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Papers of Sir James Frazer Arquivo
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Papers of Sir James Frazer

  • FRAZ
  • Arquivo
  • 1745-1941

The papers consist of correspondence, writings, notebooks, diaries, music manuscripts, printed material, and photographs which document the life and work of social anthropologist and classical scholar Sir James George Frazer, and to a lesser extent that of his wife, the writer and translator Lilly Frazer (known after June 1914 as Lady Frazer), who acted as his manager and press agent. The collection spans the years 1872-1941, but the bulk of the material dates from the 1920s and 1930s.

Research strengths include Frazer’s writings in the 1920s and 1930s, social anthropology, folklore, classical scholarship, British and French publishing history, and Trinity College academic and social life. The bulk of the collection dates from the last two decades of his life, and therefore contains material from a time well after his reputation was established. While there are letters from people with anthropological data, the collection does not include the vast amount of data and answers to his anthropological questionnaires that he presumably possessed when compiling the first edition of 'The Golden Bough'. Very often letters with anthropological data are in the form of fan letters, whose writers wish to correct or add to information in one of his books.

The papers are arranged in small and repeated groupings, with alphabetical runs of letters followed by writings and printed material, returning to more alphabetical runs of letters featuring many of the same correspondents as the previous runs, more writings, and research materials, and on. The searching abilities of the database will be useful to find all materials by a person or on a subject.

The correspondence is almost entirely incoming, with just 29 original letters from James Frazer (in FRAZ/1) and 15 typed copies of his letters (in FRAZ/1-4, 16, 25 and 29) and twelve original letters, a draft and four typed copies by Lilly Frazer (in FRAZ/1, 3, 17, 31 and 33) in a collection of over 2300 letters evenly divided between the two. In addition to runs of alphabetically arranged letters, there are also groups of letters on specific topics featuring many of the same correspondents. Letters may also be found with writings and research notes elsewhere in the collection.

The correspondence spans the years 1872-1941, however, the earliest dated letter to or from James or Lilly is dated January 1888. There are a limited number of letters from this early period. Many letters addressed to Lilly concern business related to James’ works, and some letters written in the late 1930s are addressed to her to be read aloud to him due to his increasing blindness.

Anthropologists appearing in the collection include L. C. G. Clarke, Edward Clodd, A. C. Haddon, J. H. Hutton, Lucien Lévy-Bruhl, Bronisław Malinowski, R. R. Marett, John Roscoe, and Sir Grafton Elliot Smith. There are only three letters from Sir Walter Baldwin Spencer, but 16 from his daughter Dorothy Young. Classical scholars in the collection include A. B. Cook, F. M. Cornford, A. E. Housman, J. P. Postgate, Sir William Ridgeway, and H. J. Rose. Principal editors and publishers in the collection include James Loeb, George Macmillan, T. E. Page, and W. H. D. Rouse. Other principal correspondents are David Lindsay, the Earl of Crawford and Balcarres; and Sir Joseph Thomson and his wife Rose Thomson. Many of Lilly's correspondents write to her in her native French. Her principal correspondents include François Ceccaldi (many of them written from his native Corsica), Noémi Psichari, the daughter of Ernest Renan; translator Pierre Sayn, and James’ friend W. J. Lewis.

Writings by Sir James Frazer comprise 21 boxes, with additional writings to be found in the notebooks in FRAZ/35. The work represented by the most amount of material in the collection is Frazer’s edition of Ovid’s 'Fasti', published by Macmillan in 1929, and by Loeb in 1931. The papers do not include notes for the preparation of the original 'Golden Bough' nor do they include the manuscript. There are, however, three notebooks containing notes relating to the second and third editions (FRAZ/35/9-11). Frazer’s own copies of the different editions of 'The Golden Bough' are housed separately in the printed books Adversaria collection and carry numerous annotations.

Printed material consists of press cuttings, pamphlets, offprints, and small books. An album of cuttings of reviews of the first edition of 'The Golden Bough' may be found at FRAZ/22/4. Ten small books and pamphlets have also been catalogued into the Trinity Library printed materials catalogue but remain housed with the papers. The music manuscripts are housed in FRAZ/8 and consist of scores composed by Stuart Young setting Sir James’ poems to music. Margaret Rose’s operetta libretto based on Lady Frazer’s story 'The Singing Wood' was similarly set to music (the libretto at FRAZ/32/266 and the score FRAZ/8/1/5).

The travel diaries and many of the notebooks were previously housed on Trinity College Library shelves with printed books and have been reunited with the collection, along with 13 volumes and a small number of loose notes returned from the Haddon Library of Archaeology and Anthropology. The photographs in the collection include 16 photographic prints of sites in Greece possibly taken by Sidney George Owen, two of them dated June 1906 (FRAZ/21/67-82).

Frazer, Sir James George (1854-1941), knight, social anthropologist and classical scholar