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The Secret Commonwealth: Of Elves, Fauns, and Fairies (New York Review Books) Hardcover – 30 Nov 2006


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics (30 Nov 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590171772
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590171776
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 1.7 x 18.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 381,678 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

"A slim quarto-size book (like a paperback novel in boards) and less than a hundred pages of text, this New York Review of Books edition is the first in more than a century and contains a well-written introduction and end notes by Marina Warner. Also included is Kirk's own glossary of "difficult words," in which we learn the 17th-century meanings of adscititious, defaecat, lychnobious and noctambulo." --"The Philadelphia Inquirer" "Kirk is a magnificent dish to set before any student of either folk-lore or folk-psychology"--"The Times Literary Supplement " "The importance of Robert Kirk's manuscript for a deeper understanding of late seventeenth-century Scottish beliefs about fairies and second sight is hard to exaggerate. There is simply no other source with such fulsome detail about the Guid Neighbours..."-"Folklore " "Kirk's 'Secret Commonwealth' is one of those books which are well known but hard to come by...His little treatise is a most careful and thorough piece of work, made the more so by the spirit in which it was written...The result is one of the completest descriptions extant of that special phase of popular belief."-"The Times Literary Supplement" "[F]illed with delightful maunderings on seers and second-sighters and 'glimpses of the moon'...""-The Critic" "[A] cult classic."-"The Glasgow Herald"

About the Author

Robert Kirk (1644–1692) was the seventh son of James Kirk, Minister of Aberfoyle. He studied at Edinburgh and St. Andrews, became Minister of Balquhidder in 1644, and succeeded his father at Aberfoyle in 1685. Kirk published the first Gaelic translation of the Psalms and oversaw the preparation of the first romanized version of the Gaelic Bible. The Secret Commonwealth was left in manuscript at the time of his death.

Marina Warner is a writer of fiction, criticism, and history. Her award-winning studies of mythology and fairy tales include Alone of All Her Sex: The Myth and the Cult of the Virgin Mary, From the Beast to the Blonde, and No Go the Bogeyman. In 2006 she published Phantasmagoria: Spirit Visions, Metaphors, and Media, a study of ghosts, phantasms, and technology. Her most recent work of fiction is the novel The Leto Bundle. A Fellow of the British Academy, she is also Professor of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies at the University of Essex.

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48 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Sophie Masson VINE VOICE on 6 Jan 2007
Format: Hardcover
It's great to see a reissue of the greatest fairy book of them all, Robert Kirk's 1691 tome, The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies. This amazing book--with its descriptions of second sight, of doublemen or co-walkers, and of fairy lives, customs and even past-times--has an amazing backstory attached to it too. Kirk, seventh son of a seventh son(in the Highlands, almost a guarantee of psychic powers) was a bilingual(English and Gaelic) Episcopalian pastor, working at Aberfoyle in the Trossachs area of the Highlands. The material he collected in this book comes direct from his Highland parishioners but he also compiled it for the delectation of his enlightened and curious friends in England, so the book is an eccentric mixture of the very folkoric and the proto-scientific. (Kirk also had a metaphysical reason for compiling the book--and an interesting one, given the attitude of many religious fundamentalists today to such beliefs. He felt that if people discounted or ridiculed such beliefs then it wouldn't be long before they started discounting all supernatural things, including a belief in God Himself.) Anyway, not long after the publication of the book, Kirk was found stone dead one morning at the foot of the Dun Sidh (doonshee, or fairy hill) at Aberfoyle. Though his red sandstone gravestone is in the Aberfoyle cemetery(with only a mention of his work in translating the Bible into Gaelic, and not his fairy work), it's said that his body is not in that grave but that he was spirited body and soul into the great tall Scots pine that sits at the top of the Dun Sidh, surrounded by an army of little oaks. That was because the fairies were reputedly so angry with him for divulging their secrets!Read more ›
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Melmoth on 21 Jan 2008
Format: Hardcover
... written in the late 17th Century by a Scottish Episcopalian Minister with an apparently sincere belief in the world of the supernatural. At a time when witches were still being condemned, Robert Kirk was collecting the stories of his parishioners and fashioning them into an account of a parallel world of sprites, wraiths, fauns, elves and spirits. The book also includes an excellent introduction by Marina Warner.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Marysia Kay on 30 Jan 2010
Format: Paperback
I've been curious about this book for a while and it was as charming as I had hoped. The Rev Robert Kirk must have been some man. It's just a shame that the 19th century introduction by Andrew Lang (which takes up a full 50% of this short book) is tediously repetitive and far more interested in psychic phenomenon than in fairy belief. This is a curio, probably only worth buying for those with some connection to the topic either through their heritage or their belief system. It will teach you only a little, but is an interesting read (assuming you skip the introduction).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Rohan White on 18 April 2012
Format: Paperback
This Extraordinary book is ruined by its terrible introduction and commentary by Andrew Lang which seems completely off the mark. For a well researched and thoroughly experiential commentary which delves deeply into the material presented in the text then look no further than R.J Stewart's excellent edition available on amazon:Robert Kirk: Walker Between the Worlds
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