Sir George Simpson was governor in charge of North American operations of the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC had established its first post at Honolulu in 1834).
The following is a portion of an account by Simpson of his journey around the world – this snippet focuses on his description and impressions at a dinner with the chiefs in Honolulu, in February 1842.
“Ledyard and Cochrane, to the best of the author’s knowledge and belief, were the only travelers that ever attempted before himself to accomplish an overland journey round the world; they both followed an easterly direction; and they both returned, the former from Irkutsk and the latter from Kamschatka, without having even seen the American Continent.”
“In offering this remark, the author wishes merely to state the fact, for he has much pleasure in admitting, that, if either of those enterprizing individuals had enjoyed his peculiar advantages, the task would not have been left for him to achieve.”
“In one respect, however, he has performed more than either Cochrane or Ledyard contemplated, for, in addition to the Russian Empire and British America, he has embraced within his range Upper California and the Sandwich Islands.” (Preface)
Now for Kekūanāo‘a’s supper …
“Over and above what may be considered as necessaries for the table, the group in general, and Honolulu in particular, is supplied, in an eminent degree, with nearly all the luxuries of every clime.”
“At the feasts of the foreign residents, champagne and claret flow with lavish hospitality, while the lighter and rarer viands of every name are brought direct from the richest countries on the globe, from. England and France, from the United States and Mexico, from Peru and Chili, from India and China.”
“In fact, such sumptuousness of living, as we experienced, day after day, from our numerous friends, is perhaps not to be found anywhere out of London, and even there is seldom found in all its unadulterated genuineness.”
“Nor are the principal natives of Honolulu far behind the respectable foreigners in this matter. In proof of their advance in material civilization, let me contrast an instance of royal gastronomy, recorded by the Rev. Mr. Stewart twenty years ago, with an evening in my own banqueting experience, spent at Governor Kekūanāo‘a’s.”
“We were received by the Governor in his Hall of Justice, an apartment large enough for the church of a considerable parish, being sixty feet long, thirty broad, and about thirty-five or forty feet high to the ridge pole of the roof.”
“The chiefs were all handsomely attired in the Windsor uniform, their clothes fitting to a hair’s breadth: so particular, indeed, are the aristocracy in this respect, that they have imported a tailor from England for their own exclusive benefit.”
“Supper being announced, the chiefs, each taking one or two of our party by the arm, conducted us across an open area to another apartment of considerable size, built in the European fashion and handsomely furnished with tables, buffets, chairs, sofas, &c., the whole, or nearly the whole, being of native wood and native workmanship.”
“The main table would have done no discredit to a London mansion, covered, as it was, with glass and plate, and lighted with elegant lamps.”
“The fare was very tempting. It consisted of fruits of all kinds, sweetmeats, pastry, Chinese preserves, &c., with excellent tea and coffee, the latter, which had been grown in Woahoo by the governor himself, being fully equal to Mocha.”
“Our plates, by the by, had been marked with our names; and we had been told to take our seats accordingly, His Excellency sitting at one side among his guests.”
“In fact the whole proceedings blended the most punctilious regard to etiquette with the cordiality of natural politeness, beating out and out and over again, all that we had seen in California, in every respect, in room, in furniture, in equipage, in viands, in cookery, in attendance and in dress.”
“Nor were our native companions themselves so decidedly inferior as civilized vanity might fancy. The chiefs, especially our host, were men of excellent address …”
“… and, as they spoke English enough to be understood, we soon forgot that we were sipping our coffee in a country, which is deemed uncivilized, and among individuals who are classed with savages.”
“During our sojourn the governor and his chiefs favored us with their company at dinner. They conducted themselves with ease and propriety …”
“… having now laid aside the habits of intemperance, in which their order was wont to indulge, as also the peculiar style of conversation to which such habits generally led.” (Simpson)
Simpson left the Islands in March 1842 and sailed to Sitka, intending to continue his trip round the world by way of Russia and Europe.
The last phase of Simpson’s journey took him across Siberia back to Europe and London, where he arrived on October 21, 1842. The entire trip had taken only 19 months and 19 days.
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