Analysing the English Collections at the Pitt Rivers Museum

Edwin Sidney Hartland

Alison Petch,
Researcher 'The Other Within' project

Edwin Sidney Hartland (1848-1927) is described by Dorson as 'a steadfast and impressive contributor' to the Folk-Lore Society. [Dorson, 1968: 239] He practised as a solicitor at Swansea from 1871 to 1890. In that year he was appointed Registrar of Gloucestershire County Court and subsequently District Probate Registrar. He was a mayor of Gloucester in 1902.

Throughout his life Hartland was interested in folklore. He was a member of the Folklore Society, serving as President in 1899, the Royal Anthropological Institute and the Society of Antiquaries. He was also President of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society and the Welsh Society in Gloucestershire. He was the chairman of the folktale section at the International Folk-Lore Congress in London in 1891. He was also president of the Anthropological Section (H) of the British Association meeting in York in 1906. He delivered the first Frazer lecture at Oxford in 1922 and was awarded the Huxley medal by the Royal Anthropological Institute in 1923.

At first Hartland was apparently interested in folk narratives, like Jacobs. [Dorson, 1968: 239] He was also a very keen book reviewer for Folklore, like Ettlinger. Later he became interested in 'primitive institutions' including 'primitive paternity', studies in religion and family structure and law. [Dorson, 1968: 240] According to Dorson:

Unlike [J.G.] Frazer, Hartland was first and foremost a champion of the folklore method sharpened by ethnology. He saw a host of practical values in folklore science: means of promoting Empire administration, missionary work, class harmony, insights into the past, and appreciation of English and Hebrew literature. Folklore had 'vast possibilities that will revolutionise our conceptions of human history,' illustrating the common human nature of savage Tasmanian and cultivated Englishman.
Nevertheless, Hartland clung ever more firmly to the evolutionist view that stressed the differences between primitive and civlized man. If they shared a common humanity, they were an aeon apart in the development of their ideas and institutions.' [Dorson, 1968: 244-5]

He did publish articles about English folklore, for example: 'Cotswold Place-lore and Customs' Folklore, Vol. 23, No. 4 (Dec., 1912), pp. 482-485; 'First-foot' Folklore, Vol. 7, No. 1 (Mar., 1896), p. 90; 'Cornish land-measure' Folklore, Vol. 9, No. 2 (Jun., 1898), p. 189 etc.

His first Presidential address in 1901 to the Folk-Lore Society made clear his belief that folklore had to include the study of 'the traditions of savage races' [Hartland, 1900: 79] as well as 'survivals' in local and developed nations. He therefore, saw anthropology and folk-lore as part of the same discipline. He devoted the majority of this talk, for example, to discussing totemism particularly in reference to the recently published accounts of the lives of the Arrernte [Arunta] from central Australia by W. Baldwin Spencer and Francis Gillen in Native Tribes of Central Australia [1899]. He concluded the address:

The coming century has doubtless many surprises in store for us and our children. It will be no surprise for students of anthropology if the progress of discovery enable us by-and-bye to reconstitute the history of humanity to an extent of which Dr. Johnson and all the generations of learned men in the past never so much as dreamed. [Hartland, 1900: 80]

He was as interested, maybe more, in folk-lore (and straightforward anthropology) from South Africa as he was in British and European folklore.

In his retiring address as President of the Folk-Lore Society in 1901 he gave the headline part of his address to Pitt Rivers and the two Pitt Rivers Museums:

General Pitt-Rivers had been for eleven years a Vice-President of the Society. His chief work, though outside the immediate range of our studies, was of a kind which on the one hand illustrates those studies, and on the other hand receives form them illustration and confirmation. The continuity of tradition was the leading thought of his scientific life. The noble museum at Oxford which bears his name, and is due to his munificence, grew out of that thought; and the other museum, hardly less interesting, on his estate at Farnham is penetrated with the same. If genius be properly defined as the infinite capacity for taking pains, General Pitt -Rivers was endowed with it in ample measure. His motto in everything was Thorough; and it will be of evil augury for British archaeology if the example he set shall ever be lost sight of. He has left to his country and to anthropological science in the two museums and in his writings, not simply a monument to his own fame, but a gift the value of which must grow with the rolling years and our evolving civilisation. [Hartland, 1901: 15-6]

Hartland did publish about English folklore, from his local area in Gloucestershire, in 1892 he published County Folklore: Gloucestershire, described here as 'although simply a slim gathering of previously printed material, is a source-book still useful today'.

