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Thursday, December 30, 2010

On the Road & Under Canvas !!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Posthumous Children - Some insights from Adam Smith and Jonathan Swift


In 1790, a 31 year old Dumfries farmer sat down one evening and penned a sweet and lilting poem ‘On the Birth of a Posthumous Child, born in peculiar circumstances of Family-Distress’. In the same year, another famous Scot died in Edinburgh, regretting that ‘he had not accomplished more'. He had been a posthumous child who had been born in June 1723 in Kirkcaldy, with fate left to 'guard the mother plant, and heal her cruel wounds'.

It is somewhat hard to see Adam Smith in Robert Burn’s lines, but the circumstances of the nativity fit:

‘May He who gives the rain to pour,
And wings the blast to blaw,
Protect thee frae the driving show'r,
The bitter frost and snaw.


Blest be thy bloom, thou lovely gem,
Unscath'd by ruffian hand!
And from thee many a parent stem
Arise to deck our land.’

Except that God, despite best entreaties, was frequently wrong-footed by Smith who walked miles in the rain in his nightgown mulling over his theories and, on one occasion, walked into a tanning pit and had to be rescued while touring a tannery.

He was regarded by contemporaries as an eccentric but benevolent intellectual, comically absent-minded, with peculiar habits of speech and gait, and a smile of "inexpressible benignity". Known for talking to himself, a habit that began during his childhood he would mutter to himself and smile in rapt conversation with invisible companions. He also had occasional spells of imaginary illness, and he is reported to have burrowed into his study through tall stacks of books and paper.

Reportedly an odd-looking fellow, with "a large nose, bulging eyes, a protruding lower lip, a nervous twitch, and a speech impediment", it seems that he had little confidence with the opposite sex and that he maintained a close relationship with his mother, with whom he lived for many years. Smith is said to have acknowledged problems with his looks at one point, saying, "I am a beau in nothing but my books."


Email to: Professor Michael Lamb, Head of the Department of Social and Development Psychology, University of Cambridge

Dear Michael

I was wondering whether you could kindly direct me to any research that is available on the social and developmental psychology of posthumous children?

As an example myself - my father was killed in the RAF on 14-10-1943 and I was born 09-06-1944 - the issue is of both personal and wider interest.Recently, I set out to write a Blog post on the issue [www.kjohnsonnz.blogspot.com] and found a void on the Internet, with the exception of a listing of examples. Perhaps then this is an avenue of research that remains largely unexplored.

Incidentally, I don't envy you being in Cambridge in the current winter - but at least you are likely to have heating and a roof - unlike one of the winters that I spent during my 3 years at Cats (1962-1965)!

All the best


[Dr Keith Johnson
Wellington, NZ]


Dear Keith

Interesting question, but I don't think it's one that has been explored directly and systematically. There have been articles about the effects of dead fathers, including those who died in military service, and a lot of work on family dynamics when men are missing (family not knowing their status).

All of those might be useful for a theoretical framework. I'm sure there are many, many people in situations like yours, and others whose situations are quite different (those fathered by occupying troops) but raise some similar issues.

I would love to see what you do and find.

Good luck!

Michael Lamb
Department of Social and Developmental Psychology, Free School Lane, Cambridge CB2 3RQ


On reading Michael’s email, I realized that adding ‘Dr’ to my name had confused the issue somewhat. I should have explained to him, as I used to explain to voters on my recent electoral campaign: ‘I’m not a real doctor, I’m an economist – don’t look to me to cure your headache – I probably caused it in the first place’.

Anyhow, I’m not one to back down on a challenge and half-remembered that Adam Smith had been a posthumous child. And that this likely had some bearing on his combination of empathy, rationality and breadth of view.

As prominent contemporary economist Amartya Sen explains:

‘Smith argued that our "first perceptions" of right and wrong "cannot be the object of reason, but of immediate sense and feeling". Even though our first perceptions may change in response to critical examination (as Smith also noted), these perceptions can still give us interesting clues about our inclinations and emotional predispositions.

