William Fitz William Owen, 1774-1857
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“A Hollontonte, Native of the Southern Side of the Mapoota River”

The following description of their young chief Chinchingany will suffice, with a few exceptions, for that of the whole tribe. Round his head, just above the eyes, was a band of fur, somewhat resembling in size and colour a fox’s tail, neatly trimmed and smoothed. . . . [R]ound this circle was a thick ring of twisted hide, fixed in its position by the curling over of the surrounding hair, which was altogether sufficiently thick to resist a considerable blow. . . . On one side of his head was a single feather of some large bird as an emblem of his rank . . . Round his body were tied two strings, with twisted stripes of hide, with the hair on them, much resembling monkeys’ tails; the upper row was fastened close under the arms, and hung down about twelve inches, the end of each tail being cut with much precision and regularity; the lower row resembled the upper, and commenced exactly where the latter terminated, until they reached the knees. It bore altogether a great resemblance to the Scotch kilt. On his ankles and wrists he had brass rings or bangles. His shield was of bullock’s hide, about five feet long and three-and-a-half broad; down the middle was fixed a long stick, tufted with hair, by means of holes cut for the purpose, and projecting above and below beyond the shield about five inches. To this stick were attached his assagayes and spears; the only difference in these weapons is that the former is narrow in the blade and small for throwing, the latter broad and long, with a stronger staff for the thrust. . . . [T]his [costume] is entirely military, and used only when upon warlike expeditions. [Vol. 1, pp. 93-95]

“The Port of Mombas” [Mombasa, Kenya]

On the 3d of December [1823] we arrived at the celebrated port of Mombas, on the venerable castle of which the red flag of the Arabs was flying. . . . Perhaps there is not a more perfect harbour in the world than Mombas. It possesses good riding-ground at the entrance, sheltered by an extensive reef on either side; an anchorage, which, from its vicinity to the coast, constantly enjoys the sea-breeze; and a steep rocky shore, in many places rendering wharfs unnecessary, and in others forming a shelving sandy strand, where vessels can be hauled up and careened, favoured by a tide rising twelve or fourteen feet. The island is said to be three miles long by two miles broad, surrounded with cliffs of madrepore, capable, by very little labour of being rendered almost impregnable,—Nature having formed it like a huge castle, encircled by a moat, over which, at the back, there is but one dangerous ford, passable only during low water of spring tides. As to the commercial importance of Mombas, or whether it would be advantageous to Great Britain to establish it as another post for the enterprise of her merchants, this is a subject upon which we decline entering. . . . [Vol. 1, pp. 403, 412-413]

“Sierra Leone” [the expedition’s point of departure for England]

“ A Native of Madagascar”

His costume, which was that of the country, consisted in a large white garment of native manufacture, ornamented with three black streaks near the edges, and one across the middle: this was secured round his waist, a small part hanging down before forming a sort of kilt, while the rest was thrown negligently across the shoulders. It had on him a pleasing effect, but upon some was really elegant, from the careful and becoming manner in which the folds were arranged. Round his neck was suspended a string of beads and drops of cut glass of various sizes and colours. On his wrists he had bangles of silver, and his long black hair was plaited into small tails, three or four inches in length, with a knot at the end. These were trimmed so as not to hang below an imaginary line above the eyebrow and across the ear; while from one in the centre of his forehead was suspended a circular piece of ivory neatly turned, about an inch and a half in diameter. [Vol. 2, p.87]

“Radama, King of Madagascar”

Radama, although upwards of thirty, appeared many years younger; his stature did not exceed five feet five inches, and his figure was slight, elegant, and graceful; his demeanour was diffident in the extreme, not at all according with the idea that we are apt to form of one accustomed to a military life and its fatigues, much less to a successful warrior, the idol of a warlike people and the terror of surrounding foes. His appearance was altogether that of one better adapted for the courtier than the hero; for the statesman than the soldier, and more than all, for a domestic life. He spoke and wrote both English and French with facility. While conversing, he kept his head and eyes declined, yet not a word escaped that had not been well weighed and studied. [Vol. 2, p. 119]