are, on account of their very sweetness and simplicity, singularly unfitted to convey any true likeness of the coarse and stormy Middle Age. I have been already accused, by others than Romanists, of profaning this whole subject—i.e. of telling the whole truth, pleasant or not, about it. But really, time enough has been lost in ignorant abuse of that period, and time enough also, lately, in blind adoration of it. When shall we learn to see it as it was?— the dawning manhood of Europe—rich with all the tenderness, the simplicity, the enthusiasm of youth—but also darkened, alas! with its full share of youth’s precipitance and extravagance, fierce passions and blind self-will—its virtues and its vices colossal, and, for that very reason, always haunted by the twin-imp of the colossal—the caricatured.
Lastly, the many miraculous stories which the biographer of Elizabeth relates of her, I had no right, for the sake of truth, to interweave in the plot, while it was necessary to indicate at least their existence. I have, therefore, put such of them as seemed least absurd into the mouth of Conrad, to whom, in fact, they owe their original publication, and have done so, as I hope, not without a just ethical purpose.
Such was my idea: of the inconsistencies and short-comings of this its realisation, no one can ever be so painfully sensible as I am already myself. If, however, this book shall cause one Englishman honestly to ask himself, ’I, as a Protestant, have been accustomed to assert the purity and dignity of the offices of husband, wife, and parent. Have I ever examined the grounds of my own assertion? Do I believe them to be as callings from God, spiritual, sacramental, divine, eternal? Or am I at heart regarding and using them, like the Papist, merely as heaven’s indulgences to the infirmities of fallen man?’—then will my book have done its work.
If, again, it shall deter one young man from the example of those miserable dilettanti, who in books and sermons are whimpering meagre second-hand praises of celibacy—depreciating as carnal and degrading those family ties to which they owe their own existence, and in the enjoyment of which they themselves all the while unblushingly indulge—insulting thus their own wives and mothers— nibbling ignorantly at the very root of that household purity which constitutes the distinctive superiority of Protestant over Popish nations—again my book will have done its work.
If, lastly, it shall awaken one pious Protestant to recognise, in some, at least, of the Saints of the Middle Age, beings not only of the same passions, but of the same Lord, the same faith, the same baptism, as themselves, Protestants, not the less deep and true, because utterly unconscious and practical—mighty witnesses against the two antichrists of their age—the tyranny of feudal caste, and the phantoms which Popery substitutes for the living Christ—then also will my little book indeed have done its work. C. K.