One of the striking features of Smith's personality is his inclination to be as inclusive as possible, not only locally but also globally. He does acknowledge that we may have special obligations to our neighbours, but the reach of our concern must ultimately transcend that confinement. To this I want to add the understanding that Smith's ethical inclusiveness is matched by a strong inclination to see people everywhere as being essentially similar.

There is something quite remarkable in the ease with which Smith rides over barriers of class, gender, race and nationality to see human beings with a presumed equality of potential, and without any innate difference in talents and abilities’.

Some of these concerns and qualities are also evident in the work of another posthumous child, the Anglo-Irish writer Jonathan Swift, whose character has been summarized in the following terms:

‘This great satirist of the eighteenth century was a genius of complex and enigmatic personality. His character was of a "supersensitive" nature. He possessed a strong sense of justice, a keenness of vision, a generous disposition, and a sincere adhesion to moral and social beliefs – as well as an affinity for practical jokes and a scorn for science but also displayed excessive pride, arrogance, misanthropy, fits of violent temper and a strain of insanity!

Some similarities in the views of Smith and Swift can also be picked up from the following quotes:

‘If a man would register all his opinions upon love, politics, religion, and learning, what a bundle of inconsistencies and contradictions would appear at last!’ - Jonathan Swift

‘On the road from the City of Skepticism, I had to pass through the Valley of Ambiguity’ – Adam Smith

‘The best doctors in the world are Doctor Diet, Doctor Quiet, and Doctor Merryman’ - Jonathan Swift.

‘What can be added to the happiness of a man who is in health, out of debt, and has a clear conscience?’ - Adam Smith


Maybe I’m drawing a long bow but I think I can discern some of the effects of Adam Smith’s early life in his ‘Theory of Moral Sentiments’ (1759). I think that the circumstances of the births of both Smith and Swift led them at an early age to discern the frightening fragility in the human condition and the rapid passage of time – and that this led on to both of them trying to rouse and goad society to better foster talent and opportunity across the board.

As Swift used to toast “May you live all the days of your life”.

I’ll leave you the reader and the good Professor to decide from the extracts below. As for me, I found the exercise fascinating – though whether I subscribe to the ideas out of nature, nativity or nurture, I have yet to decide.


The infant, however, feels only the uneasiness of the present instant, which can never be great. With regard to the future, it is perfectly secure, and in its thoughtlessness and want of foresight, possesses an antidote against fear and anxiety, the great tormentors of the human breast, from which reason and philosophy will, in vain, attempt to defend it, when it grows up to a man.


We sympathize even with the dead, and overlooking what is of real importance in their situation, that awful futurity which awaits them, we are chiefly affected by those circumstances which strike our senses, but can have no influence upon their happiness.

It is miserable, we think, to be deprived of the light of the sun; to be shut out from life and conversation; to be laid in the cold grave, a prey to corruption and the reptiles of the earth; to be no more thought of in this world, but to be obliterated, in a little time, from the affections, and almost from the memory, of their dearest friends and relations.

Surely, we imagine, we can never feel too much for those who have suffered so dreadful a calamity. The tribute of our fellow-feeling seems doubly due to them now, when they are in danger of being forgot by everybody; and, by the vain honours which we pay to their memory, we endeavour, for our own misery, artificially to keep alive our melancholy remembrance of their misfortune.

That our sympathy can afford them no consolation seems to be an addition to their calamity; and to think that all we can do is unavailing, and that, what alleviates all other distress, the regret, the love, and the lamentations of their friends, can yield no comfort to them, serves only to exasperate our sense of their misery.


The happiness of the dead, however, most assuredly, is affected by none of these circumstances; nor is it the thought of these things which can ever disturb the profound security of their repose. The idea of that dreary and endless melancholy, which the fancy naturally ascribes to their condition, arises altogether from our joining to the change which has been produced upon them, our own consciousness of that change, from our putting ourselves in their situation, and from our lodging, if I may be allowed to say so, our own living souls in their in-animated bodies, and thence conceiving what would be our emotions in this case.

