[Sir James George Frazer, Scottish anthropologist and folklorist, author of 'The Golden Bough'.] Autograph Letter Signed ('J. G. Frazer') discussing 'the marriage rules of savages' and their 'aversion to inbreeding'.

Sir J. G. Frazer [Sir James George Frazer] (1854-1941), Scottish anthropologist and folklorist, author of 'The Golden Bough'
Publication details: 
No. 1 Bride Court, Temple, E.C. [London] 7 May 1918.
SKU: 21430

3pp, landscape 16mo. Bifolium. In good condition, lightly aged, with thin strip from stub of mount still adhering. The male recipient is not named. Thirty-five lines of closely and neatly written text. The letter begins: 'The difficulty in supposing that the marriage rules of savages can have arisen “in the aversion to in-breeding (evolving into superstitious horror) as injurious to the race” is simply the difficulty of supposing that savage man, in a state of ignorance far below that of the lowest existing savages, can have perceived the injurious effects of inbreeding, since these are so difficult to perceive that even modern experts, who have studied the facts with all the resources of science, are not agreed as to the evil effect of the practice, though on the whole the preponderance of scientific seems [sic] to condemn inbreeding as, in the long run, injurious.' The 'difficulty' seems 'insuperable' to Frazer, and he could 'almost as soon suppose that a savage had discovered the law of gravitation as that he had discovered the law (if it is a law, for it is still disputed) of the ill effects of inbreeding.' Having paid 'a good deal of attention to the working of the savage mind, which cannot be understood a priori by a comparison with the working of the civilized mind', Frazer has reached his conclusion, but 'others may judge the probabilities differently'. Frazer gives a reference to the part of his 'Totemism and Exogamy' in which he has given his views, with relation to Westermark's derivation of exogamy. From the distinguished autograph collection of Richard Hunter, son of Ida Macalpine, whose collection of 7000 books relating to psychiatry is in Cambridge University Library. Macalpine and Hunter had a particular interest in the illness of King George III, and their book 'George III and the Mad Business' (1969) suggested the diagnosis of porphyria popularised by Alan Bennett in his play 'The Madness of George III'.