6. Centennial Splendours
6. Centennial Splendours
The New Zealand Centennial inspired a number of poems, including Eileen Duggan's 'Centenary Ode' and Allen Curnow's 'The Unhistoric Story'. But the poem most often remembered in connection with it is Denis Glover's 'Centennial'.1
In the year of centennial splendours
There were fireworks and decorated cars
And pungas drooping from verandahs
But no one remembered our failures.
Plenty of platitudes were uttered in 1940. How could it have been otherwise? Nevertheless, Glover's appraisal of the Centennial missed a lot. As the Centennial's 'propaganda officer' told the readers of Tomorrow, the Centennial celebrations involved more than merry-go-rounds at the Centennial Exhibition: the cultural wing of the Centennial organisation was undertaking 'serious' tasks, the largest of which was the production of books on New Zealand history.2
In recent years, the literature on the Centennial publications has become quite large, and much of it concentrates on the role of the state, taking the Centennial as a defining moment in the establishment of state patronage of the humanities.3 I have drawn extensively on this work, but my concern here is with the histories produced in these institutional conditions. The Centennial surveys were intended to be a comprehensive overview of New Zealand history. In the process, they gathered together different currents of New Zealand historiography and combined them in novel ways. Elements of academic histories and local histories were synthesised, and the published Centennial surveys were built on the common ground between these two kinds of history—the assumption that New Zealand history was largely the history of Pakeha. The themes of Cowan and Buick were challenged. So too were page 109their style and methods. The Centennial staff attempted to re-write New Zealand history according to academic standards. They were not always successful, but the Centennial brought very different historians into contact, and in some cases conflict, with each other.
Before exploring these issues it is necessary to give some idea of the framework and personnel of the Centennial organisation. In 1936 the first Labour government announced that a large amount of money would be set aside for the celebration of the hundredth anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. The Under-Secretary for Internal Affairs, Joseph Heenan, was given the task of organising the celebrations. Heenan wanted to mark the occasion with more than 'fireworks and decorated cars', and pushed for an ambitious programme of Centennial publications as well as a grand exhibition, re-enactments of historic events, and other more frivolous festivities. Many in the Labour ministry had an interest in history and literature—as is well known, they established the Literary Fund, and granted special pensions to ageing writers. The government consented, and a host of committees was set up to consider what forms the publications should take.
The supreme committee was the National Historical Committee, composed of historians from the university colleges, historians from outside the academy, and representatives of government departments. It oversaw work on a variety of books: the unfinished historical atlas; Scholefield's Dictionary of New Zealand Biography; Making New Zealand, a series of thirty brief and for the most part insubstantial 'pictorials' on New Zealand history and life; provincial histories compiled by satellite provincial committees; and the 'Centennial surveys', the eleven books covering 'the whole field of our national life'.4 These were to be 'surveys' rather than 'histories', popular but scholarly.5 These 'Centennial surveys', and not the other Centennial publications, are the subject of this chapter.
Much of the practical organisation of this series was done by a 'standing committee' of Wellington members of the National Historical Committee. The most important contributors were Heenan himself, Oliver Duff, E. H. McCormick, D. O. W. Hall, A. D. McIntosh and Beaglehole. Duff was a Christchurch journalist who was editor of the surveys until he left to become editor of the new Listener at the end of 1938. McCormick at this time had been working in the Hocken Library after his return from Cambridge; he became secretary of the National Historical Committee and later Duff's successor as editor. Hall had a BA from Cambridge in English and history; before he became 'propaganda officer' and associate editor of page 110the Centennial publications, he had been living on 'a small private income' and 'trying to survive as a writer'.6 McIntosh, a history MA graduate of Victoria, had previously worked in the General Assembly Library; from the late thirties he worked in the Prime Minister's Department.7 He and Beaglehole were regular advisers. Beaglehole was sometimes de facto deputy-editor. Sub-committee members in other centres lobbied the Wellingtonians and contributed to the planning of the series. Among the more active were Hight, Elder, J. T. Paul and A. B. Chappell.
In the first year of their existence, the Centennial staff and committees floated extravagant plans and dealt with piles of correspondence from people trying to jump on the Centennial gravy train. University graduates wrote to the Department of Internal Affairs angling to have their MA theses published as Centennial publications, and R. W. de Montalk, JP, repeatedly urged the department to republish his prose-poem The Glories of Milford Sound 'as a centennial gift to tourists'.8 By late 1938 most of the topics and authors of the surveys had been settled.
Some information about those writers who have not already been mentioned may not be amiss. A substantial proportion of the other authors had postgraduate qualifications, and some had civil service or university jobs. W. G. McClymont was an Otago history graduate who lectured briefly at Otago before becoming a school-teacher. Leicester Webb was a New Zealand-born Cambridge graduate who wrote for the Christchurch Press and lectured part-time in political science at Canterbury University College.9 Helen Simpson was a New Zealander who did a PhD in English at the University of London and had taught at Canterbury University College and Canterbury Teachers' Training College.10 A. E. Campbell had taught history and worked as a librarian at Wellington Teachers' Training College, worked as a primary school teacher, and lectured in education at Victoria; and in 1939 became director of the New Zealand Council for Educational Research.11 S. H. Jenkinson was 'a well-known engineer in the Railways Department who has much experience of practical journalism'.12 W. B. Sutch and Sir Apirana Ngata need no introduction.page 111
The textual focus of this chapter does not exclude all the planning work of the Centennial project. My concern is with the stories told about New Zealand, and the arguments about those stories in their embryonic stages are important. Nor is the fact that the surveys were official publications insignificant. I have already discussed this with regard to Cowan, and will consider it in relation to Sutch's survey, which was withheld after prime ministerial intervention. However, this intervention is now well documented, and here I will attend more to the surveys' own representation of the state.
The chapter is in three parts. The first discusses the narratives of the surveys generally. It examines their versions of New Zealand history. Some of the issues raised there are taken up in the second part of the chapter, which analyses the most influential and, to my mind, the most complex of the surveys, McCormick's Letters and Art in New Zealand, The final section deals with the interaction of academic and non-academic conventions of history at the Centennial.
After some debate it was decided that the Centennial surveys should not merely fill gaps in existing scholarship, but cover 'the whole field of our national life'.13 The term 'national life' was often used to describe the subject of the surveys: like the general histories discussed in the previous chapter, they were an attempt to explain New Zealand to the public.14 In this section I will discuss the national history defined by the Centennial surveys. I will begin with the surveys' representation of the state and then broaden out into their depictions of Pakeha society generally. Like the academic short histories, the surveys focused on the development of Pakeha society, and as a corollary Maori were marginalised in the texts. Accordingly, I will go on to discuss the surveys' representation of Maori and lead from there into the principles underpinning the surveys' construction of New Zealand history.
The benevolent colonial state, prominent in earlier writings and in the non-literary celebrations of the Centennial, is not a centrepiece of the Centennial surveys. In part, but only in part, this is a consequence of the non-appearance of Sutch's survey on 'social services'. The debate about the topic and Sutch's rejected page 112manuscripts casts light on the image of the state that the Centennial organisers wanted to project.
Instructing Sutch before work on the survey began, Duff defined its subject-matter in these terms: 'I think that social services are Health, Education, Pensions, etc, and not Life Insurance, State Advances, State Coal Mines, the Railways, the Post Office, or the Reserve Bank.' This second category Duff characterised as 'economic services'; it would be enough to 'glance at them, as you proceed'.15 'Social services' had been a survey topic almost from the start of planning, when F. B. Stephens suggested it.16 Sutch was the only author suggested in the planning stages. Neither the topic nor the author was ever on the lists of contentious suggestions. Chappell seems to have been the only National Historical Committee member to question the topic's suitability.17 Heenan privately told Webb that all the Centennial staff felt 'that the series without one [volume] on Social Services would be woefully incomplete'.18 The role of the state in public welfare, or 'How the State Helps New Zealanders' (one title proposed for the book) was, of course, a concern of New Zealand historiography long before 1935.19
Sutch's two manuscripts, especially his first, drew much criticism for their alleged severity, bitterness, bias, irrelevancies and clumsiness.20 They also raised the question of whether a book on social services should deal with the conflict giving rise to and arising from those services, or concentrate on their operation. The editorial staff made no explicit statement about the image of the state that they wanted, but one can discern this image in their comments on Sutch's book. Hall complained that the book neglected 'how they [social services] work', which is 'the chief interest, and that Sutch instead 'insist[ed] on the political stresses and bargainings which induced different governments to introduce different social legislation'.21 McIntosh made a similar complaint in connection with Sutch's treatment of the arbitration system.22 (Sutch's reply was that in the areas and periods of the chapters being criticised, 'there were no social services—or services of only a most rudimentary kind'.)23 The Centennial staff envisaged a book which, by page 113minimising its account of conflict and 'bargaining' and focusing on how the services 'work', would make the history of 'state experiments' look harmonious, consensual, and inevitable.
This view of the state came through in what Hall wrote in the survey on farming. There, state intervention in farming from World War I onwards was presented as both sound and inevitable.24 Campbell's survey on education located the centralisation and state-control of education in the conditions of settlement, and assumed the unalterable nature of this state of affairs without praising it. Webb's Government in New Zealand did what Hall and McIntosh wanted Sutch's survey to do: it had much more to say about the recent operations of New Zealand's political system than it did about political history. It was also written much more temperately than Sutch's. However, Webb did not exclude references to conflict, and his subject was as sensitive as Sutch's. Yet Webb survived ministerial scrutiny.25 It may have been Sutch's tone as much as his argument that annoyed Peter Fraser.
