An Account of the Voyages undertaken by the order of His Present Majesty, for making Discoveries in the Southern Hemisphere, and successively performed by Commodore Byron, Captain Wallis, Captain Carteret, and Captain Cook, in the Dolphin, the Swallow, and the Endeavour: Drawn from the Journals which were kept by the several Commanders, and from the Papers of Joseph Banks, Esq. [Vol. II]
A particular Description of the Island; its Produce and Inbabitants; their Dress, Habitations, Food, domestic Life and Amusements.
We found the longitude of Port-Royal Bay, in this island, as settled by Captain Wallis, who discovered it on the 9th of June 1767, to be within half a degree of the truth. We found Point Venus, the northern extremity of the island, and the eastern point of the bay, to lie in the longitude of 149° 30, this being the mean result of a great number of observations made upon the spot. The island is surrounded by a reef of coral rock, which forms several excellent bays and harbours, some of which have been particularly described, where there is room and depth of water for any number of the largest ships. Port-Royal Bay, called by the natives Matavi, which is not inferior to any in Otaheite, may easily be known by a very high mountain in the middle of the island, which bears due south from Point Venus. To sail into it, either keep the west point of the reef that lies before Point Venus, close on board, or give it a birth of near half a mile, in order to avoid a small shoal of coral rocks, on which there is but two fathom and a half of water. The best anchoring is on the page 36 eastern side of the bay, where there is sixteen and fourteen fathom upon an oozy bottom. The shore of the bay is a fine sandy beach, behind which runs a river of fresh water, so that any number of ships may water here without incommoding each other; but the only wood, for firing, upon the whole island, is that of fruit trees, which must be purchased of the natives, or all hope of living upon good terms with them given up. There are some harbours to the westward of this bay, which have not been mentioned, but, as they are consiguous to it, a description of them is unnecessary.
The face of the country, except that part of it which borders upon the sea, is very uneven; it rises in ridges that run up into the middle of the island, and there form mountains, which may be seen at the distance of sixty miles: between the foot of these ridges and the sea is a border of low land, surrounding the whole island, except in a few places where the ridges rise directly from the sea; the border of low land is in different parts of different breadths, but no where more than a mile and a half. The soil, except upon the very tops of the ridges, is extremely rich and fertile, watered by a great number of rivulets of excellent water, and covered with fruit-trees of various kinds, some of which are of a stately growth and thick foliage, so as to form one continued wood; and even the tops of the ridges, though in general they are bare, and burned up by the sun, are, in some parts, not without their produce.
The low land that lies between the foot of the ridges and the sea, and some of the vallies, are the only parts of the island that are inhabited, and here it is populous: the houses do not form villages or towns, but are ranged along the whole border at the distance of about fifty yards from each other, with little plantations of plantains, the tree which furnishes them with cloth. The whole island, according to Tupia's account, who certainly knew, could furnish six thousand seven hundred and eighty fighting men, from which the number of inhabitants may easily be computed.
The produce of this island is bread-fruit, cocoanuts, bananas, of thirteen sorts, the best we had ever page 37 eaten; plantains; a fruit not unlike an apple, which, when ripe, is very pleasant; sweet potatoes, yams, cocoas, a kind of Arum; a fruit known here by the name of Jambu, and reckoned most delicious; sugar-cane, which the inhabitants eat raw; a root of the Salop kind, called by the inhabitants Pea; a plant called Ethee, of which the root only is eaten; a fruit that grows in a pod, like that of a large kidney-bean, which, when it is roasted, eats very much like a chesnut, by the natives called Ahee; a tree called Wharra, called in the East-Indies Pandanes, which produces fruit, something like the pine-apple; a shrub called Nono; the Morinda, which also produces fruit; a species of fern, of which the root is eaten, and sometimes the leaves; and a plant called Theve, of which the root also is eaten; but the fruits of the Nono, the fern, and the Theve, are only eaten by the inferior people, and in times of scarcity. All these, which serve the inhabitants for food, the earth produces spontaneously, or with so little culture that they seem to be exempted from the first general curse, that “man should eat his bread in “the sweat of his brow.” They have also the Chinese paper mulberry, morus papyrifera, which they call Aouta; a tree resembling the wild fig-tree of the West Indies; another species of fig, which they call Matte; the cordia sebestina orientalis, which they call Etou; a kind of Cyprus grass, which they call Moo; a species of tournefortia, which they call Taheinoo; another of the convolvulus poluce, which they call Eurhe; the solanum centisolium, which they call Ebooa; the calophyllum mophylum, which they call Tamannu; the hibiscus tiliaceus, called Poerou, a frutescent nettle; the urtica argentea, called Erowa; with many other plants, which cannot here be particularly mentioned; those that have been named already, will be referred to in the subsequent part of this work.
