Andrew Lang Quotes
“In the old stories, despite the impossibility of the incidents, the interest is always real and human. The princes and princesses fall in love and marry--nothing could be more human than that. Their lives and loves are crossed by human sorrows...The hero and heroine are persecuted or separated by cruel stepmothers or enchanters; they have wanderings and sorrows to suffer; they have adventures to achieve and difficulties to overcome; they must display courage, loyalty and address, courtesy, gentleness and gratitude. Thus they are living in a real human world, though it wears a mythical face, though there are giants and lions in the way. The old fairy tales which a silly sort of people disparage as too wicked and ferocious for the nursery, are really 'full of matter,' and unobtrusively teach the true lessons of our wayfaring in a world of perplexities and obstructions.”
“To the enormous majority of persons who risk themselves in literature, not even the smallest measure of success can fall. They had better take to some other profession as quickly as may be, they are only making a sure thing of disappointment, only crowding the narrow gates of fortune and fame. Yet there are others to whom success, though easily within their reach, does not seem a thing to be grasped at. Of two such, the pathetic story may be read, in the Memoir of A Scotch Probationer, Mr. Thomas Davidson, who died young, an unplaced Minister of the United Presbyterian Church, in 1869. He died young, unaccepted by the world, unheard of, uncomplaining, soon after writing his latest song on the first grey hairs of the lady whom he loved. And she, Miss Alison Dunlop, died also, a year ago, leaving a little work newly published, Anent Old Edinburgh, in which is briefly told the story of her life. There can hardly be a true tale more brave and honourable, for those two were eminently qualified to shine, with a clear and modest radiance, in letters. Both had a touch of poetry, Mr. Davidson left a few genuine poems, both had humour, knowledge, patience, industry, and literary conscientiousness. No success came to them, they did not even seek it, though it was easily within the reach of their powers. Yet none can call them failures, leaving, as they did, the fragrance of honourable and uncomplaining lives, and such brief records of these as to delight, and console and encourage us all. They bequeath to us the spectacle of a real triumph far beyond the petty gains of money or of applause, the spectacle of lives made happy by literature, unvexed by notoriety, unfretted by envy. What we call success could never have yielded them so much, for the ways of authorship are dusty and stony, and the stones are only too handy for throwing at the few that, deservedly or undeservedly, make a name, and therewith about one-tenth of the wealth which is ungrudged to physicians, or barristers, or stock-brokers, or dentists, or electricians. If literature and occupation with letters were not its own reward, truly they who seem to succeed might envy those who fail. It is not wealth that they win, as fortunate men in other professions count wealth; it is not rank nor fashion that come to their call nor come to call on them. Their success is to be let dwell with their own fancies, or with the imaginations of others far greater than themselves; their success is this living in fantasy, a little remote from the hubbub and the contests of the world. At the best they will be vexed by curious eyes and idle tongues, at the best they will die not rich in this world’s goods, yet not unconsoled by the friendships which they win among men and women whose faces they will never see. They may well be content, and thrice content, with their lot, yet it is not a lot which should provoke envy, nor be coveted by ambition.”
“And he married the Echo one fortunate morn,
And Woman, their beautiful daughter, was born!
The daughter of Sunshine and Echo she came
With a voice like a song, with a face like a flame;
With a face like a flame, and a voice like a song,
And happy was Man, but it was not for long!
For weather's a painfully changeable thing,
Not always the child of the Echo would sing;
And the face of the Sun may be hidden with mist,
And his child can be terribly cross if she list.
And unfortunate man had to learn with surprise
That a frown's not peculiar to masculine eyes;
That the sweetest of voices can scold and sneer,
And cannot be answered - like men - with a spear”
“But the three hundred and sixty-five authors who try to write new fairy tales are very tiresome. They always begin with a little boy or girl who goes out and meets the fairies of polyanthuses and gardenias and apple blossoms: 'Flowers and fruits, and other winged things.' These fairies try to be funny, and fail; or they try to preach, and succeed.”
- Date of birth: March 31, 1844
- Died: July 20, 1912
- Born: in Selkirk, The Borders, Scotland.
- Description: Andrew Gabriel Lang was a prolific Scots man of letters. He was a poet, novelist, and literary critic, and a contributor to anthropology. He now is best known as a collector of folk and fairy tales.
The Young Scholar and Journalist
Andrew Gabriel Lang grew up in Selkirk in the Scottish Borders, the son of the town clerk and the eldest of eight children. The wild and beautiful landscape of his childhood had a great effect on the young Lang and inspired in him not only a life-long love of the outdoors but a fascination with local folklore and history. The Borders is an area rich in history and he grew up surrounded by tales of Bonnie Prince Charlie and Robert the Bruce. Amongst his many later literary achievements was his Short History of Scotland.
A gifted student and avid reader, Lang went to the prestigious St Andrews University (now holding a lecture series in his honour every few years) and then to Balliol College, Oxford. He would later write about the city in Oxford: Brief Historical and Descriptive Notes, published in 1880.
Moving to London at the age of 31, already a published poet, he started working as a journalist. His dry sense of humour, writing style and huge array of interests made him a popular editor and columnist and he was soon writing for The Daily Post, Time magazine and Fortnightly Review. It was whilst working in London that he met and married his wife Leonore Blanche Alleyne.
The Fairy Books
Amongst the most famous of Andrew Lang books are The Rainbow Fairy Books, growing from Lang's interest in myths and folklore which continued to grow as he and Leonore travelled through France and Italy hearing local legends. In the late 19th century, interest in the native fairy tales of Britain had declined and there were very few books recounting them for young readers. In fact fairy tales and magical stories in general were being attacked by some educationalists as being harmful to children. It was to challenge this notion that Lang first began collecting fairy stories for the first of his coloured fairy books, The Blue Fairy Book.
Whilst other folklorists collected stories directly from source, Lang set about gathering those stories which had already been recorded. This gave him time to collect a much greater breadth of fairy tales from all over the world, most from well-known writers such as the Brothers Grimm, Madame d'Aulnoy and others from less well known sources. Whilst Lang also worked as the editor for his work and is often credited as its sole creator, the support of his wife, who transcribed and organised the translation of the text, was essential to the work's success.
The Blue Fairy Book was published in 1889 to wide acclaim. The beautiful illustrations and magical tales captivated the minds of children and adults alike. The success of the first book allowed Lang and Leonore to carry on their research and in 1890 they published The Red Fairy Book, which drew on even more sources and had a much larger print run. Between 1889 and 1910 they published twelve collections of fairy tales, each with a different coloured binding, with a total of 437 stories collected, edited and translated. The books are credited with reviving interest in folklore, but more importantly for Lang, they revolutionised the Victorian view of fairy tales - inspiring generations of parents to begin reading them to children once more.
At the same time as he was producing the Fairy Books, Lang continued to write a wide assortment of novels, literary criticism, articles and poetry. However, as literary critic Anita Silvey noted, 'The irony of Lang's life and work is that although he wrote for a profession... he is best recognised for the works he did not write.' - the Rainbow Fairy Books.
The last Andrew Lang book, Highways and Byways of the Border remained unfinished after his death on 20th July 1912;