Webb's arguments struck to the core of Pakeha assumptions about the state. He argued that the New Zealand state had evolved from a constitution designed to restrain authority into one concerned with the active creation of not just civil liberties but also personal welfare and general prosperity. These assumptions, he said, required a new theory of the state, but New Zealanders did not have one. The assumption that state should promote prosperity was not accompanied by a coherent model of relations between the state, labour and capital. Caution was necessary, because when the state had an expanded role, 'safeguards against arbitrary action are no longer guarantees of good government'. Webb's comments on the extent to which New Zealand's political system mitigated the problems related to this situation did not altogether dispel his main point about the country's need of a coherent political philosophy.26
The surveys thus displayed a range of perspectives on the state. If the published surveys proved more acceptable to the government than Sutch's was on the matter of the state, Webb's was nevertheless a long way from the cheerful ministrations of Dr Wellandstrong, the 'robot' who greeted visitors to the Department of Health display at the Centennial Exhibition.27
Apart from a sympathetic portrait of an ideal public servant, closely modelled on Heenan, New Zealand Now, Duff's volume on contemporary Pakeha culture, had page 114nothing to say about the state.28 The surveys collectively did not place the 'social laboratory' in the foreground of their discussion of the Pakeha character. Nor did they focus on another likely contender, war. Duff and J. T. Paul supported the idea of a survey on war, not particular campaigns but 'the effect of all our campaigns on us as a nation … what war means to us as a people'.29 Hight, Webb and Chappell thought that the topic 'should not be included'.30 The Standing Committee rejected the proposal. As McCormick's report on the meeting said, It was considered by some members that a discussion of racial and international conflicts would be inadvisable in the present series.'31 The minutes of the meeting record that Heenan objected on the grounds that the topic would involve the New Zealand Wars.32 As we shall see later, this was a subject he wished to avoid. Duff tried to keep the idea alive, appealing to Brigadier Howard Kippenberger to write such a survey or suggest another writer. Kippenberger replied, 'Many of us have taken part in Imperial wars and have doubtless been affected by our own experiences but the effect on the nation, if such an entity exists, of those individual experiences, appears to me to be nil.'33 At a meeting of the full National Historical Committee soon afterwards, John A. Lee, a war hero as well as an politician, and F. L. Waite, a Legislative Councillor and the author of the official history of the Gallipoli campaign, said that the subject was already adequately covered.34 It was therefore left to Duffs New Zealand Now, which was to be, among other things, 'a "washing up" volume, taking notice of some of the topics … that it may be thought inadvisable to treat separately'.35
The farming pioneer figured more prominently in the Centennial surveys than the legislative 'pioneer' and the Anzac. The surveys generally presented a rural New Zealand with little attention to the towns. After early suggestions of surveys on secondary industries had lapsed, this disparity was inevitable, but it was compounded by the disappearance of the Sutch volume.36 Perhaps surprisingly, the page 115survey on farming did not repeat much of the pioneer legend. The farmer was described as a 'custodian of the quality of our national life',37 but the book concentrated more on the 'the farming industry' than on the attributes of the pioneer. The surveys by Cowan and Simpson were much more in the orthodox mode of pioneer-adulation. The subject of Simpson's survey, women, had been contentious; so had the suggested authors.38 J. T. Paul commented that all the proposed writers (Simpson, Robin Hyde, Jane Mander, Muriel Ellis, Eileen Duggan) would have different views, 'none of them possibly the true picture of the pioneer and homely woman who has, in the gigantic task of helping to build up a young country, regarded work as of more importance than abstractions'.39 As it turned out, however, Simpson wrote a book quite consistent with Paul's feminine ideal. The women in Simpson's book tended to be married, and the point was regularly made that they faced their troubles 'without fuss'.40 Like local historians, Simpson emphasised that modern New Zealanders, including herself, could scarcely imagine the pioneers' hardships.41 And, like local historians, Simpson claimed that the pioneers' achievements and hardships had to be remembered but their faults and mistakes could be forgotten. 'Need for blame is long past; reason for admiration remains and will remain always.'42
As we have seen, this tradition only partially contained Cowan's Settlers and Pioneers. Nevertheless, in another respect the books by Cowan and Simpson were very similar. Both described the material conditions, and the sensory qualities, of pioneer life. In Cowan's case this involved plenitude, the 'delicious nutty and aromatic flavour' of farm-cured bacon, the cornucopia of a lost rural childhood.43 Even a labouring scene was described in thickly sensual terms.44 The scenes Simpson describes were less golden: the harshness of domestic work, the claustrophobia of life aboard an immigrant ship. She was at pains to demonstrate in detail the privations settlers faced; the burden of her book was that women participated fully in colonisation (the book hardly entered the twentieth century). In making her case, Simpson went beyond the title of her book to depict life in general page 116and show how women were involved. Some chapters were not so much a history of women as a history with women.45 In places, pages went by without a woman appearing.
Of the surveys, Simpson's and Cowan's engaged most with pioneer myths. But a component of those myths was replicated in less likely texts, McCormick's Letters and Art in New Zealand and F. L. W. Wood's New Zealand in the World. Simpson and Cowan emphasised the hardiness and resourcefulness of the pioneers, to the detriment of contemporary New Zealanders. Wood and McCormick did not point out traits of individuals or types, but emphasised the vigour and energy of nineteenth-century colonisers. This vigour had declined in the twentieth century, though both McCormick and Wood saw positive signs of a renaissance in the 1930s. As will be argued in the next section of this chapter, McCormick saw the first three decades of the twentieth century as characterised by material complacency and, in literature, the unimaginative copying of English writing. He did not hold up 'pioneer' writers as major authors, but he valued the crude vitality of some of them over the mannered emptiness of later writers. The new fiction writers of the 1930s were, for him, harbingers of new life in New Zealand literature.
Wood charted a decline from the 'energetic but sometimes unbalanced self-assertion' of Vogel's foreign policy toward an overly imperial 'mother complex'.46 This shift began in the international uncertainties of the late nineteenth century but reached its climax after World War I.47 Working with the anthropomorphic metaphors of some general histories, he wrote: 'though the war naturally stimulated her [New Zealand's] sense of nationhood, her ultimate reaction was not so much a consciousness of her efforts as an independent individual as that she had had a worthy share in the greater glory of an imperial achievement.'48 Massey and other politicians were not solely responsible for this outlook: public opinion ran likewise.49 Only a 'thoughtful minority claimed that New Zealand should stand more firmly on her own feet [and] acclaimed the more virile attitude of other Dominions'.50 New Zealand foreign policy thus went from colonising energy to a lack of virility (as in McCormick's book, the gendered associations of the term 'mother country' were pejorative). Between 1936 and 1939, Labour rocked the imperial boat; this rebellion page 117ended with the outbreak of war, and for Wood the future held the prospect of a compromise between Massey and Vogel.51
Wood and McCormick thus used one assumption of the pioneer myth to structure their narratives. Their surveys and others did not retain other elements of the pioneer myth as ideals. Some were critical of aspects of the stereotype, especially utilitarianism. Campbell, explicitly following Condliffe, deplored the way New Zealand's education system had been limited by the 'pioneer concern with tangible results'.52 Webb's thoughts on the state made clear his reservations about the drawbacks of the unintellectual practicality so often seen as a defining characteristic of Pakeha culture. Wood lamented the lack of 'intelligent public opinion' as he described a complacent and materialist New Zealand.53
Wood, McCormick and Webb saw the 1930s as finishing with genuine but modest signs of 'adult nationhood'.54 Their books made it clear, though, that British heritage and pioneer traditions were not sufficient by themselves, and that independent thought would be necessary for the future. They replicated and also contested the pioneer myths that other surveys celebrated more wholeheartedly. They also created images of 'the' Pakeha 'character' that broke with some stereotypes. Their concerns, however, like those of the surveys generally, did not go far beyond Pakeha matters. The surveys focused on European settlement and culture, and marginalised Maori people.
Most of the surveys marginalised Maori literally: Maori were discussed mostly within what may be called 'Maori prologues'. The device of an opening chapter on Maori, whether a general anthropological survey or creation tradition, to be rehearsed before the bulk of the story began in 1769 or 1840, was well established before 1940, and persisted long afterwards. Its overall effect was to imply that Maori mattered as a subject in themselves only before 1840, and that they retreated as colonisation and 'national development' (in the surveys, the two were practically synonymous) 'advanced'. In works employing Maori prologues, Maori belonged more to the past than to the present, and more to prehistory than the 'real' New Zealand past.
Not all the surveys had a Maori prologue. While Beaglehole's book on discovery had a chapter on Polynesian voyaging, McClymont's book on exploration, or the 'discovery' of the interior, had no equivalent chapter. Webb's Government in New Zealand began with organised settlement, Wood's New Zealand in the World page 118opened with comments about Maori isolation, and McCormick's Letters and Art in New Zealand devoted its first page to the thought that Maori literature and art gave the country a heritage longer than a mere century. The first chapter of Alley and Hall's The Farmer in New Zealand was called 'The Maori Farmer'. It discussed Maori cultivation of kumara for several pages, and then covered 'Europeanised Maori agriculture' from 1814 onwards.55 Homilies marched out in much the same mode as those in the School Journal pieces Hall wrote as Centennial 'propaganda officer'.56
The most interesting of the 'Maori prologues' is Beaglehole's, since its style, not just its subject-matter, was sharply different from that used in the discussion of New Zealand's European 'discoverers'. The style of the Maori chapter was extravagant and ornate, with dramatic rhetorical questions and 'picturesque' passages in the absence of quotable documentary sources. Compared with the crisp style of the other chapters, such literariness evoked an air of myth and what other historians called 'romance'. In New Zealand, Beaglehole wrote, Polynesians remained 'a … poetic people'.57 Their modes of telling 'history' were contrasted with 'ours'; 'we' and 'us' recurred throughout the chapter as the non-Maori community to which the authorial voice and the audience's ears belonged.58 The mythical overtones of the chapter were compounded by the implication that Polynesian migration to New Zealand was analogous to the Fall: in New Zealand, Polynesians had 'a different and harder life', one which owed much 'to digging of ground with sweat of the brow', a phrase which recalls the Curse of Adam.59 The overall effect was that, while it attempted to take Maori traditions seriously, Beaglehole's chapter created an aura of stylised unreality about 'Polynesian history' compared to the lively European-centred narratives that follow. A related though distinct effect occurred with the style of Elsdon Best's ethnographies.60
Beaglehole's survey was unusual in that Maori continued to figure prominently in the narrative after the first chapter. In part this was a function of Beaglehole's subject-matter. In the other surveys, Maori tended to make only incidental appearances, if any, outside prologues. Simpson's book on European women was a partial exception because of the attention she paid to missionary wives. In a not too dissimilar fashion, Maori appeared in McClymont's Exploration of New Zealand as assistants or (environmental) hazards. The act of replacing Maori place-names with European ones, a practice deemed significant by other writers, was dealt with only page 119perfunctorily or not at all.61 (At times this led to anachronism: 'The first there was Mackenzie, a sheep stealer, who in March 1855 took 1,000 sheep over the hills from Cave to the Mackenzie country.')62
Then, of course, there were the 'Maori Wars'. Had Cowan's account of the Waikato War been published it would have been the longest discussion of the wars in the Centennial surveys. Of the other writers, Wood and McCormick dealt frankly with the wars insofar as they related to their subjects; Alley and Hall treated them as disturbances, and from their book one learns that 'northern settlers' benefited from the outcome of the wars by Maori withdrawing from commercial competition (there was no mention of land confiscation).63 This was practically the extent to which the published surveys dealt with the subject. In this respect they were consistent with the wishes of the Centennial staff, or at least Heenan. In a debate over the advisability of a survey on war, 'Mr. Heenan urged that the phase of the Maori-European war should not be stressed'.64 When Scholefield had suggested a survey on Native Affairs, Heenan replied that the subject was too 'delicate'.65 Given his views on the matter, and given his ultimate authority, it was probably Heenan rather than McCormick who made the decision to cut Cowan's chapter.66
It would be wrong, however, to give the impression that Heenan and the other organisers of the Centennial wanted to exclude Maori people totally. The first of the surveys was to be a volume on Maori by Ngata. This was not to be the usual Maori prologue, something to get out of the way before the real action began, but a truly impressive beginning to the series. The government was keen to draw attention to New Zealand's 'good' race relations during the Centennial year,67 and though the Centennial files in National Archives record no ministerial intervention on this matter, the Centennial personnel seem to have been aware of this. Duff's instructions to Ngata were all caution:
When I said that it [the survey on Maori] must not be a political story I did not mean that it must have no political threads at all, since the Maori today is obviously what the political, social, economic and geographical changes of the last hundred years have made page 120him; but I meant that it must be a non-party, non-controversial story as far as that is possible…. You will also appreciate the fact that your survey, more perhaps than any other, will be read overseas, and that what the outside world will most wish to have will be a picture of the Maori himself—his mind, his life, his customs, his interests, his arts.68
Duff thus envisaged a Maori equivalent of his own survey, a book that would replace historical development and the conflict it entailed with a fictional personage—'the Maori himself', the Maori as he is. Duff's point was similar to the one Hall and McIntosh made about Sutch: the emphasis should be on how the subject works, not on the struggles that shaped it.
