The lure of Henry Neville's short but remarkable work of prose fiction, The Isle of Pines, has been considerable. Published initially as a nine-page pamphlet in June 1668, it presented as authentic the story of a shipwrecked English vessel that ran aground off an unknown island near Madagascar after setting sail in 1569. One man, George Pine (a bookkeeper on a voyage to establish a factory in India), and four women survived—his master's daughter, two serving women, and a “Negro female slave”—by escaping to the uninhabited island and establishing a settlement. The lengthy title page explained that nearly a hundred years later the island had been rediscovered by a Dutch ship blown off course, whose crew was astonished to find ten or twelve thousand inhabitants “speaking good English.” The narrative itself consisted of Pine's first-person account of how the survivors arrived, established themselves, and began to procreate...

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