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An Account of the Natives of the Tonga Islands, in the South Pacific Ocean.

With an Original Grammar and Vocabulary of their Language. Compiled and arranged from the Extensive Communications of Mr. William Mariner.

Published: London: John Murray, 1818

Stock code: 80627

Price: £600

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This item is on show at 43 Dover Street (map)

Originally published in the previous year, this the “Second Edition, with additions” which include the folding map, a new preface and an enlarged introduction. “Considered the best report of Tongan life and culture before the arrival of Christianity … the customs of the inhabitants and their inter-island wars, and also examples of Tongan songs and music” (Hill). Mariner had sailed on the privateer Port-au-Prince in 1805, aged 13. “After an adventurous voyage the ship arrived at the Tonga Islands in poor condition, hoping to carry out repairs. The crew met with a hostile reception and many of them were massacred. Mariner, however, was taken under the protection of the principal chief, Finau Ulukalala, who bestowed on him the name of one of his deceased sons, Toki Ukamea, and appointed one of his wives to be Mariner’s adopted mother. Mariner’s residence in Tonga … lasted for four years. During this time he became thoroughly conversant with the language and customs of this Polynesian people … Using the guns from the Port-au-Prince, and helped by his surviving companions, he took a full and often decisive part in his protector’s warlike campaigns against other islands. Eventually times became more peaceful and Toki attained the status of a chief, living on his own cultivated plantations” (ODNB). In 1810 Mariner worked his passage back to England, and became a stockbroker, some time later becoming embroiled in a forgery scandal, the exchequer bill affair of 1836–41. He died in 1853. The book was extensively reviewed by Southey in the Quarterly Review (April, 1817), describing it as “one of the most interesting narratives which we have ever perused”, and noting telling affinities between the Finau the Tongan tyrant and the recently deposed French emperor, for example in the “utter disregard for human life by which such men as Finow [sic] and Buonaparte are distinguished.”

2 volumes, octavo (210 129 mm). Contemporary dark blue diced calf, red morocco lettering- and numbering-pieces, flat bands with gilt sextuple rules and fleuron tools, gilt triple fillet panels enclosing a dotted panel to the compartments, foliate rolled panel to the boards, gilt milling at the board corners, marbled edges, grey endpapers. Engraved portrait frontispiece – “Mr. Mariner in the costume of the Tonga Islands” – to volume I, folding engraved map to volume II. A little rubbed, some restoration at the head of the spine of volume I, gilt retouched in places, portrait slightly browned and off-setting onto the title page, light browning and scattered foxing else, a very good set.

Bibliography: Hill p. 378.

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