Anthony Trollope begins New Zealand tour

3 August 1872

Anthony Trollope (Wikipedia)

Anthony Trollope (1815–1882), one of the Victorian era’s most famous novelists, landed at Bluff to begin a two-month tour of the colony. Trollope had spent the previous year in Australia and in 1873 he published a two-volume book about his travels, Australia and New Zealand.

His overall impression of New Zealand was positive and consistent with other contemporary views. As part of the British Empire, New Zealand had the potential to become a new and improved version of England. Māori were seen as a dying race, on the brink of ‘melting away’ in the face of inevitable progress.

Australia and New Zealand, commissioned by publishers Chapman and Hall, was aimed squarely at the popular travel-book market. Even apparently critical comments had appeal for aspiring visitors and emigrants wanting the reassurance of familiarity: ‘The great drawback to New Zealand … comes from the feeling that after crossing the world and journeying over so many thousand miles, you have not at all succeeded in getting away from England.’

Trollope’s book stands out from other travel books of the time for the quality of his writing. Here he describes bathing in the Pink and White Terraces at Lake Tarawera:

The baths are … like vast open shells, the walls of which are concave, and the lips ornamented in a thousand forms … I have never heard of other bathing like this in the world.

New Zealand colonials, he claimed, were in general better-read than Englishmen at home. However, there were also less positive aspects to their character:

I must specially observe one point as to which the New Zealand colonist imitates his brethren and ancestors at home, and far surpasses his Australian rival. He is very fond of getting drunk. And I would also observe to the New Zealander generally, as I have done to other colonists, that if he would blow his trumpet somewhat less loudly, the music would gain in its effect upon the world at large.

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