It was important that this 'picture' be drawn by a Maori. The Standing Committee did not seriously consider any Pakeha as potential authors for the survey: the choice was between Ngata and Peter Buck.69 Ngata had the requisite cachet as an elder statesman and a cultural go-between. He was, Duff told him, 'a Maori who is not only the voice and leader of his people but a Pakeha scholar as well'.70 Publicity material by David Hall announced: '"The Maori" will, of course, be by Sir Apirana Ngata, who can best make the aspirations and achievements of his race articulate in the language of the pakeha.'71
Ngata never finished his survey; it is doubtful that he even began it. I. L. G. Sutherland had extracted contributions to The Maori People Today from Ngata only by 'following him around with a notebook and pencil'.72 The Centennial staff did not give up easily, and pursued him with regular letters. Ngata's replies speak of his other preoccupations: parliament, the organisation of the Maori battalion, the death of his daughter.73
On 6 February 1940, however, Ngata delivered a Centennial survey of sorts. The celebrations at Waitangi on that day were markedly different in tone to the festivities six years earlier for Bledisloe's gift. Then, Buick's story of racial partnership through the sacred charter of Waitangi had been mouthed by all the speakers, Maori ones included.74 Fewer iwi endorsed the 1940 gathering, and the proceedings themselves were not entirely harmonious.75 Ngata's speech gave credit page 121to Labour, but also dealt out strong criticism of failures to settle the Waikato claims, the 'surplus lands' confiscation disputes in the North, and other grievances. More generally, he said:
I do not know of any year that the Maori people have approached with so much misgiving as the New Zealand Centennial year. In the retrospect, what did the Maori [see]? Lands gone, the powers of the chief crumbled in the dust, Maori culture scattered—broken…. We want to retain our individuality as a race…. So long as we are happy does it matter very much whether we square up to the pakeha standards or not? Let us achieve health, comfort, happiness. We are well on the way to that now, thanks to the policy of the government of New Zealand, but while you help us please remember that a lot of the things that you do for us would appear to be for our betterment but they contain w[ith]in them dynamic forces that somehow or other shatter the Maori culture that we wish to retain as a foundation [of] our individuality as a people.76
The two key features of the surveys' treatment of Maori, therefore, were an impulse to keep Maori in their (narrative) place, and a tendency to minimise and sanitise Maori participation in New Zealand history after 1840. The first of these features was entirely in keeping with the series as a whole: Maori were not the only group that was to be kept in as 'non-controversial' a place as possible. The second feature went to the heart not only of the Centennial project but to the assumptions of most of the academically trained writers of the surveys, and their conception of New Zealand history. The 'national development' that the surveys charted was the development of the colonisers' society. 'Whatever we have become', Duff wrote, 'it is the becoming that is the subject of these surveys'.77 The becoming was Pakeha, and 'we' of the narrative voice of the surveys and of the editorial correspondence was a Pakeha we, often explicitly contrasted to a Maori them.78
Centennial contributors did not discount the importance of studying Maori, and Beaglehole, at least, greatly admired Sutherland's work.79 But unlike Cowan, page 122Buick and Ramsden, and like Woodhouse, Condliffe, Morrell and Beaglehole, the majority tended to separate Maori history from Pakeha history. Maori appear in 'New Zealand' history only as incidental to European settlement: as prologues to it, aids to it, or impediments to it. The surveys muffled Maori action not by the silence of 'assimilation', but by partial exclusion and by a separation of histories. And those histories were not 'Maori history' and Pakeha history' but Maori history and New Zealand history.
These assumptions are metanarrative assumptions: they defined what New Zealand history was about. Most of the surveys were premised on these assumptions; some surveys combined them with a related argument explicitly formulated as the surveys' cohering principle: the trope of adaptation. Adaptation can be summarised as the idea that 'New Zealand' was the product of the interactions between an imported culture and a new 'environment', which included the indigenous people. Adaptation was dialectical, but it allowed for only a restricted dialectic, because it privileged its thesis (imported culture) over its antithesis (the New Zealand 'environment'). The subject of adaptation, that which adapted, was the primary term. Adaptation was, therefore, a way of bringing local influences into the story of Pakeha development without sacrificing the primacy of New Zealand's 'Britishness'.
As such, adaptation was a way of reconciling a belief in New Zealand's Britishness and those things 'characteristically' New Zealand, such as pioneering and the patriotic exotic. In the interwar period, anglocentrism and a concern with the local or 'indigenous' continued to coexist in Pakeha culture, and sometimes within specific texts. But because they were polar they were exclusionary; they were unconvincing to those who thought that New Zealand was both European and Pacific. Both were paradoxical: Britain could be 'home' to people who had never seen it; and the indigenous could be 'exotic'. The trope of adaptation had the potential for a more satisfying view, the capacity to show that New Zealand was both European and Pacific, and therefore neither wholly European nor wholly Pacific. It offered to solve some of cultural colonisation's 'problems of the imagination'.
McCormick did more than anyone else to promote adaptation as a way of writing New Zealand history. His primary statement on adaptation was a letter he wrote to Heenan on 11 October 1937, well before McCormick succeeded Duff as the editor of the surveys. McCormick talked of the need to give the series coherence: the books, he said, 'should be bound together by some common idea, they should exemplify in all its ramifications some general thesis which is applicable to the whole field of New Zealand history'. In McCormick's opinion, that 'general thesis' should be adaptation:page 123
Now the idea which seems to me of fundamental importance in any consideration of New Zealand history is this; that 100 years ago a sample of nineteenth century society and civilization was transferred to New Zealand and has since been reshaped and adapted, with varying degrees of success, to conform to the conditions of a new environment—i.e. natural surroundings and climate, a new order of society, special economic conditions, a native people and all the other elements which constitute environment in its widest sense.
Farming was an obvious example of a topic that would benefit from such an approach, but 'with a little thought and ingenuity', adaptation could structure discussions of other subjects just as well. The histories of science, literature, painting, transport and law in New Zealand could also be dealt with profitably in this way.80
Heenan declared himself 'personally in complete agreement' with McCormick's suggestion, and copies of McCormick's memo were sent to the members of the Standing Committee.81 Beaglehole thought that 'the guiding thread he [McCormick] suggests should be brought very emphatically before authors as our ideal'.82 In his general advice to the authors of the surveys in June the following year, Duff announced that the surveys 'should be held together by a common idea': 'that New Zealand today is the result of a century's struggle by a British community to adapt itself to a new environment. We are neither a new nation nor an established society transplanted. We are something of both—Old World still in our politics and culture, New World in our attitude to material and social questions.' The Pakeha 'becoming' that was 'the subject of these surveys' would 'give them cohesion and plan.'83
McCormick had been nursing his idea for some time before October 1937. He had formulated it while living in Dunedin in 1935.84 Late in May 1937, he wrote the speech James Thorn gave as chairman of the first meeting of the National Historical Committee.85 There he described an ideal history of New Zealand farming: 'Such a history would naturally begin with the state of agriculture in Great Britain in the [eighteen] 'thirties and 'forties …. Next would follow the transplanting of these Old page 124World methods to New Zealand, the discovery that many were not adapted to conditions here and the gradual emergence of new methods in this environment'86
Such a history of farming would follow 'that splendid book "Tutira"'.87 In his programmatic letter of 11 October 1937, McCormick again cast Tutira as the exemplary adaptation narrative. 'Mr. Guthrie-Smith's … approach is, in fact, precisely the one I would advocate for our surveys'. (Tutira, however, charted the impact of the indigenous on Europeans as well as the impact of Europeans on the indigenous: its dialectic was more even than the one McCormick proposed.) McCormick singled out Tutira as an exception to the rule that 'one finds scarcely any recognition … either implicit or explicit', of the idea of adaptation 'in the vast mass of New Zealand writing'. The only example he mentioned other than Tutira was Beaglehole's work, especially The University of New Zealand. Beaglehole's comment that New Zealand history was 'best understandable as a function of the expanding capitalist society of Great Britain' was 'roughly a statement in special terms of a part of the thesis I have attempted to explain'.88
These were not, however, the only instances of the adaptation trope in the twenties and thirties. McCormick interviewed Horace Belshaw of Auckland University College in 1937, before he wrote his main pronouncement on adaptation but after he had written Thorn's speech. In the interview, Belshaw 'touched on an aspect which would be likely to have a popular appeal—the conflict between man and Nature, the adaptation of British methods to New Zealand and the effects on social and economic life'.89 W. H. Cocker's foreword to the 1939 collection of essays by Auckland University College staff to mark the Centennial summed up New Zealand's development in a way uncannily coincident with McCormick's 'thesis'.90 Allen Curnow likened the moa's 'failure to adapt on islands' to the failure to develop a convincing Pakeha identity.91 Robin Hyde wrote that Katherine Mansfield 'ran away from a sham England, unsuccessfully transplanted to New Zealand soil, and utterly unable to adapt itself to the real New Zealand'.92 Much more common than the reference to adaptation, however, were the other components of Hyde's page 125metaphor. To liken cultures to plants, and to talk of colonial cultures as 'transplanted', was commonplace. Beaglehole did so repeatedly.93 M. H. Holcroft talked of 'the comparatively shallow placing of Anglo-Saxon roots in the New Zealand soil',94 and a contributor to Tomorrow wrote that an indigenous literature 'is not a plant which can be healthily forced … pinus insignis and the ubiquitous willow, sprout how they may at the moment, are not to be compared with good hard kauri'.95 Much earlier, William Pember Reeves had likened 'rear[ing …] an English rose' to the parenting that was itself symbolic of colonisation, and in William Satchell's The Elixir of Life, it was said that after finding New Zealand hard, an immigrant would 'begin to take root, and then New Zealand will be "God's Own Country" to him and he will be a New Zealander.'96 The concept of adaptation pressed this metaphor further, inquiring into the effect of the new soil on the roots of the plant.
The 'roots' of these ideas and figures of speech lie in romantic (initially German) conceptions of cultures as organic but mutable. Some early nineteenth-century observers of New Zealand speculated on the possibilities of immigrants and immigrant cultures changing in response to the new environment. Among these were 'Ernest' Dieffenbach and Thomas Cholmondeley.97 The notion of the adaptation of culture to environment, and the use of botanical metaphors to describe it, pre-date Social Darwinism, which one might expect to have been their point of origin. However, social Darwinist accounts of adaptation differ substantially from the earlier discussions. The writings of Dieffenbach and Cholmondeley (and Wakefield) talked of transplantation leading to degeneration or at best to the maintenance of a racial status quo, whereas later writers allowed themselves more optimism. The discussions of the fortunes of 'British' masculinity transferred to the South, for example, admit of potential for 'improvement'.98
McCormick's metanarrative of colonial development thus drew on the discourse of early colonisers themselves. Its ambitions alone make it worth examining. Not all of the surveys' authors took up the idea, though. The books on page 126discovery and exploration could hardly be expected to be organised around adaptation, but the trope's absence from Simpson's The Women of New Zealand and Wood's New Zealand in the World is more surprising. The survey on science was, as we shall see, a failure all round. Duff's New Zealand Now made some gestures toward the idea.99 Four surveys made concerted, though varying, efforts at using adaptation as an organising principle: those on government, farming, education, and literature and art.
In the preface to Government in New Zealand, Webb said that the book was 'designed to show what modifications the New Zealand environment has produced in the British system of representative government and how New Zealand political institutions differ from corresponding political institutions in Great Britain and in other British Dominions.'100 The book outlined those differences more often than it traced the process of adaptation that led to them. In one important case the 'adaptation' described was not to the New Zealand 'environment' but to 'the principles of commercial accountancy', an adaptation, Webb said, that other countries could make too.101 Webb's main case of adaptation in McCormick's sense was local government. Early colonists inherited a putatively English distrust of centralisation, and in Canterbury, 'local government began with an interesting attempt to transplant the direct democracy of the English parish to colonial soil.' Anti-centralism faltered before 'the centripetal tendency inherent in the modern state' and the sparse population and weak social structure that allowed the state to expand so greatly in nineteenth-century New Zealand.102
Alley and Hall's The Farmer in New Zealand conjured with two senses of 'adaptation'. As well as adaptation in McCormick's sense, there was adaptability, the experimentality and Jack-and-Jill-of-all-trades character routinely attributed to pioneers.103 Unlike some pioneer-myth-makers, however, Alley and Hall pointed out that there were failures among the pioneers. Only those individuals who could adapt best were successful.104 Adaptation in the McCormick sense, however, was discussed with regard to the first decades of organised settlement. The revision of 'preconceptions' with the experience of New Zealand conditions was referred to, and specific adaptations were described, including the need for more nomadic grazing than in England, the breeding of different hybrids of sheep.105 It was, page 127however, some way short of the Tutira-style relationship of detail and narrative envisaged in McCormick's ideal history of New Zealand farming.