It is from this very illusion of the imagination, that the foresight of our own dissolution is so terrible to us, and that the idea of those circumstances, which undoubtedly can give us no pain when we are dead, makes us miserable while we are alive. And from thence arises one of the most important principles in human nature, the dread of death, the great poison to the happiness, but the great restraint upon the injustice of mankind, which, while it afflicts and mortifies the individual, guards and protects the society.


We approve, therefore, of the laughter of the company, and feel that it is natural and suitable to its object; because, though in our present mood we cannot easily enter into it, we are sensible that upon most occasions we should very heartily join in it.

The same thing often happens with regard to all the other passions. A stranger passes by us in the street with all the marks of the deepest affliction; and we are immediately told that he has just received the news of the death of his father. It is impossible that, in this case, we should not approve of his grief.

Yet it may often happen, without any defect of humanity on our part, that, so far from entering into the violence of his sorrow, we should scarce conceive the first movements of concern upon his account. Both he and his father, perhaps, are entirely unknown to us, or we happen to be employed about other things, and do not take time to picture out in our imagination the different circumstances of distress which must occur to him.

We have learned, however, from experience, that such a misfortune naturally excites such a degree of sorrow, and we know that if we took time to consider his situation, fully and in all its parts, we should, without doubt, most sincerely sympathize with him. It is upon the consciousness of this conditional sympathy, that our approbation of his sorrow is founded, even in those cases in which that sympathy does not actually take place; and the general rules derived from our preceding experience of what our sentiments would commonly correspond with, correct upon this, as upon many other occasions, the impropriety of our present emotions.

And hence it is, that to feel much for others and little for ourselves, that to restrain our selfish, and to indulge our benevolent affections, constitutes the perfection of human nature; and can alone produce among mankind that harmony of sentiments and passions in which consists their whole grace and propriety. As to love our neighbour as we love ourselves is the great law of Christianity, so it is the great precept of nature to love ourselves only as we love our neighbour, or what comes to the same thing, as our neighbour is capable of loving us.


We have some indulgence for that excessive grief which we cannot entirely go along with. We know what a prodigious effort is requisite before the sufferer can bring down his emotions to complete harmony and concord with those of the spectator. Though he fails, therefore, we easily pardon him.

The weakness of sorrow never appears in any respect agreeable, except when it arises from what we feel for others more than from what we feel for ourselves. A son, upon the death of an indulgent and respectable father, may give way to it without much blame. His sorrow is chiefly founded upon a sort of sympathy with his departed parent and we readily enter into this humane emotion.

But if he should indulge the same weakness upon account of any misfortune which affected himself only, he would no longer meet with any such indulgence. If he should be reduced to beggary and ruin, if he should be exposed to the most dreadful dangers, if he should even be led out to a public execution, and there shed one single tear upon the scaffold, he would disgrace himself for ever in the opinion of all the gallant and generous part of mankind.

Their compassion for him, however, would be very strong, and very sincere; but as it would still fall short of this excessive weakness, they would have no pardon for the man who could thus expose himself in the eyes of the world. His behaviour would affect them with shame rather than with sorrow; and the dishonour which he had thus brought upon himself would appear to them the most lamentable circumstance in his misfortune.


Our sympathy, on the contrary, with deep distress, is very strong and very sincere. It is unnecessary to give an instance. We weep even at the feigned representation of a tragedy. If you labour, therefore, under any signal calamity, if by some extraordinary misfortune you are fallen into poverty, into diseases, into disgrace and disappointment; even though your own fault may have been, in part, the occasion, yet you may generally depend upon the sincerest sympathy of all your friends, and, as far as interest and honour will permit, upon their kindest assistance too.

But if your misfortune is not of this dreadful kind, if you have only been a little baulked in your ambition, if you have only been jilted by your mistress, or are only hen-pecked by your wife, lay your account with the raillery of all your acquaintance.


To those who have been accustomed to the possession, or even to the hope of public admiration, all other pleasures sicken and decay. Of all the discarded statesmen who for their own ease have studied to get the better of ambition, and to despise those honours which they could no longer arrive at, how few have been able to succeed?

