“Early in 1866, George Barnes invited [Mark Twain] to resign [his] reportership on his paper, the San Francisco Morning Call, and for some months thereafter, [he] was without money or work; then [he] had a pleasant turn of fortune.”
“The proprietors of the Sacramento Union, a great and influential daily journal, sent [Twain] to the Sandwich Islands to write four letters a month at twenty dollars a piece.”
He also wrote books about some of his travels (that included a visit to Hawai‘i) … one such, Roughing It. Here are some of his first impressions of Honolulu – from that series, as well as his other writing.
“This book is merely a personal narrative, and not a pretentious history or a philosophical dissertation. It is a record of several years of variegated vagabondizing, and its object is rather to help the resting reader while away an idle hour than afflict him with metaphysics, or goad him with science.”
“Still, there is information in the volume; information concerning an interesting episode in the history of the Far West, about which no books have been written by persons who were on the ground in person, and saw the happenings of the time with their own eyes.” …
“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.”
“On a certain bright morning the Islands hove in sight, lying low on the lonely sea, and everybody climbed to the upper deck to look. After two thousand miles of watery solitude the vision was a welcome one.”
“As we approached, the imposing promontory of Diamond Head rose up out of the ocean its rugged front softened by the hazy distance, and presently the details of the land began to make themselves manifest …”
“… first the line of beach; then the plumed coacoanut trees of the tropics; then cabins of the natives; then the white town of Honolulu, said to contain between twelve and fifteen thousand inhabitants spread over a dead level; with streets from twenty to thirty feet wide, solid and level as a floor, most of them straight as a line and few as crooked as a corkscrew.”
“The further I traveled through the town the better I liked it.”
“Every step revealed a new contrast–disclosed something I was unaccustomed to. In place of the grand mud-colored brown fronts of San Francisco, I saw dwellings built of straw, adobies, and cream-colored pebble-and-shell-conglomerated coral, cut into oblong blocks and laid in cement ….”
“… also a great number of neat white cottages, with green window-shutters; in place of front yards like billiard-tables with iron fences around them, I saw these homes surrounded by ample yards, thickly clad with green grass, and shaded by tall trees, through whose dense foliage the sun could scarcely penetrate …”
“… in place of the customary geranium, calla lily, etc., languishing in dust and general debility, I saw luxurious banks and thickets of flowers, fresh as a meadow after a rain, and glowing with the richest dyes …”
“… in place of the dingy horrors of San Francisco’s pleasure grove, the “Willows,” I saw huge-bodied, wide-spreading forest trees, with strange names and stranger appearance –trees that cast a shadow like a thunder-cloud, and were able to stand alone without being tied to green poles …”
“… in place of gold fish, wiggling around in glass globes, assuming countless shades and degrees of distortion through the magnifying and diminishing qualities of their transparent prison houses, I saw cats …
“… Tom-cats, Mary Ann cats, long-tailed cats, bob-tailed cats, blind cats, one-eyed cats, wall-eyed cats, cross-eyed cats, gray cats, black cats, white cats, yellow cats, striped cats, spotted cats, tame cats, wild cats, singed cats, individual cats, groups of cats, platoons of cats, companies of cats, regiments of cats, armies of cats, multitudes of cats, millions of cats, and all of them sleek, fat, lazy and sound asleep.”
“I looked on a multitude of people, some white, in white coats, vests, pantaloons, even white cloth shoes, made snowy with chalk duly laid on every morning …”
“… but the majority of the people were almost as dark as negroes–women with comely features, fine black eyes, rounded forms, inclining to the voluptuous, clad in a single bright red or white garment that fell free and unconfined from shoulder to heel …”
“… long black hair falling loose, gypsy hats, encircled with wreaths of natural flowers of a brilliant carmine tint; plenty of dark men in various costumes, and some with nothing on but a battered stove-pipe hat tilted on the nose, and a very scant breech-clout; –certain smoke-dried children were clothed in nothing but sunshine –a very neat fitting and picturesque apparel indeed.” (Twain)
Like they get to a lot of people, the Islands struck a chord with Clemens.
“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.