Banner image showing PRM Gallery

The following transcriptions can be found elsewhere on this site with added notes by the transcriber, here they are given in chronological order so that you can see certain themes develop over time. Note that not all the letters from each of the correspondents held in Tylor papers Box 11, 11a and 12 and [Walter Baldwin] Spencer papers Box 1 have been transcribed and shown here. The ones that have been are of relevance to the development of museum anthropology at Oxford. For a full catalogue of all Pitt Rivers Museum manuscript collections see hereAll of these papers are held in the Pitt Rivers Museum manuscript collections. To find the transcriptions with notes see here. 

Tylor papers Box 11a Fison 1

19 Penywern Road

Jun 6th 79

Dear Mr Tylor

I sent you a letter from Mr Fison on Monday sent to me by Sir Arthur Gordon he wants it back so I thought you would like to see it first. as to the last part to which Sir A draws attention I feel sure there must have been some miscarriage & I have told him so as the Anthrop would never intentionally snub a man who could be so useful & it would be a good thing to get his paper instead of letting him send it to the United States as he proposes to do.

I [illegible] agree with you that good papers are the primary thing but you can't get a good class of papers out of a bad class of men you must if you please bear in mind that neither Evans, Dillon or yourself have any thing to do with the Anthrop in the time of its difficulties & you do not see as I do that [2 words illegible] of Charnock Carter Blake & Ramis [?] looming in the distance & [illegible] to return as soon as Brabrook has prepared the way for them. I have a letter from Hilton Price two days ago in which he says quite spontaneously that Brabrook is sure to bring them all back as soon as he gets a majority of one on the council. Carter Blake is a good comparative anatomist. I offered him [2 words illegible] as President to read his papers if he would put aside past feuds but he would have nothing to do with us upon that [illegible] it is evident they will only come back in pro... [illegible] as they went out. that means the ultimate exclusion of such gentlemen from the council & the [illegible] as to a collection of things [illegible] is only kept alive by personalities & indecencies

Yours very truly

A. Lane Fox


Tylor papers Box 11a Fison 2

Luvuka 17 August 1879

Dear Sir,

I have just received a note from Sir Arthur Gordon, enclosing your letter to him of June 13, in which you state that my letter to the Anthropological Institute did not reach its destination & are good enough to assure me that communications from me would be welcome to the Institute. I am extremely obliged to you for that assurance, & feel myself under deep obligation to Sir Arthur Gordon for bringing my name under your notice. If I do not explain why I have that feeling, it is because I could not do so without using words which would have a sound of flattery.

With regard to my letter aforesaid--not knowing how to address it, I sent it to a sister of mine, the wife of the Rev. W. Green, one of the Rugby masters, asking her to forward it. She replied that she had done so, & that it had been accompanied by a note from her husband. She gave me the name & address of the gentleman to whom it had been sent (I think the Sec'y of the Inst.); but I forget his name; &, being from home, I cannot refer to my note-book in which it is carefully recorded. There has evidently been some mischance, which I look upon as my good fortune, since it has brought me into direct communication with you.

The mischance, however, is likely to cause some considerable delay in the publication of the facts collected by Mr Howitt & myself. For explanation, I may tell you that, after collecting kinship terms for Mr Morgan in Fiji & Tonga, I removed to Australia, where I spent four years, & prosecuted the inquiry among the Aborigines there. From time to time I sent memoranda on the subject to Mr Morgan, who proposed at first to tabulate the information so supplied, & to publish it as a supplement to his work on systems of consanguinity &c. Subsequently, as additional memoranda from me reached him, he was good enough to suggest that I should write an independent work. He mentioned his suggestion to Prof. Joseph Henry, then Sec'y of the Smithsonian Inst. who wrote me a letter of encouragement, & promised the aid of the Smithsonian in the publication of my memoir. While working in the Australian field, it was my great good fortune to gain the help of Mr. A.W. Howitt, & our correspondence resulted in a warm personal friendship (if I may judge of his feelings by my own) & in literary partnership. We agreed, at Mr Brough Smyth's request, to furnish a chapter on the Australian intersexual regulations for the work on the Aborigines lately published by the Govt of Victoria. But information came in all too slowly, & finally a bronchial ailment compelled me to return to the warmer climate of Fiji. Hence our engagement to Mr Smyth was not fulfilled, & I am afraid that gentleman thinks hard things concerning me because of the failure. When I left Australia I wished to make over my materials to Howitt, leaving the work to him; but he positively refused my offer, & persisted in sending down to me in Fiji the information which continued to come in from our correspondents who were bring into communication with us by means of printed circulars which we [insert] had [end insert] distributed far & wide. In course of time we gathered material enough for a beginning, & put together as much as would make a small book at 200 pages, 8 vo in a fairsized type. This [insert] (having rec'd no reply to my letter to the Anthrop. Inst.) [end insert] we sent to Morgan, who submitted it to the Smithsonian authorities, writing a very complimentary prefactory note of his own by way of Introduction. By this time Unfortunately for us, Prof. Henry died before our MSS reached America, of course his promise to me was not binding on his successor, Prof. Baird, who indeed most probably knew nothing about it. Last month I received from Mr Morgan an official announcement of the arrival of our paper at the Smithsonian, & of the Secr.'s intention of laying them before a Committee. It was also stated that so many accepted MSS were already in hand, that if our work were approved, at least 1 1/2 years, probably 2 years, must elapse before it could be printed. This mail brings me no further tidings; & so there the matter rests for the present. I am especially sorry for this because the facts ascertained by us seem to be of special interest nowadays.

The copy of the Academy containing your Review of Mr Morgan's Ancient Society has not yet reached me. Mr Morgan told me of it, & sent me an extract from it, some months ago. I may add that he wrote with evident pleasure of the courtesy with which you had treated him, as an agreeable contrast to the contemptuous discourtesy he had met with at the hands of Mr McLennan. I wrote by last Mail a letter to the Saturday Review commenting on a criticism of my friend Howitt's short contribution to Brough Smyth's compilation, in which I took the liberty of complaining of that discourtesy. The critique I believe to be Sir John Lubbock's.

... [Fison goes into detail about 'classes' and totemic 'sub-divisions' of Australia]

I am not sure whether I shall be able to write out an orderly statement of the point in question in time for the September mail, as this is a busy time of the year with us, & I have a great deal of work to do as Secretary of our Mission here in connection with our Annual meeting, which takes place in a few weeks. After that press of work is over, I shall have more time at my disposal, & will endeavour to state the matters at length. The copy of the Academy will probably help me.

I have sent to my sister, Mrs Waring, the widow of the late George Waring of Oxford, a paper on Land Tenure in Fiji. This explains somewhat minutely the structure of Fijian Society, for therein Land Tenure here depends. I sent it to Mrs Waring, in the hope that she would know someone who could advise here as to the best way of getting it into some periodical or other, or the transactions of a society which publishes such things. I will write to her by this Mail asking her, if she has not already found a channel for it, to send it to you, on your application. I make this proviso simply because I cannot tell whether you are interested in that particular subject. All I want is to get it before the public as speedily as possible. It throws no light upon the matter concerning which you ask for information, as the more advanced Fijian tribes have aquatic succession the Town lot, the Arable Marks & the Waste, [?] as our own forefathers had them [insert] excepting that, having no cattle, they have no pasture land [end insert] The position of their houses even is regulated by the allowance for Eavesdrip, though they don't call it Eavesdrip. 

The subject of the paper necessitated an examination of chieftainship, & I have gone somewhat at length with that matter, showing that in Fiji at least birthright & Polygamy combined are necessary to produce the grades of rank found among these tribes. If you consider the paper worthy a place in any publication I shall esteem it a great favour, if you will kindly use your influence to get it published. Or, if you think it worth reading before one of the learned societies, & would take the trouble to read it, or to get it read, I should be very thankful. I do not know whether I am asking too much. If so, my fault arrives from pure ignorance of usage, & certainly not from presumption.

I must say one word more. You are kind enough to assure me that my communications will be welcome to the Anthropological Institute. I have "a sense of fear" that some things which I have to say may not be welcome to its President, whom I understand to be Sir John Lubbock. There are not a few statements in his Origins of Civilization concerning tribes with which I am well acquainted, which are incorrect. And I have had occasion to say so in more than one place. Moreover both McLennan & himself have so discourteously attacked Morgan that I cannot help feeling towards them somewhat as a savage feels towards a man who has insulted his chief. No fair & courteous criticism, however adverse, could raise such a feeling in me. Perhaps during my 15 years of life among savages I may have acquired somewhat of their clannish feeling.

I sent a second paper to Mrs Waring on "Burial Customs in Fiji" which I think you might like to see.

I will write to Melbourne by this Mail to ask that a copy of a paper of mine, which will probably soon be printed by the Royal Soc'y of Victoria, may be sent to you. It is on certain customs of the Banks Islanders.

Mrs Waring's address is c/o Robert Potts, M.A. Parker's Piece Cambridge. Mrs Potts is another brother in law of mine.

Believe me 

Yours very truly

Lorimer Fison

Edward B. Tylor Esq.


Tylor papers Box 11a Fison 5

Navuloa, Fiji

16 January 1880

Dear Sir,

I send you herewith a paper on the customs of Mota which has been published by the Royal Society of Victoria. It contains a woodcut of the Ghost of the Sea, a tracing of which you have already seen in my letter forwarded to you by Sir Arthur Gordon. I think there are some things in it which will be interesting to you especially the Mota system of numeration & the question as to the possession of high numbers being a mark of superior intelligence. You will see what I say in my note on Mr Codrington's statement of Mota numeration as to the number of spears usually carried by the Australian Natives. I was under the impression from my own recollections of the blackfellows whom I met with at various times & places in Australia that they usually carried two spears. But I was afraid to commit myself to a positive statement, & therefore wrote "two or three". Since writing that note, I have received a copy of "South Australian Aboriginal Folklore" published by the S.A. Gov't last year. As a whole it is of very little value, but there are in it a number of original drawings by Australian Aborigines representing hunting scenes &c. Those facing pp. 24, 40, 72, 124 all represent the men with two spears, & none give them more than two.

I am afraid that I shall be laughed at about the Freemasonry statement. But I cannot explain away the facts that have come to my knowledge through trustworthy channels. Only by last mail I received a letter from a gentleman well-known to me, who assured me that he had lately seen a number of Queensland blacks who make "the master sign of wonder" to a friend who was leaving Brisbane for Sydney by the steamer in which my correspondent was a passenger. Unless Stuart published a deliberate & useless lie, & moreover unless several trustworthy gentlemen have told me lies which could do neither them nor anyone else any good, Australian blackfellows certainly use signs which are current among freemasons at the present day. And whatever may be the origin of freemasonry as we have it now, we cannot say that it was not founded upon something older still.

The Rev. George Brown was in Fiji a short time ago, & I had some talk with him about the New Britain secret societies, but he could tell me nothing definite. That sort of thing does not come into his line. He is an enthusiastic collector of frogs & strange fishes, but he does not study native customs. In his own line he has done admirable work. I hope, with a very faint hope, to have an opportunity some day or other of visiting his field, & making inquiries for myself. But even a personal inquiry in such a case is of comparatively little value unless one can either secure a thoroughly trustworthy & efficient interpreter, or fiend a countryman of one's own who has been long enough among the natives, has had sufficient interest in the subject, & who has neither looked at native things from an European standpoint, nor allowed preconceived notions as to idolatry, Satanic agency, & so forth to influence his view of native customs. Missionaries especially are sometimes apt to look upon all heathen customs as necessarily devil-inspired, & so to condemn customs, which are innocent in themselves, because they suppose them to have a meaning which the natives themselves most certainly do not attach to them.

The more I learn of savage customs the more plainly do I see the necessity of unlearning our own notions as a preliminary to understanding the working of the natives mind. It is scarcely possible even to state their customs without conveying an incorrect impression, for our words are no conterminous [?] with theirs in their meanings. We cannot--for instance--use the words "God" & "worship" with reference to savages without conveying to an Englishman's mind something different from that which is in the mind of the savage when he uses the words which we have to render by those. His idea of God is very far from our own, & he means by "worship" something very different from that which we mean by it.

I am strongly inclined to think that the socalled worship of ancestors by tribes like the Fijians, is nothing more than what may be called an act of filial piety. The Fijian presents food & other useful things to his dead father or grandfather just as he presents them to his living elders. In so doing he does not perform an act of worship. He furnishes the dead who have a claim upon him with articles of which they stand in need. And in return they are bound to give him counsel & help, they just as the living are bound to give them. The counsel they give by entering into one of their descendants, & speaking through him. The help they are supposed to give invisibly, though sometimes they may assume a visible form. They are feared, it is true; but this is because they are supposed to have powers which the living cannot easily guard against. If they be offended, they cannot be shut out by a warfence like a living enemy. Hence, beyond the inutility of it, I see no harm in offering to the dead. They do not constitute deification. Moreover the offerings are not wasted. They are not burned as by some tribes. The day of a great sacrifice is the day of a great feast. The priests, who are the representatives of the dead, share out the food after it has been offered, & it is soon devoured.

In some of our tribes the priest's office is hereditary. But, like other officers, it is hereditary, not in a certain line of individuals form father to son, or to sister's son, but in a certain group of individuals. When the [insert] a [end insert] priest dies, this group of males assembles in the temple, & waits. Presently one of them begins to shake & tremble, his muscles contract & expand, his flesh twitches & quivers with a sort of crawling movement horrible to look upon, his eyeballs start & glare, his beard & moustaches bristle, his lips gather foam & draw back in a ghastly grin, he falls prostrate on the mat in strong convulsions. A weak stridulous voice is heard "It is I! It is I", & the name of one the dead ancestors ancestors proclaims himself. The man so chosen by the dead is The Mbete [insert] par excellence [end insert] for the time being, but the whole group of kinsfolk to which he belongs are also mbete, & eligible for election to the office.

In other Fijian tribes there is no such election, nor are there any priests. The offerings to the dead are made by the groups of males who are their descendants without any priest to come between them & the dead.

I do not hear from my sister Mrs Waring by the last Mail, but the November steamer brought me a letter from her stating that she was taking advice from friends as to getting my paper on Land Tenure in Fiji into some periodical or other. I daresay she had not been successful, & so did not write.

On p. 3 of the Mota paper Mr Codrington states that "Daughters inherit land, if there are no sons". The heirs here indicated by him are the children of the sister of the deceased, not his own sons & daughters, I did not observe the possible misconstruction here or I would have provided against it.

Believe me,

Dear Sir,

Yours very truly

Lorimer Fison

Edward B. Tylor, LL.D


Tylor papers Box 11a Fison 8

Navuloa, Fiji, 1 Mar. 1881

My dear Sir,

I received your letter of Dec 27 yesterday, & was made very glad by it. Once more I have to thank you for your great kindness, & this I do with all heartiness & sincerity. It is indeed kind of you to interest yourself as you have done on our behalf as to Kam. & Kurnai, & I am under additional obligation to you for reading the proofs of my paper on Burial Customs. It was stupid of me to write raici instead of raithi, or raidhi, or raidi (the last is in accordance with Lepsius' Missionary Alphabet) but one gets into a fatal habit of using the Fijian letters when one has been long accustomed to the use of them. During my earlier years in Fiji I even accustomed myself to think in Fijian in order more fully to acquire the language. The consequences were disastrous when I subsequently removed for a short time to Australia. The Fijian words used to come into my mind, & I had to translate into English as I went on, once I started a congregation by commencing the opening prayer in Fijian instead of in English & I had to get rid of my acquired habit by a course of mental training almost as severe as that which I followed in order to acquire it. The experience was a very curious one, & suggested several interesting points of inquiry.

Your information as to the "bullroarer" in Africa is extremely interesting. It is a valuable fact, for (as far at least as Australia is concerned) it is impossible to maintain for a moment that the instrument could have been introduced by Europeans. I should be glad to hear if the medici [?] have taken any notice of the fact that the umbilical cord is not tied. This also is an important fact though not so from an ethnological point of view.

I have been for some time in communication with Col Mallory. A little, not much, may be contributed from Fiji to his work, & that little I have done. The natives here have had a dialect commonly intelligible in which [insert] the various [end insert] tribes could communicate, though the dialects used by them severally diverge very widely. Hence they have not had the need for gesture language which has been felt (say) by the Australians.

I asked Howitt to send something to Mallory, but he has gathered so much valuable information on the question, & is rapidly requiring so much more, that he thinks we ought to keep our Australian materials for another work of ours which has been for some time on the stocks.

I am very much obliged to you for your kindness in getting my petition for free postage put before the Colonial Office. The Australia Govt's will not offer any opposition; & if we can get the privilege of sending bona fide work without postage, it will be a great help to us. Hitherto our work has been very expensive, & we are not at all likely to remunerate ourselves by publication. In fact we expect, & always expected, to lose money by our book, & when to that loss is superadded the cost of postage one cannot help groaning in spirit.

I believe that some of the skulls Mr Flower obtained must have belonged to members of the tribes which who compress the skull [insert] laterally [end insert] during infancy, & so narrow it. I am not sure about this custom, but your references to the narrow skulls has reminded me that I ought to be sure about it. I will start an inquiry at once. I know that the thing is done somewhere on the S. coast of Nuvitilevu, & I think it probable that some at least of the Colo tribes practise it. I know every little of the Colo tribes. They were inaccessible to me when I lived in the neighbourhood years ago, & now the state of my lungs is such that I cannot climb the hills. 

I note your remark about my having "let fly with much vigour at Mr McLennan &c", & that I may expect equal vigour in return. I shall not complain of any hard hitting if it be fair hitting. Indeed I am not at all sure that it will not be salutary. But I do most sincerely hope I have not produced the impression in your mind that I am fond of hitting for hitting's sake. I assure you that I am "the mildest mannered man". I have been a missionary for 17 years, & have never said a discourteous word to any living soul, nor have I had any personal quarrel with any man. In fact I have lived at peace with all men excepting the South Sea kidnappers, & their defenders. But I must own that appearances are horribly against me. There is my note about Mr Des Voeux (which I thank you for suppressing), there are my comments against Mr McLennan, & Sir John Lubbock, & worse than all there is an awful row we had with Sir A. Gordon just before his departure, in which I appear as one of the combatants. Nevertheless, I am not a fighting man, unless I have to fight on behalf of a friend, or against misrepresentation of our mission. Mr McLennan, as I thought, treated Morgan with the most contemptuous scorn. Sir John went out of his way to disparage Williams of Erromango. Mr Des Voeux (deceived, as I now believe, by the misrepresentations of other men) cast an unmerited slur upon our Mission as to land buying, & as to the last & worst affair, the publication was against my advice & against my will. Where controversy has to be undertaken on behalf of our mission here it falls to my lot officially. I being the Secretary of our mission in Fiji. And so, on behalf of others, I [insert] have [end insert] found myself not infrequently in the warpaint. But I do not don it willingly, & I am always glad to wash it off again. Nevertheless when fighting must be done I suppose one may as well do it vigorously. You will see that if I am attacked my replies will not be very virulent; & there are several points in my part of K. & K.--unguarded statements--which are quite open to attack, though I don't think the main theory will be affected thereby. However, it is not much use to try and prove one's amiability by mere assertion. I can but hope that, if what I have written has made you think me too fond of fighting, I may be able to remove the impression sooner or later. All the Australian Reviews of our work have been very favourable; but we wait for the verdict of English critics in the full expectation of much castigation. I am highly gratified by your remark that we "have made an important step in the difficult problem of early society". If we have done this we ought to be more than satisfied, & the assurance that we have done it could come no higher authority than yourself. Neither Howitt nor I consider that we have fully sifted the Australian facts. Since our ms went to the printer we have (or rather Howitt has) gathered much additional material throwing light on several important points connected with the change of the line of descent from females to males. He has found a large northern tribe with [insert] 4 [end insert] classes apparently formed in the Kamilaroi mould, but with descent through males. The totems [insert] in one district occupied by the tribe [end insert] are all fish totems, & Malay influences seem to be apparent. The Malays, I need not say, frequent the northern coasts to fish. All sorts of gradations also have been found. Mr Howitt is indefatigable; & being a well known & much honoured Australian explorer, he has many acquaintances in out of the way parts of the Continent who send him information. But generally speaking it is very fragmentary, & he has to write many letters before he can satisfy himself as to a new fact.

I have two philological papers sent me by Codrington, one on the common original element of the S. Sea languages, & the second on the exchange of consonants between those languages. I think very highly of them; &, having his permission to deal with them as I please, I will send them to you as soon as I can find time to copy them out.

Believe me

Yours most truly

Lorimer Fison

Edward B. Tylor Esq LL.D

I must apologise for these unseemly scraps of paper. I tore off the flyleaf of the other sheet of note paper activated by a fear of over-weight, & now I find I have forgotten to thank you for your kind offer as to posting my copies of Burial Custom & to give you the needful addresses.

If you will be good enough to send copies as follows, I shall be much obliged.

Robert Potts M.A. Parkers Piece Cambridge

William Fison, Burley in Wharfedale, Leeds, York

Rev W. Green M.A. Rugby School

Edward Fison, Ipswich, Sufolk

Mrs Watts (Howitt's sister)

Lewis H. Morgan, LL.D. Rochester, N.Y. U.S.A.

Rev W. Moulton D.D. The Leys, Cambridge

Hon Herbert J. Reynolds Calcutta

Rev. R.H. Codrington M.A. Norfolk Is. Sydney N.S.W. (Sydney postage only)

C.H. Fison. Ford Place, Thetford, Norfolk

James Fison, Barningham, Exworth, Suffolk

A.W. Howitt, Sale, Gippsland, Victoria

Sir William Stowell, C.J. Melbourne, Victoria

Professor Hearn, Melbourne University

G.F. Berry Jun'r Eccles, Manchester

I think these are all I need trouble you with, & I am ashamed to give you so much trouble. I owe you many thanks for so kindly offering to undertake it.