The greater part have spent their time in the most listless and insipid indolence, chagrined at the thoughts of their own insignificancy, incapable of being interested in the occupation of private life, without enjoyment, except when they talked of their former greatness, and without satisfaction, except when they were employed in some vain project to recover it.

Are you in earnest resolved never to barter your liberty for the lordly servitude of a court, but to live free, fearless, and independent?

We desire both to be respectable and to be respected. We dread both to be contemptible and to be contemned. But, upon coming into the world, we soon find that wisdom and virtue are by no means the sole objects of respect: nor vice and folly, of contempt.

We frequently see the respectful attentions of the world more strongly directed towards the rich and the great, than towards the wise and the virtuous. We see frequently the vices and follies of the powerful much less despised than the poverty and weakness of the innocent.


In the middling and inferior stations of life, the road to virtue and that to fortune, to such fortune, at least, as men in such stations can reasonably expect to acquire, are, happily in most cases, very nearly the same. In all the middling and inferior professions, real and solid professional abilities, joined to prudent, just, firm, and temperate conduct, can very seldom fail of success.

Abilities will even sometimes prevail where the conduct is by no means correct. Either habitual imprudence, however, or injustice, or weakness, or profligacy, will always cloud, and sometimes depress altogether, the most splendid professional abilities. Men in the inferior and middling stations of life, besides, can never be great enough to be above the law, which must generally overawe them into some sort of respect for, at least, the more important rules of justice.

The success of such people, too, almost always depends upon the favour and good opinion of their neighbours and equals; and without a tolerably regular conduct these can very seldom be obtained. The good old proverb, therefore, that honesty is the best policy, holds, in such situations, almost always perfectly true. In such situations, therefore, we may generally expect a considerable degree of virtue; and, fortunately for the good morals of society, these are the situations of by far the greater part of mankind.


Every man, as the Stoics used to say, is first and principally recommended to his own care; and every man is certainly, in every respect, fitter and abler to take care of himself than of any other person. Every man feels his own pleasures and his own pains more sensibly than those of other people. The former are the original sensations; the latter the reflected or sympathetic images of those sensations. The former may be said to be the substance; the latter the shadow.

After himself, the members of his own family, those who usually live in the same house with him, his parents, his children, his brothers and sisters, are naturally the objects of his warmest affections. They are naturally and usually the persons upon whose happiness or misery his conduct must have the greatest influence.

He is more habituated to sympathize with them. He knows better how everything is likely to affect them, and his sympathy with them is more precise and determinate, than it can be with the greater part of other people. It approaches nearer, in short, to what he feels for himself.

This sympathy too, and the affections which are founded on it, are by nature more strongly directed towards his children than towards his parents, and his tenderness for the former seems generally a more active principle, than his reverence and gratitude towards the latter. In the natural state of things, it has already been observed, the existence of the child, for some time after it comes into the world, depends altogether upon the care of the parent; that of the parent does not naturally depend upon the care of the child.

In the eye of nature, it would seem, a child is a more important object than an old man; and excites a much more lively, as well as a much more universal sympathy. It ought to do so. Everything may be expected, or at least hoped, from the child. In ordinary cases, very little can be either expected or hoped from the old man.

The weakness of childhood interests the affections of the most brutal and hard-hearted. It is only to the virtuous and humane, that the infirmities of old age are not the objects of contempt and aversion. In ordinary cases, an old man dies without being much regretted by anybody.

Scarce a child can die without rending asunder the heart of somebody’.

Sam's 8th Birthday Party in Shorland Park - The Gumboot Throwing Competition

Thursday, December 2, 2010

At every bazaar or sale-of-work she was a large contributor


Occasionally I find a friend who wants to pick up on his family history. I can assist here with advice, and when I was told of a link to one of early Wellington’s Jewish settlers Solomon Levy, I thought that there was a better than even chance that I would be able to help.

In fact I was able to order a book on the family for him from the Wellington City Library ‘Jane Harvey and Solomon Levy – a New Zealand family’ by Rachel F. Baskerville. This is the authoritative source for those who are interested in the family

Before I take the book back, I’ll log a brief report.

