Our Antipodes

Source: Godfrey Charles Munday, Our Antipodes; or, Residence and rambles in the Australasian colonies, with a glimpse of the gold fields (London: R. Bentley, 1855), p. 287

Text: This evening, after dinner, the Governor entertained a select party of Aborigines with an exhibition of the magic lanthorn. His swarthy guests squatted on the floor in solemn silence, and maintained perfect gravity and decorum during the more ordinary passages of the spectacle — only testifying their admiration by an interjectional grunt, or their recognition of the object represented by pronouncing its name – “Teema,” steamer – “Hoia,” soldier, &c. But when, in the character of showman, I manoeuvred the double slides, under the operation of which a plum-pudding was seen to blow up just as the clown was sticking his fork in it; or the huge eyes were made to roll in the head of a monstrous ogre, their childish glee broke forth unrestrained, and it became impossible to prevent some of them from violating the old nursery commandment, “Look with your eyes and not with your fingers;” for three or four great bushy heads were soon shadowed forth on the magic tablet, and a dozen great black hands rushed to manipulate its surface. Like Quixote’s showman, I began to fear for my puppets; but all passed off quietly! As for me I made the utmost possible allowances for their excitement; for, next to Punch, the magic lanthorn ranks, in my memory of by-gone enjoyments, as the most attractive of minor spectacles.

Comments: Godfrey Charles Munday (1804-1860) was a British soldier and travel writer. Together with his cousin Charles Augustus FitzRoy, governor of New South Wales, he made tours of the New South Wales outback, Victoria, Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) and New Zealand. His travel book Our Antipodes was very popular and is still valued by historians. The magic lantern show for the Maoris described here took place end of December 1847, near Auckland.

Links: Copy at Hathi Trust

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