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p. 194


WE give these tales simply as specimens of a literature which in mediæval times rivalled in popularity and interest all other kinds of literature put together. That even yet it is not without attraction, and that to minds which in some aspects seem most opposed to its influence, the preface of the late Charles Kingsley to "The Hermits" conclusively shows. Such tales have, too, a deeper interest to all who study the manner in which at a certain stage of intellectual cultivation the human mind seems alone able to take hold upon religious truth; or, at least, the side on which it is then most susceptible to its impressions. It is easy enough to laugh at these legends, and to throw them aside in contempt, as alternately irreverent or superstitious; but their very existence has an historical value which no ecclesiastical historian should neglect. Their grossness and rudeness to a great extent hide from us their real tenderness and true religious feeling; but they were, doubtless, to those who first heard them, and are still to those who now recite them, fully as instructive, and have quite as beneficial, purifying, and ennobling influence on them as the most polished and refined of the religious tales of the present day have on the young of our own generation.

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