Accounts of Otaheite still imperfect.—The prevailing Winds.—Beauty of the Country.—Cultivation.—Natural Curiosities.—The Persons of the Natives.—Diseases.—General Character.—Love of Pleasure.—Language.—Surgery and Physic.—Articles of Food.—Effects of drinking Ava.—Times and Manner of Eating.—Connexions with the Females.—Circumcision.—System of Religion.—Notions about the Soul and a future Life.—Various Superstitions.—Traditions about the Creation.—An historical Legend.—Honours paid to the King.—Distinction of Ranks.—Punishment of Crimes.—Peculiarities of the neighbouring Islands.—Names of their Gods.—Names of Islands they visit.—Extent of their Navigation.
To what has been said of Otaheite, in the accounts of the successive voyages of Captain Wallis, Mons. de Bougainville, and Captain Cook, it would, at first sight, seem superfluous to add any thing, as it might be supposed, that little could be now produced but a repetition of what has been told before. I am, however, far from being of that opinion; and will venture to affirm, though a very accurate description of the country, and of the most obvious customs of its inhabitants, has been already given, especially by Captain Cook, that much still remains untouched; that, in some instances, mistakes have been made, which later and repeated observation has been able to rectify; and that, even now, we are strangers to many of the most important institutions that prevail amongst these people. The truth is, our visits, though frequent, have been but transient; many of us had no inclination to make enquiries; more of us were unable to direct our enquiries properly; and we all laboured, though not to the same degree, under the disadvantages attending an imperfect knowledge of the language of those, from whom alone we could receive any information. The Spaniards had it more in their power to surmount this bar to instruction; some of them having resided at Otaheite much longer than any other European visitors. As, with their superior advantages, they could not but have had an opportunity of obtaining the fullest information on most subjects relating to this island, their account of it would, probably, convey more authentic and accurate intelligence, than, with our best endeavours, any of us could possibly obtain. But, as I look upon it to be very uncertain, if not very unlikely, that we shall ever have any communication from that quarter, I have here put together what additional intelligence, about Otaheite, and its neighbouring islands, I was able to procure, either from, Omai, while on board the ship, or by conversing with the other natives, while we remained among them.