A republican’s criticism of patriarchal rule in Henry Neville’s The Isle of Pines

Helvio Moraes


Henry Neville took an active part in the heated political debates of the period that comprehends the interregnum and the Restoration. During these years, he published a series of pamphlets, from which The Isle of Pines (1668) is an example. The text is fundamentally a sarcastic criticism on the principles of patriarchal government, maybe as a response to a work that, during the Restoration, was seen as the official doctrine of monarchical power: Robert Filmer’s Patriarcha, or the Natural Power of Kings. The Isle of Pines is composed by epistolary testimonies which relate the establishment of an English colony in a paradisiac island in the Indic Ocean, whose population descends from the only survivor of the wreck of a ship that was heading to the Indies, George Pine, and his four women. Power is centred in the figure of the patriarch, who determines certain primary social rules, based on quite superficial readings of the Bible. As time passes, this rudimentary form of government enters a crisis and is on the verge of collapse when the island is rediscovered by a crew of Ducth sailors.

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