Tylor papers Box 11a Fison 9

Navuloa, Fiji 30 March '81

E.B. Tylor Esq: LL.D

Dear Sir,

By the last outgoing steamer I wroe thanking you very heartily for the kind interest you have taken in our book. In that letter, as in a previous one, I mentioned another mss of Mr Codrington's which I promised to send you, & I now redress my promise. Mr Codrington has a wonderful insight into these languages, & his observations appear to me to be of the very highest value. They arose out of our correspondence on island languages customs &c, during the course of which I was so delighted & instructed by his remarks that I urged him strongly to put them together in a connected form. He has done so to the extent of the papers now sent to you, which he looks upon as being simply tentative, their object being chiefly to invite criticisms. If you will kindly lay them before the Philological Soc'y, or deal otherwise with them in such manner as your experience may suggest as preferable, you will lay both Mr Codrington & myself under very great obligation. I have annotated his mss, but my notes are so insignificant that they do not warrant the addition of my name to the title page. If the Phil, or any other learned society, print the mss, a short note in the beginning or at the end explaining whose the notes are, is all I can aspire to. All my notes are enclosed in brackets, & signed with my initials. The others [insert] are Mr Codrington's own [end insert

I have urged Mr Codrington to send you a rough chart of the Islands marking them with the names he uses, some of which are the native names, while others are the English. I would prepare this chart myself, but I cannot distinguish his islands in several instances by reference to the ordinary maps, & the Admiralty carts are not to be trusted with regard to nomenclature. I have also asked him to explain his phrase "the nearer New Hebrides", which I suppose to mean those nearest to the Banks Is, where his mental standpoint probably was when he wrote.

Mr Codrington is the only man living who is thoroughly competent to deal with a comprehensive view of the Melanesian languages. At least I can hear of no other, the Presbyterian Missionaries in Melanesia not being given to philology as far as I can make out. And besides, there are few more who have Mr Codrington's special gift of insight. I can safely say that I have learned more from his letters as to the real structure of the Fijian language itself, than from my own intimate intercourse with the people. One learns to speak a language fluently enough by daily intercourse, but this does not teach more than that which lies on the surface. Mr Codrington's remarks have taught me to look below the surface, & to them I am indebted for the discovery that I know very little of a language, which I was stupid enough to think I had at my fingers' ends.

I have been making inquiries about the "most narrow skulled of men", I find the practice of lateral compression of infants' heads to be general if not universal as far as the Navitilevu Hill tribes are concerned. Moreover, I think it very likely [insert] nay positively certain [end insert] that the skulls, on which Mr Flower based his remarks, came from those very tribes. Our native agents tell me that a gentleman, whom they describe as a 'fat jolly man" bought a number of skulls from the Hillfolk. [insert] Herr von Hugel also bought some [end insert] Our agents, who were coast people belonging to tribes who would look upon such traffic as the worst kind of sacrilege were horrified at the desecration, & remonstrated with the hill people about it. But they seemed to think that the coins in hand were preferable to their fathers' bones & so they cheerfully dug up their ancestors, with the exception of those who had died of the measles. These they respected, but I am compelled to add that their pious reverence for them was caused solely by a dread of letting the plague loose once more among themselves. if they opened those graves. The long narrow skulls therefore among the Fijians owe their peculiarity to art, not to nature, & the custom which produces it is only local. I have asked Mr Codrington if he can trace the custom among his Melanesians.

In this case, as in many others, the facts are not what they seem. So also, I often see Fijians described as "frizzly haired": but the frizzly appearance of their hair is owing to the use of lime hairpowder, or rather pomatum. So also is the reddish brown hue. If they leave it alone it is of a purplish black & hangs down lies evenly enough on their heads. Naturally, it has a "wave" in it, which does not amount to a "ripple", still less to a "curl", & least of all to a "frizzle". Some of the Naviti levu tribes however may be woollier than others for aught I know. What I have said is based chiefly on what I have observed with regard to Fijian women who have married white men, & whose husbands, objecting to the inconvenience of the lime plastering, have prevailed upon them to let their hair take its natural course. Probably they have thereby only exchanged one nastiness for another. The lime dressing is suppressive of insect life.

I have lately read two papers by Mr C. Staniland Wake, sent me by Mr Morgan to whom Mr Wake had forwarded them. His remarks as to the bow being used [insert] in these seas [end insert] more as a plaything than as a deadly weapon, however true it may be with regard to Polynesians, does not apply to the Melanesians. The bow is their weapon par excellence & deadly shots they are. The most effective range is said to be about 50 yards; & within that range South Sea traders were far more afraid of a bow in their hands than of the old Tower Musket--the "Brown Bess" which finished its career among these islands, & I daresay among savages everywhere within reach of our commerce. Mr Wake gives ndakai as the Fijian word for bow, but this is only the Mbau word. We have vuthu also, which is the common Melanesian vusu, whu, wusu, us, wus. Almost every book (which comes in my way) about language or customs in these waters shows that the Melanesians are very little known. Mr Sayce for instance, makes a statement which seems very extraordinary to us. Mr Codrington called my attention to it in his last letter. But I find I have not his letter with me, & I must wait till I go home before continuing my remarks on this point. Though I have headed my letter with my usual address, I am writing at Rewa, where I have been for the last day or two, our station being vacant at present, & I have to look after it till we get another missionary. I have been holding the "Quarterly meeting", as we call it, of our native agents. A case came before the meeting illustrative of my statement in "Kamilaroi & Kurnai" as to the avoidance of familiarity between relatives by marriage. Among the offenders brought up for judgment, one of our teachers was accused of indecent conduct. His offence was that he had gone fishing for bêche de mer with his daughter in law. There was no suggestion whatever of anything worse, but that in itself was sufficient to render him an improper person to be engaged in our work. I cautiously tested the feeling of the meeting about it, carefully avoiding the exhibition of any opinion of my own, which would have been sure to influence the expression of theirs, & it is certain that they looked upon the offence as a very grave one indeed. This Rewa meeting is the most interesting one we have in Fiji, & that not only from a strictly missionary point of view. Thus we have had on the present occasion between 200 & 300 men from a coastline extending 100 miles along "the back" of Navitilvu, from outlying islands, & from the mountain tribes. The business of the meeting is too pressing, its time too short, & its work too exhausting, to permit much else than the business itself, but I noted yesterday & today the following different words used for the numeral "one"--ndua, [insert] ndunga [end insert] hila, lia, tia, kila, kia [insert] t'la [end insert] ta, & taya, & for the simple negative senga, sengai, sikai, tikai, chikai (soft ch) scki'tikai, reya, [insert] warai [end insert] & alala--to which may be added mino [insert] yali, wandring, talwali [end insert] & manka of negatives within my knowledge, but not belonging to this part of the group: also the words for not, tawa, ta, & teri, which are all I now call to mind. This fact will give you some notion of the variety of dialects represented. We have, however, the immense advantage over the Melanesia missionaries, that the Bau dialect is sufficiently understood by all our people to serve roughly for practical purposes.

Among the young candidates for admission to our work I was delighted to see some of Prof. Flower's narrow-skulled friends. Very likely the brains that were at work this morning in agony under my viva voce examination are the lineal descendants of those once contained in the skulls measured by Mr Flower. He may perhaps not be sorry to hear that all his young doli [insert] cho [end insert] cephalous friends "got through" very creditably.

Now that I am on the subject of our Rewa meeting I may mention a curious case, illustrating the imaginative powers of these natives, & their fine capacity of faith in all things the marvellous. One of our native agents was brought up for trial because of a sermon of his. He had taken the Day of Judgment as his subject, & as the conclusion, or "making heavy" of his discourse, he had introduced a report now current all over Navitilevu that the world is coming to an end next May. When I first heard of this report [insert] a week or two ago [end insert] I was naturally somewhat amused, but my amusement soon turned to horror when I found that I was quoted as the author of it. Straightway I set to work & traced the report along its line of extension back to a certain town, & there one of my own students was quoted as the authority. I got all my lads together, & sifted the matter thoroughly, the result being the following history of the report. On the night of Feb 2, we had a short, but sharp, hurricane. A few days afterwards in one of my little lectures to my students I talked to them about wind currents, cyclones &c & urged them to take all necessary precautions against the possible recurrence of the blow by securing their houses &c. In order to impress their minds more effectively I quoted a letter published in one of the Australian newspapers by an amateur astronomer, who announced that he had observed unusual disturbance in the sunspots which were supposed to be [section crossed out, illegible] [insert] connected with [end insert] atmospheric disturbance. On the following Saturday one of my students, who had gone to a town not far from Bau to take the Sunday services, gave the people in the house where he slept the benefit of his version of my remarks. Not many days afterwards a report began to spread that a great lady in Papalangi--she who had prophesied the coming of the measles to Fiji--had written to Mr Fison to say that two great things would happen in 1881--first, iron would be sharp, & second, iron would float on the water. A few days more, & to this was added the final consummation of all things in the coming month of May.

So also, when I visited Tonga in 1874, I was astounded by a deputation which waited on me to inquire whether the following report concerning me were true. It had come from Fiji, they said, & was generally believed in the Friendly Islands. I had been a midshipman on board an English man o' war which was ordered to Fiji. For some offence my captain had sent me to the foreroyalmast head. All day I sat there without food or drink. Night came on, & still no word of recall was uttered by my cruel chief. It was a starless night, a fine breeze was blowing, & the ship went rushing swiftly through the dark. Suddenly a tremendous shock, an awful crash, & ship & crew disappeared. She had rushed bows on against a steep to shore reef, her bows were stow [sic] in, she backed off, & sank in deep water with all hands save one. That one was the unlucky lucky midshipman aforesaid. When the ship struck, the foremast fell with a jerk which sent him soaring through the night, over the intervening [insert] reef [end insert] shallow waters & pitched him into a tree top. Thus he arrives on Fijian ground. What small spark of truth could have been blown into that wonderful conflagration of romance I am utterly at a loss to imagine, unless it be the fact that, when I was a lad, I made one voyage to sea. These things are interesting as showing imaginative [four words crossed out, illegible] powers in the minds of these "brainless savages", & also as showing how quickly, & from how small a seed, a big legendary growth may spring. We might as well talk about "brainless children" as about "brainless savages".

The appearance of the mss does not please me. I would write more neatly if the pen manufacturers would only make a pen which will write a fine stroke on thick paper. Perhaps, however, I ought to blame our importers. I have recently bought more than £3 worth of pens, & I can't find one among them which will make a fine upstroke, & persevere in so doing for a quarter of an hour together. Moreover No 1 is especially shabby. It has travelled to Australia & back again; & I really have not the heart to write a fresh copy. But one thought comforts me a little viz: that untidy looking as these mss are, they are infinitely more legible than are nine tenths of those I receive from my correspondents.

The orthography of native words I think, is pretty accurate in Nos ii & iii, & I hope for the best as to No i, but you will see what I said about it in my expunged note to Howitt written on the back of the title page.

On referring to Mr Codrington's letter I find Mr Sayce's statement to be that the Malays Polynesian languages have no verbs. This statement appears very extraordinary to us; & I can account for it only on the supposition that he supposes these languages have no verbs excepting such as are formed out of other parts of speech by the addition of verbal prefixes. But, in addition to these, there are plenty of words which are verbs absolutely & nothing else. Mr Codrington also says that in a Malagasy grammar lately received by him there is a statement that all verbs are primarily passive & only become active by the addition of causative prefixes. This statement also appears very extraordinary to us. I hope Mr Codrington's papers will lead to a copious correspondence on many questions connected with these languages. He is the one man of all of us in these seas fully qualified to answer the questions which the Philological society would like to have answered. As for myself I am only beginning to learn that which he has long ago mastered, & I am trying to do with the little field afforded by the Fijian dialects what he has already done in the entire Melanesian field. My chief--if not my only--use is, by persistent correspondence, to [illegible] him into giving us the benefit of his knowledge. He has so much to do at Norfolk Island that he can find but little time for anything beyond his mission work. Once more with many thanks

Believe me

Yours most sincerely

Lorimer Fison

P.S. In No ii under sea, Codrington gives "Tasmati & Tamaur, the live & the dead sea." Surely this order should be reversed, but I have not ventured to alter it. I have noted it to him, & have asked him to settle the question in his letter to you.


Tylor papers Box 11a Fison 12

Luvuka July 15: '81

Dear Sir,

I returned yesterday from a fortnight's voyage to the outlying island of Rotuma, & found a copy of the Academy containing your notice of our work. I thank you very heartily for it. It is friendly, cautious, highly suggestive, & of the greatest use to us.

I may point out that I am in nowise concerned to account for the origin of exogamy. I am content to take the two divisions, which are tangible facts, as my starting point, & to leave what lies behind them until we can get more evidence. But I must allow that the evidence for an absolute communism behind them is becoming stronger & stronger. The facts which are coming to my knowledge of temporary lapses into absolute communism in the intercourse of the sexes as a distinctly expiatory ceremony, are really startling.

Your point as to the exogamy of the two divisions not prohibiting intercourse between father & daughter is a strong one: but the tabu between son in law & father in law comes in to help us here, the son in law's wife being included therein. "My daughter's my daughter all my life" does not apply to my savage friends. Nevertheless I can see that further inquiry is needed here. ... 

My friend Howitt is greatly stirred up by Mr McLennan's attack upon us in Nature. He has written a reply, & urges me to go & do likewise. But I do not feel any necessity for entering the arena. Mr McL only questions my facts, & calls name which cannot hurt without supporting argument. I am sure of my facts. Every one of them has been most carefully tested, & for years I resisted Howitt's urgings towards publication because I thought we had not taken sufficient precautions against mistake. As for my theory, or theories, founded on the facts, they must shift for themselves.

Our practice has been, where we could not verify a statement by personal investigation, to send out a printed circular on it to our most trustworthy correspondents. The temptation has often been very strong to depart from this rule, but we have resisted it.

I was much interested by what I saw & heard at Rotuma, but having only 3 days to devote to the island I could do nothing (beyond the special object of my visit) but fill up a vocabulary of 71 words selected by Mr Codrington from Wallace's list. I found two vocal sounds hitherto unknown to me among the islands--the sound of a in our all, & that of the German ö. The transposition of the syllables [insert] letters [end insert] also is common (as it is elsewhere) e.g. moon = hula or hual: mat = epa or eap: flesh = tiko or tiok.

I was amused at finding that the heathen Chinee has not a monopoly of ways that are dark & tricks that are vain. His Rotuma brother shows a like "peculiarity." Sir A. Gordon's "young gentlemen" who have been living at Rotuma have made a fine collection of stone celts, & are surprised at the number offered for sale. Most of these are the most rubbishing impositions & I came upon a native fashioning one out of soft sandstone by means of an English grindstone! They have ground a number of shells into elegant adzes & chisels, & the demand for them has created a new & profitable branch of industry.

Can you tell me whether the Institute Ethnographique de Paris is of any weight?

Believe me,

Yours very truly,

Lorimer Fison

Edward B. Tylor Esq: LL.D

[The two-sided PS to this letter has not been transcribed]


Tylor papers Box 11a Fison 14

Navuloa, Fiji, Aug 12. 1881

Dear Sir,

I send you herewith 31 Fijian Fables selected out of a great number. If one put in the indecent ones, quite a volume might be made up. I also send a Fable which I think is very good. You will recognise its family likeness. Mr Walter Carew tells me there is a Fijian "Hair & Tortoise"--the Heron & the Crab--but I have not met with it.

I wrote to you at some length a short time ago, & have nothing more to say just now excepting that I am strongly urged in letters received by this mail to write a reply at once to Mr McLennan's critique. I don't like to refuse my friends, but I cannot say that I am eager for the work.

I shall esteem it a favour if you will kindly take charge of my riddles & fable.

Yours most truly

Lorimer Fison

Edward B. Tylor Esq LLD.

[Added in another pen]

I should have premised that Riddle propounding is quite an institution in Fiji--but perhaps I had better write another half sheet as an introduction.

During a visit to Rotuma whence I am just returned I noticed many small kites tied to cocoanut trees by knotted lengths of fibre. The string was about 30 or 40 feet long, & the kites never fall unless it broke, or the wind ceased. They were about 1 foot long, & nearly as broad, made of dry banana leaf--stretched by pins of the cocoanut leaf backbone or whatever it may be called--the small leaf of course. The shapes were [3 drawings, 1 crossed out roughly spade-head shaped] my hand shakes too much today for drawing

The native name for the kite is manman = bird. The Rotumans are a peculiar race. I see Whitmee puts them among the Melanesians in his map; but they are not Melanesians. I have sent 71 Rotuma words (selected from Wallace's list_ to Codrington, & will tell you what he makes of them. I have hunted fruitlessly for Howitt's letter containing Baron Mikluho Muklay's statement about father and daughter I think the place was somwhere in the Moluccas


Tylor papers Box 11a Fison 16

Navuloa, Fiji

Sep 23. 1881

Dear Sir,

Your very kind letter of July 12, accompanied by the land tenure articles, has just arrived by H.M.S. "Emerald", which is now in quarantine with Sir Arthur Gordon on board.

I am detaining a boat in order to send a line of acknowledgment to Levuka for transmission to Australia by the Melbourne steamer, & can only write most hurriedly. I will write at length next week.

I don't know how to thank you for the trouble you have taken with my Land Tenure, & for all your kindness. Many thanks also for your copies of Academy Review. I wrote to you some time ago about it. 

I am very sorry to hear of Mr McLennan's death--very sorry indeed. Of course both Howitt & myself stop our reply to his critique. As to the "red hot shot" I never care how hot the shot may be, if it be fired fairly. This once for all, & no more. I read with great interest your obituary notice & thank you for sending it to me. 

One of my best friends in Melbourne is a man against whom I used to rise in hot indignation when I first became acquainted with him. But by & bye I found he was as true as steel, & one of the kindest hearted men on the face of the earth. When I found this out, he could never anger me more, & when he used to say in the course of argument "Fison--I didn't think you were such an ass!" I used to say "Just so, Symonds--That's your way of saying you differ from my opinion. Now let us have yours."

I am highly flattered by your proposal to make up some sort of record out of extracts from my letters, & shall be only too glad if you will be kind enough to do so. Only please wait a little while. I should like Howitt to give you the corresponding Australian facts, & have written to him urging him to write to you at once. I will also send you a copy of an account given me by Mr Heffernan--once of H.E.'s Commissioners for Nuviti Levu. This must be for next week. I don't think I have copies of all my letters to you, but if I give anything you have had before it will not matter much. If I could only get myself adopted into a Fijian class. I know I could get at much more, but I have not succeeded yet.

Very many thanks for what you propose to do with Codrington's papers. He has not seen von Gabelentz's work. I feel sure of this, for if he knew of it he would have told me for my own benefit. Hence the agreement between his views & those of the learned German is all the more valuable. As a help to abridgement please strike out all my notes. That will help to some extent, & it is better to exterminate Fison on language questions than to cut out from Codrington. But doubtless more than this abridgement will be necessary. I will write to Codrington at once. His address is Norfolk Is. via Sydney. Sydney postage from England suffices. The P.O. authorities forward the letters without further charge, for which may they be remembered for good.

I drop the "brainless savage". I got him out of Morgan's letters. Perhaps the mistake is mine. Poor Morgan is completely broken down. His wife writes his letters now, & he signs his name with difficulty. He cannot go beyond his house excepting in his carriage. I am deeply grieved. None but those who have worked with him can understand the personal affection he inspires. Please remember this when you think of my passages of arms with your own friend. Once more with many thanks I remain Yours very truly

Lorimer Fison

E.B. Tylor Esq LLD.


Tylor papers Box 12 Howitt 2

Sale, Gippsland, Victoria

Nov 21. 1881

E.B. Tylor Esq D.C.L. LL.D

London, England

Dear Sir

In the last letter I received from Mr Fison he requested me to forward to you some particulars as to the exceptional intersexual customs of the Australian Aborigines which are being brought under my notice in the Enquiries I am now making. It has seemed to me that I can do this best by extracting a selection from the materials in my possession and to make this selection supplement a paper which I forward at the same time with this to my sister Mrs Watts for transmission to you. This paper you will find is entitled from "mother right to father right" and gives a resumé of the views at which we have so far arrived as to the probable causes of the change in the line of descent which seems to have occurred in Australian tribes. We forward it to you in the hope that you will kindly communicate it to the Anthropological Institute. The notes I send separately for your information, have been extracted with reference to the tribes which I have selected as examples in the paper referred to. Sometime ago my sister communicated to me your wish to obtain some examples of the wooden humming instrument called by the Kurnai "Tundun". I communicated with a number of my correspondents but I regret to say that up to the present time I have only procured one example, or to speak more correctly that one correspondent has procured one example (from Queensland) which is on its way to me. He writes me that the Blackfellow who gave it to him earnestly requested him to keep it from the sight of women and children. I have one as used by the Kurnai and I hope to obtain others; but it is no easy matter to get them.

If I can be of any service to you in procuring any special information which you may be in want of it will afford me much pleasure; I am in communication with over fifty correspondents in various parts of Australia who are more or less successfully working for me and under my direction.

I am dear Sir

yours faithfully

A.W. Howitt.


