Thursday, April 16, 2009

Tittle-tattle and Mischief Making

The Conversion of Ka‘ahumanu depicts contact between missionaries and Native Hawaiians through the stories of five women. Although men are frequently discussed, their point of view does not drive the narrative. The audience is privy to how the women regarded each other, but not to what their male contemporaries thought of them. In Act I, Scene 4, Hannah chides fellow Hawaiian Pali for gossiping. “You’re nothing but a chicken,” she says, “clucking gossip all over the village.” Although the missionaries Sybil and Lucy are at times outspoken, their characters appear more reserved than those of the Hawaiian women. Yet, the play might sound a lot different if male characters appeared onstage. The following quote is an excerpt from U.S. Commissioner to the Hawaiian Kingdom David Lawrence Gregg’s diaries. Gregg suggests, nearly forty years after the initial voyage to the Sandwich Islands, that the missionaries were the worst gossips:

“Thus it is always with Honolulu society. It is full of jealousies and scandals. No one can live in it without subjecting his character to the severest test. The Missionaries are the worst gossips and the most inveterate scandal-mongers. Their wives and daughters are far beyond anything St. Paul ever condemned in the way of tittle-tattle and mischief making.” (1858)

Text courtesy of the Hawaiian Historical Society from The Diaries of David Lawrence Gregg: An American Diplomat in Hawaii, 1853-1858, edited by Pauline King (Honolulu: Hawaiian Historical Society, 1982).


  1. Hello, I'm from Kamchatka, Russia. I searched for some pages of that book, The Diaries of David Lawrence Gregg, and found your blog. The book is so rare, and it wasn't published in Russia. Do you have it? Can I ask you to copy some pages? I really need a excerpt regarding Summer 1854, about visit to Honolulu by English-French squadron, admirals Febvrier des Pointes and David Price. Please, if it doesn't bother you much, could you make a copy of that chapter and send it to me. Would be greatly appreciated. Pavel Kalmykov, children writer.

  2. Thanks, Vince, sorry for the trouble, I got Gregg's chapter from another source. Regards! Pavel Kalmykov.
    If you can, wouldn't you delete my last message to protect the address?