The survey on education used adaptation most thoroughly and with considerable illumination. A. E. Campbell wrote most of the survey, but C. E. Beeby was initially entrusted with it and it was he who wrote the first chapter, 'Geography and History', which set out the plan to which Campbell adhered. In Educating New Zealand, adaptation was the result of a dialogue between 'geography' and 'history'—in effect, New Zealand's physical (and colonial) conditions, and English and Scottish educational traditions. (The education of Maori was not discussed in the book.) Adaptation to colonial conditions occurred first with farmers and others involved in 'primary necessities'; education and literature lagged behind, imitating a homeland frozen in the mind at the point when immigrants left it.106 The argument of Educating New Zealand was that 'the historical principle of maintaining cultural continuity played a greater part in forming the education system of New Zealand than did the geographical principle of adaptation to a new environment'.107 The division between primary and post-primary education, inherited from England, persisted long after the New Zealand education system's development made such a division artificial.108 The 'geographical principle' did make some gains, such as the swing to centralisation of the control of education with the improvement in communications from the 1870s and a lack of strong voluntary organisations.109 The persistence of many English traditions, however, was cast as inappropriate and stifling, a consequence of the 'colonial conservatism' of idealising a distant England.110 The irony of such clinging to English forms was that in a different context the end product diverged sharply from English practice in the late 1930s.111 Thus Campbell did 'remember … our failures'. Indeed, in showing the drawbacks of high levels of accessibility and high averages of achievement in the New Zealand education system, like Webb with pragmatism, he made a near-failure of something usually praised as a distinctive New Zealand success.
The Centennial surveys, then, were more complex than the cultural equivalent of 'fireworks and decorated cars'. Even those which dealt largely in stereotypes were not entirely predictable, because their emphases were not always those of Pakeha society generally. The Anzac myth, the social laboratory and 'good' race relations kept relatively low profiles. The stereotype of the pioneer, however, figured page 128prominently, and other European heroes were brought within its orbit. Hence, for example, the claim that missionaries were 'pioneers' of European settlement.112 Some of the surveys, however, employed the pioneer tradition in novel ways—for structural and argumentative principles rather than for stock personae—and sometimes suggested that the pioneer's relevance as an ideal was fading.
Even more fundamental than pioneer traditions was the idea of colonisation itself—'colonisation' in the sense of creation rather than the destruction which that creation entailed. The subject of the series was, overwhelmingly, Pakeha New Zealand, the colonisation of and sometimes the adaptation to the antipodes. The history of settlement became 'New Zealand' history. Intercultural compact and conflict, both of which served as the metanarratives of other New Zealand histories, became dwarfed by the work of building Pakeha society. In another Internal Affairs commemoration several years later, Allen Curnow wrote of 'The stain of blood that writes an island story'.113 In the Centennial surveys, it was the stain of sweat that wrote the island story.
The strand of this 'island story' that McCormick's Letters and Art explored was that of Pakeha identity, the work of building a 'home in thought'. All the surveys addressed questions of identity, but none as extensively as Letters and Art. Like other young, university-educated members of the Centennial staff, McCormick saw literature and art as primary sources or indices of national identity. McCormick explored the development of New Zealand literature—my focus in this section—in terms of 'adaptation', but he did not focus on the adaptation of literary forms to New Zealand conditions. He was concerned with the adaptation of European culture generally—the creation of a Pakeha spirit and a literature in tune with it. 'The Spirit of New Zealand' was one of the titles originally suggested for Letters and Art, and the book was, in effect, a historical survey of Pakeha identity.114
McCormick sought to relate literature to social, economic and cultural factors, so that 'literature' would illuminate 'history' and vice versa. The links he made between literary and other histories were not token. For this reason and because of its narrative about Pakeha identity, Letters and Art is not out of place in a thesis on page 129historical writing. In its impact and in the wide range of contexts it re-worked, the book has an importance beyond its significance as a representative Centennial survey.
Among the contexts McCormick's book synthesised were adaptation, the masculinist poetics of 1930s New Zealand writers, the founding texts of English romanticism, and existing works of literary historiography. The existence of two 'rehearsals' for the book, McCormick's Masters theses on New Zealand literature at Victoria University College (1929) and Cambridge University (1935), make it possible to track more fully the appropriations and combinations that constitute Letters and Art.115 These theses will be referred to frequently. The Victoria MA thesis was a string of brief discussions of poetry and fiction, in which romantic criticisms of New Zealand literature were quite explicit. The Cambridge MLitt cast its net wider, looking at Maori literature and non-fiction as well. It examined writing in a well documented social and political context. Much of it was reproduced in Letters and Art.116
The antagonist in Letters and Art was the literary inheritance of English writers, which acted as a dead weight on the colonial imagination, frustrating the growth of a national spirit in some cases, and in others depriving an emerging spirit of an authentic voice. Literary modes out of fashion in Britain and America persisted in New Zealand.117 The most pernicious of these was 'a debased and senile Romanticism'118—imitations of Wordsworth, Coleridge, Keats, and Shelley, their late nineteenth-century reincarnations such as Swinburne, and their Georgian successors.119 From Alfred Domett's Ranolf and Amohia to the Kowhai Gold anthology of 1930, this 'romanticism' marred poetry; feeble or awkward Victorian fictional page 130traits, most notably melodrama, likewise blighted fiction.120 The telos of Letters and Art, the creation of an indigenous literature in tune with and partly creating this national spirit, was reached in the 1930s, and it entailed a triumph over the soporific effects of the old-world inheritance.
The first few chapters dealt with writing (such as explorers' accounts) which McCormick discussed for its factual value rather than its literary merits. In the mid-1840s, New Zealand history really began. Texts appeared that could be taken seriously as literature: that is, texts which were of interest for their internal workings as well as for their constructions of historical events. Among others, McCormick considered Jerningham Wakefield's Adventure in New Zealand, Ernst Dieffenbach's Travels in New Zealand, George Grey's Polynesian Mythology, Samuel Butler's First Year in Canterbury Settlement, and Maning's Old New Zealand. In Letters and Art, these works remained the most durably valuable works of New Zealand literature written prior to 1900. The only later 'great' works of non-fiction were The Long White Cloud and Tutira. Twentieth-century ethnology and history were briefly praised but no individual texts were discussed.121 In keeping with the agenda of the Centennial publications, non-fiction writing about Maori, working more or less In the mode of 'patriotic exoticism', was elided in favour of a more settler-focused narrative.122
One reason for the high status accorded to non-fiction works before 1900 may be that there was less competition from more 'creative' writing.123 Another reason is that non-fiction inevitably engages, at least in some degree, with the 'outside' world. McCormick sharply criticised much other nineteenth-century literature for not engaging with the world. He discussed a number of doggerel rhymes and satires and while unable to elevate them to the level of art, he treated their homeliness with sympathy. But 'the mass of New Zealand verse' in the mid-to-late nineteenth century differed only superficially from the work of 'minor versifier[s]' anywhere else in the English-speaking world.124 McCormick concluded: 'One meets with minor felicities of rhythm and phrase, sincere tributes to natural beauty, the worthiest of sentiments. But none of the writers seem to have any vital relationship with the life about them, they rarely experiment with new forms or measures, and they even more rarely discard the clichés of Romantic verse to use the language of everyday speech'.125 Alfred Domett was deemed the most excessive example of this page 131failing. McCormick described Domett's vibrant life and commented wistfully: 'how little of this has crept into the interminable cantos of his "South-Sea Day Dream"', Ranolf and Amohia.126
Domett belonged to the period of 'opening up'. Though the poets themselves bore some of the blame for this situation, the period was not one friendly to the arts, being characterised by material demands and the extraordinary 'disruptions' of the New Zealand Wars, gold rushes and pioneering.127 For McCormick 'the next clearly defined phase of New Zealand's history, roughly bounded by the nineties',128 brought with it greater stability and the potential for artistic improvement. But this promise was not fully realised. The literature of the nineties was premature; the younger writers were striving 'to give voice to a national spirit that was hardly yet in being'.129
McCormick took Jessie Mackay, an icon for older critics such as Alan Mulgan, to be the 'spiritual representative' of the 'new generation' of the nineties.130 For McCormick, Mackay was most accomplished when writing about the distant past or foreign heroes; when 'her vision is focused nearer home', she was not convincing.131 An 'inveterate romantic', 'her allegiance was uneasily divided between the world of her parents and her immediate environment'.132 The novels of the period exhibited a similar, though apparently more thoroughgoing maladjustment.133 They did, however, demonstrate a proto-nationalist independence of outlook unmatched until the 1930s. For McCormick, the hesitant endeavours of the writers of the nineties towards an indigenous literature 'petered out in frustration and indifference'.134 New Zealand at the time lacked cultural resources sufficient to nourish their work, and the stability of the period had given rise to a complacency—part of what André Siegfried called snobbisme.135 In literature, snobbisme meant an abandonment of nationalist projects and the leisurely imitation of English writers. When William Pember Reeves left for England, he chose the way 'which was, generally speaking, to be the way for the next thirty years in both art and in letters'.136page 132
Thus, in those thirty years, most New Zealand writers, caught, like Adelaide Borlase in Edith Searle Grossman's The Heart of the Bush, 'Between Two Hemispheres',137 opted for the northern hemisphere, and wrote of a world that did not exist. For McCormick the literary high points of the years 1900-1930 were the work of Katherine Mansfield and H. Guthrie-Smith: unsurprisingly, McCormick's discussion of them was structured around the ways in which they, unlike their contemporaries, navigated between these hemispheres. In Letters and Art, Mansfield's significance for New Zealand literature derived from her accurate representation of New Zealand and as an example of the personal integrity necessary for 'literature, in the highest sense'.138 McCormick did not treat Mansfield as acting out or working out the colonial tension between the Old World and the New—instead, she got the best of both worlds. She developed her talent only after her return to England in 1909, but that talent found 'its perfect material in the experiences of [her] early New Zealand years'.139 In McCormick's account, Guthrie-Smith more than Mansfield worked through the relationships between the different hemispheres. Guthrie-Smith acclimatised through a process of persistent and thickly described scrutiny of local conditions.140
What of the novelists of this time? In his MA thesis, McCormick described the 1920s as the relative 'golden age' of the novel, a decade whose prominent novelists were women. Women, he wrote, were suited to subtle, sympathetic, detailed fiction; 'but New Zealand is a more suitable environment for stories of masculine endeavour, and of pioneering conflicts, a fact which women writers have recognised, though they have seldom been able to treat such themes with necessary vigour and power.'141 Women themselves were poorly adapted to New Zealand conditions, and were not in tune with the spirit of New Zealand. Letters and Art said nothing so bald, but it distanced women writers from the 'national spirit' that, at the end of the book, McCormick identified with strongly masculinist writing. Grossman was criticised for didacticism, moralism and melodrama; Jane Mander's The Story of a New Zealand River had a well-drawn setting but was marred by 'an excessive emotionalism, which sometimes brings it down to the level of a novelette, and the occasional falsity of the plot'.142 The trivialising operations of this comment are intriguing: page 133emotionalism makes the work like a novellette, not a novella. Mander's identification with 'excessive emotionalism' and Grossman's with melodrama linked them with the spectre of Victorianism, a literary mode unsuited to the New Zealand soil. One begins to discern a relationship between femininity and McCormick's literary bêtes noirs.
