Where Our Hearts Still Lie A Life of Harry and Honor Maude in the Pacific|
Robert Louis Stevenson’s stories of his travels in the South Seas have
inspired countless readers to follow in his footsteps and experience for themselves the seductive
beauty of the Pacific Islands and their peoples. One of those readers was the twelve-year-old
Harry Maude, adapting painfully to lonely boarding-school life in England after a childhood
spent within a large household in the heat and noise of India. He in turn would arouse the
enthusiasm of the young Honor King who, like Stevenson, was troubled by respiratory
problems after a childhood spend in Edinburgh, and in search of a kinder climate and
persuade her to join him.
So in 1929 the newly wedded Harry and Honor Maude set off for the Pacific, with little
more than a yearning for a life together, free from the constraints and prejudices of England,
in Stevenson’s innocent isles. They found their youthful dreams more than fulfilled, not in
lush Tahiti or Samoa, but in the remote and little-known coral atolls of the Gilbert Islands,
‘where every day was to prove a fresh and joyous adventure of living’. Unlike Stevenson, the
Maudes would not end their days in the islands, and no memorial stands to their lives there.
Dietary deprivations, long periods of separation, war, philosophical and strategic differences
with service colleagues, financial security considerations, and the uncertainties engendered by
a changing economic and political climate were ultimately to take their toll. Yet the islands
where they spent twenty years were always to be as Honor wrote from unhappy exile in
Zanzibar in 1936 where our hearts still lie, and they would spend the rest of their long lives
researching and writing about them.
This story of their lives was begun when the Maudes realised they had left it too late to write
their autobiography. Harry’s failing eyesight and Honor’s increasing frailty as they reached
their nineties precluding further research and writing. In 1995, I had prepared an exhibition
and brief publication about the life and work of the Maudes, to commemorate the gift of
their papers to the Barr Smith Library at the University of Adelaide, which had previously
acquired their extensive Pacific library. With their support, that brief publication has been
extended to a fuller account.
While independently researched, this ‘life’ is based largely on the Maudes’ extensive
collection of personal papers, supplemented by interviews and by additional notes dictated by
them between 1996 and 1998. The periods and incidents given emphasis are those they chose
to observe, record and recall: the Maudes are the principal source of and commentators upon
the matters presented. The personal characteristics, childhood and educational experiences,
social background, class status and political leanings that may have motivated their choices in
life, and their reactions to the challenges of authority, isolation, cultural contacts, friendships,
conflicts and losses, failures and achievements, are depicted in the text without overt
mediation or interpretation. Readers may use the account to make their own judgements
and conclusions, or perhaps to write their own stories or interpretations. This karaki
is for Honor and Harry.
Portrait; softcover; c. 350 pages
204 x 135 mm