Folk-Lore. Volume 21/Correspondence (March)

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54. Folk-Lore, Vol. XV. E. York Powell: Presidential Address. Eleanor Hull: The Story of Deirdre. Arthur and Gorlagon, translated by F. A. Milne, with Notes by A. Nutt. R. Marett: From Spell to Prayer. A. B. Cook: The European Sky-God. J. Rendel Harris: Notes from America, pp. 528, xvi.

Transactions of the Second International Folk-Lore Congress, 1891. Edit, by J. Jacobs and A. Nutt. pp. xxix, 472.


The Future Work of the Folk-Lore Society.

I am heartily in agreement with the President in the desire to make the collection of British (including Scottish and Irish) folklore assume a more prominent place in the work of the Folk-Lore Society. If this is not our sole object of existence, it is, at least, our prime and chief duty, and the one that lies to our hand. It is, too, I feel sure, the direction in which foreign workers would naturally look to us for help.

Personally I should be inclined, until our work at home is done, or being done, to exclude even European folklore, and to become for a time rigidly insular and local, centralizing all our efforts on the collection and arrangement of our own material. (This, of course, applies only to separate volumes; I should be sorry if any matter whatever that comes rightly under the head of folklore were excluded from our meetings or from publication in Folk-Lore.) When we have issued a complete series of county and provincial collections, we can then, and then only, afford to expend our energies on foreign work, which it rightly belongs to other countries to carry out.

I am also of opinion that general studies on the wider aspects of folklore, however valuable they may be in themselves, are not the sort of publications suitable for issue by our Society. Neither do I think that translations or re-publications come within our scope. I think that we should husband our resources for the publication of new material. But I should not exclude, but rather welcome, material gathered in our own islands that is grouped round a special subject and where the author's or editor's part is confined to notes and introduction. I am thinking of such a book as Anatole Le Braz' Lègende de la Mort en Basse-Bretagne, in which a large body of customs and stories connected with the idea of Death and revenants is brought together, not for the purpose of urging a special theory, but in order to present the whole material to the judgment of the reader. It is the material, not the conclusions, that should occupy our thoughts in contemplating any publication. I even doubt whether the Society ought to make itself responsible for the opinions of any individual member, as it does to a certain extent in publishing under its authority a general treatise.


In recommending the utilization of folklore for filling in the details of the historic culture record, the President not only recalls us to a too-much-forgotten part of our work, but points out the way to enlist the support of many local antiquarianminded people who have little taste for either pre-history or for savage anthropology. Working on the lines she suggests, we can appeal to numbers of such local antiquaries who have hitherto stood aloof, and I sincerely hope that the Council will back up her initiative.

At the same time, one must recognize that in this direction the rôle of folklore study is a subordinate, an auxiliary one. Take the Castleton garland practice, for example. Miss Burne's interpretation is only rendered possible by the fact that not only is the general history of the country at the period well-known, but also the special history of the district. If we did not know about Cryer's tenure of the vicarage, we could not guess it from the practice itself; nor, in the absence of such special knowledge, would acquaintance with the general history of England be sufficient to justify such an interpretation. But, as it is, the three sets of facts work harmoniously together, and produce a given result, and that a vivid realization of the past and a sense of its human-ness which the historic research alone would fail to give.


The West Riding Teachers' Anthropological Society.

The West Riding County Council holds a yearly "Vacation Course" at Scarborough for teachers in primary and secondary schools, and at the session of August, 1909, an attempt was made to emphasise the importance of anthropological study as part of the teacher's professional equipment. An evening lecture was given, and attended by nearly four hundred students; two discussion classes were held, one on anthropometric and colour-survey work, and the other on the collection of local folklore; and Tylor's Anthropology and Haddon's Study of Man were read by a considerable number of the students.

The result was that a small Anthropological Society was set on foot. At present there are nine members; the lecturer acts as secretary and issues a "Monthly Letter," which is typewritten and circulated by the Education Department of the West Riding County Council, and with this is generally included a 'special supplement' consisting of printed matter dealing with anthropology, archaeology, or folklore. For example, the members have received (through the kindness of Mr. Sidney Hartland and others) the Form of Schedule for an Ethnographical Survey issued by the British Association, and Notes explanatory of the Schedule; a paper on the Hair and Eye Colour of School Children in Surrey; and Mr. G. H. Round's Notes on the Systematic Study of English Place Names. The President of the Folk-Lore Society has been kind enough to promise copies of her presidential address. The Letter itself contains notes on Yorkshire museums, "books recommended," correspondence with members, and a series of papers on "The Significance of Children's Singing-Games."

