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Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 4, 1893.djvu/31

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23
Annual Address by the President.

of people. It has gone away from custom, except symbolically, in all European countries; but it has passed over to superstition, as, for instance, where, in the Merlin legend, the victim who alone can avert the magical opposition to the building of Vortigern's castle is a child who possesses a mother only; and in the modern popular superstition in Yorkshire, that a female who has never known her father possesses magical powers over disease. In these cases fatherhood is clearly at a discount, and its absence is a source of power. The question is, does it go back to times when descent was usually traced through females, and the marriage-system was not upon the system known to Celts, Teutons, and Northmen? or is it part and parcel of the same set of ideas indicated by the Somersetshire woman, who, when remonstrated with for marrying a disreputable man, replied: "Don't you see, sir, I had got so much washing I was forced to send it home, and if I hadn't had he I must have bought a donkey."

I venture to express the opinion on behalf of our Society that, if we were to cease work to-night, such a result as these principles represent may well stamp the last year's progress as a year of profit to the cause of science. But we are not going to stop work to-night, and I pass on to other phases of our year's doings.

I do not know whether any of you ever read evening newspapers, because, if so, it may have happened to you as it did to me, to read on the 11th of October, in the year of grace one thousand eight hundred and ninety-two, a certain question in the pages of The Echo, a question which very nearly made me ill, and which will, I think, similarly affect most members of this Society, except perhaps my friend Dr. Gaster. It was as follows:

Fairy Tales.— Will any reader tell me at what date "Cinderella" was written, and to what country its authorship belongs?—Felix.

In the presence of Miss Cox I am not going to answer that question, but I quote it to show that there really do