South Sea Idyls by Charles Warren Stoddard

South-Sea Idyls by Charles Warren Stoddard was published in 1873. In humorous vein the author sketches a variety of personal experiences which befell him in southern seas. The book has seventeen letters and they bounce around between Tahiti and the Hawaiian islands and points in between. Stoddard starts off the book with letters from his kith and kin back home worried that he’ll be miserable on the trip. He’s just the opposite and he promptly “goes native.” In and among his loving descriptions of the native traditions (including hula and luaus) and the gorgeous sunsets, Stoddard also describes the different men in his life.

The ‘Idyls’ range from racy delineations of native types to entertaining descriptions of the curious customs of the peoples among whom he has traveled, with here and there truly poetic pictures of natural scenery. It is difficult to say which of the score of sketches is the best, for each excels in its own way as a specimen of the author’s happy versatility; but ‘A Canoe-Cruise in the Coral Sea’ will fairly represent the delicate charm, spontaneous humor, and vivid interest which pervade the entire series. Scarcely less entertaining are ‘My South-Sea Show,’ and ‘A Prodigal in Tahiti.’

The longest of the sketches, ‘Chumming with a Savage,’ tells the story of a friendship which the author formed with a gentle barbarian, Kána-aná, and the pathetic fate which met him in his yearnings after civilization.–Review for Bartleby’s Books


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