Open main menu

Folk-Lore/Volume 29/The Transvaluation of Culture

PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS.


The Transvaluation of Culture.

The chair that I am about to vacate has been occupied by me for a round five years; and, though Roman precedent would justify the omission of the lustral ceremony at the end of such a period did the circumstances seem untoward, there is happily no reason as things are why a purificatory sacrifice should not now be accomplished in my person. My successor. Dr. Haddon, with his catholic experience of anthropological work in the field, the study, and the lecture-room—not to speak of his long connexion with this Society—may be trusted to reinvigorate our fellowship of keen workers as "iron sharpeneth iron." It is my privilege to be the first to congratulate the Society on having acquired a President so full of mana.

During the greater part of the time covered by my term of office a world-war has raged; nor is the end yet in sight. If, however, much else remain obscure, this at least grows plainer every day, that the war is a war of ideals—that no mere redistribution of territory and of political influence is involved in its issue, but a reconstruction of civilized society, according to one or another of certain conflicting doctrines of human nature and destiny.

Now as students of folklore we are not concerned with problems of social reconstruction. Our business is to cultivate a particular corner of the field of science, and raise a goodly crop of truths; whereas it is for the practical man—the food-controller, as it were—to see to it that our produce is not wasted. Nevertheless, how can we afford to shut our eyes to the meaning of this phase of downright revolution through which the world is passing? Suppose it possible for us to make clean abstraction of what such a crisis portends for us as citizens, even so as pure observers and theorists we can surely find here matter for thought in plenty. For in what way chiefly does the revolutionary tendency of the times make itself felt? Are we not conscious, before all else, of a wholesale shifting of values—an utter derangement of the hierarchy of established interests and activities constituting that "old order" which we were brought up to accept? In a word, then, the "transvaluation" of culture provides us with a theme at once topical and, as I hope to show, of fundamental significance for our science. Such transvaluation, I would even contend, yields the ultimate conception of a dynamic type whereby the scope and method of folklore studies ought to be determined.

In the first place, then, we shall all doubtless be agreed that we cannot for methodological purposes dispense with a dynamic conception of some sort; in other words, that folklore research must be regulated by reference to an object which is defined generally as a kind of movement or process. For to describe our science as the study of survivals is apt to prove misleading, at any rate for the outsider. The latter is ready on the strength of the phrase to set us down as mere curiosity-hunters—amiable triflers who collect fossils for fun. Now it might seem enough to reply to such an imputation on our scientific character that we do indeed collect fossils, but in the spirit of the palaeontologist, for whom the inanimate relics bear witness to a life that is gone. But I believe that we should do better to reject the fossil metaphor altogether. As I have argued before this Society on a former occasion,[1] it would appear, inasmuch as survivals survive, that they are not quite dead after all—that in some humble and surreptitious way of their own they help to constitute and condition the living present, whether it be for worse or for better. From such a point of view, then, it seems of chief importance to enquire what survival is as a process; and, further, how this particular process is related to the other processes that go with it to make up the general movement of history. In short, a dynamic study of the facts relating to survival keeps in touch with reality as manifested in the life-force. A static treatment, on the contrary, can but result in a bloodless typology; while, if it be likewise pseudo-dynamic, and array its arbitrary seriation of types in the guise of a time-order, so much the worse.