In 1924 Hartland had to retire from his work in Gloucester:

In Spring 1924 a grave illness compelled him to resign all his public duties, and thereafter he was debarred from all physical and mental exertions. During the years he was bedridden he was always unrepining and cheerful and retained his sense of humour. [Haddon, 1927: 933]

Haddon concluded his Nature obituary of Hartland thus:

It will be evident that Hartland studied a wide range of subjects, to all of which he brought to bear a mind trained in the value of evidence and a sympathetic, kindly nature. His writings are marked by a pleasing, lucid style with occasional lighter touches. He was a typical representative of the British school of anthropologists of the latter part of the nineteenth century. He often took an independent line and regarded "criticism as a form of co-operation in the pursuit of truth," but in criticism and debate was always tolerant and friendly. Few of his contemporaries now remain, but to them he will be remembered as a genial and constant friend who was always ready to receive and impart information. [Haddon, 1927: 933]

Hartland's donations to the Pitt Rivers Museum

Edwin Sidney Hartland did contribute artefacts to the Pitt Rivers Museum. He donated a total of 126 artefacts to the Museum between 1898 and 1920. The vast majority of these are from Japan, probably all obtained via J. Cole Hartland, his brother, who lived in Yokohama. The remaining 19 artefacts are from North Korea, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Switzerland, and India. Hartland could have collected the items from Southern Africa as he is known to have travelled there in 1905-6 for the British Association meeting. He also donated a foot plough from Ullapool in Scotland which he donated with Adam Lander.

He published an account of the artefact from Korea in Folklore. It is 1907.3.6 'Cast iron model of a tiger which was placed on a shrine at the top of the Charyong Pass, 60 li south of Gensan, Korea. Procured 25 Nov. 1898. These figures were placed on the shrines as votive offerings presumably of a propitiatory character. [Described & figured in “Folk Lore”, XV, p.447.]'. In Folklore Hartland explains that his brothr found the shrine figure, which was believed to show a tiger, on a mountain shrine and discusses what function it might have and compares and contrasts it to other similar folklore from elsewhere.

There are also one artefact donated from him from England. It is a 'Smock-frock made by a woman (the last local smock-maker) at Birtsmorton on border of Worcestershire & Herefordshire, c. 1900' which presumably Hartland could have collected himself. According to wikipedia, Birtsmorton is a civil parish in the Malvern Hills, in the census of 2001 there was a population of 250 people. It is not far from the borders of Worcestershire with Gloucestershire and Herefordshire. It is about 10 miles from Gloucester, where Hartland lived.

His wife, Mary Elizabeth Hartland, donated 13 more artefacts, after his death in 1928 and 1929. These are likely to have been part of his own collections as they are 10 Japanese small books of fairy-tales , a hay-rake from Wales, and another hayrake from Brittany in France and a Japanese woman's hair ornament.

Hartland also published about one of the museum's artefacts from England: 'Avril-bread' Folklore, Vol. 28, No. 3 (Sep. 30, 1917), pp. 305-310, 1919.53.1 Funeral biscuit wrapper, see here for more information. Hartland also discussed this wrapper at the meeting of the Oxford University Anthropological Society on 1 November 1917. After his death his library was acquired by the National Library of Wales. In 1924 the University of Wales conferred upon him the Degree of Doctor of Literature, the University of St Andrews conferred on him the Degree of Doctor of Laws in 1917.

Further Reading

Dorson, Richard 1968 The British Folklorists Chicago: University of Chicago Press [pp. 239-248]

Haddon, A. C. 1926 'In Memoriam: Edwin Sidney Hartland (1848-1927)' Folklore Vol. 37, No. 2 (Jun. 30, 1926), pp. 178-192 [which includes a long bibliography for Hartland]

Haddon, A.C. 1927. 'Obituary: Dr E.S Hartland' Nature 25 June 1927 p. 933

Hartland, E. Sidney, 1895 County Folklore, i: Gloucestershire (London: Folklore Society, 1895; reprint, Felinfach: Llanerch, 1997).

Hartland, E. Sidney 1900 'Presidential Address: Totemism and Some Recent Discoveries' Folklore, Vol. 11, No. 1 (Mar., 1900), pp. 52-80

Hartland, E. Sidney 1901 'Retiring Presidential Address' Folklore, Vol. 12, No. 1 (Mar., 1901), pp. 15-40

Hartland, E.S. 1904 'A votive offering from Korea' Folklore, Vol. 15, No. 4 (Dec. 25, 1904), pp. 447-450

Hartland, E.S. 1904 Folklore: what is it and what is the good of it? London, D. Nutt

Hartland, E.S. 1906. 'Travel notes in South Africa' Folklore Vol. 17, No. 4 (Dec. 31, 1906), pp. 472-487

Hartland, E.S. 1914 Ritual and Belief: Studies in the History of Religion London: Williams and Norgate

Hartland, E.S. 1921 Primitive Society: the Beginnings of Family and the reckoning of descent London: Methuen

Hartland, E.S. 1924 Primitive Law London: Methuen