They have no European fruit, garden-stuff, pulse, or legumes, nor grain of any kind.
Of tame animals they have only hogs, dogs, and poultry; neither is there a wild animal in the island, except ducks, pigeons, paroquets, with a few other birds, and rats, there being, no other quadruped, nor page 38 any serpent. But the sea supplies them with great variety of most excellent fish, to eat which is their chief luxury, and to catch it their principal labour.
As to the people, they are of the largest size of Europeans. The men are tall, strong, well-limbed, and finely shaped. The tallest that we saw was a man upon a neighbouring island, called Huaheine, who measured six feet three inches and an half. The women of the superior rank are also in general above our middle stature, but those of the inferior class are rather below it, and some of them are very small. This defect in size probably proceeds from their early commerce with men, the only thing in which they differ from their superiors, that could, possibly affect their growth.
Their natural complexion is that kind of clear olive, or Brunette, which many people in Europe prefer to the finest white and red. In those that are exposed to the wind and sun, it is considerably deepened, but in others that live under shelter, especially the superior class of women, it continues of its native hue, and the skin is most delicately smooth and soft; they have no tint in their cheeks, which we distinguish by the name of colour. The shape of the face is comely, the cheek, bones are not high, neither are the eyes hollow, nor the brow prominent; the only feature that does not correspond with our ideas of beauty is the nose, which, in general, is somewhat flat; but their eyes, especially those of the women, are full of expression, sometimes sparkling with fire, and sometimes melting with softness; their teeth also are, almost without exception, most beautifully even and white, and their breath perfecly without taint.
The hair is almost universally black, and rather coarse; the men have beards, which they wear in many fashions, always, however, plucking out great part of them, and keeping the rest perfectly clean and neat. Both sexes also eradicate every hair from under their arms, and accused us of great uncleanness for not doing the same. In their motions there is at once vigour and ease; their walk is graceful, their deportment liberal, and their behaviour to Grangers and to each other affable and courteous. In their dispositions also, they page 39 seemed to be brave, open, and candid, without either suspicion or treachery, cruelty or revenge; so that we placed the same confidence in them as in our best friends; many of us, particularly Mr. Banks, sleeping frequently in their houses in the woods, without a companion, and consequetly wholly in their power. They were, however, all thieves; and when that is allowed, they need not much fear a competition with the people of any other nation upon earth. During our stay in this island we saw about five or six persons, like one that was met by Mr. Banks and Dr. Solander on the 24th of April, in their walk to the east ward, whose skins were of a dead white, like the nose of a white horse; with white hair, beard, brows, and eye lashes; red, tender eyes; a short sight, and scurfy skins, covered with a kind of white down; but we found that no two of these belonged to the same family, and there-fore concluded, that they were not a species. but unhappy individuals, rendered anomalous by disease.
It is a custom in most countries where the inhabitants have long hair, for the men to cut it short, and the women to pride themselves in its length. Here, however, the contrary custom prevails; the women always cut it short round their ears, and the men, except the fishers, who are almost continually in the water, suffer it to flow in large waves over their moulders, or tie it up in a bunch on the top of their heads.
They have a custom also of anointing their heads with what they call Monoe, an oil expressed from the cocoa-nut, in which some sweet herbs or flowers have been infused: as the oil is generally rancid, the smell is at first very disagreeable to an European; and as they live in a hot country, and have no such thing as a comb, they are not able to keep their heads free from lice, which the children and common people some times pick out and eat; a hateful custom, wholly different from their manners in every other particular, for they are delicate and cleanly, almost without example, and those to whom we distributed combs soon delivered themselves from vermin, with a diligence which shewed that they were not more odious to us than to them.page 40
They have a custom of staining their bodies, nearly in the same manner as is practised in many other parts of the world, which they call Tattowing. They prick the skin, so as just not to fetch blood, with a small instrument, something in the form of a hoe; that part which answers to the blade is made of a bone or shell, scraped very thin, and is from a quarter of an inch to an inch and a half wide; the edge is cut into sharp teeth or points, from the number of three to twenty, according to its size: when this is to be used, they dip the teeth into a mixture of a kind of lamp black, formed of the smoke that rises from an oily nut, which they burn instead of candles, and water: the teeth, thus prepared, are placed upon the skin, and the handle to which they are fastened being struck, by quick smart blows, with a stick fitted to the purpose, they pierce it, and at the same time carry into the puncture the black composition, which leaves an indelible stain. The operation is painful, and it is some days before the wounds are healed. It is performed upon the youth of both sexes, when they are about twelve or fourteen years of age, on several parts of the body, and in various figures, according to the fancy of the parent, or perhaps the rank of the party. The women are generally marked with this stain, in the form of a Z, on every joint of their fingers and toes, and frequently round the outside of their feet; the men are also marked with the same figure, and both men and women have squaras, circles, crescents, and ill-designed representations of men, birds, or dogs, and various other devices, impressed upon their legs and arms, some of which, we were told, had significations, though we could never learn what they were. But the part on which these ornaments are lavished with the greatest profusion, is the breech; this, in both sexes, is covered with a deep black, above which, arches are drawn one over another as high as the short ribs. They are often a quarter of an inch broad, and the edges are not straight lines, but indented. These arches are their pride, and are shown both by men and women with a mixture of ostentation and pleasure; whether as an ornament, or a proof of their fortitude and resolution in bearing pain, page 41 we could not determine. The face in general is left unmarked; for we saw but one instance to the contrary. Some old men had the greatest part of their bodies covered with large patches of black, deeply indented at the edges, like a rude imitation of flames; but we were told, that they came from a low island called Noouoora, and were not natives of Otaheite.