Solomon was born in 1817 into a poor London family (which nevertheless included Rothschilds in the maternal line). He arrived in Wellington on board one of the first ships ‘The Oriental’ in 1840, following a four and a half month voyage. The Oriental was a barque of 506 tons, commanded by Captain William Wilson, with Dr J. Fitzgerald as Surgeon Superintendent.

Immediately after arriving he was described as a carpenter living in Mt Cook, the area between the City and Newtown. Early on in the history of the city there is evidence he was registered to vote in the first municipal elections in 1842, and both he and his brother Benjamin were on the 1845 list of jurors. The 1857 Provincial Gazette noted he held land both Leasehold in Lambton Quay, and Freehold in Pirie Street.

Solomon married 14 year old Jane Harvey on 26th November 1844 at the First Independent Church. Jane was the daughter of a coalminer from Somerset – of which more later.


[Wellington Evening Post Oct 30. 1883]

Very deep and widespread regret was experienced today on receipt of the intelligence of the death of Mr. Solomon Levy, one of our oldest and most respected settlers, which took place at Blenheim, whither , accompanied by his wife he had gone to visit a daughter. (This was Kate Hutchings).

Although the deceased gentleman had not been well in health for some time, having recently suffered from heart disease, the news of his death was rather unexpected, as his friends were led to believe that his health was being benefitted by the change. Mr. Levy left Wellington on the 23rd instant, and died, as already stated, on the 29th, the immediate cause of death being apoplexy. He was 66 years of age at the time of his death.

Mr. Levy arrived here about February, 1840, in the ship Oriental, the second of the memorable pioneer expedition, putting in an appearance about 10 days or a fortnight after the Aurora. On board was his brother, the late Mr. Benjamin Levy (died off Acapulco, at sea in 1854).

Landing at the Hutt, Mr. Levy afterward removed to the site now occupied by the city of Wellington. For a considerable time he exercised his trade as a carpenter. Subsequently he proceeded to Victoria, Australia to try his fortunes on the goldfields, where he met with much success. He was married in Wellington , his wife's maiden name being Harvey.

Returning to this city from the Victorian goldfields, he became a commission agent, a profession which he successfully followed. At one time he acted as collector on behalf of the Education Board, and for a large number of years he was rate-collector for the City Council. His popularity and geniality of disposition rendered him exceptionally qualified to fill the duties of such a position, and to use an expression which was commonly heard at the time," it was really a pleasure to pay Mr. Levy."

Owing however to ill-health, the deceased was compelled to sever his connection with the Corporation, greatly to the regret of all with whom he had been associated.

For 25 years he performed the duties of trustee of the Brittania Lodge of Oddfellows, from which office he also retired due to ill-health, and the occasion of his leaving was made the opportunity of presenting a testimonial to him for the services he had rendered on behalf of the brotherhood. His degree in the Order was Past Provincial Grand Master, and though he had been connected with the Lodge for many years, he never on a single occasion found it necessary to apply for the benefits to which he was ordinarily entitled.

He was also a member of the Pacific Lodge of Freemasons for many years, and in connection with the subject of friendly societies in this city, it may be mentioned that he read and address to the Governor on the laying of the foundation stone of the old Oddfellows Hall, which has since been replaced by the existing Central Club and Colonial Insurnace Company's building on Lambton Quay.

He had a large family, most of the members of which are still living; and occupy respectable positions. He was a member of the Jewish faith, and thoroughly proficient in the Hebrew language, having for some time in the early days, acted as a teacher of Hebrew to the children of Jewish parents. He was one of the founders of the Wellington Synagogue, and a member of its building committee.

As one of the pioneer settlers, he of course bore the vicissitudes od early colonial life and during the troublous times with the natives he joined the militia, and helped protect the hearths and homes of the colonists from the raids of the Maoris.

Mr. Levy was universally esteemed for his numerous excellent qualities; for his probity, philanthropy and urbanity, and the thousand and one deeds of kindness and charity to which testimony is not wanting in abundance. Of him it can be truly said that even his most intimate friend could hardly point to any bad trait in his character or disposition.

