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ROMAN C E.
THE ages, we call barbarous, pre
fent us many a
curious fpeculation. What, for instance, is more remarkable than the Gothic CHIVALRY? or than the fpirit of RoMANCE, which took its rife from that fingular inftitution?
NOTHING in human nature, my dear friend, is without its reafons. The modes and fashions of different times may apVOL. III. Q pear,
pear, at first fight, fantastic and unaccountable. But they, who look nearly into them, difcover fome latent cause of their production.
"Nature once known, no prodigies remain," as fings our philofophical bard; but to come at this knowledge, is the difficulty. Sometimes a close attention to the workings of the human mind is fufficient to lead us to it sometimes more than that, the diligent obfervation of what paffes without us, is neceffary.
THIS laft I take to be the cafe here. The prodigies we are now contemplat ing, had their origin in the barbarous ages. Why then, fays the fastidious modern, look any further for the reafon ? Why not refolve them at once into the ufual caprice and abfurdity of barbarians?
THIS, you fee, is a fhort and commodious philofophy. Yet barbarians have
their own, fuch as it is, if they are not enlightened by our reafon. Shall we then condemn them unheard, or will it not be fair to let them have the telling of their own story ?
WOULD we know, from what causes the inftitution of Chivalry was derived? The time of its birth, the fituation of the barbarians, amongst whom it arofe, must be confidered: their wants, defigns, and policies, must be explored: we must inquire when, and where, and how, it came to pass that the western world became familiarized to this prodigy, which we now
ANOTHER thing is full as remarkable, and concerns us more nearly. The spirit of Chivalry, was a fire which foon spent itself but that of Romance, which was kindled at it, burnt long, and continued its light and heat even to the politer ages.
THE greatest geniuses of our own and foreign countries, fuch as ARIOSTO and TASSO in Italy, and SPENSER and MILTON in England, were feduced by these barbarities of their forefathers; were even charmed by the Gothic Romances. Was this caprice and abfurdity in them? Or, may there not be fomething in the Gothic Romance peculiarly fuited to the views of a genius, and to the ends of poetry? And may not the philofophic moderns have gone too far, in their perpetual ridicule and contempt of it?
To form a judgment in the cafe, the rife, progress, and genius of Gothic Chivalry must be explained.
THE circumftances in the Gothic fictions and manners, which are proper to the ends of poetry (if any fuch there be) must be pointed out.
REASONS, for the decline and rejection of the Gothic tafte in later times, muft be given.
You have in thefe particulars both the Subject and the PLAN of the following Letters.
Look upon Chivalry, as on fome mighty river, which the fablings of the poets have made immortal. It may have sprung up amidst rude rocks, and blind deferts. But the noise and rapidity of its courfe, the extent of country it adorns, and the towns and palaces it ennobles, may lead a traveller out of his way, and invite him to take a view of thofe dark caverns,
Plurimus Eridani per fylvam volvitur amnis,