26 OCTOBER 1878, Page 22


Origin and Migrations of the Polynesian Nations. By J. D. Lang. (Sampson Low and Co.)—The author of this volume has solved to his own satisfaction the problem of the peopling of America. His theory is that the Polynesian nation is of Malay origin, that their forefathers took for their point of departure the Philippine Islands, that from very remote periods they moved eastward, occupying in their way the various island groups of the Pacific Ocean, and finally reaching the western shores of America, the original inhabitants of which, from the extreme north to the extreme south, are all of one race. It is certainly a somewhat bold theory. The Malay or Asiatio origin of the Poly- nesian Islanders is, in our author's opinion, indicated by the fre- quent prevalence of caste, an Asiatic institution ; by taboo, as it

is called, or the custom of investing persons, places, and things with either a sacred or an unclean character ; by various practices and ceremonies, such as modes of salutation, and peculiar religious rites and forms of divination ; and by resemblances of language, which are, he says, very clearly marked. Aa yet, we should suppose, we have not the knowledge to pronounce with any confidence on this last head, and to say whether the various dialects of the South Pacific Islanders have all an affinity with the Malay. It is evident that any one who has a theory to maintain may very easily go astray on a subject so difficult and so imperfectly known. Oar author is not always quite clear or consistent with himself, as it seems to us. After telling ns, on page 81, that the Polynesians possess very imperfect means of naviga- tion, he goes on to say on the next page that the Malays, from whom, according to his theory, they were derived, were from time immemorial a maritime people, and he adds that there are not " wanting evidences of superior skill in maritime affairs among the Polynesians of the present day." This looks like a discrepancy, and one which suggests a want of clearness and precision in the writer's mind.