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Iolani; or, Tahiti as It Was

Iolani; or, Tahiti as It Was: A Romance

Wilkie Collins
EDITED AND INTRODUCED BY Ira B. Nadel
Copyright Date: 1999
Pages: 256
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7zv54g
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  • Book Info
    Iolani; or, Tahiti as It Was
    Book Description:

    Written 150 years ago, never published, and presumed lost for nearly a century, Wilkie Collins's earliest novel now appears in print for the first time. Ioláni is a sensational romance--a tale of terror and suspense, bravery and betrayal, set against the lush backdrop of Tahiti. The book's complicated history is worthy of a writer famous for intricate plots hinging on long-kept secrets. Collins wrote the book as a young man in the early 1840s, twenty years beforeThe MoonstoneandThe Woman in Whitemade his name among Victorian novelists. He failed to find a publisher for the work, shelved the manuscript for years, and eventually gave it to an acquaintance. It disappeared into the hands of private collectors and remained there--acquiring mythical status as a lost novel--from the turn of the century until its sudden appearance on the rare book market in New York in 1991. This first edition appears with the permission of the new owners, who keep the mystery alive by remaining anonymous.

    The novel is set in Tahiti prior to European contact. It tells the story of the diabolical high priest, Ioláni , and the heroic young woman, Idüa, who bears his child. Determined to defy the Tahitian custom of killing firstborn children, Idüa and her friend Aimáta flee with the baby and take refuge among Ioláni's enemies. The vengeful priest pursues them, setting into motion a plot that features civil war, sorcery, sacrificial rites, wild madmen, treachery, and love. Collins explores themes that he would return to again and again in his career: oppression by sinister, patriarchal figures; the bravery of forceful, unorthodox women; the psychology of the criminal mind; the hypocrisy of moralists; and Victorian ideas of the exotic. As Ira Nadel shows in his introduction, the novel casts new light on Collins's development as a writer and on the creation of his later masterpieces. A sample page from the manuscript appears as the frontispiece to this edition. The publication of Ioláni is a major literary event: a century and half late, Wilkie Collins makes his literary debut.

    Originally published in 1999.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6494-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. ix-xxxviii)

    Wilkie Collins wrote his first novel while at tea. Only now, over a century and a half later, is it being published. He was in fact a twenty-year-old apprentice with the London tea merchants Antrobus & Company when he started the original manuscript in 1844 at their office in London’s Strand. It was never accepted by a publisher and was rarely seen again until it suddenly surfaced in New York in 1991.

    The story of the manuscript’s existence is itself a mystery worthy of Collins. It begins with the 1845 rejection of the work first by Longmans and then Chapman and...

  5. EDITORIAL POLICY
    (pp. xxxix-xl)
  6. BIBLIOGRAPHICAL DESCRIPTION
    (pp. xli-xlii)
  7. NOTE ON THE TEXT
    (pp. xliii-2)
  8. BOOK I

    • Chapter I Ioláni and Idía
      (pp. 5-8)

      The last days of summer were near at hand, as one night, (while Tahíti was yet undiscovered by the voyagers of the North) the desolation of the great lake Vahíria was brightened by the presence of two human beings—a man and woman who were listlessly wandering along its rugged and deserted shores.

      It was a strange and, to most hearts, an unalluring place. Looking upward from the spot occupied on this particular occasion by the woman and her companion, the eye encountered a long and almost unbroken range of mountains, whose jagged sides, though occasionally checquered by a clump...

    • Chapter II Aimáta and Home
      (pp. 9-12)

      It is summer and early morning. The young sun, whose rays, scarcely penetrate as yet, the solemn darkness of the groves and forests, shows beautiful and bright, on the meadowlands at the mountains[’] feet. The sea-breeze has just arisen and hies it hither and thither, among the inland adornments of the Islands of the South. It refreshes the fruits, it awakens the flowers. It carries with it its own fitful and delicate music, in the pattering of the falling dewdrops, as it shakes them merrily from their topmost haunts in the great trees and their smallest hiding-places in the fresh,...

