It is generally said that simple people, rustics, children, poor men, savages are very credulous. It is generally said that men in high and intense centers of civilization, like London and Paris, are sceptical and enquiring. I do not believe it. I believe there is far less credulity, far less blank, bald, half-witted gullibility and readiness to believe, in a Sussex village than there is in a third-class carriage on the Underground. I doubt whether people even swallowed giants and spectres as they swallow the views and fancies of modern journalism. For remember that there are at least two essential particulars about ancient popular credulity which made it far less seriously a danger. First, in all cases it was a thing of slower growth. People did not rush for the morning papers to tell them whether there was anything new in the way of headless cavaliers. People did not talk about one banshee on Monday and another and even more remarkable banshee on Tuesday. Special editions did not come out at seven o'clock to tell people that Titania was the Queen of the Fairies. Their superstitions were slower, and, therefore, their superstitions were fewer. Our superstitions are quicker, and, therefore, our superstitions are more numerous. Secondly, in a large number of cases, at any rate, the tales which were believed, or half-believed, by simpler types of civilization were tales about things that did not very much matter. They believed, for instance, or half-believed, that there were in Southern Africa a race of men with dogs' heads. But they never exhibited so wild a simplicity as to believe that there were in Southern Africa a race of Englishmen treated as helots, and to rush across the sea to their rescue. It may or may not be a pleasant experience to have a dog's head; but, at least , no crusade was organized in England to deprive the dog-headed men of those burdens or adornments. They were not so credulous as all that. The men of the twentieth century wholly believed a wild tale about a country full of top hats and telegraphs like their own.
The truth is that what has really vanished from the world is not the ancient credulity; it is something that is more ancient than any credulity; it is the ancient agnosticism. The profound, healthy, living, real scepticism of sensible men in tribes and villages, the righteous and natural resistance offered by the mind to unsupported or unfamiliar things, this has never been so dead, as it is among the clerks on the underground railway.
-May 28, 1904, Daily News