Herman Melville wrote his first novel Typee in his mother’s home in the Village of Lansingburgh in the Town of Lansingburgh, based in part on his experiences at sea and on the island of Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia.
Around the time Melville finished the manuscript of Typee and was to begin seeking a publisher for it, the Lansingburgh Democrat (that had published some of his anonymous juvenilia) had a short item regarding the value of books about “life at sea.” The timing may have been coincidental, or perhaps it was meant as a sort of encouragement?
Any one who can describe with tolerable graphic correctness the strange scences [sic] of a sailor’s existence, is sure to secure a pretty numerous class of readers. Sailors themselves will read books which describe what is called life at sea. The remark is true that there is something, which those who are confessedly “land lubbers’ can scarcely apprehend the feelings and character of one who, from boyhood has made the ocean his country, and a ship his home. He seems to be freed at once from the tics and from the wants of nature. Of the world round which he sails, he knows nothing but the mere exteral [sic] appearance of the coasts. He leads a bold adventurous, wandering life, which to the rest of mankind appears ineffably uncomfortable, but which to him habit renders renders not only agreeable, but absolutely necessary. Then with what rapture does he spend his first week on shore, after a long voyage? With what new and delightful emotions does he look upon the panorama of crowded and active society! Dr. Johnson said, that the man who had interest enough to get into jail, should never think of going on board a ship but Dr. Johnson was a fresh water swab” of the most inveterate description, and probably did not know the difference between the “loosers” and the “halyards” or between the “sheets” and the “sails.” He could have no sympathy with the sailor and knew not that
‘The strange shapes of the mighty deep,
To him as children are”
What is said of Dr. Johnson is true that he would have no chance on the quarter deck. If he had said to the Captain,—‘Recollect, sir. I am the celebrated lexicographer; the Captain would probably only have answered,- ‘Recollect sir I can sieze [sic] a fellow up, and given him three dozen.”
Lansingburgh Democrat. April 19, 1845: 2 col 5. [Uncredited extract from review of Captain William Nugent Glasscock’s Sailors and Saints; or, Matrimonial Manoeuvres in Edinburgh Literary Journal 1(12). January 31, 1829. 161. The same uncredited extract appeared in Green Mountain Gem [Bradford, VT] 3(4). April 1845. 88. The Democrat might have taken it from the Gem or vice versa?]
Lansingburgh Democrat. April 26, 1845: 1 col 6. [Reprinted from previous issue including same typos.]
abt May or June 1845 – Herman Melville submitted Typee to Harper Brothers for publication, rejected
July 1845 – Gansevoort Melville set sail to England with Typee manuscript
December 1845 – publication rights to Typee sold
February 26, 1846 – Typee (as Narrative of a Four Months’ Residence among the Natives of a Valley of the Marquesas Islands) first published in London
March 1846 – Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life first published in New York
TYPEE, A Residence in the Marquesas, By Herman Melville. (a new supply) […]
for sale by
Lansingburgh Gazette. March 26, 1846: 2 col 3.
Lansingburgh Gazette. April 2, 1846: 2 col 5.
March-May 1846 – excerpts from Typee appear in several newspapers, including:
New York Morning News. March 21, 1846
“A Flotilla of Marquesan Mermaids.” Buffalo Commercial Advertiser. March 25, 1846: 2.
Albany Evening Journal. March 27, 1846: 2 col 8.
“Passages from ‘Typee.'” Ottawa Free Trader. April 17, 1846: 1 cols 1-4. [from N.Y. News]
“Passages from ‘Typee.'” Wisconsin Democrat [Green Bay, WI]. April 18, 1846: 1 cols 3-4.[from the New York Morning News]
“A Flotilla of Marquesan Mermaids.” Hinds County Gazette [Raymond, MI]. April 24, 1846: 3 col 2.
“A Flotilla of Marquesan Mermaids.” Indiana State Sentinel. May 7, 1846: 1 col 5.
TYPEE, OR A PEEP AT POLYNESIAN LIFE, is the title of an interesting book from the pen of HERMAN MELVILLE, recently of our city. It is brought out simultaneously in London and New-York. In the former, by the eminent publisher, JOHN MURRAY, and in this country, by the house of WILEY & PUTNAM. We have run over it cursorily, and it seems to us that the author has given tot he public a decidedly interesting book—embodying valuable information and amusing narrative. He was taken prisoner by a tribe of Indians, in one of the South Sea Islands, and there detained four months, until he made his escape. The Typee tribe had the reputation of savage and fierce Cannibals. But his sojourn there (involuntary as it was) seems to have been far from unpleasant, for he was treated with the utmost kindness. His descriptions of their peculiar deism, their almost dream-like way of passing life—their voluptuous climate, their wars, their peculiar polygamy, and the remarkable beauty of the natives, add much useful information to the History of the Polynesian Isles.
There is also a tinge of romance throughout, which gives it the charm of a beautiful novel, for some of the events are “passing strange.”
This is Mr. MELVILLE’S first book, but we trust it may not be his last, as he has shown his countrymen that he has stores of observation and information combined with a piquant style, which we trust will give him confidence and renewed energies for the future, while it may render his book a favorite with the public. We have favorable notices of the work in London papers, to which we shall hereafter allude.
It can be obtained at all the book-stores in the city.
Albany Argus. March 26, 1846: 2 col 3.
HERMAN MELVILLE’S BOOK.—Typee, or a residence in the Marquesas, the new book by HERMAN MELVILLE, is having a deservedly great run. It is a book by HERMAN MELVILLE, is having a deservedly great run. It is a book of unusual interest, both in the incidents and in the style. There seems to be an impression in some quarters, that the events are too strange to be true, and the book has been designated as a beautiful fiction. The author desires to state to the public, that TYPEE is a true narrative of events which actually occurred to him. Although there may be moving incidents and hairbreadth escapes, it is scarcely more strange than such as happen to those who make their home on the deep. Yet it is to be acknowledged that Mr. MELVILLE’s description of life in the South Seas is more novel and romantic than has appeared in any book of travels, in many years. We extract briefly from a notice in the London Critic, which expresses the general current of the London Press:
“This is a most entertaining and refreshing book. * * * * The picture he has drawn of Polynesian life and scenery, is incomparably the most vivid and forcible that has ever been laid before the public. * * * * * The writer of this narrative, though filling at the time of the post of a common sailor, is certainly no common man. His style is clear, lively and pointed. His management of the descriptive is skilful. The philosophical reflections and sentiments scattered through the book, are the productions of a man of letters.”
Albany Argus. April 21, 1846: 2 col 4.
We give the following extracts from Herman Melville’s work upon Polynesian Life. The reason why it is not necessary to send the Bible to the South, is, they are already enslaved.
The foreign business is more profitable! Girls where are your Sewing Societies! Your foreign “keepers of the poor” need horse-covers!—True American.
