Author(s): Lydia Wevers
In Reading on the Farm, Lydia Wevers uses the library on Brancepeth Station in the Wairarapa, its staff and users as the ground for an extended reflection on the meaning of books, reading and intellectual life in colonial New Zealand. Drawing on station records, the archive produced by the library, and the books themselves, she offers a compelling interpretation of the social world of books and the cultural significance of reading. The books themselves come to life, in close examination of their borrowing histories, physical condition and marginalia. Human characters include the Beetham family who own Brancepeth, farm workers, Wairarapa Maori, swaggers who seek shelter during the long depression, and most vivid of all the clerk and librarian John Vaughan Miller. This learned and petulant man, with his letters to the newspapers and indiscreet private correspondence, epitomises the class cleavages, social anxieties and uncertainties that were at the heart of both Brancepeth and popular Victorian fiction.
Notes inside rear cover
Lydia Wevers was born in the Netherlands and came to New Zealand at the age of three. A leading literary historian and critic, her books include Country of Writing: Travel Writing About New Zealand 1809-1900 (2002), and On Reading (2004). Professor Wevers is the Director of the Stout Research Centre at Victoria University of Wellington, and Fulbright Visiting Scholar at Georgetown University, Washington DC, in the second half of 2010.