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reveal the whole truth. The books extant at the present day afford no adequate test of the proportion which the department of fiction really bore to other classes of literature. Small romances, being cheaply produced, were quickly worn out, and used as waste paper.
The numerous fragments of unknown books that have been discovered prove beyond all question that numbers have disappeared. Before 1530, when the new interest aroused in theology created a market, light literature formed the staple product of the printing-press in England.
This class of evidence might be extended. But enough has been said to prove the important place occupied by romantic fiction in the Middle Ages, and up to the middle of the 16th century. England had not yet passed through the fire of Puritanism. Romances were an important educational instrument, and a powerful religious agency. Neither the stage nor the press contested the omnipotence of romantic fiction. It had no rivals in schools or colleges. It popularised classical literature. It gave the accepted version of the past history of the country. It presented in familiar shape the discoveries, or the conjectures, of science and of travel. It held
It held up the mirror to society by reflecting the manners of the upper classes. It created their ideals of life and character. It formed the staple diversion of all who could read ; it disputed with music, songs, games, and sport, the favour of the unlearned. Then, as now, men and women read the stories of their own lives in these products of the imagination. Gower's lover · full oft' fed his ere' with redynge of romance :
Of Idoyne and Amadas,
And so hope cometh in at last.' Then, as now, romances soothed to repose the overwearied brain. It is Chaucer who speaks :
So whan I sawe I might not slepe,
Then, and, perhaps, even now, men found in romances a resource against the fate of Eutychus. Even in church, says Barclay in the 'Ship of Fools,' men told tales, and · fables and jestis of Robin Hode. Most people now agree with the blunt remark of Samuel Johnson to Frances Chamberlayne, then Mrs. Sheridan. This lady, herself the authoress of one of the best of our 18th-century novels, told the Doctor that she never allowed her little daughter, afterwards Mrs. Le Fanu, to read any books except the · Rambler' and others of an improving
If she hoped that the compliment would please Johnson, she was disappointed. He burst out with the reply, “Then you are a fool, Madam! Turn your daughter's wits loose into your library. If she is well inclined, she will only choose nutritious food ; if otherwise, all your precautions will avail nothing to prevent her following the natural bent of her inclinations.' But then, as now, parents endeavoured to shield their children from the dangerous fascinations of romance, and with no greater success than awaits similar efforts at the present day. The story of Blanchardyn was in its main features often realized in actual life. The heir to the throne of Friesland, and an only child, he was guarded by his parents as the apple of their eyes. He was taught good manners, grammar, logic, and philosophy. He delighted in pastimes and sport, and especially in hunting and hawking. But all that related to chivalry was carefully concealed from him. A piece of tapestry, on which was represented the siege of Troy, with the right grete valyaunce' of Hector, Troilus, Paris, and other chieftains first revealed to him the world beyond his home. He stole a horse, and set out in quest of adventures, winning great fame as a knight, and the hand of the · Proud Lady in Love.' His history may be paralJeled in real life in every age and in every country.
The thoughts aroused by the sight of the tomb of Virgil sent Boccaccio from the counting-house to literature. Ehlenschläger, the Danish dramatist and novelist, was intended for business; but the novels of Hoffmann, the romantic legends of Weber, the ghost-stories of Spiess, drove him first to the stage and then to fiction. Between the birth of Boccaccio in 1313 and that of hlenschläger in 1779, how many hundreds of times has history repeated itself? Then, as now, children from the cradle upwards were brought up on tales of the imagination. Sir David Lyndsay, in the Prologue to his · Dreme,' tells us how he used to lull to sleep the boy James V. of Scotland, or soothe his troubles with stories :
Off Hectour, Arthour, and gentill Iulyus,
Off Jasone and Media, all at lenth,
Off Hercules the actis honorabyll,
And of leill Luffaris storeis amiabyll ;
Off Troylus the sorrow and the Ioye,
And seigis all, of Tyir, Thebes, and Troye.' Then, as now, a course of romantic fiction was recommended to those whose temperaments were morbidly stern and sour. Does not Occleve recommend Sir John Oldcastle, the Lollard leader, to read Lancelot du Lake' and the “Siege of Troie and Thebes,' instead of exclusively studying the pages of Holy Writ?
The world went mad for romance; and then, as now, the opinion of the grave and studious has been divided on the advantages of novel-reading. The Prologue to the Cursor Mundi' relates, how men were wholly given up to such vain pursuits, how
Men yernen jestes for to here,
Was noon in his tyme him liche,' &c. And it is partly as a protest against the neglect of the Book of Books, that in the quaint production of the Middle Ages, from which this extract is taken, the author sings the history of the world in honour of the Virgin Mary, and for love of Englishmen of merry England writes in his native tongue, so that the commune folk' may better understand.
