What A Week

“The time has come”, the Walrus said,

“To talk of many things:

Of shoes- and ships- and sealing wax-

Of cabbages- and kings-

And why the sea is boiling hot-

And whether pigs have wings.”

Lewis Carroll


Cultural Consumption: On Becoming a Frog

Had an eventful couple of weeks having my heart checked over. Still an unsettling few weeks to go but things look decidedly better.

This blog is nothing more than a selection of scattered notes. Time has come to start writing up. Nothing to see yet but soon will be slowly producing material on a range of themes from the ethnology of Frogs to obscure late 17th century philosophers and more. Here

First series of posts will deal with one of my favorite topics. Look at the processes that lead to the claim that a native and natural species cannot exist. This will mean tackling a range of different subjects and examining a broad spectrum of tangled processes that pattern and reinforce a belief system. Look at how it evolves and consumes, digested and patterns a range of subjects from philosophy, natural history, religion, science folk knowledge, memory and history.

A short history of frog. Or perhaps more accurately an ethnology of frog;  a most pleasing and venomous medieval creature. Will examine the development of this tangled belief system from its medieval origins (or will at least start with how the tale had developed in this period) until the 1870’s when the Frog will fully develop as a symbol of national anxiety and pride in a particular cultural zone in the North Atlantic.


Science and Family

George Laurence Gomme

If I have essayed to do in this book what should have been done by one of the masters of the science of folklore—Mr. Frazer, Mr. Lang, Mr. Hartland, Mr. Clodd, Sir John Rhys, and others—I hope it will not be put down to any feelings of self-sufficiency on my part. I have greatly dared because no one of them has accomplished, and I have so acted because I feel the necessity of some guidance in these matters, and more particularly at the present stage of inquiry into the early history of man.

I have thought I could give somewhat of that guidance because of my comprehension of its need, for the comprehension of a need is sometimes half-way towards supplying the need. My profound belief in the value of folklore as perhaps the only means of discovering the earliest stages of the psychological, religious, social, and political history of modern man has also entered into my reason for the attempt.

Many years ago I suggested the necessity for guidance, and I sketched out a few of the points involved in what was afterwards called by a friendly critic a sort of grammar of folklore. The science of folklore has advanced far since 1885 however, and not only new problems but new ranges of thought have gathered round it. Still, the claims of folklore as a definite section of historical material remain not only unrecognized but unstated, and as long as this is so the lesser writers on folklore will go on working in wrong directions and producing much mischief, and the historian will judge of folklore by the criteria presented by these writers—will judge wrongly and will neglect folklore accordingly.

I hope this book may tend to correct this state of things to some extent. It is not easy to write on such a subject in a limited space, and it is difficult to avoid being somewhat severely technical at points. These demerits will, I am sure, be forgiven when considered by the light of the human interest involved.

All studies of this kind must begin from the standpoint of a definite culture area, and I have chosen our own country for the purpose of this inquiry. This will make the illustrations more interesting to the English reader; but it must be borne in mind that the same process could be repeated for other areas if my estimate of the position is even tolerably accurate. For the purpose of this estimate it was necessary, in the first place, to show how pure history was intimately related to folklore at many stages, and yet how this relationship had been ignored by both historian and folklorist. The research for this purpose had necessarily to deal with much detail, and to introduce fresh elements of research. There is thus produced a somewhat unequal treatment; for when illustrations have to be worked out at length, because they appear for the first time, the mind is apt to wander from the main point at issue and to become lost in the subordinate issue arising from the working out of the chosen illustration. This, I fear, is inevitable in folklore research, and I can only hope I have overcome some of the difficulties caused thereby in a fairly satisfactory manner.

The next stage takes us to a consideration of materials and methods, in order to show the means and definitions which are necessary if folklore research is to be conducted on scientific lines. Not only is it necessary to ascertain the proper position of each item of folklore in the culture area in which it is found, but it is also necessary to ascertain its scientific relationship to other items found in the same area; and I have protested against the too easy attempt to proceed upon the comparative method. Before we can compare we must be certain that we are comparing like quantities.

These chapters are preliminary. After this stage we proceed to the principal issues, and the first of these deals with the psychological conditions. It was only necessary to treat of this subject shortly, because the illustrations of it do not need analysis. They are self-contained, and supply their own evidence as to the place they occupy.

The anthropological conditions involve very different treatment. The great fact necessary to bear in mind is that the people of a modern culture area have an anthropological as well as a national or political history, and that it is only the anthropological history which can explain the meaning and existence of folklore. This subject found me compelled to go rather more deeply than I had thought would be necessary into first principles, but I hope I have not altogether failed to prove that to properly understand the province of folklore it is necessary to know something of anthropological research and its results.


