The Life of John Coleridge Patteson
St. John's College And Lifu. 1857-1859.
It seems to me that the years between 1856 and 1861 were the very brightest of Coleridge
Patteson's life. He had left all for Christ's sake and the Gospel's, and was reaping the
blessing in its freshness. His struggles with his defects had been successful, the more so
because he was so full of occupation that the old besetting trouble, self-contemplation,
had been expelled for lack of opportunity; and he had become far more simple, since
humility was ceasing to be a conscious effort.
There is a light-heartedness about his letters like that of the old Eton times. Something
might have been owing to the impulse of health, which was due to the tropical heat. Most
probably this heat was what exhausted his constitution so early, but at first it was a
delightful stimulus, and gave him exemption from all those discomforts with which cold
had affected him at home. This exhilaration bore him over the many trials of close
contact with uncivilised human nature so completely that his friends never even guessed
at his natural fastidiousness. That which might have been selfish in this fastidiousness
was conquered, though the refinement remained. Even to the last, in his most solitary
hours, this personal neatness never relaxed, but the victory over disgust was a real
triumph over self, which no doubt was an element of happiness.
While the Bishop continued to go on the voyages with him, he had companionship,
guidance, and comparatively no responsibility, while his success, that supreme joy, was
wonderfully unalloyed, and he felt his own especial gifts coming constantly into play. His
love for his scholars was one continual well of delight, and really seemed to be an
absolute gift, enabling him to win them over, and compensating for what he had left, even
while he did not cease to love his home with deep tenderness.
Another pair of New Zealand friends had to be absent for a time. Archdeacon Abraham's
arm was so severely injured by an accident with a horse, that the effects were far more
serious than those of a common fracture. The disaster took place in Patteson's presence. 'I
shall never forget,' writes his friend, 'his gentleness and consideration as he first laid me
down in a room and then went to tell my wife.'
It was found necessary to have recourse to English advice; the Archdeacon and Mrs.
Abraham went home, and were never again residents at Auckland.
A letter to Mr. Justice Coleridge was written in the interval between the voyages:--
'Auckland: June 12, 1857.
'My dear Uncle,--You will not give me credit for being a good correspondent, I fear; but
the truth is that I seldom find time to do more than write long chatty letters to my dear
father and sisters, occasionally to Thorverton, and to Miss Neill and one or two others to
cheer them in their sickness and weariness. Any news from afar may be a real relaxation.