Tylor papers Box 12 Howitt 3

Sale Gippsland Victoria

Jany 21 1881 [Added in blue pen by another hand '(2)' and in pencil 'wrongly dated', presumably meaning 1882]

Edward B. Tylor Esq

D.C.L. &c

Linden Wellington


Dear Sir

My sister has sent to me a note you kindly addressed to her on November 13th last, on the subject of the Ancient Mysteries. I am much obliged for the trouble you have taken. So far all I have been able to gather has been of little use. The highly developed mysteries of the ancients may have sprung from earlier mysteries such as are found now among savages but yet it may be next to impossible to show the points of similarity. I am making the utmost endeavours to get "behind the veil" [insert] here [end insert], whether I shall succeed is another matter. My latest move has been, after consultation with my aboriginal friends here to send two messengers to the tribes east of Gippsland calling them to a ceremony of initiation in the Monaro tableland. I have in this "taken the bull by the horns" in an unprecedented manner, but my two messengers seem to be no wise doubtful of success. I trust that the result will justify their confidence. Fortunately I know well the two headmen--one of them the tribal wizard in whose territory the meeting is proposed to be so that so far it may be favourable and as to the more distant tribe one of my messengers belongs to it and the other was I may almost say adopted into it as a boy. If I succeed I shall be present at the ceremonies early in April next. I mention this as I know that you take a kind interest in the work I am attempting to carry out here.

After this long preamble I now come to the part of your note which has caused me to trouble you with this. Fire making apparatus has not been used in this district for at least 25 years [insert] so far as I know [end insert] and it may well be difficult to find any one who knows how to affect use it. I do [illegible] however that I can find out the word used. I believe that one piece was the pithy flower flower stem of the Grasstree and the second piece a spindle of hard wood twirled between the hands. At Coopers Creek the Dieri and Yantui-unta obtained fire 20 years ago by similarly twirling a hard spindle in a small hollow in one end of their shields. The shield was the one, if I remember right which was used for hand to hand combat with club (or boomerang) not the broader one used in spear fights. The wood of which the shields was made was light coloured and as I remember did not show much grain. I was told that the shields were obtained from tribes to the Eastward by barter for string girdles &c made by the Coopers Creek blacks. I have seen them twirling the stick to produce fire and have observed that they put a pinch of charcoal dust and sand in the hole to increase the friction. 

I shall now institute enquiries here and shall also write to correspondents in nearby settled districts where "fire raising" by drilling or other apparatus is still probably practiced. I shall then let you know the result.

I regret the tundun promised me for you have not yet come to hand. I shall not loose [sic] sight of your request and sooner or later shall get them for you. I have one of this tribe (Kurnai) but not for others. In the matter of message sticks I have been at work for a long time. I have secured some which I will send to you. After I have made careful drawings of them for future use. I have not yet found one instance where the marks upon them convey any meaning by the blacks from which [insert] whom [end insert] they have been obtained. They say the marks are only for ornament and that the "stick" is more of a token to accredit the messenger. This does not disprove the positive statements made eg by Mr Dawson that in some places the marks have a meaning. So far I cannot find an instance either in South Australia, Queensland, New South Wales or Victoria. Message sticks were not known to or used by the Kurnai. The messenger sometimes carried a boomerang, shield or spear as a token from the sender of the message. 

You may rely upon my not loosing sight of your request

I am Dear Sir

yours very truly

A.W. Howitt


Tylor papers Box 11a Fison 21

Melbourne Victoria

3 March 1882

My dear Sir,

I have only time to write a hasty scrawl acknowledging the receipt of your very encouraging letter of Nov. 13, which reached me in Fiji when I was engaged in packing up our household stuff preparatory to the removal of my family to this colony. My wife's illhealth, & the necessity of securing educational advantages for our children, made this change necessary. We have been here some four weeks, & as soon as I can make the necessary arrangements I shall return to Fiji alone in the hope of being able to remain there for some time longer. During that time I will do all I can to increase my stock of materials as to savage life, thought, & speech; but it is a grievous thought to me that thereafter I shall probably be shut out from the pursuit in which I have taken so keen a pleasure. A chronic bronchial complaint [insert] of which I am subject [end insert] puts ministerial work in the colonies out of the question; & since, during my missionary career I have kept clear of land buying & other money-making speculations, I shall have to make a fresh start in life in order to provide for my family as best I may. Clean hands are very good things, especially for missionaries, but they are not always the best for other purposes, especially when they have begun to get somewhat shaky, & they are not likely to find much time for scientific work under the altered circumstances.

I do not think Fiji will afford many nature-myths. These appears to belong to Polynesia rather than to Melanesia in these seas. The Mani-legend for instance stops at Tonga, though it is known in Eastern Fiji through Tongan channels. I do not remember any of the Fijian indecent riddles as being specially worth while. The dirtier the dirt the wittier is it in Fijian ears.

Mr Howitt is the man for Australian "message sticks". I shall probably visit him in a day or two, & will take your letter with me. I remember that two or three years ago he casually mentioned having written some notes on them for a German correspondent of his whose name I forget. It is strange that neither Howitt nor myself noticed the differences of initials between D. & J.F. when the hostile review came out. We both replied under the impression that our castigator was Mr J.F. McLennan & we suppressed our replies when we heard of his death. For this I am sorry now, as we lost a good chance of a profitable controversy. I will talk the matter over with Howitt in a few days.

Mr Dawson has taken great pains in the compilation of his work, but Howitt finds some of his statements contradicted by native informants. Dawson, I believe, worked with the help of his daughter, an admirable young lady, who speaks the dialect of the natives in their neighbourhood. There were many things which the blacks would not tell a young woman & other things concerning which they would probably mislead her. Moreover Dawson's tribes are broken remnants.

I searched high & low for a splendid nose flute which I am sure I had in my possession, but could not find it. Subsequently I discovered it in the house of a person who declares I gave it to him, but of the gift I have no recollection whatever. When I return to Fiji I will get you one - or perhaps I can procure one here from Melbourne friends to whom I sent specimens long ago. At any rate you may count upon getting one sooner or later. The flute is still used. I frequently hear my own students playing on it at night. The sound is produced thus. The "blowhole" is close to the closed end of the flute, so close that by holding the end under the nose the hole is brought under the right nostril. The left nostril is closed by pressing with the thumb of the left hand, the fingers of which are at liberty to stop some of the holes pierced in the body of the flute. But when I go back I will watch the performer closely, & send you an exact description of their movements.

The message sticks were, & are still, sent in Fiji but I do not know of any writing upon them. They are simply aids to memory - one stick for one message, & another for another, as far as I know. But I will make further inquiry. So many things which I have supposed to be non-existent have turned out to be flourishing in full vigour under my very nose that I hesitate to say positively that such & such a thing is not. In fact the one great result of all my study of savage life is a humiliating conviction that I know nothing about it. One wants to be an adopted member of a clan & to take unto himself a native wife, in order [missing word? to] get really into the people's confidence, & a considerable amount of anthropological fervour is necessary to impel a man as far as that. I am somewhat sceptical as to accounts I have heard about the Australian message sticks. One can readily understand that scratches like this [drawing] may be the mark--say of the Lizards--& that a number of horizontal or vertical scratches under or over them may mean so many lizards or so many days as helps to memory; but I have never been able to take in the tales about actual messages in hieroglyphic writing which one hears occasionally from men who have been among the Blacks.

I am much obliged to you for your information as to the Paris Society. Both Howitt & myself--Codrington too--agreed that we would answer inquiries if any were made without doing anything more, at least for the present.

I have also to thank you for sending your copy of v. Gabelentz work to Mr Codrington. I wrote to him fully when I received your former letter, but have not yet heard from him in reply. Though Norfolk Is. is so near to both Sydney & Fiji, our communication with it is very uncertain, & we can reckon on answers from England with greater certainty & at shorter intervals.

As to Primitive Marriage, there is not a word you say which I cannot fully agree with. For my own part I am simply uninterested in the "Consanguine Family". My only object is to collect the available facts & to go as far as they go. The "total promiscuity" as I see it nowadays is only temporary as a sort of "religious ceremony" of expiation. What may have been the past is beyond my ken. I think however the facts show a "right of cohabitation" between certain groups. But as you say the strong probability is that this right was always more or less restricted as it is nowadays among the Australians. I am reminded here of an off repeated expression of one of our critics whom I think you know. He uses Muri or Murri to designate all the Aust. aborigines, apparently under the impression that it corresponds to the N.Z. Maori. It would be a friendly deed to caution him against that use, which is altogether erroneous. In N.Z. Maori is only an adjective meaning "native", as opposed to Pakeha; & the Aust. Murri is simply a class name & nothing more. Numberless tribes have no knowledge of it, & even where it is used it applies only to men of that particular class.

I was struck by your remark about the "pairing of lower animals." When thinking over the different usages among tribes which have come within my ken, I have found myself shrinking from the thought that similar differences are to be found among the lower animals. Thus cattle in the bush here confine themselves to certain localities, & stockmen have told me they resent the intrusion of other herds. So also I have found war arising in drops of water under my microscope when I have filled my bottle out of several pools. And the intersexual arrangements are still more striking.

I am fully persuaded of the accuracy of my view about the "rights of old men in Australia". The elders have vested in them the authority which is held by hereditary chiefs in Polynesia, & they arrogate to themselves all manner of claims by virtue of that authority, just as the chiefs do in Fiji. And this leads me to say that our strongly marked hereditary chieftainship in Fiji is probably a Polynesian "streak" among a Melanesian people. But then chieftainship seems to grow out of various causes & shows itself unexpectedly here & there in places which would seem to be unfavourable to its growth. Where I said in my Land Tenure paper that chiefs were probably in the first instance only heads of families, it had in my mind only the orderly development which takes place without disturbing causes. But, since I wrote those words, what seems to be good evidence of hereditary chieftainship among broken clans in Australia has come in. The whole subject needs investigation.

I was much interested by your account of your conversation with Mr Goldwin Smith. He was a great friend of my brother in law the late George Waring of Oxford & it was he who first set Dr Morgan at me. I owe him a debt of gratitude for that good deed.

In reply to your good wishes as to our relations with our new Governor, I am glad to say that those relations are cordial in the extreme. And here I am very glad to thank you once more for expunging those words which would have caused so much m... [illegible because very faint]

Believe me, yours most truly

Lorimer Fison

Edward B. Tylor Esq LL.D &c


Tylor papers Box 12 Howitt 4

Sale Gippsland

June 22 1882

EB Tylor ESq DCL FRS &

Linden, Wellington Somerset


Dear Sir

I forward to you by this post a paper on the Australian class system which I shall feel obliged if you will kindly communicate to the Anthropological Institute. I have several others in hand which with your permission I will send as they get themselves finished. I have thought it well as it may be years before I may be in a position to publish, to communicate from time to time something in the nature of a progress report. I shall be obliged if you can arrange for me to have 25 [insert] 50 [end insert] copies for which I shall be only too glad to pay the cost.

I must now explain the delay in procuring for you the humming instrument and the fire stick which you expressed a desire to obtain. I have now one tundun (Gippsland) one Bribbun (Queensland) and I expect shortly several others. It is not however easy to procure these as the blackfellows dont like to give them up nor tell let white people see them. I have also a fire drilling apparatus from Queensland; I shall shortly have one belonging to the district and I am promised another from southern Queensland. I hope also to procure others. So soon as I obtain those or others, or find that the delay will be too long I shall send the collection off to you with further particulars. No delay will take place on my part (through negligence) of your wishes But for my correspondents I cannot so well answer

I remain Dear Sir

yours very truly

A.W. Howitt

P.S. I find that I have omitted to mention that I read your most kind notice of our work, in your Presidential address. I have felt most encouraged by you and with my enquiries. One [i.e. on] one point however I found myself not able to agree with you--namely as to the avoidance by a man of his wifes father. This was new to me, but I do not know all of the Australian tribes or I dare say even a touch of them and I shall now direct special enquiries on this point. You will observe that I have [2 words? illegible] in the paper I send.


Tylor papers Box 12 Howitt 6

Sale, Gippsland

August 23 1882

My dear Sir

I send you by "Tates parcel express" a packet containing some fire drills. The large one labelled "Broombni-talo-yucka" is that used by the Chepara tribe of the Queensland coast about the Tweed and Logan Rivers--not far from the New South Wales boundary. I am indebted for them to Mr James Gibson [illegible initials] of ...more [illegible name of place] Queensland who has written to me on this subject as follows:--

"The Blackfellow places the stick in the ground with his knees firmly on it, having some dry grass beneath the centre. He there rests or twirls the [illegible] round stick in the other very rapidly between his hands when smoke very soon appears and then the grass ignites. The piece of wood are [sic] from the Grasstree stem, I must mention that I asked my friend to make fire so that I might see it done; but he tried several times as you will see from the sticks, but failed to bring fire. There was plenty of smoke but it did not ignite the grass. He said the wood was a little green and assured me that the blacks bring fire in this way very quickly when the wood is dry."

The smaller parcel contains three samples for which I am indebted to Mr E. Palmer of Parramatta near Sydney who [illegible] them when visiting his stations at the Cloncurry River lately. They all [insert] are [end insert] used by the blacks of the Flinders River. The fire is produced by "drilling". I have referred the specimens of the [illegible] and foliage of the bushes to Baron v. Mueller who has given me the names which I attach.

No 1. Ngeen-jerry -- "Peabrush" -- Leobanca Aegypliacum Person

No 2. Thandora ---- Veulilago viminalis Horker

No 3. Thurkoo ---- Clerodendron floribundum R. Brown

Mr Palmer has not made any remarks as to the exact method of making fire. He mentions that one of the three is preferred but I regret that I have mislaid his note among my papers and cannot now place my hand on it. 

These are all the firedrills I have at present, I send them to [illegible] to you that I am not unmindful of your wishes. Before long I hope to have more as I am expecting to receive visits from certain old men from various tribes. I have been making arrangements for this end for some time and I hope that the first of the series will arrive next month from New South Wales.

I have several of the humming or roaring instruments for you but I reserve them for the present. I am desirous of producing them at a meeting which the Blacks tell me they will certainly hold about the new year and nothing I could show them thereat would be of so much interest to them as these things. I may mention that one which I made and delivered by the old men of the Manerir tribe is, they told me the other day when I was in their country, on its travels up the New South Wales southern coast and will certainly be brought back by the men who are to attend the meeting I have mentioned. If this meeting comes off as I now hope it will I shall have much to see and hear and I shall probably obtain some more firedrills and "Bull roarers" for you.

I hope that my last paper on Australian class systems duly reached you and was not without interest. Since sending it I have thought that the sketch map might have been made clearer if I had not used Roman numerals for the reference [illegible]. If the map is printed may I trouble you to kindly alter these references so as to agree with the text; that is if you think that the difference between the references and the map and on the text are of moment. 

I have now in hand and almost completed a paper on "Some Australian Beliefs" which I shall take the liberty of sending to you for the Anthropological I feel that I may perhaps be trespassing upon your kindness in this but the kindness with which you have taken charge of former [illegible]

[illegible] Dear Sir

yours faithfully

A.W. Howitt


Tylor papers Box 12 Howitt 7

Sale, Victoria. Dec. 30. 1882

Dear Dr Tylor

I have received your note of Oct 25 with much pleasure. I have requested my sister to settle for any expense there may be in the 50 copies of my paper but as I have not heard from her that this has been done I will remind her again. I send you by this post another paper on "Some Australian beliefs" which I hope may not be without interest. Will you kindly present it to the Anthropological Institute. I have several other papers in hand on "Early migrations of Australian tribes", "The Kurnai ancestor", "Ceremonies of Initiation" "Gesture language" "Chiefs and Headmen" "Messengers and Message sticks" which I will venture to trouble you with if you do not mind. I think it is well to adopt the means of "Reporting progress" from time to time. If you will kindly order for me 50 copies of each paper I shall feel extremely obliged as I like to send papers to correspondents some of whom are thereby stimulated to more work.

I shall now send in a parcel (either by Post or by Parcels [illegible] Company - if I find the packet could go by post) two tunduns - one from Gippsland the tundun proper, the other from Queensland. For the latter I am indebted to Mr J. Gibson of Yatala Queensland who writes of it as follows:--

"The Bora ceremonies in the Chepara tribe were ordered to be held by the chief man of the tribe. The messenger whom he sent to summon the clans of the Chepara to the ceremonies are carried in addition to the message stick, the Bribbun or sacred humming instrument. He approaches the camp to which he is sent at sundown keeping concealed at a distance and makes a noise with the bribbun. The men go out and find him pretending to be asleep or in a sort of trance. The following morning they all go with their Bribbun man. When approaching the Bora ground, the Bribbun man goes a little ahead and [illegible] s... do?] the Bribbun. On hearing this all the men and women in the camp raise a great shout and all the men go out and meet him. At the termination of the Ceremonies of Initiation the Bribbun man comes and shews it to the youths and this is the only time they see it. He gives to each of them a small Bribbun called "Wabulkan" which is a sort of guarantee of their initiation and is supposed to have received small portion of the virtue which the large and principal one is supposed to possess. The Wabulkan is kept scrupulously concealed from the women."

I have [illegible] Mr Gibson's statements but the above is the gist of them. It was Mr Gibson who sent the firedrill which I hope you have received before now. Other tunduns I will send by and bye when I have exhibited them to my blackfriends.

I shall also send you at the same time with the Bribbun and Tundun a firedrill as used by the Melbourne blacks (woi-worung). It is called Jeil-wurk and is made from the wood of the Hadycarga [illegible] I have carefully borne in mind your remarks when making observations on the method of fire raising with this drill. The old man who gave it to me could produce fire in about a minute. With his help in the minute of the process when my hands became tired I produced fire in about a minute and a half. What is required is to press the drill downwards with sufficient force while rotating it. The old mans hands were hard and they were "sticky"--this latter quality I found out from [illegible] when I had to shake hands in parting. I observed that in commencing to drill he always placed his thumbs in the drill so as to press it down before commencing to rotate it between his hands. Sometimes to increase the friction he held the drill slightly inclined--by which means more powder was ground from the side of the hole. This powder turns dark brown and falls down the stick at the edge of the rest with a little cone on the "stringy bark" which is placed to receive it. As soon as the drill smokes (or rather the ground dust round its point) the drilling is made more rapid, more smoke rises and there is a peculiar smell of its burning. The wood dust becomes ignited and falls down the notch onto the little cone of carbonised wood dust below. This takes fire and smoulders. A few minute shavings from the rest are cut off and laid on it and the whole carefully [illegible] up in the "stringy bark" and gently blown into a flame. In this process everything used must be thoroughly dry. You will find four holes at one end of the rest. Three of these were used when the old man showed me the process--one by the way was already used. The fourth hole opposite the others was the one in which I made fire with his help. The solitary hole further up is one which I used the other day for experimenting. I found that although I could carbonise the drill point and the hole that I could not press down tight enough to complete the process. My hands were too soft and too smooth. I then widened [insert] the hole in [end insert] a cotton reel so as to admit the drill tightly--I used a small vial as a rest in which to hold the top end of the drill and I rotated it with a small bow--a stick and a piece of string. Doing this I could thus press the drill down with sufficient force. I obtained fire with ease and in less time I think than the old man did with his hands, for my drilling was continuous wile he had to stop every now and then to shift his hands upwards. If you can make your hands hard enough and adhesive enough not to slip down too quickly you can I am sure make fire some. But in any case you can produce it as I did the other day. I have made a new hole ready for drilling and I send a supply of "stringy bark" for use. I shall now look out for a Gippsland drill as soon as I can get hold of one of the old men.

A correspondent of mine Mr Palmer who has several large stations in Queensland is busy in compiling an account of the Carpenteria tribes. He will deal with their tribal organization, customs, language and the plants used by them for food or medical purposes. I have promised to ask you whether it would be agreeable to you if he sent his work when completed to you for presentation to the Anthropological Institute. Will you kindly tell me and also the maximum number of pages of the transactions it should make. It will have a map attached.

I have seen Wilhelmi [?] book years ago but have not been able to find it in the booksellers shops in Melbourne. i think it is in the Melbourne Library and it is one of the many works which I have in my list for examination. I have some recollection of having met Wilhelmi years ago

I am Dear Dr Tylor

yours faithfully AW Howitt


Tylor papers Box 12 Howitt 8

Sale Mch 13. 1883

My dear Sir

Mr Palmer of Parramatta N.S.W. writes to me that he has sent to you a paper which he has composed on some Australian tribes with which he has personal acquaintance. When he wrote to me about it in the first instance I suggested that it might be acceptable to you and in going over his materials I found valuable [illegible] as to as from one who has spent a lifetime among the blackfellows in different parts of N.S.W. and Queensland. Mr Palmer has two large stations in Northern Queensland, one on the Clemency River and the other on the Mitchell River. In that district the blacks are still in an almost completely wild condition--that is those who yet remain alive and as Mr Palmer has now made friends with the small tribe at his Mitchell River Cattle Station and has permitted them to come in and camp at the station under his protection there is every chance that he will be able to supply most valuable information as to that and observations of the "Gulf Country" which so far have been so much as I know undescribed by any white man. Mr Palmer goes up to his stations next month and I have greeted [?] him up in every point I could think up I have even sent him your remarks about message sticks and I hope he will succeed in appending the information which is so much needed.

I trust that you will not think I have caused Mr Palmer to send you a "white Elephant" in recommending him to forward his paper to you.

By this time you will have received the second consignment of message sticks and firedrills. A third lot will go to you as soon as I receive a drill which another correspondent has promised me from Queensland. I also have been experimenting with English wood [?] and the nearest approach to success I have had has been the weeping willow. I shall continue my inquiries and let you know the results. A friend of mine who as a youth was in the habit of raising fire occasionally when camping out, by means of a drill of Grasstree says there is no knack except keeping the drill going continuously and perhaps adding a few species of dry sand to increase the friction. I have seen the Coopers Creek blacks on this and also add a pinch of charcoal dust.

I shall not cease from enquiry concerning the message sticks. I have been closing in for a long time and have written to some fifty correspondents--but as yet with no certain results. Unfortunately the Blacks in Gippsland do not nor did they use message sticks so that I am personally unable to add anything. All that has come here was to send a token of the messenger, e.g. a boomerang, waddy, throwing stick &c.