Mr. Banks saw the operation of Tattowing performed upon the backside of a girl about thirteen years old. The instrument used upon this occasion had thirty teeth, and every stroke, of which at least an hundred were made in a minute, drew an ichor, or serum, a little tinged with blood. The girl bore it with a most stoical resolution for about a quarter of an hour; but the pain of so many hundred punctures as she had received in that time then became intolerable: she first complained in murmurs, then wept, and at last burst into loud lamentations, earnestly imploring the operator to desist: he was, however, inexorable, and when she began to struggle, she was held down by two women, who sometimes soothed, and sometimes chid her; and now and then, when she was most unruly, gave her a smart blow. Mr. Banks stayed in a neighbouring house an hour, and the operation was not over when he went away; yet it was performed but upon one side, the other having been done some time before; and the arches upon the loins, in which they most pride themselves, and which give more pain than all the rest, were still to be done.
It is strange that these people should value themselves upon what is no distinction; for I never saw a native of this island, either man or woman, in a state of maturity, in whom these marks were wanting: possibly they may have their rise in superstition, especially as they produce no visible advantage, and are not made without great pain; but though we enquired of many hundred, we could never get any account of the matter.
Their cloathing consists of cloth or matting of different kinds, which will be described among their other manufactures. Their cloth, which will not bear weting, they wear in dry weather, and the matting when page 42 it rains: they are put on in many different ways, Just as their fancy leads them; for in their garments nothing is cut into shape, nor any two pieces sewed together. The dress of the better sort of women cosists of three or four pieces; one piece, about two yards wide and eleven yards long, they wrap several times round their waist, so as to hang down like a petticoat as low as the middle of the leg, and this they call Parou; two or three other pieces, about two yards and an half long and one wide, each having a hole cut in the middle, they place one upon another, and then putting the head through the holes, they bring the long ends down before and behind, the others remain open at the sides, and give liberty to the arms: this, which they call the Tebuta, is gathered round the waist, and confined with a girdle or sash of thinner cloth, which is long enough to go many times round them, and exactly resembles the garments worn by the inhabitants of Peru and Chili, which the Spaniards call Poncho. The dress of the men is the same; except that instead of suffering the cloth that is wound about the hips to hang down like a petticoat, they bring it between their legs, so as to have some resemblance to breeches, and it is then called Maro This is the dress of all ranks of people, and being universally the same as to form. the gentlemen and ladies distinguish themselves from the lower people by the quantity; some of them will wrap round them several pieces of cloth, eight or ten yards long, and two or three broad; and some throw a large piece loosely over their shoulders, in the manner of a cloak, of perhaps two pieces, if they are very great personages, and are desirous to appear in state. The inferior sort, who have only a small allowance of cloth from the tribes or families to which they belong, are obliged to be more thinly clad. In the heat of the day they appear almost naked, the women having only a scanty petticoat, and the men nothing but the sash that is passed between their legs and sastened round the waist. As finery is always troublesome, and particularly in a hot country, where it consists in putting one covering upon another, the women of rank always uncover themselves as low as the waist in the evening, throwing off all that they wear on the page 43 upper part of the body, with the same negligence and ease as our ladies would lay by a cardinal or double handkerchief. And the Chiefs, even when they visited us, though they had as much cloth round their middle as would clothe a dozen people, had frequently the rest of the body quite naked.