[Extract from Typee follows, beginning with “Look at Honolulu, the metropolis of the Sandwich Islands!” and ending with “Twice every Sabbath, towards the close of the exercises may be seen a score or two of little wagons ranged along the railing in front of the edifice, with two squalid native footmen in the livery of nakedness standing by each, and waiting for the dismissal of the congregation to draw their superiors home.”]
Anti-Slavery Bugle [Salem, OH]. May 22, 1846: 1 cols 2-3.
One of the most curious and entertaining books published last season was a work entitled “Typee, a residence in the Marquesas.” We read it with great interest, but the impression it left on the mind was that the incidents and mode of life it described were too extraordinary, and too much at variance with what is known of savage life, to be true, and that like the fabled Atlantis or the travels of Gaudentio di Lucea, though without their philosophical pretension, it was the offspring of a lively inventive fancy, rather than a veritable narrative of facts. This impression, we believe, was very general. The readers of Typee therefore can imagine, and will share, our surprise, at hearing that here, in Buffalo, is a credible witness to the truth of some of the most extraordinary incidents narrated in the book. Toby, the companion of Mr. MELVILLE in the flight from the whale ship, and whom in his book he supposes to be dead, is now living in this city, following the business of a house and sign painter. His father is a respectable farmer in the town of Darien, Genesee Co. We received from Toby this morning the subjoined communication. His verbal statements correspond in all essential particulars with those made by Mr. MELVILLE respecting their joint adventures, and from the assurances we have received in regard to Toby’s character, we have no reason to doubt his word. His turning up here is a strange verification of a very strange and, as has hitherto been deemed, an almost incredible book
To the Editor of the Buffalo Com. Adv.:
In the New York Evangelist I chanced to see a notice of a new publication in two parts, called “Typee, a residence in the Marquesas,” by HERMAN MELVILLE. In the book he speaks of his comrade in misfortune, “Toby,” who left him so mysteriously, and whom h supposed had been killed by the Happar natives. The Evangelist speaks rather disparagingly of the book as being too romantic to be true, and as being too severe on the missionaries. But to my object: I am the true and veritable “Toby,” yet living, and I am happy to testify to the entire accuracy of the work so long as I was with MELVILLE, who makes me figure so largely in it. I have not heard of MELVILLE or “Tommo,” since I left him on the Island, and likewise supposed him to be dead; and not knowing where a letter would find him, and being anxious to know where he is, and to tell him my “yarn” and compare “log” books, I have concluded to ask you to insert this notice, and inform him of my yet being alive, and to ask you to request New York, Albany and Boston papers to publish this notice, so that it may reach him. My true name is RICHARD GREEN, and I have the scar on my head which I received from the Happar spear and which came near killing me. I left MELVILLE and fell in with an Irishman, who had resided on the Island for some time, and who assisted me in returning to ship, and who faithfully promised me to go and bring MELVILLE to our ship next day, which he never did, his only object being money. I have him five dollars to get me on board, but could not return to MELVILLE. I sailed to New Zealand and thence home; and I request MELVILLE to send me his address if this should chance to meet his eye. Mortarkee was the word I used when I heard of his being alive. “TOBY.”
Buffalo Commercial Advertiser. July 1, 1846: 2.
Troy Daily Whig. July 4, 1846: 2 col 1.
In addition to the following advertisement of the verity, as well as the interest, of Mr. MELVILLE’s charming book, a letter from a highly respectable citizen of Buffalo, has been placed in our hands, vouching for the identity of “Toby,” and inquiring where he may find or address his companion in adventure.
[“How strangely things turn up!” item from Buffalo Commercial Advertiser followed.]
Daily Albany Argus. July 4, 1846: 2 col 6.
☞ Mr. MELVILLE, the Author of “Typee,” who was in town on Saturday, says that he has no doubt but that the Buffalo Sign Painter is his veritable Ship-Mate and Companion “Toby.” If this be so, it furnishes a strong exemplification of the seeming contradiction that “Truth is stranger than Fiction.”
Albany Evening Journal. July 6, 1846: 2 col 7.
We have a note from the author of “Typee,” saying that the “Toby” of the Buffalo Commercial Advertiser, is all that he claims to be; and that this admits of no mistake. Mr. MELVILLE says that he can readily account for what may seem to be inexplicable in “Toby’s” statement, viz: the five dollars paid the Irishman for assisting him on board the ship: and he adds, “I have written to my old comrade, and expect soon to hear from him and see him.”
Albany Argus. July 7, 1846: 2 col 4.
Typee.—In our notice of this work we expressed very serious doubts as to its authenticity. The question whether or not it contains a veritable account of the travels and adventures of the author in the Marquesas, has met with some discussion and difference of opinion. In England, so far as we can judge from the criticisms of the press, the general opinion seems to be favorable to its accuracy. In this country, its strange narratives have not received such ready and general credence. We feel bound to say, however, that no doubt is entertained of its truth by many persons whose intimacy with the author, and general acquaintance with the subject, peculiarly fit them to form an intelligent opinion on this disputed point.—Singularly enough, some collatoral evidence in support of Mr. Melville’s fidelity to the truth, is afforded in the appearance of his companion who disappeared so mysteriously during his sojourn in Typee. We copy from the Albany Argus.
[“A Veritable Witness” and “How strangely things turn up!” followed]
Morning Courier and New-York Enquirer. July 9, 1846: 2 col 4.
TYPEE; A Residence in the Marquesas.—Mr. MELVILLE, we are informed, is about to bring out another edition of his most interesting work. It will be improved under the author’s revisal, by the omission of some portions of it not connected with the narrative; and will contain some interesting additions. Among these, will be a sequel, consisting of the facts in relation to “Toby,” and a correct narrative of the incidents connected with his escape. Mr. Melville, since the recent publications, has had an interview with his companion in adventure.
Of the general interest which this work has excited, it is not necessary to speak. If any thing, it has been read with greater avidity, and more enthusiastic commendation, in Englamd than in this country. A very large edition, published by Mr. Murray, the eminent London publisher, was soon exhausted. It has, we believe, already undergone translations in the languages of the Continent; and has beem or is about to be, dramatised.
Albany Argus. August 4, 1846: 2 col 3.
Morning Courier and New-York Enquirer. August 5, 1846: 2 col 5. [reprinting Albany Argus without second paragraph.]
“A New Edition of Typee.” Albany Evening Journal. August 4, 1846: 2 col 5. [discussed in Norsworthy, Scott. “Selling Typee, Revised Edition.” Melvilliana: the world and writings of Herman Melville. June 18, 2018. https://melvilliana.blogspot.com/2018/06/selling-typee-revised-edition.html]
October 1846-April 1847; Melville was referenced at least twice in the Yankee Doodle humor magazine by name, and the Typee people (if not necessarily the novel) referenced as well. A number of anonymous pieces in it from 1847 have been attributed to him.
