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W hat I believe to be genuine and authentic the collected publications of William Colenso


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1880 Contributions towards a better Knowledge of the Maori Race (continued).
Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 13: 57-84. 304


1880 Description of a new species of Metzgeria; also a brief notice of the finding of Bæomyces
heteromorphus, Nyl., in New Zealand. Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 13: 368-370. 316

1880 The ferns of Scinde Island (Napier). Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 13: 370-376. 317

1880 On some new and undescribed New Zealand Ferns. Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 13: 376-384. 319

1880 Mr Colenso’s English-Maori Lexicon (Specimen of).


Appendix to the Journal of the House of Representatives, G 6. 323

1881 Historical incidents and traditions of the olden times pertaining to the Maoris of the North Island,


(East Coast), New Zealand; highly illustrative of their national Character, and containing many
peculiar, curious, and little-known Customs and Circumstances, and Matters firmly believed by them.
Now, for the first time, faithfully translated from old Maori writings and recitals (continued).
Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 14: 3-33. 324

1881 Contributions towards a better Knowledge of the Maori Race (continued).
Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 14: 33-48. 337


1881 On the fine Perception of Colours possessed by the ancient Maoris.
Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 14: 49-76. 343

1881 Description of two little-known Species of New Zealand Shells.


Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 14: 168-169. 354

1881 On some new and undescribed Species of New Zealand Insects, of the Orders Orthoptera and


Coleoptera. Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 14: 277-282. 355

1881 A description of a few new Plants from our New Zealand Forests.


Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 14: 329-341. 357

1881 On the fine Perception of Colours possessed by the ancient Maoris (Addendum).


Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 14: 477-484. 362

1882 On some newly discovered New Zealand Arachnids.


Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 15: 165-173. 366

1882 A description of four new ferns from our New Zealand Forests.


Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 15: 304-310. 369

1882 On the large Number of Species of Ferns noticed in a small Area in the New Zealand Forests, in the Seventy-mile Bush, between Norsewood and Danneverke, in the Provincial District of Hawke’s Bay. Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 15: 311-320. 372

1882 Description of a few new Indigenous Plants. Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 15: 320-339. 376

1883 Three literary papers read before the Hawke’s Bay Philosophical Institute during the session of 1882:


– I and II, On Nomenclature; III, On “Macaulay’s New Zealander.” Daily Telegraph Office, Napier. 41p. 384

1883 A further Contribution towards making known the Botany of New Zealand.


Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 16: 325-363. 401

1884 Description of a small Lizard, a Species of Naultinus, supposed to be new to Science.


Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 17: 149-151. 418

1884 A description of some newly discovered New Zealand insects believed to be new to Science.


Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 17: 151-160. 419

1884 A description of some newly discovered and rare indigenous plants; being a further Contribution towards


the making known the Botany of New Zealand. Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 17: 237-265. 423

1884 A list of Fungi recently discovered in New Zealand. Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 17: 265-269. 435

1884 In memoriam. An account of visits to, and crossings over the Ruahine mountain range, Hawke’s Bay,
New Zealand; and of the natural history of that region; performed in 1845-1847: cum multis aliis.
Daily Telegraph Office, Napier. iv, 74 p. 437

1884 On a New Zealand fungus that has of late years become a valuable article of commerce.


Transactions of the Penzance Natural History and Antiquarian Society, 1884-5. 468

1884 A few stray thoughts on W. Cornwall (Mount’s Bay) and our Cornish Botany. Unpublished Manuscript. 470



Volume 2

1885 Notes on the Bones of a Species of Sphenodon, (S. diversum, Col.,) apparently distinct from the


Species already known. Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 18: 118-123. 481

1885 A Description of some newly-discovered Cryptogamic Plants, being a further Contribution towards the making known the Botany of New Zealand. Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 18: 219-255. 483

1885 A Description of some newly-discovered and rare Indigenous Plants: being a further Contribution towards
the making known the Botany of New Zealand.Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 18: 256-287. 499

