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Pauahi’s Letters, Papers, and Diaries

Compositions written by Bernice Pauahi Bishop.
Bishop Museum Archives, MS MC Pauahi, Box 1.3

“On Writing” — March 23, 1850

In choosing this for a subject, I do not mean the art of chirography, but the expression of ideas in a permanent form —

“For to write is to speak beyond hearing, and none stand by to explain.”

Writing — “fixes, expounds, and disseminates sentiments; Chains up a thought, clears it of mystery, and sends it bright into the world.” “No talent among men” (says a favorite author of mine) “hath more scholars and fewer masters:” To be able to write our thoughts with ease, and elegance, is a desirable accomplishment. A talent for writing, or rather, a fondness for it is one of nature’s best endowments.  To learn to write, we should write often and accustom ourselves to express our ideas in the best manner. Some recommend for this purpose to keep a journal, and to write down events that come under our observation. We should also write to remember; and fasten facts in the mind. How often have I sat down to write but could find no thoughts in my brains, but it is said that — 

“The commonest mind is full of thoughts; some worthy of the rarest; and could it see them fairly writ, would wonder at its wealth.” To learn how to express our thoughts then is a very desirable thing.

It is also a pleasure to write…

“Perseverance” — date unknown
(excerpt from a writing assignment completed while attending the Royal Children’s School)

By perseverance we mean, the exertions we make to accomplish things, which are once begun. It is a trait of character which we ought to cultivate, if we wish to overcome difficulties that come in our way. We cannot expect success to attend our efforts even if our plans are well laid, without perseverance. Every day observation shows the truth of this assertion. We see it illustrated by our friends and acquaintances and perhaps [there is no other] place to learn its worth than in the school room. Look at that young lady commencing a difficult piece of drawing, what one thing is more necessary to her success than patient perseverance? A composition is commenced, do we not often fail from not persevering to write and finish the subject on which we first commence than for any other cause? A difficult question in mathematics is to be solved – how often do those scholars feel the pleasure of solving their own question, who soon give up with the phrase ‘I cannot do it’? It is clear that ignorance would be the consequence, if uninfluenced by this trait and therefore how exceedingly necessary to our happiness, as well as to our usefulness in life to improve in this good quality...

“Our Native Land" — written sometime between 1843 and 1849

The people of Iceland have a saying that “Iceland is the best land on which the sun ever shines.” If the inhabitants of such a cold and cheerless region think their land the best on the earth, how much more reason have those born in these beautiful Islands to love their native country and to consider it as preferable to all others. If I had ever had an introduction to the Muses, I would importune them to assist me just once, that I might in flowing numbers sing my country’s praise — but alas! They are strangers to me — and I should in vain solicit their aid. I must be content with prose and that of the plainest kind — for I am writing in a foreign tongue. 

We do indeed feel attached to our own lovely Island home, notwithstanding she is called “a heathen country.” We are proud of her romantic scenery, her mountains and valleys, and every thing with which nature has decorated her — Where is there a more romantic and attractive spot than that wonder of the world — Kilauea?

What country can rival ours in beauty, even foreigners themselves being judges? Let the Americans boast of their splendid forests, their extensive prairies, their Niagara falls, their majestic rivers, their wide spread lakes — but have we not beautiful scenery surpassing theirs? But when American travelers visit these shores do they not find wonders here to feast themselves with which they do not else where?  

The climate here is also delightful. Snow storms, hurricanes, and cold piercing winds common in cold countries are unknown here. Neither are we subject to excessive heat — such as is experienced in hot climates. Even in the Northern part of the United States the thermometer is known to rise higher than it does here. How often do we hear those from bleak New England speak of the miry streets, of the weeks when the sun could not be seen — of the aching fingers and frozen toes?

I saw a letter recently from a young lady in Massachusetts who said, in speaking of the weather, that when she dated her letter “the fair day” it was not necessary to mention the day of the month. The fair days being so scarce that there was no chance of a mistake. It is doubtless our lovely climate that brings back to us so many of our dear friends.  

Years pass away in these sunny Isles and they forget the rigors of the climate where they spent their younger days. On returning to it they feel that they cannot endure it and wish themselves again at the Sandwich Islands.


Bishop Museum Archives, MS MC Pauahi, Box 2.12

Letter to an Unknown Recipient

I am fully convinced that I will never forget the sentiments of pure friendship that your surpassing qualities have inspired me with, in consequence of obeying sacred duties which oblige me to separate from you and perhaps forever, my pain and sorrow augment in proportion as I count you and always will count you among the beings most beloved of my heart, and most worthy of an eternal affection.  

I must depart, yes, but altho’ separated and at great distance—I will have you continually in my thoughts, and even before my eyes, by one of the blessings of Heaven to sensitive and sympathizing souls, remembering you I will remember your virtues and will be better.

          Farewell, beloved beings, my heart supremely affected at leaving you, directs its most tender and humble prayers to heaven for your temporal and eternal happiness and that of those to whom you owe so much, more than life itself, in my manner of thinking, a religious, refined education and the sentiments and principles of which are founded your future destiny and that of many others.

Oh! That heaven would permit your true and faithful friend to meet you again and find you happy.

Do not forget a sincere friend who loved you so much.

“Allegory: A Continuous Metaphor” — date unknown

The wide fields of literature may yet be spread open… Kind Porters stand at the entrances. They have already opened the gates and are ready to assist those up the steps who are desirous to enter those delightful lands. If the famished minds without only knew what pleasures were waiting for them how would they hasten to accept the proffered aid, ascend the steps, and fill themselves at the mental feast prepared for them.