Let us, in this connexion, note how the study of savage culture has of late correspondingly felt the need for a more positively dynamic method. That branch of the science of man has, indeed, always sought to proceed upon genetic lines, having from the first been associated with the Darwinian theory of the development of life. But the very comprehensiveness of outlook thus acquired—the age-long and world-wide extent of the interpretation of human history thereby demanded—for a long time caused a somewhat sweeping style of explanation to be attempted. Yet it is easy to exaggerate the evils due to such premature generalization. I do not hold with the current depreciation of the work of the great pioneers of anthropology, to the tacit glorification of their smug successors. One is reminded of the absurd wren in the fable who mounted sky-high on the eagle's back. To ignore what we owe to our spiritual ancestry amounts to a denial of the doctrine of development, and hence is disloyal in two ways at once. The whole history of science proves that it is legitimate to leap from a narrow groundwork of facts to the widest generalizations, so long as the complementary task of verification is thereafter duly performed. Our business, then, is to complete what our predecessors began. We must sift and test their provisional findings: partly by the discovery of fresh evidence, together with a more accurate presentation of what is already to hand; and partly by a search for middle principles, such as are not to be obtained without intensive study of the details taken group by group instead of in the lump. Now the only natural groups are afforded by the various culture-areas of the world wherein specific developments have occurred in relative isolation. Hence the prime concern of students of savage culture at the present day is to determine how, within such natural provinces, cultural change has in each case proceeded under the joint stress of internal and external influences. But this plainly implies a closer correspondence with the actual ebb and flow of human development—in a word, a more dynamic treatment. As a sheer effect of intellectual perspective, the history of man takes on life and movement by being focussed in the history of a given people.

For the rest, it is plain that, as regards method, no essential difference exists between this branch of the science of culture and our own. Folklore is but social anthropology as applied within the home-circle. Thus there is no reason why some of those who to-day count as savages should not in course of time become well enough educated to study their own institutions in a scientific spirit. Were this to happen, the outcome would be folklore. Moreover, the chances presumably are that the native would carry out the enquiry with more sympathy and insight than the most intelligent of strangers. Meanwhile, whether future folklorists are likely to arise out of present "primitives" or not, the bare notion of such a possibility will serve to illustrate our own position in regard to folklore research. We are ex-savages with customs bearing visible traces of our ancient condition; and, further, being indigenous to the culture-area that we study, we are sympathetically aware how the drift on the surface answers to deep-moving currents in the social life. Here, then, if anywhere, namely, at home, in the midst of the historical movement in which we ourselves actively participate, we can hope to put anthropological principles to the proof in an intensive and crucial way. Studied thus from within, that apparent medley of functions in which the cultural life of a people consists will gradually reveal itself as a concrete expression of the universal laws of human nature.

So much, then, concerning the dynamic reference—the suggestion of a movement to be studied—which folklore needs to embody in the definition of its end. It remains, in the second place, to ask whether this requirement is not already satisfied by that patient maid-of-all-work, the concept of evolution. Now I have no quarrel with this historic notion. May it long hold its own, if only to prove what a wealth of inspiration may be vested in a single word—or, rather, a single regulative idea. Spencer established it, Darwin accepted it; and, whatever may be thought of its applicability to the cosmic process in general, it is at any rate well fitted to characterize biological process in respect of its prevailing tendency. Let us, then, be resolved to rate anthropology among the evolutionary sciences; ignoring recent attempts to identify evolution with such social development as is independent of intercourse with others—a barren abstraction to which its perpetrators are welcome.

Yet, although the ultimate suzerainty of the evolutionary principle be admitted, does not folklore also have occasion for a departmental formula of its own? After all, evolution stands for vital process only by a euphemism. Development has also its seamy side. There is degeneration to be reckoned with as well. Is the latter, then, the limitative conception that we are seeking? Is folklore to be merely the study of cultural decadence? Speaking for myself, I must own that such a prospect leaves me joyless. Years ago there was a discussion—initiated, I think, by Mr. Stead—on the question, What are the best hundred books? If I rightly remember, Mr. Ruskin was for excluding Gibbon from the list; and the reason he gave was that he did not care to let his mind dwell on the "decline and fall" of anything. Just so my mind would draw cold comfort, I am afraid, from a pure pathology of institutions; and the thought that these were primarily the institutions of my own country could but serve to make me the more depressed. Even if survival be taken—wrongly, as I believe—to imply as such a moribund condition, revival, clearly, does nothing of the kind; nor can this cognate topic be neglected by us without being false to the facts as we find them.