Your remarks about funeral offerings suggests that I may as well write to my correspondents on the subject. May I now say that any suggestions you feel inclined to make on the subject which require special investigation I shall not my act upon but I shall feel much obliged to you for making them. [?]

I have been lately working out the peculiar facts of the "Paramour" custom of the Coopers Creek tribes and it seems to me more than ever to point to a former condition of promiscuity. I cannot now enter into the subject but you will receive the evidenced facts in a paper which I have in hand on some Australian Group Relations.

The quotations which you have so kindly made for me of the line mentioning the Tundun as used in the [illegible] Mysteries is very interesting. I expect that we shall find traces of its use elsewhere in in ancient writings, Some of the ancient Chinese writers for instance. A suspect that this instrument is of extreme antiquity and is more likely to have been brought to Australia by the ancestors of the Blackfellows' than to have been independently invented by them.

I am my dear Sir

yours faithfully

A.W. Howitt


Tylor papers Box 11a Fison 28

Navuloa, Fiji, 14 April '83

My dear Sir,

I was glad to receive your letter of Jan 22, though sorry to hear that the nose flute met with such barbarous treatment. I console myself with the hope that the duplicate I sent by the Rev. Hutton will reach you totus teres atque rotundus if not I will ask Mr Des Voeux to send you a third in the sacred Govt. Despatch bag, which not even the most sacriligiously inclined P.O. official dare violate. Anyhow, I will get one safe to you, or "bust", as the Yankees say. Will not an address in London be safer? ...

Tylor papers Box 12 Howitt 9

Sale June 4, 1883

Dear Mr Tylor

On my return home two days ago I found your most kind letter of April 16th which has given me the very greatest pleasure. That which you so kindly say of my paper on the class system has been most encouraging to me. My heart is in the work in which I am engaged and I am most anxious of aiding in working out the many most interesting problems that it [illegible]. My visit to Bega (in N.S.W.) will I hope enable me to explain much which has hitherto been obscure about the Initiation ceremonies; the Bora, Tore, Bunan, Kuruigal, Jerrieil whatever the name may be by which in different parts of the country they are known. I mentioned in a former letter that I had sent my messengers to gather together the tribes in the southern coast of N. South Wales to meet me at the Kuruigal or Bunan. About two months ago I received a return message that they were assembling at Bega and I hurriedly prepared to go there. I may mention that the Gippsland contingent who should have been there under my direction went up from the Snowy River mouth through the jungle country and had a week bad weather. [?] Their guide went near blind with ophthalmia and when out 55 miles from the meeting place they turned back. However I found about a hundred collected and he held the initiation ceremonie [sic]. I was most successful with those people and obtained a great deal of most curious information. All that I have said about Daramulun in the last paper I sent was even more than confirmed and I saw the old wizards dancing round the magic fire, round the figure of Daramulun cut in relief out of the ground; saw them doing their magical tricks of bring quartz crystals out of themselves; saw the teeth knocked out on a cleared spot in front of a tree marked with a figure of Daramutin thus [drawing annotated 'this reminds one of the figures represented in Greys Western Australia &c'] and heard all the prohibitions made for the boys initiated "under pain of death." The ceremonie although abbreviated within the shortest limits took exactly 30 hours from the time we went from the camp with the boys until we returned to it with them again as "young men." I have obtained a full explanation of the whole ceremonie and I have carefully written down a detailed account while they have are fresh in my mind. In Collins New South Wales there are plates of the tooth knocking ceremonie practised at I think Port Jackson in his time. These are all fully illustrated and explained by what I have just seen; but Collins did not see the purely "magical" part of the cermonie and speaking from memory I think he was sent away in the evening and returned next morning. It is in he night that these were done at Bega. I shall before long write out a paper & send to you on "Australian Initiations" which will give you further particulars.

I send you by this post registered as a parcel, a turndun--called by the Coast Murring Mudthi--it was made by one of the principal old men to replace mine which was accidentally destroyed when my messengers camp was burned. Please note his own image of Daramulun on it. It was not formed to sound well and was cut to improve it and made worse. A large new one was then cut out of Chrnytru (Exocarpa cupressi...ia) which was approved of. I do not send this now because I may yet require it to gather the Wolgal and Woradjere people to either Gundagai or Yaro [?] for a Bora meeting. This I am thinking of but I cannot determine until the arrival here of the Wolgal head man who will probably act as my messenger. I think till I have got in the track of some important beliefs as to the Bullroarer--the Murring old men told me (1) the roaring of the Mudthi represents thunder (2) it is also the voice of Daramulun (3) thunder is the voice of Daramulun--as one of them put it "calling to the rain to fall and make everything on the ground green up fresh". Rev'd [insert] W. [end insert] Ridley heard imperfect accounts of Daramulun and of the Mudthi--which he calls the wand Dhurumbulum the sacred wand. I suspect, and I shall bear this in mind if I get among the neighbours of the Woradjeri--that Ridley was only told the lawful that is the name which could be lawfully spoken of the Great Spirit. This is Baiame (or some form of it) over a great part of New South Wales. With the people I have just been among the secret name is Daramulun--but usually the Great Spirit is spoken of as Biamban i.e. the Master--one who gives orders, or who commands and controls. This is the name by which the women know of him just as the in M... [illegible] the name they know is Pappang i.e. father, or among the Woiworung of the Yarra Mamanuk = our father. I think that next to a woman a missionary would be about the last person to be made acquainted with the secret rites of the tribes. The missionaries feel one way and the old men the other. I hope that I have not wearied you with all this.

If I can collect anything more for you please let me know

I am yours faithfully

A.W. Howitt

P.S. All that I told you about fire drills holds good as to the Coast Murring. he tried to get fire but the grasstree stalks were all damp and only produced smoke. They use a drill about 3 ft long. Where the rest was narrow (grass tree also) a piece of wood was fixed on each side to confine the drill. A pinch of charcoal dust was put in the drill hole. A grass tree stalk was selected which was had dark colored pith--not white pith. The man who drilled spit in his hands to make them hold well.

I shall send you also a turndun from the Adjardura tribe of York peninsula South Australia.


Tylor papers Box 12 Howitt 10

Sale June 25 1883

Dear Dr Tylor

Your letter of the 13th May reminds me that I have not yet sent the turndun which I promised in my last letter. The reason is that I have been waiting until I could get them carefully drawn in order that I may have their verisimilitudes for reference. I shall now send the following within the next two days in one or parcels [sic] as I find they may require for travel purposes

(1) Murring Mudthi (bullroarer) used at Mileatom [?] and found [illegible] factory. [insert] The notch at the end represents the gap where the tooth has been knocked out [end insert]

(2) Dieri--Yuntha (Bullroarer) This was used at the Dieri ceremonies and also by me at those of the Coast Murring

(3) Chepara Message stick I am not able to get an explanation of the marks. It seems probable that the existing blackfellows of the Chepara tribe (on the coast south of Brisbane) have forgotten the meaning. Mr Gibson to whom I am indebted for this stick tells me that his informant states that his father used to make these sticks but that he only knew of the meaning of the marks.

(4) Dieri message token of Emu feathers. The messenger carries this and delivers the message by word of mouth

(5) Narrinyeri message stick No explanation can be given of the marks. Narringyeri tribe is at the Murray River mouth

(6) Woi-worung message stick. the marks are said not to have had any meaning beyond being connected in the messengers mind with his message. Woi-worung was the name of the tribe living above Melbourne.

(7) Message stick used on the Diamantina River [insert] Queensland [end insert] So far as I can learn the marks are the enumeration of men who are invited to attend the details being given by the messenger.

(8) Gournd [insert] i [end insert] tch mara message stick. I am told that this stick was sent with the messenger who conveyed the message by word of mouth

(9) Dieri net. This net "yamma" was delivered to the Pinya (armed party) when any person was doomed to death by the Great Council of the Dieri tribe and the offender having been killed, this net was laid upon him as a sign to all concerned. Let me mention here that this Great Council was composed to the principal men of the Dieri tribe. The Heads of Murdus (Totems) Warriors, Orators, Wizards and held its meetings in secret. This great Council was supreme and different from the General Council which consisted of all the initiated men of the tribe.

10. Aaja-dura - Bullroarer. I cannot at present turn up the letter in which my correspondents gave me the name of this example. It was sent to me by the Headman of this tribe which inhabits Yorks Peninsula S.A. in return for a bullroarer which I sent to him. The old man showed mine to my correspondent with much mystery after sending all the women away from the place

These are all the contributions which I can send you this time but more will follow as soon as I can get them drawn--I do this because I cannot yet tell whether in the work for which I am gathering materials I may or may not require illustrations of these things. This will not however in any way affect any use to which you may decide to put them. They are yours to do with as you like. If there are any other blackfellows implements which you want I shall be delighted to try and obtain them for you. 

I take this opportunity of suggesting to you a difficulty which I have met with in the hope that you will kindly favor me with your opinion which I am most anxious of obtaining. I can illustrate the difficulty best by an illustration. [sic] I have observed in one of the [illegible] reviews on K & K that the term "Murri" has been used as being synonymous with "Australian Blackfellow". This is wrong, for Murri as used for instance by Ridley only applies to a Kamilaroi Blackfellow and it seems to me this is as just as wrong to speak of a Gippsland Blackfellow Kurnia or one of Melbourne (Kulin) or one of M... (Y...) or one of Coopers Creek (Kurna) as an "Australian Murri" as to speak of a native of Cornwall as being a "British Scot". The question though is "What name are we to apply to the Australian Aborigine?' There is no [insert] one [end insert] aboriginal word which all over Australia is equally our "Blackfellow"--each tribe has a name = "man" which is applied to its only [insert] own [end insert] males exclusively. I confess I see no other word at present than Blackfellow unless all Ethnologists were to agree upon the use of some one aboriginal name for man in a sense in which the aborigines themselves never used it. A similar difficulty arises as to the "Bull roarer"--each tribe has its own name, so it is with the Initiation Ceremonies themselves--the Kamilaroi word "Bora" is generally used among whites, but it seems to me quite wrong to speak of the "Bora of the Gippslanders", or of the "Bora of the Murring" when the former is "Jera-eil" and the latter is "Bunan" On this I should really feel grateful if you would favor me with your opinion. I feel that some uniformity of language is necessary but the difficulty is making choice of some term generally applicable.

I hope to send you before long another communication and as I observe that you are gathering together the scattered threads of information I shall endeavour to furnish other memoirs upon Australian subjects as I shall be glad that all I can say should be in your hands.

I am much gratified that you have found Mr Palmers [illegible] of value. I feel that it seemed long and that it might have been advantageously condensed but I did not see my way to do it when Mr Palmer submitted it to me. A correspondent of mine Mr Cameron who lives in Riverina has been for some time gathering much valuable material as to the tribes of the Murray, Murrembidgee and Lachlan Rivers and I think he could write a most interesting communication for the Ethnological Institute if it would be agreeable to you.

Mr Cameron has a thorough knowledge of the subject and can speak with authority as to Aboriginal belief and customs. If you think well of this please let me know how many pages of printed material his memoir should make.

I find I have committed to include in my lists of implements [illegible] No 11 the tooth knocking-out steel of the Murring the mallet used is like this [drawing] perhaps mallet is hardly the proper word.

I am dear Dr Tylor

yours faithfully

AW Howitt


Tylor papers Box 11a Fison 30

Navuloa, Fiji, 26 July '83

My dear Sir,

...Together with your letter came one from Hutton, telling me that the noseflute I sent by him got cracked during the voyage. There seems to be a fatality about it. However Hutton says he has one of his own which he will send to you in exchange. I daresay it is one I gave him, which I considered inferior to yours, & spoilt by the artists having written his name upon it--FILIMONE TAGIVEITAUA--. If you will let me know whether this be the "werry identikle flute", I will send you another without the makers mark.

I send by this-- or next --mail another kind of flute which I saw a New Hebrides man blowing at Suva. It may be familiar to you; but it is new to me, & [insert] it [end insert] seemed interesting as a sort of link between the flute & the pipe or flageolet. One of the imported labourers sitting [insert] on a log [end insert] by the wayside at Suva was drawing from it shriller tones than those extracted from the noseflute, but with similar modulations. I asked him if he would sell it, whereunto he responded "Sikapene", & I joyfully forked out the sixpence. He dug his elbow into his companion's ribs as he handed me the flute, & they both rolled off the log in yelling agonies of laughter. They were wonderfully tickled at the simplicity of the white man who gave so readily so extravagant a price. That at least, was my theory. But, about an hour afterwards, as I was going back to my hotel, flute in hand, a compatriot of theirs came up to me, & said in English, "I say Mister, you got moosic belonging to me." "No," sd [said] I, "I bought it from a man. I gave him sixpence for it." "Sixpence ----." Suffice it to say that he devoted the coin to the infernal gods with great energy & fluency. "That fellow -- rogue. He no mossic, that moosic belongin to me. You give one sillin, all right." So I handed over the coin, & went on my way with Bret Harte's description of the childlike & bland Ah Sin with his ways that are dark & his tricks that are vain running through my mind. Subsequently I met the three comrades in the road, & as soon as they caught sight of me they broke out into a yell of laughter, & went doubled up & staggering along the road. The man who spoke English had been in Queensland, & according to the usual fashion had got hold of our language at the dirty end of it. It is really astonishing to hear the imported labourers pour out their acquired stock of blasphemy & filth. ...

I will send the sketch of flute to the Oxford University Museum addressed to you. If, when you receive this letter, you find that they are likely to be there before you, it will be easy for you to arrange for having them sent on. Also I hope to send a specimen of the Sacred Bamboo trumpet used in the Nanga ceremony much as the turndun is used in Australia. By the way they make a bullroarer here out of a strip of bamboo, but is a mere child's toy. The bamboo trumpet either has water in it, or its mouth is partially immersed in water when it is blown - I could not make out which was the actual fact. I got a man to blow a landcrab trap which is made like the trumpet, & it produced a hollow blare. This was without water. I could get nothing out of it myself excepting a hoarse sigh, though I put wind enough into it to turn a mill. The N. Heb. flute also was silent in my hands; &, what is more curious still, my Fijian lads cannot extract its tone out of it. While [insert] I was [end insert] writing there [insert] foregoing [end insert] my assistant tutor, a Fijian native, came in. He is an accomplished performer on the nose flute, & I tested by him the flutes I sent you. For the past ten minutes he has been sitting on the floor at my side vainly endeavouring to get a squeak out of the N.H. instrument. This I take as proof positive that the Fijians are as incapable of playing it as we are.


 [In a postscript to Tylor papers Box 11a Fison 30 of 26 July 1883 Fison confirms that he has sent the N.H. [New Hebrides] flute to Tylor at the University Museum (Tylor had, in the interim, obviously written to tell Fison of his appointment as Keeper of the University Museum). This flute does not appear to have been donated to the Pitt Rivers Museum either marked as being from Fison, or from Tylor. ]


Tylor papers Box 12 Howitt 11

Sale Aug 8 1883

My dear Sir

I now send by this mail a further collection of message sticks; or rather three message sticks and one message token. The particulars are as follows:

(1) Message token used in the Mitchell River tribe mentioned by Mr Palmer and was made by the old man Plongreen whom he mentions in his paper. This ashen [?] is caused by a messenger who collected the [illegible] for ceremonial purpose. The token may not be shown to women or children.

(2) Message stick sent to me by Mr JF [insert] J.C. [end insert] Muirhead--used by the Wakelbura tribe. All message sticks are painted. This stick was sent by an Oboo of the Wakelbura to one of the Yangebura tribe (at Blackall). The wood is this of Bedyea tree--which belongs to the Wooltheroo class--of which Oboo is a subclass. The message refers to killing game found in a fenced paddock at Mr Wallaces station near Clermont. The game is Emu and Wallaby which are both of the Wooltheroo class and therefore claimed by Oboo and Wongoo. The messenger delivers a verbal message. The marks are according to Mr Muirhead as follows: [2 drawings, the first marked 'Wallaby' and 'Emu' besides the stripes of decoration, the 2nd drawing is annotated 'This indicates the wire fence at Kilcommon Station']

(3) Message stick sent by a Flinders River blackfellow to another at the Mitchell River to say his wife was dead. From Mr Palmer.

(4) A friendly reminder from a Mycoolon Blackfellow to a Myappi Blackfellow, carried by Mr Palmer

I am now preparing a memoir on Australian Initiation Ceremonies which i hope to [illegible] to you for the Anthropological Institute at the end of the month.

I have not gathered much new matter lately but I am now about to make a fresh start and hope to have some success. The Government have given me some aid in my work. The Solicitor General has sanctioned the use in my work of the Departmental Packed envelope and has also authorized the printing of such circulars as I may require. I hope that my several endeavors to extract information from listless correspondents may be more f...mate than past endeavors

I have not done anything with Mr Camerons manuscript on the Riverina tribes pending your reply.

I am my dear Sir

yours faithfully

A.W. Howitt


Tylor papers Box 11a Fison 31

P.S. I have the completest unbelief in Baron Muklay's "cannibal experiences". The condition he states is an impossible one, save as a temporary crisis in war. Fijian towns were frequently in that state at times; but either one was wiped out, or the hatchet was buried, & plantation work went on again. Travellers are apt to take as permanent conditions of society everything that comes under their notice. One might as well describe the habits of the French from the state of things during the siege of Paris.

P.S. I sent the Nanga Memoir. Also (separately) another watercolour sketch & Map. May I ask you to send the [insert] P.O. [end insert] stamps to Mrs Potts, Parker's Piece, Cambridge for a young niece of mine

Navuloa, Fiji. Aug 17. 83

My dear Sir

In my reply to your letter of April 6 I said that Sir H. Maine's work, which you so kindly sent me, had not yet arrived. Since then I have received it, & have read it with great interest & admiration, as I read all the works of that author. From the time of his getting to the patriarchal family downwards I am glad to sit at his feet as his humble disciple. But as soon as he goes back into the past beyond that starting point, I rise to my feet & hearken to him no longer. He does not see things as the savage sees them, he does not think with the mind of the savage, nor feel with his heart. As to the Morgan & McLennan controversy I am committed to neither side as regards the beginning of things, & indeed am not interested in that beginning. But some things are certain, & cannot be denied or explained away. No one can deny the existence of the exogamous intermarrying divisions. It is certain that they regulate marriage. It is equally certain that the group relationships result logically from them. The Australian Piraura arrangement of "accessory husbands" found in certain tribes is a modern instance of regulated communism. And the temporary relaxations of existing rules as an expiatory measure is established beyond doubt. These are ascertained facts, & it is useless to ignore them, or to speak of the class relationships as "a feeble attempt to grasp &c &c", with a reference to Dr McFarlane's diagrams. The savage never reaches after such objects. It would never even occur to him to make the attempt. His relationships never give him any trouble. He has only to deal with them one at a time, & no one in all the Dr's list could give a moment's hesitation. All those relationships fall into well defined groups in his mind, & he can always tell where to look for anyone of them. To suppose that he formed the groups in order to classify the relationships is quite impossible to the observer who understands the working of his mind. Such a man feels the impossibility of the supposition. The relationships are logical, clear, & perfectly well known. Not one of them can be mistaken for another, any more than a soldier of the 10th foot in his uniform can be mistaken for a man of the 16th. Lancers. They were not pre-existing independent forms subsequently classified by arbitrary arrangements. They grew as grow the branches of a tree, & the savage always knows to which branch he belongs, & the stem from which the branch shot out, & the clump to which the parent tree belongs, & the [insert] part of the [end insert] forest in which that clump stands. Adoption is simply a grafting into the living tree, & the graft becomes a living part of the whole. Even its very scar is lost sight of in time.

Sir Henry Maine did not send me the privately circulated pamphlet. I should be very glad indeed to see a copy if possible.

I daresay ere now you have met Mr Codrington I have asked him to give you his statement to me about the Moto mothers. It is his fact, not mine; &, as you say, it is an important one.

I told you in my last letter about the New Hebrides flute which I sent you through the post. By last steamer I also posted a small bamboo box & three fish hooks from San Cristoval. The box is used for containing the lime which the natives use in betel nut chewing, & the small stick forks out the lime for them. The three hooks seemed to me to be of value as representing successive approaches towards the barb. Does it not seem curious that savages who barb their spears should not also barb their hooks? I suppose you are aware of the manner in which these hooks are used. The mother of pearl on their backs is the bait. The hook being towed by a long line in the wake of a swiftly moving canoe, the mother of pearl looks like a small fish, & is seized upon by larger ones.

I got the hooks & the box from Captain Martin of our Mission Schooner "John Hunt", & promised him that they should be presented to your Museum in his name. When you write next, please devote a small scrap of paper to an acknowledgment of receipt that I may hand it over to him as a bait to catch more specimens. We send the vessel once a year to New Britain, & he puts in at the Sol. Is. & elsewhere on his way for wood, water &c. The gum with which the wooden stopper at the end of the bamboo is fastened is that used by the natives.

I should have sent you the Nanga paper by last Mail, but our Chairman asked me to go on a cruise for him in our schooner, & I have only just returned. One of the Govt surveyors has drawn me a map showing approximately the Nanga country, which is very interesting. I have finished the Memoir all but a few concluding remarks, & hope to get it off by next steamer. But my yearly examination of our students begins three days hence ... If I cannot get the Nanga out of hand before that avalanche comes upon me, there will be a further delay of at least a month.

This I fear will be the end of my work in that line. When I leave Fiji I shall have to work hard for a living at whatever turns up. Twenty years of mission work end with this result where a missionary has carried out his resolve to be a missionary & nothing else - that is not to be a trader or a land speculator. I do not consider scientific work as beyond a missionary's province. I am stirred up to repeat this to my friends in England because of certain statements which Sir Arthur Gordon has been good enough to make about us.

Believe me,

Yours very truly,

Lorimer Fison.

