Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

selves give them, viz. “Tonga,” or, the Tonga Islands *.

As I presume it would be unnecessary to offer any apologies for presenting to the public the following account of a people, of whose government, religion, customs, and language, so little has hitherto been published t, I shall proceed at once to give a simple statement of the circumstances which first gave rise to it, and the authority under which it has been conducted.

In the year 1811 I accidentally heard that Mr. William Mariner, the bearer of a letter from the East Indies to one of my connections in London, had been a resident at the Friendly Islands during the 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 thinking 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 consi-' deration 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

* These islands, therefore, consist of the island of Tonga, which gives name to the whole, the cluster called the Hapai islands, and the island of Vavaoo.

+ The accounts of circumnavigators are imperfect by reason of the shortness of their stay; of these, however, Captain Cook's is the most accurate. The missionaries might have furnished us with more intimate details, but their accounts relate rather to the history of their mission than that of the natives. One of them, an anonymous writer, in a small volume entitled, “ A Four Years Residence at Tongataboo,' gives a very imperfect account of the people, himself being the chief subject of his narrative.

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

memory.

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.

« ForrigeFortsæt »