Click here for the introduction to the Round and Square series "The Accidental Ethnographer." (Coming Soon)
Click below for other posts from Ocean and Isle:
|[a] Tonga RF|
|[b] Shoreview RF|
He wrote about it all, and he took pictures. The former is not without problem; the latter is easily his legacy. It is all a fascinating picture of an American abroad in a peculiarly resonant time in American history—from the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 to the end of World War I. This series will grow as my research does, but let's get started with Geil's own words—a little from each of his published books.
situation in which he was never intended by nature to cut a figure.
To do so is misleading.
|[c] Repeatedly RF|
You see (don't worry; you will hear this often on these "pages") William Edgar Geil was complicated. Every human life is pretty complex. Geil's was especially so. Why that might be is still a question to be pursued on the topical screens of "The Accidental Ethnographer." Let's take a look at Geil's description and defense of the Tongans and their archipelago.
|[d] Islandreef RF|
|[e] Tongafloral RF|
The hermit crab is the armorial design on the coat of arms of the Tongan Wesleyan Institution—Tobou College. (The hermit crab never has a shell for its own, but can go into any shell and adjust itself to the surroundings.) The motto is: "The Tongaman's castle is his mind." In everyone of the 130 or more villages of the Friendly Islands is a church and schoolhouse, and some have two each. These are the proudest, most energetic, and most war-like of all the Polynesians. I may also say the most mathematical native race I have yet met. The Tongan youth will swallow a book of Euclid as promptly and I venture to say as thoroughly, as the average student in the American institutions. In the bounds of the Protestant congregations there is neither poverty nor illiteracy. One must be ready for surprises when visiting this horseback riding, warrior race, for, of the Tongans, one in every forty writes shorthand. Now tell me where can a similar condition of things be found, and let us see the visage of the modern literary scamp who will spend four hours in such an archipelago while his boat is shifting cargo and then insert in the permanent form of a so-called book a disparaging account of the habits and doings of the most intellectual of all the South Sea islanders...
|[f] Ardent RF|
"Mammon has led them on,
Mammon, the least erect of all the spirits
That fell from heaven."
When the Tongans has enough for needs and gifts he stops and maybe sings. He surely does not get drunk to use up his leisure hours....
|[g] Where's Slotho? RF|
|[h] Zwei-toe RF|
They Polynesian is not to be judged fairly unless in his native element. Let him be among his cocoanuts, yams, bananas, and chimneyless homes and churches; give him the advantage of his accustomed environment, and he will be found active and industrious. To transplant him to Wall Street and then hesitate to commend him because he fails to arouse enthusiasm for his stock gambling qualities, is to be what Carlyle terms an "entire blockhead." Let none have the insolent address to assert the Tongans, Samoans, or Fijians lazy. They are a modest, sober, affable, domestic folk, not tardy in hospitality, in the lavishments which suggesting that virtue as displayed by the Romans in the early days, before the love of gambling and inordinate show started and finally consummated the decay of the nation. In the Roman lack of appreciation of merit or misfortune, or the stranger who was rewarded with generosity, lay the seeds of disintegration and decay—those destroying forces are not visibly at work in Tonga.
 Ocean and Isle, 131-140.
|[i] Visibly at work RF|