G.L. Gomme, Folklore as an Historical Science

Bubble Blowing and Networks: A 39 Step Plan

U.K. Team Folklore 1870 to 1910

Andrew Lang

George Laurence Gomme

Alfred Nutt

Edward Clodd

W. A Coulston

F. H. Groome

J. F. Campbell

J. A  MacCulloch

T. F. Thiselton…..

Spending some quality time with some of the early pioneers of the ‘science of storyology’ who also doubled as popular science writers in a wide range of publications.  Interesting folk with a diverse range of perspectives.


Richard M. Dorson, The Great Team of English Folklorists

This Weeks Reading: Late 17th Century Inflection

To Begin at the Beginning

Starting to lurch of my main research interest medieval wild things/ man like apes and return to my roots. I am by training a classical actor, that means I went to the Old Vic Theater School and was taught in the declamatory style, which is the traditional way of performing both Shakespeare and restoration comedy.

The old Vic was set up by Laurence Olivier to keep alive traditional craft skills of the British theater. It is particularly well known in the industry for it’s rigorous vocal training.  One of the great mystery’s of the theater is just how long the declamatory style has been used for. It can be traced with certainty back to Garrick. Its distinct similarities with certain preaching styles suggest it may be older. But vocal projection is dependent on anatomy so certain features will be universal.

Actors in the restoration theater had to accurately depict the manners and speech patterns of the aristocracy. To achieve this, professional dancing masters were hired to coach actors.  The dancing master taught a range of subjects to the wealthy elite, movement, manners (this was an age of very strict etiquette), rhetoric and activities like fencing  all were taught by the dancing master. The Dancing master became in the restoration period the first professional drama coaches.

So will be pouring over late 17th century books of rhetoric for a while. Lord Monboddo was an avid lover of the stage and maintained a particular interest in inflection. But will broaden out inquiry to include Dublin and Edinburgh and look at some of the first enlightenment treatments  of rhetoric and the roots of the classical style.

Arcana:The Entrails of Thought

Quod Latet arcana non enarrabile fibra

How the secret entrails lie unfathomable

Persius Satires V.

Anatomy of Mind: A Philosophical Enquiry

But, besides this great purpose, a consideration of the rationale of our passions seems to me very necessary for all who would affect them upon solid and sure principles. It is not enough to know in general: to affect them after a delicate manner, or to judge properly of any work designed to affect them, we should know the exact boundaries of their several jurisdictions; we should pursue them through all variety of operations, and pierce into the inmost and what might appear inaccessible parts of our nature, without this it is possible for a man, after a confused manner, sometimes to satisfy his own mind of the truth of his work; but he can never have a certain determinate rule to go by, nor can he ever make clear to others. Poets, and Orators, and painters, and those who cultivate other branches of the liberal arts, have this critical knowledge succeeded well in their several provinces, and will succeed; as among artificers there are many machines made, and even invented, without any exact knowledge of the principles they are governed by. It is, I own, not uncommon to be wrong in theory and right in practice; and we are happy that it is so.


Edmund Burke, A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful


John Wilkins, What is Critical Thinking


Edmund Burke, artist unknown, studio of Sir Joshua Reynolds

She’s Not There

Communication Across Vast Distances

“A strange tale was told me, which I shall repeat, as I know it to be true. It is to this effect: A few months previous to my visit to Seoul, a foreigner had visited the king soliciting orders for installations of telephones. The king, being much astounded, and pleased at the wonderful invention, immediately, at great expense, set about connecting by telephone the tomb of the queen dowager with the royal palace—a distance of several miles! Needless to say, though many hours a day were spent by His Majesty and his suite in listening at their end of the telephone, and a watchman kept all night in case the queen dowager should wake up from her eternal sleep, not a message, or a sound, or murmur even, was heard, which result caused the telephone to be condemned as a fraud by His Majesty the King of Cho-sen.”


A.H. Savage-Landor, Corea or Cho-sen: The Land of Morning Calm, 1895

The Monuments Thereof

A Pleasing Plantation of Tails

Grooms gazetteer for Scotland is a geographical encyclopaedia published in 6 volumes between 1882 and 1885.

Under the entry for Monboddo House is found the following discription

“Monboddo House, an old mansion, amid pleasant plantations, in Fordoun parish Kincardineshire 1 1/4 mile E by S of Auchinblae and 2 1/4 miles NNW of Fordoun station. It was the birthplace of the judge James Burnett, Lord Monboddo (1714-99), who anticipated Darwin in an evolution theory-of monkeys whose tails wore off with constant sitting. His descendant James Cumine Burnett Esq. holds 3000 acres in the shire valued at £2540 per annum”

F.H. Groom

In early modern Scotland monument had a specific legal sense and meaning which was derived literally from the terms Latin meaning. This usage derives from the Latin moneo. Monumentum, a memorial, stems from the root moneo, I serve as a reminder, bring to the notice of .  The latin monstro, I advise, indicate, teach and monstrum a divine marvel, a wonder,reminder, portent,warning also stem from the same root. The underlying sense of moneo  is to bring to mind through memorial, warning, display and teaching.


Frances H. Groome, Ordnance Gazetter of Scotland, A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, Volume 5, Edinburgh, p.p 42