All, of his affairs have been left in complete order almost unto the day of his death, and his widow is left comfortably off. Out of respect to his memory the flag over the Corporation offices flew at half-mast today, and sincere expressions of regret at the sad occurrence were heard on every side. The remains will be brought over to Wellington in the SS Waihi for internment, and it is proposed to give the deceased a public funeral’.


In our obituary today, notice is given on the death of Mrs Solomon Levy at her residence in Roxburgh Street Mrs Levy came to this colony with her parents on the ship Birman in the year 1842. With her sister, Mrs Edwin Jackson, she went to the Bay of Islands a short time after their arrival in Port Nicholson, and remained there some time.

After her return to Wellington she was married to the late Solomon Levy, the ceremony being performed by Rev. J. Woodward, Congregational minister. She and her husband then remained at Mount Cook for some years, and afterwards went into business on Lambton Quay. The venture proved a successful one, and the business premises were afterwards disposed of to Hallenstein Bros.

Mr. and Mrs. Levy then retired into private life, taking up their residence finally in Roxburgh Street. Mrs Levy was a member of the Congregational Church, and took an active part in promoting the church’s welfare, and her good work will be greatly missed by the congregation.

At every bazaar or sale-of-work she was a large contributor, and she also assisted in person. Mr Solomon Levy predeceased his wife by seventeen years. There are eight children surviving, five having died. There are also numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren.


Searching the 1841 English Census for Harveys in Newton St Loe / Keynsham, Somerset, we find living in adjacent houses:

1. Moses Harvey (40), Bailiff of Coalmine, with his wife Mary (40) and children William (17), Henry (15), Jacob (12), Elizabeth (9), Sarah (7), and James (3)

2. Henry Buck (30), Coalminer, with his wife Elizabeth (35) and their children Eli (7), Leah (6) and Levi (4) plus Elizabeth’s children from her former marriage to Aaron Harvey (died 1832) George (15), Anne (10) and Jane (12).

Not having read Rachel’s book properly, I was surprised to find that Jane had probably had a stepfather.

But web research suggested that this was consistent with notes in the journal of early settler William Workman (descendant of a Leith sailor who had married into a Hutt Valley Maori family):

‘We left Te Kopi to go to the Lower Hutt and I remember running about Wellington with only a shirt on. Where Willis Street now is it was called the Beach Road in those days. The settlers who had come there were George Ames and Mrs. Ames. My mother gave a tui, which could talk well to Mrs. Ames. She kept it for many years. This was the first European woman that I had ever seen. My father used to do sawing at the lower Hutt and I remember talking about old Mr. Geo Buck who was at that time at Taita’.


‘I married an English woman, who landed in 1859 on the beach. She and her mother were carried ashore. Her uncle came and met them. Harry Buck was his name. He was a blacksmith. Mr T McKenzie, the newspaper proprietor married one of the daughters of Mr Buck. The Buck family are still living in Wellington and at the Hutt. Mrs Anelson (?) Palmerston who is my wife's cousin and Mrs Jackson of Petone, now dead, was another.’

All this means of course that there are likely to be numerous Buck and Harvey descendants In New Zealand who share an ancestry with Jane’s mother Elizabeth (who was born around 1805, probably in Devon, given her family name Cooz / Coose / Coase).

And further research provides a clincher to the Buck-Harvey link. A full Buck Family ‘Gedcom’ family tree has been posted on the website ‘Early New Zealand Families’ at: http://www.earlynzfamilies.co.nz/buck/ghtindex.html.

Actually, Rachel confirms all this with a report on some NZ research on the Harveys by Jocelyn Benstead. This includes the observations that Jane’s father had died of cholera in Somerset in 1832, aged 33, and that Jane’s full brother George had stayed in England, at least for several decades.

The NZ Rowe family still have a handsome two-handled pottery cup that has the inscription ‘George Harvey, Bailiff Eastern Colliery 1856’. Easton is also on the Somerset Coalfield and George was clearly following in the footsteps of his uncle Moses.