Cock Lane and Common-Sense

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Cambridge University Press, May 19, 2011 - History - 380 pages
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Written by folklorist Andrew Lang (1844-1912), this 1894 publication examines the ambivalent relationship the living have attempted to forge with the dead throughout history. Nicknamed 'the Wizard of St Andrews', this prolific polymath also worked as an anthropologist, classicist, historian, poet, mythologist, essayist and journalist, producing over a hundred publications in his lifetime. Largely ignored by scholarship, this book suggests expanding the study of folklore to include contemporary narratives of supernatural events. Taking its title from the legends of the notorious Cock Lane ghost, the work considers the survival of ancient beliefs such as hauntings, clairvoyance, and other phenomena believed to transcend the laws of nature, and how such beliefs have persisted through great social upheaval and change. It includes chapters on savage and ancient spiritualism, comparative psychical research, haunted houses, second sight, crystal gazing, and Presbyterian ghost hunters, among others.
 

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Contents

Introduction i
1
Savage Spiritualism
33
Ancient Spiritualism
56
Comparative Psychical Research
84
Haunted Houses
127
Cock Lane and Commonsense
161
Apparitions Ghosts and Hallucinations
180
Scrying or Crystalgazing
212
The Second Sight
226
Ghosts before the Law
248
A Modern Trial for Witchcraft
274
Presbyterian Ghost Hunters
285
The Logic of Tableturning
304
The Ghost Theory of the Origin of Religion
333
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About the author (2011)

Andrew Lang was born at Selkirk in Scotland on March 31, 1844. He was a historian, poet, novelist, journalist, translator, and anthropologist, in connection with his work on literary texts. He was educated at Edinburgh Academy, St. Andrews University, and Balliol College, Oxford University, becoming a fellow at Merton College. His poetry includes Ballads and Lyrics of Old France (1872), Ballades in Blue China (1880--81), and Grass of Parnassus (1888--92). His anthropology and his defense of the value of folklore as the basis of religion is expressed in his works Custom and Myth (1884), Myth, Ritual and Religion (1887), and The Making of Religion (1898). He also translated Homer and critiqued James G. Frazer's views of mythology as expressed in The Golden Bough. He was considered a good historian, with a readable narrative style and knowledge of the original sources including his works A History of Scotland (1900-7), James VI and the Gowrie Mystery (1902), and Sir George Mackenzie (1909). He was one of the most important collectors of folk and fairy tales. His collections of Fairy books, including The Blue Fairy Book, preserved and handed down many of the better-known folk tales from the time. He died of angina pectoris on July 20, 1912.

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