This association becomes stronger when one looks at McCormick's discussion of poetry of the twenties, which he saw as creating (to quote Letters and Art) 'an abstract idealised, often sentimentalised "literary" world, remote from … reality'.143 A passage from the Cambridge thesis illustrates the point luridly. McCormick was discussing the poetry of the first thirty years of the twentieth century, poetry he saw as 'a further stage in the process of Romantic development or deterioration',144 and as slavishly Anglophile—it was poetry that followed the path of Reeves, not Adelaide Borlase. McCormick found a female bias in Kowhai Gold, the peak, he thought, of this poetic tradition: 57% of the authors were women, and 66% of the total entries were by women. 'And from internal evidence it would often be extremely difficult to decide whether a poet or poetess were responsible for a set of verses.' By way of illustration he reproduced excerpts from two lullabies and two poems about fairies, and challenged the reader to work out which poem in each pair is written by a man. He went on: 'These corner-stones of a national literature [as the editor of Kowhai Gold had claimed its contents to be] have been unearthed not to illustrate the effeminacy of certain male versifiers (we could not legitimately expect any poet to stamp the mark of virility on every line of his work) but rather the general nature of the modern New Zealand poetic world, frequented in common by men and women.' Despite the protestation, it is clear that, whether written by men or women, such poetry was deemed feminine.145 It was also foreign, 'completely remote' from the 'natural and social environment' of New Zealand.146 Letters and Art made no explicit conflation of femininity with artificiality and maladjustment to New Zealand conditions, but the assumption underwrote the argument of the book. This may be demonstrated by an examination of the book's final chapter, when the telos of an indigenous literature is reached, and found to be strongly masculine.
McCormick began his discussion of the 1930s less emphatically than those who had touted the Centennial as a 'coming of age': for him, New Zealand had 'signs, few but positive, of adult nationhood'.147 One of the first suggestions 'of a new impulse' was Phoenix. Though mildly critical of Phoenix, McCormick claimed it as a page 134cultural leap forward.148 He presented it as earnestly nationalist, and obscured its earnest internationalism. McCormick beat internationalist leanings in the poetry of Fairburn, Curnow, Mason and Glover with the familiar stick of unindigenousness. Furthermore, '[w]here this group has failed is in their inability, in their more serious work, to come to terms with their social environment'. Fairburn's Dominion was seen as a Procrustean attempt to stretch the New Zealand body politic onto a rack of foreign dogma; Glover indulged in 'facile tributes to the proletariat', and all four had 'an undiscriminating devotion to the younger English poets'.149
Fiction fared better at coming to terms with its 'social environment'. Robin Hyde and John A. Lee constituted an advance in the examination of New Zealand material in a distinctively New Zealand manner, but the biggest breakthroughs were made by John Mulgan and, even more so, Frank Sargeson. Sargeson had four things going for him in McCormick's estimate: imagination, technique, a feel for the 'language and rhythm' of a variety of New Zealand modes of speech, and an understanding of a New Zealand 'underdog' outlook. Sargeson wrote worthy tributes to the proletariat. McCormick discussed this outlook in explicitly masculinist terms, and linked it to an 'unwritten' New Zealand identity developing since the gold rushes. 'Thus, paradoxical as it may seem, Frank Sargeson is traditional to a greater degree than any other New Zealand writer of to-day; he is the exponent of a local tradition that has hitherto been inarticulate.'150
That the height of indigenousness should be so masculine casts further light on the gendered subtext of the book. As Sargeson's indigenous down-to-earthness opposed misplaced, artificial Victorianism and Georgianism, so, by implication, did his concomitant masculinism oppose sentimentalism and effeminacy. McCormick did not 'write women out' of literary history: what he did was exclude from the privileged category of the indigenous any literature that was artificial and feeble, characteristics that, in his work, were associated with femininity.
By 1940 then, New Zealand literature had cast off some of its unsuitable (feminine) inheritances and exhibited signs of 'adult' (masculine) nationhood. McCormick's MA thesis had explicitly likened the colony's cultural development to the maturing of a young man: 'Every young country, like every ambitious young man, longs for immediate greatness.'151 Letters and Art was a cultural Bildungsroman, the story of a young nation's struggles to find itself and establish itself as something faithful to, yet distinct from, its mother. Given the effeminacy with which literary page 135'England' is clothed in Letters and Art, the use of that gendered term may be even more relevant than usual.
The irony of McCormick's narrative of struggle against a debased romanticism was that it drew heavily on the ideas of the early romantics themselves, in particular Wordsworth's preface to Lyrical Ballads. McCormick used Wordsworth's arguments about literary self-regulation, the authorial self and poetic diction, and transformed them by combining them with Sargesonian poetics, the idea of a national spirit, and the trope of adaptation.152
For Wordsworth, literature had to be the product of an active engagement between self and world, an engagement true to everyday life and expressed in everyday language. Artificial literary practices deadened the imagination and enfeebled literature. In 1800, the most glaring examples of bad literature were 'frantic novels, sickly and stupid German tragedies, and deluges of idle and extravagant stories in verse'.153 These were symptoms of the way literature could act as a closed system, independent of non-literary reality. 'The earliest poets', wrote Wordsworth '… generally wrote from passion excited by real events; they wrote naturally, and as men; feeling powerfully as they did, their language was daring and figurative'. But such precedents allowed later poets to mimic the motifs of the greats 'mechanical[ly]', 'without having the same animating passion'.154
The same general argument underpinned Letters and Art. One instance of it was the complaint quoted above about how literary preconceptions robbed Domett's work of the vitality of his life. In the two theses, McCormick's language as well as his arguments echoed Wordsworth. In the MA thesis, he wrote: 'When literary stimulus is not life itself, but the static inspiration of books, there can be no production of true literature.'155 His dismissal of Kowhai Gold in the MLitt thesis page 136articulated that Wordsworthian sense of lifelessness in poetry: 'Nihil ex nihilo fit'; nothing will come of nothing.156
When poetic 'language' became self-regulating, cut off from everyday language and passions, it became a means of escape. That such escapist dreaming was barren and dangerous was a theme that pervades Keats' 'mature' poetry; related ideas underlay Coleridge's distinction between fancy and imagination.157 The idea that poetry should be escapist was anathema to Wordsworth, who deplored those 'who talk of poetry as a matter of amusement and idle pleasure; who will converse with us as gravely about a taste for poetry, as they express it, as if it were a thing as indifferent as a taste for rope-dancing, or Frontiniac, or sherry.'158 McCormick too saw the literary enemy as deadening and escapist—in his MLitt thesis he criticised 'pioneer verse' as 'narcotic'.159 But where Wordsworth's standard is primarily moral, McCormick's is nationalist. 'Sentimental', 'decorative' poetry is escapist in that it escaped to England. It evaded the challenges of building a New Zealand 'home in thought', of staying to work in the garden of Reeves' colonist.
This distinction between McCormick's argument and Wordsworth's recurs in their differing treatments of the authorial self to which literature must be true. For Wordsworth the self was implicated in, not external to, the construction of the phenomenal world, and the poet was a privileged interpreter, endowed with peculiar receptivity, feeling, thought and expression. 'But these passions and thoughts and feelings', he asserted, 'are the general passions and thoughts and feelings of men.'160 McCormick's writings embodied a different cult of the author. The authorial self intersected with the 'self' of the nation, 'the Spirit of New Zealand'. When 'the local versifier' wrote, he was, largely because of a heavy diet of English literature, 'probably suppressing a great deal of his "New Zealand self"'.161 McCormick was duly attentive to personal integrity as essential for writing, but New Zealand itself became co-author of the better works of literature.162 In this page 137connection it is constructive to compare the readings of Sargeson and John Mulgan in Letters and Art with those of Mansfield and Guthrie-Smith. Whether because their authors were dead, or because of their well known or explicit autobiographical aspects, Tutira and Mansfield's stories—those formative events in the growth of an indigenous literature—were discussed in relation to their authors' lives; Man Alone and Sargeson's stories were not. Other critics were freely biographical about contemporary authors, so decorum is not a readily apparent reason for this reserve, and McCormick had met Sargeson and could have said something about his life if he had wanted.163 Whatever the reason, the resultant impression was that Man Alone and Conversation in a Train were products less of their authors' idiosyncrasies than of their attunement to 'the spirit of New Zealand', which was part subject-matter, part Muse.
Though they differed, both Wordsworth and McCormick stressed the importance of an authentic authorial self; both also stressed the need for that self to engage with everyday realities and write about them in an appropriately quotidian language. Wordsworth attempted to reject 'mechanical' poeticisms for 'the very language of men': 'I have wished to keep my reader in the company of flesh and blood'.164 McCormick's criticism of the diction of Kowhai Gold a similar attitude: 'one finds expression in terms of traditional poetic phraseology—greenswards, coppices, darkling glades, dales, fields, cottages—to select random examples of words unknown to the vocabulary of the non-literary New Zealander'.165 In Letters and Art, McCormick remarked that Satchell and other novelists dealt in a blandly international English, with no local traits; Anne Glenny Wilson's gallicisms were 'the insignia of a naive and uneasily assimilated culture'. Mander showed some improvement, and Lee, Hyde and John Mulgan showed still more 'sensitiveness to local nuances'. Sargeson was 'the highest point' of the trend towards the use of 'a distinctive New Zealand idiom'.166
McCormick's arguments about how literature should deal with 'real life' were related more directly to late nineteenth-century fiction and early twentieth-century 'social realism'167 than to Wordsworth, though those movements owed a large debt of precedent to Lyrical Ballads. Wordsworth's stress on '[l]ow and rustic life' and labour was tempered by a purism of sentiment: he talked repeatedly about making sure the content of poetry avoids 'disgust' and 'vulgarity'.168 Simon Lee's swollen page 138ankles were as dangerously earthy as Wordsworth got. The masculinist literature associated with New Zealand's 'coming of age' in the 1930s had less need to expunge the gross. In New Zealand literature in the 1930s there was a frequent idealisation of working men, not just rural labourers, but also wharfies and construction workers.169 This emphasis extended beyond Glover and Fairburn to the more socialist writers crewing Tomorrow.170 More fundamental than socialist iconography were the dominant images of New Zealand masculinity. After all, this species of masculinism long outlasted the depression and the Popular Front cultural project.171
The adaptation trope, I have argued, derived from romantic conceptions of culture as organic. Letters and Art, however, had a very attenuated relationship with romantic organicism, and McCormick formed his adaptation thesis out of materials much closer to him in time and place. The important connection between adaptation and romanticism was one that Letters and Art itself made. Adaptation provided a narrative framework for the romantic critique McCormick employed. With its ideas of literary genuineness in terms of language, the self and the everyday ranged against literary artificiality, the preface to Lyrical Ballads supplied McCormick and, to varying degrees, his New Zealand predecessors with a criterion of value; Tutira provided a narrative structure for the changing fortunes of New Zealand literature in relation to that criterion.
Letters and Art was not the first work of New Zealand literary historiography out of nothing, but earlier general surveys were cursory. Literary histories were seldom published as stand-alone works. More often they were published on particular occasions (such as the Centennial, or Authors' Week in 1936), and in anthology prefaces. However, the body of writing on the subject was not negligible, and I need to discuss it briefly to indicate the extent to which McCormick altered literary history.
