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Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 4, 1893.djvu/157

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BEFORE plunging into the second instalment of my notes on what I call English Folk-Drama, I should like to say that, in addressing folk-lorists on such a subject, I lay claim to no particular knowledge, but fully recognise that amongst those present at this meeting there are probably some whose knowledge of these traditions is more extensive than mine, whose insight into their import is deeper and more widely reaching, whose skill in handling the instruments of the folk-lore laboratory is more expert. But, knowing as I do—as no doubt you all do—that these traditions, within the last few years, have been exhibiting signs of rapid decay, I am glad to be the humble means of introducing the subject to the consideration of the Society this evening, knowing well that my deficiencies will be made good from the knowledge of those whom I am addressing. I may say at once that this will be the burden of my remarks—the value of folk-drama as a vehicle of tradition; the bearing and influence—undoubted in my mind—of folk-drama upon the evolution of the drama of our nation; the very incomplete collection which has been made of the various forms or phases of folk-drama; their present alarmingly rapid decay. I am convinced that if a systematic collection had been made after Mr. Udal gave us his very interesting paper on the Mumming-Plays of Dorsetshire in 1880, much that is now irretrievably lost would have been on record. It is not only that the traditions have utterly died out in so many districts,

  1. A paper read before the Folk-lore Society, February 15th, 1893.