Upon their legs and feet they wear no covering; but they shade their faces from the sun with little bonnets, either of matting or of cocoa-nut leaves, which they make occasionally in a few minutes. This, however, is not all their head-dress; the women sometimes wear little turbans, and sometimes a dress which they value much more, and which, indeed, is much more becoming, called Tomou; the Tomou consists of human hair, plaited in threads, scarcely thicker than sewing silk. Mr. Banks has pieces of it above a mile in length, without a knot. These they wind round the head in such a manner as produces a very pretty effect, and in a very great quantity; for I have seen five or six such pieces wound about the head of one woman: among these threads they stick flowers of various kinds, particularly the cape-jessamine, of which they have great plenty, as it is always planted near their houses. The men sometimes slick the tail feather of the Topic-bird upright in their hair, which, as I have observed before, is often tied in a bunch upon the top of their heads: sometimes they wear a kind of whimsical garland, made of flowers of various kinds, stuck into a piece of the rind of plantain; or of scarlet peas, stuck with gum upon a piece of wood: and sometimes they wear a kind of wig, made of the hair of men or dogs, or perhaps of cocoa-nut strings, woven upon one thread, which is tied under their hair, so that these artificial honours of their head may hang down behind. Their personal ornaments, besides flowers, are few; both sexes wear ear-rings, but they are placed only on one side: when we came they consisted of small pieces of shell, stone, berries, red peas, or some small pearls, three in a string; but our beads very soon supplanted them all.
The children go quite naked; the girls till they are three or four years old, and the boys till they are six or seven.page 44
The houses, or rather dwellings, of these peoples have been occasionally mentioned before: they are all built in the wood, between the sea and the mountaint, and no more ground is cleared for each house, than just sufficient to prevent the dropping of the branches from rotting the thatch with which they are covered; from the house, therefore, the inhabitant steps immediately under the shade, which is the most delightful that can be imagined. It consists of groves of bread-fruit and cocoa-nuts, without underwood, which are intersected, in all directions, by the paths that lead from one house to the other. Nothing can be more grateful than this shade in so warm a climate, nor any thing more beautiful than these walks. As there is no underwood, the shade cools without impeding the air; and the houses, having no walls, receive the gale from whatever point it blows. I shall now give a particular description of a house of a middling size, from which, as the structure is universally the same, a perfect idea may be formed both of those that are bigger, and those that are less.
The ground which it covers is an oblong square, four and twenty feet long, and eleven wide; over this a roof is raised, upon three rows of pillars or posts parallel to each other, one on each side, and the other in the middle. This roof consists of two flat sides inclining to each other, and terminating in a ridge, exactly like the roofs of our thatched houses in England. The utmost height within is about nine feet, and the eaves on each side reach to within about three feet and an half of the ground: below this, and through the whole height at each end, it is open, no part of it being inclosed with a wall. The roof is thatched with palm-leaves, and the floor is covered, some inches deep, with soft hay; over this are laid mats, so that the whole is one cushion, upon which they sit in the day, and sleep in the night. In some houses, however, there is one stool, which is wholly appropriated to the master of the family; besides this, they have no furniture, except a few little blocks of wood, the upper side of which is hollowed into a curve, and which serve them for pillows.page 45
The house is indeed principally used as a dormitory; for, except it rains, they cat in the open air, undor the shade of the next tree. The clothes that they wear in the day, serve them for covering in the night: the floor is the common bed of the whole household, and is not divided by any partition. The master of the house and his wife deep in the middle, next to them the marrried people, next to them the unmarried women, and next to them, at a little distance, the unmarried men; the servants, or Toutous, as they are called, sleep in the open air, except it rains, and in that case they come just within the shed.
There are, however, houses of another kind, belonging to the Chiefs, in which there is some degres of privacy. These are much smaller, and so constructed as to be carried about in their canoes from place to place, and set up occasionally, like a tent; they are inclosed on the sides with cocoa-nut leaves, but not so close as to exclude the air, and the Chief and his wife sleep in them alone.
There are houses also of a much larger size, not built either for the accommodation of a single Chief, or a single family; but as common receptacles for all the people of a district. Some of them are two hundred feet long, thirty broad, and, under the ridge, twenty feet high; these are built and maintained at the common expence of the district, for the accommodation of which they are intended; and have on one side of them a large area, inclosed with low pallisadoes.