The practical work of the Society has been, so far, in the direction of folklore. At an informal meeting held at Scarborough the members decided "to begin by collecting local Singing-Games, collections to be sent in to the Secretary during January"; and "charms, folk-medicine, superstitions, luck-bringers, proverbs, ghost-stories, local legends, witchcraft, Christmas customs, guising, and sword-dancing" were suggested as subsequent objects of study. Up to the present time forty singing-games have been sent in, from seven localities; and Christmas customs and superstitions from four. Members have been making enquiries among past and present scholars and comparing notes with relations and friends whose local knowledge goes back farther than their own. One member reports an Easter Play, in which the actors are St. George, the Black Prince of Paradise, a Knight, a Doctor, and a "tosspot," and promises to obtain the present version and another of twenty years ago.

In fact, if it is not too soon to judge of it, the West Riding Society seems to show a real and hopeful movement although on so small a scale. There can be little doubt that a tincture of anthropology is a desirable element in the teacher's education, and, conversely, that the teacher can make very valuable contributions to our knowledge of local tradition and folklore generally. The Society aims at promoting this exchange of benefits. It should be added that the Education Committee of the County Council gives every encouragement to the Scheme; for instance, it is intended that the 1910 Vacation Course shall include a short course of lectures on some branch of anthropology, probably in its relation to geographical teaching. This ought to result in an increase in the number of members.

In conclusion, may I ask the members of the Folk-Lore Society to help this young Association through some of the troubles of infancy? Firstly, I should be very grateful for reprints of published papers, especially on English and European folklore. Secondly, I shall be out of England from July, 1910, to February, 1911, and I am extremely anxious not to discontinue the Monthly Letter; I am bold enough to hope that some folklorist, who has the extension and popularisation of the science at heart, may be willing to undertake the editorial work and correspondence (both very inconsiderable) for those months.

Potter's Croft, Horsell, Woking.

Burial of Amputated Limbs.

(Ante, p. 226.)

"One year, riding in the park at Holkham, Lady Anne [Coke] had a fall from her horse and broke her leg. The bone was set, but it had splintered, and for long afterwards small pieces of it used to work out from the injured limb. Each time when a piece of the bone came away, Coke sent it carefully to Lady Anne's brother, Tom Keppel, with instructions that the latter was to keep all the pieces of bone together in a little box, and ensure that when Lady Anne was buried they were buried with her. This was done, and when Lady Anne died, in her coffin was placed a small glass box containing the fragments of bone which had been so carefully preserved." (A. M. W. Stirling, Coke of Norfolk and his Friends, vol. ii., p. 334. John Lane, 1908.) Lady Anne Coke, who was a daughter of the third Earl of Albemarle, was fifty years younger than her husband, Thomas William Coke, created first Earl of Leicester of Holkham in 1837, to whom she was married in 1822. She outlived him, however, only two years, and died in 1844, aged 41.


Good Men have no Stomachs.

The following extract from Quarterly Notes for Dec, 1909, printed at the Baptist Missionary Station of Yakusu, near Stanley Falls on the Upper Congo, amongst the Lokele tribe and about 1400 miles up the river, seems of interest as an illustration of the ignorance and misconception of natural processes which are amongst the themes of Mr. Hartland's Primitive Paternity.

At the Yakusu Training Institute for boys some lessons have been recently given in elementary physiology. "The boys were greatly interested in what they saw and heard, but they insisted that good men could not possibly have stomachs. All digestion, according to their conclusion, must be performed in the intestines. The goats and monkeys used in the lessons proved to them nothing concerning human beings.

They acknowledged that some men, killed by accident or in warfare or by poison have been men with stomachs, but they are of opinion that these men were brought low in consequence of the very fact of their being in possession of the unlucky and unwelcome appendage, the seat and worship of the lord of evil influences. It seems to be generally accepted that a person charged with exercising evil influences, towards others, is naturally well able to resist the trial by poison or other ordeal unless he has really afforded some malign spirit an abode within him and so become possessed of a stomach."


Locality and Variants of Carol Wanted.

Can any reader throw light upon a carol published by W. Sandys in his Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern (1833)? He gives it amongst others "still sung in the west of England," but adds nothing concerning its source.

The first verse runs:

"To-morrow shall be my dancing day,
I would my true love did so chance
To see the legend of my play,
To call my true love to my dance.

[Chorus]Sing oh! my love, oh! my love, my love, my love.
This have I done for my true love. "

There are eleven verses in all, in which Jesus, (the speaker of the text), sets forth His birth, life and passion, etc., in every verse using the mystical language of summoning man to join in the (heavenly or cosmic) "dance."

I should be grateful for references to any variants, printed or orally transmitted.