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For the benefit of those to whom the name Tonga has an unmeaning sound, and latitude and longitude convey no distinct impression, let me say that the realm of King George Tubou will be found in the map under the name of the “
Friendly Islands,” about 1000 miles north of New Zealand, 300 miles east of Fiji, and 350 south of Samoa.
I count among the Tongans so many true friends that it would touch me nearly if I should seem in the following pages to have been lacking in recognition of their many admirable qualities. If I have spoken of their institutions with levity, it is because I have judged the nation from the standard of a European people, with whom, in intelligence, physique, and disposition, they are fit to be compared. I have printed these pages with the knowledge and permission of the chiefs best fitted to speak for the whole people; and when I refuse to treat seriously the fatal experiment of engrafting Western customs upon their own ancient and admirable polity, I am only reproducing the sense of grotesqueness with which their present hybrid institutions inspire the best of them. Where I have laughed, they have laughed with me; what I have deplored, they have no less regretted.
For the materials of the slight historical sketch I am specially indebted to Tukuaho, Tungi, and Fatafehi; and I take this opportunity for thanking the Hon. Bolton Corney, M.D., by whose kindness I am able to reproduce the rare plates of Schouten's voyage.
Ascot, November 1894.