These houses, like those of separate families, have no walls. Privacy, indeed, is little wanted among people who have not even the idea of indecency, and who gratify every appetite and passion before witnesses, with no more sense of impropriety than we feel when we satisfy our hunger at a social board with our family or friends. Those who have no idea of indecency with respect to actions, can have none with respect to words; it is, therefore, scarcely necessary to observe, that, in the conversation of these people, that which is the principal source of their pleasure, is always the principal topic and that every thing is mentioned without any restraint or emotion, and in the most direct terms, by both sexes.page 46
Of the food eaten here the greater part is vegetable. Here are no tame animals except hogs, dogs, and poultry, as I have observed before, and these are by no means plenty. When a Chief kills a hog, it is almost equally divided among his dependants; and as they are very numerous, the share of each individual at these feasts, which are not frequent, must necessarily be small. Dogs and fowls fall somewhat more frequently to the share of the common people. I cannot much commend the flavour of their fowls; but we all agreed, that a South-Sea dog was little inferior to an English lamb; their excellence is probably owing to their being kept up, and fed wholly upon vegetables. The sea affords them a great variety of fish. The smaller fish, when they catch any, are generally eaten raw, as we eat oysters; and nothing that the sea produces comes amiss to them: they are fond of lobsters, crabs, and other shell fish, which are found upon the coast; and they will eat not only sea-insects, but what the seamen call Blubbers, tho' some of them are so tough, that they are obliged to suffer them to become putrid before they can be chewed. Of the many vegetables that have been mentioned already as serving them for food, the principal is the bread-fruit, to procure which costs them no trouble or labour but climbing a tree: the tree which produces it, does not indeed shoot up spontaneously; but if a man plants ten of them in his life-time, which he may do in about an hour, he will as completely fulfil his duty to his own and future generations, as the native of our less temperate climate can do by ploughing in the cold of winter, and reaping in the summer's heat, as often as these seasons return; even if, after he has procured bread for his present household, he should convert a surplus into money, and lay it up for his children.
It is true, indeed, that the bread-fruit is not always in season; but cocoa-nuts, bananas, plantains, and a great variety of other fruits, supply the deficiency.
It may well be supposed that cookery is but little studied by these people as an art; and, indeed, they have but two ways of applying fire to dress their food, broiling and baking; the operation of broiling is so simple that it requires no description, and their baking page 47 has been described already, (page 10), in the account of an entertainment prepared for us by Tupia. Hogs, and large fish, are extremely well dressed in the same manner; and, in our opinion, were more juicy and more equally done than by any art of cookery now practised in Europe. Bread-fruit is also cooked in an oven of the same kind, which renders it soft, and something like a boiled potatoe: not quite so farinaceous as a good one, but more so than those of the middling fort.
Of the bread-fruit they also make three dishes, by putting either water or the milk of the cocoa-nut to it, then beating it to a paste with a stone pestle, and afterwards mixing it with ripe plantains, bananas, or the four paste which they call Mahie.
The mahie, which has been mentioned as a succedaneum for ripe bread-fruit, before the season for gathering a fresh crop comes on, is thus made:—The fruit is gathered just before it is perfectly ripe, and being laid in heaps, is closely covered with leaves; in this state it undergoes a fermentation, and becomes disagreeably sweet: the core is then taken out entire, which is done by gently pulling the stalk, and the rest of the fruit is thrown into a hole which is dug for that purpose, generally in the houses, and neatly lined in the bottom and sides with grass; the whole is then covered with leaves, and heavy stones laid upon them: in this state it undergoes a second fermentation, and becomes four, after which it will suffer no change for many months: it is taken out of the hole as it is wanted for use, and being made into balls, it is wrapped up in leaves and baked; after it is dressed, it will keep five or six weeks. It is eaten both cold and hot, and the natives seldom make a meal without it, tho' to us the taste was as disagrecable as that of a pickled olive generally is the first time it is eaten.
As the making of this mahie depends, like brewing, upon fermentation, so, like brewing, it sometimes sails, without their being able to ascertain the cause; it is very natural, therefore, that the making it should be connected with superstitious notions and ceremonies. It generally falls to the lot of the old women, who will suffer no creature to touch any thing belonging to it, page 48 but those whom they employ as assistants, nor even to go into that part of the house where the operation is carrying on. Mr. Banks happened to spoil a large quantity of it only by inadvertently touching a leas which lay upon it. The old woman, who then presided over these mysteries, told him, that the procese would sail; and immediately uncovered the hole in a fit of vexation and despair. Mr. Banks regretted the mischief he had done, but was somewhat consoled by the opportunity which it gave him of examining the preparation, which perhaps, but for such an accident, would never have offered.
