Sir James Frazer and the Literary Imagination: Essays in by Robert Fraser

By Robert Fraser

This compilation of papers on Sir James Frazer covers topics akin to "W.B.Yeats, Frazer and the reconsecration of folklore", and "Frazer, Conrad and the reality of primitive passion". different works by means of this writer comprise "The Making of the Golden Bough", and "This Island Place".

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Such passages, I would suggest, are part of a meticulous but possibly subconscious device whereby Frazer displaces his own lovely unease to a landscape, part factual and part of his own devising, where its terror can do no harm. Frazer visited none of his Near Eastern sites. To him they were part of a Levantine hinterland re-created by the imagination in colours lent by an omnivorous classical reading. Among the nineteenth-century scholars who did visit the Levant was Renan, to whose accounts of the Phoenician sites of Lebanon Frazer is peculiarly indebted.

Till I am well informed on this point, the kettle-drums shall clash on, as adding something to the picturesque effect of the night march. In summarising Scott, Frazer subtly shifts the emphasis as to what the note says. Scott implies, at least, that, if he receives precise factual information and is eventually "well informed on this point", he may alter the passage. The struggle here is between Scott and novelist and Scott the antiquarian collector of precise and curious facts. The novelist is allowed to win, but the hint is that the fact-lover may eventually prevail.

Theologically acceptable to the "staunch Presbyterian" Daniel Frazer, Thomson was an American who had spent thirty years as a missionary in Syria and Palestine. His 1859 book is subtitled Biblical Illustrations Drawn from the Manners and Customs, the Scenes and Scenery of the Holy Land. The subject is presented geographically, as the author takes his audience vividly across the terrain of the Middle East, presenting numerous local customs and antiquities. Many, but not all, of these are related to scriptural passages, and Thomson likes to work into his text evidence drawn from a wide variety of earlier writers and travellers, ranging from Herodotos to Lane.

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