Letters – Issue 126

Deletions made by Brasch himself

I was distressed to see in Douglas Lloyd Jenkins’s review in the latest New Zealand Review of Books Pukapuka Aotearoa (Autumn 2019) the wrongful and offensive suggestion that Charles Brasch’s literary executor had for “homophobic” reasons torn pages out of Brasch’s private journals as deposited in Hocken Collections. I have had dealings with Alan Roddick over many years in his capacity as Brasch’s literary executor and have always found him to be scrupulously fair and honest. It is to me unthinkable that he would have acted in the manner asserted. 

As editor of two volumes of Brasch’s post-war journals, published by Otago University Press in 2017 and 2018, I worked with both the original journals and with Margaret Scott’s careful transcriptions of them and have no doubt whatsoever (as I stated in the first of my introductions) that the occasional excisions in some journals (all explicitly indicated in the published text) were made by Brasch himself for reasons of his own, prior to their being deposited in the library. 

Peter Simpson


Douglas Lloyd Jenkins replies

Douglas Lloyd Jenkins regrets that any such inference might be drawn from statements made in his review regarding the Brasch papers and whole-heartedly apologises to the Hocken Library and to Mr Roddick for any offence caused.

Douglas Lloyd Jenkins
Hawke’s Bay


A memory of Muriel Bell

I was delighted to see the review of Diana Brown’s biography of the indomitable Muriel Bell (NZRB Autumn 2019). 

In 1973, when Dr Bell sold us her house in St Clair, she said that after WWI her pacifist husband took her to see the Kāingaroa State Forest that he had helped plant and said, “Isn’t that better than graves in Flanders?” Because of him, she hesitated about joining the war effort in WWII, but eventually agreed to develop nutrition plans for the sake of women and children. 

Her extensive property contained a 30-foot kauri tree, several large Southern rātā, two enormous walnut trees, apple trees and nīkau palms. She entranced our children by rubbing a cork against an empty bottle to lure fantails into the kitchen and told how she climbed her rickety wooden ladder at night to shoo the possums out of the roof. Alas, as we found, they liked the apples and walnuts so much that they never left.

Jocelyn Harris



Helen Mason deserves more than Douglas Lloyd Jenkins suggests (NZRB Autumn 2019).

Peter Ireland

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