The following Collection of Stories is offered
merely as a specimen of the class of literature to
which it belongs.  The Editor has not had the
leisure to carry his researches futher than a few
manuscripts in the Museum which were ready at
his hand.  He is aware of the existence of nu-
merous valuable manuscripts of tales of this kind
among the treasures of the universities, which, as
well as a still greater number to be found in the
libraries of the continent, would, without doubt,
add much to our knowledge of the history of me-
dieval romance.  The present volume has already
exceeded the limit within which it was originally
intended that it should be comprised.

    This latter circumstance has determined the
Editor, also, to preface these taled by only a brief
introduction; and he may perhps be induced to
give in another form, a sketch of the history of
the transmission of stories and fables from one
people to another in the middle ages.  A very
large portion of our medieval stories are derived
from the East, of which many examples will be


found in the present volume.  Some are derived
from classic writers, though often disguised by
the Gothic garb in which they have been clothed
during the transmission.  The two most remark-
able instances of direct transmission from the
East are the Collection by Peter Alfonsi, compiled
in Latin under the title of "Disciplina Clericalis,"
and that which was so long and widely popular
under the title Seven Sages.

     No manuscripts are of more frequent occurrence
than collections of Tales like those printed in the
present volume; and we owe their preservation
in this form to a custom which drew upon the
monks the ridicule of the early reformers.  The
preachers of the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fif-
teenth centuries, attempted to illustrate their
texts, and to inculcate their doctrines, by fables
and stories, which they moralized generally by
attaching to them mystical significations.  These
illustrations they collected from every source which
presented itself, the more popular the better, be-
cause they more easily attracted the attention of
people accustiomed to hear them.  Sometimes
they moralized the jests and satirical anecdotes
current among the people--sometimes they adopted
the fabliaux and metrical pieces of the jongleurs,
or minstrels--and not unfrequently they abridged
the plots of more extensive romances.  Each
preacher made collections for his own use--he


set down in Latin the stories which he gathered
from the mouths of his acquaintance, selected
from the collections which had already been made
by others, or turned into Latin, tales which he
found in a different dress.   Hence it happens
that we seldom find two manuscript collections
which agree with each other, and that in different
manuscripts we find the same tale told in a variety
of shapes.  I am inclined to think that the period
at which these collections began to be made was
the earlier part of the thirteenth century, and
that to that century, we owe the compilation in
Latin of most of these tales, though the greater
number of manuscripts may be ascribed to the

     In the fourteenth century several writers began
to collect these tales more systematically, and to
form them into books with the moralizations ready
drawn out, for the use of future preachers.  The
most remarkable work of that kind is the one
known by the title of the Gesta Romanorum.  On
this remarkable compilation, the best information
will be found in Sir Fredrick Madden's Intro-
duction to his edition (for the Roxburhg Club) of
the early English version.  We may look forward
for much new light on this subject from the
edition of the Latin text in preparation by Pro-
fessor Keller.  There are several stories in the
present volume, particularly the first, which illus-


trate the manner in which this collection was
made. The other collections are most commonly
given in the form of common-place books, or
ready-made sermons. Of the former, there are
two important works which have contributed
much towards the present volume: the “Summa
Praedicantium” of John of Bromyard, and the
"Promptuarium Exemplorum."  John of Bromyard
was an English Dominican, who flourished in the
latter part of the fourteenth century; he arranged
in a very large book a kind of dictionary of moral
and theological subjects, in alphabetical order,
full of stories, and other popular illustrations of
the different subjects treated. Perhaps no work
is more worthy the attention of those who are in-
terested in the popular literature and the history of
England in the fourteenth century. A good
edition was printed at Nuremburg in 1485, as I
can state from a comparison of it with several
manuscripts. The tales selected from John of
Bromyard for the present work, are given from
an excellent MS. In the British Museum (MS.
Reg. 7 E. IV). The “Promptuarium Exem-
plorum” was a compilation of the earlier part of
the fifteenth century: I knew it only in the
printed editions, of which there were several at
the end of the fifteenth and in the earlier half of
the sixteenth centuries.

