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Adams, Memoirs of Arii TaimaiIndigenous Histories
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Chapter VI


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Chapter VI (continued)

knows how much of the laxity was due to the French and English themselves; whose appearance certainly caused a sudden and shocking overthrow of such moral rules as had existed before in the island society; and the "supposed" means that when the island society as a whole is taken into account, marriage was real as far as it went, and the standard rather higher than that of Paris; in some ways extremely lax, and in others strict and stern to a degree that would have astonished even the most conventional English nobleman, had he understood it. The real code of Tahitian society would have upset the theories of a state of nature as thoroughly as the guillotine did; but, when seen through the eyes of French and English sailors, who had not the smallest sense of responsibility, and would not have been sorry to overthrow all standards, Tahiti seemed to prove that no standard was necessary, which made the island interesting to philosophers and charming to the French people, never easy under even the morality recognized at Paris. So there again our aunt Purea, Wallis’s queen, played a part in the drama, for, in an island which seemed to have no idea of morals, she was a model of humanity, sentiment, and conduct -- the flower of a state of nature.

Of course the sentiment of Hawkesworth, and the Gytherean tastes of Bougainville and Commerson, did not please every one, least of all in England, where French philosophy and shepherdesses were rarely welcome. A friend has given me a quotation from Horace Walpole, who wrote to one of his correspondents in 1773: "I hope you are heartily provoked at the new Voyages, which might make one a good first mate, but tell one nothing at all. Dr. Hawkesworth is still more provoking. An old black gentlewoman of forty carries Captain Wallis across a river when he was too weak to walk, and the man represents them as a new edition of Dido and Æneas." Whatever pleased the French was pretty sure to displease the English, and so, from the first, Tahiti took a French color which ended by deciding its fate; and there, too, our aunt Purea unconsciously may have been a chief agent in causing the sentimental attachment which brought the French squadrons seventy years later to our shores.


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