It is true that this important subject of revival tends, perhaps, to be a little unpopular in folklore circles. Some prefer antiquities such as are only fit for a glass case. The genuine article for them is broken beyond the hope, or rather danger, of repair. They can appreciate a ruin, but hardly the standing edifice, however ancient and however tenderly restored. So it comes about that they construe the notion of degeneration in an inverted sense—topsy-turvywise. This may even, perhaps, be called the folklorist's fallacy. It is, however, by no means confined to our branch of anthropology. Thus I have heard an alltoo-enthusiastic totemist define a god as a degraded totem. Renovation, on this view, spells destruction. The rule that ghosts must not walk is applied to survivals. Let a stake be driven through them at the cross-roads rather than that they should thus unconscionably resurrect. More especially is it resented if revival lift the obsolescent custom to a higher plane of culture. Not only is it unseemly on the part of the unquiet spirit; it is snobbish into the bargain. But it will be urged that I misrepresent the attitude of the folklorist by ignoring his scientific motive. Since his one aim is to reconstruct the original institution out of its remaining fragments, these are really spoilt for his purpose if they turn out to have been readapted. I hope that it will not sound a paradox if I reply to this argument that the original institution in question never existed. Origins are relative, and the regress of conditions is endless. The supposed prototype is but an effect of historical mirage. However far we pursue it, the steadfast illusion keeps its distance, while shifting sands are about our feet as before. There never was a time, in short, when the interplay of old and new did not go on, exactly as it does now—when survival and revival, degeneration and regeneration, were not pulsating together in the rhythm of the social life. It is at least as necessary to read the present into the past as the past into the present. Let it, then, be an article of our creed to recognize the immanence of folklore. Old-fashioned stuff though it be, it belongs to the here and now; and so may at any moment renew its youth in the way that old fashions have. The motto of folklore as of fashion in dress is, Never say die!

Does the transvaluation of culture, then, supply the formula we want? I suggest that it will be found adequate. For it certainly conforms to the two criteria already laid down. Firstly, it is dynamic, connoting a process to be examined. Secondly, it has not the unilinear sense of such a term as degeneration, or even, if taken strictly, the "blessed word" evolution, but indicates process without limiting it to a single direction. It remains to show that it has a further merit, namely, that of signifying cultural process as studied from within. Thus for many purposes it might seem enough to speak of transformation. But change of form is as an object relative to a purely external view of things. It cannot, therefore, stand for the last word in anthropology, unless we are prepared to renounce our birthright of self-knowledge. Even when treated as facts—as they must be in the historical sciences—values retain their inwardness as expressions of the human will. Transvaluation then, not transformation, calls attention to the living soul of cultural process. It reminds us that our task is to study not merely its "how," but its "why."

It may be thought that function, by an enlargement of its biological meaning, can be made to cover the implications here claimed for value. But function, in common with form, had far better, I think, be confined to its proper sphere, namely, that of an exterior history. Besides, where function is at its vanishing-point, value of a sort may still be predicated. Take the case of a custom that to all appearance is utterly effete—the so-called fossil, in fact. It might fairly be judged functionless. Why, then, when so obviously we ought to be done with it, is it allowed to linger on? Because it has what may be termed prescriptive value. After all, the functional view of life is apt to be rather hard and narrow. Your conservative is the born liberal. The squirarchy is long-suffering with the gipsy; whereas bureaucratic efficiency would altogether deny him his idle place in the sun. Sheer customariness, in short, amounts to a kind of value—one that for the most part is apprehended subconsciously, yet is none the less inwardly satisfying. The appeal of the familiar counts among the great equilibrating forces of the moral world. It helps us to maintain a comfortable automatism; and, so long as we do this solely in regard to such things as matter little, we are the better enabled, through economy of effort, to concentrate on the things that matter much. Thus the antiquated custom, though it seem functionless on a sociological or external view, is perceived on a psychological estimate to have value, if only because it is restful—because it passively ministers to the easy-going, effort-saving side of our life.

