It was with no small amount of surprise that I saw in vol. xxv., Trans. N.Z. Inst. (lately to hand), that old and long paper of M. A. de Quatrefages on the Moa (Dinornis species) again served up, and that, too, in a brand-new translation. That paper having already appeared in full in an English translation,* in such a respectable, old-established, and well-known first-class scientific serial as “The Annals and Magazine of Natural History” nearly ten years ago, surely there was no necessity for (I might truly enough say, no benefit to arise from) it being republished in the Transactions, especially as it contains many errors which, possibly, were not fully known to the writer at the time, but which are almost sure to accompany all such heterogeneous and voluminous compilations, particularly when strung together by one who does not fairly grasp his subject; and still more so when he has a former and pet theory, or “fad,” of his own to supplement and defend. And, as the one eminent man against whom that paper is particularly levelled is no longer among us to reply to it—which, however, I well knew he fully intended to do—and as I am in full possession of
[Footnote] * Which, moreover, was highly eulogized by Mr. Maskell as being a “good translation,” in his paper on it: “Review of a Paper on the Moa by M. A. de Quatrefages,” read before the Wellington Philosophical Society, 3rd September, 1884. (Trans. N.Z. Inst., vol. xvii, p. 448.)
this knowledge, as I shall show, I deem it a duty incumbent on me to write this paper on behalf of my deceased friend, to do his memory scant justice in this matter. Indeed, in my adducing his own ipsissima verba on this subject, it may be said of him, as of others before him, “per illam defunctus adhuc loguitur.”
And here I cannot refrain from observing that this fresh and uncalled-for move seems somewhat ungenerous on the part of its promoters, as the gist of M. de Quatrefages' paper was well known to be levelled against Sir Julius von Haast, now no longer among us—a man who had so faithfully and zealously served science, even beyond his natural powers; and so, like many others who have preceded him, in New Zealand and in the South Pacific, given his life to her cause and to the colony.
The late Sir Julius von Haast and myself had long been correspondents on very friendly terms, and in the early part of the year 1885 he wrote to me respecting this very paper of M. de Quatrefages', then lately republished in its English translation in the August and September numbers (1884) of the serial mentioned,* informing me of it, and asking me to assist him in his replying to it, which I promised to do. Unfortunately, this was not carried out, through Sir Julius being appointed the Commissioner for the New Zealand Exhibition in London, and consequently having to leave New Zealand soon after, for which duty, too, he had to make extensive preparation prior to his leaving New Zealand; and then his sudden premature death at Christchurch so very soon after his return to the colony.† I shall give verbatim copies of the notes and memoranda that passed between us, so far as they relate to this subject. Fortunately I kept copies of my replies to him:—
Christchurch, 23rd March, 1885.
[Footnote] * I cannot understand how this paper, then first published in an English translation, could be known to Mr. Maskell so early as 3rd September in that same year.
[Footnote] † Returned to the colony 17th July, 1887, and died on the 16th August.