    • Chapter III The Birth in sorrow
      (pp. 13-24)

      Between the inhabitants of the lonely dwelling, there had sprung up, in spite of disproportion in ages and difference in sympathies, the strongest attaching ties. When only assumed for convenience sake, there is no hypocrisy so perishable—when arising from mutual esteem, there is no sincerity so enduring—as female friendship; and this rare and beautiful affection existed in its utmost truthfulness and purity, between the woman and her charge. Of the parents of Idía, one, had died, and the other, had departed for the dwellings of a distant and stranger tribe. She had discovered the child Aimáta, forsaken by...

  9. BOOK II

    • Chapter I From Present to Past
      (pp. 27-40)

      Another year had passed over the Island, as Idía halted by the shores of the Great Lake, at the same spot as that described at the introduction of this narrative, and almost at the self same hour of the night. On this occasion, however, she was not accompanied by the Priest, but by a woman and a child.

      After pausing for a few moments of rest and deliberation, the little party entered a canoe that had been left on the shore, and paddled swiftly and cautiously towards one of the extremities of the Lake, where the rocks rose precipitously from...

    • Chapter II The Answer of the Oracle
      (pp. 41-49)

      The building consecrated to Oro, the deity of the battlefield, was, in outward appearance, simply, an extensive mass of heavy stone wall; saving, on the side nearest the sea, where a sort of pyramid of huge stones, ascended by steep, rugged steps, broke the otherwise monotonous regularity of the structure. On this elevation, were placed the images of the inferior idols of war, which on great and unusual occasions, were displaced for the feared and formidable idol of Oro, himself. It was generally understood by the people, that the sacrifice they hoped to behold, was to take place immediately in...

    • Chapter III The Pursuit
      (pp. 50-57)

      If ever Ioláni tasked his energies to the utmost, it was upon this occasion. This, was his last chance for vengeance on Idía and for the preservation of his credit as oracle of the War-god. Upon his success in the pursuit, he had now staked his all; and he determined that the struggle should be tremendous, before he lost. Every responsibility, now rested upon him alone. The little power of action natural to the King, had deserted him at this important crisis in the affairs of the state. The great chieftains would advise in nothing, aid in nothing, while the...

    • Chapter IV Father and Son
      (pp. 58-62)

      Quickly about it Ioláni! The woman and the girl are both in thy power now. Despatch the child, and thy vengeance is complete, and thy pride is satisfied!

      He was alone! The vacillation of purpose that had seized him in the early morning, now, that the day was advanced and the victim secured, seemed to have left him forever. All things, as usual, apparently contributed to aid his guilty purpose. He was too far from his troop to hear the shouts of the warriors, or the shrieks of the agonised women; and there was nothing near him, to interrupt the...

    • Chapter V The last interview
      (pp. 63-70)

      The report was soon spread through the villages, by the scouts in advance, that the victim was secured; and the few people that the exigences of the impending battle had spared to their homes, now ran out by twos and threes, to catch a sight of the prisoners. Fearfully had their aspect changed since the halt in the forest with the Priest. Idía was born along by her guards, on a rude sort of litter of branches and spears, so pale and motionless to look upon, that the beholders began to imagine that the pomp and glory of the sacrifice...

    • Chapter VI The Battle
      (pp. 71-77)

      It will be necessary, to pause an instant here, to describe that particularly to the reader, which has hitherto been but generally hinted at—the plain before the Temple; for, upon this spot, hinges a main point of interest, in the present narrative.

      Unlike most of the sacred buildings in the Island, the Temple of Oro stood upon a site, but partially shaded by trees—those becoming guardians of its sister shrines. On two sides, the smooth, beautiful turf, stretched away for a mile, or more, before the level of its surface was broken, either by the forest, or the...

    • Chapter VII The Retreat
      (pp. 78-84)

      Pursued and pursuers, were now set out upon their night march through the forest, in the opposite direction to the rebel camp. Not the slightest attempt at order, or regularity, was made by the conquered party. They had nothing to guide them towards their refuge, but the fitful glimpses of moonlight, that now and then, passed through the gaps in the thick foliage, above—nothing to warn them of the whereabouts of the enemy, but the groans of the wounded wretches, whom they sacrificed to their resentment, as they passed them by, or the glimmering of their torches through the...