     I have already stated that many of these tales


appear to have been taken down from oral recita-
tion, and they seem to have been transmitted
by a similar medium to later ages. It is one of
the most interesting chapters of the literary his-
tory of our fore fathers, to trace these stories, ap-
parently lost in the political and religious revolu-
tions which followed the introduction of printing,
and suddenly making their reappearance in the jest
books, and other similar productions, of the wits
of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. With
a view of giving some idea of this part of their
history, I have added a few notes at the end of
the volume: they might easily have been enlarged,
but I have been content to give merely such in-
stances of the recurrence of our tales under dif-
ferent forms at different periods, as I have ob-
served in the course of my own reading. In this
point of view, these notes must be imperfect, and
I should be sorry if they are taken for more than
they are worth.

     In making such a collection of stories, I could
not altogether avoid those which are more es-
pecially classed under the title of fables. Many
of the fables of the Middle Ages are remarkably
beautiful. Those given in the text of the present
volume are taken chiefly from the collection made
by Odo de Cerinton, an English Cistercian monk
of the end of the twelfth century. In some re-
spects my choice of these fables has been influ-


enced by the desire to illustrate the history of
that most remarkable and influential work of the
Middle Ages, the “ Romance of Renard the Fox.”
Several of these fables are evidently taken from
the romance, so popular at an early period in
Germany and France. We have hitherto been
able to discover few traces of this romance, in
England, previous to the fifteenth century. There
are however, evident allusions to it these fables.
But the most decided proof of the knowledge of
this romance at an early period in England is
found in an English metrical version of a story
from the French Romance (II. 6455 to 7026 in
Meon’s edition of the “ Roman du Renart,” Si
conme Renart fist avaler Ysengrin dedenz le puis),
which occurs in the MS. At Oxford, written not
later than the reign of Edward I, and which I have
reprinted from the Reliquiae Antiquae (to which
work it was communicated by Sir Frederick Mad-
den) at the end of these introductory observations.
It is introduced here with the more propriety,
because it is the same story as No. lvii, in the text
of this volume; and it is somewhat curios, that
while the English fable is a close copy from the
French text of the romance, the Latin prose fable
(also written in England) resembles more closely
the same incident as told in the German Reineke.
 As a further illustration of the history of fables,
I have given in the Appendix a very curious col-


lection of fables of the thirteenth century, written
in Latin rhyming verse, from a manuscript in the
British Museum (MS. Additional. No. 11,619,
fol. 189, ro.) This collection agrees in its general
arrangement with the Latin prose collection of
fables which goes under the name of Romulus, --
with the collection in French verse, published by
M. Robert, under the title of Ysopet I, -and with
the French metrical fables of Marie de France;
but it is particularly interesting for three fables at
the end, which are not found in any other collec-
tion (as far as I have been able to learn), and
which appear to be taken from some branch of
the “Roman du Renart.” In the notes to these
fables, I have thought that it would not be unin-
teresting to point out to the general reader in
the first place, how many of them occur in the
Greek collections which go under the name of
Esop, and in the fables of Phaedrus, or in the
different supplements to that writer; and secondly,
the order in which the same fables stand in the
two texts of Romulus, in the two French Ysopets,
and in the fables of Marie.

     It was thought also advisable to reprint from
Leyser, the Fables(or rather Fabliaux) of Adolfus,
because they afford a curious illustration of the
history of fiction; and because Leyser’s work on
the medieval Latin poets is now becoming a rare
book. Most of the stories in this poem are taken


from Peter Alfonsi.  Of Adolfus himself we
seem to have no other information than that
furnished by the poem.  He states that he com-
posed it in 1315, and he dedicates it to Ulric, then
a celebrated professor in the University of Vienna
in Austria.