“The funny functions of society must be discharged, and it is manifestly more in accordance with the laws of social harmony that certain persons should be set aside to discharge them. We hail with delight the formation of the Yankee Doodle Phalanx, though we regret the assumption of a name so narrow in its indications. Yankee Doodle seems to have very little to do with anything beyond this little spot of earth called America, whereas it should be published as much for the benefit of our brothers the Hottentots, and the inhabitants of Typee, as for our own; the Ism does them as much good as it does anybody. Why is it not printed in the Phonographic character? it would more subserve the interests of universal harmony.
We absolve the responsible Editor of the Bluster and Blunder from the charge of having to do with this paper; he has not sufficient capacity for putting two ideas together to have written a paragraph of it.”
“Opinions of the Press.” Yankee Doodle 1(?). November [?], 1846. 52. [Online scan of this magazine issue is missing the title page with the issue number and date, but it is early in Volume 1 from 1846, probably November, possibly issue number 5 or 6.]
[…] to bid some missionary God-speed to the Indies, or Boraampoolet [Borrampalem, India?] or Typee […]
“Arrival of Mrs. Yankee Doodle at Tammany Hall!” Yankee Doodle 1(?). November [?], 1846. 59. [Online scan of this magazine issue is missing the title page with the issue number and date, but it seems to be in Volume 1 from 1846, probably November, possibly issue number 5 or 6.]
[…] The buildings in which they meet are, I am told, each furnished with a compact little book-case like Harper’s School Library, containing Cœlebs [Coelebs In Search of a Wife and Coelebs Married by Hannah More] and others of Thomas Moore’s writings, pious selections from Mrs. [Lydia Huntley] Sigourney’s works, the sacred poems of Mr. [Nathaniel Parker] Willis, and the latest missionary reports from our brethren who are laboring in the Marquesas and Society Islands. […]
“Letters from Mrs. Yankee Doodle to Her Kinsfolk. No. II.” Yankee Doodle 1(?). December [?], 1846. 72. [Online scan of this magazine issue is missing the title page with the issue number and date, but it is early in Volume 1 from 1846, probably December, possibly issue number 7 or 8.]
Typee, judging from entries on WorldCat.org: The World’s Largest Library Catalog, appears to have been translated into Braille, Chinese, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Marathi, Norwegian, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Sinhalese, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish, and Turkish.
Editions published during Melville’s lifetime included German, Dutch, Danish, and Swedish ones, respectively:
• Vier Monate auf den Marquesas-Inseln; oder, Ein Blick auf polynesisches Leben. Translated by Ludolf Parisius, Leipzig, 1847.
• Lotgevallen Van Twee Matrozen, Gedurende Hun Verblijf Op Een Der Markiezen Eilanden. Haarlem, 1847.
• Typee: En Skizze af Livet paa Sydhavsøerne under fire Maaneders Ophold i en Dal paa Nukuhiva. Copenhagen, 1852.
• Teipi: en berättelse om en fyra månaders vistelse bland infödingarne i en dal på en af Marquesas-öarne: en inblick i lifvet i polynesien. Landskrona, 1879.
The northern papers announce the marriage of Mr. Herman Melville, author of “Typee” and “Omoo,” to a daughter of Chief Justice Shaw, of Massachusetts. What will Fahoway say to this?
Arkansas Banner [Little Rock, AR]. September 13, 1847: 2 col 2.
Of the Library of School District Number One, Lansingburgh, N. Y. […]
Mardi; A Voyage Thither. […]
Lansingburgh Gazette. October 19 1849: 2, 3. [Sixty years later, author Rudyard Kipling would recommend not the above three Meville novels for school libraries, but Melville’s White Jacket and Moby Dick—”specially Moby Dick”, he emphasized. (“School Libraries of Imperial Literature.” Review of Reviews 30(179). November 1904. 510.)]
HONOLULU, OAHU, Sandwich Is. Dec. 10, 1849. […]
As for any description of these Islands, it would be useless to attempt it, as they have been so often described by more fluent pens, instance, Typee and Omoo. All that Melville ever told about the missionaries in this part of the world, you may take for gospel.
Speaking of Melville, I was conversing with a gentleman the other day about “Type and Omoo” [sic] when he stated that he was well acquainted with their author, and knew him at a time when he was setting up pins in a ball alley. I think no mention is made of such a circumstance in either of those works. […]
I am your affectionate son,
H. R. HAWKINS.
To Capt. E. Hawkins, Jr
Lansingburgh Gazette. October 19, 1850: 2 cols 5-6.
NAVAL.—The U. S. S. Falmouth, hence 21st Nov. arrived at Nukahiva, Marquesas Islands, on the 27th Dec., all well. She had a long passage, of 35 days, occasioned by continued head winds.
The Falmouth found in port at Nukahiva, a French war schooner, and the Hawaiian bark Don Quixote; the latter loading with hogs and provisions for San Francisco.
After remaining three days at the Marquesas, the Falmouth sailed on the 30th Dec. for Tahiti, whence we hear from her under date of Jan. 6th,, all well. We have received from an officer on board a sketch of her visit to the Marquesas, which we give below. U. S. S. FALMOUTH Tahiti, Jan. 6, 1851.
Editor of the Polynesian:
We sailed from Honolulu on the 21st, Nov. and after contending with head winds thirty-five days, arrived at Nukahiva on the 27th Dec., all well.
The only vessels in port were a French war schooner, and a Hawaiian bark, the Don Quixote, then loading with hogs and provisions for San Francisco. The harbor is a fine sheet of water, scooped, as it were, out of the rocks by the hand of man. It is eight or nine miles in circumference, without any shoals or obstructions; good deep anchorage throughout, and securely sheltered on three sides by rocky hills from five to fifteen hundred feet high, partially covered with stunted herbage, and in many places shooting up into naked rocks and cliffs.
At the head of the harbor, on an elevated rock, projecting into the water, the French have a fort and barracks; defended in front by a glacis and substantial granite breastwork, in rear by a slight wall perforated with embrasures for musketry; the strength, I understand, does not exceed fifty men. The officers are quartered in a large stone mansion, two stories high with an elevated basement, and a neat balcony around the upper story. The house of the Governor is a handsome modern stone building embosomed in trees and surrounded by a beautiful garden. The valley of Nukahiva is quite small, with a population, I was told, of about eight hundred, which I think is a high estimate.
Two French Catholic priests are stationed here pursuing their Missionary labors; they have from thirty to fifty converts and a school of forty pupils, many of whom can read, their plain frame dwelling is in the middle of a charming garden in which many of the fruits and flowers of the tropics are cultivated, and a number of flower and vegetable exotics; they have recently erected a neat little chapel in which they officiate regularly; their teachings, example and piety, must have a good effect in reclaiming the savages around them.