Edward B. Tylor Esq LL.D

P.S. I find that the boat by which I was going to send my letters is bound up the Rewa River * not to Suva as I supposed/ So I reopen your letter to add a postscript.

I shall send together with this letter the Nanga memoir, & the amended drawing of the Nanga with a map showing approximately the country of the tribes who practise the ceremonies. The drawing & the map are enclosed between two thin boards at Mr Leslie J. Walker's request, who could not bear the thought of his drawing being rolled up, & thumped by the post office stampers. He is our Colonial Postmaster, & has therefore a vivid realisation of the rough usage to which mail matter is subjected.

... I hope to send you the Nanga trumpet by next mail. The note on the last page of the ms refers to the song I sent you

Ambitu ni si ko ra tamamundou

Era laki ndulu koto ki na vu ni mbou

I don't know whether the A.I. [Anthropological Institute] will be disposed to ingrave [sic] the drawings & maps. If not, please make the necessary alterations in the MS. Also abbreviate it, if necessary. I daresay my concluding remarks as to the manner in which I got the information are unnecessary. Please deal with the paper exactly as you think fit.

P.S. I quite forgot to thank you for your photograph which is highly prized by me. I shall send it on to my wife, & it will have an honoured place in our album where Morgan & Howitt appear. I will tell her to send you one of mine, if she has one left. Your carte is altogether different from the mental portrait which somehow or other had formed itself in my mind. I suppose one cannot even think of a fellow creature without a mental picture. You appeared to me as a tall man, of somewhat spare habit, cleanshaven face, mutton chop whiskers, dark brown hair, thin prominent nose, close set but "flexible" lips, & a habit of inclining your head to the left. Why your imago took that form, & acquired that habit, I cannot explain. ----- The Govt surveyor who is to draw the Nanga chart has just come in. I set him at the N.H. flute, & after some attempts he managed to make it speak. But, after putting it away for a while, he could not repeat his success. He is trying vainly, & can only get a note out occasionally. The flute is blown at the open end. He declares he can sound the nose flute.


Tylor papers Box 11a Fison 32

P.S. I leave Fiji at the end of the year. My Melbourne address is

Wesleyan Book Depot Lonsdale St, Melbourne, Victoria

Navuloa Fiji 30 Aug 1883

Dear Sir,

By last Sydney steamer I sent you the Nanga memoir, together with amended sketch & map, which I hope will reach you in good order & condition as the Bills of Lading say.

The Nanga trumpet has made its appearance, but I am not pleased with it, & will not send it on. It makes a great & terrible blare, but the artist has done the graven ornamentation so clumsily--or rather he has "slummed" the work so shamefully--that I must get a better one made for you. I cannot get any sound out of it, though it roars you horribly under native lips. I observed that the blowers kept their cheeks fully distended, & pushed up [insert] compressed [end insert] their lips in blowing. Sometimes the air escaped "crepitante" from their lips before the bellow came fully forth. This may help you in your endeavour to blow the better trumpet when it reaches you. If you are successful you will make a sensation at Oxford when "the mournful blast of the barbarous horn" makes itself heard. I bought out a basin of water into my verandah & tried the effect of it on the trumpet. Wholly immersed as to the open end, no sound at all came out--mere bubblings & liquid upheavals. Half immersed, still no sound. A small portion of the mouth dipped in the water, & the trumpet held with a good slant so that the airblast came freely forth, produced a tremendous blare loud enough to call the Nanga spirits from the distant hills. ... [rest of the letter not transcribed]


Tylor papers Box 11a Fison 33

6 Taylor St, Essendon


18 Feb 1884

My dear Sir,

I have just received your letter of Dec 15 - at least I received it a few hours before I went on board the steamer under the influence of whose erratic movements I am now writing this scrawl on my return from Sydney to Melbourne. It is not easy to write decently while tossed to & fro & jarred by the vibrations of the abominable screw.

I am glad to hear that you are in personal communication with Mr Codrington. I have not had the pleasure of seeing him in the flesh, but his correspondence with me has given me a very high opinion of him, & there can be no doubt that he is the best informed of all men as to the Melanesian tongues.

I sent you a second watercolour sketch of the Nanga enclosure, the first being incorrect, but I hear that my mail paquet was mysteriously delayed en route. However, as the rest of the epistles contained therein reached their destinations eventually, I may hope that the sketch was equally fortunate.

Did I not mention in my letter to you the name of the place where the betelnut box & the fish hooks were obtained? I got them from a Captain Martin who was de retour from New Britain & the Solomons - in fact I begged them from him specially for you. I do not remember now where he got them, but most likely Mr Codrington is right in his opinion that they came from the Solomons, though I do not know of any à priori improbability that they might be found at New Britain also.

I am very glad that you are pleased with my friend Howitt's Initiation paper. It seemed to be extremely interesting & valuable to me. I do not think there is any doubt that the idecent [?] pantomimes are intended to be incentives to virtue. Howitt is attending another ceremony among the Kurnai. I hope to visit him soon, & to have some fine talks with him over his new materials. We have not foregathered yet since my return from Fiji. I have been very ill - suffering from nervous disorder, & have seen nobody, been no where, & written nothing. 

I think I wrote to you from Fiji telling you that I had been called away suddenly by my wife's illness.

I am very sorry indeed that both the nose flutes were smashed. The second went by the hand of the Rev. J. Hutton who was to deliver it somewhere in London, so that it should have been delivered from the P.O. dangers. The sacred trumpet turned out to be of the wrong kind. The true trumpet is in two parts, one being a large bamboo joint filled with water, while the other is the trumpet, which is dipped into its water holding complement, the note being varied by a greater or lesser immersion. I had one in process of manufacture in the mountains when I left, & I gave our missionary at Rewa a pathetic charge to pack it carefully & send it to you as soon as it reached his hands. I hope he has been mindful of my charge to him, but I was not over sanguine.

We shall be very glad to hear your opinion on the Deme & the Horde. I am not writing anything more - indeed my brain is in such a state that I can scarcely write even a letter, though I am much better than I was. I owe Mr Codrington a letter, & hope to pay my debt soon, but my illness has brought upon me immense epistolary arrears which fill me with despair.

Yours very truly

Lorimer Fison

Edward B. Tylor Esq LL.D


Tylor papers Box 12 Howitt 14

E.B. Tylor Esq F.R.S.

Museum House


Sale, April 14 1884

My dear Sir

By this post I send you in a separate packet the samples of the Turndun which were used at the late Jera-eil here. The large one is the "Turndun" also called the "Weintwin" (paternal grandfather--fathers-father)--or sometimes "Muk-Brogan" (eminent companion). The lesser one is the "Wrukuk-turndun (woman-turndun)--i.e. the "wife of Turndun". I think I mentioned that Turndun--the "grandfather" of the Kurnai is said to be the son of "Mungun-ngaura" (our father)--by which the ceremonie (Jera-eil) were first initiated. The smaller Turndun is tied on to a stick about 24" long. In sounding it--it is first waved backwards and forward in front two or three times to bring it into a "swing" [?]--then when it reaches the hand and arm reach their furthest extent to the right--the right hand being then about the [illegible] height of the elbow--a quick turn is given with the turndun and it is then rapidly brought back in its course something after the fashion of cracking a whip. If this is done rapidly and effectively the "wrukuk turndun" will produce a "screech" which I have distinctly heard at a distance of 2000 paces. I fear that my description will seem very confused. Perhaps this diagram may serve to explain the path of the turndun, the operator standing at X [Drawing] ...

These turndun should have been made of cherry wood (Encarpus cupressiformi [?]) but the Kurnai could not find any handy and therefore used Ti tree (melaleuca) explaining that it was too light a wood to make much noise. The "muk brogan" is swung round at the end of a cord without a [illegible].

I also send you a "Gule-wil"--that is to say one of the things with which the Winimua blacks seek to bewitch an enemy. This should have been made of Casuarina to be properly ""--It is made of Ti tree which was handier and which can be used in the place of better. The large Gulewill bears on it the effigy of the intended victim, and of one of the deadly snakes which is supposed to add to its power. ...

I have now completed a most interesting account of the Wotjoballuk tribe, but I have succeeded in identifying their classnames Krokitch and Gamutch with the Darling River classes Kulpara and Mukwara respectively. My informant told me that being at the Wimmera Krokitch he was Kulpara when he went to the Murray River (above the Darling Riv Junction). The classes and those of this tribe are clearly the same as the Mt Gambier Kroki and Kumite. I shall have some further particulars to communicate in a paper which I am preparing on "Australian totems" for presentation to the Anthropological Institute, if you will kindly take charge of it. To follow this I have a paper drafted on "Some early migration of some Australian tribes." The paper which I mentioned that Mr Cameron had placed in my hands for transmission to you on the tribes of the South New South Wales, I shall also immediately complete and send to you for your consideration. Mr Cameron has requested me to ask, in the event of its being printed, that 100 copies may be forwarded to him. May I trouble you in that case to cause them to be sent to my sister who will receive them and meet any pecuniary matter for me. In a letter which I had lately from Mr Palmer he asked me when I wrote to you to ask that 100 copies of his paper might be sent to him. He is not sure whether he did or did not mention this in writing to you. In any case I will take charge of them for him if you like. I hope before long to have some message sticks to send to you. I am at work through correspondents and have hope of learning something conclusive. And it is heartbreaking work having to do with correspondents who require as do most of mine to be constantly galvanised into movement.

I remain my dear Sir

yours faithfully

A.W. Howitt


Tylor papers Box 11a Fison 36

Flemington, Melbourne

Victoria, 4 Dec '86

My dear Sir,

It is a very long time since I wrote to you, for I have had nothing to write about. The state of my health is such that I can scarcely get through my everyday work, & anything outside of it has been out of the question for many a long day.

Howitt told me some time ago you wanted Fiji weapons, instruments &c & asked me if I could send you some. There are none to be had now. Govt officials, & others, have cleared them all off, & the natives have taken to making inferior imitations for sale. At Rotuma I once saw a native making an "ancient stone adze" by the help of an English grindstone.

My reason for writing now is this. One of our missionaries, the Rev Benjamin Danks, has recently come back from New Britain, where he spent eight years. In talking with him I was greatly interested in the effect produced upon the people by their possession & use of the shell money. So marked is this that I saw clearly the necessity of making a completely new study of savage society as it presents itself under this influence. As far as I know, shell money elsewhere, though no use, does not seem to have so great an effect upon society. It is quite new to me - commercial savagery, instead of what we usually find. I have asked Danks to send you a paper for the A.I. on the subject, & I will stir him up until he does what I want him to do. This is all I am good for - to get others to work; & I lay the flattering unction to my soul that in this secondary way I have been of considerable use. Anthropologists may thank me for Codrington's Melanesian Languages, & for Howitt's Australian work.

I was much struck, among other things, by the powerful effect of the N.B. money system in preserving some sort of social order. If you do a man an injury, you must pay for it, & this is a restraint upon evil doers. But the methods of adjustment are queer. Take this case given me by Danks:- A boy in fun drew a heated iron ramrod across the naked back of another boy & burned him. The burnt boy was vexed, & cut down somebody else's crotons to show his anger. The owner of the crotons broke somebody else's canoe; & the owner of the canoe burnt somebody else's house. Each of these acts seems to be a sort of appeal to the Universe to step in & avenge a wrong. No one of them was retaliation on the wrongdoer. In every case the sufferer had had nothing to do with the wrong for which he suffered. When the house was burnt, the community seems to have thought the mischief had gone far enough, & that it was time a settlement should be arrived at. I am not clear as to the court, or council, by which the fines were inflicted; but I will see that Danks makes the necessary points clear. The sentence was as follows:-

1. The boy who burnt the other boy was [insert] thereby [end insert] the cause of the crotons being cut down. So he must pay for the crotons.

2. The boy who cut down the crotons (ie the burnt boy) was the cause of the canoe being broken. So he must pay for the canoe

3. The owner of the crotons [insert] by breaking the canoe [end insert] was the cause of the house being burnt. So he must pay for the house.

Thus the man who burnt the house had nothing to pay; & the amusing part is that the boy who was injured in the first place got nothing. There was no one to pay him. And if the series had gone on for ever he would have been in the same predicament. It is like "the house that Jack built". Something was done to every one in the series, but the loss of the malt was a dead loss to Jack after all.

The notion seems to be that some lawless act must be done to set the law in motion. The man by doing it publishes his sense of wrong. I remember one similar case in Fiji. A number of men, who had been grievously oppressed by their chief, brought a charge against him before one of Sir Arthur Gordon's pet native magistrates. The magistrate fined them for such disrespectful treatment of their chief. They returned to their village, mad with rage, desperate & reckless. Throwing off their waistcloths, they [insert] two of them [end insert] rushed naked into a house, & dragged an unoffending woman out by the heels. She was not akin to the chief. It was no act of retaliation on an offender, such as is common enough - e.g. to go into his house, or into that of one of his near kin, & break the cooking pots - or do some other act of damage.

The dragging of the woman by the two men aforesaid was precisely similar to the New Britain method. It was a proclamation of wrong, & the woman's kinfolk were not aggrieved by it - at least they were not aggrieved against the two men. They held the chief responsible as the actual wrongdoer & were bitterly resentful.

Another illustration of this custom is afforded by the money lending of New Britain. A chief, to use Dank's term, though there are no chiefs in the Fijian sense, will have large coils of shell money in his house. A man has lent money to his neighbour at the usual interest, 10 per cent. The neighbour does not pay. The lender goes to the chief's house, & takes away a coil of money. The chief makes no objection, but send by & bye to enquire why the money was taken. "So & so won't pay his debt." Thereupon the chief brings the debtor up, makes him refund, & then gets back his coil.

Husband & wife even trade with one another. Neither will give a smoke of tobacco to the other without payment. Everything has a fixed price, well known to all.

Labour - at all events help in plantation work - is not paid for in money. The hired man gets his day's food, that is all. If the hirer give [sic] him an inch or two of money in addition, this is reckoned as of free grace, & extolled as princely generosity.

These labourers, Danks says, are "lazy fellows", who have no plantations of their own.

There does not appear to be the tribal tenure of land which we have in Fiji. A family may own a plot of land, but each male has his own bit of it, & may stand out against the united wish of his mates as to its disposal. The people do not live in villages as in Fiji. Each family has its own little cluster of huts, & these clusters are scattered here & there. The chiefs (so called) have little or no personal authority, & yet they are able to bring public opinion to bear upon offenders. Fines thus inflicted must be paid. The whole system wants careful & minute study. It is quite new to me. I will set Danks to work at once. Yours very truly Lorimer Fison

P.S. I forgot to note two or three points with reference to the shell money.

1. There is actually a sort of banking among the N.B. natives. A "strong man"--that is, a man who has plenty of brothers who will stand by him--has a "safe house". People who are "weak" bring their money to his house for safety, & draw it as they require it, paying something for the accommodation.

2. The borrower is literally servant to the lender. Many young men are unable to "buy" their wives, or to pay their initiation fees to the Dukduk (secret society = the Nanga of Fiji, & the Bora, Israeit, Kuruigal &c of Australia) without borrowing. It may be years before they can pay off the loan, & in the meanwhile they must do the bidding of their creditor. If they object, Pancks himself was not more energetic with his "Pay up".

3. A rich man, who has many "coils" of money, can extort more from his people by threats of moving to another district. The people don't like the notion of so much wealth being taken away. They would lose caste if it went. So they bring presents to avert the calamity (N.B. the "coils" are as big, & as thick, as the wheel of a brewer's lorry.)

4. Danks could never find out where the money was made. He went to the place where it was said to be made--far up the coast--but the natives there pointed to a mountain range, & declared it came from beyond it. The secret must be well kept, or he would not have been eight years trying to find it out.

Inheritance is through the mother--that is, the estate goes to the mother's kin.

N.B. these notes are for your own use. I don't want to forestall Danks

May I trouble you to send the note written on the other leaf to the Editors of the "Academy". I have not a copy of the paper, & omitted to note the address. [Insert] Could you send me a copy of the "Academy" with my letter in it if they print it? I wd [would] be much obliged [end insert]

Codrington sends me the following extract from a Maewo legend. It relates to the finding of twin foundlings by Zat (N.B. q=kpw:)--So they three went into the village to Motari, Zat's wife. And, when Motari, Zat's wife, saw those two children good-looking & with white hair, she liked them, & asked Zat concerning them, "Are these my children, or my husbands?" And Zat said, "Indeed they are your husbands"--because they two were his sister's sons.--

The special value of this lies in the fact that the words I have underlined are a bit of spontaneous & unsuggested native reasoning. Codrington was not making special inquiry as to the laws of marriage & descent, but was simply collecting legends, & this came to him from a native as a Maewo story. He remarks--"Being Zat's sister's sons, they were of the same veve (marriage division) with him, & therefore husbands to her [insert] i.e. to Zat's wife [end insert]. If on the other side (of the other division) being of a later generation, they would have been her children--i.e. her nephews, near or far off."

Do you know anything of a Dr. Carroll who is making investigation about the S. Sea Islanders? He has kept me writing to him till I am utterly weary of him--& this because he seems to me to be a mere theorist. He says that he can trace the Polynesians, Melanesians &c in the early records of India & China; but, if his connections there are no sounder than those he makes out of material with which I am acquainted, they are not worth much. There is also a man in New Zealand, Tregear by name, who proves the Maoris to be Aryans in a wonderful way. He wrote me several letters, but when I told him that Kau (Hawaii for canoe) is the common word for tree & wood, & that it has nothing to do with "cow" [insert] with wh. [which] he maintained it was identical [end insert] he renounced me & all my works. 


Tylor papers Box 11a Fison 37, written 25 March 1887, starts by Fison writing, 'We shall be glad to see Mr Spencer, & I am sure he will be delighted with Howitt.' This is Walter Baldwin Spencer who had arrived in Australia from helping Tylor and Moseley transfer the Pitt-Rivers founding collection from London to Oxford. Howitt and Fisons's Australian work later influenced Spencer and Gillen's own anthropological endeavours, and Howitt in particular was a great hero of theirs. [Rest of the letter not transcribed]


Tylor papers Box 11a Fison 39

Flemington, Victoria

Nov 23 1887

My dear Sir,

I returned last night from a very pleasant visit to Sale (Howitt's residence). I went there for the purpose of going over with him a monogram on the Dieri Tribe, which he has prepared for the A.I. It is a splendid paper, & I am sure you will be delighted with it. I hope the A.I. will not stand aghast at its length. Some time yet must elapse before it is completed, as there are a few matters on which it is desirable for Howitt to inflict a little more torture on his correspondents. If the enemy only knew, or would believe when he is told, how careful we have been to verify every fact, he would be still as a stone, & would never more vex our souls by accusations of rash assumptions. The Dieri, and its affiliated tribes, are those among whom the Noa marriage coexists with the Pirauru--i.e. every man has a Noa (special) wife, & also several Pirauru (accessory) wives. Each of these [insert] latter [end insert] is Noa to some other man. Hence every woman has a Noa husband, & also several Piraura husbands. The right of the Noa overrides that of the Piraura when both men are present. There is also seniority among the Pirauras, & the rights of the senior takes precedence of that of the junior when both are present on any occasion. I think I told you of this before, & besides Howitt has explained it in his paper on Aust. group relations, which he wrote for the Amer. Society. It is most important, because it is regulated & restricted group-marriage now in actual prevalence, & all the evidence points to the fact that the Noa marriage is subsequent in date to the Pirauru in those tribes. Of course the Pirauru system does not amount to promiscuous intercourse; but there are ceremonial & other occasions on which the male [insert] Piraura [end insert] group has, of set purpose, promiscuous intercourse with its female group, & there are still other occasions on which all the groups mingle indiscriminately, the license being so complete as it is on those occasions noted in my paper on the Nanga. The Pirauru system is a full explanation of the Nair polyandry. [insert] There are some things which must be sent to you separately in ms. Quite unfit for publication [end insert]

Howitt is greatly stirred up by Curr's onslaught on me in is Origin &c of the Australian Race. I am quite unconcerned about it myself, though Curr directly and offensively accuses me of literary dishonesty. He says that Mr F. "more suo" concealed the relationship terms which did not suit his purpose". And he thinks he has convicted me by giving special terms for Uncle, Nephew, Cousin &c, which he affirms are used precisely as we use the English equivalents, as he supposes them to be. But he does not know what he is talking about. His manner of making the inquiry has evidently been the following:--he sent a list in English--"Uncle, Aunt, Nephew, Niece, Cousin &c"--to his correspondents, & asked them to fill in the native equivalents. A correspondent naturally puts down the word used for my brother's bro' opposite Uncle, & Curr triumphantly produces it as the equivalent to our Uncle. But the fact is that our "Uncle" is two fold, being (1) Father's Bro' & (2) Mother's bro; & the inquiry list should have given these two terms. Had it done so, Curr would have discovered that in no case are the two Uncles covered by the same term. Thus, if you were to ask me what is the Fijian term for Uncle, I should give Vungo; but I should be careful to explain that it applies only to the Mother's bro', not to the Father's bro [insert] who is Tama (father) [end insert] & I should add further that Vungo is a reciprocal term between uncle & nephew, who are said to be veivungoni (vungo'd together.)

I am morally certain that this is the way in which Curr has fallen into his mistake; but we shall make of it more than a moral certainty. We have sent a special inquiry on the subject to the correspondents on whom he chiefly relies.

I told Howitt [insert] that [end insert] I should be writing to you, & he asked me to tell you that he is preparing a paper for you on Message Sticks. He showed it to me as he has it now on the stocks, & I was delighted with it. You will find it to be done after his usual thorough & accurate manner. He has got blacks of his "own people" to make message sticks, & has got others from trustworthy correspondents who set the blacks in their neighbourhood to make them. Howitt has made careful drawings of these sticks, with full explanations. The paper will prove conclusively that the message stick among the Aust. blacks is only an aide memoire. 