    • Chapter VIII The fate of the child
      (pp. 85-91)

      Scarcely had the Priest lost sight of his offspring, before the bushes from behind the dell, parted slowly and from the opening, there stole out, softly, a solitary man.

      Keeping studiously out of sight of the child, this figure, approached as close to it as was compatible with perfect concealment; and crouching down, regarded the little unfortunate, with a long and patient investigation.

      The only clothing of the man, was a torn piece of cloth, wound round his middle, with fibres of the cocoa nut tree. His long, ragged hair, reached to his waist; and, like his beard, was of...

    • Chapter IX Mahíné’s revenge
      (pp. 92-96)

      The night of the battle, was the signal for the return of its wonted tranquillity to the rebel village. On the spot, where the pomp of sacrifice and the bustle of martial preparation, so lately had reigned; the moonlight now shone, in uninterrupted brilliancy; and, where but a day before, groans and laughter—cursing and jesting—sounded in the utterest confusion, and with the wildest uproar; the gentle music of the breezes among the rocks by the shore, and the rustling of the leaves of the grove round the dwelling of the chief, were heard alone. Some of the houses,...

    • Chapter X The besieged
      (pp. 97-100)

      For a few moments, heeding neither the rapid approach of the enemy, nor the habitants of the enclosure below; the King gazed upon the dead body of the old warrior, in sorrowful silence. His last remaining servant of renown and capacity, was snatched from him. He had no councillor, no companion left. Never did he feel his power, so utterly lost, as at this moment. Never did the misery of his forlorness assail him so poignantly, as now. He raised the corpse, and descended with it in his arms, among the people. A dogged despair, possessed their numbers. Death and...

    • Chapter XI Mother and son
      (pp. 101-109)

      Heavy were the hearts of Idía’s companions, as they sullenly followed their guide, into the recesses of the forest. Many and many a glance did they turn backwards, towards the happy homes they were doomed to leave; and, many and many a look of distrust and discomfort, did they cast after the woman, as she led them, deeper and deeper, into the solitary woodlands. The further they journeyed, the more dilatory and uncertain became Idía’s guidance. She strayed from one path to another, apparently without the slightest cause for such voluntary enlargement of the journey, at so early a stage...

    • Chapter XII The mourners among the people
      (pp. 110-116)

      The march of the conquerors and the conquered, on their return from the fortress, presented a singular contrast to their rate of journeying, on setting out for the place of refuge. Among his other acts of clemency, the chieftain had conceded to the vanquished party, the privilege of burying all those of their dead, who had fallen in the retreat, reserving to himself, the right of disposal, as regarded the slain on the field of battle. This act of unusual indulgence, was hailed by the exiles, with gratitude and delight; and they now lingered sadly and slowly on the paths,...

  10. BOOK III

    • Chapter I Mahíné’s Bridal
      (pp. 119-126)

      The autumn sun never shone more brightly on Tahíti, than on the days that were dedicated, to the marriage and accession, of the new King. Never was contrast more extraordinary, than, that now offered, by the present appearance of the inhabitants, as compared with, the past. Now, the Priest wandered, pensively, about the quiet precincts of the Temple; and the warrior basked him[self] in the morning sun, bereft of his arms, and shorn of his apparel of war. Now, old men and the children, mixed, confidently, in the ranks of the sturdy husbandmen; and the women, fondled their infants, unrebuked,...

    • Chapter II The hunt for the outcast
      (pp. 127-133)

      Two months, had now passed quietly onward, since the celebration of the wedding of the King; and, in the exercise of their accustomed avocations, the people of the village, had already half forgotten the days of feasting and merriment that were past. In the first glow and selfishness of his love; Mahíné, scorning the advice of his warriors, had retreated, with Aimáta, to one of the islets near Tahíti. Here, in joyous indolence, he and his beloved, passed the last pleasant days of autumn, with their singers, their players, and their dancers—now, reposing in the shade of the cool,...

