Maoriland: New Zealand Literature 1872–1914
6. Edith Searle Grossmann: Feminising the Bush
6. Edith Searle Grossmann: Feminising the Bush
The white Canadian looks at the Indian. The Indian is Other and therefore alien. But the Indian is indigenous and therefore cannot be alien. So the Canadian must be alien. But how can the Canadian be alien within Canada?2
The settler resolves this conundrum, Goldie argues, by taking on the characteristics of the indigene, replacing the Indian (or Aborigine, or Maori), and becoming indigenous himself:
Through the indigene the white character gains soul and the potential to become of the land. A quite appropriate pun is that it is only by going native that the European can become native.3
This process involves two mechanisms: firstly, the appropriation of indigenous subject matter — mythology, history, custom, literary forms — by settler narratives. The indigene is fashioned as a subject for artistic expression at the very moment that he is being separated off from modernity and excluded from the modern nation, relegated to McClintock's 'archaic space'.4 The settler owns the stories of the indigene because the indigene is figured as no longer present to contest ownership. Secondly, settler narratives depict the settler, in the now empty and available landscape, as taking on the characteristics of the page 172(now absent) indigene. These characteristics constitute a validation of settler possession and indigenous dispossession.
Edith Searle Grossmann's 1910 novel The Heart of the Bush is a romance, that most conservative of genres that tidies up the problems it posits. Romance is a favourite genre of colonial writers because of the way it allows the difficulties of settlement to be examined and resolved. Unlike earlier interracial romances, such as Ranolf and Amohia, The Heart of the Bush offers the reader lovers who are Pakeha and also 'native' in the sense that they are born in New Zealand. The difference between them — and the difficulties between them — depend on the degree to which and the manner in which they have become indigenous.
Adelaide, the heroine of The Heart of the Bush, has been educated in England. Her suitor, Dennis, has remained on her father's New Zealand farm as its manager. Dennis's rough charms and his ease within the landscape are compared to the smooth metropolitan glamour of his rival for Adelaide's affections, the Englishman Horace Brandon:
Judged by every civilized standard, Horace Brandon was incomparably the finer man of the two, but he would have been incongruous amongst the mountains and the clouds where Dennis was quite at home.5
Despite her anxiety that the sophisticated Horace might possess Svengali-like powers and mesmerise her into submission 'by some psychic means' (72), Adelaide's choice, early in the novel, is easily made, and involves a rejection of Englishness and propriety:
'I will be a wild girl, untamed, un-English, without taste or principles, a social outcast, a moral reprobate, anything but Horace Brandon's wife,' she cried inwardly. (73)
The descriptions of Dennis's possession of Adelaide stress his primitive nature and his place in the uncivilised:
… he looked around on the river and the untrodden mountains, then took her completely to himself … Her heart beat in ecstasy … every nerve thrilled with self-consciousness. Her bridegroom was such a barbarian sometimes, and she felt as if page 173he were literally bearing her straight out of her civilised sphere into his kingdom. (163)
in truth he was in her own home a little trying, or at least unexpected, but among the mountains his most uncivilised ways would be appropriate, and there the prelude to their married life would be perfect. (157)
Dennis's sometimes inconvenient savagery comes from the romantic — and Romantic — traditions. He is a literary descendant of the attractive and morally ambiguous heroes of Gothic fiction, from Byron, and from fictional hunks such as Heathcliff and Mr Rochester. Unlike Horace Brandon, he is at home in the wilderness rather than the drawing room. But there is an aspect of his lineage, derived from closer to home, which is indigenous. When we first see him as a boy he is described as having 'the agility of a fish or a North Island Maori' (1). To the effete Horace Brandon, who complains that '[t]here isn't a castle nor an old cathedral, not even a thatched cottage, in the whole colony' (10), Dennis is 'the native Charon of the flood', 'a son of the soil', and he assumes that Dennis is Maori (13). 'I am sure you would have liked him better in his every day tattoo and feathers,' Horace tells Adelaide but, '[a]s your father sent him, he can't be an unconverted cannibal' (13). His mistake is reinforced by the way the narrative presents Dennis. He is described as a 'big brown New Zealander', a term that in the early days of settlement meant Maori, 'a rough-coated, primitive bushman' (13) with 'brown, bovine eyes' (14).
Dennis's indigenous status is signalled not just by his appearance and the difference between him and the sophisticated Horace, but by the way he is associated with the primitive energy of the natural world. He page 174emerges out of the almost sentient bush, 'green living shapes, — primeval, beckoning, calling' (12). His voice is 'full and deep', but also 'melodiously like one of the forest sounds that echoed amongst the cliffs and rocks' (13). He displays what Linda Hardy has described as 'natural occupancy'.6 Although not native, he seems to have gone native — an important distinction. It is one thing to assume the positive characteristics of authentic primitivism, another to be confused with a present-day member of the indigenous race. When Horace refers to Dennis as 'that half-caste fellow' (62), Adelaide is quick to rebuke him:
[Her] face burnt, but she answered with a distinct clear enunciation, 'Mr MacDiarmid's father was a Highlander and his mother was Irish. He has no more native blood than you or I, Mr Brandon'. (62)
… by blood and birth a barbarian, of a race that had come from the wilds of the Highlands and the Isle of Achill, and had rooted itself here in the still more savage country amongst the Alps of Maoriland.7(99)
Goldie writes of the way in which the figure of the indigene was represented in fixed stereotypes. Many of these stereotypical attributes derived from European Romanticism's conception of the noble savage. However, as we have noted, in New Zealand the figure of the Maori was also inflected by associated theories of Celticism as articulated by Matthew Arnold, Ernest Renan and the writers of the Celtic Twilight. Both the Celt and the Maori were seen as having qualities of authenticity, courage, spirituality and oneness with the natural world. Analogy generated identity; the Maori became the 'Celt of the South Seas', with parallels drawn between the two cultures in terms of social structure (tribe and clan), land ownership systems, and histories of oppression (by the British). In mistaking Celtic Dennis for a Maori, Horace Brandon is in fact recognising the identity of the two indigeneities.page 175
Stephen Turner writes of the way in which what he calls 'the past of place', the history of the land before the settlers' arrival, becomes a problem for settler society:
[There is] an idea that the past is, well, perfectly present, that the place itself is still in some sense tapu, strictly speaking, still possessed. The past of place in this tapu sense is the unstable ground of colonial being.8
Turner and Alex Calder have talked of 'unsettlement' as a key feature of settler writing, but perhaps what such literary forms produce is the opposite of this: a fictional solution to contradiction and strangeness. The Heart of the Bush effects this act of possession by the closeness of Dennis to the land, by his indigenous status both as New Zealander and as Celt which allows him to replace the Maori, and by the figure of the tohunga.
[t]he Tohunga's features grew keener, and a curious light came into his eyes as he talked of the vanished tribe who had been driven southwards and further south to the waters of this forest lake, where at last the northern invaders fell on them and slew every living one. He told them of a burial pit of natives up north, and said he had gone down into it and taken from it the tiki which he had given to Adelaide. (192)
If Dennis represents indigeneity fashioned by means of Romantic immediacy, the tohunga is made indigenous by his knowledge of the landscape, its past, and its prior inhabitants. There are no Maori in The Heart of the Bush, or at least there are no living Maori. Their disappearance, it is stressed, is due not to settler displacement but to their own savagery, tribe against tribe. Maori exist in the novel only as ghosts, their presence felt and their significance interpreted by the tohunga.