The Island which is three thousand eight hundred feet high in the centre, has no appearance of volcanic origin or coral formation, while its upright basaltic rocks lead to the opinion, that is must have been upheaved from the bottom of the great deep by some great convulsion of nature: its sides present a great number of valleys separated in many places by only a narrow, rocky mural ridge and are generally independent of each other. War is frequent among them, in the words of my informant, “It is hard to tell when the war begins or ends as it is always going on between some of the valleys.”
The warriors of the valley next to leeward, of Nukahiva about two miles distant, went to make war on a neighboring valley the day we left port. On hearing which the King, or Chief of Nukahiva immediately collected about fifty warriors and hastened to make war on, or plunder the defenceless valley, women and children, in the absence of its defenders. Such acts of treachery, and the desire of plunder occasioned by their indolence and necessities, make war perpetual among them.
Notwithstanding these savage wars, the priests go all over the island, depending alone on their sacred character for protection. One of them at the time of our arrival was absent on a mission to the valleys “Typee” and “Happer” (mentioned by Melville in his book “Typee”) distant only two or three miles, and returned before we left port. I inquired of him for Melville’s chiefs “Mehevi” and “Mow Mow,” but he did not know either by that name, the two chiefs of Typee Valley whom he has known for seven years are named “Howkaai” and “Ouamana.” “Fayaway” is not, he said, a common name for females on the Island, he had never met with any of that name. So I could not gain any information respecting the heroes or heroine of Mr. Melville’s “Typee.”
Capt. Petigru, commanding this ship, hearing that a Captain Fisher of the whale ship “Lyon” of New Bedford or Fairhaven had been maltreated at the Island of “Roua Poua” about twenty-five miles south from Nukahiva, determined to go there and investigate how far the rumor was founded in fact. One of the Catholic priests, Mr. John Frechou, who had frequently visited that island and has many converts, including the King, among its inhabitants, agreed to go along with us and lend us his aid as interpreter or otherwise. On Sunday morning we left Nukahiva, and about twelve o’clock came up with the north side of “Roua Poua.” […]
J. S. D.
The Polynesian [Honolulu, HI]. February 15, 1851: 1 cols 3-6.
A GAZETTEER OF CENTRAL POLYNESIA—(CONTINUED).
NUKAHIVA, Mar: (Nukuheva, Noukahiva, Nuuhiva, Nooaheva, &c., also called Marehand I. bythe French, and Sir H. Martin’s I. by Hergest, &c., &c.) This, the largest of all the Marquesas Islands, lying 25 miles, W. of Houna houna, and 30 N. of Hooa-poou, in about the centre of the NW group of the Marquesas (700 miles to the NE of Tahiti), is 18 miles in length from E. to W., by 10 miles in breadth. The name of Nukahiva, according to Coulter and other authorities, is often used as including, besides Nukahiva Proper, the two separate but neighboring islands of Houna houna (Rooha) and Haua poou, or Ropo. On Nukahiva Proper, on the S. side of the island at Anna Maria Bay (b) is, or lately was, the French settlement. Nukahiva contains a few good harbours, Tyohee, Oomi, Comptroller’s Bay, &c. Of these, that of Tyohee, or Taiohae (designated by Captain Parker as Massachusett’s Bay, and also known as the Bay of Nukahiva) is decidedly the largest and best. Nukahiva is a densely populated island, and like all the other islands of this but imperfectly explored archipelago, evidently of volcanic origin, rising in the interior, at its highest peak, 3812 feet above the level of the sea. It is broken up into several patty states, or septs, each independent of, and generally at variance with the others. Of these antagonistic clans, the Tiapis and the Hapas appear to be the most numerous and important. The island is about 60 miles in circumference, very bold and mountainous, but with extensive and exceedingly fertile valleys, running from the sea coast to the centre, and even further. These valleys, precipitously divided from each other, and described as full of exquisite and varied scenery, abound in wood, provisions, and water, but are at present very dangerous to visit on account of the character of the inhabitants, who, although once estimated as high as 18,000, are now supposed to be not more than 8000. Nukahiva is also remarkable for exhibiting distinct and extraordinary traces of the power and comparative civilization of its former inhabitants; features thus spoken of by a popular American writer, who was an actual eye-witness of what he so eloquently describes:—“At the base of one of the mountains, and surrounded on all sides by dense groves, a series of vast terraces of stone rises, step by step, for a considerable distance up the hill side. These terraces cannot be less than one hundred yards in length and twenty in width. Their magnitude, however, is less striking than the immense size of the blocks composing them. Some of the stones, of an oblong shape, are from ten to fifteen feet in length, and five or six feet thick. Their sides are quite smooth, but though square, and of pretty regular formation, they bear no mark of the chisel. They are laid together without cement, and here and there show gaps between. The topmost terrace and the lower one are somewhat peculiar in their construction. They have both a quadrangular depression in the centre, leaving the rest of the terrace elevated several feet above it. In the intervals of the stones immense trees have taken root, and their broad boughs stretching far over, and interlacing together, support a canopy almost impenetrable to the sun. Overgrowing the greater part of them, and climbing from one to another, is a wilderness of vines, in whose sinewy embrace many of the stones lie half-hidden, while in some places a thick growth of bushes entirely covers them. There is a wild pathway which obliquely crosses two of these terraces; and so profound is the shade, so dense the vegetation, that a stranger to the place might pass along it without being aware of their existence.” The present Marquesans, he goes on to observe, consider them to be coeval with the Creation, and to have been built by the great gods themselves, an opinion from which Melville rightly concludes that they know nothing of their origin. “As I gazed upon this monument,” he says, “doubtless the work of an extinct and forgotten race, thus buried in the green nook of an island at the end of the earth, the existence of which was yester day unknown, a stronger feeling of awe came over me than if I had stood musing at the mighty base of the Pyramid of Cheops. There are no inscriptions, no sculpture, no clue, by which to conjecture its history: nothing but the dumb stones. How many generations of those majestic trees which overshadow them have grown and flourished and decayed since they were first erected.” A little further on he observes—“The dwellings of the islanders (the Nukuhivans) were invariably built upon massive stone foundations , which they call pi-pis. The dimensions of these, however, as well as of the stones composing them, are comparatively small: but there are other and larger erections of a similar description comprising the “morais,” or burying-grounds, and festival-places, in nearly all the valleys of the island. Some of these piles are so extensive, and so great a degree of labor and skill must have been requisite in constructing them, that I can scarcely believe they were built by the ancestors of the present inhabitants. If indeed they were, the race has sadly deteriorated in their knowledge of the mechanic arts. To say nothing of their habitual indolence, by what contrivance within the reach of so simple a people could such enor. mous masses have been moved or fixed in their places? and how could they with their rude implements have chiselled and hammered them into shape?