    • Chapter III Ioláni’s Escape
      (pp. 134-140)

      Ere we proceed further, it will be necessary to pause in the progress of our narrative, to account for the strange re-appearance of the Priest, on the shores that he had dishonoured, and among the people whom he had wronged.

      The island to which the defeated party had been conveyed by Mahíné’s commands, was distant, about thirty English miles, from Tahíti. The inhabitants were few; the soil was barren and unpromising, as compared with that of the larger islands; and the mountains and forests, were inaccessible and wild. To clear the woods, to cultivate and improve the natural vegetation, and...

    • Chapter IV The Sorcery prepared
      (pp. 141-152)

      The prevalence of the belief and practice of sorcery, among so superstitious and imaginative a people, as the Islanders of the Pacific, can be a matter of but little wonder. Their Mythology, peopled sun, moon, and stars; valley, mountain and forest, each, with their separate race of spirit habitants. No wilderness, however sublime—no nook, however humble, but was haunted, in the native belief, by its attendant sylphs or daemons—viewless to mortal eye, yet all-powerful over mortal heart. Of these deities, all were approachable by invocation, to the chosen Priests, and Prophets of the land. From those whose earthly...

    • Chapter V The Island—seclusion
      (pp. 153-158)

      By courting the luxuries of retirement and indolence, in opposition to the twice urged entreaties, of the very men, to whose attachment, he ought to have looked, as the safeguard of the stability of his throne, Mahíné, at the height of his triumph, committed his most irreparable error. Among those now around him, there were none to awaken him to his duty, or to shame him from his inglorious ease. The few warriors, who, as his personal attendants, had followed him to the island, were mere youths, whose natural predilections, the festivity of their ruler’s court, exactly fulfilled. The derisive...

    • Chapter VI The Sorcery successful
      (pp. 159-165)

      The King followed his beloved, with feelings of bitter disappointment and anger, still in his heart. The sight, however, that presented itself to his eyes, on his gaining the interior of the hut, turned the current of his thoughts, into a different channel, at once.

      The brilliant sunlight, streaming in, through the open door, illumined the rude apartment of the dwelling throughout; and cast a vivid, cheerful brightness—strangely at variance with the spirit of their occupation—over the different persons assembled there. At the foot of one of the sleeping mats of the island, crouched two women, from the...

    • Chapter VII The revolt of the army
      (pp. 166-173)

      Thus, the days passed on in Tahíti until the winter months were arrived. The dwellings of Mahíné’s village, were, by this time, many of them, desolate. None sauntered upon the pathways. None wended to their labour in the field. None sought the amusements, that had power to delight and to occupy them, once. A change was at hand.

      Before the King’s dwelling, there watched, with their martial gear on them, as in the time of war, a handful of veteran warriors. There were none to relieve these guardians of the ruler[’]s safety. From day to day, their numbers were the...

    • Chapter VIII The recall of the banished King
      (pp. 174-180)

      Since the escape of Ioláni, the prisoners had been watched with greater care, and treated with more severity, than before. The fruit of their labours, now became apparent, on the island. Dwellings arose,—pathways were widened—gardens were arranged—groves were planted—trees were felled for timber; and, over the general appearance of the place, an aspect of fertility and comfort was spread, most delightful to behold.

      Among the guards, the belief was, that the two Priests had effected their escape in safety, and were concealed among the mountains of Tahíti. Communication of their flight, had, accordingly, been made to...

    • Chapter IX Morning and Evening—
      (pp. 181-188)

      The mazes of our tale are well-nigh penetrated. With the morning, whose rising we chronicle—with the evening, whose closing we have yet to relate, the task of the writer ends, and the employment of the reader, is over and past.

      On a little island—the outermost of the Polynesian group—are situate[d] the characters, that figure in our morning scene. To this place, the fugitive usurper had retreated with his gentle bride; and here, where wars and tumults were almost unknown, they had made, with the motherless child, their permanent and peaceful abode.

      The winter season had now set...

  11. LIST OF VARIANTS AND DELETIONS
    (pp. 189-200)
  12. TEXTUAL NOTES
    (pp. 201-202)
  13. EXPLANATORY NOTES
    (pp. 203-205)