Victorian ethnography, Richards's 'imperial archive',9 took for granted that the knowledge of empire was better preserved and interpreted by its new keepers — ethnographers, civil servants, European scholars — than it had been by its original indigenous owners. In Kim (1900), Kipling depicts, without any discernible irony, the (British) curator of the Lahore Museum explaining Buddhism to a Tibetan lama, with the aid of European scholarly reference books, 'Beal and Stanislas Julien'.10 In his 1904 work, The Maori Race, Edward Tregear writes:
There are Europeans in New Zealand whose acquaintance with Maori lore far transcends that of any but the exceptional native, and it is to the interest taken in the subject by a small band of inquirers that the student of the future will owe the rescue of even a tithe of that knowledge which the priests of centuries ago could have imparted.11
In The Heart of the Bush, the tohunga's knowledge constitutes both a sign of his acquired indigeneity and the completeness of Maori dispossession: what he knows are the narratives of death — bones, battles, disappearances. However, his stance is not quite that of the dispassionate or rational European, such as Kipling's curator. His native status allows him access beyond the collection of facts to the spirituality of the land (hence the 'curious light' in his eyes when he talks of it). At the same time his knowledge constitutes a personal protection against its tapu aspects: giving Adelaide the tiki from a burial pit would seem to indicate an extraordinary degree of protection. This is a protection or safe passage that Adelaide lacks. Adelaide calls him a 'wizard', but he cannot protect her from the tapu of the land; it still constitutes a danger for her in a way that it does not for Dennis or the tohunga. This danger is figured in a dream:page 177
She dreamed the bird came fluttering and crying over her head, turning its restless eyes down on her, flying a little way towards the door, then back, until she got up. It flew in front of her and she followed it all through the house, but could not see the Tohunga anywhere. After a gap of unconsciousness, she was out on a mountain of grey stones and slippery rocks, and there was the old man, thinner and taller and greyer than before. He held out one finger in warning, but she felt a current of wind blowing her on until she saw a frozen river. A thick dark mist lay over it, and the Tohunga hurried on through it, where she stumbled and could not follow. (192)
Still dreaming, she feels herself to be in a 'cavern of mists' where she sees an infant, 'a white film veiling [its] face'. When she tries to touch it she feels 'chill mists' and it vanishes. She asks the old man who the child is, and he answers 'Life'; she asks him who he is and thinks that he answers either 'Time' or 'Death' (193). The next morning she falls into a crevasse on the glacier and is almost killed.
Settler society — infused with Victorian doubt, avidly following a variety of alternative religious movements — viewed the Maori as intrinsically spiritual. Goldie argues that one of the stereotypical attributes of the indigene is mysticism, and talks of the way in which '[t]he indigenized white is sanctified by indigenized mysticism and is able to enter the formerly forbidden regions of the alien land'.12 The tohunga has both knowledge and mystical apprehension of the land; Dennis is in a state of unselfconscious Romantic oneness with the land; but Adelaide registers its danger and is damaged by it, both in her fall into the crevasse and the death of her baby in childbirth.
The chapters that deal with these events are entitled 'Tapu' and 'Hine-nui-te-po'. The chapter recounting Adelaide's rescue and her return to the farm is entitled 'The Return to Light'. Maori concepts and Maori mythology are being used to give formal configuration to the disturbing and disruptive elements of the plot, the atmosphere Brantlinger calls 'imperial Gothic',13 and this despite the fact that there are no Maori characters in the novel. But while Dennis and the tohunga have become indigenous — gone native — Adelaide has not; she cannot. Goldie's concept of settler indigeneity does not apply to the settler woman. As the stories of Australian writers such as Henry Lawson page 178and Barbara Baynton and the colonial stories of Katherine Mansfield indicate, the bush is a dangerous and often fatal place for women, and the settler domestic is fragile. Adelaide's father warns her:
You don't know what you're going into — a struggle for years before you can even take your proper place in the colony, a lonely, lonely life on this bush farm, with not one of your friends and acquaintances near, work all the year round, and then perhaps only loss and ruin at the end of it all. (111)
Women in colonial stories are victims, or antagonists to the individuation process of the male settler. Goldie writes
One of the primary patterns in contemporary literature follows the individuation of the central character. In Canada, Australia and New Zealand, individuation is often joined by indigenization. The character gains a new awareness of self and of nationality through an excursion into the wilderness. The transformation is often something akin to a sea change, in which the character plunges into the natural and in some association with indigenes partly removes the civilization which is seen to be inimical to his or her indigenization.14
Goldie's use of 'his or her' is ingenuous. Dennis and the tohunga fashion their individuated identity through 'excursion[s] into the wilderness', and are associated with markers of indigeneity; Adelaide does not and is not. Neither, however, does she return to the civilised. The final part of the novel describes a struggle between Adelaide and Dennis as he returns from the mountains to enter the world of the farm, local politics and 'the frozen meat trade' (289). Adelaide opposes him, insisting that they both return to the bush — not to the uncanny world of the tohunga, but to a landscape configured in feminised and sentimental terms. Adelaide invents for herself a landscape free of Turner's tapu and Calder's unsettlement, even more removed from historicity than Dennis and the tohunga's manufactured indigeneity.
Adelaide can be read as an inhabitant not of Aotearoa, the historic precontact world or of New Zealand, the progressive colony, but of Maoriland as mythic construction invented as a fantastic and compensatory page 179alternative to the modern. Adelaide's Maoriland has a particular, feminised form that contrasts with the harsh world of Dennis and the tohunga, something Dennis concedes when he says that his world is 'only a block of stone and earth, and your's [sic] is the flower that's grown up in the heart of it' (188). While Adelaide's world is sourced in part from the imperial ethnological archive, it has a less local and more universal aspect. When Adelaide hears music in the bush she concludes that it must be 'the Maori fairies that peeped at Te Kanawa and then ran away with the shadows of his ornaments for patterns. You know they always go about in little crowds singing together,' she said confidently (151). But later imagining 'a beautiful old witch with silver hair and bluish veils in amongst the fog and the moonlight… ringing those little bells … in the water across the crag' Adelaide 'thought it was very likely Io, whom she was learning about in a little book called Heathen Mythology'. (154)
Io is both a figure in Greek mythology — the daughter of the river god Inachus, loved by Zeus and changed into a white heifer to hide her from Hera's jealousy — and a figure in Maori religion, the creator who separated the waters and made earth and sky. (Although Grossmann does not signal this in her novel, Io was a product of colonial hybridity: both a colonial projection of Old Testament myth back onto the ancient Maori and of Maori use of Christian myth in its own synthesis.) In contrast to Dennis's indigenous landscape — he feels the witch figure is a taniwha (154–5) — Adelaide creates a crossover, hybridised world, a mix of the local and the European:
Here a Maoriland God of Love was holding high court, while a chorus of birds sang to him and to each other; wrens and tits, white-fronted robins, chorister tuis in velvet, and wooing fantails. (166)
Adelaide's Maoriland is a saccharine fantasy fashioned out of the Victorian world of fairy from such sources as George Macdonald and Andrew Lang. When Adelaide plans their trip into the bush, she describes it as 'much better than a fairy pantomime; it would be playing a part in an original and living legend of Maoriland' (180). Far from being in the South Island of New Zealand, we seem at this point close to Disneyland. Adelaide's version of the bush is drained of what Curnow would later call the 'local and special':page 180
[Dennis] stooped to enter the tent, and as he entered, he thought she was more of a miraculous fairy than ever, she in her bower in this wild solitude of shaggy banks and Alpine water and rocks. She wore a thin robe of Eastern silk, blue as the summer air, and under it a gown of the finest white wool; the sleeves fell back from her wrists; her cheek was touched with mountain air, but her eyes were misty. (182)
This is the source of what Curnow characterised as the 'sentimental twilight' of 1920s writing, a term which he sometimes allows to slip back to include the late colonial period generally.
Dennis and the tohunga have an appropriated indigeneity, fashioned from Romantic primitivism, transposed Celticism and Maori dispossession, which enables them to negotiate with the uncanny, with tapu, and with the unsettled aspects of the landscape. But Adelaide, at risk from that unsettlement, has moved beyond appropriation, to disappearance, beyond the specifics of colonial ethnology to the generalities of European popularisations of that material. While the indigenous identity of Dennis and the tohunga involves a sense of the land's past and implies an at least historical presence of the Maori, Adelaide's Maoriland is a fantasy constructed for use in a present where Maori do not exist even as ghosts.