We were wishing you could have been with us during my late visit. You would enjoy a day or two with Howitt, & his delightful family at their pleasant residence. He & I were sitting outside the house--(at least I was sitting there, &, I grieve to say, smoking a short pipe). I had the Dieri MS in my hand, & we were discussing some point in it, when his three daughters--fine, sousy [sic], merry girls they are--came out with their landscape camera. "Here's the instrument of torture", said May, the eldest. "Now keep still, & be good." And they executed us before we well knew what was the matter. Next day they presented us with the result, neatly mounted, with "Kamilaroi & Kurnai" written under it in May's handwriting. I told her it was a lasting memento of man's long-suffering & woman's independence. She said she had had a great mind to call it the complete Trio, because her little dog Midge was sitting at my feet when we were taken, & completed the trio, "Kamilaroi, Kurnai, & Curr". It was made all the funnier by the fact that Midge, who was a slim sharp nosed little dog, was moved by fleas, or flies, or something [insert] to shake his head [end insert] just at the fatal moment, & consequently came out as the shadowy ghost of a particularly truculent looking bulldog. He is only to be discovered by the aid of a lens, & the girls declare he is Curr present in the spirit with an expression of savage disgust on his ghostly visage, as he listens to the Dieri paper. They are going to print off a copy for your special benefit. I told them you would be glad to have one. 

Howitt is anxious to get his message stick paper finished in time for sending to you before you publish your new book. But he is very hardworked as a Police Magistrate, & Warden of the Goldfields, to say nothing of his Geological & Botanical work. I never saw a man who crammed his life so full of work. 

Yours very truly

Lorimer Fison

If the A.I. kick at the length of the "Dieri", pray use your influence to soothe them & get it printed.


Tylor papers Box 12 Howitt 16

Sale Feby 21 1888

Dear Tylor

Your welcome note of Jany 4th reached me a little time back but I delayed replying until now when I am able to send you a paper for the Anth. Inst. on message sticks. Will you kindly present it. I should like to have 50 copies of reprints sent to me as before. May I trouble you also, when you have the opportunity, to ask whether copies of my last paper on the Australian classes have been sent to me. I have not heard anything of them yet, I send you also herewith in a separate packet two of the message sticks mentioned in the paper. The two named of the Tongaranka tribe. If I do not mistake I sent to you some time back the Chepara "Kabugabul-bageru" and the Wakelbura stick. My daughter also has made the sketches which accompany the paper which she made of those two above mentioned sticks and fears that when you come to compare the drawings with the originals you may find that the sketches are not as exact as she would like them to be.

The new point which you raise in your last letter shall receive my best attention. I am not quite certain that I fully understand your question However I will reply then as regards the Kurnai and if I have not given you all the information you require please tell me I shall also write to several correspondents and will in due course report progress.

(1) In the Kurnai tribe if a man took his wife from a distant local division (as headmen also had to do) he necessarily took her away from her family. Rarely it happened that the man joined his wifes family and lived in their local division, at any rate for a time. I may say that he would be privileged to join her family at any time and use its hunting and food grounds. Indeed he was always obliged when with it or when his wifes father was with her local division to provide him with flesh food (muk-jeak). But when encamped with his wifes fathers group he could not actively encamp with them or near but built his camp at some little distance and out of sight of his wifes mother.

(2) If his he and his wifes father were on the warpath against some common enemy both would act together and would if the party included a number be under the direction of the leader of the party--who would be some man of eminence in the wifes fathers local division.

(3) If however it happened that (for instance) a man [?illegible] or tribal brother of the man died under the suspicion of magical malpractices by some relation of his wifes father and that in consequence a Minginuugit [?] were formed. That is [illegible] an arranged expiatory fight--The daughters husband would be on the opposite side to his wifes father and would be bound to revenge the death of his brother.

If I have not answered your queries sufficiently please let me know further.

I think I mentioned that I have a paper on the Dieri tribe in hand. It is so far completed that I am now only waiting for a few final replies to write it out and send to you. When Fison was here last he went over it and I was much encouraged by his kind criticisms. I have seen in Anth Inst VXVII?] no 2 a short communication from Mr Frazer as to descent in the Dieri tribe being male as to boys & female as to girls.

I am surprised at this even after Gasons statement. So far as I know the surrounding tribes have all of them descent [illegible] through the mother and the missionary in the Dieri country distinctly told me that there the "children take the murda [?] of their mother." This matter I am endeavouring to get cleared up but so far I cannot get a reply from either Gason, or the missionary in the Dieri country. I mention this in order that you may be aware what I am doing and also that I have Mr Frasers [illegible] before me.

My work on the Tribal and Social organization of the Australian Aborigines gets on but slowly. My time is so much occupied by pressing official duties that I cannot set to work as I could have wished. However I am gradually writing up my material. But in doing that I can see many matters "sticking out" which would require a personal investigation. I fancy it will come to this--that I shall have to take a holiday and go into South Australia--to the Dieri tribe for instance and to Queensland and see whether I can there find the solution to the questions that have arisen.

You will I am sure be pleased to hear that Fison is much better and more like himself.

I am dear Tylor

yours faithfully

A.W. Howitt

P.S. I have enclosed the message sticks herewith H


Tylor papers Box 12 Howitt 18

Sale May 15/88

… I have thought that perhaps it might interest you to see what our country looks like. I have therefore sent you three photos which my daughter took last summer when we made a ten days camping out expedition into the "Australian Alps"-the nearest range of which we can see from our upper windows rising up about 5,000 ft at a distance of 80 miles. ....

[in return Tylor was sending a photograph, presumably of himself]


Tylor papers Box 12 Howitt 20


May 20 1888

Dear Tylor

When I wrote I thought that I could send you the three photos at once but I found that I was mistaken and that I should have to get copies printed off. Hence it is that it is only now that I am able to perform my intention.

(1) on the Latrobe Rivers about six miles from here. It gives a good idea of the flat country between the mountains and the sea. The first lady at the left hand side is my wife--the last but one on the right is my youngest daughter. It represents an Easter picnic party.

(2) The Thimble Road--[illegible] Macalister River about 45 miles from here. A mass of Devonian anglements [?complements] which have rolled down from the mountain.

(3) Upper Wellington River about 80 miles from here. Taken at early morning when we made a Holiday trip last February.

Since I wrote I have received another reply re "Malayan practice" I enclose the particulars

yours faithfully

A.W. Howitt


Tylor papers Box 12 Howitt 24

[Department of Mines Victoria]


May 21 1890

My dear Tylor

Your note of March 22 followed me to town from Sale. My present address is as above--just this time last year the appointment of secretary for mines was offered to me and for many reasons I was induced to accept it and did so. The consequence has been that I we are all settled near Melbourne. The change has been agreeable to my wife and daughters who have been so long in the bush. As to myself I should have been just as well pleased to have remained in my old grove [?] but we cannot have everything as we would like. I am sorry to say that my present position as Head of a Department more than fully occupies my time so that I fear very much that my work in the anthropological field will be for future almost nil. It will not however prevent my doing all I can to meet your wishes and this brings me to the Tasmanian question. I have no personal acquaintance with Tasmania but I have friends there to whom I will apply and I will bring the questions under notice at the Anthropological lecture of our Royal Society which will meet in almost a week. I will also [illegible] up the subject of handle-less stone implements here. I remember that the Corpea [?] and tribes in my time there used both roughly chipped stones and ground stone implements--numbers of the Cotter [?] which I observed of considerable size were used without handles and were usually kept concealed in the sand when not in use.

The diagrams you refer to were a puzzle to me as well as to Fison and I shall look from to other new designs with much intent. [?] I wish we could see some daylight shining in the obscurity of [illegible] the more I think of it the more difficult the subject seems to me My hope is in you will have in full view all that has been written and recorded as to the subject. Fison has been very much better in health until lately when he had a long & severe attack of influenza He is now absent in Sydney for his health.

He was our [illegible] for the Anthropological section of the Aust. Association for Advance of science - an admirable society We had a successful meeting

Yours faithfully



Tylor papers Box 12 Howitt 25


Sept 1890

Dear Tylor

I have delayed further reply to your note about the stone implements of Tasmania, until I should know finally whether there were any chance of my being able to give you any details. I regret to say that results of my enquiries have been so far nil, excepting that my correspondents tell me that the implements were always chipped and never ground or rubbed down. One correspondent says that he believes a few were found with handles but I consider his information unreliable, for he admits the one which he looked up turned out to be a Victorian implement. I very much regret that my information is so meagre but unfortunately Tasmania is out of my reach. However something may yet come to me and I shall still look out for information from the few correspondents I have there.

You will regret to hear that our friend Fison has again been very ill and indeed does not go out at night now; I always dread hearing that one of his attacks has proved fatal. His time also is entirely taken up with very engrossing duties and I seldom see him. Indeed I very rarely have time to go anywhere and have no chance to prosecute any anthropological work at present, not even to write up and arrange the mass of materials which I have at hand. It is very unsatisfactory but I see no present likelihood of change. No one but the head of a great department knows how very little time remains after it has been attended to. However I look forward to some time or another having more leisure--in the good time coming!

yours faithfully



Tylor papers Box 12 Howitt 26


Decr 1. 1890

My dear Tylor

Your note of 26 Aug reproaches me with an apparent neglect in not replying to you before this. It is however only an apparent neglect for I have carried it about for the last month hoping each day that I might receive some further information for you re Tasmanian stone implements. Unfortunately I have been very unsuccessful in my attempts to learn more than I knew when I last wrote excepting that I have verified the statement that the collection in the Public Library here contains no examples of polished implement. 

I have read Roths book which you so kindly sent me. I have read it with great interest and especially the stone implement part.

I have also to thank you for your interesting paper upon the Assyrian Winged Figure which opens up a new line of enquiry. There can be no doubt but that you have quite made out your case and you have [illegible] queries as to the raison d'étre of the winged figure which have been I think latent in my mind since I read Layard years ago.

I am sorry to say that I see no chance of taking up any of my Anthropological work while I am in my present position--I feel up to my eyes in a whirling sea of work of another kind and for all the minutes of the year during which the House is in session I have scarcely a minute to call my own excepting sometimes of an evening when I feel more inclined to do nothing than to set to work at Anthropology. It is an impertible [?] relief when the House rises and "Members" no longer present themselves in the Department--then a lull and we can breathe. I expect this will happen in about a fortnight and I shall then rush away into the mountains with two scientific friends and several packhorses and forget all about the Department--if I can for a fortnight. At any rate I will get out of reach of post & telegraph and will try and fancy myself again merely a "bushman" with a taste for science. My friends will study one the fish--and the other the "worms"--and I will study the only "moraine lake" which I ever heard of in Australia.

Fison I am very sorry to say is still very unwell indeed I feel seriously uneasy about him. He is forbidden to go out at night as he is much liable to bronchitis and each successive attack appears to be worse than the previous one. Otherwise he seems pretty cheerful. Unfortunately we live on opposite sides of Melbourne and do not meet as often as I could wish.

Yours faithfully



Spencer papers Box 1 Fison 14


23 April 1893

My dear Spencer,

You see the wisdom of the Didymus. I am enjoying his blessedness, & possessing my soul in patience. My obligation to you is no whit lessened by the lamentable error of the Ballarat folk which has brought upon them such grievous loss. I am full of a tender sympathy on their account.

Thou art the man! It was you who wrote that par. in the Argus. Thy speech betrayeth thee. It was very kind of you, & I have written your name in the fleshy tablets of my heart.

Not all the hooks, combined with all the crooks in the Universe could avail to take me to Oxford. It would be good for me in many ways, I know, & the delight of it would be unspeakable, but it is impossible. It is a question--a great many questions--of ha'pence, & I am not going to send round the hat, or to have it sent round on my account. I would cheerfully spoil some bloated Philistine, if he were to be spoiled, but I am not going to tax my own friends!

Poor old Moses! There's the good land. Take a good look at it. Behold the whiteness of the flowing milk: sniff the fragrance of the abundant honey--& now come along, & get into your grave.

Yours sepulchrally

Lorimer Fison


Tylor papers Box 12 Howitt 27




My dear Tylor

Your letter re "Baiami" arrived a little time back and since then I have been carrying it about with me to consider how best I could find out what you desire to know. Speakers of Kamilaroi are not to be found in this part of Australia and I am now taking steps to get hold of some--more than one if possible in the Kamilaroi district of N.S.W. I had two correspondents of the right kind but one is gone I know not where and I fear the other is dead--he having lived in Kamilaroi land for over 50 years and being 80 when I last heard of him. I have as yet no reply from him but wait in hope. I am also making known my wants through the local press in the hope of finding other correspondents.

I think you are quite right in saying Baiami is an "ancestor--head man--ghost deity"--I never heard of his being the "creator of the world"--usually he or his "analogue"--e.g. "Bunjil" or "Mungan"--first appear in the statements made, as living in the earth. I had a talk with Fison last evening on this matter but nothing arose out of it of note for you. He is better a little in health but I fear much harried with financial troubles. He is however not singular in this. I do not known one individual who has escaped the effects of the financial crash which resulted when the "Boombubble" burst here. When we shall get clear no one knows--I do not. There is a complete want of all communal progress and private enterprise seems to have died out. People say that all money has gone somehow out of sight. Some of the B... [illegible] have it br... [illegible] up others that private people are hoarding it--no one knows really how financial & commercial matters are going to turn out finally. The farmers are not making a living, graziers are all complaining, manufacturers are nearly ruined--miners only are making a little and even in mining we have had to help nearly 2800 impecunious men [2 words illegible] the country to go prospecting.

Of course all this does not make my official work any less or leave me any time for anthropology, geology &c so that I have absolutely nothing to repeat of interest to you

It is the same with Fison who tells me that his whole time is taken up with the paper he edits and that he has to look out for bread & butter

I hope before long to be able to send you some little information re Baiami meantime believe me

yours faithfully

A.W. Howitt


Spencer papers Box 1 Fison 15


21 April 1894

Most noble Professor

Your kind letter fell upon us like the gentle rain from heaven, & filled us with a blessing which is the portion of its writer also. But, like the practical minded Thomas, we hold our full belief in reserve until full confirmation, & thereby enjoy the further blessedness of the man that expecteth nothing. Whether the thing comes off or not, however, your kindly interest is the same, & we shall not forget it. I speak for the whole tribe.

I shall be absent from Melbourne during May, attending our General Conference in Adelaide, but after that month I can go to Ballarat at any time. There is nothing in my course to which a whole boarding school of girls might not be introduced without danger; but I will look carefully again at all the thin ice, & see if I cannot go round it.

I have received from Oxford an invitation, signed by the Vice Chancellor, the Mayor, & the three local secretaries, to attend the meeting of the British Association in August as their guests, & forthwith I entered with full sympathy into poor old Moses' feelings when he looked upon the good land from the mountain top. But the invitation is a great honour & after all, my not being able to go will leave the folk at home in their delusion that I am somebody, which my presence would probably dispel. All I have been able to do seems to me so ridiculously small & imperfect, that an honour such as this makes me feel like a humbug.

Yours most sincerely

Lorimer Fison

W. Baldwin Spencer Esq

P.S. I wish Howitt & I were young enough to go with you to the McDonnell Ranges. I should have been of great service as the Gibesmite [?] of the party--a hewer of wood & a drawer of water--if there were any to draw. Bear in mind the Baron's "token of amity": it may be useful.


Tylor papers Box 11a Fison 44



30 April '94

Dear Dr Tylor

I have to thank you --(for I have no doubt that it is owing to you)--for the invitation to the British Ass'n at Oxford. I wrote to the Local Secretaries telling them that I could not go, but Spencer & others at the University have taken the matter out of my hands, & they tell me I am to do as I am told. What will come of it I don't know, & as the Americans say, "I don't take no stock" in it, thereby securing to myself the blessedness of the man who expecteth nothing. Spencer put a paragraph about the invitation into the Argus here; & it has given me much amusement to note how that paragraph has "pitched" all sorts & conditions of men. I have had congratulations from the colonial Dan even unto Beersheba, & the chief director of a company whose paper I edit wrote effusively that he felt thankful he had "the acquaintance & friendship of one so honoured." I never observed any very marked symptoms of that thankfulness in byegone days. But now he wants to give a grand dinner that he may display me to his friends.

I don't know what will come of the conspiracy that is afoot to send me to England, & so I cannot write to the Secretaries to withdraw my former letter, but Spencer tells me he has written to one of them, Mr Bourne. All I can do is to "bide & see". It might be a good thing for me if the scheme falls through, because some of you evidently suppose me to be somebody, a delusion which my presence would be likely to dispel. I know very little outside my own line, & all I have done seems to me so small & imperfect that the invitation from Oxford makes me feel like a humbug.

I did not intend the sketch of the Gudang, Kaurareya & Saibai words for the A.I. It is too slight for publication. I meant it only for your own information. The object of the paper of which it was a part was only to prevent the Royal So'cy here from publishing Mathew's nonsense. It is quite possible that there may be a connection between the Australian languages & some of the N. Guinea, but what I wanted to show was that Mathew's [sic] evidence was no evidence at all & that his facts are methods are inadmissable. Many of the N.G. languages are evidently Melanesian, but some have nothing Melanesian about them, & what they are I don't know.

... I have read your paper on the Tasmanians &c which you were good enough to send me.

Do you think it is quite safe to conclude that the Tasmanians had no handled hatchets because they used handstones? Some of the Australian tribes use them, but they put handles on others. The evidence of Tasmanian settlers is complicated. A man who had been a shepherd in Tas. before the gold discovery in Australia told me that a scar on his cheek was the result of a wound inflicted by a stone hatchet. He said it was handled with green rods bent over it, & fashioned by strips of hide, & gum, like some of the Australian hatchets. This, however, may have been made by an Aust. black. There was one of them who incited the Tasmanian natives to attack the white settlers, & did a great deal of mischief. ...


Tylor papers Box 11a Fison 45

Allington House, 


Aug. 31. 1894

Dear Dr Tylor

Your letter of the 20th inst. has just reached me here. Bishop Selwyn sent it on to Codrington. He did not even know that I was in England. I have not been to Cambridge yet, nor shall I reach that place till after the middle of September.

It will give me the greatest pleasure to avail myself of your kind invitation to stay with you for the one or two days which I would have in the galleries of your Museum. 

I do not know yet when I shall have finished my present round. I leave Ipswich tomorrow for Liverpool, Manchester & Yorkshire. Thence I have to go to Wales & Nottingham, & then I must give a few days to London. I will, as you suggest, write to you when I have done my round.

I am quite sure that the stone implements you produced at the section meeting are Australian. I do not clearly remember the details of the case I mentioned in my letter to you & I have not my memoranda books with me, but I remember one point which struck me at the time. The man said the stone was handled by stout twigs bent over it, & tied together with strips of skin or sinews, the interstices being filled with gum. Now the usual Australian handle is a small lath bent over the stone - not twigs - & it would seem that the owner of that particular stone had not found in Tasmania ready means for getting at the materials for the customary handle, & so had adopted those which were at hand.

With kind remembrances

Yours sincerely

Lorimer Fison

... I forgot to mention that I am now sending my paper to the Secretary of the Anth. Inst. It would be a good thing if Basil Thomson could be present when it is read. I should like him to have a chance to join in the discussion. If it is read before I leave England I might be present myself. I shall not go til Oct 19th.


Tylor papers Box 11a Fison 46

[Headed paper: Orient Line The Pacific Steam Navigation Co. ... Royal Mail Steamer]


English Channel

Oct 19 1894

My dear Dr Tylor

I got my baggage taken on board last night, & came quietly myself this morning before the big rush of passengers & then friends came down. We are now going merrily down channel with perfectly smooth water & a fairly clear sky. I am thankful that there is no fog, for a fog in the English Channel, crowded as it is with ships, is a horribly dangerous thing, & I am, unfortunately for my peace of mind, sailor enough to know it.

I feel almost sorry that I went into your Museum at all, excepting that it enables me to enter into full sympathy with that wretched Tantalus. I have carried away with me more sights & longings than I can conveniently hold.

I will write by & bye when we have shaken down into our places on board. This is only a line to say farewell to my kind hostess & host & to wish that it might be auf wiedersehen. But I fear the envious gods have not that happiness in store for me.

So with kindest regards

Believe me

Yours sincerely

Lorimer Fison. 


Spencer papers Box 1 Fison 16


Nov 30 94

My dear Professor,

Your eyes most certainly did deceive you if they saw me promenading the streets with any sort of "unction" about me. It is a standing reproach against me that I am grievously lacking in that grace, & I have been taken to task therefor [sic] by more than one anointed elder.

What theology has failed to develope, [sic] I am sure anthropology cannot have brought to the surface from the hidden depths where the rich supply of grace is kept strictly for home consumption.

I had so good a time at home that the English language does not possess an adverb capable of doing justice to the adjective; & I finished up at Cambridge in a perfect blaze of glory: &, with the wisdom of the shooting star, which takes care to clear out of the way before the planets have time to discover that it is not one of themselves, I bolted from the seats of learning ere the men who really know things would find out how little I know. It was Howitt who should have gone home, & I told the Brishersociation [sic] so.

It is like you--in other words, it is kindness itself on your part--to put me forward as a lecturer on the great occasion & in such august company. I may, however, be useful as a foil to the great professors with whom I am to be associated. 

I must go & see Howitt before I give you the title, & I would go this evening but for an abominable "reception" which has been arranged for here. I will make no delay in settling upon my subject, & will let you know the title as soon as may be.

Horne, [sic] who sent out your expedition is not a savoury person. He went home with me in the Aruba, & what little I saw of him did not make me hanker arter him.

I hope to see you at Queen's on Tuesday, & look forward with great delight to our meeting.

