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Ogbury Barrows
by [?]

We went to Ogbury Barrows on an archaeological expedition. And as the very name of archaeology, owing to a serious misconception incidental to human nature, is enough to deter most people from taking any further interest in our proceedings when once we got there, I may as well begin by explaining, for the benefit of those who have never been to one, the method and manner of an archaeological outing.

The first thing you have to do is to catch your secretary. The genuine secretary is born, not made; and therefore you have got to catch him, not to appoint him. Appointing a secretary is pure vanity and vexation of spirit; you must find the right man made ready to your hand; and when you have found him you will soon see that he slips into the onerous duties of the secretariat as if to the manner born, by pure instinct. The perfect secretary is an urbane old gentleman of mature years and portly bearing, a dignified representative of British archaeology, with plenty of money and plenty of leisure, possessing a heaven-born genius for organisation, and utterly unhampered by any foolish views of his own about archaeological research or any other kindred subject. The secretary who archaeologises is lost. His business is not to discourse of early English windows or of palaeolithic hatchets, of buried villas or of Plantagenet pedigrees, of Roman tile-work or of dolichocephalic skulls, but to provide abundant brakes, drags, and carriages, to take care that the owners of castles and baronial residences throw them open (with lunch provided) to the ardent student of British antiquities, to see that all the old ladies have somebody to talk to, and all the young ones somebody to flirt with, and generally to superintend the morals, happiness, and personal comfort of some fifty assorted scientific enthusiasts. The secretary who diverges from these his proper and elevated functions into trivial and puerile disquisitions upon the antiquity of man (when he ought rather to be admiring the juvenility of woman), or the precise date of the Anglo-Saxon conquest (when he should by rights be concentrating the whole force of his massive intellect upon the arduous task of arranging for dinner), proves himself at once unworthy of his high position, and should forthwith be deposed from the secretariat by public acclamation.

Having once entrapped your perfect secretary, you set him busily to work beforehand to make all the arrangements for your expected excursion, the archaeologists generally cordially recognising the important principle that he pays all the expenses he incurs out of his own pocket, and drives splendid bargains on their account with hotel-keepers, coachmen, railway companies, and others to feed, lodge, supply, and convey them at fabulously low prices throughout the whole expedition. You also understand that the secretary will call upon everybody in the neighbourhood you propose to visit, induce the rectors to throw open their churches, square the housekeepers of absentee dukes, and beard the owners of Elizabethan mansions in their own dens. These little preliminaries being amicably settled, you get together your archaeologists and set out upon your intended tour.

An archaeologist, it should be further premised, has no necessary personal connection with archaeology in any way. He (or she) is a human being, of assorted origin, age, and sex, known as an archaeologist then and there on no other ground than the possession of a ticket (price half-a-guinea) for that particular archaeological meeting. Who would not be a man (or woman) of science on such easy and unexacting terms? Most archaeologists within my own private experience, indeed, are ladies of various ages, many of them elderly, but many more young and pretty, whose views about the styles of English architecture or the exact distinction between Durotriges and Damnonians are of the vaguest and most shadowy possible description. You all drive in brakes together to the various points of interest in the surrounding country. When you arrive at a point of interest, somebody or other with a bad cold in his head reads a dull paper on its origin and nature, in which there is fortunately no subsequent examination. If you are burning to learn all about it, you put your hand up to your ear, and assume an attitude of profound attention. If you are not burning with the desire for information, you stroll off casually about the grounds and gardens with the prettiest and pleasantest among the archaeological sisters, whose acquaintance you have made on the way thither. Sometimes it rains, and then you obtain an admirable chance of offering your neighbour the protection afforded by your brand-new silk umbrella. By-and-by the dull paper gets finished, and somebody who lives in an adjoining house volunteers to provide you with luncheon. Then you adjourn to the parish church, where an old gentleman of feeble eyesight reads a long and tedious account of all the persons whose monuments are or are not to be found upon the walls of that poky little building. Nobody listens to him; but everybody carries away a vague impression that some one or other, temp. Henry the Second, married Adeliza, daughter and heiress of Sir Ralph de Thingumbob, and had issue thirteen stalwart sons and twenty-seven beautiful daughters, each founders of a noble family with a correspondingly varied pedigree. Finally, you take tea and ices upon somebody’s lawn, by special invitation, and drive home, not without much laughter, in the cool of the evening to an excellent table d’hote dinner at the marvellously cheap hotel, presided over by the ever-smiling and urbane secretary. That is what we mean nowadays by being a member of an archaeological association.