The Formation of Colonial society involves the invention of place, and this process of invention is literary in its sources and inspiration. Late colonial New Zealand configured itself in terms of a range of literary texts, from the Romanticism of Rousseau to the Celticism of Matthew Arnold, and thus reading became a crucial way in which this cultural formation was registered. In 1848, from her home on Cuba Street, Wellington, Mary Taylor wrote to Charlotte Brontë:
I can hardly explain to you the queer feeling of living as I do in 2 places at once. One world containing books England and all the people with whom I can exchange an idea; the other all that I actually see and hear and speak to. The separation is as complete as between the things in a picture and the things in page 181the room. The puzzle is that both move and act and [I] must say my say as one of each.15
In the rather soggy, earthquake-ridden paradise of early Wellington, the imaginative world of reading competes with the actual on equal terms. Taylor writes to Brontë: 'I begin to believe in your existence much as I do in Mr Rochester's. In a believing mood I don't doubt either of them.'16
In The Heart of the Bush, reading is presented as a universal occupation, from Mrs Brandon cutting the leaves of 'the latest English novel' (289) to the Brandons' groom, who is disappointed not to be required to hold Dennis's horse 'for he had got to a particularly thrilling part of "Dracula", and was looking forward to an undisturbed hour of really enjoyable literature' (246). Kate, the Borlases' maid, writes poetry, being 'of a literary turn of mind and [having] a modest pride in her own compositions, mostly poems inscribed on the margin of Mr Borlase's "Otago Witness", and on Emmie's best cake paper, and left artlessly about where they were likely to be discovered and appreciated' (88). The Brandons have been warned of the democratic nature of New Zealand society — to Emmeline it is 'all vulgar, jarring, lowest middle class' (45).
But the depiction of a general engagement in literature conveys significant and positive value, as in Britain where, as Helen Small argues, there was a 'connection between extension of the franchise and the idea of a reading public of judgment, discernment, and disinterested understanding'.17 Reading, and in particular reading the correct books in the correct manner, is, in The Heart of the Bush, an essential agent in the manufacture of an imagined community.
We should not, however, interpret the widespread delight in literature in The Heart of the Bush as evidence that New Zealand was a highly literary colony. The portrayal may equally be utopian and idealised, an expression of anxiety as to whether the new world of settlement would be able to carry over the cultural capital of the old. In Grossmann's 1890 novel Angela: A Messenger the heroine borrows a book for her brother John from 'the Institute', which the librarian 'says you can keep [for] six months because it's poetry, and "he don't know whatever people makes poetry for when nobody reads it"'.18 As in Baughan's 'Active Family',19 life on the farm may leave little time or energy for reading: 'I didn't page 182know mother took the paper', says a character in Grossmann's Angela. 'She takes them but she don't read them; that's your duty as head of the family,' responds another.20
In The Heart of the Bush Adelaide initially seems to replicate Mary Taylor's experience of reading as dislocation. At the start of the novel we see her poised between the reality of the New Zealand landscape in which she lives, and the imaginative world of her reading:
Aidie liked to sit in the paddocks and watch the Wainoni flowing away under the sunlight of afternoon and evening, flowing away to where the great crag hid it from sight, away into the very midst of the Unknown and the Beyond. Like so many imaginative children in the Colonies, Aidie was always dreaming and waiting for the unseen world, which all her reading presented to her, and which was living in the memory of her parents. Just as she never doubted that the sky and the clouds were literally heaven, so she was sure that it must be in that western vale that fairies and dragons and knights and heroes lived. She could never find them about [her home] Haeremai, and as she said to Dennis, 'They must be somewhere'. Everything invisible, impossible and romantically unlike her home inhabited that impassable territory. (149)
At first glance this looks very like Mary Taylor's 'living in 2 places at once'. But there are differences. For Adelaide, 'the Unknown and the Beyond' and 'the unseen world' are implicitly identified with the world of her reading, the remembered world of Britain (the source of that reading), but also with the view beyond the river, behind the great crag. That is, it is at once imaginary, elsewhere, and part of the yet unknown physical landscape. All three are conflated, and resonate one with the other. Her New Zealand home, Haeremai,21 positioned between the cleared landscape of settlement and the romantic and exotic bush, is the place where she reads, and its prosaic quality is in contrast to what she reads. But beyond it is a landscape that she is able to invest with exoticism and significance — 'fairies and dragons and knights and heroes' — by applying her literary imagination to her surroundings.
This feat of imaginative reading is uniquely hers. As befits the page 183romantic heroine, Adelaide is the most important reader in the novel and her courtship of Dennis is enabled by his acceptance of her reading programme. The literary template Grossmann is using here is what Patricia Menon calls that of the mentor-lover:22 Jane Eyre and Mr Rochester, Lucy Snowe and Paul Emmanuel, Mr Casaubon and Dorothea, most of the Austen heroes and heroines. The most obvious model is Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights where, at the conclusion, the re-establishment of social order after the depredations of Heathcliff is figured by the young Catherine's reading with Hareton.23
Adelaide's tutelage of Dennis symbolises the control exercised by her anglophile, feminised, sentimentalised world over his local, 'natural', 'native', colonial world of the farm. Dennis's provincialism and pragmatism is matched by what he reads: 'a great deal of poetry … Shakespeare and Burns and other antiquated textbooks' (31) as well as works of history: 'Milman's History of Latin Christianity' (41), 'Josephus and Gibbon and Prescott and Motley' and 'most of Sismondi and … Grote'. Adelaide at first despises such conservative taste, 'so hopelessly out of the world and behind the times' (84). At his request she prepares a consciously modern reading programme for him, which consists of 'Maeterlinck and the resuscitated Pater'24 and 'much that is new and choice and late … and the Twentieth Century Hellenics and Gaelic Renaissances' (131). This grouping is remarkably similar to that of the young Katherine Mansfield's borrowings from the General Assembly Library in Wellington between 1906 and 1908, where she read Maeterlinck, and talked of writing a story 'in the style of Walter Pater's "Child in the House"'.25 (Grossman was a teacher at Wellington Girls' College from 1885 until 1890; Mansfield was a pupil there in 1897.) Like the young Mansfield, Adelaide is terrified of seeming old-fashioned and 'Victorian', an epithet she associates with sentimentality, gush, 'out-of-date three volume novels' (60), and 'copy-book maxims' (61). However, although Dennis is willing to read what she tells him to, and to update his reading, she finds their physical surroundings militate against modern literature:
… she herself began to feel that there was nothing in nor out of fashion in the Bush, nothing new and nothing old, but all things changeless and tideless, as all things were in the days of Sappho and Theocritus, of Surrey and of Sidney, and of Wordsworth page 184and Tennyson, immortal, like old folk songs and legends and ballads, and like love and home, and toil and the fruitful earth. She read to him from Malory and Tennyson, and often laid the book down on her knee, and in her own words raised up scenes that now had changed into visions for her, and that were a thousand times more strange and enchanting in this rude solitude than they had ever been while her bodily eyes looked on them. She talked of lone Tintagel and of Bude, of Lyonnesse, the 'land of old upheaven from the abyss … '. (131)
Unlike Mary Taylor's experience of dislocation, the 'rude solitude' of Adelaide's surroundings do not contrast with the exoticism of her reading, but enhance it, making it 'a thousand times more strange and enchanting'. Reading, it is suggested, is more potent when its sources and its explanatory context are elsewhere, and the 'bodily eye' can be a distraction rather than an advantage. Adelaide's separation from the sources of her reading enhances the imaginative reach of that experience. Appropriate reading in the colonies, then, is seen as necessarily outside fashion (rather than unfashionable), very much a 'natural' rather than acculturated activity. The texts Adelaide cites are 'like love and home, and toil and the fruitful earth': they are not consciously, culturally produced artefacts, but intrinsic to her surroundings. And they are spiritually charged, as the reference to 'scenes that now had changed into visions for her' suggests.