1885 A brief List of some British Plants (Weeds) lately noticed, apparently of recent Introduction into this


Part of the Colony; with a few Notes thereon. Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 18: 288-290. 513

1885 On Clianthus puniceus, Sol. Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 18: 291-295. 514

1886 A Description of the curiously-deformed Bill of a Huia, (Heteralocha acutirostris, Gould), an endemic
New Zealand Bird. Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 19:140-145. 516

1886 A description of a large and new species of orthopterous insect of the genus Hemideina.


Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 19: 145-147. 518

1886 Further notes and observations on the gestation, birth and young of a lizard, a species of Naultinus. Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 19: 147-150. 519

1886 A few Observations on the Tree-Ferns of New Zealand; with particular Reference to their peculiar
Epiphytes, their Habit, and their manner of Growth.Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 19: 252-259. 520

1886 A Description of some newly-discovered and rare indigenous Phænogamic Plants, being a further Contribution towards making known the Botany of New Zealand.


Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 19: 259-271. 524

1886 A Description of some newly-discovered Cryptogamic Plants, being a further Contribution towards the making known the Botany of New Zealand. Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 19: 271-301. 528

1886 An Enumeration of Fungi recently discovered in New Zealand, with brief Notes on the Species Novæ. Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 19: 301-313. 541

1887 A description of a new species of Coccinella found in New Zealand.


Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 20: 40-42. 546

1887 On new phænogamic plants of New Zealand. Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 20: 188-211. 547

1887 On newly discovered and imperfectly known Ferns of New Zealand, with Critical Observations.
Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 20: 212-234. 557

1887 On new indigenous Cryptogams, of the Orders Lycopodiaceæ, Musci, and Hepaticæ.


Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 20: 234-254. 566

1887 Ancient tide-lore and tales of the sea, from the two Ends of the World (abstract).


Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 20: 418-422. 575

1888 A Description of a Species of Orobanche (supposed to be new) parasitical on a plant of Hydrocotyle. Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 21: 41-43. 576

1888 A Description of some newly-discovered Cryptogamic Plants; being a further Contribution towards the making known the Botany of New Zealand. Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 21: 43-80. 577

1888 A Description of some newly-discovered Phænogamic Plants; being a further Contribution towards the making known the Botany of New Zealand. Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 21: 80-108. 593

1888 A description of a new and large Species of orthopterous insect of the Genus Hemideina, Walker. Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 21: 193-194. 604

1888 Notes on a peculiar Chrysalis of an unknown Species of Butterfly.


Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 21: 194-196. 604

1888 A few Notes on the Economy and Habits of one of our largest and handsomest New Zealand


Butterflies (Pyrameis gonerilla). Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 21: 196-199. 605

1888 Fifty years ago in New Zealand; a commemoration;


a Jubilee paper; a retrospect; a plain and true story. R.C. Harding, Napier. 49p. 607

1888 Hawke’s Bay Philosophical Institute Anniversary address by the President, William Colenso.


R.C. Harding, Napier. 35p. 625

1888 A few stray Notes on the New Zealand Owl, Athene novæ-zealandiæ, Gml.—Ruru and Koukou of


the Maoris, and Morepork of the Settlers. Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 21: 200-205. 636

1889 Ancient tide-lore and tales of the sea, from the two ends of the world: also, some highly curious,


ancient and legendary little-known East Coast Maori stories. R.C. Harding, Napier. 48p. 639

1889 A few brief historical notes and remarks concerning the early Christian Church at Ahuriri (Napier):


in a letter to the editor of the “Daily Telegraph”, Daily Telegraph Office, Napier. 14p. 656

1889 A Description of Two Newly-discovered Indigenous Cryptogamic Plants.


Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 22: 449-452. 660

1889 A Description of some Newly-discovered Indigenous Cryptogamic Plants.


Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 22: 452-458. 661

1889 A Description of some Newly-discovered Phænogamic Plants, being a Further Contribution towards the making-known the Botany of New Zealand. Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 22: 459-493. 664