All of these larger pi-pis—like that of the Hoolah Hoolah Ground in the Typee valley—bore incontestible marks of great age; and I am disposed to believe that their erection may be ascribed to the same race of men who were the builders of the still more ancient remains I have just described.”—Melville’s “Marquesas Islands,” chapter xxi. […]
[NOTE.—Various opinions have been expressed, and are still entertained, as to the origin of the Malayo-Polynesian race. Ellis and others have supposed them, with some shew of reason, to have originally gone from America; but the weight of authority seems to determine that their forefathers must have come, ages ago, from Asia,—travelling eastward and south-eastward over the broad expanse of the Pacific, until they poured themselves upon the western shores of the American Continent. […]
Compare the above minute descriptions with each other, and with the accounts of late years published respecting American antiquities, of which, until so recently, little definite was known, and the extraordinary similarity, if not complete identity, of the ancient pyramids and temples now under investigation both in America and Polynesia, must at once become apparent. Take for example the following instance, furnished by an extract from the columns of the Sydney Morning Herald (26th July, 1854,) and compare it either with the Pyramid of Atehuru, on the huge terrace-temple of Nukahiva, described in the text:—
“ANCIENT PYRAMID IN CALIFORNIA.—Another of those numerous evidences of a civilized antiquity in the ‘New World’ had just turned up in the shape of a great stone pyramid, composed of courses from 18 inches to nearly 3 feet in thickness and 5 to 8 feet in length. […]
But much nearer, the Marquesas, on the (comparatively speaking) neighboring coast of South America in Peru, the Terrace Temple of Pachacama is so precisely similar to that of Nukuhiva described by Melville, as well nigh to establish a complete identity between the builders and worshippers who constructed them both. […]
[C. S.] Sydney Morning Herald. July 15, 1857: 3. [Twenty-two part series ran from March 20 to August 7, 1857.]
(WRITTEN FOR THE “DAILY SOUTHERN CROSS.”)
ON Tuesday, October 27, 1868, I started from Nukuhiva Bay (Taiho-hae) in a whaleboat, accompanied by the French Commandant and Captain Young, of the schooner ‘Nancy,’ for the purpose of visiting the valley of Typee, or the Taipi Vai, so celebrated in the history of the Marquesas Islands as the residence of the powerful and warlike tribe from which the valley takes its name. On the voyage up from Tahiti, I had been reading Hermann [sic] Melville’s interesting account of his long sojourn amongst the Typees, a volume full of exciting adventures, and written in the most amusingly-descriptive style, and I was anxious to have personal experience of the localities he writes about so ably. But even if Melville’s work did not exist—if there were no narrative of his having spent months with these then so much-dreaded savages—it would be impossible for any one, with the chance given him of being so close as I was to Typee, not to strive to see it.
Comptroller’s Bay is formed by the headland of Cape Martin on the south-east, and by the promontory of the Bay of Hakapaa on the northwest, and is divided into three arms or separate bays, namely, the Bay of Hangahaa or Typee (in the middle), and the Bay of Hakapaa (on the west), the indentations of the coast from the sea being, in each instance, about two to three miles, the valleys radiating from the sea-shore into the interior of the island of Nukuhiva. There is a marked difference, however, between the valleys—those of Typee and Hooumi being of gentler ascent from the shore, whilst that of Hakapaa rises in a succession of three vales or plateau between the mountains.
No scenery in the world can be more enchanting than that presented by these valleys, as, in coming from the ocean, they are gradually opened up to view, and one ceases to wonder at the life of contented indolence led by the natives when those groves of breadfruit, cocoa-nut, and bananas are spread out to the eye amidst the waste and luxury of tropical vegetation; and the reality is all the more striking inasmuch as the coast line impresses one very indifferently as to the wealth of the soil of the interior. But once walk over into the bays, and there is no longer any hesitation in accepting as truth the reports previously listened to in Taihohae and elsewhere that one of the most fertile places on the glove lies before you.
Leaving, therefore, the Bay of Houmi on our right hand, and the Bay of Hakapaa on our left, we pulled into the deeper bight of Typee, and went straight to the head of the bay, a bright sandy shore of half a mile in length, on the right-hand side of which flows the Typee river, with a breadth of 25 yards, and navigable for about a mile. Here we met Makihitiu, the head chief of the valley.
After a walk of a mile to a mile and a quarter his habitation was reached, and, out of politeness, a halt had to be made whilst the chief, who had arrived before us to make his preparations, got ready our repast, in which pleasurable occupation the members of his cāse, or paepae, worked with hearty good-will. Here were seen the first specimens of typee women, with their admirable hair, and their matchless feet and hands, whose clean and taper fingers seem made on purpose for the manufacture of the kakao and po-poe, with which and roast pig they regaled us. The freshest and greenest banana leaves served us for a tablecloth, and we needed no stronger or better libation than that afforded us by the milk of the green cocoanut, or by the rushing water flowing at a dozen yards from our feet. The river trending to the right side of the valley runs as nearly as I have stated to the pae-pae of Makihitiu, and directly in front of it must be fully 12 feet deep by 30 wide, but previously to this its course has been interrupted by rocks and rapids.
After our morning meal was finished, we were accompanied in our ascent of the valley by the chief and two of the ladies, who, women as they were, took the lead, and kept it on a path which now begins to be more abrupt and broken. It is still on the right-hand side, and, in order to avoid the wilderness of poura trees, encroaches all the time upon the side of the hill. As you tramp along, the cooing of the ku-ku or green turtledove is heard on every side, whilst quantities of kotake or wild pigeon, of a white colour, are flying from tree to tree. What a confusion of verdure there is! What a pell-mell of various trees! The hau [Hibiscus tiliaceus], or poura, of which there are three sorts, with its incrustations of paaika veinehae [i.e. Puaika-vehinehae, or “Devil’s ear”], or fungus (so prized by the Chinese for soup, and worth when dried 24 cents per lb. in the Californian markets), throwing its branches, the bark and fibres of which are put to so many uses, in every direction; the latanier (vaake), whose fan-like leaves are sought for thatching the dwellings of chiefs; the bambook, or koe, with which the natives fetch their water from the springs and rivers; the bread-fruit tree, or mai, with all its load of food; cocoanut trees by thousands, with nuts of most unusual bigness; the banian tree, or hispo, with its welcome shade: all these, and dozen of others, here flourish in all their natural vigour and beauty. I must not omit the banana, or meika, of which there are said to be eighteen different species. Nature in this valley has most bountifully provided the food necessary for her children; and, indeed, all it would seem the men have to do, from the day they can walk to the day of their death, is to construct a shelter for themselves and for the women, who prepare their popoe. I know of no other place in the world where the inhabitants can live without labour, but it is done to perfection in Typee.
As yet the guava tree has not made its appearance in the valley to any extent. In Taiho-hae a vast area of land is completely covered with it.
