Island-India

Island-India

Island-India

Island-India

Excerpt

The public is aware that publishers do not invite introductions from persons unsympathetic with the author, and I will admit at once that I received a quite singular pleasure when The Hunter, one of the sketches in this volume, was printed some years ago in the Yale Review, and that I heard with enthusiasm of the intention of the Yale University Press to lure Miss de Wit on to write of her native islands until there should be enough material for a book. With the understanding then that I am here to praise my author, and not, if I can help it, to bury her, let me try to say why I enjoy her so much.

As far as my knowledge of literature goes these sketches are something absolutely new. Of course the islands of the Southern Pacific happen to be a theme of the hour, but it would be absurd to compare the cheerful journalism of (for instance) O'Brien's books with the deep knowledge and amazing technique of Miss de Wit. Far to the westward of O'Brien's haunts loom the great islands of the Indies, set in their shallow seas where Conrad's ships go to and fro. By way of equipment for her task Miss de Wit went so far as to be born in the islands, where her father was Resident first of the Western Coast of Sumatra and later of Timor. Readers of Conrad will remember that it was in a port of Timor that poor Morrison's brig was seized by the authorities and saved by Heyst; I feel it due to the memory of Resident de Wit to remark that Timor is half Portuguese, and that it was in the Portuguese harbor of Deli that this scandalous abuse of power occurred.

Miss de Wit received her education in Europe, returning more than once to the islands, and years later, after her family had come to Holland to live, she spent three years in travel in the Indies, visiting all the greater islands--Java, Bali, Sumatra, Borneo, Celebes, the Moluccas, Timor, the Lesser Sundas, New Guinea--and many of the smaller ones. These lands are all held by Conrad, in fealty to Apollo. What foothold has he left for other explorers?

But Conrad himself does not give us the island people on their mer-

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