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(BY THE VERY REV. THE DEAN OF CHRISTCHURCH).
WHO is there that does not know the peculiar pleasure of recalling the days of one's early childhood? To live over again in thought the scenes of our youth, or of our riper years can yield unmixed satisfaction to none; but to send memory back as far as she can find her way on the track of life, to fetch us all the traces she can recover of our childhood's footsteps, is always an interesting, as well as a freshening and healthy exercise. It is like looking back into another life, and yet one which is all our own --a life, as it were, in Elysian fields, or in the Golden Age, before sorrow and care were born --a life in which all the actors were heroes, all the clouds had a silver lining, and all the land was bathed with ambrosial light.
Closely akin to this is the interest which all communities and nations feel in tracing the history of their origin, and in exploring all that tradition has handed down of the exploits and characters of the renowned among their ancestors. But here we must note a difference between communities of modern growth--such as those of America and the British Colonies--and the grand old historic nations of Europe and Asia. The annals of the latter gradually become clouded over with a mist of uncertainty, which thickens more and more, as we trace them farther back into primeval antiquity, until at length they are completely lost in shadowy outline and unsubstantial myth. The origin and early history of modern
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colonies, on the other hand, is enveloped in no such haze of obscurity; they may be found embedded among the substantial strata of official reports, and the hard, dry layers of facts and statistics, which form the material of uninviting Blue Books. On this account they may seem to lose in romance, what they gain in clearness. Yet, happily for our imaginations, and still more for those of our children, besides the Queen's high-way of level beaten fact, by which the business-like annalist must travel, there are pleasant bye-paths across the meadows for the tourist and the holiday loiterer: here and there, close to the dusty road, but apart from it, in sheltered nooks, are patches of verdure and a variegated embroidery of wild flowers, to refresh and gladden the weary and wayworn. Or, to vary the metaphor, we may say that, alongside the dry chronicle of fact, in the early history of our Colonies generally, and not least of all in that of the Canterbury Settlement, there spreads an ample margin embellished with illustrations, pathetic, humourous, romantic, joyous. There is poetry, as well as prose, in the life of the early settler; besides the documentary record of laws and institutions, there is also what our Teuton kinsmen call a folk-lore, to be carefully preserved, and lovingly cherished by the thoughtful and patriotic Colonist, not only that the deeds and words of those whom he reveres may not be forgotten, but for the sake of generations to come, that their past may afford them not merely a dull record of facts and names, but also bright lights and tender shadows for sentiment and imagination to dwell upon.
Of such a nature is the pleasing task to which the Authoress of the following Sketches has addressed herself. In many respects she is peculiarly qualified, if I may venture to say so, for the successful accomplishment of it. The actors in the scenes she describes were all personally known to her; she
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was herself a passenger on board one of the celebrated Four Ships, which brought the first freight of Canterbury Colonists to the land of their adoption; her experiences of our "Life from the Early Days" began at an age when impressions are most lively; with the exception of a brief visit to the land we still fondly call Home, she has dwelt among us from her first coming to this day; her joys and sorrows have been identified with Canterbury, and she has never lost the happy enthusiasm of the true Canterbury Pilgrim.
Having now spoken, at the request of the authoress, this brief Prologue, I beg leave to retire for the present, being doubly honoured in having to appear again here and there, as I perceive by a perusal of the Sketches, as an actor in one of the minor parts of this historic drama. Both writer and actors, I venture to think, may comfort themselves with the assurance that, whatever may be the opinion of new comers, old settlers, at any rate, with few exceptions, will greet with pleasure the appearance on the public stage, of "Canterbury Sketches, or Life from the Early Days."
THE DEANERY, CHRISTCHURCH,
September 8th, 1879.
P. S. --By a singular coincidence, which did not occur to the writer of these lines until he wrote down the above date, this Preface was penned on the Twenty-ninth anniversary of the day on which his own ship, the Sir George Seymour, weighed anchor at Plymouth, and bade farewell to the shores of Old England, her three companions of the Pilgrim Fleet having left the preceding day, or during the night which followed it.
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MAY I say a few words to my readers before launching my little barque into the great sea of literature? These Sketches were first written for the Canterbury Times, and appeared weekly. I have revised and added to them, and now publish them in the form of a book, which I trust may while away an hour, by recalling pleasant memories of old days. I have quoted largely from the Lyttelton Times, as it gave me much information I could not obtain elsewhere. I am also indebted to the Proprietors of the same paper for the "Canterbury Rhymes" which I have introduced. I must also thank my friend, the Dean of Christchurch, for having so kindly written the Preface, and also beg to thank the Subscribers who have enabled me to publish this little work. Deal leniently with my first attempt, my friends, as we may meet again at some future day,
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TO MY READERS.
THE frontispiece of this little work requires a word on my part. It represents Christchurch in 1852, and was originally taken by Dr. Barker, I believe. It was sent Home and lithographed, and appeared in the Illustrated London News. The present picture is a photograph from that lithograph. It has been reduced and touched up by Mr. Dossetter, photographer. I have named the principal houses, the only one my readers will recognise is the Land Office, which is still in existence, and is now used as a Resident Magistrate's Court. The small bridge was the only footbridge in Christchurch. Mr. G. Brittan's house is where the Clarendon now stands. Mr. Cridland's house close to the river is the site of the Willows, Dr. Turnbull's residence. In the far distance is to be seen St. Michael's and Christ's College. Twenty-seven years has truly made a marvellous change.
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Page 4, third line, for "memos" read "memoirs.
Page 67, thirteenth line, for "Heapley" read "Heaphey."