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Sir James Frazer, O.M., F.R.S.

    Naturevolume 139page360 (1937) | Download Citation



    AT a dinner and reception given by Mme. M. Levinskaya at 2 Leinster Gardens, W.I., on February 17 in honour of Sir James Frazer and to celebrate his attaining the age of eighty-three years on January 1 last, Prof. B. Malinowski spoke in appreciation of his contribution to the study of man. After referring to the pre-eminent position long held by Sir James among anthropologists, he said that while such pioneers in the study of the early forms of religion as Mannhardt, Tylor and others looked to animism and the belief in spirits, Sir James was the first to indicate the place and junction of magic in primitive belief and to demonstrate the significance of magical practice and ritual in man's early conceptions of the universe. Further, that what Andrew Lang some twenty-five or thirty years ago flippantly termed “the Covent Garden school of anthropology”, had become the fundamental principle in a great body of anthropological investigation into such beliefs as that of the spirit of fertility, the mother goddess and the like; while what was intended to be no more than a short essay of twelve pages dealing with the Priest of Nemi had grown into the twelve volumes of “The Golden Bough”. Of all Frazer's great qualities, the most marked, as well as the most immediately striking, was his transparent and single-minded devotion to the cause of truth. He had never been so wedded to his own theories as to seek to impose them upon others in such a manner as to obstruct the attainment of the truth. He had never hesitated to abandon a theory which conflicted with further examination of the facts or fresh evidence, as was shown by the development of his views on totemism. In conclusion, Prof. Malinowski pointed out that, in principle, the studies upon which Sir James had been engaged were not confined to primitive man alone; they were equally applicable to our modern civilization—an application especially needed in the conditions of the world to-day.

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