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Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 4, 1893.djvu/449

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441
Mr. Newell and Mr. Jacobs.

were not written by Shakespeare, but by another fellow of the same name.

Thus, accept the convention theory, and the main point in dispute between Mr. Newell and Mr. Jacobs on the one hand, and numerous folk-lorists, myself amongst them, on the other, is conceded in our favour: there has existed from of very old in Europe a body of folk-literature presenting archaic traits. But more follows. Mr. Jacobs' favourite grievance against the anthropologists is deprived of all point, though, strangely enough, he is blind to the fact. You use folk-tales, says he, as evidence of the social and intellectual condition of a race; error! the race may have borrowed its tales. But if the tales came to the borrowing race destitute of those traits upon which the anthropologist relies, and if these were so engrained in the mental and artistic equipment of the race that it could not refrain from introducing them into its borrowed literature, surely "the archaeological value of such traits is much enhanced"—no, says Mr. Jacobs, reduced—"by such considerations."

Is it possible, I ask, to go farther astray? Yet Mr. Jacobs' errements are almost inevitable consequences from his acceptance of a postulate not only false but unnecessary. And I am not without hopes that by setting forth the straits into which he is driven he may be induced to see that his starting-point is false. Let yourself be dominated by the idea that the folk-tale is a conscious creation, the origin of which is more or less contemporaneous with its first appearance in literature, and at every step you will be driven to such expedients as I have just discussed; accept, on the other hand, the theory that the folk-tale is merely a new combination of extremely familiar incidents of great antiquity, and that citation in literature, whilst of the highest value in enabling us to determine a terminus ad quem, is of absolutely no value whatever (if I could use stronger words I would) in determining a terminus a quo—questions of origin and diffusion assume a new aspect, and