Open main menu

Page:Notes and Queries - Series 10 - Volume 12.djvu/195

This page needs to be proofread.


10 s. xii. AUG. 21, 1909.] NOTES AND QUERIES.


159


NOTES ON BOOKS, &c.

Folk-lore and Folk-stories of Wales. Trevelyan . (Elliot Stock. )


By Marie


GENUINE folk-lore is every day becoming more difficult of attainment in civilized countries ; it is supposed to be " unfit," and therefore un- worthy of survival. We are the more indebted, consequently to first-hand collectors like Mrs. Trevelyan, who go among the people and gather


Baal or any other Oriental deity. Discredit has- often been thrown upon gossip Aubrey's ' sin- eater," but contemporary evidence is here adduced for this strange funeral custom (p. 270) which places it beyond dispute. As a bit of folk- medicine we are told that the cure of convulsions in children can be wrought by placing a horseshoe under their pillow (p. 225). Grimm long ago- noted this identical custom as existing in Germany, The spirit Margan, who conducts the disembodied soul to its place in the other world (p. 274), stands


up the dwindling fragments before they have quite perished. In folk-lore, as in other branches of knowledge, there is no lack of study-chair compilers who are content to serve up a crambe rcpeiita culled from printed books. But Mrs. Trevelyan, besides being well qualified DV in- herited stories of information, brings freshness to her task in a keen personal interest in the folk and their ways of thinking, and has something to tell which has not been told before. Her comely volume is a veritable storehouse of the quaint lore about Nature and the invisible world which lingers amidst the hills and valleys of Wales ; if it is disjointed and scrappy, probably it could hardly have been otherwise when the items are so multifarious. She has had the invaluable advice and direction of Mr. Sidney Hartland, a folk-lorist of wide experience, who has contributed an appreciative introduction and otherwise enriched her work.

Renan observed how deeply tinged with melancholy were the folk-beliefs of his native Brittany, for they always seemed to centre round the churchyard. In a measure this is equally true of their Welsh cousins, and it is characteristic of the Keltic temperament wherever it is found. " Sombre mysticism," says Mr. Hartland, " is the dominant note of the Welsh beliefs." Driven to his last resort on the extreme shores of Western Europe by the ever -pressing tide of Aryan migration, the Kelt, it may be supposed, naturally adopted that sad minor note which is characteristic of defeated nationalities.

One of the most striking of the gloomy super stitions recorded here is that of the Cwn Annwn, Dogs of the Underworld, which may be heard hunting the souls of the lost at the dead of night with unearthly howlings, foreboding disaster or death to the hearer (p. 50). These, as well as the Cwn Wybyr, or Sky Dogs, may be correlated with the Dandy Dogs of Cornwall and the Gabble "Ratchets of the Northern counties, as a mytho- logizing of the same phenomenon, which has often been explained. But comparative mytho- logy does not enter into the author's plan, nor does she make any attempt to rationalize her CUTIOUB stories. She might fairly have noted, however, that Prof. Rhys has plausibly explained the word Annwn, the Welsh name of Hades, as a personification of the Latin animce, souls ; and as every one does not know Cymric, we should have been glad if she had always translated the incidental Welsh phrases that occur. Andras, e.g., is given as a curious popular name for the Devil. Is this susceptible of any explanation in the vernacular ? Much more might surely have been told us about the sun hero Hu Gadarn and his fortunes on English soil.

We turned to Beltane or Baltan as a test word of the author's standpoint, and were grateful to find that it could be lighted without the aid of


isolated and unexplained. As Morgan was a name given to the sun, i.e. " the sea-born," with reference to his daily rising out of the water r and as it was a custom to bury the dead at the lour of sunset (p. 277), that the parting luminary might show them the way to the underworld as in the Egyptian mythology), may it not be that the psychopomp Margan is only another phase of Morgan, the sun in his descent to Hades ? We merely throw out the suggestion for further consideration .

Mrs. Trevelyan's book is suggestive, and whets our appetite for further information, which she promises in another volume treating of fairy-lore.


The Pronunciation of English : Phonetics and Phonetic Transcriptions. By Daniel Jones, (Cambridge, University Press.) WE are always glad to see scientific work on phonetics such aa Mr. Jones's, since English pronunciation is getting into a haphazard style which confuses everybody, and seems likely to end only in a slack form of English with no rules. Mr. Jones mentions that " the Board of Education has now introduced the subject into the regular course of training of teachers for service hi public elementary schools." That body ought to have seen to the matter long ago, for any time these ten years we have heard ludicrous pronunciations from village school- masters and teachers. Unfortunately, the ex- planation of sounds is difficult to a beginner, if not alarming ; but Mr. Jones's methods seem as simple as they can be in his First Part, con- cerning phonetics. The Second Part, giving phonetic transcriptions of passages as pronounced by various people, is decidedly interesting. Special stress is laid on London, but we have also* specimens of Yorkshire, Devonshire, Lancashire, Scotland and South of England, Hampshire, Edinburgh, and Glasgow, in some cases modified by residence in London. Why the Midlands should be neglected we do not know, for we always understood that the standard of English in earlier times was derived from that district. Even the most cultivated of Londoners is apt, according to our experience, to fall into uncon- scious Cockney, and that is a dialect already,, perhaps, over-advertised by writers of verse and: prose, as well as the man who comes from London* to astonish the country village.

MR. ALEYV LYELL READE, of Park Corner,. Blundellsands, near Liverpool, whose name i familiar to readers of ' N. & Q.,' is about to Issue Part I. of his Johnsonian gleanings, under the title ' Notes on Dr. Johnson's Ancestors and Con- nexions and illustrative of his Early Life.' Only 350 copies will be printed. The volume, which has an elaborate index, will also include seven unpublished portraits of members of Dr. Johnson's circle at Lichfield, reproduced by the hand-press collotype process.