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 material.
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.
The real disadvantage of the work is my own very slight personal acquaintance with the externals of the man, and my ignorance of the scenes in which the chief part of his life was passed. There are those who would have been far more qualified in these respects than myself, and, above all, in that full and sympathetic masculine grasp of a man's powerful mind, which is necessarily denied to me. But these fittest of all being withheld by causes which are too well known to need mention, I could only endeavour to fulfil the work as best I might; trusting that these unavoidable deficiencies may be supplied, partly by Coleridge Patteson's own habit of writing unreservedly, so that he speaks for himself, and partly by the very full notes and records with which his friends have kindly supplied me, portraying him from their point of view; so that I could really trust that little more was needed than ordinary judgment in connecting and selecting. Nor until the work is less fresh from my hand will it be possible to judge whether I have in any way been allowed to succeed in my earnest hope and endeavour to bring the statue out of the block, and as it were to carve the figure of the Saint for his niche among those who have given themselves soul and body to God's Work.
It has been an almost solemn work of anxiety, as well as one of love. May I only have succeeded in causing these letters and descriptions to leave a true and definite impression of the man and of his example!
Let me here record my obligations for materials--I need hardly say to the immediate family and relations--for, in truth, I act chiefly as their amanuensis; but likewise to the Bishop of Lichfield, Bishop Abraham.
Lady Martin, the Rev. B. T. Dudley, the Rev. E. Codrington, and Captain Tilly, for their valuable aid--the two first mentioned by correction and revision, the others by contributions such as could only be supplied by eye-witnesses and fellow-workers. Many others I must thank for kindly supplying me with letters.
CHARLOTTE MARY YONGE.
September 19, 1873.