mark twain : roughing it, 1872
Mark Twain : Roughing It, 1872.
Twain, Mark (Clements, Samuel): Roughing
American Publishing Company,
Twain visited Hawaii,then the Sandwich Islands, in 1866 as a
reporter for the Sacramento Union, recounting his
Roughing It, based on his
newspaper articles, was written during 1870-1871 and published, with illustrations, in 1872, as a prequel
to his first book The Innocents Abroad (1869).
majority of the illustrations are by True Williams (TW), the principal
illustrator for Innocents Abroad.
Others included Edward F. Mullen (E.F.M.),
Morse Shurtleff (Shurtleff), and Henry Stephens, identified by the engraver's mark Richardson.
Mark Twain's Illustrators
instinct was strong upon me.
favored and I got a new berth and a delightful one. It was to
go down to the Sandwich Islands and write some letters for the
Sacramento Union, an excellent journal and liberal with
We sailed in the propeller Ajax, in the middle of
called it winter, distinctly enough, but the weather was a
compromise between spring and summer.
Six days out
of port (San Francisco), it became summer altogether.
On a certain bright morning the Islands hove in sight, lying
low on the lonely sea, and everybody climbed to the upper deck
thousand miles of watery solitude the vision was a welcome
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.
I saw on the
one side a frame-work of tall, precipitous mountains close at
hand, clad in refreshing green, and cleft by deep, cool,
chasm-like valleys—and in front the grand sweep of the ocean;
a brilliant, transparent green near the shore, bound and
bordered by a long white line of foamy spray dashing against
the reef, and further out the dead blue water of the deep sea,
flecked with "white caps," and in the far horizon a single,
lonely sail—a mere accent-mark to emphasize a slumberous calm
and a solitude that were without sound or limit. When the sun
sunk down—the one intruder from other realms and persistent in
suggestions of them—it was tranced luxury to sit in the
perfumed air and forget that there was any world but these
to Diamond Head and the King's Coacoanut Grove was planned
to-day—time, 4:30 P.M.—the party to consist of half a dozen
gentlemen and three ladies.
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
collossal ragged parasols, with bunches of magnified grapes
under them, would be.
About a dozen
cottages, some frame and the others of native grass, nestled
sleepily in the shade here and there.
cabins are of a grayish color, are shaped much like our own
cottages, only with higher and steeper roofs usually, and are
made of some kind of weed strongly bound together in bundles.
The roofs are
very thick, and so are the walls; the latter have square holes
in them for windows.
At a little
distance these cabins have a furry appearance, as if they
might be made of bear skins.
They are very
cool and pleasant inside.
flag was flying from the roof of one of the cottages, and His
Majesty was probably within.
He owns the
whole concern thereabouts, and passes his time there
frequently, on sultry days "laying off."
The spot is
called "The King's Grove."
Hawaii (a hundred and fifty miles distant,) to visit the great
volcano and behold the other notable things which distinguish
that island above the remainder of the group, we sailed from
Honolulu on a certain Saturday afternoon, in the good schooner
By and by we
took boat and went ashore at Kailua, designing to ride
horseback through the pleasant orange and coffee region of
Kona, and rejoin the vessel at a point some leagues distant.
o'clock in the afternoon we were winding down a mountain of
dreary and desolate lava to the sea, and closing our pleasant
This lava is
the accumulation of ages; one torrent of fire after another
has rolled down here in old times, and built up the island
structure higher and higher.
is honey-combed with caves; it would be of no use to dig wells
in such a place; they would not hold water—you would not find
any for them to hold, for that matter.
Consequently, the planters depend upon cisterns.
midnight a fine breeze sprang up and the schooner soon worked
herself into the bay and cast anchor. The boat came ashore for
us, and in a little while the clouds and the rain were all
gone. The moon was beaming tranquilly down on land and sea,
and we two were stretched upon the deck sleeping the
refreshing sleep and dreaming the happy dreams that are only
vouchsafed to the weary and the innocent.
True Williams: On Guard.
At noon I observed a bevy of nude native
young ladies bathing in the sea, and went and sat down on
their clothes to keep them from being stolen.
I begged them
to come out, for the sea was rising and I was satisfied that
they were running some risk.
But they were
not afraid, and presently went on with their sport. T
finished swimmers and divers, and enjoyed themselves to the
They swam races, splashed and ducked and tumbled each other
about, and filled the air with their laughter.
It is said
that the first thing an Islander learns is how to swim;
learning to walk being a matter of smaller consequence, comes
tales of native men and women swimming ashore from vessels
many miles at sea—more miles, indeed, than I dare vouch for or
And they tell
of a native diver who went down in thirty or forty-foot waters
and brought up an anvil!
