Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

are never married. This calculation is made with due reference to the women living on the plantations, who are almost all married to the tooas, who till the ground, and remain constantly so; the unmarried women, therefore, live principally at the mooa, or place where the chiefs, matabooles, &e. dwell, and are attendants upon them or their wives. Girls that are too young to be marriageable are not taken into account. Having thus ascertained, as nearly as possible, the proportion of married women, we shall make an inquiry how far it may reasonably be supposed they are entitled to the reputation of fidelity. During the whole of Mr Mariner's four years residence at one or other of these islands, he had frequent opportunities of intimacy with the wives of chiefs; for being a foreigner, and a white man, he was free from a great many restrictions to which the natives are subject. For instance, whenever he pleased he could go into the houses of Finow's wives, or of the wives of other chiefs, and converse freely with them as long as he chose, which was a liberty that no male native could take except the husband, relations, or the cooks that carried in the victuals; and from habit, they became so much accustomed to his company and conversation, as to think very little more of his presence than one of their own sex. Consequently he had every favourable opportunity of becoming acquainted with their habits and sentiments, particularly as one of the old king's wives, his adopted mother, was a woman of very good sense and unaffected manners, and freely discoursed with him upon all points that related to her happiness, to that of her female acquaintance, or to the condition of the women in general. Besides which, it must be recollected, that Mr Mariner, being upon the greatest intimacy with the principal chiefs, was acquainted with most of their intrigues, which they did not scruple to relate to him, both on account of the confidence they had in him, and his being a foreigner. * With such opportunities of knowing the habits of the natives, relative to the subject in question, Mr Mariner is decidedly of opinion that infidelity among the married women is comparatively very rare.

He only recollects three successful instances of planned intrigue during the whole of his time; one at the Hapai Islands, on the part of Voogi (the young chief mentioned on the occasion of the old king's death), who was considered the handsomest man at the Tonga Islands ; and two on the part of the present king, whose high rank and authority must on the one hand render his attentions flattering to the women, whilst on the other it may be supposed to excite a little apprehension of the consequences of a refusal.

A fourth instance may perhaps be added, on the part of the late king, with respect to Foonagi, the wife of Tymomangnoongoo, but this is only upon suspicion. Several other instances probably were at different isl. ands. Where it does happen, it must be with the connivance of their female attendants and servants, who always attend them abroad, not as spies over their conduct, but as companions, it not being thought decorous, particularly for the wife of a

This seems an odd reason for placing confidence in such matters; but it arises from this circumstance, that, being a foreigner, he was not supposed to take that interest in their concerns which might lead a native to thwart any ronduct which he did not happen to approve of.

chief, to walk out by herself. Besides this restriction upon the conduct of married women, there is one still greater, viz. the fear of discovery, which must operate very strongly on the part of the wives of chiefs, in whom death might be the speedy reward of infidelity. As to those of lower rank, they might at least expect a severe beating, and the offender himself come off as badly, if not worse ; but, independent of these restrictions, Mr Mariner is of opinion that the women are disposed to be faithful to their husbands, who are their acknowledged superiors, guardians, and protectors; and most of them, he firmly believes, much attached to them, judging from their conduct when they become widows. Witness the behaviour of Toobo Nuha's widows, and those of the late king. Mafi Habe, Mr Mariner's adopted mother, did not, after the king died, marry another, or admit a lover; although Voogi, who was considered the handsomest, and one of the most agreeable men in all the Tonga Islands, became passionately in love with her, and would have paid his addresses with the greatest fervour and perseverance, if she had allowed him opportunities. ·At this time she was at the Hapai Islands, residing with her father, about eight months after her husband's death ; though she might have married again, without any impropriety, two months afterwards, or allowed of an amour without any reproach. With respect to the wives of the lower ranks in society, they are oftener to be met with alone, and on such occasions sometimes consent to the solicitations of chiefs whom they may happen to meet, not, as Mr Mariner thinks, from an abandoned principle, or want of affection to their

a

husbands, but from a fear of incurving the resentment of their superiors.

From the above investigation, we think it would be but giving a fair opinion of the reputation of the married women to say, that they are not only circumspect in conduct, but chaste in principle; and when we consider that the married women form about two-thirds of the female population that are marriageable, it gives us no mean opinion of their moral reputation. When a man divorces his wife, which is attended with no other ceremony than just telling her she may go, she becomes perfect mistress of her own conduct, and may marry again, which is often done a few days afterwards, without the least disparagement to her character. If she remain single, she may admit lover occasionally, or cohabit with her lover, and remain at his house without being considered his wife, having no particular charge of his domestic concerns, and may leave him when she pleases, without the least reproach or the least secrecy. From this circumstance we may draw an argument in favour of the chastity of the women generally, for if they were of a different character, it is natural to suppose that very few would marry, except those who, when very young, were betrothed to chiefs, and consequently married independently of their consent: But we find that three times that number are actually married; and as many are married three, four, or fives times, it cannot be from an uncbaste, libertine, or wandering disposition on the part of the women, seeing that, when once divorced, they may remain single if they please, and enjoy all the liberty that the most libertine heart can desire. If now it be asked, “ Why then do they marry ?” The answer is, for love of one object, with the idea that the object of their affections will always make them happy; and if they are disappointed in one instance, they are willing to try it in a second, a third, &c. In short, it would appear that the force of sentimental affection blinds them to the probability of a disappointment, and they willingly make a generous sacrifice of their liberty to prove the strength of their attachment. * As to those women who are not actually married, they may bestow their favours upon whomsoever they please, without any opprobrium. It must not, however, be supposed, that these women are always easily won; the greatest attentions and most fervent solicitations are sometimes requisite, even though there be no other lover in the way. This happens sometimes from a spirit of coquetry, at other times from a dislike to the party, &c. It is thought shameful for a woman frequently to change her lover. Great presents are by no means certain methods of gaining her favours, and consequently they are more frequently made afterwards than before. Gross prostitution is not known among them.

With regard to the habits of the men in this respect, it must, in the first place, be observed, that no man in the Tonga Islands is understood to be bound to conjugal fidelity. It is no reproach to him to intermix his amours, though, if a married man does so to excess, it is thought inconsistent. Notwithstanding this liberty of conduct, however, most of the married men are tolerably

* The position, that every woman is at heart a rake, does not appear to hold true in the Tonga Islands.

« ForrigeFortsæt »