Author: Charlotte M. Yonge
Release Date: May, 2004 [EBook #5700] [Yes, we are more than one year ahead of schedule] [This file was first posted on August 12, 2002]
Character set encoding: ASCII
*** Start of the project gutenberg EBOOK love and life ***
This e-text was created by Doug Levy, littera scripta manet.
Transcriber’s note: There are numerous examples throughout this text of words appearing in alternate spellings: madame/madam, practise/ practice, Ladyship/ladyship, &c. We can only wonder what the publisher had in mind. I have left them unchanged.—D.L.
An Old Story in Eighteenth Century Costume
By Charlotte M. Yonge
The first edition of this tale was put forth without explaining the old fable on which it was founded—a fable recurring again and again in fairy myths, though not traceable in the classic world till a very late period, when it appeared among the tales of Apuleius, of the province of Africa, sometimes called the earliest novelist. There are, however, fragments of the same story in the popular tales of all countries, so that it is probable that Apuleius availed himself of an early form of one of these. They are to be found from India to Scandinavia, adapted to the manners and fancy of every country in turn, Beauty and the Beast and the Black Bull of Norroway are the most familiar forms of the tale, and it seemed to me one of those legends of such universal property that it was quite fair to put it into 18th century English costume.
Some have seen in it a remnant of the custom of some barbarous tribes, that the wife should not behold her husband for a year after marriage, and to this the Indian versions lend themselves; but Apuleius himself either found it, or adapted it to the idea of the Soul (the Life) awakened by Love, grasping too soon and impatiently, then losing it, and, unable to rest, struggling on through severe toils and labours till her hopes are crowned even at the gates of death. Psyche, the soul or life, whose emblem is the butterfly, thus even in heathen philosophy strained towards the higher Love, just glimpsed at for a while.
Christians gave a higher meaning to the fable, and saw in it the Soul, or the Church, to whom her Bridegroom has been for a while made known, striving after Him through many trials, to be made one with Him after passing through Death. The Spanish poet Calderon made it the theme of two sacred dramas, in which the lesson of Faith, not Sight, was taught, with special reference to the Holy Eucharist.