Samuel Butler's 1872 novel Erewhon, or, Over the range draws on his experiences in Canterbury, where he lived from 1860 to 1864. It is a satirical, classically utopian novel in which an imaginary land is the setting for a critique of society. The book opens with an account of sheep farming and exploration based on Butler's time in the Rangitātā River valley (pictured). The narrator's appreciation of the landscape's cool, unspoiled majesty is clear:
The one side of the valley was blue with evening shadow, through which loomed forest and precipice, hillside and mountain-top; the other was still brilliant with the sunset gold. The wide and wasteful river with its ceaseless rushing – the beautiful water-birds, too, which abounded upon the islets and were so tame that we could come close up to them – the ineffable purity of the air – the solemn peacefulness of the untrodden region – could there be a more delightful and exhilarating combination? (Erewhon, or, Over the range. London: Jonathan Cape, 1960 [first published 1872], pp. 28–29.)
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Photograph by Jock Phillips
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