Page:Notes and Queries - Series 9 - Volume 11.djvu/408

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NOTES AND QUERIES. [9* s. XL MAY is, wos.

sympathy which even now is not too common. These songs have survived from times which are in many ways very unlike our own. Murder was thought little of, and cattle-lifting rather heroic than even a venial offence. They are often frag- mentary, and have from time to time undergone from their reciters changes parallel to those which when applied to ancient buildings go by the name of restoration. There is a notion widely spread, but certainly a delusion, that many of these old ballads had no personal author, but grew among a people quite ignorant of letters. Now in the first place a man may be a poet without having ac- quired the art of reading, but there is a far more potent objection. How can any literary work in- volving thought be self-produced ? To us it seems a contradiction in terms, and therefore unworthy of discussion, but the fact is undoubted that words, phrases, and ideas have often been transferred from one ballad to another. For instance, in * The Douglas Tragedy ' we find

Lord William was buried in St. Marie's kirk,

Lady Marg'ret in Marie's quire ; Out o' the lady's grave grew a bonny red rose,

And out o' the knight's a brier.

The same idea occurs in some versions of 'Barbara Allan,' as well as elsewhere. How many of these fine old songs we have lost we cannot tell. It is probable that far more have perished than have come down to us. Had a collector with the energy and historical knowledge of Sir Walter Scott been born a hundred years before his time we might have possessed a body of poetry now as unattain- able as the book of Jasher, which was probably itself a collection of the war-songs of the tribes of Israel. The loss we have suffered is not entirely owing to the processes of slow decay and corruption. We know that Coverdale and Whitgif t hated ballads. They might well have been beforehand with Gilbert Glossin, who in ' The Antiquary ' is recorded to have said, "The devil take all ballads, and ballad- makers, and ballad singers." The Methodists also in the eighteenth and earlier years of the nineteenth century set their faces against all verse which was neither devotional nor, as they thought, instructive, founding their objection on a passage in St. James (v. 13). 'Buckinghamshire' treats of a county whose history has been neglected. Lipscomb's heavy quartos were a credit to their author, but he lived at a time when record offices and private charter chests were guarded from inspection with the rigidity of a magician's cave. The author, too, though painstaking and zealous, was unimaginative and had but a narrow conception of the duties of a topographer. We find therefore in these few pages much that we might hunt for in vain in the litera- ture hitherto devoted to the history of the shire. The writer, moreover, shows that he knows the value of historical evidence and the valuelessness of mere guesswork. His remarks on Whiteleaf cross show this. He will not accept any of the wild theories which have been spun to account for its existence. The remarks, too, on the lace-making industry which still flourishes in Buckinghamshire show a mastery of a far different subject. The paper on the late Lord Acton indicates remarkable knowledge of writings which are for the most part scattered in the pages of periodicals. The list given at the head of the article is, we believe, by no means complete, but it will be of service to historical students. Some passages quoted from Lord Acton

are very instructive one especially wherein he contrasts the relative value of edicts and statutes as compared with the living thoughts of men. We trust that Acton's writings, so far as they are cap- able of identification, will be given to the public in a collected form. Mr. Armstrong's ' Charles V.' meets with the appreciation it deserves. The author is especially commended for his fairness on those subjects wherein religious controversies must be dealt with. Mr. Armstrong, his reviewer assures us, has avoided these pitfalls " with a care and tact that savours of genius." The reviewer accepts, seemingly without question, some statements as to the emperor's disgusting habits regarding food and drink. We do not question that he was a wine- bibber and a glutton, and think it highly probable that he shortened his life by excesses, but for phy- siological reasons we cannot accept statements which bear on their face marks of wild exaggera- tion. No one outside the pages of Rabelais could have accomplished feats so astounding. ' The Super- natural in Nineteenth-Century Fiction ' shows wide reading. The supernaturalists, as we may call them, have never been a school or sect. Hawthorne, Poe, Lord Lytton, and Mrs. Oliphant stand alone, and have very little in common. Their theo- ries, if indeed such things can be attributed to them, were frequently antagonistic. The papers on ' The Unpublished Chapters of Fynes Moryson's Itinerary,' on ' Early Flemish Artists,' and ' Human Flight ' are all worth attention.

DIED on 29 April, at Bath, Thomas Helsby, of Helsby, co. Chester, barrister-at-law of Lincoln's Inn, editor of Ormerod's ' History of Cheshire,' a zealous topographical and genealogical worker, and a former contributor to ' N. & Q.'


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