William Caxton, the first English printer, who published his books with a view to edification as well as to recreation, thought it well
to include in his library three books of chivalry, "wherein his readers should find many joyous and pleasant histories,"
and should learn of "the noble acts of chivalry, the gentle and the virtuous deeds that some knights did." He had no
question that "for to pass the time" his books would be found "pleasant to read in," and he was equally confident that
the noble lords and ladies who read these histories would make good use of the same and would "take the good and honest
acts in remembrance and do after them." We of a later day find the stories of chivalry likewise pleasant, refreshing,
and entertaining, and we echo his thought as to their moral value. How better can gentleness and courtesy, bravery and
hardiness, humanity and friendliness, be instilled than by a perusal of stories of chivalry such as have been gathered
in this volume of our library of literature?
Page, Esquire, and Knight presents the best stories of all periods of chivalry, from the days of
the founding of the Round Table to the death of Chevalier Bayard. It sets forth in simple story form the development and
progress of knighthood from the time of St. George, who won his spurs by killing the dragon, to the founding, a thousand
years later, of the order which bore his name and embodied in its ritual the highest ceremonial of chivalry. With its
explanation of the meaning of the degrees of knighthood, its description of quests and tourneys, and its outline of the
great events of chivalry, this volume will serve as a good introduction to the later reading of the child in Arthurian
and other romance, and in the history of Charlemagne's wars and the crusades.
Our best heritage from the Middle Ages is the ideal side of that system which
"By a line
Of institution from our ancestors,
Hath been deriv'd down to us, and receiv'd
In a succession, for the noblest way
Of breeding up our youth in letters, arms,
Fair mien, discourses, civil exercises,
And all the blazon of a gentleman."
Chivalry ceased to be of practical value only when the conditions of civilization called for men of peace rather than of
war, and the perfect knight was replaced by the perfect gentleman.