Folk-Lore/Volume 27/Obituary/Sir George Laurence Gomme

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Folk-Lore, Volume 27
Obituary of Sir George Laurence Gomme
by Edward Clodd

SIR GEORGE LAURENCE GOMME.

1853-1916.

My friendship with Sir Laurence Gomme dates from 1878, the year of the foundation of the Folk-Lore Society. For myself, the happy result was association with one of kindred tastes, cemented by social intercourse with an amiable and gifted man. It was his reward to see the Society in whose creation he and W. J. Thoms (he died in 1885) took the leading part advance from strength to strength, become the medium of collection of material of incalculable value for study of social evolution (including in the term social, matters intellectual and spiritual) and give the impetus to the foundation of kindred societies in Europe and America.

As manifest in his article on "Folklore" contributed to Dr. Hastings' Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, he had firm grasp and correct sense of proportion in handling his subject, but when "the fields are white to harvest," the reaper must hasten each to his own plot. And Gomme's interest mainly centred round the study of material, traditional and documentary, bearing on the origin and development of village and municipal life. And this as no dryasdust antiquary, but as one revelling in the evidence of continuity in institutions linking the customs of to-day with a remote past. Some of the theories which he formulated were bound to be open to question, because of the uncertainty as to the exact meaning of the materials on which they were based, and the absence of full proof of the racial intercourse on which he laid stress. But so much in so many things is still in the melting-pot, and differences of interpretation in no whit diminish the value of Gomme's work in its suggestiveness. As the eye runs down the list of the books which he has written, and of his miscellaneous contributions to Folk-Lore and other scientific journals, all the outcomes, not of learned leisure, but of margins of time wrung from strenuous official duties, the comment is, "Well done, good and faithful servant." In the larger margin which was afforded by his retirement from the high position of Clerk of the London County Council, he had looked forward to completing work interest in which grew with advancing years. Dis aliter visum. But, happily for us mortals, they cannot efface what has been accomplished, and for all that Sir Laurence Gomme did in service to the science of folklore we hold him in affectionate and grateful memory.

Edward Clodd.