I think he
swallowed the anvil afterward, if my memory serves me.
However I will
not urge this point.
At noon, we
hired a Kanaka to take us down to the ancient ruins at
Honaunan in his canoe—price two dollars—reasonable enough, for
a sea voyage of eight miles, counting both ways.
The native canoe is an irresponsible looking contrivance. I
cannot think of anything to liken it to but a boy's sled
runner hollowed out, and that does not quite convey the
It is about
fifteen feet long, high and pointed at both ends, is a foot
and a half or two feet deep, and so narrow that if you wedged
a fat man into it you might not get him out again. It sits on
top of the water like a duck, but it has an outrigger and does
not upset easily, if you keep still.
is formed of two long bent sticks like plow handles, which
project from one side, and to their outer ends is bound a
curved beam composed of an extremely light wood, which skims
along the surface of the water and thus saves you from an
upset on that side, while the outrigger's weight is not so
easily lifted as to make an upset on the other side a thing to
be greatly feared. Still, until one gets used to sitting
perched upon this knifeblade, he is apt to reason within
himself that it would be more comfortable if there were just
an outrigger or so on the other side also.
I had the bow
seat, and Billings sat amidships and faced the Kanaka, who
occupied the stern of the craft and did the paddling. With the
first stroke the trim shell of a thing shot out from the shore
like an arrow.
There was not
much to see.
While we were
on the shallow water of the reef, it was pastime to look down
into the limpid depths at the large bunches of branching
coral—the unique shrubbery of the sea.
We lost that,
though, when we got out into the dead blue water of the deep.
But we had the
picture of the surf, then, dashing angrily against the crag-
bound shore and sending a foaming spray high into the air.
interest in this beetling border, too, for it was honey-combed
with quaint caves and arches and tunnels, and had a rude
semblance of the dilapidated architecture of ruined keeps and
castles rising out of the restless sea.
novelty ceased to be a novelty, we turned our eyes shoreward
and gazed at the long mountain with its rich green forests
stretching up into the curtaining clouds, and at the specks of
houses in the rearward distance and the diminished schooner
riding sleepily at anchor.
And when these
grew tiresome we dashed boldly into the midst of a school of
huge, beastly porpoises engaged at their eternal game of
arching over a wave and disappearing, and then doing it over
again and keeping it up—always circling over, in that way,
like so many well- submerged wheels.
porpoises wheeled themselves away, and then we were thrown
upon our own resources.
It did not
take many minutes to discover that the sun was blazing like a
bonfire, and that the weather was of a melting temperature.
It had a drowsing effect, too.
Mullen: [Surf-Bathing- Success]
Hawaii, July 1866]
In one place we came upon a large company of naked natives, of
both sexes and all ages, amusing themselves with the national
pastime of surf-bathing.
would paddle three or four hundred yards out to sea, (taking a
short board with him), then face the shore and wait for a
particularly prodigious billow to come along; at the right
moment he would fling his board upon its foamy crest and
himself upon the board, and here he would come whizzing by
like a bombshell!
It did not
seem that a lightning express train could shoot along at a
more hair-lifting speed.
surf-bathing 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
natives ever master the art of surf-bathing thoroughly.
Mullen: Surf-Bathing- Failure
overflows its vast crater, but bursts a passage for its lava
through the mountain side when relief is necessary, and then
the destruction is fearful. About 1840 it rent its
overburdened stomach and sent a broad river of fire careering
down to the sea, which swept away forests, huts, plantations
and every thing else that lay in its path.
killed for twenty miles along the shore, where the lava
entered the sea.
earthquakes caused some loss of human life, and a prodigious
tidal wave swept inland, carrying every thing before it and
drowning a number of natives.
devastation consummated along the route traversed by the river
of lava was complete and incalculable.
Only a Pompeii
and a Herculaneum were needed at the foot of Kilauea to make
the story of the irruption immortal.
Mullen: A Tidal Wave
After half a
year's luxurious vagrancy in the islands, I took shipping in a
sailing vessel, and regretfully returned to San Francisco—a
voyage in every way delightful, but without an incident:
unless lying two long weeks in a dead calm, eighteen hundred
miles from the nearest land, may rank as an incident.
whales grew so tame that day after day they played about the
ship among the porpoises and the sharks without the least
apparent fear of us, and we pelted them with empty bottles for
lack of better sport.
American Publishing Company,
Excepts from Roughing It,
including the account of surfing at
Waikiki and the illustrations, were reprinted in The
Volume 1 Number August 1878.
Geoff Cater (2012-2017) :
Mark Twain : Roughing It, 1872.