Mr Colenso’s Wairarapa – Twelve Journeys 1843 – 1852 by Ian St George


William Colenso was a Victorian polymath: New Zealand’s first significant printer, liberal theologian, inspired educationalist, perceptive botanist, politician, explorer over much of the North Island.

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William Colenso was a man whose contributions to New Zealand history are amply recorded in the output from his press, his published scientific work, his own surviving publications, his many letters (including those to the editors of newspapers) and his journals and diaries.

He has been the subject of television drama, plays, creative nonfiction, formal biography, letter collections, numerous portraits, three conferences (a fourth is planned for 2019) and a monthly journal.

As the first missionary in Hawke’s Bay, 1843–1852, Colenso’s ‘parish’ extended west to Taupo and south to include the Wairarapa-Bush and this book records, from his own journals, his journeys on foot through the region. It records the tensions created by the collision of two very different moralities. It also records a gradual change from the enthusiasm and idealism of the young preacher with his paternalistic naiveté about his Maori parishioners, towards a much more adult understanding from the sadder but wiser man he became.

In the end he lost his wife and family, lost his position in the church and almost lost his will to live.


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