Edward Clodd

Edward Clodd (1 July 1840 – 16 March 1930) was an English banker, writer and anthropologist.[1] He had a great variety of literary and scientific friends, who periodically met at Whitsunday (a springtime holiday) gatherings at his home at Aldeburgh in Suffolk.

Edward Clodd
Edward Clodd 1923.png
Born(1840-07-01)1 July 1840
Margate, Kent, England
Died16 March 1930(1930-03-16) (aged 89)
OccupationAnthropologist, writer


Although born in Margate, where his father was captain of a trading brig, the family moved soon afterward to Aldeburgh, his father's ancestors deriving from Parham and Framlingham in Suffolk. Born to a Baptist family, his parents wished him to become a minister, but he instead began a career in accountancy and banking, relocating to London in 1855. He was the only surviving child of seven.[2] Edward first worked unpaid for six months at an accountant's office in Cornhill in London when he was 14 years of age.[2] He worked for the London Joint Stock Bank from 1872 to 1915, and had residences both in London and Suffolk. He married his first wife Eliza Garman, a doctor's daughter in 1862.[2] He had eight children with Eliza, though two died when they were young.[2] In his old age, he married his secretary, Phyllis Maud Rope (born 1887), who survived him by 27 years.

Clodd was an early devotee of the work of Charles Darwin and had personal acquaintance with Thomas Huxley and Herbert Spencer. He wrote biographies of all three men, and worked to popularise evolution with books like The Childhood of the World and The Story of Creation: A Plain Account of Evolution.

Clodd was an agnostic and wrote that the Genesis creation narrative of the Bible is similar to other religious myths and should not be read as a literal account. He wrote many popular books on evolutionary science.[3] He wrote a biography of Thomas Henry Huxley and was a lecturer and populariser of anthropology and evolution.[4]

He was also a keen folklorist, joining the Folklore Society from 1878, and later becoming its president.[5] He was a Suffolk Secretary of the Prehistoric Society of East Anglia from 1914 to 1916. He was a prominent member and officer of the Omar Khayyam Club or 'O.K. Club', and organised the planting of the rose from Omar Khayyam's tomb on to the grave of Edward Fitzgerald at Boulge, Suffolk, at the Centenary gathering.

Clodd had a talent for friendship, and liked to entertain his friends at literary gatherings in Aldeburgh at his seafront home there, Strafford House, during Whitsuntides. Prominent among his literary friends and correspondents were Grant Allen, George Meredith, Thomas Hardy, George Gissing, Edward Fitzgerald, Andrew Lang, Cotter Morison, Samuel Butler, Mary Kingsley and Mrs Lynn Linton; he also knew Sir Henry Thompson, Sir William Huggins, Sir Laurence Gomme, Sir John Rhys, Paul Du Chaillu, Edward Whymper, Alfred Comyn Lyall, York Powell, William Holman Hunt, Sir E. Ray Lankester, H.G. Wells and many others as acquaintances. His hospitality and friendship was an important part of the development of their social relations. George Gissing's close friendship with Clodd began when he accepted an invitation to a Whitsuntide gathering in Aldeburgh in 1895.[6]


Clodd was Chairman of the Rationalist Press Association from 1906 to 1913.[7]

He was skeptical about claims of the paranormal and psychical research, which he wrote were the result of superstition and the outcome of ignorance.[8] He criticised the spiritualist writings of Oliver Lodge as non-scientific.[9] His book Question: A Brief History and Examination of Modern Spiritualism (1917) exposed fraudulent mediumship and the irrational belief in spiritualism and Theosophy.[10]


The following list is incomplete. Biographies of Darwin, Wallace, Bates and Spencer exist.

  • 1872: The Childhood of the World
  • 1875: The Birth and Growth of Myth and its Survival in Folk-Lore, Legend, and Dogma. Thomas Scott, London
  • 1880: Jesus of Nazareth. Kegan Paul, London.
  • 1882: Nature Studies. (with Grant Allen, Andrew Wilson, Thomas Foster and Richard Proctor) Wyman, London.
  • 1888: The Story of Creation: A Plain Account of Evolution
  • 1891: Myths and Dreams. Chatto & Windus, London.
  • 1893: The Story of Human Origins (with S. Laing). Chapman & Hall, London.
  • 1895: A Primer of Evolution Longmans, Green, New York.
  • 1895: The Story of "Primitive" Man. Newnes, London; Appleton, New York.
  • 1896: The Childhood of Religions. Kegan Paul, London.
  • 1897: Pioneers of Evolution from Thales to Huxley. Grant Richards, London.
  • 1898: Tom Tit Tot: An essay on savage philosophy in folk-tale.
  • 1900: The story of the Alphabet. Newnes, London.
  • 1900: Grant Allen: A Memoir.
  • 1902: Thomas Henry Huxley. Blackwood & Sons, Edinburgh & London.
  • 1905: Animism: the seed of religion. Constable, London.
  • 1916: Memories. Chapman & Hall, London.
  • 1917: The Question: If a Man Die, Shall He Live Again?. E. J. Clode, New York.
  • 1920: Magic in Names & Other Things. Chapman & Hall, London.
  • 1922: Occultism. The Hibbert Journal.
  • 1922: Occultism: Two Lectures. Watts & Co, London.
  • 1923: The Ultimate Guide to Brighton, England. McStewart & Earnshaw, London.



  1. ^ Alfred Cort Haddon (30 June 1930). "In Memoriam: Edward Clodd". Folklore. 40 (2): 183–189. doi:10.1080/0015587x.1929.9716819. JSTOR 1255836.
  2. ^ a b c d Joseph McCabe, Edward Clodd: A memoir, John Lane The Bodley Head, 1932, p.1.
  3. ^ Bernard Lightman. (1997). Victorian Science in Context. University of Chicago Press. pp. 222–223. ISBN 978-0226481128
  4. ^ Francis O'Gorman. (2010). The Cambridge Companion to Victorian Culture. Cambridge University Press. p. 28. ISBN 978-0521715065
  5. ^ Rosemary Hill. (2008). Stonehenge. Harvard University Press. p. 134. ISBN 978-0674031326
  6. ^ Coustillas, Pierre ed. London and the Life of Literature in Late Victorian England: the Diary of George Gissing, Novelist. Brighton: Harvester Press, 1978, p.371.
  7. ^ Whyte, Adam Gowans (1949). The Story of the R.P.A. 1899–1949. London: Watts & Co. p. 58
  8. ^ Luckhurst, Roger. (2002). The Invention of Telepathy, 1870–1901. Oxford University Press. p. 163. ISBN 978-0199249626
  9. ^ Cooke, Bill. (2004). The Gathering of Infidels: A Hundred Years of the Rationalist Press Association. Prometheus Books. p. 80 ISBN 978-1591021964
  10. ^ Edward Clodd Clouts the Spiritualists. The Sun. Sunday, March 10, 1918.

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