West Indies and The Spanish Main, The ~ Volume 2


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Introduction by Stephen Tumim

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‘On the whole I regard [it] as the best book that has come from my pen. It is short. And, I think I may venture to say, amusing, useful and true … I never made a single note while writing or preparing it.’

With its idiosyncratic array of characters – from the rich Emperor Soulouque, the former monarch of Haiti; a patronising Foreign Office mandarin Sir William Ousely; or Sally, the Guianese chambermaid – why is it that this work has so very rarely been in print? Sir Stephen Tumim is quite sure of the reason: because the book deals so seriously and carefully with the theme of race. Trollope himself saw this as the ‘useful and true’ part of his book. He thought that the future lay in miscegenation, and with those he described as coloured people. ‘Providence has sent white men and black men to those regions in order that from them may spring a race fitted by intellect for civilisation and by physical organisation for tropical labour.’ He looks forward to a time when Britain will not be sending out a white Governor to any of its dependent territories, to ‘support the dignity of Queen Victoria’s great grandchild’s grandchild’, but will instead look to the example of the United States as the ideal model of what one of Great Britain’s former colonies can achieve. He anticipates ‘that happily inevitable day when Australia shall follow in the same path.’ Queen Victoria’s great grandchild’s grandchild is now the Prince of Wales.

This was Trollope’s first travel book, written between January and June 1859. In An Autobiography he writes that he saw it as his task to give ‘to the eye of the reader, and to his ear, that which the eye of the writer has seen and his ear heard’. His experiences in the book were also put to good use in several of his short stories.