The anthropologically influenced theoretical section of McCormick's Cambridge MLitt thesis was entitled 'Cultural Criticism'. Cultural criticism of less theorised sorts was common in New Zealand literary historiography before McCormick. Commentators related the inadequacies of New Zealand literature to social and economic conditions. One reason for this was the nationalist undertow of literary criticism. A premium was placed on writing that was distinct to 'New Zealand'. Some critics and historians, in particular the unjustifiably forgotten Elizabeth Maisie Smith, argued that a lack of confidence in New Zealand culture and page 139history retarded good literature. New Zealand writers were 'lavish in their use of local colour' but seldom 'captur[ed] the spirit of the country'.172 Here, and in W. F. Alexander and A. E. Currie's claim that New Zealand verse caught little of New Zealand life, one can see rehearsals of McCormick's romantic and nationalist critique.173
In this respect McCormick's work was a development rather than a break. And while some were outraged at McCormick's omissions, many of his emphases for the years before 1930 were the same as those of other critics.174 Mansfield, for instance, was of great importance not only to McCormick but also to commentators as different as the Ian Milner of Phoenix, Arthur Sewell of Auckland University College, and PEN stalwarts such as Pat Lawlor and Scholefield.175 In his assessments of the 'quality' of New Zealand literature, McCormick diverged from his predecessors in his praise of the writers who made their debuts in the thirties, and in his marginalisation of twentieth-century non-fiction and his exclusion of short fiction and verse that mimicked the Bulletin. The exclusion of Australian-inspired balladry and yarns denied the mantle of unlettered frontiersmen to anyone but Sargeson. It also removed evidence that conflicted with McCormick's argument about the unremitting anglophilia of the literature of the first three decades of the twentieth century.176
McCormick's exclusion of recent non-fiction also made it easier for him to ignore non-anglophile writing such as Andersen's. In Letters and Art, as we have seen, Tutira is the only important work of twentieth-century non-fiction. By contrast in Scholefield and Alan Mulgan's surveys of New Zealand writing across a range of genres, scholarly writing appears as no less important than so-called imaginative work.177 Even Smith praised Buick and Cowan alongside Maning and Reeves.178 Reviewing Letters and Art on the radio, J. H. E. Schroder wondered why no room had page 140been found for Acland's Early Canterbury Runs or the work of biographers such as Stewart.179 Cowan's splenetic response to the book ('a lopsided, immature estimate of our literature') is interesting in this regard.180 Among other things he deplored the absence of Herbert Williams' Maori dictionary, and the work of Edward Tregear and John Macmillan Brown on the Maori language.181
Cowan's insistence on the importance of some non-fiction texts overlapped with his concern that Maori subjects were declining as a literary inspiration.182 It is possible to argue that in the absence of a strong body of fiction and poetry, early twentieth-century ethnological and historical writing served aesthetic as well as factual purposes, just as Old New Zealand, Adventure in New Zealand and so on had a factual as well as an aesthetic value. The work of the Polynesian Society had long engaged with exoticist passions, and in the interwar period traditionalist members resisted the incursion of work on material culture into the society's Journal, preferring 'articles on the language, songs, chants and mentality of the Native Race'.183 Aspects of New Zealand history were often described as 'romantic'.184 The terms of praise were aesthetic as well as empirical, making the past itself an aesthetic phenomenon. Cowan's response to Beaglehole's claim that New Zealand had no great literature was to say that it did not need one, because it had an exciting past.185 In other circumstances, literature may be a proxy for history; for some readers and writers in early twentieth-century New Zealand, history became a proxy for literature.
Letters and Art brought non-fiction down from the pedestals on which they had been set: McCormick's book inaugurated the marginalisation of non-autobiographical non-fiction in New Zealand literary criticism that Terry Sturm has diagnosed for the half-century before 1991.186 In this way, McCormick departed page 141from the practice of his predecessors. He re-wrote their work in other ways, too, taking inchoate romantic and nationalist critiques and combining them with a variety of other poetics and with the narrative structure of adaptation. His book was vastly different from any earlier literary history, but it retained some of the assumptions of earlier literary history and criticism, chiefly the belief that literature should be true to life, true to the self, and true to the nation. Those three things, self, life and nation, overlapped in McCormick and his predecessors, all assuming that a national literature, a truly New Zealand literature, would automatically be a nationalist literature. When nationhood was a goal rather than an existing reality, the terms 'national' and 'nationalist' blurred into each other. And when 'New Zealand literature' was by definition nationalist, literary history was always one kind or other of cultural criticism.
Themes of non-academic histories filtered into Letters and Art and other surveys: they were, to varying degrees, syntheses of local and academic historiography. Different historiographical traditions came together in the Centennial project in another way too. While not rejecting the injunction to be 'popular but authoritative', the relatively young, university-trained members of the Centennial staff saw the surveys project as an opportunity to re-fashion New Zealand scholarship according to academic standards. Heenan did not quite see things this way, and some of the authors he insisted upon hiring produced manuscripts that, in Hall's words, 'belong[ed] to the tradition of New Zealand history writing which the Centennial Publications programme was designed to supersede'.187 The confrontations between the different kinds of historians who wrote Centennial surveys did not constitute a showdown that dramatically changed the New Zealand historical 'profession', but they illustrate the range of New Zealand historiographical practice, and the impact of university expansion, at the end of the period studied in this thesis.
Of those involved with the Centennial, it was Hall who was the most explicit about making the surveys a new beginning in New Zealand historical scholarship. As well as sniping comments to that effect about authors' manuscripts, he made a strong public announcement on the subject, after a writer in Tomorrow had complained: 'From present indications it appears that the Centenary celebrations are going to be little more than a glorious bean-feast.'188 Hall's reply stressed the substantial nature of the publications, and claimed: 'New Zealand History has page 142always suffered from the enthusiastic amateur. What is valuable in his researches will now be more strictly assessed by trained minds, and something approaching a standardisation of that elusive entity, historical truth, achieved.'189
Hall the publicist may have been exaggerating the expectations of the Centennial staff, but he was not distorting the general orientation of some of its more important members. McCormick's autobiography records similar ambitions for the Centennial books.190 His memoir was, of course, written long after the fact, but it is consistent with his practice as editor. Fourteen years after the Centennial Beaglehole decried the 'amateurishness' of New Zealand scholarship, and in the late 1930s he held similar views about the vulgarity of much 'amateur' writing.191 For instance, when N. R. McKenzie approached Heenan in 1940 for a subsidy on a second edition of his book The Gael Fares Forth: The Romantic Story of Waipu and Her Sister Settlements, Beaglehole told Heenan that 'the republication of this book fills me with dismay'.192
The Centennial staff's implicit and sometimes explicit commitment to scholarship sometimes came into conflict with Heenan's actions. Heenan supported 'pure scholarship'193 but he did not dream of a Centennial 'standardisation of … historical truth' on academic terms, and he had some reservations about touchy academics.194 He also insisted on looking after his 'old cobbers' by offering them survey commissions.195
Of the clashes arising from this difference of opinion, the one that required the most editorial work concerned the survey on science in New Zealand. The Centennial staff had trouble finding a suitable author. A budding chemist, Edmund F. Hubbard,196 submitted an unsolicited outline. Duff said that it had the makings of an appropriately pitched survey, but Hubbard was not hired as he lacked the necessary scientific knowledge and authority.197 At the same time, Duff consulted the distinguished scientists W. P. Evans and Sir Thomas Easterfield. Both told him that science had become so specialised that no one writer could hope to survey the page 143field.198 They favoured a multi-author volume.199 Some Editorial Committee members doubted that an author could be found, and felt that the important parts of the subject might be dealt with in Making New Zealand.200 Heenan insisted on the inclusion of science, and in August 1938 his friend S. H. Jenkinson was chosen to write the book.201 Jenkinson, as I have said, was an engineer in the Railways Department who also did some journalistic work.
Jenkinson decided to treat his subject biographically, in striking contrast to comparable surveys (such as The Farmer in New Zealand). The resultant book, New Zealanders and Science, was thus a pantheon of 'scientists', like an institutional anniversary publication.202 As such it was squarely within the 'amateur' practice of avoiding synthesis and keeping the integrity of particularities. The planning committees had envisaged a book that would deal also with the impact on New Zealand of impersonal scientific developments such as refrigeration. Ruth Fletcher (later Ruth Allan), who was working as a research assistant for the Centennial publications, was given the task of re-writing the book completely, 'but even she could not wholly redeem it'.203 Jenkinson's biographical focus remained.
Heenan was also responsible for commissioning Cowan's Settlers and Pioneers, the excesses of which annoyed McCormick and Hall.204 Hall wrote a swingeing critique of the manuscript, consigning it to the amateur tradition that needed to be superseded. He denounced it as anecdotal, inconsistent, and 'suffer[ing] markedly from the lack of any connected plan'. 'I cannot conceive that he undertook any research for the survey. He apparently looks to Railways Magazine [sic] rhetoric to cover his impudent sins of omission…. This survey, as it stands, would fall well below the standard of the rest. It is a work of emotion rather than scholarship.'205 Despite this criticism, however, little seems to have been done to rein Cowan in with the exception of removing the chapter on the Waikato War. The survey was not rewritten as Jenkinson's was.
As I have already said, from a distance of almost sixty years Settlers and Pioneers seems quite similar to Simpson's The Women of New Zealand. The Centennial staff, however, thought the latter an excellent piece of scholarship.206 The differences in page 144their reception of the two texts illustrate their assumptions about professional and amateur modes of 'social history'. In Tomorrow Hall had promised: 'Aspects of social history never before described will become generally known through these surveys.'207 The Women of New Zealand was presumably the fruit of this quest. J. W. Davidson, a former Beaglehole student, Centennial research assistant and, by this time, doctoral student at Cambridge, thought the book 'brilliant', 'a landmark in the little touched field of New Zealand social history'.208 In 1940, 'social history' did not mean 'history from below'. The work of J. L. Hammond and Barbara Hammond on English labourers was not endorsed by the elite of the English historical profession until the 1930s, and no New Zealand historian seems to have commented on it.209 William Cobbett's Rural Rides was floated as a model for Duff's New Zealand Now, in contrast to R. S. Lynd and Ellen M. Lynd's dangerously 'sociological' Middletown.210 Social history meant a history of 'everyday' life (though not necessarily that of 'ordinary' people) composed from people's letters and diaries, and from contemporaries' observations of them. When social history was thus conceived in narrative rather than 'sociological' terms, it was structural and stylistic matters, not methodological ones, which meant that Simpson's book would be deemed social history and Cowan's deemed a clutch of sentimental anecdotes. Simpson's book was tightly structured, written in calmer prose, and more discreet than Cowan's in its statements of opinion. Its quotations from manuscript sources may have been more accurate than those in 'unprofessional' books, but the Centennial staff did not check them.211
In taking a subject dear to non-university historians and writing a more orderly and temperate account of it, Simpson's survey performed a similar task to McClymont's (though with much more flair).212 Both Simpson and McClymont were doing what Elder did with his books on goldmining and exploration. All three writers effected a 'standardisation' of amateur histories without questioning their page 145assumptions about the cultural significance of their subjects and their methodological dependence on extensive quotation.
The other surveys (with the exception of Duff's, which was meant to be an exception) also applied professional academic standards to a body of work previously treated spasmodically or uncritically (though Beaglehole had covered some of his territory before with The Exploration of the Pacific). But only a few of the total eleven drowned out their predecessors, fully 'superseding' an earlier tradition.
Webb's Government in New Zealand quietly revised earlier views but was itself torn apart by Leslie Lipson in the Journal of Public Administration and later displaced by Lipson's The Politics of Equality.213 The Farmer in New Zealand and Educating New Zealand sold poorly; their influence is difficult to trace, though the former was being used as a text for civil service training in 1945.214 Jenkinson's book sank without a trace. Simpson's Women of New Zealand (one of the best-sellers of the series),215 Cowan's Settlers and Pioneers and McClymont's The Exploration of New Zealand were all works in populous genres, and did not greatly change their fields.
Three surveys effectively replaced previous works. Beaglehole's Discovery of New Zealand, another of the best-sellers of the series, became a standard text.216 Wood's New Zealand in the World 'broke new ground'.217 It inaugurated a field of study. Letters and Art was perceived to have done so too, as is evinced in the widespread assumption that along with Allen Curnow's 1945 anthology introduction it is a founding document of New Zealand literary criticism. At the very least, its remapping of the canon to exclude most non-fiction helped to set the parameters of New Zealand literary criticism for decades. Letters and Art, New Zealand in the World and The Discovery of New Zealand were the only volumes of the survey series that fulfilled Hall's professed goal of a publishing programme to supersede amateur traditions.
These three were 'definitive' books, in the casual sense of long-lasting; McCormick's and Wood's were definitive also in the sense that they 'defined' new fields. Three such books and five other academically respectable ones were not a bad result. Dreams of 'a standardisation of that elusive entity, historical truth' could not be satisfied by a single publishing programme, as no doubt McCormick, Beaglehole, Hall and others knew. The professionalisation of New Zealand historical writing page 146was not catalysed significantly by confrontations with 'amateur' historians such as the conflicts at the time of the Centennial. The increasing profile of academics' work on New Zealand history in the years after 1940 owed more to the gradual creation of a new, university-educated public than to battles with non-university historians for their audience. The significance of the Centennial disputes over the method, style, and subject-matter of New Zealand history lies in the way they disclose the increasing cultural authority of university-trained historians by 1940, and the way they show that this authority was neither complete nor uncontested.
