In 1986, when Mark Twain was 31, he took a voyage on a great steam ship to Hawaii, where he spent four months as a foreign correspondent. He wrote 25 newspaper dispatches on the colorful history of old Hawaii, then called the Sandwich Islands. With his trademark sense of humor and superb style, Twain describes his adventures and cultural observations of daily life on the islands, while attending legislative sessions, hula shows and a poi cooking and tasting. He recounts a volcano trip to Kiluea, and a several-day journey on horse around the island visiting valleys and moutains, a trip that could be made today in two hours. Twain describes the story of Captain Cook and his last days, the funeral of a member of the last Hawaiian royal dynasty, and the power struggle between the U.S., England and Russia to gain control of the islands. One of the best travel writings I've read, Letters from the Sandwich Islands takes us back to the long-gone Hawaii of 150 years ago, to places Twain may not recognize but which we can still visit today.
Jun 21, 2010