It is not in value, however, so much as in change of value, that we are now immediately interested. One has to think of every morsel of folklore as subject to continual process. Such process is ultimately intelligible only in the light of the cultural life as a whole. On the other hand, the student of folklore has a special standpoint of his own that constrains him to regard the general culture-movement from one side—the under-side, as it were. His business is to observe the pivoting that takes place at his end of the shifting scale of values. He watches custom, belief, and story as they fluctuate in importance within this lower hemisphere; whereas what happens to them when they have passed beyond his horizon is the concern of another enquirer, namely, the historian of civilization in its more restricted sense. In a civilized country folklore begins where "clerk-lore" ends. As soon as the art of writing is well-established, the lettered and the relatively or wholly unlettered classes tend to follow different traditions in regard to all matters of culture. Even if we extend the notion of folklore so far as to attribute it likewise to peoples that are without a literature, the same criterion holds. For here a like distinction may be drawn between the traditions that severally depend on organized and on unorganized folk-memory; such organization being seen in the schooling of the novices at the initiation, the mnemonic exercises of bards and other official remembrancers, the insistence on verbal exactness in religious and legal formularies, and so on.

This view of folklore as belonging to an underworld suggests one of the two main heads under which the modes of cultural transvaluation may conveniently be classed. This first type of movement may be called change of standing, or, if a technical term be required, metataxis. It is, so to speak, a vertical process. The unfashionable bit of furniture is cast out of the parlour and goes downstairs to fill a corner of the kitchen or of the children's play-room. Or, conversely, there is remigration upstairs The Chippendale masterpiece emerges from the depths to oust in turn some Victorian eyesore. Now it must be admitted that on the whole a great deal more sinks, than is ever destined to rise, in status-value. The downward way threatens utter extinction; and the history of culture bears witness to an unremitting bustle of spring-cleaning, such as leads not only to the abandonment of worn-out devices, but also, as Dr. Rivers has shown, to the untimely loss of useful arts.[2] Indeed, it may be roundly assumed that every denizen of the poorhouse of folklore has seen better days. This is true even when—as, perhaps, is not so often as we are ready to suppose—a custom of the folk can be proved to be a genuine survival of savage times. In that case it certainly had a lesser distance to fall; but, inasmuch as it once formed part of a dominant culture, it has at least to this extent lost caste. Meanwhile, it is by attending carefully to the facts of transvaluation that we are likely to overcome the sluggard tendency to refer folklore in the mass either to a pre-existent savage condition, or, worse still, to the abiding savage instinct of the crowd. As is well known to the medievalist, a great many of the tales and fables, the proverbs, the prognostics, the leechcraft prescriptions, and so forth, in vogue to-day among the folk are but the debased product of yesterday’s official wisdom.[3]

The opposite process which Dieterich has termed “revolution from below,”[4] though not so general and consequently not so obvious, must none the less be given its due. It is especially apt to occur in conjunction with what the same writer calls “revolution from without.” An invading people, let us suppose, which possesses a higher culture, or a culture that is at any rate secure in its predominancy, engages more or less consciously in a policy of race-amalgamation. Being in a position to pick and choose, it can dignify certain elements of the local custom at the expense of others; and it may well be that such patronage is lent rather to the institutions of the lower orders, who have to be conciliated as future subjects, than to those of the former aristocracy which is once for all dethroned. In such a case there occurs a process which may be named devulgarization. An illustration is to be found in the absorption of primitive cult-elements by Hinduism; accompanied as it was by the expurgation of grosser details, the invention of justificatory myths, and similar applications of patrician varnish.[5] Apart, too, from conditions of culture-contact—in itself a vast subject, since it may take many other forms than the one just considered—the history of religion is full of revivals that force their way up from below: the reason being that religious experience is by no means a monopoly of the ruling classes, though these are usually not slow to exploit, if they dare not suppress, such popular transports. Or, again, good examples of this kind of transvaluation are to be obtained from the study of folktales; which constantly work their way up to the level of polite society, though not without submitting to an obsequious change of garb. Finally, be it remembered that there is an underworld in which all have been reared, namely, the nursery. It may, thanks to a nurse of the old-fashioned type, have direct relations with the other underworld of peasant folklore; but in any case it has an analogous tradition of its own, and one as conservative as any known to man. Here old-time values retain their spell. We shudder at ogres, and wish to dance with the fairies. These values, moreover, grow up with us, and in variously transmuted forms enrich adult life; quickening the sense of wonder, the spirit of adventure, the love of simple and vital things. The function of folklore in education is a subject from which a genius might strike fire.

