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Bad Colonists: The South Seas Letters of Vernon Lee Walker and Louis Becke (review)

Bad Colonists: The South Seas Letters of Vernon Lee Walker and Louis Becke (review) book re v iews 295 Bad Colonists: The South Seas Letters of Vernon Lee Walker and Louis Becke, by Nicholas Thomas and Richard Eves. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1999. i s b n cloth, 0–8223–2257– 9; paper, 0 –8223–2222–6; xxiii + 163 pages, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index. Cloth, us$49.95; paper, us$16.95. It must be made clear at once that the authors intend their title as telling irony. They do not oppose the figures under consideration to hypothetical good colonists; rather, Thomas and Eves use “bad colonists” to describe complex senses of failure and degen- eration as recorded in the letters of two white traders on the “periphery” during the age of high European colo- nialism (1870 –1880s). As they emerge from this volume, Vernon Lee Walker, an obscure trader in New Caledonia and Vanuatu, and Louis Becke, later famous for his “South Seas” stories, were bad at being colonists in every sense: they failed to maintain any colonial sense of purpose, they failed in their commercial endeavors, they failed at fashioning coherent senses of selfhood, and they failed as letter writers. Because Thomas and Eves are pri- marily interested in expressive failure s , Bad Colonists t http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Contemporary Pacific University of Hawai'I Press

Bad Colonists: The South Seas Letters of Vernon Lee Walker and Louis Becke (review)

The Contemporary Pacific , Volume 13 (1) – Jan 1, 2001

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Publisher
University of Hawai'I Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2001 University of Hawai'i Press.
ISSN
1527-9464

Abstract

book re v iews 295 Bad Colonists: The South Seas Letters of Vernon Lee Walker and Louis Becke, by Nicholas Thomas and Richard Eves. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1999. i s b n cloth, 0–8223–2257– 9; paper, 0 –8223–2222–6; xxiii + 163 pages, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index. Cloth, us$49.95; paper, us$16.95. It must be made clear at once that the authors intend their title as telling irony. They do not oppose the figures under consideration to hypothetical good colonists; rather, Thomas and Eves use “bad colonists” to describe complex senses of failure and degen- eration as recorded in the letters of two white traders on the “periphery” during the age of high European colo- nialism (1870 –1880s). As they emerge from this volume, Vernon Lee Walker, an obscure trader in New Caledonia and Vanuatu, and Louis Becke, later famous for his “South Seas” stories, were bad at being colonists in every sense: they failed to maintain any colonial sense of purpose, they failed in their commercial endeavors, they failed at fashioning coherent senses of selfhood, and they failed as letter writers. Because Thomas and Eves are pri- marily interested in expressive failure s , Bad Colonists t

Journal

The Contemporary PacificUniversity of Hawai'I Press

Published: Jan 1, 2001

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