1890 The first European fighting at Taranaki. In Sherrin AA. The Early history of New Zealand, part 1 of Brett’s Historical Series: Early New Zealand. Auckland, pp. 435-458. 678

1890 The authentic and genuine history of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, New Zealand, February


5 and 6, 1840: being a faithful and circumstantial, though brief, narration of events which happened
on that memorable occasion; with copies of the Treaty in English and Maori, and of the three early proclamations respecting the founding of the Colony. Government Printing Office, Wellington. 42p. 692

1890 A Description of some Newly-discovered Indigenous Plants, being a Further Contribution towards the making known the Botany of New Zealand. Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 23: 381-391. 704

1890 An Enumeration of Fungi recently discovered in New Zealand.
Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 23: 391-398. 708

1890 Bush Notes; or Short Objective Jottings. Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 23: 477-491. 710

1891 A Description of some Newly-discovered Indigenous Plants, being a Further Contribution towards the making known the Botany of New Zealand. Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 24: 387-394. 716

1891 Description of Three Species of Newly-discovered New Zealand Ferns.


Transactions of the New Zealand Instutute; 24: 394-398. 719

1891 A List of New Species of Hepaticæ novæ-zelandiæ, named by F. Stephani, Leipzig.


Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 24: 398-400. 720

1891 Plain and practical thoughts and notes on New Zealand botany.


Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 24: 400-409. 721

1891 Vestiges; reminiscences; memorabilia, of Works, Deeds and Sayings of the ancient Maori.


Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 24: 445-467. 725

1891 Status quo: A Retrospect.—A Few More Words by way of Explanation and Correction concerning


the First Finding of the Bones of the Moa in New Zealand; also Strictures on the Quarterly Reviewer’s
Severe and Unjust Remarks on the Late Dr. G.A. Mantell, F.R.S., &c., in connection with the same. Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 24: 468-478. 733

1892 Bush jottings: No. 2 (Botanical). Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 25: 307-319. 737

1892 Cryptogams: A Description of a few Lately-discovered Rare Indigenous Ferns; also, Notice of a
Fine and Peculiar Fungus, Ileodictyon, Tulasne, = Clathrus, Cooke.
Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 25: 319-324. 742

1892 Phænogams: A Description of some Newly-discovered Indigenous Plants; being a Further


Contribution towards the making known the Botany of New Zealand.
Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 25: 324-338. 744

1892 A List of Fungi recently detected and collected in the Bush District, County of Hawke’s Bay; being a


Further Contribution to the Indigenous Flora of New Zealand.
Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 25: 338-340. 750

1892 Memorandum of a few New Species of Hepaticæ lately detected in the Seventy-mile Bush District; as


kindly determined by Dr. F. Stephani, of Berlin. Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 25: 341-342. 751

1892 Observations on Mr. T. White’s Paper “On the Native Dog of New Zealand” — Transactions of the


New Zealand Institute, Vol. xxiv., Art. 51. Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 25: 495-503. 752

1893 Description of a large species of Iulus. Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 26: 106. 752

1893 Phænogams: A Description of a few Newly-discovered Indigenous Plants; being a Further
Contribution towards the making known the Botany of New Zealand.
Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 26: 313-320. 753

1893 List of Fungi recently collected in the Bush District, County of Waipawa; being a Further Contribution


to the Indigenous Flora of New Zealand. Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 26: 320-323. 756

1893 Notes, Remarks, and Reminiscences of Two Peculiar Introduced and Naturalised South American


Plants. Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 26: 323-332. 757

1893 On Four Notable Foreign Plants. Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 26: 333-346. 761

1893 “More Last Words”: being an Appendix to several Papers read here during Past Sessions on the
Volcanic Mountain-range of Tongariro and Ruapehu, with its adjoining District.
Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 26: 483-498. 766