Now, as you proceed, the effects of the vistitation of the small-pox epidemic of 1863-64 are mournfully apparent. To those who are not familiar with the story, it may be as well to narrate that, previously to that period, some vessels from Peru had decoyed natives on board, and sold them into slavery. Energetic measures were adopted by the French Government to compel the return of these people, but unfortunately the smallpox made its appearance on the vessel which was bringing them back. In this state they were landed, and the result may be imagined. The islands of Nukuhioa and Ua Poa were literally depopulated before the disease was arrested; and to the right and left, and all around you, are nothing but paepaes, or the stone foundations for the dwellings of this noble-looking people, now without a vestige of a habitation upon them; the happy, indolent inmates all gone—all dead! And where a tenement does exist, the ravages of the disease do not need to be pointed out to you—they are there eternally stamped upon the features of the man and of the woman who previously to this, perhaps, had never had a scar upon their skin. The eyes, dark and brilliant as ever, are all that are left untouched, whilst lineaments that were, undeniably, of great expression and beauty have been furrowed and torn to ruin by this fearful malady.
Until this event occurred sickness was absolutely unknown upon these islands, whose climate though warm is most justly celebrated for its healthfulness.
The work expended by the natives in the erection of these paepaes must have been, from the enormous size of some of the stones used, colossal; and the pains spent upon them, from the evident care with which the front and top sides have been squared, must also have been very great. They are there now as mementoes of a race that has all but passed away; for it would be a great stretch of the imagination to assert that their beautiful valley is glad with voices any longer, so few in number now are the Typees, and so far between are the habitations that one meets with.
However, by this time we have reached the dwelling of Kipiha, another Typee chief, about 30 years of age, good-looking, very sparingly tattooed, and the very impersonation of good temper. His habitation is the best that I have seen—the largest, the cleanest, and the best furnished with mats. It should be some 50 feet long by 12 wide, and as many high. A messenger had been sent on by Makihitiu to tell Kipiha of our approach, and the people had been killing the pig and making ready the popoe, and, according to native law and custom, it is absolutely necessary that our party should stay and partake of his hospitality. This, under the circumstances of our intending to see as much as possible in as small a space of time as possible, was rather a bore, particularly as after the previous meal at Makihitiu’s no one particularly desired to taste any more roast pig. However, the visit was looked upon as a state affair, and there was no help for it but to remain and test the quality of the roasting porker.
As a matter of course, my conversation with the chiefs was carried on with some difficulty, our interpreter not being a very competent one. The chiefs told us that this land had been sold, and that they were on it only by sufferance, and that Mr. Stewart, who had purchased it, had sent them some presents to assure them of his goodwill.
A charming view is obtained from Kipiha’s house of the lower valley, and a portion of the bay of Hangahaa. The eye glances over such a scene of tropical fertility, over such a redundancy of verdure, in full and constant motion to the ocean breeze, that there is positively a sensation of relief when the gaze rests upon the placid bit of sea between the shore of Taipi Bay, and the Hooumi headland, stretching away toward Cape Martin. A heavy shower of rain had so saturated our garments,and made slippery the mountain paths, that it was deemed best to take up our night’s lodgings in Kipiha’s case; and whilst we were there, a large party of Ua Uga natives came up to see the valley. Their own island lies to the eastward, twenty miles away. They also were treated by Kipiha with the greatest liberality, and it really seemed as if there would be no end to the entertainment. None of these Ua Uga people were marked with the small-pox (which had left such a terrible brand upon the Typees), and they were without exception the finest-looking savages I had ever seen. When they had finished their repast they went further on up the valley.
At daylight the next morning, everybody on the move. Captain going down the valley back to his boat. The French Commandant, myself, and his three sailors up the valley to the dwelling of Paruru, the third chief about two miles away from Kipiha’s; arrived there, we left our different packages, and started afresh for the great Typee Fall.
Previously to reaching the big cascade, the valley is somewhat altered by another short deep vale coming in from the left or western side, and at the bottom of this runs the Typee river, as it comes from the Fall, whilst the original valley still runs away to the northward. This latter portion of it I did not visit. The ground appears to nourish a forest of poura trees, and these again were supporting a whole harvest of fungus. I am convinced that the exportation of this product from the valley would amount in the course of twelve months to a very considerable sum, which would form quite a large item in the accounts of any party choosing to pay for its gathering, and would bring besides a large annual profit.
Following the bottom of the western valley, I struggled with my companions through the labyrinth of trees, and finally reached the foot of the great Fall.
You are well repaid for your trouble by the view of this cataract, which comes foaming down the all-but perpendicular rocks from a height of 1,200 feet. Picture to yourself two-thirds of the sides of an enormous well of that depth, having a diameter of fifty yards, and you will have a fair idea of the rocks about the Fall. The noise is tremendous, the reverberations like peals of thunder, as you stand at the side of the deep, dark pool—some 200 yards across—in clouds of spray, which a roaring wind drives over you, whilst at the same time the sensation of cold is so perceptible that it soon renders necessary a retreat to a more sheltered situation. The delight of the first view of the great Typee Fall is something I shall never forget. The air is keener, purer, stronger than the heated atmosphere of the valley, and standing there in the midst of the morning vapor, as its millions and myriads of particules are driven onward by the rushing wind, a sensation of buoyancy is experienced similar to what one might expect to feel if a season’s vintage of champagne, concentrated for the especial purpose, burst out in your face in the form of rosy spray. Yet be it understood that the labour of getting to this spot is something not to be sneezed at. When all vestige of a path has long ago been left behind—when as near a bee-line as may be has to be drawn over rocks and rapids, through roots and interlaced poura trees—it may be imagined that the onward movement has been any thing but easy or rapid. However, the view was clear and open at last, and one moment there was worth it all.
I had previously been informed by the French Commandant that the lands, as originally purchased by the Government, for Mr. Stewart, from the natives, were said to contain about twelve thousand acres. Looking from the heights at the ground I have gone over, and reflecting that the bays of Hoourui and Hakapaa have not yet been visited, I feel perfectly convinced that there must be fully double that quantity.
After a hasty meal, on our return to Paruru’s, our party struck down into the valley in a westerly direction, and after crossing the river commenced the ascent of the western hills. They rise gently enough for the first few hundred yards, and then are sufficiently steep to try the best wind in the world. The mountain we were climbing has an elevation of about 2,800 feet, and we were following the only path that leads to Taiho-hae, the place of our departure. After ascending some 1,500 feet, the route, in some places, gets very nearly perpendicular, and unless I had been ably helped in two or three critical spots, by those who were with me, I must have given it up—by going down again. There were lots of places the dogs would not attempt to climb, and they had to be hauled up by the “scruff of the neck.” However, the crest of the hill was reached at last, and there beyond, some 800 feet below us on the other side, lay the top vale of the Happaa tribe, whose people were eternally at war with the Typees. And this vale has its own streams of water, its own groves of cocoa and breadfruit; and, although, perhaps, not one-third the size, is as thoroughly rich in resources, and fertile in soil, as its neighbour, the valley of Typee.
