Page:Notes and Queries - Series 11 - Volume 11.djvu/341

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us. XL APRIL 24. i9i5.] NOTES AND QUERIES.


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Percy Slnden Trust Expedition to Melanesia : The History of Melanesidn Society. By W. H. R. Rivers. 2 vols. (Cambridge University Press, 11. 16s. net.)

THIS is one of the most remarkable of recent anthropological studies a splendid example of British scholarship. The first volume gives us carefully collected data concerned with Mela- nesian life and customs, the second the inter- pretation of these. That interpretation has, in the methods employed as well as in the results set out, several features of great and original interest. We would emphasize two of these : the tendency to draw away from the commonly received theory of evolution in explaining the changes of which evidence has been obtained, and the very im- portant combination of deductions from lan- guage with deductions from custom in the reasoned account of the history of these peoples. We doubt whether language and social life have ever been made to illustrate one another in so brilliant a way before. The use of them here constitutes something of a new departure in anthropological work, and whether or no Dr. Rivers's hypotheses are at every point confirmed by later investiga- tions, his book will always have the value which attaches to the masterly opening up of a new line. The mass of detail it contains is even astonishing, and the reader's sense of its wealth is enhanced by the touch of eagerness which lends a certain eloquence to many of the pages.

The basis of Melanesian society is discovered to be a people consisting of two exogamous moieties, among whom descent was counted through the mother. The most exhaustively worked out of all the aspects of Melanesian life is that of the systems of relationship as shown in terms employed for relations, which, besides yield- ing up traces of the existence of this dual people, have also borne witness to a state of communism among them, and to the community's having been at one time under the domination of the old men. The most important privilege of the old men was the monopoly of the young women, whence Dr. Rivers would have us derive the curious customs of intermarriage between diverse generations which still, to some extent, continue.

But, intermingled with this " dual people," we have now the descendants of two, if not three, strains of immigrants, the most influential of which has been that which Dr. Rivers calls the kava-people. He wotild have us conceive of them as arriving in comparatively small numbers, and unaccompanied by women, so that they were compelled to take wives from the native popula- tion. They brought with them (among other things) secret societies, money, and patrilineal descent ; they brought also a language which, spreading with them throughout the islands, was perpetuated as a pidgin language or lingua franca, and served to render intercourse possible between peoples whom ignorance of one another's tongue had hitherto kept apart. To some small extent the ways of the aboriginals and the ways of the new-comers continued side by side ; to some extent on each side customs were lost ; but the most interesting results of the immigration arose not so much from continuance or domination a,s from interaction between one set of customs and


another. Dr. Rivers is nowhere more stimulating than where he discusses what he conceives to be instances of this interaction the easiest example* of which is perhaps that of the modification of the designs used by the Melanesians on some of the objects connected with their secret rites ; while- the most important is certainly that of the history- of the different traditional burial-customs.

Everywhere, we are glad to perceive, he dis-- trusts the appearance of homogeneity and sim- plicity. Under his keen and narrow scrutiny even the structure of Polynesian society, which' most observers hitherto have taken to be at one with itself, reveals layer below layer. This seems to us all to the good as a corrective to the over- simplification of theory which followed the general! adoption of the hypothesis of evolution. The- study of the interaction of varieties of primitive- culture when superimposed upon, or inserted into, one another furnishes, we believe, better working formulae, sets a greater number of details; in a light clear enough for consideration of them,, and more efficiently corrects its own errors as it goes along, than a study directed towa.rds tracing evolution as such as its principal object. This^ book is a signal illustration of this excellence.

It is instructive to note the sources of the- evidence Dr. Rivers has accumulated, and the hints of the methods by which it was collected.. In itself, compared with the magnificence of the structxire erected upon it, this seems occasionally meagre. A good deal depends on the accounts supplied to the explorers by a single person,, one John Mar^sere, a native of uncommon intelli- gence and experience. Careful warning, however,, is given where the foundations seem to be unduly slight. The information acquired bears witness not only to the soundness of the author's general' plan of operations for collecting, but likewise to his sympathetic and immensely patient intuition' into the workings of the savage mind.

Anthropologists are to be congratulated on the fact that Dr. Rivers has another such study as this upon the stocks, to which he refers us for the fuller discussion of more than one problem raised in the volumes before us.

The Making of the Roman People. By Thomas Lloyd. (Longmans & Co., 4s. Qd. net.)

As long as Mr. Lloyd speculates, as he does in his first three chapters, on the prehistoric origin of the early inhabitants of Italy in the Pleistocene and Neolithic periods, we cannot come to close quarters with him ; but when, in the next four, he comes down into the historical era, and traces the affinity between the Latin and Celtic languages,, we are on more even terms ; on firmer ground we are able to bring his statements to book. The suggested affinity is, of course, a commonplace of comparative philology, and has been discussed long since by Pictet and Ebel and Curtius, by Newman and Whitley Stokes and Schleicher ; and only last year by M. Malvezin. Yet Mr. Lloyd's theory that Latin is " derived from the Celtic "" is altogether pre-scientific. He is maladroit enough to give us the reasons for the faith that is in him, and they turn out to be " derivations of the most hopeless character. Mac, son, is one with amicus, friend, for who is more likely to- be friendly than one's son ? (94.) Gaelic crann, tree, is from L. grandis, because it is big (98 ) r. L. servus, a slave, is from G. searbh, bitter, for his