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or other thing; if he will prove against another in manner aforesaid, that he hath put the fire therein, hn shall be heard.
Item.—If a man complaineth over his wife, that she is no good woman; tho' he do this for a will for to close her within a wall, or for to be quit of her, or that she should be banished from her dowry; she may defend hereof herself, if she can find a champion that will fight against her husband for her; and if the husband refuseth him, he shall not be believed.
Item.—If a man hannteth in the house of a wedde3 man, if the husband will say that this man hath haunted, and haunteth for to have a-do with his wife, for to shame her and him; this other man that so haunteth there may defend him against the husband by gage of battle. Whereof I do laugh, considering such a folly; that if the fellow that is so accused were great and strong, it were well bestowed, if he feel himself innocent, that he should beat well and thrilly in the champ, that jealous and foolish husband.
Item.—If a man accuseth another, that he hath perjured himself in judgment; he that is so accused may gainsay it, as it is said.
Many other things containeth tjie- said law that concernen champ of battle, which I leave for shortness of the matter, as a thing not needful more for to say. But so much is to be understand, that these battles are sometime done by the principal persons, when a reasonable case of some letting falleth there. As it were. If a man too young were accused, or a man that were too old, or a man that had some sickness, or that were impotent, and could not help himself, and sometime a woman, and all such other persons; the which, things are all enough expressed and named in the said laws; and namely, if a bondman said that his lord had made him free of his bond and servitude, and this he will make good by his body, the lord is not holden to receive battle therefore; but ought to deliver him a champion. And more it saith, that two clerks of like degree, may have leave to fight each other in champ of battle. Of the which thing sauffe 1 her grace, I say that she hath wrong to intermit herself in such a case of any man of the church: for the canon that ought more to be obeyed, defendeth them expressly all manner of battle and violent hurt. And I ask thee, if a man impotent as it is said, may set for himself such a champion as shall please him. I answer thee, that the champions that be committed for another are, in this deed of battle, figured, or in figure of procurers and advocates of plea; which office every man may do for another if he will, if right expressly gainsayeth it not. Right "even
276 THE BOOK OF THE FEATS OF AfeMS, fa,
so it is of the champions: for whatsoever wilf, he may be one, so that right gainsay him not for some cause: for a thief, or some other, that tofore had committed some great evil or crime, should not be received thereto, nor no man that is known of evil fame. And the reason is good; that is to wit, that if such a man entered a champ of battle for another, and were vanquished there, men should went that it had been for his own sins; and that therefore he had lost the battle.
This book^ together with the "Order of Chivalry," above treated of, and another entitled, the " Knight of the Tower," contain, I apprehend, the greater part of the doctrines of Chivalry. The "Knight of the Tower," relates chiefly to the education and conduct of women. The books are all very curious, and obviously require republication.
On account of the supposed immoral tendency of Romances, a very severe censure has been passed upon them by the famous Roger Ascham. He says that " In our forefathers' time, when papistry, as a standing pool, covered and overflowed all England, few books were read in our tongue, saving certain books of chivalry, as they said, for pastime and pleasure; which, as some say, were made in monasteries, by idle monks, or wanton canons : for example, Morte Arthur, the whole pleasure of which book standeth in two special points—in open man-slaughter and bold bawdry. In which book, those be counted the noblest knights that kill most men without any quarrel, and commit foulest adulteries by subtlest shifts: as sir Lancelot, with the wife of king Arthur, his master; sir Tristram, with the wife of king Mack, his uncle; sir Lamerock, with the wife of king Lote, that was his own aunt. This is good stuff for wise men to laugh at, or honest men to take pleasure in. Yet (says he) I know when God's Bible was banished the court, and Morte Arthur received into the prince's chamber."
Though we should refuse to subscribe to this illiberal and puritanical manner of viewing the productions of chivalry; yet the passage furnishes a proof of their prevalence, and of the predominant taste of the age, (at least among the higher ranks,) even in Ascham's time. After briefly noticing their origin, it may not be improper in this place, to state the effects which these compositions, in the opinions of men of a more enlightened and liberal cast of sentiment, have produced relatively to social improvement.
Romance was the offspring of chivalry; as chivalry again was the result of the feudal system. Agreeably to the institutions of that system, each landed proprietor was a soldier; and was obliged, by the conditions of his tenure, to follow his lord on horseback when he went to war. Hence a soldier was, in those times, a man of the first importance and consideration. The youth, from their earliest