Adelaide's revised reading list for Dennis is not in fact 'changeless and tideless'. It is Victorian: translations of Sappho26 and Theocritus were common nineteenth-century poetic currency, indeed both poets were more or less invented by their Victorian translators. As Yopi Prins has argued, Henry Wharton and Michael Field's renditions of Sappho went well beyond scholarly translation, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Oscar Wilde reconfigured Theocritus to their own ends.27 The 'old folk songs and legends and ballads' Adelaide cites were the stock-in-trade of Romanticism, sources for Wordsworth and Tennyson, while Malory was the central text of Victorian medievalism.28 These are the key texts of nineteenth-century literary nostalgia, counter to and flight from modernity. In the colonial setting, these works have a further resonance. The reader is nostalgically linked both to the past depicted in the works and the 'Home', Britain, from whence they came. He or page 185she is aware of being separated from 'lone Tintagel' and 'Lyonnesse' not just by time but also by physical distance. In the same way England, home and beauty are both far away and part of the reader's personal past, which is, as the earlier quotation put it, 'living in the memory of her parents'. The fading of the home country into memory, so that it is located not in the physical world but wholly in the imagination, is a common colonial topos. In his 1896 poem, 'A Colonist in his Garden', William Pember Reeves writes,
Gone is my England, long ago,
Leaving me tender joys,
Sweet, fragrant, happy-breathing names
Of wrinkled men and grey-haired dames,
To me still girls and boys.
With these in youth let memory stray
In pleasance green, where stern to-day
Works Fancy no mischance.
Dear pleasance — let no light invade
Revealing ravage Time has made
Amid thy dim romance!29
Both Grossmann and Reeves see this process of retreat as advantageous. For Adelaide, memories of the actual settings of the romance world she describes to Dennis are not nearly as important as visions 'a thousand times more strange and enchanting in this rude solitude than they had ever been while her bodily eyes looked on them', an advantage which neutralises the deflating effect of Reeves's 'stern today'.
In her study of the nineteenth-century woman reader, Kate Flint discusses the fictional representation of reading, arguing that its key functions were recognition and collaboration. The reader recognises familiar texts being used by the author, which offer the reader what Flint calls 'membership of a community sharing knowledge and expectations'.30 The fictional world is constructed in terms of these literary allusions, which the reader must identify; and the fictional characters are given reading choices within the text, which the reader must interpret. These activities contribute to a reading process that is complex and interactive rather than passive and receptive, and, as Flint page 186puts it, 'adds to the reader's sense of participation in the construction of meaning'.31 In particular, Flint remarks that the genre of the 'New Women' novel 'may be said to have created and consolidated a community of women readers, who could refer to these works as proof of their psychological, social and ideological difference from men'.32
Such purposeful reading is symptomatic of the nineteenth-century reading public, bent on self-improvement, and is reflected in the proliferation of hugely successful books of advice, from Noah Porter's 1871 Books and Reading: What Books Shall I Read and How Shall I Read Them? to Arnold Bennett's 1909 Literary Taste: How to Form it; with Detailed Instructions for Collecting a Complete Library of English Literature.33 In New Zealand and Australia, organisations like the Australasian Home Reading Union offered programmes for reading groups, and the League of the Empire surveyed the reading habits of girls at home and in the colonies.34 The process of literary guidance is even more important in colonial society than in Victorian England; in the former, cultural formation has both a high priority and is subject to extreme anxiety. In Grossmann's novel, it is important not just for Adelaide and Dennis's relationship that he submits to her reading programme; it matters for the kind of society The Heart of the Bush is envisaging. Dennis's choices, the old-fashioned and pragmatic, must give way, not perhaps to the modern, but to the 'literary' and the 'canonical'. These are new concepts that convey a sense of a literature whose qualities of greatness are seen to transcend mere fashion, and whose Romantic orientation fits with settler ideas of their rightful place in a Romantically conceived landscape.
Janice Radway talks about the way in which the professionalisation of the study of English in late nineteenth-century universities in the United States, Britain and its empire involved a split between those who followed the scientifically based German philological model, and those who espoused an Arnoldian project which 'elevated and revered [a] new, high literature as a repository of true human experience and spiritual values'.35 Grossmann was one of the first women graduates of Canterbury College, a student and later friend of its founding professor of English, John Macmillan Brown, and the biographer of his wife, Helen Connon. Macmillan Brown was the proponent of this Arnoldian ethos in New Zealand, and Adelaide's ambitions for Dennis are in keeping with Macmillan Brown's combination of pragmatism page 187and literary uplift, consciously nationalist but at the same time strongly provincial in its anxious gaze back to the centre.36
Reading in The Heart of the Bush is thus programmatic and purposeful. It may exploit the dissonance of place but, unlike Mary Taylor reading Jane Eyre and finding her grasp of reality disoriented, Adelaide is able to negotiate the gap between what and where she reads. Reading, in this novel as elsewhere in colonial fiction, stands for an inclusively democratic society and the natural occupancy of its members that is reflected in and inspired by what are presented as timeless literary works. Reading here is purposeful. Paradoxically, in the work of a New Zealand writer who in fact was herself part of a local literary world with a network of novelists, poets, essayists and literary critics, reading comes from elsewhere: the only New Zealand writer in The Heart of the Bush is the Borlases' maid Kate writing poems on newspaper margins and cake papers.
While in Grossmann's 1907 novel, Hermione, the eponymous heroine writes tracts and lectures, only in her first work, Angela, is there a portrayal of a local writer. Angela's dreamy and tubercular brother John is 'always readin' and learnin' poetry when he wasn't rampagin' over the country'. His mother explains his creative process:
One day he come in very eager. 'Mother,' he says, 'it's about the pines and the trees in the bush,' and he says a lot o' poetry, stumblin' a bit. 'Well,' says I, to humour him — and he'd that bright way I couldn't stand scoldin' him — 'an' where's that from?' 'I found it in the Tui bush,' says he, as grave as could be; an' then I found he'd made it up himself. An' after that he was always scribblin' till he went up to the mountain an' then he lef' off.'37
John's inspiration is an amalgam of the Romantic poets of his reading — 'the daisy Burns wrote about', 'the September day that's like a bit out of Wordsworth' — and a Romantic attachment to the landscape he inhabits:
[O]ften when I'm in the bush before sunrise, or ploughing in the morning, I have all sorts of ideas, and then the words come almost without my knowing. Sometimes it's only a bird singing page 188alone in the bush, and sometimes it's a myrtle that's making all the air sweet, or all the waters of the mountains rushing down in the twilight; then there's some fancy comes into my head.38
Writers had significant status in late colonial society, a fact that Grossmann as a literary critic specifically addressed; yet in her fiction she cannot portray them as other than fey Romantic figures on the fringes, whose work — found in the 'Tui bush' — is the fitful and spontaneous product of the natural world in which they live.
Like Many New Zealanders of her generation, Edith Howitt Searle was born in Australia; she came with her parents to Invercargill in 1878 when she was fifteen.39 After an education at Christchurch Girls' High School, she entered Canterbury College.40 She graduated Masters of Arts with first class honours in Latin and English and honours in political science in 1885, and she taught at Wellington Girls' College until 1890 when her first novel Angela: A Messenger was published in Christchurch. In the same year she married Joseph Penfound Grossmann, then a master at Wellington College. In 1894 they had a son who was intellectually handicapped. Joseph was also a Canterbury graduate, with first class honours in political science, Latin and English. Grossmann described Christchurch in the 1890s as 'a curious study in sociology, showing side by side the extreme clerical and class conservatism of an English country village and the radical progressive elements of a Western American State'.41 In 1892 the couple were part of the group that formed the Canterbury Women's Institute, an organisation devised to provide an alternative for those engaged in the campaign for women's rights who disliked the temperance and religious aspects of the Women's Christian Temperance Union.42 Kate Sheppard chaired the first meeting of the Institute and led the economics section; Grossmann was the convener of the literary section, and was a signatory to the second suffrage petition organised by the WCTU and presented to parliament in 1892.43 In an essay on 'The Woman Movement in New Zealand' written for the Westminster Review, Grossmann quotes William Pember Reeves:page 189
Though last they, and latest their nation,
Yet this they have won without sword,
That Woman with Man shall have station,
And Labour be lord.44
'The aim of the noblest Women's Rightists', Grossmann wrote, 'was to create a purer social system; [its followers] were, in truth, with all their mistakes, animated by a passionate desire for a loftier ideal of love and of home and of the destinies of the race.'45 Her second novel, In Revolt, set in Australia, was published in 1893, and this was followed in 1907 by a sequel, Hermione: A Knight of the Holy Ghost: A Novel of the Women's Movement. Her final novel The Heart of the Bush was published in London in 1910.