The second main type of cultural transvaluation is change of meaning, or, as it may be phrased, metalepsis. This is, as it were, a horizontal process. If the main interests of life be conceived to stretch longitudinally from pole to pole of the sphere of culture, movement across these lines can, for analytic purposes, be distinguished from movement up or down. A familiar illustration of this kind of change is afforded by the transference of a theme from religion to art. A discarded rite colours an incident in a folk-story; a mask, once of sacred import, decorates the actor in a secular play; a charm against the evil eye becomes an ornament; and so on. What happens in such a case? Regarding it from the psychological standpoint appropriate to the study of value, we may say that a new interest, or fresh system of meanings, has assimilated—or, as a psychologist might put it technically, has apperceived—the theme in question. Now, whereas it was easy to apply the notion of value to the other type of process termed change of standing, since standing and social repute almost come to the same thing, it is not so obvious how change of meaning—that is, assimilation by a new interest—is to be translated offhand into terms of better and worse. Does it necessarily imply decadence, for example, if a custom be dropped by religion and taken up by art? Surely a wise man will say that it depends on the kind of religion and the kind of art involved. Thus it is, to say the least, a moot point whether an amulet is degraded or advanced by being reinterpreted as a trinket. There is, however, one way in which the scientific historian can roughly estimate the comparative value of the interests that are constitutive of a given state of culture. He can class them as life-preserving or merely life-adorning, in so far as they do or do not appear to have a practical and utilitarian bearing on the struggle for existence. On the one hand, government and law, cult and morals, war and commerce, the useful arts and sciences are, plainly, so many nerve-centres of the social organization. On the other hand, what of the speculative sciences and fine arts, the so-called humaner letters, together with the other recreations and amenities of the social life? Are they not to be reckoned among the luxuries of the leisured class? The folk must be content to live; they cannot, in the Aristotelian sense, live well. Is it not, then, a sign of loss of value past cure if, at their level of penurious existence, a once helpful observance be relegated to the charge of an unpractical interest—if, in short, they merely sing about what they used to do?

Now it has already been admitted that in the underworld of folklore the prevailing movement is downhill. It may well be, then, that the process just described—it might perhaps be termed depragmatization—is on the whole suggestive of decline. That the institution should first of all disappear; that the associated belief should thereupon persist for a while as a floating superstition; and that, finally, all that remains of either institution or belief should be some memory of it preserved in story: all this represents a familiar mode of cultural degeneration. But it is only fair to remember that, whereas institutions are easily upset, beliefs die hard; and are perhaps secretly biding their time in order that later they may reclothe themselves in an institutional form. For example, we have forcibly put down thuggism and suttee in India, as also twin-murder, the poison-ordeal, and the smelling-out of witches in Africa; but who knows whether, if European control were removed, such barbarities would be found to have lost their appeal? Once more, oral tradition, even when it has come to treat former institutions and beliefs mainly as material for wonder-tales, is capable of keeping alive for ages those germinal ideas and sentiments out of which a whole culture may be reproduced. More especially is this so if the inheritors of the lore differ in language and race from the governing stock; and, in any case, whereas the dominant peoples usually make good learners—the Normans may be taken as an example—the under-folk, ever find it hard to forget.