The surveys are thus an important illustration of the institutional changes occurring in New Zealand historiography at the end of the period under study. For the same reasons, they involved a combination of different ways of writing about New Zealand, different ways of creating a 'home in thought'. Elements of local histories (which of course shared the assumption that 'New Zealand' essentially meant 'Pakeha' or 'European') were incorporated into the surveys; other indigenising strategies, most conspicuously Cowan's, were not. New Zealand was explained almost exclusively in terms of European activity. Existing modes of indigenisation that foregrounded Maori were incompatible with both adaptation and the less theorised conceptions of the Britishness of New Zealand that were woven together with academic criteria of what counted as history.
3 Booker, 'Centennial Surveys,' Rachel Barrowman, '"Culture-organising": Joe Heenan and the Beginnings of State Patronage of the Arts', New Zealand Studies, 6, 2 (July 1996), pp. 3-10; McEldowney, "Publishing, Patronage, Literary Magazines', pp. 568-72. First-hand accounts include E. H. McCormick, An Absurd Ambition: Autobiographical Writings, ed. Dennis McEldowney, Auckland, 1996, ch. 10; and Beaglehole, 'New Zealand Scholar', pp. 245-7.
8 R. W. de Montalk to James Thorn, 13 June 1937 and 6 July 1937; de Montalk to E. H. McCormick, 6 July 1937, IA1, 62/8, part I. A mass of other early and usually self-interested suggestions for Centennial publications is contained in this file.
9 Scholefield, Who's Who, 4th edn, p. 346.
10 'Biographical Note', nd , IA1, 62/110/11.
11 Scholefield, Who's Who, 5th edn, p. 40.
12 Hall, promotional notes for Heenan, 17 February 1939, IA1, 62/8/1, part 2.
13 Duff to Heenan, 3 May 1938, IA1, 62/8/1, part I; McCormick to Heenan, 11 October 1937, IA1, 62/8/1, part 1; McCormick to Heenan, 20 October 1937, IA1 62/8, part 1; Hall, notes for Heenan, 17 February 1939, IA1, 62/8/1, part 2.
14 Other examples are W. E. Parry, speech to National Centennial Council, 8 December 1938, copy in Heenan Papers, 1132/293; Parry, 'National Centennial', [June 1938], IA1, 62/8, part 1; and Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives, 1938, H-22, p. 2.
15 Duff to Sutch, 30 June 1938, IA1, 62/110/5.
16 Standing Committee minutes, 21 June 1937, IA1, 62/8, part 1.
17 Chappell to McCormick, 9 May 1938, IA1, 62/8/1, part 1.
18 Heenan to Webb, 11 October 1940, Heenan Papers, 1132/250.
20 Hall, '"Social Services in New Zealand" by W. B. Sutch', 29 April 1940; McIntosh, 'Criticism of first draft of "Social Services'", nd; Duff to McCormick, 16 July 1940; McCormick to Heenan, 26 August 1940; McCormick to Heenan, 11 October 1940; Heenan to Walter Nash, 19 September 1940, IA1, 62/110/5.
22 McIntosh, 'Criticism of first draft of "Social Services'".
23 As reported by McCormick to Heenan, 11 October 1940, IA1, 62/110/5.
24 Alley and Hall, Farmer in New Zealand, pp. 113-5. Alley did the research for the book but could not get around to writing it, so Hall wrote it up: IA1, 62/8/3.
25 McCormick to Heenan, 30 January 1940; McCormick to Webb, 4 March 1940, IA1, 62/110/4.
26 Webb, Government in New Zealand, pp. 146-50 (quotation from p. 149).
27 Phillips, '1940—the Centennial'.
28 Duff, New Zealand Now, pp. 93-5. The book was originally to be titled "The Pakeha', balancing Apirana Ngata's survey on Maori. McCormick to Heenan, 14 April 1938, reporting on the Standing Committee meeting of the previous day, IA1, 62/8/1, part 1.
30 Hight and Webb to McCormick, 22 April 1938; Chappell to McCormick, 9 May 1938, IA1, 62/8/1, part 1,
32 Minutes of Standing Committee meeting, 13 April 1938, IA1, 62/8/1, part 1.
33 Kippenberger to Duff, 9 June 1938, IA1, 62/8/1, part 1.
34 Minutes of National Historical Committee meeting, 17 June 1938, IA1, 62/8/1, part 1.
35 Duff to Hight, 27 April 1938, IA1, 62/8/1, part 1.
36 F. L. W. Wood to McCormick, 25 June 1937, IA1, 62/8/1, part 1; McCormick, unaddressed memo reporting on Standing Committee meeting of 21 June 1937, IA1, 62/8, part 1. At the first meeting of the National Historical Committee on 10 June 1937, John A. Lee 'mentioned the lack of available material on the history of New Zealand industries particularly in their bearing on social life': Minutes dated 20 July 1937, copy in Buick Papers, 58/107. Suggestions of a survey on the labour movement were abandoned after lengthy discussion: IA1, 62/9/17.
37 Alley and Hall, Farmer in New Zealand, p. 141.
38 McCormick, report of Standing Committee meeting, 13 April 1938, IA1, 62/8/1, part 1; Chappell to McCormick, 9 May 1938, IA1, 62/8/1, part 1; [Elder and Paul], 'Requests to Editorial Sub-Committee by Otago Members of Nation Committee', nd [April 1938], IA1, 62/7/1.
39 Paul to McCormick, 23 April 1938, IA1, 62/8/1, part 1.
41 Ibid., pp. 33, 35-6, 109.
42 Ibid., p. 85.
43 Cowan, Settlers and Pioneers, pp. 47-8.
45 Simpson's book was not the only one to do this. Compare Woodhouse, 'Introduction' to Woodhouse, ed., Tales of Pioneer Women, p. xv: 'The tales tell chiefly of women, but the lives of our grandfathers and grandmothers were so closely bound together that to tell of one without the other would not give a true picture of the pioneering days.'
46 F. L. W. Wood, New Zealand in the World, Wellington, 1940, pp. 100, 102, 106, 132.
47 Ibid., p. 133.
48 Ibid., p. 107.
49 Ibid, pp. 105-6.
50 Ibid., p. 106.
51 Ibid., p. 133.
53 Wood, New Zealand in the World, p. 123.
55 Alley and Hall, Farmer in New Zealand, p. 4.
56 Ibid., p. 22; publicity material in IA1 62/9/15, part 1.
58 Ibid., p. 2.
59 Ibid., p. 13; Genesis 3:17-19.
60 See Gibbons, 'Non-fiction', p. 60.
61 Compare ibid., p. 69.
62 McClymont, Exploration of New Zealand, p. 100.
64 Minutes of a meeting of the Standing Committee of the National Historical Committee, 13 April 1938, IA1, 62/8/1, part 1.
65 Minutes of Standing Committee meeting, 21 June 1937, IA1, 62/8, part 1.
66 Cowan said to McCormick that he 'deferred to your wishes and Mr Heenan's' in cutting the chapter. McCormick wrote Cowan a letter in which he said, 'It is regrettable to have to suppress the truth, but in the world as at present constituted, it is sometimes inevitable.' Cowan to McCormick, 24 October 1939; McCormick to Cowan, 26 October 1939, IA1, 62/110/2.
68 Duff to Ngata, 15 July 1938, IA1, 62/110/9.
69 Standing Committee minutes, 13 April 1938, IA1, 62/8/1, part 1; Duff to Heenan, 23 March 1938 (reporting on the Editorial Committee meeting of 21 March 1938), IA1, 62/8/1, part 1. R. M. Campbell, however, suggested I. L. G. Sutherland as author, or Sutherland and Ngata in collaboration: Campbell to Heenan, 9 August 1937, IA1, 62/8/1, part 1. The minutes of the meeting (13 April 1938) at which Ngata was selected over Buck do not mention the reasons for the choice.
70 Duff to Ngata, 15 July 1938, IA1, 62/110/9.
71 Hall, publicity material for Heenan's use, 17 February 1939, IA1, 62/8/1, part 2.
74 Buick, Waitangi: Ninety Four Years After, ch. 5.
75 Orange, Treaty of Waitangi, pp. 237-8.
76 'Speech Delivered by Hon. Sir Apirana Ngata, M.P. at Waitangi celebrations on 6th February, 1940', IA1, 62/25/6. See also Ngata to Buck, 15 July 1940, in Sorrenson, ed., Na To Hoa Aroha, vol. 3, pp. 245-6.
77 Duff, 'Memorandum to Authors', 27 June 1938, IA1, 62/8/1, part 1.
78 Duff, New Zealand Now, p. 116; Beaglehole, Discovery of New Zealand, pp. 2, 3; McCormick, Letters and Art, p. 1; Alley and Hall, Farmer in New Zealand, p. 141; Parry, speech to 'New Zealand Centenary 1940' conference, 2 March 1936, Heenan Papers, 1132/290; McCormick to Heenan, 11 October 1937, IA1, 62/8/1, part 1.
80 McCormick to Heenan, 11 October 1937, IA1, 62/8/1, part I.
81 Heenan to McCormick, 14 October 1937; McCormick to Heenan, 15 October 1937, IA1, 62/8/1, part I.
83 Duff, 'Memorandum to Authors', 27 June 1938, IA1, 62/8/1, part 1. In a covering letter to Heenan on the same date, Duff wrote that this memo was 'of course a condensation of the much fuller statement submitted many months ago by Mr McCormick'. Earlier in his memo to authors Duff repeated verbatim another point a passage from McCormick's letter of 11 October 1937.
84 McCormick, Absurd Ambition, p. 131.
85 Thorn to Heenan, 17 May 1937; Heenan to Thorn, 1 June 1937, IA1, 62/7/1.
86 McCormick, 'Material for Use of the Chairman of the NHC Meeting, 10th June, 1937', IA1, 62/7/1. 'Thorn's' speech was widely reported; Heenan had sent copies of the speech to 'All Newspapers in [the] Dominion' (Heenan, circular letter, 11 June 1937, IA1, 62/7/1). See, for example, Otago Daily Times, 12 June 1937; Auckland Star, 12 June 1937.
87 McCormick, 'Material for Use of the Chairman'.
88 McCormick to Heenan, 11 October 1937, IA1, 62/8/1, part I.
89 McCormick to Heenan, 19 July 1937, IA1, 62/8, part 1.
92 Hyde, 'Singers of Loneliness', p. 355.
94 Holcroft, Deepening Stream, p. 21.
95 'News and Views', Tomorrow, 4, 22 (31 August 1938), p. 674.
96 William Pember Reeves, 'A Colonist in His Garden', in Curnow, ed., Penguin Book of New Zealand Verse, pp. 98-101; Satchell quoted in E. M. Smith, A History of New Zealand Fiction from 1862 to the Present Time with Some Account of Its Relation to the National Life and Character, Dunedin, 1939, p. 65.
97 Ernest Dieffenbach, Travels in New Zealand; with Contributions to the Geography, Geology, Botany, and Natural History of That Country, 2 vols, London, 1843, vol. 1, pp. 2-3; Thomas Cholmondeley, Ultima Thule; or, Thoughts Suggested by a Residence in New Zealand, London, 1854, pp. 311, 316-17.
98 See Phillips, Man's Country?, chs 1-3.
99 Duff, New Zealand Now, pp. 1-2, 28-9.
100 Webb, Government in New Zealand, p. vii.
101 Ibid., pp. 119, 108.
102 Ibid., pp. 123-5; see also pp. 74-5.
103 Alley and Hall, Farmer in New Zealand, pp. 76-83, 141.
104 Ibid., pp. 51-2, 85.
105 Ibid., pp. 50-53.
106 Campbell, Educating New Zealand, pp. 4-5.
107 Ibid., p. 6.
108 Ibid., pp. 72-3.
109 Ibid., pp. 73.
110 Ibid., pp. 106, 116-9.
111 Ibid., p. 108.
112 Simpson, Women of New Zealand, pp. 2, 17.
114 Unsigned, undated (late 1938?) list of proposed titles for the Centennial surveys, with corrections and additions in McCormick's handwriting, IA1 62/8/1, part 2. See also McCormick, Letters and Art, pp. 59, 69.
