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Life of Sir George Grey: Governor, High commissioner, and Premier. An Historical Biography.

His Scientific and Literary Associates

His Scientific and Literary Associates.

For at all times he cultivated the society of men of letters and science. In the first years of his residence in New Zealand a letter addressed by Darwin to Captain Stokes, who had censured Grey's surveys of West Australia and condemned the recommendations based on them, was by a singular accident enclosed in a copy of a book sent out to Grey. How it contrived to find its way there never transpired; surely, "an enemy had done this page 177thing.'' The letter was sympathetic with Stokes and condemnatory of Grey, but it elicited a magnanimous reply from the high-minded man, which initiated an amicable correspondence between the naturalist and the Governor, who were both rising into fame. The correspondence led to further intercourse, and in after-years, when Grey happened to be temporarily resident in London, the two (according to Grey's account) often walked the streets at night, discussing many things. Those who have walked the streets with Grey at night will remember the animation of the old man, his interminable flow of talk, and the apparently inexhaustible physical strength of the septuagenarian; and they will easily imagine what noctes, if not coenasque, deorum those walks and talks must have been. During his intermittent visits to the metropolis Grey also made the acquaintance of Mill, with whom (he was wont to relate) he discussed the uses and abuses of the waste lands of the colonies, and in conjunction with whom (he veraciously affirmed) he devised the economic doctrine of "the unearned increment." He met with Spencer at the Athenæum. Huxley was then president of the Ethnological Society, and, having caught such a very big fish, he was eager to serve him up as often as he could and as highly sauced as possible. Grey had apparently figured to advantage at a meeting of the Society, and Huxley desired to arrange for another soirée to be devoted to the ethnology of Polynesia, at which Grey was to read a paper on Maori sagas. He would himself, he afterwards intimated, open the ball; Grey would come next; and a bishop would wind up. Grey would thus, he playfully said, be sandwiched between science and religion.

At the Athenæum he met Lecky, to whom he claimed to have suggested the striking passage in the History of European Morals where the eloquent Irish historian makes the apology of the prostitute, who vicariously sacrifices her womanhood to shield the purity of the family and secure the matron "in the pride of her untempted chastity." Carlyle he saw at Chelsea; page 178and Carlyle wrote of him, with some exaggeration: "he is born of the Tetragonidæ, built four-square, solid, as one fitted to strongly meet the winds of heaven and the waves of fate." To a veracious New Zealand humorist he confessed that he could not make out whether Grey was a man of genius or a humbug; but on learning that Grey, who had smoked a pipe with him, was no smoker, he concluded that he was a humbug. We may be sure that Grey did not jest, practically or theoretically, with so serious a reformer as John Morley, but found himself in close affinity with the then republican. Rhoda Broughton he knew, as he also well knew her model guardsman and ideal man, who was long a member of the Legislative Council of New Zealand. Grey associated by preference with men who had some literary cultivation, and though his native sphere was action, he seemed always glad to escape from the mud-bath of politics into the ether of poetical imagination or philosophical speculation.