Yours sincerely 

Lorimer Fison


Tylor papers Box 11a Fison 47



Dec 6. 1894

My dear Dr Tylor

[the majority of the letter is telling the story of a Fijian man who was afraid he had lost his soul in response to an enquiry from Tylor when they met at Oxford which is not transcribed]

....P.S. May I ask you to remember your promise to write to me about Fraser's annotations of Threlkeld's paper? Threlkeld spent 17 years among his blacks, & is a perfectly trustworthy authority. Fraser's incompetence is only equalled by his impudence. Max Müller & Sayce have given me letters about his annotation of Ray's paper, & Boyd Dawkins wrote to Prof. Liversidge about it. I shall follow up his blow with their letters, & one from you on the Threlkeld paper would clinch the matter. My object is to persuade the Royal Society of N.S.W. to roll away the stone of reproach from their door. It is a disgrace to science & humiliates the real workers in Australia. 

My very kind regards to Mr Balfour. I am sorry indeed that I could not spend three or four days in the Museum. The one occasion on which I visited the galleries transported me into the seventh heaven. I forgot how the time was going, & that I had an appointment with Dr Murray of the big Dictionary. That appointment was never kept. I was even unconscious of the pangs of hunger, & lost my lunch. I ought to have had a full week in those galleries, to say nothing of the ground floor. ... [rest of the letter not transcribed]


Spencer papers Box 1 Fison 17



June 13, 95

My dear Professor

Who am I, & what is my father's house, that this great thing should be done unto me? I have done so little, & I get so much, that really & truly I feel that I must be, without intending it, one of the most errant impostors on earth, & I think of enjoining on my executors--if they have anything wherewith to execute--to engrave on my tombstone "L'imposteur malgré lui."

I have had a letter from Sayce, asking whether the epistles written by Tylor, Max Müller, Boyd-Dawkins & himself, have had any effect on the R. Sy of N.S.W. Boyd Dawkins wrote direct. Did you send the other letters? I most sincerely trust that they will do some good. In the meanwhile Frazer has written to me asking for a paper for "our Section" to be read at the meeting of the Australian Ass: in Sydney. I have replied that it is most unlikely that I shall be able to be present; & I repressed a strong inclination to tell him that, if I did go, it would be to attack him. True wisdom is shown by what one does not say. 

I wish I could have a talk with you about your expedition. Where & when are you most likely to be found without some urgent work on your hands.

Yours sincerely

Lorimer Fison


Tylor papers Box 11a Fison 48

Essendon Melbourne Vic Australia

[Headed paper: Queen's College University of Melbourne]

Aug 5. 1895

My dear Professor Tylor,

Allow me to congratulate you most sincerely on the appointment by which your University has honoured herself as well as you. My congratulations come late, but they are most sincere. I am glad also to hear--& I hope the news is true--that Anthropology is now made one of the University courses. It would be very interesting to me, & to other here, if you would tell me something of the arrangement of the course. There are so many books, none of which have been written precisely from the text book standpoint. Howitt spoke to me the other day about getting out a new edition of K. & K. [Kamilaroi and Kurnai] or rather pulling the old one to pieces, throwing away a great deal of it, & bringing it up to date under a new title. So far, it is only what my friend Baron v. Mueller, our botanist here, calls "a suggestion," but it may possibly take shape by & bye. Baldwin Spencer is full of delight with a Mr Gillans, [sic] a station manager in the McDonnell Ranges country, whose acquaintance he made when he was in those regions on the Horn Expedition. He says G. is a very fine man, & has extensive knowledge of the blacks in his country, which has been a terra incognita to Howitt & me. G. is to come to Melbourne soon, & hold a council with us. Horn declared that the blacks there had no intersexual divisions, but Gillans records the four classes under names which are familiar to us elsewhere. One important point he settles beyond question--viz. that the practice of sub-incision has not for its object the keeping down of the population, for all the blacks in the tribes there have it performed upon them.

The new Journal has arrived. I was very glad to see Basil Thomson's paper side by side with mine, for I think it will finally settle the question as to the origin of the Classificatory terms; but as to the origin of the exogenous intermarrying divisions out of which they came, that is another question. I cannot shut my eyes to the evidence of a prior promiscuity. At least I cannot account for the facts in my possession on any other theory; but, as I said at Oxford, I have left off making theories. That most beautiful one of mine--the theory of the Kurnia system--has finally cured me. It accounts for all the facts, but it is wrong in spite of that.

As soon as I had read Matthew's paper on the Australian Boru in the Journal, I sent a note to Howitt stating my conviction that M. had not seen the ceremonies at all, & that he had written from hearsay only. Howitt replied that I was right. A long while ago M. wrote to him about his visit. He did not go to the place until after the ceremonies were over, & what he saw was the Bora Encampment--not the Bora Ground, which is a very different thing. He says in the Journal that the old men took the novices to a place in the bush, & stayed there with them for six days. That was the Bora Ground, & it is there that the mysteries are performed. Compare M.'s account with Howitt's in the Journal of 1884 & you will see the difference.

Did you find Peal's Vocabulary about which I wrote to you? I want to send him a letter, & I am ashamed to do so until I can tell him whether the Vocabulary has turned up or not. It was that which you showed me at Oxford.

I was very sorry to hear from Miss Weld a few days ago that Mr Balfour was ill. I hope he has completely recovered ere now. I got some things from Fiji for your Museum which I noted were lacking, but the case has not turned up yet. I had notice of it several weeks ago.

With kindest remembrances to Mrs Tylor & all Oxford friends

Yours sincerely Lorimer Fison


Tylor papers Box 12 Howitt 31



My dear Tylor

I have now looked into the matter of the Bullroarers: the small one without the stick is the one which I sent first, the other small one with the stick accompanied the large grandfather—both these two having been used at the Jerail. I am much indebted [sic – missing word to ?] you for your intention of reading a paper on these Turnduns. The knowledge which I have of the “Bora ceremonies” (using Bora as a general term) I have found to send me in good stead in placing me in most friendly relations with any of the blackfellows I may come across, who are strangers to me and may be from distant places. For instance I made acquaintance in this manner when on the Murray River about two years ago with two of the last surviving old men whom I met with in successive days on the banks of the river. Similarly when a number of blacks of north Queensland blacks were brought down to Melbourne for exhibition purposes abut two years ago I was able to become friendly with them and found much as I had anticipated that fundamentally their ceremonies are like those I knew—the [insert] sound [end insert] character of their bullroarers and the reverence they feel for them is the same as down south [insert] but the initiation ceremonies do not according to them extend to the islands in Torres Straits or of Cape York [end insert]. The Yultha has served so far as I knew as a message to call together there who should participate in the rites and the marks indicate the people who were present. May I note that two or three names in your extracts from my letters which no doubt due to my execrable hand writing are not quite correct The proper spelling is as follows:- Yatala (Cheepara [insert] tribe [end insert]) Wrukut turndun (woman [insert above] wife [end insert] turndun)

Exocarpus cupressiformid (native cherry tree)

Melaleuca (Ti tre)

I have not been able to do much fresh work of late the duties of my present office are heavy and I am not able to get away from Melbourne for any time. Now that I have climbed up to the top of the tree I find that my responsibilities have naturally increased--not only as regards the duties of Com of audit but also for reason of the control which we exercise over the whole public service. However I am [several words illegible] at the [several words illegible] and Fison is also at work with his Our objective is to rewrite K&K and bring ourselves up to date. We shall also take the opportunity of setting matters right in respect for instance of the late EM Curr - with your remarks as to his book I am quite in accord. Westermark also requires a little attention, not forgetting the Australian writers such as Mathew [sic], Frazer &c. I shall not forget to look out for a secondhand copy of Currs work for you at a reasonable sum.

I am sorry to have to send you a poor account of Fisons health--indeed we all feel much anxiety about him. He seems much aged and suffers much from bronchitis--the other day he was complaining to me that he usually feels as if about to faint. Naturally I feel much concerned and I fear that his health is suffering also from mental worry consequent upon financial matters. I mention this as I know that you feel a kindly interest in our friend. 

I do not think that there is any likelyhood [sic] of my visiting England being as I am not only tied by the leg but also, so much Australian that I feel this country my home. It would of course be very pleasant to meet relatives and also become personally acquainted with valued correspondents. My daughter has not visited England--I thank you for your kind enquiry.

No doubt you hear from Spencer, but I may mention the most interesting information which he is working out about the tribes of central Australia anywhere [?] there is a peculiar development of the Bull roarer. He is doing splendid work in Anthropology.

With kind regards

yours faithfully



Spencer papers Box 1 Fison 5

[Printed 'Memo from Editor Spectator' 'Spectator Publishing Co. Proprietary Limited, 270 Post Office Place, Melbourne'][1898-1899?]

My dear Spencer, 

I have no other papers handy, so I write on this, & implore your forgiveness. I hope your flight to England is not caused by any hitch arising out of Tylor's proposal. What I wrote when I was in England & he being then in a parlous state raises a suspicion in my mind that Mrs Tylor may have something to do with that. I observed that she sat by us when we were talking, & supplied a word whenever Tylor was at a loss for one, which was of frequent occurrence, & a painful symptom of his malady, which I hear has come upon him again. I have given up writing to him, & have heard nothing from him for the last three years, excepting once--a few lines on a p-card. I think it most likely that Mrs Tylor does most of his thinking for him now.

I can hardly realise your "shyness" at the thought of interviewing Frazer. It never occurred to me to tremble before him, or that there was anything to tremble about, & I am quite sure that my freedom from your complaint did not arise from excessive self-estimation. I assure you I seem to myself to be a perfect humbug, thought not of my own manufacture. What I know is so very little that I never cease wondering at folk for making much of it. I should not object to import to you a reasonable portion of my size if it were possible & if the gift wd do you any good; but as for any of my "age", what in the world do you want with it? Surely you do not delude yourself with the notion that you are a young man? I did until I was about 40, but that arose from my native humility. I used to look upon myself as a youth, & bow before the elders. You are not built that way.

As for Frazer's theory, it will be of great interest to me to hear it, & to turn it over in my mind--things of that sort want a lot of turning over. But I have come to care very little about theories. If I had money & leisure, I should spend the rest of my days in gathering facts, & other folk might theorise on them to their hearts' content. My own theorising brought me anything but peace of mind, & I always kick myself when I think of it.

Frazer has earned my undying gratitude by his steadfast opposition to Tylor's proposal. I went to see old David Blair the other day. He modestly informed me that Providence had endowed him with a "preternatural gift of insight into men's minds & qualities", I lay no claim to such a miraculous gift for myself, but when a man [illegible - paper torn] me the impression that Frazer did, I have generally--[illegible - paper torn] always--found it confirmed by experience. I may be mistaken sometimes--indeed when I tell you that you yourself--but I will pursue the subject no further.

If you tell Dr Jackson of Trinity what you say in your book about the point I put to you when we were at Howitt's, which falls in with his (Jackson's) theory about the origins of the class-divisions, he will rejoice, & he may be useful, though I don't think you will want any more allies. Frazer is a host in himself, & will prevail.

You will go to Oxford of course. Do pray, I beseech you, when you are there, call on my kind hostess Miss Weld, of "Conal More", 5 Norham Gardens. I owe her a long letter but when I shall pay it I cannot tell. My work is getting harder & harder with the hardness of the times, & it faut vivre before paying epistolary debts to one's friends. She was very kind to me--& wrote about me to the Master of Trinity, the Vice chancellor & others & did all she could for me. Au revoir, & with kind regards to Mrs Spencer and your little ones

Yours sincerely

L. Fison


Spencer papers Box 1 Fison 1

Spec. Office

Tuesday [Added Feb. 6/ 99]

My dear Spencer

All hail!

Your letter came this morning as I was on the point of going into town, & I brought it with me, Now, while the devil (printer's) is quiet for a time, I write a few hurried lines in reply, ere a batch of linotype proofs comes in.

If I were capable of so unangelic a disposition as envy, I should envy you your nights with the anthropological gods at Trinity. As it is, I can see & almost hear them as I read your letter.

When I read Tylor's absurd paper on Totemism I felt very indignant, & began a letter forthwith to Frazer about it, but when I had written a page or two, I laid the letter aside for two reasons--first, because I was angry, & ot is a good rule to cool down before inkshedding--& second, because it came to my mind that you would be out in a few days. Tylor, as you say--the real Tylor--is a thing of the past. Frazer will be glad to hear of the proof I can give him of the existence of the totem in Samoa--or rather of what was a totem. Turner, whom Tylor quotes, knew nothing of Totems, & uses the word 'god' as equivalent to the Samoan atua. Now what the atua was may be gathered from this fact. A chief, whose atua was the domestic fowl, & who therefore could not eat chicken, was told by somebody, when he lotu'd, that he ought to eat a fowl by way of demonstration & testimony. He plucked the fowl carefully & put it in the pot & then blew the feathers away as an offering to the atua. 

I am horribly afraid that you did not go & make my peace with Miss Weld. If you failed to do what I implored you to do at 5 Norham Gardens, it will be necessary for me to lay anathemas upon you. The duty will be a painful one.

I admire your discernment as to the Macgregor. But when you get thoroughly inside him, your find all that dourness to be only skin deep, though it must be confessed that the skin is a long way through.

He was quite snappish with me some years ago when I told him he would find, sooner or later, the exogamous totem class in N. Guinea. He had written to me asserting that there was nothing of the kind, & he was angry with me for hinting that he was mistaken.

In his last Report he had to announce that the exog. t. class is there. By the way the N.A. Indian totems also are exogamous. I will get Macgregor to make inquiries--or get them made--among their tribes back of Lagos.

I don't remember meeting Ridgway. [sic] I was only a very short time at Camb., for my brother in Yorkshire claimed my last 10 days which I had arranged to devote to Camb. & Oxford. He showed such grief when I told him that I must bid him good bye, that I had to cave in, & content myself with just a flying visit, & then back again to Yorks. However, it was £100 in my pocket, for he valued his gratification at that sum, & I was only sorry that I could not have another opportunity of gratifying him at the same figure.

With kindest rememberances to Mrs Spencer & my young friends in your house.

Yours rejoicingly

L. Fison


Spencer papers Box 1 Spencer to Fison 8

Alice Springs

Nov 21.96 [NB second page dated Nov 20.96]

My dear Fison

Just a line to say that after a most miserably uncomfortable time I reached Alice Springs a little more than a week ago & at once got into the middle of work. The Engwurra or Fire Ceremony was in full swing or rather the preliminary ceremonies attendant on it & Gillen had managed to persuade the old head man that I was his younger brother & under these circumstances they allowed me to come in & see everything & we are now seeing things which no white men have ever seen before or are likely to again for some time. How ever Gillen persuaded them to let me in I cant imagine but the first night I got here the old head man came up to me & of his own accord said "you Bultharra Udnirringita" which meant I was a Bultharra man of the Udnirringita or large grub totem the same as himself & then he called me "Weteey-aitcha" which means my younger brother.

After that I went in & out amongst them & they took no more notice of me than if I were one of themselves which in fact I now am.

Gillen they call the "Oknirrabata" which means "Great teacher" & they seem really anxious to let us know all about them.

This Engwurra turns out to be a great gathering of representatives of the tribe from far & near & at it are performed ceremonies of the most sacred character concerned with the different totems. These ceremonies deal with different incidents in the past history of the members of the totem. The whole ceremony is concerned with the latter & the distinctions concerned with the "classes" Bultharra Paninga etc scarcely enters at all for the reason that no totem is restricted to any one of the classes. It is difficult work but we are getting a great deal of information though as you might imagine just when we want to get further we are brought up dead against the "Alcheringa" or dream-times. [insert] The natives say "It was as in the dream-times", just as a Fijian says "Our fathers said, or did, so". When the enquirer gets to that point, he need not try to go any further. [end insert]

The thing that is most impressive is the way in which the blacks really reverently deal with their churinga (sacred sticks & stones). 

This morning for example we had a new lot--there are hundreds of them piled up on a special section in camp carefully hidden from sight--brought in from one of the secret 'store-houses' & the chief old man of the group to which they belonged in dead silence opened them out & showed them. Each one represents some actual person & in handing them round the old men whisper to the younger ones telling them who they belonged to & all about their former possessors. Then they press them against their stomachs (there is a definite order of precedence in doing this) & once this morning in the case of the churinga of an old man dead not long ago there was a dead silence for some minutes while the men most closely related to the dead man literally shed tears on his churinga.

The whole thing is absolutely real to the blacks & though we get tied up in knots every hour we are gradually getting a good deal deeper & are carefully noting down on the spot everything that takes place.

Luckily now Gillen knows the language deeply enough to understand most of what they say & we have one or two genuine blacks who can speak English enough to help us so that I dont think we miss much & there is no doubt but that the blacks have implicit faith in Gillen & trust me because I am his younger brother. It would take reams of paper to give you any idea of what we are seeing but if there be any points which have struck you & Howitt that we ought to enquire into--though I think we are on the look out for most things--send me a line before the Adelaide mail leaves next Wednesday as the mail only comes here once in 6 weeks.

Gillen sends his kind regards to you & Howitt. He is simply mad with anthropologic enthusiasm.

Yours very sincerely

W. Baldwin Spencer

A rather curious thing is that in 5 of the ceremonies we have seen the performers are engaged in eating their own totem.

If only McLennan were here we could convince him in 10 minutes with regard to terms of address.

The Engwurra ceremony lasts about 3 months--how long exactly depends on the old men who are simply supreme & rule the young men with a rod of iron


Tylor papers Box 12 Howitt 32 


12 June 1897

My dear Tylor

I am sorry to say that I have so far been unable to do anything for you as to West Australian stone implements. 

I have lost the run as we say here of my former correspondents who seem to have been swallowed up in the Mining Boom over there and the mining men of whom I know a great many have no interest in anything but gold--either native--or English.

However I have now another chance in a young relative who is just [2 words illegible] and who will endeavour to do something for you. I thought it well to let you know that although silent I am not altogether forgetful. You will know of course of the splendid work which Spencer is doing here--he had a unique chance and he took it and is making the best possible use of it. I am constantly in communication with him and feel it a privilege when able to assist so good a fellow and so true a [illegible] by very little and in my [illegible] in the way of information and hints.

Fison & I have had several evenings with him and shall have another as soon as he receives his next batch of papers from Mr Gillen.

Fison I am sorry to say is still no better and I fear that his continual illness which seems to be an apparent bronchial affliction gives his friends only too great cause for concern about hi,. He has been for some time working at his share of our common notes and material but told me the other day that he had been compelled to put it on one side for the present.

I may take the opportunity of mentioning that in view of the time which may elapse before my Anthropological material may be worked into shape, my daughter has undertaken to put together what I have as regards the Folklore of the tribes of South Eastern Australia. May I ask your kindly advice whether it would be better to publish in England or here--the work will be in scientific lines and yet written so as to commend itself to the taste of the general reader. I may also mention that I have been preparing a paper during the last twelve months which may perhaps have a title such as "Primitive [illegible] as seen by the [illegible] lights of Australian Savagery" would this be acceptable to the Anthrop. Inst.

With best wishes I remain

my dear Tylor

yours faithfully


P.S Since I [illegible] this letter an old friend has turned up from Western Australia and who is now returning, He feels an interest in the customs &c of the aborigines of whom he knew much in the old days, and he [illegible] promised to do what he can in supplying the information you require AH


Spencer papers Box 1 Tylor 1

[University Museum Oxford]

June 17 1897

My dear Spencer

Your letter gave me great pleasure, and so far as my very moderate influence will go I shall do my best to further your project. The preliminary outline paper was sent to me in type by the editor of Nature and I looked through it. Happening to be at Malvern I have not seen last weeks number, but when I get back this evening I hope to find it there or in this weeks. Mr Gillen has kindly sent me the Anthropology of the Horn Expedition, which opened up a new Instructive field, and reading the paper made me sure that the newly described totem system is of great importance toward the understanding of the whole totem business, the usual theories of which seem to me unsatisfactory, whereas your scheme, strange and new as it is, is at any rate rational as a piece of savage reasoning.

I will read your typoscript as soon as it comes, and shall probably then communicate with Macmillans. The difficulty will be to secure a sufficient sale among the general public in addition to the anthropologists, who though anthropology has come on wonderfully in the last few years, cannot yet take an edition. However I will do all in my power. It particularly delights me that you have made your mark in anthropology when the opportunity offered. Mrs Tylor joins me in best wishes

Yours truly

Edward B Tylor


Spencer papers Box 1 Tylor 2

[University Museum Oxford]

Dec 18. 1898

My dear Spencer

I am very glad to have heard your paper & seen you as we were to miss you at Oxford. It was a very excellent paper & the thorough work that it shows in anthropology contrasts wonderfully with that of the old times when explorers had the wonderful old savage ways under their eyes & for want of knowledge could not see them.

Our friend Frazer amused me vastly. For years he has been setting the parsons all agog with totem-gods, till having read you, he calmly propounds a bran-new theory in place of his old one, chucked. It took quite a lot of trouble to refute No. 1 [insert] in the paper I send with this [end insert] and behold No. 2 in out already.

Whether this will find you in Oxford I cannot tell but if not it will go on to Prof Howe. I wish I could have been at home to see you & talk over many things. One especially [insert] Miss [end insert] Howitt's Australian Folk Tales which contain a large amount of her father's information came to me some while ago. I sent it to Macmillans but they intimated that it would not pay cost. In fact there is a glut of savage folklore, [illegible] quantities of it not worth publication. I sent Howitt's MS on to Alf Nutt who writes to the effect that he cannot publish it himself to lose money, but that if it were got into better form by the authors he thinks the Folklore Soc'y might lump it out as an extra volume in a year or two. I do not send his letter but will do so when sure of your address. Howitt wanted me to return the MS by you if refused. It is on my library table at the Museum House in case you are in Oxford & wish to take it. 

Mrs Tylor sends kind regards & would have been glad to see you again.