Grossmann's obituary, written by her friend and patron John Macmillan Brown and published in the Christchurch Press on 7 March 1931 is headed 'A Pioneer in Women's Education', and begins by enumerating Grossmann's academic successes, which he attributes to 'the early days of Canterbury College when it led the way in the University education of women'.46 Brown describes Grossmann's 'whole bent' as being 'towards the imaginative and the philosophical', and suggests that:
[s]he might have been a preacher if she had learned elocutionary methods of expressing herself orally, and been closely attached to some creed. But she had an awkward shyness that would have interfered with the flow of her eloquence, especially at the critical moment.
This shyness Macmillan Brown explains as a product of 'the strong development of her highly emotional nature'. Her advocacy of the rights of women is explained as part of her general 'tenderness for the defenceless or helpless that was the ruling emotion in all her crusades. It was this that guided her in the novels she wrote and doubtless interfered with their imaginative purpose'. Macmillan Brown suggests that this dogmatism may have inhibited Grossmann's success both as a novelist and a teacher, but sees it as no hindrance in 'what she ultimately took up as a career, like that of many of my most brilliant students, journalism'. It is as a journalist and in particular a literary critic, 'her ultimate choice of career', that he eulogises her.47page 190
[t]he eloquent Grossmann continued to arouse many suspicions. When Burbidge was being interviewed in London for the Chair in Physics the former professor, Dr Owen, warned him never to lend Grossmann any money. Two weeks after he arrived Grossmann introduced himself and tried to borrow a fiver. (Burbidge was to say, 'I refused, as between colleagues.')51
In 1931 Joseph was dismissed after a scandal involving a gullible colleague, William Anderson, whom he had persuaded to sign a number of promissory notes. With the help of friends he was 'hustled off' to Sydney,52 claiming in his defence that 'he had been struggling all his life to overcome the expenses of a mentally disturbed wife'.53 In her entry on Grossmann for the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, Heather Roberts says: 'There is no evidence that this claim is other than self-justification'; it is presumably the source for Sinclair's statement that '[Joseph's] wife was Edith Searle Grossmann, an early New Zealand novelist and feminist. They had a mentally retarded child whom his wife took to England for treatment. She herself became insane.'54
It is tempting to see Joseph, whose family were Polish Jews, in the portrayal in Angela of the villainous and distinctly Jewish Levi Marks, page 191who has 'a restless hunted look which suggested the haunting of an immortal crime',55 and whose attempt to seduce the heroine, a simple country girl from the Wairarapa, with the decadent poetry of Swinburne and Browning's 'Paracelsus' is only thwarted by her inability to 'find a vestige of meaning in it'; 'Browning made her head ache worse than Cube Root'. As for the 'modern society novels … she found them so clever she could not understand them at all'.56 But all contemporary accounts of Joseph stress his charm and charisma.57
Charming villains may be less attractive as husbands than as acquaintances. There is a grim depiction of marriage in In Revolt and Hermione58; its infamies are compared to the orgies of Fijian cannibals, and Hermione describes her marriage to the abusive alcoholic Bradley Carlisle as 'one long sin'.59 Contemplating the choices society offers an unhappily married woman, Hermione sees her alternatives as bleak:
On the one side lay fierce rebellion, mad revenge, and hate, the momentary satisfaction of her own feelings, only to be quenched in shuddering desperation. And the goal? — freedom from a crushing restraint, but under conditions which must make her an outcast from church and law, a rebel against heaven. And on the other side — submission, a deadening of every instinct within her, pride crushed, all earthly hopes dead and buried. But the goal? — the peace of God which passeth all understanding. Reached through what means? — servile submission, pandering to all that was base in another's nature.60
Grossmann's most complete discussion of marriage is found not in her novels but in her 1905 biography of Macmillan Brown's wife Helen Connon who died of diphtheria in 1903. In a letter to Macmillan Brown after Connon's death, Grossmann describes the couple as 'the pro-parents of my mind, I mean the purely abstract part of me'.61 Grossmann sees Connon as typifying New Zealand womanhood, with 'a conscious purpose embracing something wider than her own life'.62 Grossmann presents her as both the equal of men in society at large and an angel of the domestic sphere. Connon is 'a scholar by nature', but that is 'what so few women are'. She is beautiful, with a 'calm manner and graceful carriage',63 and she is as domestic as she is intellectual: 'the picture page 192I have of her sewing pinafores "for the children" (her younger sisters) and making cakes is a pleasing complement to the other picture of the gowned girl graduate and the young lady principal.'64 This is obviously an area of unease for Grossmann. Connon may have 'proved perfectly that a profession does not make a woman forfeit her womanliness', but she cannot escape the fact that, as soon as she got married, Connon stopped being the lady-principal and became Mrs Macmillan Brown: 'the question of married women carrying on a public career she left unanswered.'65
Grossmann's account of Connon's marriage to Macmillan Brown is informed by the ambivalent feelings about marriage, men and sexuality found in her novels. She describes Macmillan Brown and Connon as having 'a rare union of mind with mind' and the attachment between the two as that of 'a gifted and devoted teacher' and a pupil who has 'come under his influence just when they are awakening to the full significance of life'. Grossmann asserts that, for Connon, their relationship 'remained for many years purely intellectual and came near to the true ideal of Plato', consonant with Connon's belief that 'friendship was the highest form of love'.66 The gendered and sexualised aspects of marriage are set aside. Macmillan Brown is the mentor-lover, but his claims are set against those of Connon's women friends and admirers, and the ideal of a utopian women's community common in feminist writings of the time, seen in Hermione and in Baughan's unpublished 'Two New Zealand Roses'.67 Connon's time as lady-principal of Christchurch Girls' is a presage of such a community. Grossmann describes the way Connon was regarded by her pupils 'with a love surpassing the temporary adoration other schoolgirls may feel for a popular teacher, lasting with some all their lives even to the exclusion of other passions':
We searched our gardens for the earliest violets and the choicest rosebuds, and in the winter days for unspotted camellias for her. We hung about the lobby, watching to waylay her as she came in, and the girl whose flowers she wore was happy for the day, and envied by her schoolmates. I remember one bright winter morning, when there was a foretaste of spring in the air — it was the day she received her M.A. diploma — M., the bonniest girl in the school, came bounding amongst a group of us, radiant with joy, and exclaimed, 'Oh, I am so happy — I have had what page 193I always wanted!' and lowering her voice mysteriously, 'a kiss from Miss Connon.'68
Whatever the autobiographical resonances, all of these stances — the seductive power of literature on young girls, the dangers of cosmopolitan sophistication versus the honest worth of rural folk, the beastly behaviour of men and the laws that condone it, the spiritual superiority of women, the idealisation of relationships between women — are not exclusive to Grossmann's writing. They are part of the cultural climate in which she wrote. At the centre of her works is a concern with the problem of the relation between women and men, and each text demonstrates literary, formal ways in which this problem might be solved: The Life of Helen Macmillan Brown is feminist hagiography; Angela is a temperance tract; In Revolt and Hermione are novels of the New Woman. In all three of these novels men are variously villainous, brutal, alcoholic and homicidal, and the novels — and Connon's biography — end with the martyr-like death of their heroines. But in The Heart of the Bush, Grossmann chooses the conciliatory genre of romance to suggest ways in which an accommodation between the sexes might be made, albeit one very much on the woman's terms.
After the Honeymoon in the bush and the encounter with the tohunga, the couple return to the farm, already at odds. 'Now what had gone wrong was this,' Grossmann tells her readers: 'Adelaide was thinking only of Dennis, and Dennis was thinking of something else' (201). Adelaide feels that '[s]he had come into her husband's world, and somehow, it did not seem quite meant for her' (204). Her bush idyll is contrasted to Dennis's world of the farm, part of the dynamic modernity of the new colony: 'How after all would it turn out, the marriage of the leisured and labouring class, of art and nature, of civilization and barbarism?,' Grossmann asks (227).