1893 Notes and observations on M. A. de Quatrefages’s paper on “Moas and Moa Hunters.”


Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 26: 498-513. 772

1894 Notes and Reminiscences of Early Crossings of the Romantically-situated Lake Waikaremoana,


County of Hawke’s Bay, of its Neighbouring Country, and of its Peculiar Botany; performed in the
Years 1841 and 1843. Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 27: 359-382. 779

1894 Phænogams: A Description of a few more Newly-discovered Indigenous Plants; being a Further Contribution towards the making known the Botany of New Zealand.


Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 27: 383-399. 788

1894 A Description of two New Ferns and One New Lycopodium, lately detected in our New Zealand


Forests. Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 27: 399-401. 795

1894 An Account of the Finding of Two Australian Plants, hitherto unnoticed, here in New Zealand.


Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 27: 401-402. 796

1894 The Modern History of a Block of Greenstone.


Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 27: 598-606. 796

1895 Memorabilia of certain Animal Prodigies, Native and Foreign, Ancient and Modern.


Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 28: 87-97. 799

1895 Phænogams: A Description of a few more Newly-discovered Indigenous Plants; being a Further Contribution towards the making known the Botany of New Zealand.


Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 28: 591-613. 804

1895 New Zealand Cryptogams : A List of a Few Additional Cryptogamic Plants, of the Orders Hepaticæ and Fungi, more recently detected in New Zealand. Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 28: 614-615. 813

1895 Cryptogams: A Description of Two new Ferns, a New Lycopodium, and a New Moss, lately detected
in our New Zealand Forests. Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 28: 615-618. 814

1895 A Description of Three Ferns, believed to be Undescribed, discovered more than Fifty Years ago in


the Northern District of New Zealand. Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 28: 618-22. 815

1896 Presidential Address. Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 29: 129-150. 817

1896 Descriptions of some New Indigenous New Zealand Forest Ferns.
Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 29: 414-421. 825

1898 Certain errors of the Church of Rome plainly shown from Holy Scripture.


Dinwiddie, Walker & Co, Napier. (First published as letters to Hawke’s Bay Herald). 85p. 828

1898 A Description of some Newly Discovered Indigenous New Zealand Ferns.


Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 31: 263-266. 855

1898 Phænogams: A Description of a few more Newly Discovered Indigenous Plants; being a Further Contribution towards the making known the Botany of New Zealand.


Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 31: 266-281. 856

1899 Of a Radiant Phenomenon: “In hoc signo vinces.”


Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 32: 305-309. 863

1899 Memorabilia, Ancient and Modern; being Remarks and Information respecting some of the


Tin-mines in Cornwall, England. Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 32: 309-324. 864

_____________________________

If the more fugitive essays and papers of William Colenso were collected, they would fill volumes.

Otago Witness 23 February 1899.

A few pioneers, provoked by a riot of diversity beyond their wildest imaginations, were transformed from collectors into scientists. They posed and pondered the most fundamental questions about Nature. Their answers sparked a revolution that changed, profoundly and forever, our perception of the living world and our place within it.

—Sean Carroll. Remarkable creatures—epic adventures
in the search for the origins of species.
Clays, St Ives, 2009.

It has occurred to me—very often—to get my Bot. Papers in “Trans.” all bound up in 1 vol. w. Ms. Index

—William Colenso to Coupland Harding 9 June 1891:

The longer I live, the more difficult I find it, to fall in with persons who are able—competent—to draw reasonable, unprejudiced, deductions. Education, alone, won’t give it—nor will experience. A man with an untrammeled mind is rare.—Generally all have so much to unlearn first.

William Colenso to Andrew Luff 18 July 1878.