[F. J. H.] Daily Southern Cross [Auckland, New Zealand]. January 11, 1869: 4 cols 1-2
(WRITTEN FOR THE “DAILY SOUTHERN CROSS.”)
This vale of Happas, the abiding-place of the second most powerful tribe in Nukuhiva, is not visible from the sea, as are the valleys of the Hooumi and Typee. It is as an elongated bowl between the mountain we had just crossed on one side, and the hills of Taihohae on the other. For ages the Happaa warriors waged deadly feud with the Typee braves; and, although their battles could never, from the nature of the ground they fought on, have been productive of serious loss to either side, an occasional victim was taken, and dedicated to their festive appetites. The epidemic of 1863-64 finished the “vendetta” by finishing the population, for of all this large tribe there remained only 18 persons.
As to the population of Typee Valley, I should estimate it as probably numbering 50. A few years ago there are said to have been 1,800 souls in that tribe along.
The latitude of Nukuhiva is about 9 S., and these wanderings took place under the burning vertical sun of October. When away from the influence of the breeze the heat was something tremendous.
Whilst I think of it, let me remark that, on the previous day, as our boat entered the Bay of Taipi, a schooner from Tahiti lay there at anchor, loading with fungus, which is bought from the natives at an absurdly low price; and whilst we were at Kipiha’s one of them came along with two pounds of three-inch nails in his hands, which nails he had received from the schooner in exchange for a good-sized pig!
In the event of a cotton and coffee plantation company commencing operations at Typee Valley, and which from its amazing fertility, its salubrity, its splendid harbor, its total immunity from hurricanes or high winds, and finally its guaranteed protection by the French Government, is so peculiarly fitted for such an undertaking, the resources natural to the country would as a matter of course be, from day to day, more largely developed, and the natives would be encouraged, by a fair price being paid for it, to gather the fungus now wasting on the trees. It would be impossible for these same people to live in close neighbourhood to a thousand industrious and thrifty Chinese labourers without realizing the fact that exertion on their own part would enable them to purchase shirts and cloth and beads and axes, which they covet so much. To make labourers of them in the strict sense of the word would not be possible, but they can be got to work for themselves, and to improve their own condition very materially. The existence of the company at Typee will be the very greatest boon and blessing to the natives of the whole island of Nukuhiva, and in all human probability to those also of the rest of the Marquesas.
The provisioning of any establishment at Typee would not be attended with any difficulty. On the island of Nukuhiva there is a large quantity of fine cattle—on the neighboring island of Ua Poa there are over a thousand head. These are constantly sold at 20 dollars per head; and fresh meat is retailed at Taiho-hae at 7 cents per lb. Incredible quantities of a very large and fine description of fish, from 10lb. to 20lb. weight each, are taken in the neighbourhood, and could be had salted or fresh for the use of the plantation. Fresh pork may be had, in any quantity, for about 7 cents per lb. in trade.
I was particularly anxious whilst at Nukuhiva to get some of the cocoanut oil made by the natives, and to have their process of manufacture by boiling thoroughly explained and shown to me. After all, it is a most simple operation, and the oil, of a bright clear colour, has none of that strong smell so inseparable from the oil made by the rotting process. To make oil by boiling the milky juice of the nut is an affair of two to three hours; to make oil by exposure to the sun’s rays is a matter of as many days.
In clearing the land at Typee and Hooumi valleys I would not permit the destruction of a single cocoanut tree. There should be from 20,000 to 25,000 trees of this description in these valleys. Some trees have been known to produce 140 nuts at a gathering, but the average quantity, per tree, allowed is 100 nuts. We have therefore two millions five hundred thousand nuts (2,500,000). Each hundred nuts is allowed to produce, by the present process, three gallons of oil. At this rate, the production of the whole should give 75,000 gallons. At 252 gallons to the ton, and at £40 per ton in value, we have 300 tons of oil and £12,000 in money. And the cost of the manufacture to a company would scarcely be felt, for the nuts could be gathered and brought to the mill at times when the usual plantation work could not be profitably proceeded with, on account of rainy or damp weather, or for some other good reasons.
In a conversation I had with the Protestant missionary at Ua Poa (20 miles away), he assured me that the natives would be only too ready to give nuts for trade, and that they were in the habit of giving, for a three-cornered file, 80 cocoanuts; a Jews’ harp, 20 to 40 cocoanuts; a tomahawk, 300 cocoanuts; a 6-in. knife, 100 cocoanuts; a box of matches, 40 cocoanuts; and in proportion for any article of trade they fancied. It will thus be evident that the production of oil may be very largely increased beyond the estimate I have given above, and that, by employing two or three smart craft about the islands, any reasonable quantity of cocoanuts may be obtained and worked up into oil.
The opening of a store at Typee Bay supplied with suitable trade, and with a constantly renewed stock, would be attended with very remunerative results, over and above any that would accrue from the custom of the plantation itself. A branch of this might very well be established in Dominica, where every sort of native production is bought for next to nothing. During the last 12 months about 150 tons of cotton have been exported from Dominica, and this production might very well have been trebled. The fact is the growers have been so badly recompensed for picking it that they have, in many instances, allowed the cotton to remain unpicked. But with a company established at Typee all this would be changed; a fairly remunerative price would be paid for the cotton now grown at Dominica and Nukuhiva, and the natives would be strongly encouraged to plant and pick cotton, not only in those two localities, but upon the other islands; and the gins of the company, when not at work cleaning cotton grown on the plantation, would be incessantly employed with that grown off it. The whole trade of this magnificent archipelago in fungus, sandalwood, oil, cocoanuts, and cotton, would, as a matter of course, be concentrated at Typee Bay. Hither the natives would bring whatever they had to dispose of; and their products, now returning them next to nothing, would, whilst certainly increasing somewhat in value to themselves, be exchanged for trade procured at the company’s store, and prove to the plantation a source of very large profit.
Although I did not go down into the Happaa Valley, I had from the ridge above a very good view of it. I can describe it as a bowl, elongated in shape, and of probably 1,200 acres in extent. Below this, again, there are two other valleys, but the one I was looking at must be fully 1,800 feet above the sea level. There are now growing there some remarkably fine coffee trees, which do not at this elevation require to be in the shade in order to produce good berries. From its elevation, combined with its sheltered aspect, I can imagine no position better adapted for growing good coffee than this fertile upper valley of the Happaa. It put me very much in mind of the locale of one of the very best coffee plantations in the world on the heights of the Blue Mountains of Jamaica. A large yearly revenue would, as a matter of course, be derived from this part of the plantation.
