Halliwell-Phillipps, James Orchard


Halliwell-Phillipps, James Orchard
(1820-89)
   A prolific editor of literary-antiquarian works, and an avid dealer in rare books and manuscripts, although for most of his life he was so short of money that he was forced to sell off his collection on a number of occasions, and for a while in 1843-4 he was under suspicion for handling manuscripts stolen from Cambridge University Library. Originally plain 'Halliwell', he added the -Phillipps in 1872. Many of his publications were issued in short print-run pamphlets and are now extremely hard to locate. From the 1840s onwards, he increasingly concentrated on Shakespeare scholarship, and he broke new ground in the meticulous use of local archives and unpublished material, for which he is justly renowned to this day.
   Halliwell did much service to the fledgling folklore scholarship in his editing of early printed materials, chapbooks, and so on, but he also compiled several books which are more directly relevant and still used as sources. The first was The Nursery Rhymes of England, Collected Principally from Oral Tradition which he edited for the Percy Society in 1842. This did not contain much in the way of scholarly apparatus, being mainly a collection of texts, but it had an immediate popular sale, and went through several editions in a very short time. For modern-day scholars, it marks the start of the serious study of *children's folklore and *nursery rhymes. His second book of this type, Popular Rhymes and Nursery Tales (1849) extended the coverage further into narrative, and included more commentary. Between them, these volumes covered, as well as nursery rhymes, proverbs, riddles, counting-out rhymes, games, tongue-twisters, songs, and tales such as Jack and the Giants, The Story of Mr. Fox, and Chicken-Licken. Halliwell was well placed to provide excellent historical analogues for many of the items which he included, and this wide reading also shows in another essential folklore work, sandwiched between his nursery rhyme books, the Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Words, Obsolete Phrases, Proverbs, and Ancient Customs from the Fourteenth Century (1846), which again is still a very useful reference tool for the modern researcher. An example of how the skills of the literary antiquarian were brought into the service of folklore is his Illustrations of the Fairy Mythology of A Midsummer Night's Dream, published by the Shakespeare Society in 1845.
   DNB; Dorson, 1968: 66-74.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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