Chaucer caricatures the metrical romances which were favourites of society in the 14th century. Sir Thopas begins to tell a rhyme which he had learned in days gone by. Before he had finished more than one Fit, in which he had contrived to insert many of the phases of romantic authors, the Host bursts in with No more of this, for Goddes dignite,' and demands that he should tell in prose something
• In which ther be som merthe or doctrine.' Ascham's language has been often quoted. Yet in this con
nexion it must once more be given. In the Scholemaster,' he says,
In our forefathers tyme, whan Papistrie, as a standyrg poole, covered and overflowed all England, fewe bookes were read in our tong, savyng certaine bookes of chevalrie, as they sayd, for pastime and pleasure, which, as some say, were made in Monasteries by idle Monkes or wanton Chanons; as one for example, “ Morte Arthure"; the whole pleasure of which booke standeth in two speciall poyntes, in open mans slaughter and bold bawdrye. In which booke those be counted the noblest knightes, that do kill most men without any quarrel and commit fowlest aduoulteres by subtlest shiftes. This is good stuffe for wise men to laugh at, or honest men to take pleasure
Yet I know when Gods Bible was banished the Court, and “ Morte Arthure "received into the Prince's chamber.'
In The Boke of Nurture for Men, Seruantes, and Children,' compyled by Hugh Rhodes in 1577, the compiler says, use them' (children) to reade in the Bible and other Godly Bokes, but especyally keepe them from reading of fayned fables, vayne fantasyes, and wanton stories, and songs of love, which bring much mischiefe to youth.' Sir John Harrington, of Bathe, Knight,' in his · Apologie of Poetrie, prefixed to "Orlando Furioso' in 1591, quotes Cornelius Agrippa for the opinion that poetry was a nurse of lies, a pleaser of fooles, a breeder of dangerous errors, and an inticer to wantonness. Francis Meres (“Palladis Tamia,' 1598) frames a catalogue of romantic fiction which he condemns.
*As the “Lord de la Noue” in the sixe discourse of his politike and military discourses censureth of the bookes of“ Amadis de Gaule," which he saith are no lesse hurtful to youth, then the workes of “Machiauell” to age; so these bookes are accordingly to be censured of, whose names follow: “Beuis of Hampton,” “ Guy of Warwicke," “ Arthur of the round table,” “Huon of Burdeaux," "Oliuer of the Castle," “ the foure sonnes of Aymon,” “Gargantua,” “Gireleon," “the Honour of Chiualerie,” “ Primaleon of Greece," " Palmerin de Oliua," “ the 7 Champions," " the Myrror of Knighthood,” “Blancherdine," "Meruin," "Howleglasse," "the stories of Palladyne and Palmendos,” “the blacke Knighte," " the Maiden Knight," "the history of Cælestina," “ the Castle of Fame," “Gallian of France," 6 Ornatus and Artesia,” &c.'
Other writers shared the sentiments of Ascham and Francis Meres. Stubbes (1583) and Gosson (1597) were the precursors of Prynne in the virulence of their attacks upon the sins of Poets, Plaiers, Jesters, and such like Caterpillers, of a Commonwealth.' Stubbes especially is distinguished for the violence of his coarse abuse. He laments that Fox's · Book of Martyrs’ is neglected for "toyes, fantasies, and babbleries' which are invented and excogitat by Beelzebub, written by Lucifer, licensed by Pluto, printed by Cerberus, and set a broche to sale by the infernal furies themselves to the poysning of the whole world. In the following century Sir Thomas Overbury (1615) says, that a chambermaid “reads Greene's works over and over; but is so carried away by the “ Mirror of Knighthood," she is many times resolv'd to run out of herself and become a lady-errant.'
Powell (1631) advises the ladies of his day; “Insteade of Songes and musicke let them learn cookerie and launderie. And insteade of reading Sir Philip Sidney's “ Arcadia,” let them reade the groundes of good housewifery.' Nathaniel Ingolo inveighs against the impertinences of mankind,' and the follies which are incompatible with the Dignity of reasonable Souls.' Among them he includes the Writing and Reading of Romances,' quotes with approval the saying of Montaigne, • Quant aux Amadis et telles sortes d'escrits, ils n'ont pas eu le crédit d'arrester seulement mon enfance,' and sets himself to illustrate by a religious romance the real use to which this species of literature might be put. Steele in the Tender Husband'restates Powell's argument :
"“Good Madam,” said the Niece, who represents the new education," don't upbraid me with my Mother Bridget, and an excellent housewife." “ Yes,” retorts the Aunt, “ I say she was, and spent her time in better Learning than over you did. Not in reading of Fights and Battels of Dwarfs and Giants; but in writing out receipts for Broths, Possets, Caudles, and Surfeit Waters, as became a Good Country Gentlewoman.”
Wide and sweeping was the satire of Rabelais ; few were the books which passed the ordeal of the Curate of Don Quixote's Village. Yet romances had their zealous champions. Puttenham, in his • Arte of English Poesie' (1589), pleads for the ancient romances which were still sung to the harp in baronial halls, open streets, and alehouses. He had himself composed
• A little brief Romance, a historicall ditty in the English tong of the Isle of Great Britaine, in short and long meetres, and by breaches or divisions to be more commodiously song to the harpe in places of assembly, where the company shal be desirous to heare of old adventures and reliaunces of noble knights in time past, as are those of “ King Arthur and his knights of the round table,” “Sir Bevys of Southampton,” “Guy of Warwicke," and others like. He tells us also that the matter of
Blind harpers or such like taverne minstrels that give a fit of mirth for a groat was for the most part stories of old time, as the