sunny clinic of fair Italy, you have yet to learn that there is a far-away land even more fair, with a still more sunny sky, and a still more genial climate.

After many, many years spent in that land, and having reaped the reward of my early struggles there, I am now taking a long decade of holidays and wandering with you o'er many lands, amongst the fairest cities and finest scenery of the old world, before we finally take our rest in our own home in the new world of the Great South Land.

I commence these my reminiscences, strange to say, in the "land of the mountain and the flood," in my "ain kintrie," whilst sitting on banks of the Dee, the Braemar moorlands around me. In all likelihood, ere the last page is written I shall be once again in the far-away land where the scenes I am about to depict took place—scenes which can never occur there again, for civilisation has replaced the reign of savagedom which prevailed in the days of the pioneer settlers.

And life then was of a primitive simplicity which call me again, for now the iron road commences to span the land, and its very aborigines of the present day can no longer speak correctly their own language as spoken by their fathers two score years ago, so rapidly has that short epoch in history of the colony changed all things.

I intend to divide these memoirs into two periods. The first period will refer almost entirely to myself and the native people amongst whom I was thrown after leaving the parental roof and starting for myself in the race of life. It will bring the period of it to the point when I changed the whole current of my life, making its stream thereafter flow in a new channel, when I joined the pioneer band who saw the birth and earliest years of the infant capital of a new colony born to the Crown of England.

The second period will deal more historically of the colony when my own individuality will have become merged in the increased population and advancement of the young settlement.

When I have brought my memoirs down to a date that you yourselves can take up the thread of my life and your own from your own memories—then I shall lay aside my pen.

It may be that you will not read what I intend to set down here until I shall have passed away and been gathered alongside of my brother pioneers, who have now almost all paid the last debt of Nature, leaving me in marked solitude, to be almost the only remaining link that binds the long ago past with the present time, and who can tell you...





  • Chapter I.
    My Advent on this Sublunary Scene.—Six Years' Despotic Nursery Reign.—My Deposition
  • Chapter II.
    The Kind of Boy I Was.—Why and How I Became a Doctor
  • Chapter III.
    I Weigh in the Balance the Chances of Life, and Determine to Forsake my Fatherland
  • Chapter IV.
    Portraying the Depth of a Sister's Love
  • Chapter V.
    "Ho! for the Great South Land"
  • Chapter VI.
    I Forswear the Great Convict Land



  • Chapter I.
    The King of Waiou
  • Chapter II.
    We Start on the Exploring Expedition
  • Chapter III.
    We Sing and Row Ourselves over the Hauraki
  • Chapter IV.
    The Timber-Draggers.—A Pull for Dear Life
  • Chapter V.
    The Night Camp.—The Morning's Vision
  • Chapter VI.
    The Isthmus of Corinth of the Antipodes
  • Chapter VII.
    The Mess of Pottage which floored the King of Waiou's Grand Scheme





  • Chapter I.
    The Two Pioneer Pakehas of the Waitemata
  • Chapter II.
    Monarchs of all they Surveyed.—The Monarchs Turn Well-Sinkers
  • Chapter III.
    I Present our Credentials to the Ngatitais.—The Early Missionary
  • Chapter IV.
    I Learn what Taihoa Means
  • Chapter V.
    Waiting in Expectancy
  • Chapter VI.
    My Maiden Venture in the Field of Commerce
  • Chapter VII.
    The Capital is Born to Us.—The Flagstaff that never was Erected
  • Chapter VIII.
    We Change the Current of our Lives.—We Visit our Newly-born Child
  • Chapter IX.
    How we Shave a Pig
  • Chapter X.
    We Adopt our Child
  • Chapter XI
    The Capital of Poenamo in 1811.—how we Lived then
  • Chapter XII.
    An Episode.—Our First Maori Scare. — Conclusion

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