Mysteries' End: An Investigation of the Last Days of the Medieval Religious Stage

Mysteries' End: An Investigation of the Last Days of the Medieval Religious Stage

Mysteries' End: An Investigation of the Last Days of the Medieval Religious Stage

Mysteries' End: An Investigation of the Last Days of the Medieval Religious Stage

Excerpt

In offering this study of the final days of the medieval religious stage, I find that conditions in the world cast an aura of regret around the pleasant years that were spent in its preparation. Many fascinating weeks were spent in the cathedral and municipal archives of the lovely old towns of York, Chester, and Coventry; the first two towns have fortunately come through the war relatively unscathed; Coventry Cathedral and, it is to be feared, many of its ecclesiastical documents have perished. So, too, many other documents used in preparation of this study, and many of the libraries in which they were housed, have vanished as part of the heart- breaking price paid for liberty in England and on the Continent-- for that liberty under which, for centuries, the medieval religious stage flourished, until a kindred tyranny throttled its particular freedom of speech.

Apart from my regret that so many of the priceless records of the past have perished, there is another regret as well to be laid at war's door. My period of research was slightly curtailed by the outbreak of hostilities. I was recalled to the United States, it is true, only after I had personally examined the English archives I felt would be most fruitful, but there were other sources with which I could establish contact only through correspondence. My personal researches took me through the material available at York, Chester, Coventry, Norwich, and Canterbury; correspondence with authorities at Lincoln, Lichfield, Wakefield, Stafford, and Newcastle and other smaller places revealed no clues of further material.

Upon my return to this country, I was enabled, thanks to a very courteous arrangement between Cambridge University authorities and members of the English Faculty at Yale, to enjoy the advice and guidance of Professor Tucker Brooke and of the late Professor Karl Young, both of Yale. This direction and the difficulties of war- time publication, which beset English universities long before they bothered ours, have worked together, happily for me, to bring about this volume's inclusion in the Yale Studies in English. If I may be pardoned the personal note, I should greatly like, for the revelation it gives of a great scholar and of the spirit of his university, to quote this passage from a letter by Professor Young:

I think you are treating an important subject in an effective manner. . . . You have seen the basic materials, and you know how to interpret them. You will read your pages aloud to your study-wall, and you will hear locu-

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