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seen to enter it. That this story was current before the mound was opened is a fact beyond dispute. In 1832 the cairn was explored. Three hundred cartloads of stones were removed, and beneath them was found a skeleton laid at full length, wearing a corslet of beautifully wrought gold, which had been placed on a lining of bronze.' The corslet in question is of Etruscan workmanship, and is now, I believe, to be seen in the British Museum.1
Examples like these-and they stand by no means alone-inspire confidence in the permanence of what seems so fleeting and evanescent. Folklore is, in fact, like pottery, the most delicate, the most fragile of human productions; yet it is precisely these productions which prove more durable than solid and substantial fabrics, and outlast the wreck of empires, a witness to the latest posterity of the culture of earlier and ruder times. But if these traditions have thus been preserved for centuries and even millenniums, they have been modified-nay, transformed in the process. It is not the bare fact which has been transmitted from generation to generation, but the fact seen through the distorting medium of the popular imagination. This is a characteristic of all merely oral records of an actual event; and this it is which everywhere renders tradition, taken literally, so untrustworthy, so misleading a witness to fact. The same law, however, does not apply to every species of tradition. Some species fall within the lines of the popular imagination; and it is then not a distorting but a conservative force. The essential identity of so many stories, customs and superstitions throughout the world is a sufficient proof of this, on which I have no space to dwell. But their essential identity is overlaid with external differences due to local surroundings, racial peculiarities, higher or lower planes of civilisation. There is a charming story told in South Wales of a lady who came out of a lake at the foot of one of the Carmarthenshire mountains and married a youth in the neighbourhood, and who afterwards, offended with her husband, quitted his dwelling for ever and returned to her watery abode. In the Shetland Islands the tale is told of a seal which cast its skin and appeared as a woman. A man of the Isle of Unst possessed himself of the seal-skin and thus captured and married her. She lived with him until one day she recovered the skin, resumed her seal-shape and plunged into the sea, never more to return. In Croatia the damsel is a wolf whose wolf-skin a soldier steals. In the Arabian Nights she is a jinn wearing the feather-plumage of a bird, apparently assumed simply for the purpose of flight. In all these cases the variations are produced by causes easily assigned.
The specific distinctions of a nation's culture are not necessarily limited to changes of traditions which it may have borrowed from its neighbours or inherited from a common stock. It may conceivably develop traditions peculiar to itself. This is a subject hardly yet investigated by students of folklore. Their labours have hitherto been chiefly confined to establishing the identity underlying divergent forms of tradition and explaining the meaning of practices and beliefs by comparison of the folklore of distant races at different stages of evolution. But there are not wanting those who are turning their attention to a province as yet unconquered, and indeed almost undiscovered. Even if they only succeed in establishing a negative, if they show that all traditions supposed to be peculiar
1 Boyd Dawkins, Early Man in Britain, p. 431, citing Archæologia and Arch. Cambrensis.
have counterparts elsewhere, they will have rendered a signal service to science, and produced incontrovertible testimony of the unity of the human mind and the unintermittent force of the laws which govern it.
Alike for the purpose of ascertaining the specific distinctions of culture and the influences of neighbouring nations and neighbouring civilisations, an accumulation of facts is the prime requisite. If we have reason to believe in the persistence of tradition, we shall have confidence that relics will be discovered in our midst of the faith and institutions of our remoter ancestors; and, in accordance as we venerate antiquity or desire to preserve what remains of the past, we shall hasten to collect them. Nor can we be too quick in so doing. The blood of our forefathers is a permanent inheritance, which it would take many generations and a large intermingling of foreigners seriously to dilute, much less to destroy. But tradition is rapidly dying. It is dwindling away before the influences of modern civilisation. Formerly, when the rural districts were isolated, when news travelled slowly and nobody thought of leaving his home save to go to the nearest market, and that not too often, when education did not exist for the peasantry and the landowners had scarcely more than a bowing acquaintance with it, the talk by the fireside on winter evenings was of the business of the day-the tilling, the crops, the kine. Or it was the gossip and small scandals interesting to such a community, or reminiscences by the elders of the past. Thence it would easily glide into tales and superstitions. And we know that these tales and superstitions were, in fact, the staple of conversation among our fathers and generally throughout the West of Europe, to go no further afield, down to a very recent period; and they still are in many districts. In England, however, railways, newspapers, elementary education, politics, and the industrial movements which have developed during the present century have changed the ancient modes of life; and the old traditions are fading out of memory. The generation that held them is fast passing away. The younger generation has never cared to learn them; though, of course, many of the minor superstitions and sayings have still a considerable measure of power, especially in the shape of folk-medicine and prescriptions for luck. We must make haste, therefore, if we desire to add to the scanty information on record concerning English folklore.
As a starting-point for the collection of Gloucestershire folklore I put together, a year or two ago, the folklore in Atkyns, Rudder, and the first four volumes of Gloucestershire Notes and Queries; and it was printed by the Folklore Society and issued as a pamphlet. Other works remain to be searched; and it is probable that a good deal more may be found already in print, if some who are interested in the antiquities of the country will undertake the not very arduous, but very necessary, labour of collection. When all is gathered, however, it will only be a small part of what must have existed at no distant date-if not of what still exists, awaiting diligent inquiry among living men and women. How to set about the inquiry is a question that must be left very much to the individual inquirer to answer. Valuable practical hints are given in the Handbook of Folklore, a small volume that may be bought for half-a-crown and carried in the pocket. Confidence between the collector and those from whom he is seeking information is the prime necessity. Keep your notebook far in
1 County Folklore. Printed Extracts—No. 1, Gloucestershire. London: D. Nutt,
the background, and beware of letting the peasant know the object of your curiosity, or even of allowing him to see that you are curious. Above all, avoid leading questions. If you are looking for tales, tell a tale yourself. Do anything to establish a feeling of friendly sympathy. Never laugh at your friend's superstitions—not even if he laugh at them himself; for he will not open his heart to you if he suspect you of despising them.
There is one other division of the schedule to which I have not yet referred. The Dialect is perishing as rapidly as the folklore; it is being overwhelmed by the same foes. Peculiarities of dialect are due partly to physical, partly to mental, causes. From either point of view they are of interest to the investigator of antiquities. Hence their inclusion among the subjects of the Ethnographical Survey. Nobody who has once understood how much of history is often wrapped up in a single word can fail to perceive the importance of a study of dialect, or how largely it may contribute to the determination of the origin of a given population. The reduction of dialect into writing requires accuracy to distinguish the niceties of pronunciation, and some practice to set them down; but a little experience will overcome most difficulties, which, after all, are not great. It is believed that most of the words-as distinguished from their pronunciation-in use have been recorded in the publications of the English Dialect Society or elsewhere. But it is better to record them again than to leave them unrecorded. Nor should it be forgotten in this connection that a word often bears a different shade of meaning in one place from what it bears in another. In recording any words, care should therefore be taken to seize not only the exact sound, but the exact signification, if it be desired to make a real contribution towards the history of the country, or the history of the language. Of the method of collection and transcription it is needless to add to the directions in the schedule.