A Brief Introduction to the Works of Massey Presented Here
This website is the result of a project of the last ten to fifteen years of my life. It sprung out of my fascination with the works of the much under-rated writer Gerald Massey and his sources. What began as a simple interest soon turned into an obsession which, to this day, still persists. To explain my interest would be a long and unnecessary story, and probably one not worth telling, suffice to say that I am an ardent admirer of his work and feel that it has been somewhat neglected. Now is the right time to re-appraise it, which can only be done by making his work more easily available. That is essentially how this site came about.
My original intention at the outset of this project was to simply unearth all the wild and woolly references appearing in Massey's three monumental works. I say 'wild and woolly' for Massey's works are far from scholarly and bespeak a lackadaisical attitude towards his sources which, by today's standards, would prove totally unacceptable. That some of his contemporaries did bother to source properly, like Spencer, Lubbock, Tylor (see the latter's Researches, for an example of good scholarship) only proves how inadequate he was in the task. Massey, far from being an academically trained scholar, I believe skipped on providing full references and notes through sheer carelessness, although admittedly he did try. Unfortunately, this is no excuse for not providing a proper source, especially when in hindsight he considered his books would still be read long after his demise. Therefore, the onus should have been on himself to round out his scholarly research by seeing to it that all source material was treated objectively and with impunity, knowing that some interested party, like myself for example, would take time to actually go to the original source and check for himself if the quotations were correct or not. Most of the time they are. However, quite often they are wrong, or certain liberties have been taken with the original source.
I therefore felt it incumbent upon myself to look a little deeper into Massey's references, not because I am particularly pernickety, but I do loathe imprecision and carelessness, and feel genuinely that his inability to source all his references properly has somewhat let him down as a writer of esteem. From my researches I found that most of the references could yield the light of day, if one set oneself in the period Massey was writing, and concentrate solely on the books he had to hand where their full titles and author's names were known. Reading such material proved very enlightening indeed as I was able to uncover all sorts of pieces of information, as well as making a startling discovery which I elaborate on elsewhere (see Essay 1). I also decided at this point that what was needed for a modern reader approaching these works by Massey for the first time was a companion volume which could lie open at the corresponding page being read in one of his works, so that should the reader be wondering who the 'Jones', 'Tylor' or 'Davies' Massey was referring to, all he needed to do was to turn to the companion volume and the information would be there before him. It was originally intended as a study aid to Massey's works as I felt this was lacking in our libraries and that it would be of great benefit to a reader confused by all these quotations and authors' names he may never have heard of before. Needless to say, this task I set myself took far longer than initially anticipated, and this was long before the internet had become as well established as it is today, and way before I had personal access to it.
To make matters worse, my own ignorance of much of the subject-matter, as well as the hundreds of names, did not help, nor the multitude of languages half of the books were written in. I did not have access to a vast majority of them, they being much obscure and extremely hard to find now. I did not have access to the British Library which would have been of immense help to my researches, and instead had to rely on the local library, shopping trips to second-hand bookshops and book catalogues. The latter was one truly great benefit as the local library furnished me with open access to the CD-Rom version of all the books held at the British Library, a catalogue containing millions of titles. With diligent research I eventually managed to reduce the amount of unknown references to about a quarter, enough I considered to be worthy of three years solid labour and enough to persuade a respectable publisher to warrant its publication. Unfortunately, this never materialised as the one publisher who I had found, and was now relying on to take on the whole project, went under just as the book had reached the polished manuscript stage.
It was only with the advent of the internet and its mass appeal that my interest, which had somewhat waned after such a setback, was rekindled and I could see the possibility of not only going ahead with the companion volume to Massey's works, but republishing all three online and in a completely amended format with all the correct references and even the quotations being given in full. Or at least that was the idea. Now, I know certain sites have already published Massey's works. However, as they rely on scanning the original works, with all their inherent flaws, they are not up to the high standard I had in mind, nor are they fully referenced. Therefore, from my point of view, they are redundant and useless. What is needed, I felt, was a completely revised edition of the Masseian corpus with all the flaws taken out, and all his hopeless referencing finally obliterated with full, complete references put in their place. And so this is now being done.
After ten or more years, I am glad to say that I think this present edition is the best that will ever be available until someone else can improve on it. It has taken up much of my time, a lot of effort, and many lonely nights gathering all the relevant information, so that Massey's great works can be read in their entirety and with access to the sources he himself originally had at his disposal. I will also be improving on his original publications by enhancing the quality of the illustrations, substituting colour ones where possible to replace those that I feel are inadequate. Only with the internet has this at all become possible, so what may have been a setback for me and my initial publication plan has turned into a boon, especially since a huge number of the books referenced by Massey have now become available online and have given me access to a far greater amount of material I never could have dreamed of.
