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Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 4, 1893.djvu/33

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25
Annual Address by the President.

ground. This year there is no need, as it seems to me, to be so timid, because our policy is already indicated by the work we are doing. We are steadily sweeping the counties, one by one, and collecting into our pigeon-holes and into our printed material all that has been gathered by those good old people called antiquaries, who noted facts for their own sake, and left meanings and definitions alone. We should rearrange all these items of folk-lore in proper scientific order, and write the biography of each specific item, whether it be custom, belief, superstition, or myth. This seems to me to be the true policy of the future, and, if we have it steadily before us, I doubt not that we should find sufficient workers to co-operate loyally in effecting each year something towards completing it. I know it will not be done except by many years of hard work and efficient organisation, continued without a break year after year. For myself I should be prepared to advocate at the Council a retrenchment of expenditure in some directions, where we may easily spend less, in favour of an increase of expenditure for the codification of British folk-lore. I believe that is our true policy from a scientific point of view: I believe it to be equally true from the point of view of expediency. Already the popular opinion of us and our work is changing, and changing rapidly. We are no longer considered to be harmless lunatics prettily chatting to each other about fairies. Mother Hubbard, and Little Riding Hood; it is a substantial testimony to this that, not long since, Mr. Leslie Stephen, who is not a member of our body, in a popular lecture alluded to the scientific problems and methods of folk-lore in tones of appreciation which his audience were quick to recognise; and it is a gratifying compliment to our science and our Society that the Prime Minister—who, by-the-bye, has been one of our members from the beginning—has conferred upon one of our most recent members, Miss Lucy Garnett, the distinction of a civil list pension on account of her folk-lore work.