Edward Robarts

The Marquesan journal of Edward Robarts, 1797-1824, ed. by Greg Dening

Australian national university press

Canberra, 1974

bibliothèque insulaire

livres sur les Marquises
The Marquesan journal of Edward Robarts, 1797-1824 / ed. with an introduction by Greg Dening. - Canberra : Australian national university press, 1974. - XVI-360 p. : maps ; 23 cm. - (Pacific history series, 6).
ISBN 0-7081-0635-8
PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION : Edward Robarts was among other things whaler, beachcomber, Tahitian rum producer, Tuamotuan pearler, butler in Penang, gardener and policeman in Calcutta. He deserted his ship in 1798 in the Marquesas, and lived there as a native, where he was adopted by the chiefly families, married a chief's daughter and faught in battle as Marquesan warrior. He spent longer in the islands than did most eighteenth-century beachcombers, and got to know more about Polynesian society than did most other early observers.

After leaving the Marquesas [in 1806] Robarts was employed in Penang as butler to a relative of the Raffles family. Raffles introduced him to Dr Leyden, under whose patronage he wrote this Journal. Now published for the first time, it is as Robarts wrote it, although Professor Dening has made some minor concessions to readability, as well as providing the invaluable introduction and annotations.

Robart's account of his Marquesan life is the single richest source of material yet published on this least known and understood of all Polynesian people. The scholar will find that Robart's ethnography modifies some later preconceptions about the Marquesas, and throws new light on the process of cultural change in the Pacific. For the general reader the book is an enthralling autobiography of a common man who led a most uncommon life.
GREG DENING : Robarts's Journal is important, not because it is an accurate and full account of Marquesan society ; it is neither accurate nor full. Nor is it important because he was an insightful observer. As an observer he had severe limitations. He was introverted ; his journal was not strictly an account of the Marquesas islands, it was the story of Robarts's reactions to the peculiar circumstances of his life. His grasp of the language was quite limited. For example, his memory of European names and ships was exact, but he gives only a few Marquesan names. His final account of Marquesan culture is slight and superficial, if compared with any ethnographical account of simple societies. And he suffered the limitations of most cross-cultural observers : he saw a different Marquesan world as if it was a distorted reflection of a more familiar world.

Robarts's defects as an observer do not destroy his value ; they only limit it. He had the supreme advantage of having been there. He did not write a dissertation, for instance, on the social function of Marquesans chiefs or on the role of Marquesan women. He tells us directly and indirectly with the particularity of experience what he saw chiefs do and what he saw women do.

Introduction, p. 25
CONTENTS Foreword by H. E. Maude

Introduction by Greg Dening

  • Atlantic and Pacific Oceans
  • Tahuata
  • Hiva Oa
  • Nukuhiva
  • Departure
  • Tahiti, the West Pacific, and Penang
  • Calcutta and Botany Bay
  • The Marqueasas (sic) Isles
  • A long and singular career
Vocabalry (sic) of the Marqueasas Language

Appendix I : A letter of Edward Robarts to James Hare
Appendix II : The Families of Marquesan Chiefs
  • « The Marquesan journal of Edward Robarts, 1797-1824 » ed. by Greg Dening, Honolulu : University press of Hawaii, 1974
  • « Journal marquisien, 1798-1806 » trad. par Jacques Iakopo Pelleau, Papeete : Haere pō, 2018

mise-à-jour : 18 décembre 2018