The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 6 (September 2, 1935)
New Zealand References — Many Famous Writers — Allusions and Tales
How pleasant it is when reading some English or American book, often on subjects far removed from our own sphere of life, to come across those two words “New Zealand.” I think most New Zealand readers can glance from top to bottom of a page of print and, if those words are there, pick them out instantly, chiefly of course by the uncommon letter Z.
It is surprising how many books, novels and other volumes, on every imaginable subject contain these allusions to New Zealand. Take the immortal Dickens. In his “Bleak House” we read of someone going to “Australy or New Zealand” and in a chapter on Arcadian London in his less well-known volume “The Uncommercial Traveller,” he likens himself to Macauley's New Zealander, while in “Reprinted Pieces” he mentions an old school-fellow who “Built mills and bridges in New Zealand.”
The once popular Jules Verne not only mentioned New Zealand in several of his famous novels but also wrote a tale in the Swiss Family Robinson style of a party of boys from a school “half way up Queen Street,” Auckland, who were wrecked on a South Sea island after being wafted out of the Auckland harbour on a yacht. He named his tale “Adrift in the Pacific.”
Robert Browning's friendship with Alfred Domett, the early New Zealand politician and author of the poem “Ranolf and Amohia,” is well-known, but few people know that he wrote a poem from Italy addressed to his friend, entitled “The Guardian Angel” and ending:—
“My love is here! Where are you dear old friend?
How rolls the Wairoa at your world's end?
This is Ancona, yonder lies the sea.”
In “Pride of Palomar,” Peter B. Kyne makes an outburst against Japanese penetration of California and ends with the words: “If only we had the courage and the foresight and the firmness of the Australians and the New Zealanders! Why, Kay, those sane people will not even permit an Indian Prince—a British subject, forsooth!—to enter their country, except under bond, and then for six months only.”
Artemus Ward, the once famous American humourist who achieved his ambition of writing for “Punch” and then died in England, wrote an article in that magazine about an imaginary side-show he ran in London when he hired a “young man of dissypated habits” and disguised him as “A Real Cannibal from New Zeelan.”
The great Sherlock Holmes once deduced that a man had worked in the New Zealand goldfields and his creator once wrote a short story of a place many miles north of Nelson, and someone pointed out to him that the specified locality was well out at sea.
To come to a more modern novel, Francis Brett Young's “Portrait of Claire,” whose heroine drives through the New Zealand camp at Sling during the War. “Close by the roadway some New Zealanders of the Auckland battalion were busy with bayonet practice, plunging their steel into straw stuffed Germans, whose heads some fanciful Maori must have painted with features that resembled those of South Sea gods or devils.” Later they drive past again, when the New Zealanders are “dying like flies” of influenza.
In Lowell Thomas's biography of the much discussed Colonel T. E. Lawrence, “With Lawrence in Arabia,” is a chapter on the rock-hewn “rose-red city half as old as time,” Petra, in Arabia, the American chronicler quotes six stanzas of a poem on this mysterious city by “Mona Mackay, Christ-church, New Zealand.” “Old Fire-proof,” a Boer War novel by one Vaughan, describes how a New Zealand soldier is heard singing “The Holy City” at night on the African veldt.
Even in the exclusively Wessex tales of Thomas Hardy, we meet the page 29 words again. In “Enter a Dragoon” from “A Changed Man,” the dragoon asks the eternal feminine to emigrate to New Zealand with him as he has an uncle doing well there who would find him a good job. She asks if the country is healthy, and he says, “A lovely climate.” But he dies and she runs a fruit shop, “Her mind being nourished by the melancholy luxury of dreaming what might have been her future in New Zealand.”
E. Phillips Oppenheim in his “Simple Peter Chadd” settles his hero in the manner of many another English writer of fiction by providing him with a small fortune left by “an uncle in the colonies,” in this case by an uncle from Christchurch, New Zealand.
Arnold Bennett in one of his stories describes a solid, respectable type of hotel as one “such as visitors from New Zealand” patronise.
In a recent number of the “Wide World Magazine” was a New Zealand tale introducing a mounted policeman, and the accompanying illustration depicted a policeman wearing the cap and uniform of the U.S. police, with a big revolver slung around his waist. Perhaps the illustrator believes New Zealand to be a New York suburb bordering on New Jersey.
Somebody has been writing to an Auckland paper to complain bitterly of the invasion by smokers of the non-smoking tram-cars. “Just fancy!” as the ladies say. But this disgruntled correspondent said never a word about the invasion of smoke-cars by non-smokers. These passengers (mostly ladies) sometimes crowd the smokers clean out! As a matter of fact the ancient objection to tobacco-smoke is fast dying out. This is undoubtedly due to the growing demand for tobacco of better quality. Most of the old-fashioned tobaccos, so hot, acrid and poisonous with nicotine are giving place to purer and less harmful brands—more especially the five toasted varieties, so pure, fragrant and alluring—and so harmless, because, owing to the toasting, they contain so little nicotine. Five brands: Navy Cut No. 3 (Building), Cut Plug No. 10 (Bulls-head), Cavendish, Riverhead Gold and Desert Gold. But these comprise a brand for every smoker—including the cigarette smoker. You can get them anywhere and everywhere. They are on sale throughout the Dominion.*page 30