Alfred Augustus Grace was one of New Zealandís most
accomplished early writers. Along with Alfred Domett, Jessie McKay,
Blanche Baughan and William Satchell, he was a member of the
celebrated Maoriland School of Writing that flourished between 1896
and 1915. These writers' romantic treatment of the Maori people
helped shape New Zealandís culture in the early twentieth century.
Maoriland Stories, published in 1895, was Graceís first major
publication. It contained four stories about settlers and three
about Maori and Maori/Pakeha relations. The stories about Maori and
Maori/Pakeha relations were of particular interest to readers of the
time. Although New Zealandís population was by now overwhelmingly
European, the Maori and their culture continued to occupy the Pakeha
imagination. Besides, Grace knew a lot about the Maori way of life.
His father and his older brother had both worked as missionaries
among Maori, and Grace had spent time with many of the Maori people
in his fatherís circle.
A further reason had
to do with New Zealand politics. As in Australia, the main topic of
debate was independence from Britain. New Zealand was faced with
several options Ė stay with Britain, gain independence by joining
the Federation of Australian States, or gain independence by
striking out alone. Most New Zealanders preferred the last option.
Inspired by this idea, Grace, and a few other local writers, began
to conceive of a literature that would be unique to New Zealand. It
made sense that Maori life and culture should figure prominently in
this literature since this was something that differentiated New
Zealand not just from England but also from its near neighbour
EDITION: In this new 226 page softcover edition, an extended
essay by Dr
Anne Maxwell of the University of Melbourne discusses
the author and his stories, placing them in their historical and
cultural context. This near-facsimile retains most of the design of
the original, including many decorative capital letters, woodcut
New Zealand Girl, drawn by Augustus Earle and engraved by J
Stewart, published in 1832 by Longman & Co, London. Blue lips were an
important female adornment at that time Ė much preferred to red lips.
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