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Andrew LangAndrew Lang from his wikipedia entryLetters from Andrew Lang to Edward Burnett Tylor, Tylor papers Box 13 PRM ms collections

Transcription of some of the letters from Box 13 (from Andrew Lang (1844-1912). These are of relevance to the development of museum anthropology at Oxford. For a full catalogue of all Pitt Rivers Museum manuscript collections see here.

Lang I 1

1 Marloes Road, Kensington, W. [1]

Nov 8 (1884)

Dear Tylor

I hear you are back. Have you seen Boilare M.s's [sic, name illegible] collection of central American gold work &c? At Bryce Wrights? [2] He showed me amazingly Mongolian things, bronzes, and jade which he vows can only have come from Yunnan. If so, the game is up, and Asiatic influence undeniable.

[illegible] says he is cozing you to review Custom & Myth. [3] It would be paying it a great compliment but you might find it an invidious task for various pretty obvious reasons.

As far as I go, it was good, it will do me good. Did you see my letter in the Academy about Totems? Long [4] used it before Schoolcraft [5] was born. I can't find an earlier use than Long's but I have not tried very hard. I can't find it in an old Jesuit Dictionary I picked up.

I hope you & Mrs Tylor are well and enjoyed Canada.[6]

Yours very truly

A Lang


[1] Lang moved to Marloes Road Kensington in 1875 after his marriage when he also resigned his fellowship of Merton College (college fellows were only allowed to marry from 1877, see Tanis Hinchcliffe North Oxford YUP p. 161). For the rest of his life he worked as a professional writer. 

[2] Bryce McMurdo Wright, father and son dealers in Great Russell Street, London. They specialised in minerals and fossils, ethnographic and archaeological objects.

[2] This was Lang's own book, published in 1884 by Longmans Green & Co of London. A digitized copy can be found here.

[3] John Long Voyages and Travels of an Indian interpreter and trader, describing the manners and customs of the North American Indians; ... To which is added, a vocabulary of the Chippeway language. ... A list of words in the Iroquois, Mohegan, Shawanee, and Esquimeaux tongues, London, 1791 printed for the author and sold by Robson; Debrett; T. and J. Egerton; White and Son; Sewell; Edwards; and Messrs. Taylors, London; Fletcher, Oxford; and Bull, Bath OR Major S.H. Long Account of an expedition from Pittsburgh to the Rocky mountains, in the years 1819, 1820, under the command of Maj. S.H. Long, compiled from the notes of Major Long (ed. by Edwin James, London, 1823) see here

[4] Henry Schoolcraft (1793-1864) American geographer, geologist and ethnologist. 

[5] Tylor had visited North America in August and September 1884 to attend the British Association for the Advancement of Science's meeting in Montreal. He had travelled with Henry Nottidge Moseley (also from the Oxford University Museum), and they had later travelled together to the American southwest. 


Lang I 2

Ditcham Park


[insert] 1 Marloes Road [end insert] 

April 16 [insert] (1886) [end insert]

Dear Tylor

I have just heard from Atkinson, my New Caledonian cousin. [1] He is at work on a book on early ways, and I daresay will brandish the naked hypothesis a good deal. He says he has spotted the origin of exogamy, and that it brings a blush to the cheek. I wonder what he means. He swears he is right about the taboo between brothers and sisters, even as to speaking. When a boy and girl twins are born they kill both (out of respe respect for this taboo?) 

I don't know why I should bother you with this--he fancied you did not believe in the said taboo

Yours very truly

A Lang

Are you a Home Ruler and how much if any? [2]


[1] James Jasper Atkinson (?-1899), he published Primal Law in 1903 in Andrew Lang's Social Origins.

[2] The first Irish Home Rule Bill was introduced in April 1886. In June 1886 it was voted down by thirty votes.


These letters are indicative of the tone and to some degree the content of Lang's letters to Tylor, you can find a summary of all their contents here. Despite the fact that several published account say that Tylor's relationship with Lang deterioriated in the 1890s (often attributed to their disputes about totemism), the tone continues to be friendly through this period. I suspect that there was other correspondence which may now have been lost, but I think that their differences were intellectual not personal. The letters in the PRM suggest that at least at certain times they were quite frequent correspondents, the letters also imply a longevity to their relationship which was perhaps fostered by face-to-face meetings either during visits to each other's houses (in the PRM correspondence Lang thanks Tylor for his hosting) or at learned society meetings.

Transcribed by AP April 2013

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