Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 14, 1903.djvu/24

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PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS.


1. In addressing the Folk-Lore Society for the last time as its President, I ask leave to offer some observations as to the light thrown by the study of folklore on the origin and development of the faculty of imagination in mankind.

2. In the first place, I propose to submit the question from the point of view of anthropology. The earliest peoples of whom we have any knowledge, are those of the Palæolithic period, and there is little or no evidence to show that they exercised the faculty of imagination at all. They possessed remarkable executive skill in art; they formed small implements of flint with which they scratched upon objects of bone or other material portraits of mammoth, horse, deer, wild goat, and of man. These implements were fashioned with great delicacy, and were well adapted to their purpose. The Palæolithic peoples also drew on the walls of the caverns they occupied other similar pictures on a larger scale; but these show the skill only of the faithful copyist. It may be that in other ways they gave play to their fancy. Dr. Haddon, indeed, thinks there is some trace of original design in their drawings; but if we may venture to conjecture from what we know of the habits of life of the primæval savage, so little raised above mere animal existence, we should be disposed to conclude that they exercised their imagination very little, if at all. Antiquity appears to have begun long after their primæval race was run.

3. When, however, we bridge over the wide gulf that (in this part of the world at least) yawns between them and the neolithic peoples, the case is greatly altered. In this later Stone Age, we find, associated with human skeletons, stone weapons and other objects, carefully polished and