Reasons for Amendments and Revisions
Having access to most of the material used by Massey has given me the opportunity to check for myself if his referencing is correct or not. In most cases it is (approximately 70%), but there are many where the wrong source is given (i.e. wrong volume no., wrong p. no., wrong ed., wrong title, wrong illustration no., etc.) and enough to warrant a full revision of all the corpus. This has necessitated a thorough tidying up process to bring all the references into line so that there are no abbreviations of titles, no author name mentioned only, no title without page number, etc. All these have been amended where possible so as to make the reader's life easier. It is no good Massey stating on one page, 'Jones says ....' and then on the next page saying Jones says something else and it turns out to be quite a different Jones altogether because no distinction has been given. That is totally unscholarly of Massey, who, with a bit of foresight, should have himself realised that his works would long outlive him by many years and that future generations would be befuddled by all the inept and incomplete referencing he uses. One particular grievance I have with Massey is the casualness with which he treats his source material, as if he can't be bothered to identify names and titles properly. He expects us to know who he is referring to.
I will give a few instances here so that my reasons for issuing a fully revised version of the Masseian corpus becomes clear.
In The Natural Genesis, vol. 1, page 385, Massey has the following: 'The fig-tree, says Magnus, was the first to introduce purity of life among men.' That is a typical example of Massey's casual treatment of his source. There is no reference given. There is no elaboration on who this Magnus is (Albertus Magnus? Magnus the Great? Who?) and consequently this rather undermines our belief in what he is saying. However, after much research I was able to discover that this Magnus is lifted from Athenaeus' The Deipnosophists or Banquet of the Learned, a work he refers to later in the same paragraph. So why did he not state that this was the source of the quote? Simple: He could not be bothered!
Again, in A Book of the Beginnings, there is another example of this sloppiness. In vol. 2, p. 501, he says: "A Chinese sage tells us that, 'Antiquity was illumined by a clear light, of which scarcely a ray has come down to us. We think the ancients were in darkness, only because we see them through the thick clouds from which we have ourselves emerged. Man is a child born at midnight; when he sees the sun rise, he thinks that yesterday never existed.'" Which Chinese sage? Who? Does he mean Confucius? Lao-Tzu? The guy behind the counter at his local takeaway? Who? Simply stating 'A Chinese sage tells us that,' is clearly inadequate, and does not lend credence to his argument; if anything, it undermines it. (Update: After much research I have been able to trace the quote, which, had Massey quoted it correctly, would have been even sooner. It can be found in Huc's Chinese Empire, vol. 2, p. 184. This begs the question: Why not simply say where he got it from? Answer: He couldn't be bothered!)
Another example: in The Natural Genesis, vol. 2, p. 75, Massey states that a writer by the name of Hazard says the Canadian Indians have a god called Messou. He gives as his reference, p. 437. Note that there is no title of the work, or who this Hazard is. How difficult or more strenuous on Massey's part could it have been to supply a title, or elaborate on this Hazard. Again, he could not be bothered. And in this instance I have been unable to identify the author and the work. (I believe, after some research, that Massey borrowed this citation from Muller's Geschichte der Amerikanischen Urreligioner, who, like Massey, fails to give anything but the page number; so perhaps I should not be too harsh on Massey. Yet again, this begs the question: Why not simply say where he got it from? Answer: He couldn't be bothered!)
Further, throughout the corpus there is constant referencing to Fuerst. Yet, in not one instance does he state the title of Fuerst's book he is using. Why? Because he assumes we know who he means. This demonstrates a complete lack of forward thinking on his part, not being able to think into the future when generations later people would still be reading his books, and by then the distinct scholar Fuerst would have been all but forgotten. This oversight has been attended to now by my providing a complete Bibliography to the corpus.
There are many authors and titles which have proven difficult to trace. For example, throughout the works Massey has the following: 'St Ambrose referred to Christ as the "Good Scarabaeus."' Nowhere does Massey bother to give the source for this quote, and he uses it on more than one occasion. Again, after much painstaking research, I was able to trace the source. How much easier my task would have been had he bothered in the first place.
Another example: in many of his pages he refers to Brand's book on curious legends and popular superstitions entitled Observations on Popular Antiquities, a work much reprinted in his time (and now cached here). Yet, like Fuerst, nowhere throughout those same pages does he give the the title, in most cases merely settling for the writer's name. This is a classic example of his assuming we know what he is referring to, and his inability to think into the future.
Not only could Massey not be bothered to quote and reference correctly, he also could not be bothered to spell the names of the authors correctly on numerous occasions. I did not actually discover this until I started accessing the British Library catalogue and found that I could not trace the names simply because the search tool is so precise that any slight deviation, even by one letter, will throw the whole search off. That's Boolean logic for you, and meant many hours wasted trying to identify the correct author. I have already given a few examples in my introduction to the Bibliography so it would be pointless repeating them here. All I can say is that most of these misspellings have now been corrected. The original orthography can be found in the Bibliographical Index along with the corrections.
Changes to the Texts
The Editor's job, in presenting original works to a fresh audience, is difficult and not unhampered by his inclination to over-tidy and over-revise the works he is editing without changing the content altogether. Therefore, my decision was to abide to strict rules of my own choosing and to minimise such textual interference as little as possible. For this reason the changes are only as follows:
This page last updated: 27/04/2014