Such is their food, to which salt-water is the universal sauce, no meal being eaten without it: those who live near the sea have it fetched as it is wanted; those who hive at some distance keep it in large bamboos, which are set up in their houses, for use. Salt-water, however, is not their only sauce; they make another of the kernels of cocoa-nuts, which being fermented till they dissolve into a paste somewhat resembling butter, are beaten up with salt-water. The flavour of this is very strong, and was, when we first tasted it, exceedingly nauseous; a little use, however, reconciled some of us to it so much, that they preferred it to our own sauces, especially with fish. The natives seemed to considen it as a dainty, and do not use it at their common meals; possibly, because they think it ill management to use cocoa-nuts so lavishly, or perhaps, when we were at the island, they were scarcely ripe enough for the purpose.
For drink, they have in general nothing but water, or the juice of the cocoa-nut; the art of producing liquors that intoxicate, by fermentation, being happily unknown among them; neither have they any narcotic which they chew, as the natives of some other countries do opium, beetle-root, and tobacco. Some of them drank freely of our liquors, and in a few instances became very drunk; but the persons to whom this happened were so far from desiring to repeat the debauch, that they would never touch any of our liquors afterwards. We were however informed, that they became drunk by drinking a juice that is expressed from the leaves of a plant which they call Ava Ava. This page 49 plant was not in season when we were there, so that we saw no instances of its effects; and as they confidered drunkenness as a disgrace, they probably would have concealed from us any instances which might have happened during our stay. This vice is almost peculiar to the Chiefs, and considerable ersons, who vie with each other in drinking the greatest number of draughts, each draught being about a pint. They keep this intoxicating juice with great care from their women.
Table they have none; but their apparatus for eating is set out with great neatness, though the articles are too simple and too few to allow any thing for show, and they commonly eat alone; but when a stranger happens to visit them, he sometimes makes a second in their mess. Of the meal of one of their principal people I shall give a particular description.
He sits down under the shade of the next tree, or on the shady side of his house, and a large quantity of leaves, either of the bread-fruit on banana, are neatly spread before him upon the ground, as a table-cloth; a basket is then set by him that contains his provision, which, if fish or flesh, is ready dressed, and wrapped up in leaves, and two cocoa-nut shells, one full of salt and water, and the other of fresh: his attendants, which are not few, seat themselves round him, and when all is ready, he begins by washing his hands and his mouth thoroughly with the fresh water, and this he repeats almost continually throughout the whole meal; he then takes part of his provision out of the basket, which generally consists of a small fish or two, two or three bread-fruits, fourteen or fifteen ripe bananas, or six or seven apples: he first takes half a bread-fruit, peels off the rind, and takes out the core with his nails; of this he puts as much into his mouth as it can hold, and, while he chews it, takes the fish out of the leaves, and breaks one of them into the salt water, placing the other, and what remains of the bread-fruit, upon the leaves that have been spread before him. When this is done, he takes up a small piece of the fish that has been broken into the salt water, with all the fingers of one hand, and sucks it into his mouth, so as to get with it as much of the salt water page 50 as possible: in the same manner he takes the rest by different morsels, and between each, at least very frequently, takes a small sup of the salt water, either out of the cocoa-nut shell, or the palm of his hand; in the mean time one of his attendants has prepared a young cocoa-nut, by peeling off the outer rind with his teeth, an operation which to an European appears very surprising; but it depends so much upon slight, that many of us were able to do it before we left the island, and some that could scarcely crack a filbert: the master, when he chooses to drink, takes the cocoa-nut, thus prepared, and boring a hole through the shell with his finger, or breaking it with a stone, he sucks out the liquor. When he has eaten his bread-fruit and fish, he begins with his plantains, one of which makes but a mouthful, though it be as big as a black pudding; if, instead of plantains he has apples, he never tastes them till they have been pared; to do this, a shell is picked up from the ground, where they are always in plenty, and tossed to him by an attendant; he immediately begins to cut or scrape off the rind, but so aukwardly, that great part of the fruit is wasted. If, instead of fish, he has flesh, he must have some succedaneum for a knife to divide it; and for this purpose a piece of bamboo is tossed to him, of which he makes the necessary implement, by splitting it transversely with his nail. While all this has been doing, some of his attendants have been employed in beating bread-fruit with a stone pestle upon a block of wood; by being beaten in this manner, and sprinkled from time to time with water, it is reduced to the consistence of a soft paste, and is then put into a vessel somewhat like a butcher's tray, and either made up alone, or mixed with banana or mahie, according to the taste of the master, by pouring water upon it by degrees, and squeezing it often through the hand; under this operation it acquires the consistence of a thick custard, and a large cocoa-nut shell full of it being set before him, he sips it as we should do a jelly, if we had no spoon to take it from the glass: the meal is then finished, by again wasning his hands and his mouth. After which the cocoa-nut page 51 shells are cleaned, and every thing that is left is replacced in the basket.
