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To my friends.
You have here, my good friends, sundry moral and entertaining stories, invented by the monks of old, and used by them for amusement, as well as for instruction ; from which the most celebrated poets, of our own and other lands, have condescended to draw their plots.
The improvements and refinements of this age, will naturally lead you to condemn as absurdities, many of the incidents with which these tales abound. Considering the knowledge of the present day, you are justified in so doing. But I pray you to bear in mind that few qualities are more dependent on time, than probability and improbability. When you read these tales, you must, for the time, retrace your steps to the age in which they were written; and though the tale may seem absurd to us of this day, yet if it was calculated to impress the minds of those for whom it was invented, and to whom it was told, its merit was great, and therefore deserving of due praise. A giant or a magician was as probable to the people of the middle ages, as electricity to us. I pray you bear this in mind whilst you judge of these tales.
Romantic fiction pleases all minds, both old and young;
the reason is this, says an old Platonist, “ that here, thing are set down as they should be: but in the true history of t] world, things are recorded indeed as they are, but it is but testimony, that they have not been as they should be. Wher fore, in the upshot of all, when we shall see that come to pas that so mightily pleases us in the reading the most ingenio plays and heroic poems, that long afflicted Virtue at la comes to the crown, the mouth of all unbelievers must stopped.”
To the work of the ingenious Mr. Swan, the only tran lator of these stories that I know of in this country, I a indebted for my first introduction to these old tales; and cannot conclude these few words without thanking him f having often lightened my labours by his close and admiral versions.
G. B. Dec. 1844.