115 E. H. McCormick, 'Literature in New Zealand', MA thesis, Victoria University College, 1929, MSX-4251, ATL; McCormick, 'Literature in New Zealand: An Essay in Cultural Criticism', MLitt thesis, Cambridge University, 1935, MSX-4250, ATL. To distinguish these two theses in the footnotes, the Victoria thesis will be referred to as 'Literature in New Zealand' and the Cambridge one as 'An Essay in Cultural Criticism'.
116 For a fuller discussion of the differences between the two theses see M. P. K. Sorrenson, 'The Making of Letters and Art in New Zealand' in James Ross, Linda Gill and Stuart McRae, eds, Writing a New Country: A Collection of Essays Presented to E. H. McCormick in His 88th Year, Auckland, 1993.
117 McCormick, 'Literature in New Zealand', p. 37.
118 McCormick, 'An Essay in Cultural Criticism', p. 192.
119 These charges of romanticism were not just invented by the enemies of earlier New Zealand poetry. In a letter to McCormick defending his 'venerable coevals' against the distaste of 'the whole younger generation', the erstwhile anthology-editor W. F. Alexander placed the work of older New Zealand poets in the tradition of 'that older romanticism wh.[ich] filled music & painting as well as poetry for a century, giving us Keats & Scott & Coleridge &, with a last spurt, Rossetti and Swinburne, & centuries earlier got into Vergil & Shakespeare & Lord knows what besides, though it didn't dominate [them? then?]'. Alexander to McCormick, 23 February 1941, McCormick Papers, 166/14.
121 Ibid., pp. 124, 149.
125 Ibid., p. 97.
126 Ibid., p. 94.
127 Ibid., p. 91-2.
128 Ibid., p. 104
129 Ibid., pp. 109, 125.
130 Ibid., p. 107; Mulgan, 'Tribute to Jessie Mackay', typescript of a talk broadcast on 28 August 1938, Mulgan Papers, 224/18.
133 Ibid., p. 117.
134 Ibid., p. 125.
135 Siegfried, Democracy in New Zealand, ch. 21.
137 Ibid, pp. 126-9.
140 Ibid., pp. 154-5.
141 McCormick, 'Literature in New Zealand', pp. 112-3.
142 McCormick, Letters and Art, pp. 110-12, 146-8. Jean Devanny, characterised in McCormick's MA thesis as melodramatic and crude but worthy of consideration, warrants only a passing swipe in Letters and Art. McCormick, 'Literature in New Zealand', p. 116; Letters and Art, p. 148.
144 McCormick, 'An Essay in Cultural Criticism', p. 222.
145 Ibid., pp. 223-4.
146 Ibid., p. 224
148 Ibid., pp. 170-72.
149 Ibid., pp. 188-89.
150 Ibid., p. 182.
151 McCormick, 'Literature in New Zealand', p. 8.
152 Donal Smith attributes McCormick's argument about New Zealand literary development as a struggle with artificial, inappropriate literary inheritances to the influence of McCormick's Cambridge mentor F. R. Leavis's ideas of 'the literary', set out in New Bearings in English Poetry (1932). (Donal Smith, 'Eric McCormick's Cambridge' in Ross, Gill and McRae, eds, Writing a New Country, pp. 47-50.) However, McCormick had obviously not read this book in 1929, when he made a similar argument in his MA thesis. In Letters and Art, the romantic terminology of the two theses is pared. back, and the debt to the romantics not explicit. A more direct influence was Leavis's advice to McCormick to study New Zealand writing—not 'literature'—in a 'sociological' or 'anthropological' way, as in his wife Q. D. Leavis's work. See Q. D. Leavis, Fiction and the Reading Public, London, 1932, pp. xiv, xv, and Ian MacKillop, F. R. Leavis: A Life in Criticism, London, 1995, p. 144. However, the MLitt thesis and Letters and Art are much more concerned than is Fiction and the Reading Public with writing rather than the institutions of literature.
154 Wordsworth, 'Appendix', in Lyrical Ballads, p. 252; 'Preface', p. 27.
155 McCormick, 'Literature in New Zealand', p. 37.
156 McCormick, 'An Essay in Cultural Criticism', p. 222.
158 Wordsworth, 'Preface', pp. 32-3. Though Wordsworth talks of 'poetry', most of his comments are applicable to prose too. He uses 'poetry' to mean something more than good writing in metrical form, and plays down the differences between poetry and prose. Ibid., pp. 28, 29n; Wordsworth, 'Appendix', p. 257.
160 Wordsworth, 'Preface', p. 37.
161 McCormick, 'An Essay in Cultural Criticism', p. 234.
162 Rachel Barrowman writes that the 'discourse of New Zealand cultural nationalism in the 1930s and 1940s expresses … [an] ambivalence regarding the role of the artist. It … contains a strong emphasis on originating and creating while simultaneously subscribing to an organic model of culture', the development of which is 'a natural process'. Barrowman, A Popular Vision: The Arts and the Left in New Zealand 1930-1950, Wellington, 1991, pp. 232-3.
163 Michael King, Frank Sargeson: A Life, Auckland, 1995, p. 192.
164 Wordsworth, 'Preface', p. 26; see also pp. 18, 21, 29, 43.
165 McCormick, 'An Essay in Cultural Criticism', p. 224.
167 Kai Jensen, Whole Men: The Masculine Tradition in New Zealand Literature, Auckland, 1996, p. 42.
168 Wordsworth, 'Preface', pp. 21, 29, 32.
169 Wordsworth, incidentally, depicted female workers as well as male.
170 Jensen, Whole Men, pp. 43-5.
171 Jensen, Whole Men, p. 45.
172 Smith, History of New Zealand Fiction, p. 59; see also pp. 62-3.
173 Alexander and Currie, 'Introduction', to Alexander and Currie, eds., New Zealand Verse, pp. xxvi-xxvii. The revised (1926) edition of this anthology did not have a comparable, updated introduction. The original introduction was removed and replaced with a bland one-page preface. Alexander and Currie, eds., Treasury of New Zealand Verse: Being a New Edition of New Zealand Verse, Auckland, 1926, p. iii.
175 Milner, 'A Note on Katherine Mansfield'; Arthur Sewell, Katherine Mansfield: A Critical Essay, Auckland, 1936; Lawlor, Books and Bookmen, pp. 22-5, 120-9. Scholefield contributed a chapter on Mansfield to her father's memoirs: Harold Beauchamp, Reminiscences and Recollections, New Plymouth, 1937, pp. 190-217. For another slice of popular Mansfieldiana see Tom L. Mills, 'Katherine Mansfield: How Kathleen Beauchamp Came into Her Own', New Zealand Railways Magazine, 8, 5 (September 1933), pp. 6-7.
178 Smith, History of New Zealand Fiction, pp. 73, 36-7.
181 Cowan, 'Omissions: The Study of Maori: Speech and Literature', typescript of a review or a note on Letters and Art, published in the Auckland Star on 12 February 1941; copy in P. A. Lawlor Papers, MS Papers 4310, ATL.
182 Phillips, 'Musings in Maoriland', pp. 534-5.
184 See chs 3 and 4, above, and Elder, Goldseekers and Bushrangers, pp. 5, 34, 37; Condliffe, Short History, p. 193. Gillespie, 'Preface' to Gillespie, ed., New Zealand Short Stories, p. vi, claimed that New Zealand's history 'lack[ed] much romantic material usually found in a new land'. Consider also the titles of these books: A. J. Harrop, The Romance of Westland: The Story of New Zealand's Golden Coast, Auckland, 1923; and N. R. McKenzie, The Gael Fares Forth: The Romantic Story of Waipu and Her Sister Settlements, 2nd edn, Wellington, 1942. This sample is not exhaustive.
185 Cowan, 'New Zealand History: Its Teaching and Its Uses', p. 56. Cowan did not name his target, but the offending comment—'Not enough men have died in this land. Not in letters nor in art has life crystallised and ennobled itself'—came from Beaglehole, New Zealand, p. 159.
186 Sturm, 'Introduction' to Sturm, ed., Oxford History of New Zealand Literature, p. xiii.
187 Hall, 'Mr Cowan's Survey', 8 September 1939, IA1, 62/110/2.
188 'News and Views', Tomorrow, 4, 21 (17 August 1938), p. 642.
189 [D. O. W. Hall], 'The Centennial', Tomorrow, 4, 24 (28 September 1938), p. 766; draft copy dated 19 September 1938 in IA1, 62/9/15, part 1. The published version of the quoted passage is identical to the draft.
190 McCormick, Absurd Ambition, pp. 145-6.
194 Heenan to Parry, 29 June 1936, IA1, 62/7; Barrowman, '"Culture-organising"', p. 5.
195 McCormick, Absurd Ambition, pp. 145-6.
197 Hubbard to Duff, 2 July 1938; Duff to Heenan, 5 July 1938, IA1, 62/8/1, part 1.
198 Easterfield to Duff, 29 June 1938; Evans to Duff, 11 July 1938, IA1, 62/8/1, part 1.
199 Duff to Evans, 26 August 1938, IA1, 62/8/1, part 1.
200 Duff to Heenan, 23 March 1938, IA1, 62/8/1, part 1.
201 Booker, 'Centennial Surveys', p. 94; Duff to Evans, 26 August 1938, IA1, 62/8/1, part 2.
203 McCormick, Absurd Ambition, p. 146.
204 McEldowney, 'Publishing, Patronage, Literary Magazines', p. 570.
205 Hall, 'Mr Cowan's Survey', 8 September 1939, IA1, 62/110/2.
206 Hall to McCormick, 16 October 1937, and other correspondence in IA1, 62/110/11. Reviewing both surveys in Historical Studies: Australia and New Zealand, 1, 2 (October 1940), pp. 142-3, Sylvia R. Smith classified Simpson's book as a 'historical survey' and Cowan's as a 'collection of reminiscences'. Smith was born Sylvia Masterman; she had written an MA thesis on Samoa at the University of London, and was teaching part-time at Victoria in 1940: Boyd, 'Women in the Historical Profession', p. 77.
207 Hall, 'The Centennial', p. 766.
208 Davidson to Heenan, 28 August 1940, Heenan Papers, 1132/48.
209 Soffer, Discipline and Power, pp. 74-5.
210 Minutes of Standing Committee meeting, 8 October 1937, IA1, 62/8/1, part 1; minutes of Standing Committee meeting, 21 June 1937, IA1, 62/8, part 1. See also H. C. D. Somerset, Littledene: A New Zealand Rural Community, Auckland, 1938, pp. v, 52.
211 It might be objected that Simpson's PhD in English from the University of London was the deciding factor in her legitimacy in the eyes of the Centennial staff. However, Sutch's PhD did not stop them from finding sloppiness, flabbiness and irrelevancies in his manuscript.
212 Booker comments: '186 "explorers" are mentioned in 189 pages'. Booker, 'Centennial Surveys', p. 53n.
213 Heenan to Webb, 16 August 1940, Heenan Papers, 1132/250; Lipson, The Politics of Equality: New Zealand's Adventures in Democracy, Chicago, 1948, especially p. 233n.
215 Sales figures in J. B. Clark to [A. K. Brady], 18 February 1944, IA1, 62/8/10, part 3; [Heenan?], report on Centennial publications, nd, [April or May 1942?], IA1, 62/8/10, part 3; Heenan to Davidson, 13 April 1942, Heenan Papers, 1132/48.
216 Clark to [Brady], 18 February 1944, IA1, 62/8/10, part 3.
217 McEldowney, 'Publishing, Patronage, Literary Magazines', p. 570.