"Falk" shares with one other of my stories ("The Return" in the "Tales
of Unrest" volume) the distinction of never having been serialized.
"That was no fairy tale, 'tis true," said old Nanny; "but now it's coming.
"You have had a good sleep while I have been sitting here, and arguing with him whether it was a story or a fairy tale."
Just at that moment the merry old man came in who lived up a-top of the house all alone; for he had neither wife nor children--but he liked children very much, and knew so many fairy tales, that it was quite delightful.
"Yes, but such tales and stories are good for nothing.
His mind and eye were keen, besides, for moral qualities; he penetrated directly through all the pretenses of falsehood and hypocrisy; while how thoroughly he understood and respected honest worth appears in the picture of the Poor Parson in the Prolog to 'The Canterbury Tales.' Himself quiet and self-contained, moreover, Chaucer was genial and sympathetic toward all mankind.
In 'The Canterbury Tales' indeed, the plan is almost impossibly ambitious; the more than twenty stories actually finished, with their eighteen thousand lines, are only a fifth part of the intended number.
It was with rapidity, evidently with ease, and with masterful certainty, that he poured out his long series of vivid and delightful tales. It is true that in his early, imitative, work he shares the medieval faults of wordiness, digression, and abstract symbolism; and, like most medieval writers, he chose rather to reshape material from the great contemporary store than to invent stories of his own.
I said to him, You and I, Adeimantus, at this moment are not poets, but founders of a State: now the founders of a State ought to know the general forms in which poets should cast their tales, and the limits which must be observed by them, but to make the tales is not their business.
Whereas the lie in words is in certain cases useful and not hateful; in dealing with enemies--that would be an instance; or again, when those whom we call our friends in a fit of madness or illusion are going to do some harm, then it is useful and is a sort of medicine or preventive; also in the tales of mythology, of which we were just now speaking--because we do not know the truth about ancient times, we make falsehood as much like truth as we can, and so turn it to account.
The old man began his tale
; and presently the lad was asleep in reality; so also were the dogs, and the court, the lackeys, and the files of men-at-arms.
I pass, like night, from land to land; I have strange power of speech; That moment that his face I see, I know the man that must hear me: To him my tale
An incident in the tale, which had the good fortune to find favour in the eyes of many readers, is more directly borrowed from the stores of old romance.
But the peculiar tale of this nature to which the author of Ivanhoe has to acknowledge an obligation, is more ancient by two centuries than any of these last mentioned.
It seems to be your opinion, that the very office of an antiquary, employed in grave, and, as the vulgar will sometimes allege, in toilsome and minute research, must be considered as incapacitating him from successfully compounding a tale of this sort.