Adelaide has a romantic view of his position in this world:
[She] built up a pleasing sentiment around Dennis, as son of the soil, imagining some close relation between the mountains and his free nature, with its tranquilities and its outbursts. As she page 194did not examine the prosaic details of pastoral toil, she found a poetry in the thought of his peasant ancestry, and of his own open-air life spent in the culture of the earth and the tending of animals. (229)
This is contrasted with her growing realisation of the more brutal aspects of his role as farmer. When he finds a kea attacking a lamb, he 'turn[s] savage in an instant', kills the bird and dispatches the wounded lamb. Adelaide remembers the scene, 'Dennis … standing over the lamb, an extraordinary mixture of savage anger and of kindness in his manner' (210). Adelaide cannot help but contrast the traditional and aristocratic activity of hunting — 'historic, time-honoured, and so suggestive of immemorial ages of poetry and romance' — with Dennis's work: 'sheer and unadorned butchery, [which] reeked of Smithfield market and the slaughter-yard, and her husband was the butcher' (267).
The association of the necessary brutality of the farm with a rift between the sexes is taken up and developed in Jean Devanny's 1926 novel The Butcher's Shop.69 It is not inconceivable that Devanny, an autodidact with literary ambitions, read The Heart of the Bush before she wrote The Butcher's Shop. Both novels rework residues of the late nineteenth-century suffrage movement: The Butcher's Shop shares with The Heart of the Bush a high-minded feminism and an association with the cause of prohibition.70 Both novels are situated between competing notions of the spiritual superiority of women and the dangerous but glamorous brutality of men.71 But while The Heart of the Bush shows the gentility of Adelaide winning out over the brutality and pragmatism of Dennis, The Butcher's Shop is more bleak in its conclusions.72 For Dennis, life on the farm cannot be contained within the sentimentalised and the domestic. But neither is it merely composed of the brutal and the masculine. Grossmann is at pains to depict the material and economic world Dennis believes the couple must inhabit, even if, finally, she rejects it. Adelaide describes his ambition:
'He is thinking of founding a club — I mean a company, of course,' she corrected herself quickly. 'They are going to have refrigerating plants, and freeze all the poor lambs in the district.' page 195Adelaide was inwardly uncertain whether 'refrigerating plants' were animal, vegetable or mineral, but she would have liked to convey the impression that she did understand all about her husband's business. (242)
For Adelaide, who sees life in terms of 'working out her poems into tangible realities' (228), it is all very puzzling and distasteful, with 'uninteresting, middle-class men, who smelled of rank tobacco, and who didn't know what to say to her, but looked puzzled if she interpolated any of her light and airy nonsense' coming to dinner, talking of 'cows, of cream separators, of cargoes and of carcases [sic], and of other deadly things'. (257)
Dennis's ambitions for the farm are spelt out in detail. He wants to start a farmers' freezing company to break the monopoly of the existing big companies; trade has been depressed and there has been a disparity between the interests of the farmers and the exporters (261). Dennis is aware of the changes in technology in competing nations such as Argentina and Australia, and feels, 'with the practical imagination of a Colonial who was also an Irishman', a patriotic anxiety to advance New Zealand's interests, 'the proud consciousness of pushing on the prosperity of the young country' (279). His character integrates competing markers of identity: of the young country, of the dependent colony, and of the homeland which is, significantly, not Britain. When Grossmann says, 'His patriotism was local and narrow, but it was intense' (281), a further affiliation, to the district, is added.
Dennis's ambitions are presented as admirable and he would appear heroic in the context of a novel of social critique. However, The Heart of the Bush is a more complex and hybrid kind of novel, and the social and economic discussions that Grossmann sets up are ultimately subservient to the generic demands of what might be called the New Woman romance. While Grossmann's earlier New Woman novels Angela and Hermione portrayed the relations between the sexes in strikingly reductive terms — angelic woman and bestial man — The Heart of the Bush with its romance agenda presents a decent man with an admirable social programme who still must acknowledge the superior power of woman. In part, the contest between Adelaide and Dennis is presented as one between the cultured and the materialist world. 'She was by no means an empty-headed girl', Adelaide thinks of herself:page 196
she read and enjoyed 'Monna Vanna' and 'Es War,' and 'Il Santo' in the original. She could dress, and sing, and dance, and talk in exquisite perfection, and she kept her little house in the prettiest and most artistic order. But the frozen meat trade was quite beyond her, and she was heart sick and weary of its very name. (284)
How to be 'A Lady in the Bush' is a common concern in Australian fiction at this time, but the theme is not pushed far in Grossmann: gentility is associated with the effete Brandons and England.73 Adelaide's disquiet is more profoundly sourced. It is a struggle for control — of Dennis and against the kind of modern, masculine society that he represents, and if the terms seem now comical the stakes are high: 'The colour left her face. "It's beginning all over again", she thought, but tried to speak lightly, "I cannot keep you from the Frozen Meat Trade, can I? Not even if I wear blue silk"' (308).
how Mr and Mrs MacDiarmid read 'poetry books' and 'history books' together, with a map of Europe and pictures in front of them; how they had picnics 'all alone by themselves' in wooded gullies and up the mountains; how they went on walks together, 'as if they were sweethearts and not a married couple'; how they came home with their hands full of flowers and ferns; how Mrs MacDiarmid could make Mr MacDiarmid do anything 'whatever' … (331)
The Australian historian Marilyn Lake describes 'the contest between men and women at the end of the nineteenth century for page 197control of the national culture' as 'one of the great political struggles in Australian history'.74 Despite the idealisation of the outback male and the disparagement of women and the domestic in such nationalist publications as the Bulletin, Lake sees the contest as one that by the first decade of the twentieth century had been won by women and the cult of domesticity. The view that '[a] man is out of place at home, and the bush is no place for a woman. Her place is bound by the sliprails; the nation is formed beyond the spur'75 gave way to a stance that was feminised, urban and familial. While Lake's position has been challenged by historians such as John Docker, who argues that 'attitudes and values in the Nineties, including the constitution of subjectivity and cultural identity, could be multiple, inconsistent, conflicting, uncertain, contradictory',76 its application to New Zealand writing is useful. In the literature of the late nineteenth century, the Australian bush is configured as hostile and unattractive, especially to the women who attempt to settle and to the domestic structures of marriage and family that they endeavour to establish.77 In Henry Lawson's 'The Drover's Wife' the setting is described:
Bush all around — bush with no horizons, for the country is flat. No ranges in the distance. The bush consists of stunted, rotten native-apple trees. No undergrowth. Nothing to relieve the eye save the darker green of a few she-oaks which are sighing near the narrow, almost waterless creek. Nineteen miles to the nearest sign of civilisation — a shanty on the main road.78
Contrast this with Grossmann's description of the bush around Dennis and Adelaide's farm:
Mountains all around, mountains unrolling in scroll after scroll of gold; edge and surface illuminated with jeweled tints of amethyst and pale yellow topaz. Mountains, shaggy and tawny with rock and tussock, but smoothed into velvet by the sunset light of a spring Nor'Wester. Far in the depths of them all a strange wild beautiful forest, palmy like the Asiatic East, but cool and green like an English wood [and] a primitive wooden house that was home. (9)
While the Australian bush consists of a series of negatives — of the things it is not — the New Zealand landscape is marked by plurality, mountains, rock, tussock, and forest. The latter is valued not for itself but as a marker for a universal standard of beauty; it is like the forests of the Asiatic East, but also like an English wood, thrillingly exotic and safely familiar at the same time. The drover's wife and her children inhabit a landscape of despair, which, the story suggests, has a documentary veracity. Lawson wrote in the Bulletin: 'in the outback, instead of the "pleasant scenes of which our poets boast", you find a land where, while their drover husbands are away, gaunt and haggard women live alone and work like men, and the ever-maddening flies are fiercer than the plagues of Egypt'.79 The drover's wife is nineteen miles from a desperately configured 'civilisation', 'a shanty on the main road'. In The Heart of the Bush, the 'primitive wooden house that was home' stands in harmonious relation to the rest of the landscape, and is the centre and not defined by its distance from anywhere.