The quantity of food which these people eat at a meal is prodigious; I have seen one man devour two or three fishes as big as a perch; three bread-fruits, each bigger than two fists; fourteen or fifteen plantains, or bananas, each of them six or seven inches long, and four or five round; and near a quart of the pounded bread-fruit, which is as substantial as the thickest unbaked custard. This is so extraordinary that I scarcely expect to be believed; and I would not have related it upon my own single testimony, but Mr. Banks, Dr. Solander, and most of the other gentlemen, have had ocular demonstration of its truth, and know that I mention them upon the occasion.
It is very wonderful that these people, who are remarkably fond of society, and particularly that of their women, should exclude its pleasures from the table, where, among al other nations, whether civil or savage, they have been principally enjoyed. How a meal, which every where else brings families and friends together, came to separate them here, we often enquired, but could never learn. They eat alone, they said, because it was right; but why it was right to eat alone, they never attempted to tell us; such, however, was the force of habit, that they expressed the strongest dislike, and even disgust, at our eating in society, especially with our women, and of the same victuals. At first, we thought this strange singularity arose from some superstitious opinion; but they constantly affirmed the contrary. We observed also some caprices in the custom, for which we could as little account as for the custom itself. We could never prevail with any of the women to partake of the victuals at our table, when we were dining in company; yet they would go, five or six together, into the servants apartments, and there eat very heartily of whatever they could find, of which I have before given a particular instance; nor were they in the least disconcerted if we came in while they were doing it. When any of us have been alone with a woman, she has sometimes eaten in our company; but then she has expressed the greatest unwillingness that it sould be page 52 known, and always extorted the strongest promises of secrecy.
Among themselves, even two brothers and two sisters have each their separate baskets, with provision and the apparatus of their meal. When they first visited us at our tents, each brought his basket with him; and when we sat down to table, they would go out, sit down upon the ground, at two or three yards distance from each other, and, turning their faces different ways, take their repast without interchanging a single word.
The women not only abstain from eating with the men, and of the same victuals, but even have their victuals separately prepared by boys kept for that purpose, who deposit it in a separate shed, and attend them with it at their meals.
But though they would not eat with us or with each other, they have often asked us to eat with them, when we have visited those with whom we were particularly acquainted at their houses; and we have often, upon such occasions, eaten out of the same basket, and drunk out of the same cup. The elder women, however, always appeared to be offended at this liberty; and if we happened to touch their victuals, or even the basket that contained it, would throw it away.
After meals, and in the heat of the day, the middleaged people of the better sort generally sleep; they are indeed extremely indolent, and sleeping and eating is almost all that they do. Those that are older are less drowsy, and the boys and girls are kept awake by the natural activity and sprightliness of their age.
Their amusements have occasionally been mentioned, in my account of the incidents that happened during our residence in this island, particularly music, dancing, wrestling, and shooting with the bow; they also sometimes vie with each other in throwing a lance. As shooting is not at a mark, but for a distance, throwing the lance is not for distance, but at a mark; the weapon is about nine feet long, the mark is the bole of a plantain, and the distance about twenty yards.
Their only musical instruments are flutes and drums; the flutes are made of a hollow bamboo, about a foot long, and, as has been observed before, have only two page 53 stops, and consequently but four notes, out of which they seem hitherto to have formed but one tune; to these stops they apply the fore finger of the lest hand, and the middle finger of the right.
The drum is made of a hollow block of wood, of a cylindrical form, solid at one end, and covered at the other with shark's skin; these they beat, not with sticks, but their hands, and they know how to tune two drums of different notes into concord. They have also an expedient to bring the flutes that play together into unison, which is to roll up a leaf so as to slip over the end of the shortest, like our sliding tubes for telescopes, which they move up or down till the purpose is answered, of which they seem to judge by their ear with great nicety.
To these instruments they sing; and, as I have observed before, their songs are often extempore: they call every two verses, or couplet a song, Pehay; they are generally, though not always, in thime; and when pronounced by the natives, we could discover that they were metre. Mr. Banks took great pains to write down some of them, which were made upon our arrival, as nearly as he could express their sounds by combinations of our letters; but when we read them, not having their accent, we could scarcely make them either metre or rhime. The reader will easily perceive that they are of very different structure.
Tede pahai de parow-a
Ha maru no mina.
E pahah Tayo malama tai ya
No Tabane lonatou whannomi ya.
E Turai eattu terara patee whennua toai
Ino o maio Pretane to wheunuaia no Tute.
