Billeder på siden

space of four years; and, my curiosity being strongly excited, I solicited his acquaintance. In the course of three or four interviews I discovered, with much satisfaction, that the information he was able to communicate respecting the people with whom he had been so long and so intimately associated was very far superior to, and much more extensive than any thing that had yet appeared before the public. His answers to several inquiries, in regard to their religion, government, and habits of life, were given with that kind of unassuming confidence which bespeaks a thorough intimacy with the subject, and carries with it the conviction of truth :-in fact, having been thrown upon those islands at an early age, his young and flexible mind had so accorded itself with the habits and circumstances of the natives, that he evinced no disposition to overrate or to embellish what to him was neither strange nor new. To my inquiries respecting his intentions of publishing, he replied, that having necessarily been, for several years, out of the habit either of

writing or reading, or of that turn of think-, ing requisite for composition and arrangement, he was apprehensive his endeavours would fail in doing that justice to the work which I seemed to think its importance. demanded: he modestly proposed, however, to submit the subject to my consideration for a future opportunity. In the mean while circumstances called him away to the West Indies : on his return he brought me memoranda of the principal events at the Tonga islands, in the order in which they had happened during his residence there, together with a description of the most important religious ceremonies, and a vocabulary of about four or five hundred words. The inspection of these materials served greatly to increase the interest which I had already taken in the matter, and I urged the necessity of committing the whole to paper while every thing remained fresh in his memory. To facilitate this object, I proposed to undertake the composition and arrangement of the intended work, whilst Mr. Mariner should direct his view solely to noting

down all that he had seen and heard in the order in which his memory might spontaneously furnish it, that these materials might afterwards be made, from time to time, subjects of conversation, strict scrutiny, amplification, arrangement and composition; consequently not one of the ensuing pages has been written without Mr. Mariner's

presence, that he might be .consulted in regard to every little circumstance or observation that could in the smallest degree affect the truth of the subject under consideration : and, in this way, it is presumed that a great deal more useful and interesting matter has been elicited than would probably have occurred to him through the medium of his own unassisted reflections; for conversation calls to mind many things that would otherwise have escaped the memory, it constantly demands elucidations; one idea gives birth to another, until the whole subject lies completely unfolded to the mind.

In regard to arrangement: in the first place is related an account of the voyage of the Port au Prince, it being esteemed

sufficiently interesting by involving a combination of untoward circumstances that led ultimately to the destruction of the ship: the whole of this has been faithfully composed from a journal kept by Mr. Mariner on board. Next follows a narrative, or rather, as it may be termed, an historical account, of all the important and interesting events that occurred during his stay at the Tonga Islands, not merely as they regarded himself, but with an aspect to the different changes, religious and political, as they affected, in a most important manner, the situation of public affairs: and that this portion of the work may be better understood, a comparison is drawn between the state of these islands when Mr. Mariner first arrived there, and that in which Captain Cook had previously found them; the revolution of Tonga", and other important and highly interesting events which had taken place in the mean while, being related according to the account of the principal natives of divers

* From the “ Transactions of the Missionary Society," it appears that this event took place in May, 1799.

[ocr errors]

parties, who had been eye-witnesses. The narration of events being brought down to the period of Mr. Mariner's fortunate escape*, the remainder of the work gives a more intimate detail of the state of society in regard to rank and professions; their religious and political government; the names and attributes of their principal gods; their notions of the human soul, and of a future state of existence; an investigation of their moral principles, and of their state of morals; a description of their most important religious ceremonies; an account of the healing art, with a detail of some important surgical operations practised by them; a description of their principal manufactures; their games and amusements; music, songs, &c.; and, lastly, a grammar of their language, and a vocabulary to

* The term escape is here used with propriety, for although Mr. M. was well treated, and had every thing that he could there want, the opportunities of returning home were very rare, and when he was about to profit from one that presented itself, his intention was opposed, and he was under the necessity of destroying one of the natives to accomplish his parpose.

« ForrigeFortsæt »