The Macksey Journal


The Travels of Hildebrand Bowman (1778) is a satirical travelogue that, despite its debated status as the “first New Zealand novel,” has been forgotten by time until only recently. As a dramatization of Captain James Cook’s second voyage to the Pacific, the work has attracted the interest of modern scholars who regard the Cook expeditions as symbols of progress. Yet the novel’s portrayal of the infamous Grass Cove Incident of 1773 and its contrast of European and indigenous New Zealander violence can be used to complicate the relationship between colonialist thinking and the British imagination that existed in the eighteenth century. By supplementing passages from Hildebrand Bowman with artistic representations of violent encounters on the Cook voyages, this paper establishes the significance of the text within the British myth of glorified imperialist exploration. Furthermore, I analyze the novel’s parody of Age-of-Enlightenment theories of behavior and civilization to highlight the mythmaking involved in the vilification of Pacific Islander hostility to colonization. In its study of The Travels of Hildebrand Bowman as an exemplar of the colonizer’s gaze, this research identifies and confronts the devices of Western propaganda that sought to promote sensationalized portrayals of the violence of Oceanic peoples and erase Pacific Islander narratives of the Cook voyages.