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Narrations d'Omaï, insulaire de la mer du sud, ami et compagnon de voyage du Capitaine Cook. Ouvrage traduit de l'O-taïtien, par M. K***, & publié par le Capitaine L.A.B
Rouen: Chez de Boucher, 1790. Four volumes, octavo, portrait frontispiece to volume one ("Omaï amené en Angletere par le Capitaine Furneaux"), wood-engraved headpieces; some early jottings on verso of frontispiece and final leaf of volume one, a handsome set in early quarter calf, spines gilt. The Omai fantasy. First edition of this romantic fantasy about Omai, the Tahitian islander brought back to England by Cook. This is, with Elliott's Hildebrand Bowman, one of the two key imaginary voyages which relate specifically to Cook's voyages.Canon Baston (1741-1825) was a native of Rouen who published many works on rather arcane questions of theology, making it all the more surprising that he should be the author of this extraordinary work: an imaginary autobiography of Omai concentrating on the Tahitian's visit to Europe.Omai's visit to Europe was indeed newsworthy: despite Cook's initial objections, Omai was taken on board the Adventure, which returned to Portsmouth in July 1774. Given into the custody of Banks and Solander, Omai was fêted by the English public and widely seen as the embodiment of Rousseauist ideals of the noble savage. The public's fascination was reflected by the huge success of the long-running pantomime Omai: or a Trip Round the World, staged by Loutherbourg and Shield.Baston's long novel purports to be the autobiography of Omai translated from the Tahitian (it includes a four-page glossary of difficult Tahitian terms). Seen by Tarlton and McCormick as Omai's 'supreme literary tribute', the fantasy borrows heavily from the utopian imaginary voyage tradition by depicting Omai as the 'saviour of his people, a leader who on returning from England purges his society of all its evils while he introduces only the benefits of European civilisation' (Auckland City Art Gallery, The Two Worlds of Omai, 1977, p. 14).Unlike his compatriot Diderot, whose writings on Autorou - the Tahitian who returned with Bougainville to France - are marked by bitter regret at the European influence on the Pacific, Baston depicts an idyllic synthesis of Tahitian innate nobility being enhanced and purified by contact with Europe. Tragically, of course, it was Diderot's cynicism which provided a far more accurate appraisal of the coming destruction of Polynesian society, a fact which increases the historical fascination of Baston's portrait of bucolic harmony.
      [Bookseller: Hordern House Rare Books]
Last Found On: 2015-05-21           Check availability:      Biblio    

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