Change of meaning, then, regarded simply as a transvaluation, may in general be figured as a transverse movement or transference from one interest to another on the same plane of culture. Moreover, since each major interest can be conceived as made up of a number of minor interests similarly juxtaposed—ritual and dogma, for instance, being comprised in religion, dance and song in art, and so on — such a mode of representation may be indefinitely extended. It remains to note that, while we thus characterize the process from the standpoint of value, it is quite open to us to describe it simultaneously from a different standpoint, namely, that of cause. Let me, without attempting to be exhaustive, give a few examples of such causal ways of viewing change of meaning. Thus sometimes we can account for it as a process of modernization. Old songs are accommodated to new instruments. A mummers' play makes room for a popular hero of the day. Unfamiliar animals give way to familiar; as in my own part of the world, where a monstrous dog that still haunts the countryside can be proved by a place-name to have succeeded a werewolf. Under the same head, too, might be brought the far-reaching effects in the way of the reinterpretation of custom that are produced by the introduction of a new calendar. Again, there is the somewhat analogous process of acclimatization, when proximity in space, instead of proximity in time, enables new meanings to triumph over old. Thus the remarkable bird-cult of Easter Island, which Mr. and Mrs. Scoresby Routledge have recently made known to us, now centres round the Sooty tern or "Wideawake," thanks to the fact that this species alone is locally abundant. It is a fair deduction, however, from the thick-hooked beak and gular pouch of certain of the birdlike figures sculptured on the rocks, that we have here to do with an immigrant rite originally inspired by the frigate-bird.[6] But I must content myself now with having called attention to change of meaning as a main object of research for the student of folklore. To discuss its causes and conditions in detail would carry me altogether too far. A general principle, however, in regard to such causation may be laid down provisionally; namely, that within the domain of folklore the accompanying process of readaptation is always subconscious. A breach in the continuity of tradition having somehow come about, the tissue spontaneously repairs itself, partly by the assimilation of fresh matter, and partly by the coalescence of such elements as survive. Conscious renovation occurs only at a higher level of culture. On the other hand, its ulterior effects will often be noticeable in the nether region of folklore, where most of the material used for patching was acquired at second-hand and has known better times.

Having up to this point tried to keep apart in thought the two types of transvaluation severally described as change of standing and change of meaning, we may now go on to note how, in practice, it is quite possible for these processes to occur together. Indeed, the presumption is that, when a custom has come down in the world, it must likewise have suffered deflection of meaning by the way, as when the festival of a saint declines into a rustic pastime. Equally instructive, however, for purpose of illustration, and at the same time perhaps less obvious, is a twofold movement characteristic of the converse process of revival. It consists in depragmatization conjoined with devulgarization. Folk-institutions are constantly liable to interference from above. Even folk-beliefs cannot be given free expression if they are to escape the assaults of the educated reformer. Hence the trend of cultural degeneration is towards a final rally of the decadent values under the banner of some unpractical interest—one that, as it were, but dreams of the past—such as festivity, song, or story. Of course such an interest has, and always has had, a specific content of its own. Its matter is never a mere detritus-heap of derived oddments. A good wonder-tale or a good dance has been prized for its own sake ever since there were men and women and children in the world. At the same time, the aesthetic tradition of the folk tends to be the residuary legatee of all other expiring interests. Memory and fancy can still play with thoughts that no longer bear directly on the day's work.

Now, possibly, the sense of beauty depends more on innate predisposition than on education; so that what its selective influence preserves is likely to make equal appeal to all ranks, at any rate among those of the same race. Be this as it may, it is certain that the unconscious art of the folk can develop into art of the conscious and refined order, and must do so if the latter is to be truly national in type. Of course such a process of devulgarization is bound to involve innovation in no small degree. The change will be partly of a technical kind, as, for instance, by way of elaboration and synthesis; but partly also in respect to meaning and spirit, as notably by elevation of the moral tone. Here, then, we have a good instance of the complexity of cultural transvaluation when its movements up, down, and across are followed through a considerable tract of history. A solemn ritual, let us say, is disestablished and descends to the underfolk, the "pagans," deviating from its original meaning as it drops. But the grave of religion is the seed-bed of art. First the popular tradition adopts surviving elements such as lend themselves to imaginative treatment. Then constructive genius readapts the rude material conformably to some high moral purpose. Whereupon the cycle of change is complete; the downward way being compensated by the upward way, the falling rain by the reascending vapour.

