Abstract For centuries islands have been identified in European discourses as places of simplicity, innocence, peace and abundance. The abiding appeal of islands in general, and St Helena in particular, is one to which academic discourse, too, has not been immune. Representations of the South Atlantic island of St Helena epitomize this employment of Edenic, Arcadian and Picturesque imagery in the textualization of islands in an imperial and colonial context. Although some descriptions of St Helena run counter to prevailing Arcadian ones, they do so largely because they portray the island as a once paradisiacal place now despoiled. This allegorical quality of islands is one which is of considerable normative value, as well of lasting appeal.