Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/11

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Preface.

Fiji, to whom I am indebted for much instruction, has written: 'When a European has been living for two or three years among savages he is sure to be fully convinced that he knows all about them; when he has been ten years or so amongst them, if he be an observant man, he finds that he knows very little about them, and so begins to learn.' My own time of learning has been all too short. I have endeavoured as far as possible to give the natives' account of themselves by giving what I took down from their lips and translating what they wrote themselves. It is likely that under the circumstances of such enquiries much of the worst side of native life may be out of sight, and the view given seem generally more favourable than might be expected; if it be so, I shall not regret it.

I should have been glad if space had allowed me to treat at greater length the subject of the native Arts of Life, and to have given more of the Tales, which throw so much light upon native life and thought. The comparison of the Melanesian languages, customs, beliefs, and arts, with those of the islands of the Pacific and Indian Oceans, will fix the ethnological place of the Melanesian people while it aids the general study of mankind.

In conclusion, this book, though written by a missionary, with his full share of the prejudices and predilections belonging to missionaries, is not meant to have what is generally understood to be a missionary character; but the writer is persuaded that one of the first duties of a missionary is to try to understand the people among whom he works, and to this end he hopes that he may have contributed something that may help.

Wadhurst:
March 12, 1891.