Of these verses our knowledge of the language is too imperfect to attempt a translation. They frequently amuse themselves by singing such couplets as these when they are alone, or with their families, especially after it is dark; for though they need no fires, they are not without the comfort of artificial light between page 54 sunset and bed-time. Their candles are made of the kernels of an oily nut, which they stick over one another upon a skewer, that is thrust through the middle of them; the upper one being lighted burns down to the second, at the same time consuming that part of the skewer which goes through it; the second taking fire burns in the same manner down to the third, and so of the rest: some of these candles will burn a considerable time, and they give a very tolerable light. They do not often sit up above an hour after it is dark; but when they have strangers who sleep in the house, they generally keep a light burning all night, possibly as a check upon such of the women as they wish not to honour them with their favours.
Of their itinerary concerts, I need add nothing to what has been already said; especially as I shall have occasion, more particularly, to mention them, when I relate our adventures upon another island.
In other countries, the girls and unmarried women are supposed to be wholly ignorant of what others, upon some occasions, may appear to know; and their conduct and conversation are consequently restrained within narrower bounds, and kept at a more remote distance from whatever relates to a connection with the other sex; but here it is just the contrary. Among other diversions, there is a dance called Timorodee, which is performed by young girls, whenever eight or ten of them can be collected together, consisting of motions and gestures beyond imagination wanton, in the practice of which they are brought up from their earliest childhood, accompanied by words, which, if it were possible, would more explicitly convey the same ideas. In these dances, they keep time with an exactness which is scarely excelled by the best performers upon the stages of Europe. But the practice which is allowed to the virgin, is prohibited to the woman from the moment that she has put these hopeful lessons in practice, and realized the symbols of the dance.
It cannot be supposed that, among these people, chastity is held in much estimation; It might be exected that sisters and daughters would be offered to strangers, either as a courtesy, or for reward; and that breaches of conjugal fidelity, even in the wife, page 55 should not be otherwise punished than by a few hard words, or perhaps a slight beating, as indeed is the case: but there is a scale in dissolute sensuality, which these people have ascended, wholly unknown to every other nation, whose manners have been recorded from the beginning of the world to the present hour, and which no imagination could possibly conceive.
A very considerable number of the principal people of Otaheite, of both sexes, have formed themselves into a society, in which every woman is common to every man: thus securing a perpetual variety, as often as their inclination prompts them to seek it, which is so frequent, that the same man and woman seldom cohabit together more than two or three days.
These societies are distinguished by the name of Arreoy; and the members have meetings, at which no other is present, where the men amuse themselves by wrestling, and the women, not with standing their occasional connection with different men, dance the Timorodee in all its latitude, as an incitement to desires, which, it is said, are frequently gratified upon the spot. This, however, is comparatively nothing, If any of the women happen to be with child, which in this manner of life happens less frequently than if they were to cohabit only with one man, the poor infant is smothered the moment it is born, that it may be no incumbrance to the father, nor interrupt the mother in the pleasures of her diabolical prostitution. It. sometimes indeed happens, that the passion which prompts a woman to enter into this society, is surmounted when she becomes a mother, by that instinctive affection which Nature has given to all creatures for the preservation of their offspring; but even in this cafe, she is not permitted to spare the life of her infant, except she can find a man who will patronise it as his child; if this can be done, the murder is preented; but both the man and woman, being deemed by this act to have appropriated each other, are ejected from the community, and forfeit all claim to the privileges and pleasures of Arreoy for the future; the woman from that time being distinguished by the term Whannownow, “bearer of children,” which is here a term of reproach; though none can be more page 56 honourable in the estimation of wisdom and humanity, of right reason, and every passion that distinguishes the man from the brute.
It is not fit that a practice so horrid and so strange should be imputed to human beings upon slight evidence, but I have such as abundantly justifies me in the account I have given. The people themselves are so far from concealing their connection with such a society as a disgrace, mat they boast of it as a privilege; and both myself and Mr. Banks, when particular persons have been pointed out to us as members of the Arreoy, have questioned them about it, and received the account that has been here given from their own lips. They have acknowledged, that they had long been of this accursed society, that they belonged to it at that time, and that several of their children had been put to death.
But I must not conclude my account of the domestic life of these people, without mentioning their personal cleanliness. If that which lessens the good of life, and increases the evil, is vice, surely cleanliness is a virtue; the want of it tends to destroy both beauty and health, and mingles disgust with our best pleasures. The natives of Otaheite, both men and women, constantly wash their whole bodies in running water three times every day; once as soon as they rise in the morning, once at noon, and again before they sleep at night, whether the sea or river is near them or at a distance. I have already observed, that they wash not only the mouth, but the hands at their meals, almost between every morsel; and their clothes, as well as their persons, are kept without spot or stain; so that in a large company of these people, nothing is suffered but heat, which perhaps is more than can be said of the politest assembly in Europe.