In 1866, Samuel Langhorne Clemens (Mark Twain) was retained by The Sacramento Union newspaper to write a series of articles on Hawaiʻi. Here are some of his words about Hawaiʻi (from that series, as well as his other writing.)
“I was there for four or five months, and returned to find myself about the best known man on the Pacific Coast.” (Twain) Popular pieces, some credit the series with turning Twain into a journalistic star.
Like they get to a lot of people, the Islands struck a chord with Clemens.
“On the seventh day out we saw a dim vast bulk standing up out of the wastes of the Pacific and knew that that spectral promontory was Diamond Head”.
“So we were nearing Honolulu, the capital city of the Sandwich Islands – those islands which to me were Paradise; a Paradise which I had been longing all those years to see again. Not any other thing in the world could have stirred me as the sight of that great rock did.”
“The town of Honolulu (said to contain between 12,000 and 15,000 in habitants) is spread over a dead level; has streets from twenty to thirty feet wide, solid and level as a floor, most of them straight as a line … houses one and two stories high, … there are great yards, (that) are ornamented by a hundred species of beautiful flowers and blossoming shrubs, and shaded”.
“A mile and a half from town, I came to a grove of tall cocoanut trees, with clean, branchless stems reaching straight up sixty or seventy feet and topped with a spray of green foliage sheltering clusters of cocoa‐nuts”.
“… not more picturesque than a forest of colossal ragged parasols, with bunches of magnified grapes under them, would be. … It is the village of Waikiki once the Capital of the kingdom and the abode of the great Kamehameha I.”
“What a picture is here slumbering in the solemn glory of the moon! How strong the rugged outlines of the dead volcano stand out against the clear sky! What a snowy fringe marks the bursting of the surf over the long, curved reef!”
“I tried surf-bathing (surfing) once, subsequently, but made a failure of it. I got the board placed right, and at the right moment, too; but missed the connection myself. – The board struck the shore in three quarters of a second, without any cargo, and I struck the bottom about the same time, with a couple of barrels of water in me.”
“It has been six weeks since I touched a pen. In explanation and excuse I offer the fact that I spent that time (with the exception of one week) on the island of Maui. … I never spent so pleasant a month before.”
“I went to Maui to stay a week and remained five. I had a jolly time. I would not have fooled away any of it writing letters under any consideration whatever. … I sail for the island of Hawaiʻi tomorrow.”
“We landed at Kailua (Kona,) a little collection of native grass houses reposing under tall cocoanut trees ‐ the sleepiest, quietest, Sundayest looking place you can imagine.”
“Ye weary ones that are sick of the labor and care, and the bewildering turmoil of the great world, and sigh for a land where ye may fold your tired hands and slumber your lives peacefully away, pack up your carpet sacks and go to Kailua!”
“I suppose no man ever saw Niagara for the first time without feeling disappointed. I suppose no man ever saw it the fifth time without wondering how he could ever have been so blind and stupid as to find any excuse for disappointment in the first place.”
“I was disappointed when I saw the great volcano of Kilauea to‐day for the first time. It is a comfort to me to know that I fully expected to be disappointed, however, and so, in one sense at least, I was not disappointed.”
“I said to myself ‘Only a considerable hole in the ground ‐ nothing to Haleakala ‐ a wide, level, black plain in the bottom of it, and a few little sputtering jets of fire occupying a place about as large as an ordinary potato‐patch, up in one corner ‐ no smoke to amount to anything.’”
“I reflected that night was the proper time to view a volcano … I turned my eyes upon the volcano again (now, at night.)”
“… the floor of the abyss was magnificently illuminated; beyond these limits the mists hung down their gauzy curtains and cast a deceptive gloom over all … Here was room for the imagination to work! … it was the idea, of eternity made tangible ‐ and the longest end of it made visible to the naked eye!”
“We hear all our lives about the ‘gentle, stormless Pacific,’ and about the ‘smooth and delightful route to the Sandwich Islands,’ and about the ‘steady blowing trades’ that never vary, never change, never ‘chop around’”.
“No alien land in all the world has any deep, strong charm for me but that one; no other land could so longingly and beseechingly haunt me, sleeping and waking, through half a lifetime, as that one has done.”
“Other things leave me, but it abides; other things change, but it remains the same. For me its balmy airs are always blowing, its summer seas flashing in the sun; the pulsing of its surf beat is in my ear”.
“I can see its garlanded craigs, its leaping cascades, its plumy palms drowsing by the shore; its remote summits floating like islands above the cloudrack”.
“I can feel the spirit of its woodland solitudes; I can hear the plash of its brooks; in my nostrils still lives the breath of flowers that perished twenty years ago.”