Anthony Trollope (1815–1882), one of the Victorian era’s most famous novelists, landed at Bluff at the start of a two-month tour of New Zealand. Trollope had spent the previous year travelling around Australia and in 1873 published a two-volume book of his travels, Australia and New Zealand.
Overall the impression he gave of New Zealand was positive and consistent with views of the time. To Trollope, New Zealand had all the potential to become a new and improved version of England, though clearly as part of the British Empire rather than as a separate nation. Māori were seen as a dying race, on the brink of ‘melting away’ in the face of inevitable progress.
Australia and New Zealand, which was commissioned by Chapman and Hall, was aimed squarely at the popular travel-book market. Even apparently critical comments would have appealed to 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.’
What distinguishes Trollope’s book from some travel books of the time is the quality of his writing. Here he describes bathing in the Pink and White Terraces:
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.
He claimed New Zealand colonials were generally better read than Englishmen at home. There were less-positive aspects to their character as well, however:
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.
Image: Anthony Trollope (Wikipedia)