Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 14, 1903.djvu/37

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Presidential Address. 25

" Malay Spiritualism," that there is far less of importance still remaining to be learned by those who are interested in studying the evolutional growth and development of the human mind from the scriptures of the great religions of the world, than from the products of that more untutored imagination from which the primitive peoples have derived their incantations and their customs ; and a similar observa- tion is made by Mr. Frazer in the preface to the Golden Bough.

26. Perhaps, however, the paper that aiTords indirectly the strongest support to my views is the very learned dissertation of Dr. Gaster on "The Letter of Toledo." We find from this that in the year 11 84 the faculty of imagina- tion had become so dormant that it had to be stimulated by a letter from the sages and astrologers of Toledo pre- saging the destruction of the world in two years' time by wind and storm, drought and famine, pestilence and earth- quake. Nothing could more strongly indicate the deca- dence of that power of imagination which had led the neolithic peoples to their sublime generalisations.

27. I have obtained similar indirect confirmation from personal inquiry. The other day at the Authors' Club, I asked a brother member who is a well-known and popular novelist, " Whether the wonderful imaginative books with which he had charmed us were not less brilliant than those he would have produced if his powers of expression and composition in childhood had been equal to the powers of imagination which he then possessed ? " (We are allowed to take such freedoms one with another, in that pleasant place of resort.) " No, no ! " he said, " I do not agree with you at all. Wordsworth's trailing clouds of glory are all nonsense. The fancies of children are the fancies of savages. My novels owe the success they have had to long training and culture of a disciplined imagination." While I accepted his contradiction of the view I had suggested, I inwardly thanked him for his support to the