For Grossmann, the world of romance, the 'pleasant scenes of which our poets boast', have not been discredited; Adelaide is a lady not a drudge, and the economic arguments that centre on Dennis's enthusiasm for the frozen meat trade concern identity and the kind of marriage the couple will have, rather than their socio-economic status.80 Adelaide may find Dennis and the tohunga's version of the bush threatening, but it is characterised by Romantic grandeur and awe:
There was something appalling in the loveliness of these snow heights, barren of all verdure, something unearthly in the intensity of light, in the unmixed colour of the sky, the silence and whiteness of snow, the icy glitter of frozen water, the grim blackness of the rocks, and most of all in the colourless grey desolation that dominates these great stony moraines of Maoriland. (200)
This landscape means something, even if its meaning is elusive, and it confers significance on those who inhabit its surroundings. This is unlike the inchoate Australian landscape, where, according to Marcus Clarke, 'is to be found the Grotesque, the Weird, the strange scribblings of nature learning how to write'.81 While Grossmann's bush is in Wordsworth's words, 'the nurse / The guide, the guardian page 199of my heart and soul / Of all my moral being',82 the Australian bush, as Lawson's bush undertaker puts it, is the 'nurse and tutor of eccentric minds, the home of the weird'. (The only weird and unreadable aspect of the New Zealand landscape in Maoriland writing is that describing the thermal region of Rotorua, although Katherine Mansfield comes close to the theme in her Urewera notebook.) While the New Zealand landscape points to comforting familiarities with other places, the Australian bush is the home 'of much that is different from things in other lands'.83
In late colonial literature, the most obvious role in the bush for the Australian woman is that of martyr. In Lawson's stories Mary Wilson is at her most potent after her death. In Barbara Baynton's stories, the women characters are variously terrorised, crippled, raped or murdered. Female desire, even the female presence, is seen as inimicable to the settler process. As Sue Rowley puts it, 'the hearts of women are potentially disruptive to the order of men in bush mythology.'84 In Frederick McCubbin's 1904 triptych, 'The Pioneer', the woman is evoked in the final picture as a grave, sanctifying the future.85 Significantly, In Revolt and Hermione, set in Australia, conclude with the death of the heroine in the bush, 'a frightful barren place, a dead forest',86 whereas the later novel, The Heart of the Bush, with its New Zealand setting, works toward her triumphant apotheosis.
Adelaide's agenda is the creation of a fairy-tale world, composed not the 'great stony moraines of Maoriland' or the frozen meat trade, but of the pretty and the romantic, which Dennis will be required to inhabit. In her discussion of the 1897 Australian novel Kirkham's Find by Mary Gaunt, Dorothy Jones talks of 'the contrast established strongly in Australian nationalist mythology between the man's world of the bush and the fertile Arcadia where sweethearts live'.87 In New Zealand, this Arcadia is not so far away from the everyday as to make the integration of the two, at least in fiction, a possibility. And it is an Arcadia derived from the feminist and progressive politics of the 1890s and 1900s.
In contrast to In Revolt and Hermione, The Heart of the Bush is muted about its political positions. But Adelaide's ability to control Dennis is a demonstration that in The Heart of the Bush Lake's notion of women's cultural ascendancy has, in New Zealand, been secured. Yet it is an ascendancy that is conservative and conciliatory, and is page 200set alongside the extensively worked, persuasive and sympathetic portrayal of Dennis and his role in the modern colonial economy. Although what Oscar Wilde called 'romance and finance' are here at odds, Grossmann's novel still allows room for Docker's 'multiple, inconsistent, conflicting, uncertain, contradictory' positions.
2 Goldie, Fear and Temptation, p. 12.
3 Goldie, Fear and Temptation, p. 16.
4 McClintock, Imperial Leather, p. 30.
6 Linda Hardy, 'Natural Occupancy', Asian and Pacific Inscription: Identities, Ethnicities, Nationalities, ed. Suvendrini Perera (Bundoora, Victoria: La Trobe University Press, 1995), pp. 213–27.
7 This could be compared to the discussion in chapter 2 of Jessie Mackay's poem 'The Burial of Sir John McKenzie': both authors are using traditional forms of relationships to describe new connections. In The Heart of the Bush, references to the local Pakeha community's Celtic characteristics are numerous: Adelaide's father describes Dennis as having 'a sort of Highland loyalty to me, and has always looked after my interests rather better than his own' (109); Dennis's feelings for his boss are described thus: 'As a Highlander loves his chief, as a Bushman loves his mate, as a dog loves his master, so MacDiarmid loved his Boss' (252); the author observes 'Colonials of the backblocks, especially where there is much Scotch blood, still love a good funeral' (292). Adelaide's own Celtic background is signalled: 'But she was a woman and a Celt, and she thrilled with the heroic joy and pride of sacrifice' (318).
9 Richards, The Imperial Archive.
10 The curator has a 'mound of books — French and German with photographs and reproductions', with which he helps the lama interpret the contents of the museum: 'For the first time he [the lama] heard of the labours of European scholars, who by the help of these and a hundred other documents have identified the Holy Places of Buddhism.' When the lama leaves, the curator gives him his glasses. Rudyard Kipling, Kim (1901), ed. John Bayley (London: Everyman's Library, 1995), pp. 10–14.
12 Goldie, Fear and Temptation, p. 46.
13 Brantlinger, Rule of Darkness, pp. 227–53.
14 Goldie, Fear and Temptation, p. 46.
15 Mary Taylor, Friend of Charlotte Brontë: Letters from New Zealand and elsewhere, ed. Joan Stevens (Dunedin: Auckland University Press/Oxford University Press, 1972), p. 77. See Jane Stafford, "'Remote must be the shores" Mary Taylor, Charlotte Bronte and the Colonial Experience', Journal of New Zealand Literature, 10 (1992), p. 13.
16 Stevens, Mary Taylor, p. 73.
17 Helen Small, 'A Pulse of 124: Charles Dickens and a pathology of the mid- Victorian reading public', Practice and Representation of Reading in England, eds. James Raven, Helen Small and Naomi Tadmor (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), p. 267.
21 There is an ironic resonance in the use of the Maori world for welcome in a landscape cleared of actual Maori.
23 'His honest warm and intelligent nature shook off rapidly the clouds of ignorance and degradation in which it had been bred; and Catherine's sincere commendations acted as a spur to his industry. His brightening mind brightened his features and added spirit and nobility to his aspect', Wuthering Heights (London: Smith, Elder and Co, 1904), p. 334.
25 See chapter 5.
26 Sappho was translated by 'Michael Field' (Katherine Harris Bradley and Edith Emma Cooper) in Long Ago (1889) which followed Henry Wharton's translations of 1885. See Yopi Prins, Victorian Sappho (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999). The National Library collection has three of Field's works, Stephania: A Trialogue (London: E. Mathews and J. Lane, 1892), Tragic Mary (London: G. Bell and Son, 1890) and Selections of the Poetry of Michael Field (London: London Poetry Bookshop, 1923).
27 The first sonnet of Barrett Browning's Sonnets from the Portuguese (1850) begins 'I thought once how Theocritus had sung / Of the sweet years, the dear and wished-for years'. Oscar Wilde's 'Theocritus: A Villanelle' (1881) concludes 'Slim Lacon keeps a goat for thee, / For thee the jocund shepherds wait, / O singer of Persephone! / Dost though remember Sicily?', proving conclusively that New Zealand poets of this period do not have a monopoly on bad writing. See Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Sonnet 1, Selected Poems, ed. Margaret Forster (London: Chatto and Windus, 1988), p. 216; and Oscar Wilde, The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde, Vol. I: Poems and Poems in Prose, eds. Karl Beckson and Bobby Fong (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), p. 68.
30 Flint, The Woman Reader, p. 258.
31 Kate Flint, 'Women, Men and the Reading of Vanity Fair', Practice and Representation, eds. Raven, Small and Tadmor, p. 254.
32 Flint, The Women Reader, p. 305.
33 New York: Scribner's, 1871; London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1909. For a discussion of this genre, see Patrick Buckridge, '"How to Read Books": Reading Advice Books in Britain and America 1870–1960', Bibliographical Society of Australia and New Zealand Bulletin 26 no. 2 (2002), pp. 67–80.
