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As a specimen I select two romantic adventures:–

The title of the extensive romance of Perceforest is, “The most elegant, delicious, mellifluous, and delightful history of Perceforest, King of Great Britain, etc.” The most ancient edition is that of 1528. The writers of these Gothic fables, lest they should be considered as mere triflers, pretended to an allegorical meaning concealed under the texture of their fable. From the following adventure we learn the power of beauty in making ten days appear as yesterday! Alexander the Great in search of Perceforest, parts with his knights in an enchanted wood, and each vows they will not remain longer than one night in one place. Alexander, accompanied by a page, arrives at Sebilla’s castle, who is a sorceress. He is taken by her witcheries and beauty, and the page, by the lady’s maid, falls into the same mistake as his master, who thinks he is there only one night. They enter the castle with deep wounds, and issue perfectly recovered. I transcribe the latter part as a specimen of the manner. When they were once out of the castle, the king said, “Truly, Floridas, I know not how it has been with me; but certainly Sebilla is a very honourable lady, and very beautiful, and very charming in conversation. Sire (said Floridas), it is true; but one thing surprises me:–how is it that our wounds have healed in one night? I thought at least ten or fifteen days were necessary. Truly, said the king, that is astonishing! Now king Alexander met Gadiffer, king of Scotland, and the valiant knight Le Tors. Well, said the king, have ye news of the king of England? Ten days we have hunted him, and cannot find him out. How, said Alexander, did we not separate yesterday from each other? In God’s name, said Gadiffer, what means your majesty? It is ten days! Have a care what you say, cried the king. Sire, replied Gadiffer, it is so; ask Le Tors. On my honour, said Le Tors, the king of Scotland speaks truth. Then, said the king, some of us are enchanted; Floridas, didst thou not think we separated yesterday? Truly, truly, your majesty, I thought so! But when I saw our wounds healed in one night, I had some suspicion that WE were enchanted.”

In the old romance of Melusina, this lovely fairy (though to the world unknown as such), enamoured of Count Raymond, marries him, but first extorts a solemn promise that he will never disturb her on Saturdays. On those days the inferior parts of her body are metamorphosed to that of a mermaid, as a punishment for a former error. Agitated by the malicious insinuations of a friend, his curiosity and his jealousy one day conduct him to the spot she retired to at those times. It was a darkened passage in the dungeon of the fortress. His hand gropes its way till it feels an iron gate oppose it; nor can he discover a single chink, but at length perceives by his touch a loose nail; he places his sword in its head and screws it out. Through this cranny he sees Melusina in the horrid form she is compelled to assume. That tender mistress, transformed into a monster bathing in a fount, flashing the spray of the water from a scaly tail! He repents of his fatal curiosity: she reproaches him, and their mutual happiness is for ever lost. The moral design of the tale evidently warns the lover to revere a Woman’s Secret!

Such are the works which were the favourite amusements of our English court, and which doubtless had a due effect in refining the manners of the age, in diffusing that splendid military genius, and that tender devotion to the fair sex, which dazzle us in the reign of Edward III., and through that enchanting labyrinth of History constructed by the gallant Froissart. In one of the revenue rolls of Henry III. there is an entry of “Silver clasps and studs for his majesty’s great book of Romances.” Dr. Moore observes that the enthusiastic admiration of chivalry which Edward III. manifested during the whole course of his reign, was probably, in some measure, owing to his having studied the clasped book in his great grandfather’s library.