Yours truly

Edward B Tylor


Spencer papers Box 1 Tylor 4

[University Museum Oxford]

July 25 1899

My dear Spencer

I am not really writing from Oxford, but from Southwold a quiet little East Coast seaside place. One of my occupations has been to read the last journal of the Anthropological Institute, & I congratulate you as I did when we sat together last, at Frazer's calmly throwing over his former theory of Totemism which I had taken such pains to knock the bottom out of, in order to absorb your discoveries. I think your contribution to the totem-theory is so good that it will lead to the yet unsetttled synthesis of the whole set of customs. I always held exogamy to be independent of totem, and indeed years ago made an effort in the J.A.I. [Journal of the Anthropological Institute] to interpret it as a mere alliance of clans. It will be very interesting to have the churingas in the Pitt-Rivers and I shall of course tell you if any turn up from other sources. All I have seen are casts of so-called ones sent me by Andrew Lang from a place called I think Dumbuick in Scotland! I have not heard of Balfour since he sailed for S. Africa to recover from the effects of typhoid & jaundice. I much hope he may get back restored, but poor man, he has had a bad time. I hope for more 'Tasmanian' implements from W. Australia, especially now that things like plateau flints are turning up in S. Africa. Evidently pre-palaeolithic man has lasted most instructively in savagery of the Southern Ocean. My kindest regards to Howitt I regret about the Tales, but we did all we could. I hope anthropology will soon hear of him again, Fison likewise Have you got H Ling Roth's new [illegible, probably edition] of Tasmanians

Your truly

EB Tylor


Tylor papers Box 12 Howitt 36

[Headed 'Howitt Australia' and 'Tylor', in handwriting. The remainder of the copy letter is typewritten with some pencil or ink changes, marked in text below as [insert hw]. In MH Walker's biography of her ancestor [1971] she remarks on page 238 that Howitt's wife was the typewriter so she presumably typed this from Howitt's dictation or handwritten draft?

Finch Street, East Malvern,

Melbourne, Victoria,

10 August 1899.

My dear Sir,

Last month I was much gratified by receiving your letter of the 17, June, which Dr. Lorimer [sic, presumably this means Fison] transmitted to me. Since then I have been considering how best I might make a reply to the questions you have put to me. The difficulty really is how I can condense what I have to say into reasonable limits. Even in attempting to do this I find that I shall appear to you probably to have written an essay on the subject--at unconscionable length. I hope that the importance of the questions which you have raised will serve for my excuse.

I have been long impressed by the vast period of time during which the Australian aborigines must have been isolated in this continent free from outside influence. I have detailed my grounds for this belief in my address to Section F of the Aust. Ass. Adv. Science, in Sydney January 1898, a copy of which I addressed to you in Scotland and hope that you received. The level of culture of the Australians when they left the parent stock must have been that of the palaeolithic races of mankind, and even those races must have advanced in culture much beyond the social level of "primitive man." The level of culture of the ancestors of the Australians may be inferred from the conditions implied by the classification system of relationships obtaining among the (socially) most backward standing tribes (such as the Dieri of Lake Eyre), from their existing marriage customs, and from their tribal legends which to my mind enclose a nucleus of truth --- the survival of former customs.

I have gathered together more or less complete, or more or less incomplete data as to tribes over the Eastern half of Australia, and more especially as to those located around Lake Eyre and those of South Eastern Australia. In one sense the Lake Eyre tribes are the most primitive, while the coast tribes from [blank] to Brisbane (and apparently even beyond that point) have had a social development marked by (a) the more or less complete dying out of the class and totem system. (b) The abandonment of the practice of "group marriage" which is a living fact in the Lake Eyre tribes, and the change for descent in the female to the male line. Notwithstanding these changes in the social structure and custom, the terminology of relationship remains more or less that which is used by the Lake Eyre tribes, and which applies accurately to the system of "pirraurie" (group marriage) while it is not applicable to the marriage system of the coast tribes.

In looking over my facts as to all the tribes, I see clearly that the Australians have had a social development tending towards the establishment of individual marriage, the recognition of paternal descent, and probably the communication of hereditary Headmanship. I find in the coast tribes that as the "social organisation" in classes with totems, became lost, the "local organisation" in "Geographical groups" of the tribes, became more pronounced. The result has been that as the class organisation dies out and the totems become mere names, these no longer control marriage. It is the "local organisation" which does this, so that a man is not compelled to marry a woman of a certain class and totem, with which, as the Dieri express it, he [insert hw] his [end insert] class and totem are "noa", i.e. marriageable, but that the men of a certain locality take wives only from a certain other localities, to which their sisters go in exchange as wives.

You ask me as to the "primitive [insert hw] noa [end insert]" of the Arunta tribes. Bearing in mind what I have just said, they are not so primitive as for instance the "Wrabunna" [sic] mentioned by Spencer and Gillen, or the Dieri, both of which represent a vast number of tribes all more or less nearly allied, and stretching from the Southern border of the Arunta, outwards towards the sea at Port Lincoln, and Eastward far up the Barwan River.

Therefore all have a "two class" organisation. That is, the tribe is divided into two classes (varieties) one called Kararu the other Materi which intermarry, with descent in the female line. Taking a still wider view of the field I find that this "two class" system, with class names which are recognised by the tribes when the different names meet, as being equivalents, extends over the whole of the River Darling country from the Balonne River to the Murray, and from the Barrier and Grey Range to about a hundred miles East of the Darling. These tribes, for the reasons given, are in my opinion the most "primitive." But the Arunta represent another vast stretch of tribes which have advanced from the "two class" system to a "four sub-class"--even to an "eight sub-class" system which regulates their marriages. That is to the north of the Lake Eyre tribes; while to the east there are other "four-class" tribes such as the Kamilaroi which extend from near Maitland in New South Wales to the head waters of the Flinders Range. South of the "two-class" tribes (Lake Eyre, &c) and South and to the East of the Kamilaroi and other "four sub-class" tribes are the coast tribes already mentioned, which extends, for instance in Victoria, almost to the Murray River, and of which the "Kurnai" are a typical example. The Kurnai as you will remember have no classes and no totems, excepting the "sea totem", which by the way, appear to be peculiar to the more advanced coast tribes. I have found them as far round the coast as Brisbane--in all cases being the "man's brother" and the "woman's sister."

But it may be said of the Arunta--as I think this is really what Spencer and Gillen claim as "being primitive", that their ceremonies are very archaic, for instance the Intichrunia [sic] ceremony. Their legends also point to former customs, which partly survive in the ceremonies.

The Arunta totems with reincarnation are quite peculiar to the tribes represented by the Arunta, and I have not found any such ideas elsewhere. I may note however [insert hw] see list L.P. [end insert] that the belief in the totems being the ancestors is wide of field. The Dieri have it, and the Kurnai ancestors and the animals are new over-totems. i.e. the "[insert hw] Muk- [end insert] Kurnai" are the same thing. [insert hw] ? [end insert]

[insert hw] a line alongside this entire paragraph [end insert] As to the "Over God." [insert hw] not my word [end insert] I can scarcely fall in with the idea that Baime or Mungan is a "God" much less an "Over-God", which implies to my mind the existence of inferior Gods. Let me here correct myself in a passage which you quote in "the Making of Religion". I there use the expression "great Spirit". This is a bad "slip". Neither Murelli, Bunjie, [sic] Mungan-ngaur, Baiame nor Daramulun is a "spirit." Everything I have heard of them, at the Bora (I use this as a convenient term for all the initiation ceremonies) or in conversation with the initiated men, pictures an old man, very wise, most magically powerful, possessed in the highest degree of the attributes and powers of the medicine men; in one aspect also the kindly "Headman" of the tribe, both on the earth and beyond the sky. No prayers are addressed to him, or is any sacrifice offered. But at the Bora his name is invoked, so that his "magical power" may fill the novices, and make them "clever men" as I have more than once heard one of the old men anglicise their own expression.

[insert hwa line alongside most of this paragraph [end insert] I assume, indeed I feel no doubt that Murelli, Bunjil, Mungan-ngaur, Baiame and Daramulun, all represent the same supernatural individual under their different names; but with this proviso that with the Wiradjuri Daramulun is the Son of Baiame. We have therefore a wide spread belief which extends over at least that part of Australia lying between the Murray mouth and Brisbane, in the same supernatural being to whom with propriety the name of "Our Father" may be applied. This belief according to my aboriginal informants, old men whose word I could fully trust, was taught them by their fathers either before white men entered their country, or very soon after. This belief formed the central part of the Initiation ceremony and was jealously guarded from the uninitiated. All that the women knew was that a supernatural Being spoken of as "Father" (among the wild Blacks) came at the time of the Bora to make the boys into men.

[insert hwa cross [end insert] As to these beliefs having been missionary taught, I do not in the least believe. Take Gippsland as an instance. It was so shut in by physical obstacles of Mountain and dense scrubs and jungles that all the intercourse between the Kurnai and the "wild blacks" on the Melbourne side, on the north and to the east was when occasionally war parties crossed the mountains or traversed the jungles to revenge raids made by them on the Kurnai. The country was only discovered and settled in 1842-3 and it was in 1863 that the mission stations were established. When I first knew the Kurnai about seventeen years after the country was settled [insert hw] 1860 [end insert], there were many of the old time men living who were still savages slightly varnished with contact with the white men, numbers of younger men also had grown up to manhood in the old savage times and a younger generation of lads dating from a little before to after the settlement.

[insert hwa line alongside most of this paragraph [end insert] What I have said about the beliefs applies to these people; but the actual secrets of the Initiation I only learned from the men who were young men at the time of the settlement, but who had been initiated by the old men in the manner of their fathers and who had revealed to me and to the novices at the Icrarl [?] what they themselves had been taught and which they had kept secret for so many years until the time came when it might be lawfully revealed.

Your "Folk-lore Brethren" may rest assured that these beliefs have not been borrowed from missionaries. As to "native mendacity", no such thing could arise between a black fellow and another initiated person. I have over and over been able to [insert hw] check [end insert] the accuracy of statements made to me by blacks who knew that I was one of the initiated and I never found that anything but the exact truth had been told to me. It is inconceivable to me that a man would dare to lie on such a sacred subject to an initiated member. But he would secrete, or if driven to a corner would lie like--let me say a De Rougement--to an outsider, because it would be impossible to tell him the sacred secrets. [insert hw] ? ! [end insert]

There is an interesting parallel to be seen between the secrets from Murelli to Daramulun.

Bunjil commences to be known in Western Victoria, and as I have said seems to represent the Beneficent Headman, the "All Father" in which aspect he is anthropomorphic, but as Bunjil he is also the Eaglehawk and so the aspect verges on a totemistic character. He has two wives who are Gunawara (Blackswan) and a son Binbial who is the Rainbow.

The Kurnai were an off shoot of the Kului stock of which I take the Woëworung tribe as my example. They had lost the class names and the totems which the Woëworung had, and Mungan-ngaur, the analogue of Mamangata (our father) Bunjil, was entirely anthropomorphic, [insert hw] [hard to read] Dolphin Apollo [end insert] yet his son Tundun is the Porpoise and therefore one of the "Muk-Kurnai" or Kurnai ancestors, that is the once upon a time totems, which are only now to be discovered in shadowy names and customs. Baiame and his son represent Bunjil and Brubeal, and Mungan-ngaur and Tundun, but are entirely anthropomorphic. Yet it seems significant that at the Bora I heard Daramulun spoken of as being also "Maliau = Eaglehawk." [insert hw] Also male &c ? [end insert]

I think that it is now quite too late to get any reliable information from Victoria, New South Wales, South Queensland and South Australia south of Lake Eyre. I speak with feelings of certainty because I know Victoria and I have lately written to a number of correspondents in the other colonies who all agree that it is now too late. During the last ten years the blacks especially the old ones have died off rapidly. The younger people who are now alive know nothing. As an example of the present condition of affairs the following will serve. A photographer in Sydney sent me a set of photographs which he had obtained on a Bora ground where the Kamilaroi living at the western end of the Macquarrie River had some ceremonies going on. He asked me to tell him what the pictures represented because he could he could not get information from the Blacks. I told him that some of the scenes were familiar to me but the others were not so, indeed appeared to me not to belong to the Bora proper. He replied saying that a number of Blacks who had come with drivers bringing cattle from the north had joined the Kamilaroi, some being from Western Queensland, some from the Northern Territory and that they had assisted the Kamilaroi in getting up the Bora. That the photographer was permited to go into the Bora ground and even photograph some of the less sacred scenes shews one how the old customs are broken down, and the mixture of custom, if this kind of information is accepted, will lead to confusion worse confounded.

I may mention that I am engaged in writing up all my material and hope within two years to complete a work which I have been preparing for on the tribal and social organisation of the Australian Aborigines, their customs and beliefs &c.

I have only one correspondent at work within the bounds I have mentioned, and that is in the Dieri Country, where he is carefully gathering under my direction all that can be got of the old tribal beliefs, legends, &c., also most important materials for completing my account of the tribes living around Lake Eyre, who as I have before said practice "group marriage and descent" systematically--notwithstanding the contrary statement of Miss Edith [blank] [insert hwillegible [end insert] in the Nineteenth Century of July last. In anticipation of my bond [insert hw'bond' crossed out and 'book' added [end insert] I shall when this information is complete, send a paper to the Anthropological Institute and will take care to let you have a copy.

I have read the works you mention which are in the Melbourne Public Library. Your "Making of Religion" I have especially read with the greatest interest and was naturally much gratified by the kind manner in which you have accepted my evidence and quoted my statements. You make a very strong point in shewing the existence in tribes so widely separated of a common belief in a "powerful Being who sanctions truth, unselfishness, chastity and other virtues"--under laws which "make for righteousness". In thinking over all I know of the Australian savage I have asked myself again and again "What is implanted in man, which, even when isolated from outside influence, has impelled the primitive ancestors of the Australian savages to unconsciously travel onward towards some distant goal of mental and social evolution which is still as invisible to us as it was to primitive mankind?"

I shall indeed value your works if, as you kindly suggest, you send them to me. I trust that I have not wearied you and that what I have said may be of some little interest to you. Please do not hesitate to let me know if I can give you any information or be otherwise of assistance to you in your work.

I remain my dear Sir,

Yours faithfully,


A. W. Howitt


Tylor papers Box 12 Howitt 34

Melbourne 4 Sep 1899

My dear Tylor

I write at once in reply to your letter of the 29th July as I can answer your questions without making further inquiries. Gason was in error in speaking of Mura Mura as an individual "good spirit." According to the Dieri belief there were numberless Mura muras, indeed I find them, in the Dieri legends which I have collected, attached to places all over the country around Lake Eyre. They may be described as "superhuman" men, the forerunners of the blackfellows, but exactly like them in person habits, mode of thought, but possessing great magical powers. These legends include one the analogue of that given by Gason, one recounting the appearance of "unformed" creatures, that is the totem animals, at Lake Perigundi, when the local mura muras completed them in form & they being the ancestors of the "Kana"--that is the "blackfellows" eg Dieri; anoter recounts the wanderings of two mura muras bearing stone knives which they introduced wherever circumcision was going on in lieu of the firestick. I have at present collected about a dozen of these legends. The mura muras are the analogue of the supernational people who figure in all the [illegible] stories, such as the "Makkurnai" of Gippsland &c.

I have so far not found a belief among the Lake Eyre tribes like that of those of South Eastern Australia. They so far seem to belong to the tribes which have ceremonies of the Bora type and [insert] not [end insert] those like the Engwura of central Australia. Nurundu, Nooreli, Bunjil, Mungan ngain, Daramulun, Baiami are I feel satisfied different names for the same supernatural Being, and I have [illegible] that the same belief extended at any rate as far as Brisbane. 

As to the Deluge legend. I found that there noticed in the Mura Mura legends are the precisely that great inundations which at uncertain period pour down in to the Lake Eyre basin such as one I saw in 1882 in the Lower Diamontina, where Birdsville now is, and which was 20 miles wide.

On the south coast I find forms for like deluge legends from Western Victoria to Shoalhaven. This takes the form of an incursion of the Sea and I am pressed with the idea that it may be a tribal memory of such a catastrophy [sic] during the period of volcanic action when Mt Gambier and Mt Buninyong were active and at which time it is now known that man existed in Victoria. A sea wave such as that caused by Krakatoa might produce such effects in our low lying coasts as one pictured in the Port Philip, Gippsland, and ... Bay [illegible] legends.

You will be interested to learn that Mr Kenyon one of the water supply engineers is doing some excellent work here as to stone implements He has found examples which form a completely parallel series with those of Tasmania. I introduced him to Spencer the other day who hopes to be able to secure a series from him for the National Museum of which Spencer is now the Honorary Director. I shall try and get some for you also.

I am hard at work on my long talked of book on the Australia [sic] but I fear that I shall not be able to complete the first draught [sic] of it in less than a year, as it continues to grow. Meantime so as to make some new material available I am preparing some further notes on the Dieri and other tribes of the Lake Eyre Basin which will give some very interesting new facts. [insert] for the Anthrop Institute [end insert] I have fortunately come across a [illegible] willing & competent correspondent in the Dieri country who speaks the language and has the confidence of the natives. What I have told you of the Mura Mura is part of the work being done. But even as to this work I cannot yet see the conclusion.

Yours faithfully

AW Howitt


Tylor papers Box 12 Howitt 35


7 Sep 1900

My dear Tylor

I was pleased to hear again from you. I have shown it to Spencer and he tells me that he will take steps to supply your wants in the way of stone implements.

You will be pleased to learn that there is every prospect of Spencer and Gillen going off on another expedition somewhere about February next. They have sent word through the Arunta tribe that they "are coming" and these people will send the message on. The University Council has granted twelve months leave of absence for Spencer and I hope that our government will subsidise him.

About Baiami. He is as far as I know always represented as a superhuman male, who is the source of all magic, and therefore able to all [?] and more than the "Blackfellow doctor" can do.

As these men profess, and are believed to be able, to "walk invisibly" and to "do anything" magically, I do not see anything more in the statement that Daramulun can "do anything and go anywhere." I think the expression was merely a coincidence as regards the [illegible] of Wellington's [?] phrase. It was at the Kuringal ceremonies I heard it used. one of the boys was of the Wolgal tribe and did not understand the Yuin language spoken by the head medicine man at the ceremonies. I had therefore the advantage of hearing the latter instructing the Wolgal boy in English as spoken by the blacks.

The Head Medicine Man possibly heard the expression from some of the white people, but it exactly expresses the belief in Daramulun's person. Daramulun with the coast Murring people is the analogue of Baiame with the Kamilaroi and Wiradgiri. But with the latter Daramulun is the son or "boy" of Baime.

I have in writing to Andrew Lang pointed out that there is no such thing in the minds of the Australian natives as an omnipresent and omnipotent Deity.

I do not know whether I have mentioned that I have made up my mind to give up official life. I shall retire from office the end of this month and am intending to go to the sea coast at the Gippsland lakes where we have a home waiting for us and there I shall spend twelve months in completing my long contemplated work on the Australian aborigines. I have roughly drafted it and find that it will make five or six hundred pages, without new materials which I am still gathering from the tribes about Lake Eyre.

With kind regards

yours faithfully



Spencer papers Box 1 Spencer to Fison 7


Aug 23.06

My dear Fison

By today's mail I have written to Frazer and am indebted to you for opening the door of repentance. The fact is that routine work in connection with the University, Public Library, Museum and in later months the School teachers Registration Board has occupied, and more than so, every spare minute of my time & it is at least two years since I have been able to do anything in the way of research work.

Apart from going carefully over a series of papers which Howitt has sent home in reply to sundry very clever but utterly misleading & unscrupulous criticisms of his work published by Andrew Lang in his "Secrets of the Totem" I have had no time for ethnologic work.

Howitt has simply got Lang tied up in a knot out of which I do not think that he can extricate himself though his power of wriggling is enormous.

Most unfortunately for himself Lang has attempted to show that there is no such thing as "group marriage" in Australia, that what we call "group marriage" is merely a "sport" added on to individual marriage.

On this point I think that Howitt shows the utter incapacity of Lang to judge of evidence. Lang is an ethnologic charlatan who does not care in the very least about the truths but is only interested in upholding any theory which for the time being he favours.

You did not tell me what you thought about Frazers theory of "conceptional totemism" as laid down in his article in the 'Fortnightly'. It is very suggestive & the point which he makes in regard to the time which elapses between intercourse & that at which the woman knows that a spirit has entered her or that she is pregnant is a strong one. In as much as all women amongst savages have such intercourse they naturally can have no idea of the result of the same from comparing cases in which married women have children & "unmarried" do not.

I am expecting Howitt down again some time in September. He is now busy in writing his address as President of the A.A.A.S. [Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science] at Adelaide in January next. I fancy that they will have rather a warm time there.

As soon as I can get a chance I will see you--meanwhile every minute of my time is occupied--just now especially so as we are very busy with the school teachers registration.

We have no fewer than 8000 applications to go through & examine & grade as primary or secondary. When this will be done is hard to say & when it is I fear that there will be very many heart burnings.

Two weeks ago to my surprise I had a letter from Tylor written just in his old style. He sounded perfectly well & says that he is writing another look at primitive mankind which will be his last work.

I am now a lone bachelor with Mrs Spencer & my two girls away in Europe where they are having a delightful time. As you can imagine I very much miss the companion of my Sunday walks but she is a most charming letter writer. At the present time the two girls are in Paris where they have gone into residence at a kind of school to learn French & I fancy enjoy themselves at least I hope so. If there be a cat & a dog Chappie will be happy.

I had almost forgot to convey to you the kind regards of Sir George Le Hunt [sic] whom I met in Adelaide two weeks ago. He asked particularly after you.

Yours very sincerely

W Baldwin Spencer 


virtual collections logo

Supported by the John Fell OUP Research Fund


(c) 2012 Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford