A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels — Volume 13 eBook

Robert Kerr (writer)
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 794 pages of information about A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels — Volume 13.

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, that 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.[15]

[Footnote 15:  It seems, from Mr Turnbull’s account, that these accursed arreoys were rather on the increase,—­a circumstance, which, considering that infanticide formed a part, an essential part indeed, of their policy, may well explain the rapidity in the diminution of the people before noticed.—­E.]

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.[16]

[Footnote 16:  Here Dr H. seems to have forgotten altogether the substitutes which modern Europeans employ for cleanliness, to render polite assemblies tolerable—­musk, bergamot, lavender, &c. &c. articles, which, besides their value in saving the precious time of our fine ladies, who could not easily spare a quarter of an hour a day from their important occupations, for the Otaheitan practice of bathing, are of vast utility to the state, by affording suitable exercise to the talents of the vast tribe of perfumers and beautifiers of every description, who, it is probable, would otherwise become mere drones in the community.  But what would these Otaheitans conceive of the health and comfort and appearance and odour of the great mass of British ladies, who, unless banished to a watering place, no more think of being generally washed, than of being curried with a currying-comb, or undergoing the operation of tattowing?  The powers of nature are marvellous indeed, which can support their lives for years, under all the fifth and exuviae, accumulated with such idolatrous fondness.—­E.]

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