... all the Particulars contain’d in this Book, cannot be found in any one Piece known to me, but lie scatter’d and dispers’d in many, and so this may serve to relieve those fastidious Readers, that are not willing to take the Pains to search them out; and possibly, there may be some whose Ability (whatever their Industry might be) will not serve them to purchase, nor their Opportunity to borrow, those Books, who yet may spare Money enough to buy so inconsiderable a Trifle.

John Ray 1691.

The Wisdom of God manifested in the Works of Creation.

(quoted by William T Stearn in the “Apologia pro libro mio” of his 1966 Botanical Latin).
_____________________________

Introduction
I have been often requested to publish, in a separate form, what I have so amassed and known; but that I have hitherto refused to do so, for I seek neither pelf nor fame (as a book-maker), but merely to relate, in plain words, what I believe to be genuine and authentic, leaving it for those who may come after me to “make the book,”—to fuse together the ores I may have laboriously sought out, and collected, and brought to the surface.
William Colenso, 1881.1

These two volumes contain most of Colenso’s published work in English and continue this series of William Colenso’s writing. They follow Colenso’s collections, published by the New Zealand Native Orchid Group in 2008 and containing his letters to Kew and lists of specimens sent, Give your thoughts life, containing his letters to editors, and a second edition of William Colenso: his life and journeys by AG Bagnall and GC Petersen, both published by the Otago University Press.

Few of Colenso’s papers are readily available in printed form and many are hard to access even by internet. Volume 1 begins with his compilation of The ancient and modern history of Mounts Bay, etc published by his Cornwall employer John Thomas in 1831. Volume 2 ends with his nostalgic reminiscences of Cornwall, “a Fragment left by the late W. Colenso, F.R.S., F.L.S.” published posthumously in 1899. Between them is a large and varied sequence of his published work. I have not tried to group the papers because several roam discursively over several subjects and thus defy tight categorisation.

What seems astounding today is not only the volume of his published work, but also the breadth of his interests and his virtuosity: his attention to detail, the accuracy of his observations and the scholarship demonstrated in his references to the literature. One can only gasp at his sheer mental and physical energy and the range of his expertise. He wrote

“… now without boasting (all such ill becomes me) I may perhaps be permitted to say that there are a few (and only a few) things during a long and active life of which I trust I know a little, viz:—1. The Polynesian language. 2. The Botany of N.Z. 3. This subject of the Sabbath.”2

But he wrote on many more subjects than that and could, as he quoted from Wordsworth…

—————— find
A tale in every thing,

his work liberally sprinkled with quotations from the classics, from poets (his favorite was James Thomson3 as he confessed in his 1886 “Description of some newly-discovered cryptogamic plants”). He “had received a grounding in the ‘rudiments’ and the classics under the wise tutorship of Mr. Will Purchase at the latter’s private school, which fortunately left him with a thirst for further knowledge and a sound basis for self-education”.4 Colenso extended his Latin and Greek studies at Te Waimate when training for ordination.5 He avoided Latin diagnoses in his descriptions of new plants, and even in his English descriptions got a few of his Latin declensions confused—“cilia, -æ”, and “flagella, -æ” (I, f.) for instance, instead of cilium, -a and flagellum, -a (II, n.), and made a few errors in the gender of his specific names.

If botanical Latin is almost incomprehensible to classical Latin readers,6 botanical English must be equally so to many English readers: it is an esoteric vernacular developed for a precise objective purpose. Colenso revelled in it. Yet he frequently allowed himself the subjective indulgence of calling a plant (for instance), “striking”, “fine”, “elegant”, “graceful”, “a gem!”, having “a most beautiful appearance”, and “enchanting the eye of the observer with a most beautiful, delicate, and ever green circle.”