34 In 1906 an article reported on the reading habits of girls in 'every part of the Empire, from India to Barbados, and from Canada to Malta' and was pleasantly surprised, finding that 'Colonial girls whose opportunities may be fairly compared with those of their British sisters, are usually quite as well read for their ages and they generally read far fewer "girls'" books', Barnicoat, 'The Reading of the Colonial Girl', pp. 939–40.
39 Grossmann's father was a journalist and the family may have had Salvation Army connections. The Army features in her first novel Angela: A Messenger, and a Searle family were involved in the Army in the first decades of the twentieth century.
40 Grossmann won a junior scholarship to the University of New Zealand, only the second woman to have done so. The first was her future sister-in-law, Jeanette Grossmann. See Margaret Lovell-Smith, Easily the Best: The Life of Helen Connon 1857–1903 (Christchurch: Canterbury University Press, 2004), p. 48.
43 See Easily the Best, p. 71–2. Lovell-Smith points to the high number of the staff and former students at Christchurch Girls' High School who were signatories.
45 Edith Searle Grossmann, Hermione: A Knight of the Holy Ghost (London: Watts and Co, 1908), p. 175. The first edition was published under the title A Knight of the Holy Ghost a year earlier. The second edition cites reviews that describe Grossmann as 'a woman of high culture [with] a facile and trained pen', and compares her to Zola, Charlotte Bronte and George Eliot.
46 She is credited with '[starting] with Dr Innes Univ. coaching classes in Wgtn. before Victoria College was founded', James Hight and Alice M. F. Candy, A Short History of Canterbury College with a Register of Graduates and Associates of the College (Christchurch: Whitcombe and Tombs, 1927), p. 187. Heather Roberts states that 'In 1897 Edith tutored university classes in Wellington', 'Edith Searle Grossmann', DNZB II, p. 181. As Victoria University was not founded until 1899, it seems likely that these were preparatory evening classes. The 1890s were a time in which the University of New Zealand, the institute within which the provincial colleges operated, was formalising its organization, and, despite the high number of women students, moving towards a professionalized and entirely male academic staff, with no chance for women, especially married women such as Grossmann, to transfer from their voluntary status to something more established.
47 Macmillan Brown suggests that in Grossmann's later life journalism was appropriate to the 'fitful and discontinuous' nature of her work necessitated by an (unspecified) illness.
48 From 1897 to 1903, the period covering Joseph's incarceration, the register of graduates of Canterbury College describes Grossmann as being a 'Journalist and Tutor', possibly, if Roberts is correct, in Wellington; she is a 'Journalist and Author' from 1903 to 1912, the period during which she published Hermione and The Heart of the Bush, and it is likely for at least some of this time that she lived outside New Zealand; and she is a 'Journalist and Civic worker' from 1912 to 1918. From 1918 to 1919 she is described as a 'Settler', an oddly precise denomination that may have meant she was involved in farming unbroken land. See Hight and Candy, A Short History of Canterbury College, p. 182. The register, which W. J. Gardner says is almost certainly the work of Alice Candy, is detailed and presumably in part sourced from the subjects themselves. See W. J. Gardner, 'Alice Candy', DNZB IV, p. 85.
51 Sinclair, A History of the University of Auckland, p. 132.
52 Sinclair says that the friends included the Mulgan family. See also Jean Sharfe, Players, Protesters, and Politicians: A History of the Canterbury Students Association (Christchurch: Clerestory Press, 1995), pp. 15–16.
53 Sinclair, A History of the University of Auckland, p. 150. Sinclair cites the university council minutes as his source, p. 333, note 7.
54 Sinclair, A History of the University of Auckland, p. 80.
57 In her autobiography, Mary Scott described Joseph as 'this strange and brilliant man', and was impressed by his 'witty conversation', 'intellectual grasp', 'fanatical respect for work' and 'constant advice and enthusiasm'. She wrote, 'If I was to learn from others of less admirable sides of his character, his intellectual influence survived the disillusionment,' Days That Have Been (Auckland: Blackwood and Janet Paul, 1966), pp. 42–3. When Joseph left precipitately for Sydney, John Mulgan persuaded Eric Blow, who described Joseph as 'the most colourful personality that the Auckland University College had in my time' and 'a remarkable schizophrenic', to write a eulogy for the student newspaper Craccum. Mulgan felt that 'as no public action had been taken against the professor he was, as far as the Students' Association was concerned, in honourable retirement.' Blow writes, 'I sent Professor Grossmann a copy of the issue and received a magnificent composition in reply, noting how touched and delighted he was that "at least the students remember me so handsomely",' Eric Blow, 'Memories of John Mulgan', Mulgan Family: Papers relating to John Mulgan, ATL, MS-Papers-7906-70.
58 Both novels are set in Australia and have no New Zealand referent.
59 Grossmann, Hermione, p. 30.
62 Grossmann, Life of Helen Macmillan Brown, p. 14.
63 Grossmann, Life of Helen Macmillan Brown, p. 13.
64 Grossmann, Life of Helen Macmillan Brown, p. 31.
65 Grossmann, Life of Helen Macmillan Brown, p. 53. Grossmann wrote an article for the Christchurch Press on the subject of married women's employment in October 1893. See Lovell-Smith, Easily the Best, p. 73.
66 Grossmann, Life of Helen Macmillan Brown, p. 26. Grossmann describes Macmillan Brown's initial hesitation as to whether Connon, whose father was a West Coast carpenter, would be a worthwhile pupil: 'He could not be troubled with Hokitika girls; they had no ambition to rise beyond their sphere,' p. 12. Lovell-Smith points out that Grossmann's biography glosses over Connon's humble background, even though she knew Connon's parents, and boarded with her mother, Easily the Best, pp. 11, 55.
67 The final scenes of both novels picture the two women friends affirming their love in the face of the death of one of them. The similarity strongly suggests that Baughan had read Hermione.
68 Grossmann, Life of Helen Macmillan Brown, p. 43.
69 The Butcher's Shop was banned in New Zealand — as a telegram to the prime minister's secretary put it, 'alleged depiction station life New Zealand disgusting indecent communistic'. See Bill Pearson, 'The Banning of The Butcher's Shop', The Butcher's Shop, ed. Heather Marshall (Auckland: Auckland University Press, Oxford University Press, 1981), p. 226.
70 Although Patricia Grimshaw names Grossmann as one of those suffragists who were not interested in temperance (p. 109), Angela has a very strong anti-drink message, and in The Heart of the Bush (p. 223) it is made clear that Adelaide will only drink alcohol in an emergency. Devanny was a strong proponent of teetotalism, seeing alcohol's dulling effects as inhibiting the revolutionary potential of the working class. In this, she acknowledged, her opposition differed from that of the genteel Women's Christian Temperance Union.
71 Devanny's first publications were letters to the Maoriland Worker in 1916 and 1917 where she argued for the education of woman and a broadening of the women's page's scope: 'Cut out the cookery, comrade, and give us something instructive', Maoriland Worker, 9 August 1916.
72 See Carole Ferrier, Jean Devanny: Romantic Revolutionary (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1999), p. 23.
73 Brandon, who considers Adelaide 'was English enough to be tame and civilized, colonial enough to have the charm of novelty and piquancy' (p. 11), 'could not imagine any form of bliss for people who had no hope of getting to London' (p. 124).
74 Marilyn Lake, 'The Politics of Respectability: Identifying the Masculinist Context', Debutante Nation: Feminist Contests in the 1890s, eds. Susan Margery, Sue Rowley and Susan Sheridan (St Leonards, NSW: Allen and Unwin, 1993), p. 2.
76 John Docker, 'The Feminist Legend: A New Historicism?', Debutante Nation, p. 19.
79 This was part of a debate with A. B. Paterson's more romanticized view. See Docker, 'The Feminist Legend', p. 21.
80 For a discussion of the class implications of the novel, see Lawless, 'The Sex Problem', pp. 208–22.
84 Rowley, 'Sliprails and Spur', p. 15.
85 National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. In the central painting of the triptych she holds her child and contemplates her husband; in the first painting she sits alone in sorrowful contemplation of the bush around her. The final painting may portray her husband tending her grave as the city rises up in the distance.