Analysing the English Collections at the Pitt Rivers Museum

Edward Clodd

Alison Petch,
Researcher 'The Other Within' project

Edward Clodd (1840-1930) was born in Margate, Kent and moved to Suffolk as a boy. He moved to London in 1854 when he obtained work as a clerk. Later he became a banker in the London Joint Stocks Bank. From his early days in London he attended the Birkbeck Institute and used the free libraries very frequently. He later became known as the 'literary banker'. [Dorson, 1968: 249]

In 1873 he published his first book, The Childhood of the World, described by the Dictionary of National Biography as 'a primer on evolutionary anthropology'. Two years later he published 'Childhood of Religions', according to the DNB this marked 'his foray into folklore'. He was one of Dorson's 'Great Team' of folklorists. In 1877 he joined the Century Club,[1] where he met E.B. Tylor, in the following year he joined the Foik-lore Society on its foundation. He was later appointed President of the Society in 1895. In the same year he addressed the Anthropological Section of the British Association for the Advancement of Science meeting at Ipswich on 'General conclusions in regard to Folk-lore'. [Dorson, 1968: 250] He believed that anthropology and folklore

were twin sciences, dividing respectively the studies of the psychical and physical sides of man:
... comparative anatomy has settled our place in the long succession of life; anthropology, in its branches of ethnology and prehistoric archaeology, has defined the differences between the races of mankind ... What remains of abiding practical importance lies chiefly within the province of folklore to deal with. For you can exclude it from no department where the thought of man comes into play. [Dorson, 1968: 250-1, quoting Clodd's address]

Clodd believed that folklore's mission was to 'explain "the presence and persistence of barbaric elements in customs, rituals, and beliefs forming integral parts of the theologies of civilised peoples."' [Dorson, 1968: 251]

According to the DNB from '1878 he used his weekend home in Aldeburgh, Strafford House, for annual Whitsuntide gatherings of eminent intellectuals'. The DNB entry for him remarks that friendship was what he became known for, he is known to have been friends with Tylor, James Frazer, Andrew Lang, Laurence Gomme and E. Ray Lankester among many others. He seems to have been very 'clubbable', belonging not only to the Century Club, and the Folklore Society but also the Savile Club, the Johnson, and the Omar Khayyam.

In Haddon's obituary of Clodd in Folklore, he is described as

one of the founders of The Folk-Lore Society and for a long time its Treasurer and Trustee, and its President in the years 1895 and 1896. [Haddon, 1929: 183]

Clodd was a convinced rationalist, and was strongly opposed to loose sentimental imaginings about matters that are beyond the realm of proof; hence he occasionally wrote to the papers to expostulate against the claims of spiritualists and of occultism. [Haddon, 1929: 184]

... his wide range of friendships with literary and scientific men, travellers, and artists is the best clue to his personality, for all admired his honesty of thought, love of knowledge, and affectionate disposition. He possessed a remarkably good memory, and had a large fund of anecdote, which not only made his conversation interesting but stimulated in other serious talk and jest for jest. Those who had the privilege of being a guest at his famous gatherings at Aldeburgh will never forget the shrewd kindly skipper of the Lotus, who was a perfect host at home and afloat. [Haddon, 1929: 185]

Dorson reported that when Clodd died 'his body was cremated and the ashes scattered over the sea, according to his wish'.

Objects donated by Edward Clodd to the Pitt Rivers Museum

Despite his interest in folklore, Clodd did not donate any folkloric items to the Museum. Instead he facilitated donations of North American stone tools and weapons and pottery sherds from Mr Jonathan Hawkins of Haigler, South Carolina and Dr Walton Haydon from Bay City, Oregon. In each case Clodd's address is given as the 'Savile Club'. The Museum has a letter from 'John' Hawkins (presumably the same person) to Edward Burnett Tylor (the Keeper of the University Museum, with some administrative responsiblity for the Pitt Rivers Collection in its early days):

In accordance with the promise made some time ago to Mr. Edward Clodd, I take pleasure in sending to you today a small box of fragments of Indian pottery. The box is sent by express, prepaid. The specimens are numbered ... I hope you will find these specimens of some interest, although they furnish only negative evidence as to the moulding of pottery on vessels of bark or other material... The specimens I send you are mostly from Newberry County, South Carolina. Nos. 19, 20, and 21, are from Orangeburg County, S.C.

The museum also has a letter between Haydon and Clodd. Dr Walton Haydon worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company from 1877 to 1883, when he returned to England. He was stationed at Moose Factory (a regional fur trade administrative centre and trading post) on Hudson’s Bay as a surgeon and clerk. His Hudson’s Bay Company record describes him as a keen amateur collector who sent natural history specimens to Charles Darwin, Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, and the Smithsonian Museum.


[1] The Century Club was first convened in London in 1865. According to the DNB it was essentially a political, not a social, club. It was an advanced Liberal club with many members from the intellectual elite. The DNB says that most members 'were gentlemen of some means with a strong commitment to devoting their talents to the cause of humanity'. It was essentially a serious, talking club.

Further Reading



Dorson, Richard 1968 The British Folklorists Chicago: University of Chicago Press [pp.248-257]

Haddon, A.C. 1929. [sic] 'In Memoriam: Edward Clodd' Folklore Vol. 40, No. 2 (Jun. 30, 1929), pp. 183-189 [this also gives a bibliography for Clodd]