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ceiving them. From the pulpit, whence it would appear that their stories were delivered, the opportunity of adding new fictions, for the purpose of illustrating new positions, would be irresistible; and here we trace the source of many of the strained allusions which so repeatedly occur. The good old custom likewise, of enlivening a winter's evening by the relation of fabliaux, accompanied, no doubt, by moral and mystical applications, gives us a delightful picture of the social intercourse and familiarity of remote times; but discovers to us another incentive to extravagant fancy, and high-flown conceit. The attention of their hearers could only be rivetted by the marvellous ; and that which was barely probable, from the constant recurrence of extravagant fiction-from the itching ears, which opened only to the wildest exaggeration, naturally became no longer acceptable, because taste was vitiated, and the imagination overwrought. All these cirumstances require consideration in forming a judgment of the ensuing tales. They certainly vary in point of merit; but many of them are eminently beautiful. Some display a rich vein of pathos ; and there are passages of deep poetic interest. In the description of manners, however, they are unrivalled; and my aim has been, to render passages of this kind with all fidelity ; while, in the diction, I have adhered as closely as possible to that simplicity of style, which forms the principal charm of ancient narrative.

In perusing the conversational parts, the reader who has, pored over illuminated manuscripts, will recal subjects to which they apply. He will recollect fair ladies glittering in every colour of the rainbow, chattering from a window to grotesque-looking gentle

men with pink feathers drooping from immense hats; and misshapen shoes, vying in the longitude of their peaks with a barber's pole : he will be reminded of grim-visaged emperors ornamented with royal beards, and projecting jaws-in short, he will distinguish the whole of what these volumes delineate. There is in the British Museum a beautiful manuscript of the “ Romant de la Rose,” which will, in most respects, exemplify my observations.

It would appear that hospitality was a never-failing virtue; and the eagerness with which pilgrims and way-faring persons were invited to share the repast, and partake the couch of the friendly citizen ; or to occupy the castle of the knight, is a pleasing trait in the character of the times. But it will be thought, that wisdom was a scarce commodity, when three prudential maxims were va


lued at a thousand florins. See Tale XXIII. Vol. 2.] Considering the result, they were cheaply purchased; although, in these days, when advice is much oftener given than paid for-even with thanks, the price may be deemed somewhat of the highest.

The many stories on the subject of adultery, seem to indicate a bad moral state of society at the time they were written; and it is to be feared that the lawless feeling which chivalry in its decline exhibited, affords an unhappy confirmation. Whether the fact of the monks levelling much of their satire against the fair sex is also corroborative; or whether it proceed from that impotence of mind, which being itself fretted by circumstance, would gladly efface or deteriorate whatever is the object of its unavailing wishes, I do not take upon me to decide.

It is necessary that I should advertise the

reader of what he will not fail to perceive, that the tales are not always perfect in every part; nor are the positions laid down at the commencement always remembered. This may result from ignorant transcribers having omitted some passages, and interpolated others ; and such a supposition accounts, as I observed before, for the numerous variations which appear in various copies, as well as for the introduction of certain expressions that have been considered arguments in behalf of their origin. That they have been collected from all countries, and at many times, I have no doubt. Some appear of Italian construction, a few German, but the greater part oriental. The absolute power of the emperors, who sport with life and death in the most capricious and extraordinary mannerthe constant introduction of the leprosy and crucifixion, amply confirm their connection with the East.

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