This must suffice as a rapid survey of a vast subject. My purpose throughout has been purely methodological, namely, to call attention to the essential nature of the supreme object of our research. I have insisted that the student of folklore must ever keep in touch with the movement, the vital thrust, of present reality, instead of approaching history in the spirit of a sexton. But it would exceed my aim no less than my powers to put this principle into practice, by appending a commentary on the European crisis. At most, then, let me acknowledge the eventfulness of the times in a few parting observations. The war is changing all values. So thorough a shuffling must rearrange every card in the pack. Men will come out of this struggle for liberty either less equal or more equal than before. If the cause of equality succeed—if the philosophy, or rather the religion, of the future be that men, though undoubtedly unequal on a mechanical and functional view of society, are nevertheless equal in a spiritual and vital sense—then we may expect the gradual correction of that disparity of social level that hitherto has confined the folk within a narrow world of their own. Spiritual equality, however, is not to be achieved by the bare recitation of a creed. There must be practical realization of the truth that the final cause of the state is not to manage affairs but rather to educate. Shall we say, then, that by education the folk must be abolished in the interest of the people?

To the members of the Folklore Society, however, it may not appear at the first blush that "'tis a consummation devoutly to be wish'd." They will be apt to say in their hearts: No pheasant, no sport; no folk, no science of folklore. I can assure them that survivals, which Tylor, the inventor of the term, identifies with superstitions,[7] are not confined to the folk, as anyone knows who is making a collection of the superstitions resuscitated among all classes by the present war. Besides, the moral of the present discourse is that our interest must not be restricted to the retrograde movements of the cultural life. We must get over our prejudice against revival as a tampering with our museum specimens; and may even assist, as only those who have knowledge of the facts can do effectively, in the rehabilitation of the simple life, so that it shall be homely, and yet not boorish. The nation can afford to recapture something of its primitive innocence. Two-thirds of education, it is said, are completed in the nursery. So let a nursery of the mind be created for the people out of the aesthetic tradition of the folk, which can be so readapted that all, whether hand-workers or brain-workers, may find nurture therein, as children are taught by playing.

Now our educational experts tell us that more science is the need of the time. It may be so; but more science must not mean less literature. Physical science by itself would but make us the slaves of a world-machine. We need letters also to keep us humane. The thinking and reasoning powers must not be cultivated at the expense of the emotions; and, whereas the former are exercised on abstractions, the latter develop only in association with concretes. These concretes are but symbols; the intrinsic or original meaning of any one of them is as nothing in comparison with its value as a rallying-point of the associations whereby a sentiment is sustained. Bunting is bunting, but the flag is a nation's pride and hope. But associations are of slow growth. The symbols of a people cannot be replaced suddenly, any more than stately trees can be replaced by saplings. Indeed, wholesale deforestation may be the prelude to utter ruin of the land. Thus in the garden of literature it is well to deal tenderly with venerable timber, though it stand, not in tidy rows, but wherever nature planted it. Even so, then, let us be tender with the old themes embodied in our national folklore. Here, despite a certain litter of dead wood, is many an ancient heart of oak still full of the movement of life—a movement hidden during the dead season and revealed but in a power of sheer endurance, yet, as often as spring calls, becoming manifest in an access of fresh efflorescence and increase.

  1. See Folk-Lore, xxv. 12 f.
  2. Fest krijt t. E. Westermarck, 109 f.
  3. Cf. Miss Burne in Folk-Lore, xxii. 28; and Dr. Gaster, ib. xxv, 136.
  4. Cf. Folk-Lore, xxiv. 141.
  5. Cf. Mr. Crooke in Folk-Lore, xxv. 77.
  6. See Mrs. Scoresby Routledge, in Folk-Lore, xxviii. 337 f.; and Mr. Balfour, ib. 356 f. and esp. 373.
  7. Cf. [Sir] E. B. Tylor, Proc. Roy. Inst., v. 91.