The Polynesian Journal of Captain Henry Byam Martin, r.n

Peabody Museum of Salem, $16.95. In 1846, Martin, commanding the frigate Grampus (50 guns), was sent on what amounted to a polite spying mission. France and England, not being in the mood to fight each other at the moment, had agreed that neither would annex the Hawaiian Islands. When the French set about to take possession of Tahiti, London was much annoyed and Captain Martin was ordered to go and watch over the proceedings. They were worth watching, involving as they did low comedy in high places, drunken brawls, hula dancers, a fugitive queen, vacillating local chieftains, devious French officials, and meddlesome English missionaries. The captain kept a well-written journal, illustrated with his own lively watercolors, in which he recorded his amused and exasperated observations of an affair that he privately considered pointless. He had already perceived that by immobilizing each other in the area, France and England had thrown it straight to the United States, which “must be at no very distant period the preponderating power in the N. Pacific ...” This clever, versatile officer provides a most engaging historical footnote.