Sometime in 1891, Robert Louis Stevenson completed a novella-length narrative about the South Pacific called The Beach of Falesa. By this time, the Scottish-born and immensely popular author was living in Samoa, at a far remove from his publishers in London and New York City; an answer to a letter sent by steamer mail took three months to return. As a result, Stevenson delegated loose authority over his manuscripts to several confidants, to speed up both the process of getting into print and the payment of his royalties. But editors on both sides of the Atlantic were perturbed by certain aspects of The Beach. Changes were made by several hands to protect Victorian readers from tropical immoralities. When Stevenson finally saw the serialized version in a London newspaper, he complained of "the slashed and gaping ruins" of what he had written.
A vagabond British trader named Wiltshire tells of being assigned to reopen a defunct post on a remote island. He is befriended at first by a man called Case, who enjoys a trading monopoly. Case persuades the newcomer to take up with Uma, a beautiful, half-naked native girl, and arranges a sham wedding ceremony. Before long, Wiltshire falls in love with his concubine and marries her properly; he also realizes that he and Case are deadly enemies.
The plot resolves itself in an explosive manner worthy of the author of Treasure Island. But this novella was not aimed at children. Wiltshire is an intriguingly flawed hero, blunt of speech, violent in behavior and filled with prejudices against the "kanakas," or natives: "It's easy to find out what kanakas think. Just go back to yourself anyway round from ten to fifteen years old, and there's an average kanaka." By putting such thoughts in such a character, Stevenson subtly questioned the white man's fitness to invade and colonize the Pacific.
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The Beach at Falesa (Art of the Novella series, The)
|The Limited Editions Club 1st Thus Hardcover edition, Date published 1956, Illustrated by Millard Sheets, 113 pages|
|With an Introduction by J.C. Furnas and illustrations by Millard Sheets. Limited to 1500 numbered copies signed by Sheets. Printed by The Ward Ritchie Press in Los Angeles. This edition represents the first printing of story exactly as R.L.S. wrote it.||
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