It would be necessary to detach a certain number of labourers, and to have them permanently stationed at Happaa Valley, which is well supplied with wood, and down the centre of which two streams of water are constantly running. This upper valley would be fully four miles from the main establishment at Taipi, and a good foot road along the side and crest of the intervening mountain would have to be made available for the necessary traffic between the two places.
All over the land is found the very best of stone for building purposes—a sort of sandstone, that can be worked with an axe into any shape, and which hardens by exposure to the air. This stone would be most invaluable for the erection of the foundations and walls of machine-houses, cotton, provisions, and goods stores; and which, when supplied with iron doors, would be entirely protected from fires of every description.
With its great natural advantages, it is impossible that the Typee Valley can remain much longer in its present state. It will undoubtedly prove the scene for the future operations of a large and successful undertaking.
F. J. H.
Daily Southern Cross [Auckland, NZ]. January 12, 1869: 4 cols 1-2.
FROM the new Stevenson letters in Scribner’s. To Mr. Charles Baxter:
I shall have a fine book of travels, I feel sure; and will tell you more of the South Seas after very few months than any other writer has done—except Herman Melville, perhaps, who is a howling cheese.
The Academy. September 30, 1899. 325.
Will you kindly use your valuable influence to persuade a publisher to give us a sixpenny edition of Herman Melville? I am equally tired of hearing this writer praised, and of having no opportunity of reading him. In your last number Stevenson is at it again: Melville is “a howling cheese” is his phrase—a howling cheese meaning, I take it, a howling swell. I have been reading books (with a special leaning towards those of the howling cheeses) for many years now, but never has a copy of Omoo, or Typee, or anything else of Melville’s, come my way. I doubt not that there are various editions, but they must be strangely accessible. There cannot be one at sixpence, which is the new figure. F. W. MORRIS.
The Academy. October 7, 1899. 376.
“The Howling Cheese.”
SIR,—Your correspondent, Mr. F. W. Morris, draws attention to R. L. Stevenson’s praise of Herman Melville’s works, and deplores the fact of his books being strangely inaccessible. He suggests a sixpenny edition, which possibly might pay some enterprising publisher. Meantime, I may say that Typee can hardly be termed “inaccessible,” as it is included in an admirable series of books called “The Sea Library,” published by W. H. White & Co., Ltd., Edinburgh and London. Typee was issued only last year. The series includes Darwin’s Voyage and that rare sea story by George Cupples, The Green Hand. The books are beautifully got up, and are excellent value at the money, 3s. and 3s. 6d., according to the bulk of the volume.
May I be allowed to add that the Amateur Critic column is a happy thought on the part of the editor, and is sure to give pleasure and profit to all your readers?—I am, &c.,
Glasgow: October 9, 1899. G. LINWOOD.
The Academy. October 14, 1899. 437.
In 1842 France annexed the Marquesas Group, known to all readers of “Typee” and “Omoo.” These contain about 5000 inhabitants, and produce oranges, cocoanuts, and yams. There are a good many cattle on the islands, and the inhabitants are very skillful in whale-fishing.
The Press [Canterbury, New Zealand]. January 8, 1907: 6.
It is astonishing what good value a book-buyer of modest purse can now get for his shilling, or one and three-pence, in the many popular series of reprints. […] To buy Herman Melville’s delightful South Sea romance, “Typee,” or his fascinating whaling story, “Moby Dick,” for one and threepence, is a distinct boon
New Zealand Mail. August 14, 1907: 58.
Jack London, the American novelist, who, with Mrs. London, arrived at Sydney from the Islands on Sunday, November 15, by steamer, went into the hospital for a minor operation.
“We had a healthy time in the Solomons,” Mr. London said in the course of an interview. “One cook went crazy, and a sailor who got black-water fever went out of his head for three weeks. The dog lost two legs, the parrot got killed, and even the chronometer went sick. This is not a freak trip in an open boat, with a gamble on getting home safe. It’s not done for a newspaper, and I reckon it won’t more than pay. it is a trip for pleasure, that I’ve always wanted to make. The Snark, my boat, has been left in the Islands for a while. it is just the smallest sort of ship in which I could make it as safely as in a steamer. When I was a little boy I read Herman Melville’s “Typee”—about his living four months amongst the natives of the Typee Valley, in the Marquesas Island, and his experiences with the cannibals, and the beautiful nymph, Fayaway, and how he got out by the skin of his teeth. I made up my mind I would go to the Marquesas. Then later on I thought I would desert from a sailing ship, and get to see the valley. Well, I got there to see Typee Valley at last. It was that and wild goat shooting which made excitement in the Marquesas. On the whole it has been a quiet trip. The most exciting time we had was when we were four or five days from Hawaii. The water tank was on deck, full, and the spinnaker sheet shot across it, and opened it out. That lost us two-thirds of our water supply. it happened on the line, in the doldrums. We put handcuffs on the pump, and cut ourselves down to a quart of water a day. The strange thing was we found at once that we were astonishingly thirsty. I had awnings fixed up to catch rain, and we had the luck to get a shower, and caught 300 gallons. We just happened to strike that one squall.”
Questioned as to his future movements, Mr. London replied, “I don’t know whether I shall be doing any definite work in Australia, but I want to go all over it. We are going back via New Guinea and Borneo, across the Indian Ocean to Madagascar, round the Cape up to Europe, across the Atlantic, and home to the Pacific side through the Staits of Magellan. We have been away 18 months already. The last two weeks I have done no work. When I do it is book-writing—about a thousand words a day. That is 2½ hours’ work. It is not dictated—it is typed afterwards. Then I do a little navigation. I am dentist, and doctor, and everything else. We made a course after the wreck for two months by ourselves, and in all that time one of us was sick every hour. When we careened the Snark on the island of Isabel there was never more than one of us fit to go into the water. We got ngari-ngari fever—that means “scratch, scratch”—and Solomon Island ulcers. They are malignant, if you like. I went through the bush for a shot at a chicken, and got my legs chipped about. Next day there were Solomon Island ulcers in every chip. I think the flies carry it.”
New Zealand Times [Wellington, NZ]. November 30, 1908: 3.
Stevenson once confessed that he was lure to the South Seas by “Typee” and “Omoo.” For how many has the romance of Polynesia dawned with Herman Melville’s delectable narrative of the Marquesan beach and groves? And every romantic writer who has been drawn by that lure to the veritable Pacific has been disillusioned. At least we may judge so, from the quality of the books which told us what they thought of the islands where they fain would be. Stevenson’s book on the South Seas is evidently uninspired. Jack London, whose death is annouced [sic], has also confessed it was “Typee” which drew him away South, in the Snark. But his own narrative (thinks an English writer,) has no lure in it.
Timaru Herald [New Zealand]. January 27, 1917: 3.
Haraszti, Zoltán. “Melville Defends Typee.” More Books: The Bulletin of the Boston Public Library 22(6). June 1947. 203-208. https://archive.org/stream/morebooks1947bost#page/202/mode/2up/search/melville