He was an accomplished writer, varying his style to suit his purpose: his inland journeys are reported in the Empire expansionist “exploration narrative” style, with its set pieces—what Wevers called the “monarch of all I survey scene… the traveller in visual command above a spread-out landscape” (silent on a peak in Darien! or “Pelion on Ossa” as Colenso was fond of quoting); the “explorer/indigene frame” where unnamed natives serve the explorer’s needs; the influence of a wild untamed country, people and elements; the trackless wastes of the interior.7

The prose he used in retelling the Maori legends is quite different from that in his journeys and scientific papers: a lyrical mix of the archaic biblical style of the King James version, the heroic style of Pope’s translation of Homer (though happily without the iambic pentameters in rhyming couplets) with a touch of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Thus he lent the myths an authenticity derived from a familiar, larger-than-life, epic European ambience.8 They read like Icelandic sagas.

On the other hand, in his account of the Treaty negotiations his prose betrayed his paternalism. Head wrote, “... William Colenso... gives the translations of the chiefs’ speeches a quaint and even childish air that undermines their status; effort is required to read them as political commentary.”9 Parkinson, however, notes that “It was all political theatre, and everybody including Hobson recognised that” (Parkinson P, pers. comm.)

Books were something of an obsession. He quoted Chaucer on the title page of his In memoriam (1884),
For out of the old feldis, as men saith,
Comith all this newe corne from yere to yere;
And out of oldè bokis, in good faieth,
Cometh all this newe science that men lere.”

He listed the few botanical books he possessed (most were probably gifts from Alan Cunningham) in his letter to WJ Hooker in 1842, but his later letters acknowledge Hooker’s sending several more. A hundred volumes were destroyed in his 1852 house fire, and he had to sell many of the rest after being dismissed from the church; but by 1863 he would boast “the best Botanical library in the country”,10 and in 1865 would send his most prized books for display at the New Zealand Exhibition in Dunedin. Bagnall and Petersen mention his intention to leave his books to Penzance, but there is no such entry in his will. There is no sign of his books in Penzance public collections either—though the Cornish Evening Tidings, 13 February 1899 announced Colenso’s death and mentioned that he had “donated a number of volumes to the Penzance Library.” Unfortunately it didn’t say what they were, nor whether they were volumes written by Colenso himself.11 Coupland Harding wrote that his theological books were to go to the local diocesan library, and “the bulk of his library including rare New Zealand books, to the Wellington Museum”.12 Again there is no such clause in his will. The Hawke’s Bay Herald reported that they were sold by his elder son Latimer to a representative of Angus and Robertson of Melbourne.13

Certainly he had at his disposal the authoritative literature of his time; he used it freely in defence of his arguments, and was disdainful of writers (Taylor, Stack, Thomson, Dr Thompson, Phillips, Travers, White) who ignored evidence at their peril: his demolition of Stack’s paper on the colour sense of the Maori was little short of annihilation: unambiguous in its scholarly argument and devastating in its directness.14

Only one of his botanical papers is accompanied by a botanical drawing. Colenso was an awkward artist; he sketched moa bones for his Tasmanian paper, views of Paihia later published in his “Fifty years ago in New Zealand”, ferns for his first paper in the Tasmanian Journal (though they were not published) and a tree fern for his 1886 paper.15 He made a few woodcuts of zoological specimens to accompany other papers.

It seems he did draw other plants, though only one such drawing has survived: of Pterostylis he wrote to David Balfour, “I have been making another coloured drawing of another spn (there are several, both in N.Z & Australia), and they have all, in the flower, a great family likeness; but Pt. emarginata & Pt. Banksii, are very much larger than this drawing, & with longer & finer red tails.”16 The watercolour of Pterostylis trullifolia is with his letters to Balfour in the Hawke’s Bay Museum Trust collections. He later wrote that he had had to give up drawing after his thumb injury.

Allan Cunningham gave him his own botanical glass in 1839, and Lady Jane Franklin gave him his first small vertical microscope in 1841. In 1864 he wrote to Hooker asking him to send a Coddington lens. Later for a time he used the skills and the powerful microscope of his medical friend William Spencer of Napier .

