Early English Prose Romances: With Bibliographical and Historical Introductions

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BiblioBazaar, 2010 - 338 pages
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About the author (2010)

William John Thoms initiated the term "Folk-Lore" into the study of "Popular Antiquities" or "Popular Literature" in a letter printed in the Athenaeum, August 22, 1846, and charted a course for its study. He envisioned reconstructing the ancient pagan mythology of Britain in the same fashion the Brothers Grimm had done earlier in Germany. This was his central contribution to mythology and folklore but by no means his only one. In fact, while he supported himself as a clerk in the secretary's office at Chelsea Hospital (until 1845) and then as a clerk in the printed-paper office of the House of Lords (until 1863), he was a leading participant in antiquarian societies, elected a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1838, and appointed secretary of the Camden Society the same year. He was also a council member of the Percy Society. Thoms's main work as a literary antiquarian was as an editor, and it is important to note how strongly he advocated the need for careful scholarship in collecting folklore, always demanding exact dates, page references, and full titles for actual texts, rather than the vague allusions that had previously been common. In addition to using the Athenaeum to launch folklore as a field of scholarship, Thoms continued to promote the field in Notes and Queries, which he founded in 1849, and for which he served as sole editor until 1872. Thoms also established a correspondence with George Laurence Gomme in the publication, beginning in 1876, which resulted in the formation of The Folk-Lore Society two years later.

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