Synopses & Reviews
Written 150 years ago, never published, and presumed lost for nearly a century, Wilkie Collins's earliest novel now appears in print for the first time. Ioláni is a sensational romance--a tale of terror and suspense, bravery and betrayal, set against the lush backdrop of Tahiti. The book's complicated history is worthy of a writer famous for intricate plots hinging on long-kept secrets. Collins wrote the book as a young man in the early 1840s, twenty years before The Moonstone
and The Woman in White
made his name among Victorian novelists. He failed to find a publisher for the work, shelved the manuscript for years, and eventually gave it to an acquaintance. It disappeared into the hands of private collectors and remained there--acquiring mythical status as a lost novel--from the turn of the century until its sudden appearance on the rare book market in New York in 1991. This first edition appears with the permission of the new owners, who keep the mystery alive by remaining anonymous.
The novel is set in Tahiti prior to European contact. It tells the story of the diabolical high priest, Ioláni , and the heroic young woman, Idüa, who bears his child. Determined to defy the Tahitian custom of killing firstborn children, Idüa and her friend Aimáta flee with the baby and take refuge among Ioláni's enemies. The vengeful priest pursues them, setting into motion a plot that features civil war, sorcery, sacrificial rites, wild madmen, treachery, and love. Collins explores themes that he would return to again and again in his career: oppression by sinister, patriarchal figures; the bravery of forceful, unorthodox women; the psychology of the criminal mind; the hypocrisy of moralists; and Victorian ideas of the exotic. As Ira Nadel shows in his introduction, the novel casts new light on Collins's development as a writer and on the creation of his later masterpieces. A sample page from the manuscript appears as the frontispiece to this edition. The publication of Ioláni is a major literary event: a century and half late, Wilkie Collins makes his literary debut.
Originally published in 1999.
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"Wilkie Collins has a particular gift for rendering striking locations and for conveying a strong sense of weather and mood. It is this gift which sets him apart form other sensation novelists of the Victorian period. . . . [He] recreates the lush verdure, mountains, waterfalls and lakes of Tahiti in a strongly romantic style."--Leonée Ormond, Literary Review
"It is dramatic and picturesque. It has the immense merit T.S. Eliot found in his later works, 'of never being dull'. Most significantly, it has a spunky heroine of unconventional morality."--Lynne Truss, The Times (London)
"There are plenty of characteristic Collinsian mysteries. . . . [F]or anyone who enjoys Collins's mature work, it is intriguing to see how many of his later preoccupations appear in Iolani."--Catherine Peters, The Sunday Telegraph
"It is not an exaggeration to claim that the resurfacing of Ioláni, the first stab at fiction by a major Victorian novelist, is a literary event of genuine importance."--Glenn Horowitz, Bookseller, New York.
Table of Contents
Editorial Policy xxxix
Bibliographical Description xli
Note on the Text xliii
Ioláni; or, Tahíti as it was: a Romance 1
BOOK I 3
BOOK II 25
BOOK III 117
List of Variants and Deletions 189
Textual Notes 201
Explanatory Notes 203