Review of The Child and Childhood in Folk-Thought
The Child and Childhood in Folk-Thought. By ALEXANDER FRANCIS CHAMBERLAIN. Macmillan & Co., 1896. 8vo, 464 pp.$3.
THIS interesting volume is a compilation of usages, ceremonies, superstitions, and proverbs concerning children. Ethnology, folk-lore and modern pedagogy, and, it may be added, polite literature, contribute the data used by Mr. Chamberlain, who states that his object is "to treat of the child from a point of view hitherto entirely neglected, to exhibit what the world owes to childhood and the motherhood and the fatherhood which it occasions, to indicate the position of the child in -the march of civilization among the various races of men, and to estimate the influence which the child-idea and its accompaniments have had upon sociology, mythology, religion, language." As a matter of fact, however, Mr. Chamberlain does not devote the bulk of his book to an estimate of the influence of the presence of the child upon the course of social development, immediately upon the family and mediately upon society, but oddly enough magnifies the fact that children '" have figured in the world's history and its folk-lore as magi and medicine-men, as priests and oracle-keepers, as physicians and healers, as teachers and judges, as saints, heroes, discoverers, and inventors, as musicians and poets, actors and laborers in many fields,". . . . assuming, apparently, that qua priest, et cetera, the child has contributed to the
( 317) growth of society, whereas the child in the relations enumerated was merely, in common with other objects, associated with this or that superstition. The great influence of the child in culture does not lie in this direction, but in the modification wrought by its presence on the affective nature and the forms of activity of the parent. The volume displays very well the status of the child in the thought of different races, but it would have been a very acceptable service if the author had constructed more conclusions from the materials which his admirable knowledge has enabled him to bring together—even at a sacrifice of some of the literary quotations. Excellent indexes and a valuable bibliography are provided.
W. I. THOMAS.