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The Cloister and the Hearth   By: (1814-1884)

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First Page:

THE CLOISTER AND THE HEARTH

by Charles Reade

Etext Notes:

1. Greek passages are enclosed in angled brackets, e.g. {methua}, and have been transliterated according to:alpha A, a beta B, b gamma G, g delta D, d epsilon E, e zeta Z, z eta Y, y theta Th, th iota I, i kappa K, k lamda L, l mu M, m nu N, n omicron O, o pi P, p rho R, r sigma S, s tau T, t phi Ph, ph chi Ch, ch psi Ps, ps xi X, x upsilon U, u omega W, w

2. All diacritics have been removed from this version

3. References for the Author's footnotes are enclosed in square brackets(e.g. (1)) and collected at the end of the chapter they occur in.

4. There are 100 chapters in the book, each starting with CHAPTER R, where R is the chapter number expressed as a Roman numeral.

AUTHOR'S PREFACE

A small portion of this tale appeared in Once a Week, July September, 1859, under the title of "A Good Fight."

After writing it, I took wider views of the subject, and also felt uneasy at having deviated unnecessarily from the historical outline of a true story. These two sentiments have cost me more than a year's very hard labour, which I venture to think has not been wasted. After this plain statement I trust all who comment on this work will see that to describe it as a reprint would be unfair to the public and to me. The English language is copious, and, in any true man's hands, quite able to convey the truth namely, that one fifth of the present work is a reprint, and four fifths of it a new composition.

CHARLES READE

CHAPTER I

Not a day passes over the earth, but men and women of no note do great deeds, speak great words, and suffer noble sorrows. Of these obscure heroes, philosophers, and martyrs, the greater part will never be known till that hour, when many that are great shall be small, and the small great; but of others the world's knowledge may be said to sleep: their lives and characters lie hidden from nations in the annals that record them. The general reader cannot feel them, they are presented so curtly and coldly: they are not like breathing stories appealing to his heart, but little historic hail stones striking him but to glance off his bosom: nor can he understand them; for epitomes are not narratives, as skeletons are not human figures.

Thus records of prime truths remain a dead letter to plain folk: the writers have left so much to the imagination, and imagination is so rare a gift. Here, then, the writer of fiction may be of use to the public as an interpreter.

There is a musty chronicle, written in intolerable Latin, and in it a chapter where every sentence holds a fact. Here is told, with harsh brevity, the strange history of a pair, who lived untrumpeted, and died unsung, four hundred years ago; and lie now, as unpitied, in that stern page, as fossils in a rock. Thus, living or dead, Fate is still unjust to them. For if I can but show you what lies below that dry chronicler's words, methinks you will correct the indifference of centuries, and give those two sore tried souls a place in your heart for a day.

It was past the middle of the fifteenth century; Louis XI was sovereign of France; Edward IV was wrongful king of England; and Philip "the Good," having by force and cunning dispossessed his cousin Jacqueline, and broken her heart, reigned undisturbed this many years in Holland, where our tale begins.

Elias, and Catherine his wife, lived in the little town of Tergou. He traded, wholesale and retail, in cloth, silk, brown holland, and, above all, in curried leather, a material highly valued by the middling people, because it would stand twenty years' wear, and turn an ordinary knife, no small virtue in a jerkin of that century, in which folk were so liberal of their steel; even at dinner a man would leave his meat awhile, and carve you his neighbour, on a very moderate difference of opinion... Continue reading book >>




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