- Marcel Monnier’s Portrayal of Hawaiians in Un printemps sur le Pacifique
The travelogue Un printemps sur le Pacifique relates a voyage to the Hawaiian Islands undertaken in 1884 by French globetrotter Marcel Monnier (1853–1918), who would later publish accounts of his voyages to South America, Africa, and Asia.1 The 269-page book, published by Plon in 1885, consists of sixteen chapters that cover the author’s time on O‘ahu and on Hawai‘i Island in an approximately even split, accompanied by sixteen woodcuts by Ernest Martin-Chablis and a special map of the regions visited. Narrated in the first person, like all good travelogues, the text claims to be a true account of the author’s adventures, although he also inserts some items of a different nature: two recipes, for example, and a legend (that of Kaala, the “Flower of Lanai”, which he claims to have translated faithfully from an English transcription of an oral performance). A second edition of the book, published in 1888, is identical to the first edition except for a four-page note appended to the text, dated November 1887, in which the author takes advantage of an unexpected layover in Honolulu [End Page 75] to comment on the “progressive transformations of political and social life under the influence of the White race,”2 briefly discussing the labor situation and the Bayonet Constitution and reiterating the strategic importance of Hawai‘i’s location at the halfway point between America and Asia.3 The book has not been reissued since 1888 and there is no evidence that it was ever translated into any other language. This article, which is part of a larger research project on Hawai‘i and Hawaiians in nineteenth-century French literature, will look at the way Monnier portrays Hawaiians in his text.
In the first chapter of the book, the narrator explains how he decided to take a trip to Hawai‘i: while touring California, he and his companion had often considered visiting one of the Pacific archipelagos. Stuck in San Francisco during the winter, unable to venture very far from the city due to bad weather conditions, they found themselves at the house of an unnamed friend who had recently made the trip to Hawai‘i, who
would not stop talking about the incomparable vegetation of the islands, about the strangeness of the jolly and childlike population clad in flowers and foliage. And as he evokes the splendors of Polynesia, the rain beats against the windowpanes, a shrill wind howls on the street-corners, and at our feet, on Sutter Street, passersby quicken their steps under the downpour, ducking their heads with an air of gloomy resignation. Well, then, all right, let’s go to Oceania; it’s so close!”4
And so they embarked on a month-long trip to the Hawaiian Islands that would take them to various locations on O‘ahu, including Honolulu Harbor, Chinatown, Punchbowl Crater, Nu‘uanu Pali, Waikīkī, ‘Iolani Palace, Saint Louis and Punahou Schools, Waimānalo, Mauna ‘Ala, Queen Emma Summer Palace, and Ah Fong’s Garden. (At least, all these locations are featured in the book; it is possible that the author and his companion did not visit them all, but rather, included hearsay descriptions of some of them.) After visiting O‘ahu, they boarded the steamer Kinau, whose route took them past Moloka‘i, where they stopped at the Kalawao settlement, and then past Maui, where they visited Lāhainā, Mā‘alaea, and Makawao, where they trekked up Haleakalā. Their first port of call on Hawai‘i Island was at Kawaihae, where the narrator describes “a curious vestige of pagan times,”5 a heiau (possibly Pu‘ukoholā) located nearby; they visited [End Page 76] Kealakekua, then returned to Kawaihae and continued around the Kohala Coast and down the Hāmākua Coast to Hilo Bay. After visiting Hilo town and Waiānuenue Falls, they trekked to Kīlauea, then returned via Waipi‘o Valley and Waimea to catch the steamer back to O‘ahu. There, they attended the opening of the legislature and spent their final evening at the French Consulate on Beretania Street...