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Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 4, 1893.djvu/243

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The Folk.

These little masterpieces of narrative art emanated from an artist, who had the grin of conscious creation on his face as he told Cinderella, Puss-in-Boots, or Rumpelstiltskin for the first time in the world's history. Artistry is individual: that cannot come from the Folk no more than novels can arise spontaneously and simultaneously among the subscribers of Messrs. Mudie and Smith.

Even when it comes to custom, even custom which involves the simultaneous doing of some one thing by two or more persons, we must search for the individual among the Folk, at least for the initiative. The feeling of horror or of worship may be in common, but the expression of that feeling must in the first instance have come from the initiative of an individual. When Northumberland House still existed, one of a sporting turn earned a heavy bet that he would cause a crowd in front of it without apparent cause, He simply stood on the opposite pavement, and stared steadily at the lion that surmounted the edifice. By-and-bye: a crowd collected, all staring at the lion. A myth arose, I have been told, that the lion had been seen to wag his iron tail. But whether that be so or no, the sportsman had won his wager, and incidentally had given an apt illustration of the way in which folk-lore arises. The sportsman initiated the folk-lore, the crowd was the Folk.

Here I am at issue with Dr. Tylor and his followers. They would say that at a certain stage of social culture it would be natural for all men in all countries to look at lions that did not wag their tails on tops of conspicuous buildings. Even then I would contend it needs some one to begin the staring before the crowd collects, even though it is the crowd that makes the Folk and constitutes the staring folk-lore. If I heard of the same joke being played at Paris or Berlin, I should feel inclined to bet that it had been played by one who had heard of him who had twisted the tail of the Northumberland House lion.

You see where I am pointing. The Folk is simply a