Not being satisfied with the comparatively low power of my own microscope, I applied to Dr. Spencer, who has an excellent and powerful compound one, (which he has also used so very effectually in describing the fresh-water Algæ of New Zealand in his papers in past volumes of ‘Trans. N.Z. Inst.,’) and Dr. Spencer has very kindly examined the fruit, etc., of this little plant....”

He named Plagiochila spenceriana and Peziza spencerii for him. Then in December 1884, at age 73, he wrote to Hooker asking for advice about a new microscope for himself so that he could see the teeth of mosses and the finer structures of Hepaticæ better. It arrived the following year but to his frustration the Napier customs officers lost a vital part in unpacking it for inspection.

That beautiful brass instrument was added to the National Museum Te Papa Tongarewa collections at auction in 2012.

He was dogmatic in his spiritual beliefs, but was a liberal theologian in the sense of rejecting the prevailing fundamentalism of his time, his ideas matching those of his famous cousin, John William Colenso, Bishop of Natal.17 His last paper, “On a radiant phenomenon” even questioned the divine origin of the sign seen by the Emperor Constantine in the sky: “the question arose in my mind whether that appearance in the sky was not caused in a similar kind of natural manner”.

He, a former Church of England cleric, responsible to the high church Bishop George Augustus Selwyn, used the term “natural selection” in a monograph published as early as six years after Darwin’s Origin of species. He was an uncertain Darwinist, however, despite corresponding with Hooker and reading Huxley: euphoric in the bush, he wrote

... it is all one to me, at such times, whether those many and varied, yet regular and symmetrical, forms were produced by creation or by evolution. Rather, however, would I set the consideration of that deep and difficult question aside that I might the more fully drink in and enjoy the exquisite living scene before me.”18

A correspondent to the Bush Advocate wrote (29 May 1888), “Many of your readers will regret to hear that our worthy scientist, the Rev. William Colenso, is about leaving our district for the winter, he having pressing duties to attend to in Napier. He has been residing at Mr Baddeley's Railway Hotel for some time past, not only as a matter of choice for the unsurpassing salubrity of the locality and its bracing climate, but for its proximity to a splendid fern bush, and other notable novelties in the wild shrubbery line, amongst which in good weather he invariably took his eager walks in the interest of science. At the same time, though thus actively engaged, he did not at all forget local interests, but has taken a special delight in bestowing most liberally and unostentatiously the means at his disposal towards the advancement of the district to a higher and nobler platform. On last Sunday evening, owing to the Revs. Robertshaw and Stewart being both away at Woodville, there would have been no service in Danevirke had it not been for Mr Colenso, who willingly filled the gap when spoken to on the matter, and preached a very eloquent and edifying sermon on the prodigal son, which was of the most evangelical type, to a very crowded and attentive audience in the new Presbyterian Church. To me, and to many of his auditors, if not to all, it was really refreshing to note the fervid and fluent utterance of an elderly gentleman verging on being an octogenarian, one who had spent many of his late years most successfully in the laudable pursuit of science, which with some scientists, when not directed with the good spirit that rules the universe, tends to lead to scepticism of gospel truths, but not so with him. Like Sir Isaac Newton, he only sees better the puny littleness of the best efforts of men, and that enabled him to raise his voice on the occasion with much power and pathos, humbly reechoing the Great Master's utterance as recorded in St Luke’s Gospel.”

He argued compassionately for peace by just negotiation during the Hauhau uprising, and again (but ineffectively) against the trial for murder of the Hauhau prisoner in Napier jail, Kereopa, on the basis that Kereopa’s killing at Opotiki of the missionary Volkner was in fact not murder, but part of an act of war, and should therefore be immune to criminal prosecution.19 His fellow colonists were unmoved by such sophisticated arguments and Kereopa was hanged.

He wrote with disdain about restrictions on Sunday trading.

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