Rifled Sanctuaries: Some Views of the Pacific Islands in Western Literature to 1900

Bill Pearson

The Pacific Islands began to appear in Western literature soon after European navigators made landfall there. From the first, there was seldom a statement of plain facts. Explorers brought their own viewpoints while editors, poets and novelists went on to interpret and moralise the first accounts. Portraying Pacific peoples as sensual, indolent, childlike and – frequently – wicked, such stories implied the duty of Europeans to rule and of the natives to be grateful. Modified though it sometimes was by the more accepting attitudes of beachcombers, by the exploitative activities of traders, and throgh the romantic eyes of erotic novelists, this conception of Pacific Islanders persisted through the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth.


Bill Pearson (1922–2002) was a fiction writer, essayist and critic. He was the author of the influential essay 'Fretful Sleepers' from 1952 and the novel Coal Flat. Pearson is the subject of Paul Millar's biography No Fretful Sleeper.


March 1984, 215 x 140 mm, 96 pages
Ebbok, $24.99