     The third article in the Appendix (no less im-
portant in connection with the history of fiction),
belongs to a class of productions of which I have
already printed two specimens in my “Early
Mysteries and other Latin Poems of the Middle
Ages,” –the Comoedia Babionis, and the Geta of
Vitalis Blesenis.  William of Blois, was the
younger brother of the celebrated Peter of Blois,
who addressed to him some of his letters, in one
of which he compliments him on his poetic talents:
--“Nomen vestrum diuturniore memora quam
quatuor abbati!e commendabile reddant trageodia
vestra de Flaura et Marco, versus de Pulice et
Musca, comedia vestra de Alda,” &c.*   I owe to

*  Petr. Bles. Epist. Xciii.  In another letter (Epist. lxxvi),
Peter speaks thus of his brother:  “Illud nobile ingenium
fratris mei magistri Gulielmi, Quandoque in scribendis co-
moedis et tragoediis quadam occuptione servili degenerans.”
It is striking characteristic of the manners of the age, that
one distinguished ecclesiastic should be found complimenting
another having written such indecent ribadldry as forms the
denouement of the poem printed in the present volume.  The
grosser incidents are found, with some slight variations, in
some of the early French fabliaux.


the kindness of Professor Dr. Endlicher of Vienna
a transcript of this poem from the two manuscripts
in the Vienna Library.*  Professor Endlicher
conjectured, from the circumstances of its being
found anonymously among the poems of Matthaeus
Vindocinenis, and from its similarity of the style to
the productions of that writer, that Matthaeus
was the author of the Alda.  But I have since
found a better copy among the Harlein manu-
scripts (MS. Harl. No. 3872), which has the intro-
ductory lines, wanting in the other copies, and con-
taining the name of the Author.  These introductory
lines are also curious an account of the information
they afford us relating to the life of William of
Blois, and they furnish some supplementary matter
to the article on this writer in the Historic Lit-
éraire de France, tom. xv. p. 413, the compiler
of which believed that none of the writings of
William of Blois had descended to our times.

     The last article in the Appendix, the Poem De
Affra et Flavio, is taken from a manuscript of the
thirteenth century (MS. Cotton Cleop. A. viii.
Fol. 59  rº.), and is a curious example of the class of
poems to which the writers of that age gave the
title of Tragoedi!e.  It bears so close a resem-

* Codex bibliothecae imperialis Vienn.  No. 393 (olim N.
302), collatus cum codice ibid. existante No. 312. (Olim Salisb.
8.o.)  See Endlicher, Catalog. Cod. Philolog. Latin. Bibl.
Palat. Vind. pp. 146, 163.


balance in style to the preceding poem by William
of Blois, that we might almost be led to attri-
bute it to the same author.

     I have as yet only spoken of the Latin tales in
the present volume as illustrations of the history
of fiction; but they have also other claims on our
attention ; there are perhaps few documents
which throw more lights on the private life and
domestic manners of our forefathers.  They con-
tain characteristic anecdotes of the different
orders of society: many of those I have printed
throw light upon the character of the minstrels or
jongleurs; others illustrate popular literature by
the numerous scraps of English and French
poetry which are found in them; others again
illustrate the private manners of the monks, and
the popular doctrines of the old Romish Church.
Of this last class a much larger selection might
have been made, but in general the monkish
stories illustrative of the interference and power
of the Virgin, and more particularly those relating
to the real presence and the doctrine of transub-
stantiation, are so disgustingly profane, that I
have carefully avoided them.*

*  I ought, perhaps, to observe that I have reprinted this
collection several Latin stories from the Altdeutsche Blätter,
which were communicated to that work by Mr. Thomas, from
a MS. of the thirteenth century then in his possession, but
now transferred to the British Museum.


     The notes have already been mentioned.  My
only object in them has been to make the book as
popular as I could, and with the same object I
have thought it would not be unacceptable to add
a brief glossary of the words least likely to be
found in common Latin dictionaries, or which are
used in acceptations not common in classic
language.  I have no right to suppose that every
reader possesses the Glossary of Ducango.

     London, November 1842.