D. Sources of Influence and Transmission

4. Mitford, Algernon Bertram. Works 1871~92.

  Only Lafcadio Hearn’s accounts of Japanese folklore have been more widely read than those in Mitford’s classic collection, Tales of Old Japan, which has been in print since 1871. Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford, 1st Baron Redesdale, ca. 1895 ().  


Only Hearn’s accounts of Japanese folklore and social customs (see 9a) have been more widely read than those in Mitford’s classic collection, Tales of Old Japan (2 vols., London: Macmillan, 1871), which has remained in print since it was published. OCLC lists thirteen editions between 1871 and 1920, several others both before and after the Second World War, and the Tuttle paperback remains a staple in the Japan sections of bookstores around the world. The work includes the first published account in English of a nô performance, and probably Mitford and his companion, the Duke of Edinburgh, were the first from Europe to have been honoured with an invitation, in 1868, even if it was arranged ‘with difficulty’ and Mitford, like Aston a few years later (see 13), was not impressed with what he saw. The eyewitness account of a seppuku (ritual suicide) is likewise the first in English, and appears, unacknowledged, in full detail if not full emotive power, in Lowell’s GUNS AS KEYS (see BI7a11). A 1908 edition of Tales was in Yeats’s library (see BL228), and the work is acknowledged both by Binyon (BC14) and Blunden (BD149). Hall (A16), Storry (A53), Wilson and Allen (A64), and Ashmead (CC6) discuss its importance in shaping Anglo-American and Irish attitudes toward Japan in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Mitford’s later retelling of the Chûshingura, The Tale of Forty Seven Ronins (Ap) (Tokyo: Jiujiya, 1892), improves upon Dickins (see 3) and is the more likely source for Masefield’s version (CA5). Hugh Cortazzi’s Mitford’s Japan: The Memoirs and Recollections, 1866-1906 (London: Athlone, 1985) offers biographical notes and collects much of Mitford’s related writing. See also CC7, 10, D12b.











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