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Ancient Cures, Charms, and Usages of Ireland: Contributions to Irish Lore
     

Ancient Cures, Charms, and Usages of Ireland: Contributions to Irish Lore

by Lady Wilde
 

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Any book written by Lady Wilde is sure to be marked by graceful fancy, fervid eloquence, and intense love of her country. In the present work we find all these characteristics; but when one has said that, one has said most that is possible to say in its favour. It is to some extent a sequel to her former book, Ancient Legends of Ireland, and it is marked by

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Any book written by Lady Wilde is sure to be marked by graceful fancy, fervid eloquence, and intense love of her country. In the present work we find all these characteristics; but when one has said that, one has said most that is possible to say in its favour. It is to some extent a sequel to her former book, Ancient Legends of Ireland, and it is marked by just the same faults which deprived that publication of almost all value as a trustworthy treatise on folklore. Everything which real students most desire-mention of authorities, local touches, chronological and topographical details; anything that would render it possible to separate genuine ancient legend from modern invention or artistic embellishment-all these are either carelessly omitted or carefully suppressed.

It is most unfortunate that everyone of the writers who have dealt with Irish folk-lore should have treated it much in the same fashion. Lady Wilde only follows the example set by Crofton Croker, Lover, and the far greater Carleton. But for most of the others an excuse can be made which is not available in her case. From the novelists, pure and simple, we cannot expect scientific accuracy in dealing with legendary tales. It is quite in accordance with the fitness of things that the writer of fiction should alter and adapt to his purpose the traditions he uses; but with a professed collector of folk-lore such imaginative treatment of the old stories becomes almost a literary crime. And yet this mode of treatment seems now to be deliberately adopted and advocated by some writers. So much is this the case that in a little collection of Irish Fairy and Folk Tales, published not long ago in the Camelot Classics (a charming little book, by the way, from the purely literary point of view), the editor goes out of his way to gibe at the honest folk-lorist who tolls what he has actually heard, not what he thinks he might have heard, or what he thinks his audience would like to hear. The folk-lorists are treated as mere dull, prosaic people of no account, who "tabulate their tales informs like grocers' bills." How much better it would be, we are led to suppose, to make the rude folklore the foundation of a pleasant literary sketch which will interest the reader, to do like Samuel Lover and Crofton Croker, who have, forsooth, "caught the very voice of the people, the very pulse of life"! Do not the advocates of the essentially vicious method thus defended see that the result of it will be to deprive us of any real folk-lore at all? We shall have a mass of pretty tales, of weird ghost stories, of quaintly humorous anecdotes more or less based upon ancient tradition; but it will be impossible to distinguish between the various ingredients of which they are composed-to say: This represents the actual legendary lore of the Irish folk; that is the product of the literary fancy of Croker, or Lover, or Lady Wilde. That the country whose folklore, if honestly transcribed, might be the most valuable as well as the most beautiful of any in Europe should thus be represented by a literary sham instead of a scientific reality is a very distinct misfortune. And the pity of it is that it is now almost too late to gather up the precious treasures which the imaginative writers have despised. The old legends are dying out, or are becoming adulterated with modern invention by the country people themselves. The time for securing them in their original purity is fast slipping away; many have been already lost beyond recovery. All the more reason to make an earnest appeal for the reverent handling of those that remain. There are, I believe, at present at least three workers engaged in the task of collecting the folk tales of Ireland-Mr. Douglas Hyde, Mr. David Fitzgerald, and Mr. W. Larminie. It is to be hoped that these writers will have the courage to avoid the evil example of their predecessors in the same field....

-The Academy, Volume 38

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781530935307
Publisher:
CreateSpace Publishing
Publication date:
04/06/2016
Pages:
270
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.57(d)

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