A Foot Note to History: Eight Years of Trouble in Samoa

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Author: Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)

Year: 1892

Publisher: Charles Scribner's Sons

Place: New York


viii+322+[12 ad] pages with map. Small octavo (7 1/2" x 5 1/4") bound in original publisher's green cloth with gilt lettering to spine and cover and black vignette rectangle surrounding lettering to cover. First American edition.

In 1890 Stevenson purchased four hundred acres (about 1.6 square kilometres) of land in Upolu, one of the Samoan islands. Here, after two aborted attempts to visit Scotland, he established himself, after much work, upon his estate, which he named Vailima ("Five Rivers"). Stevenson himself adopted the native name Tusitala. His influence spread to the natives who consulted him for advice, and he soon became involved in local politics. He was convinced the European officials appointed to rule the natives were incompetent, and after many futile attempts to resolve the matter, he published A Footnote to History. This was such a stinging protest against existing conditions that it resulted in the recall of two officials, and Stevenson feared for a time it would result in his own deportation. When things had finally blown over he wrote a friend, "I used to think meanly of the plumber; but now he shines beside the politician."

Fascinating not only as an account of Colonial skulduggery and duplicity but also as a background to Stevenson's great South Seas tales – "The Beach of Falesa" and The Ebb-Tide – this is possibly his most unjustly neglected book. The book covers the period 1882 to 1892 and even-handedly analyses the "elements of discord", both native and foreign, before pitching in to current events. Stevenson arrived in Samoa in 1889, and his on the spot involvement gives the narrative the immediacy of front-line journalism, which is precisely what it is. The events of more than a century ago come alive again from the very first sentence: "The story I have to tell is still going on as I write […. ] it is a piece of contemporary history in the most exact sense." (RLS website)


Soiled, corners bumped and rubbed, spine moderately rubbed. Gilt on spine dulled, page ends soiled, shelf wear else about very good issued without jacket.

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