The Life of John Coleridge Patteson HTML version
There are of course peculiar advantages as well as disadvantages in endeavouring to write
the life of one recently departed. On the one hand, the remembrances connected with him
are far fresher; his contemporaries can he consulted, and much can be made matter of
certainty, for which a few years would have made it necessary to trust to hearsay or
probable conjecture. On the other, there is necessarily much more reserve; nor are the
results of the actions, nor even their comparative importance, so clearly discernible as
when there has been time to ripen the fruit.
These latter drawbacks are doubled when the subject of the biography has passed away in
comparatively early life: when the persons with whom his life is chiefly interwoven are
still in full activity; and when he has only lived to sow his seed in many waters, and has
barely gathered any portion of his harvest.
Thus what I have written of Bishop Patteson, far more what I have copied of his letters, is
necessarily only partial, although his nearest relations and closest friends have most
kindly permitted the full use of all that could build up a complete idea of the man as he
was. Many letters relate to home and family matters, such as it would be useless and
impertinent to divulge; and yet it is necessary to mention that these exist, because without
them we might not know how deep was the lonely man's interest and sympathy in all that
concerned his kindred and friends. Other letters only repeat the narrative or the
reflections given elsewhere; and of these, it has seemed best only to print that which
appeared to have the fullest or the clearest expression. In general, the story is best told in
letters to the home party; while thoughts are generally best expressed in the
correspondence with Sir John Taylor Coleridge, to whom the Nephew seems to have
written with a kind of unconscious carefulness of diction. There is as voluminous a
correspondence with the Brother, and letters to many Cousins; but as these either repeat
the same adventures or else are purely domestic, they have been little brought forward,
except where any gap occurred in the correspondence which has formed the staple
Letters upon the unhappy Maori war have been purposely omitted; and, as far as possible,
such criticisms on living personages as it seemed fair towards the writer to omit.
Criticisms upon their publications are of course a different thing. My desire has been to
give enough expression of Bishop Patteson's opinions upon Church and State affairs, to
represent his manner of thinking, without transcribing every detail of remarks, which
were often made upon an imperfect report, and were, in fact, only written down, instead
of spoken and forgotten, because correspondence served him instead of conversation.
I think I have represented fairly, for I have done my best faithfully to select passages
giving his mind even where it does not coincide completely with my own opinions; being
quite convinced that not only should a biographer never attempt either to twist or conceal
the sentiments of the subject, but that either to apologise for, or as it were to argue with
them, is vain in both senses of the word.