There is something odd in the fact that when we reproduce the Middle Ages it is always some such rough and half-grotesque part of them that we reproduce. I do not wish to compare the Mysteries of Chester with the Mystery of a Hansom-Cab. Both are popular mysteries; but, as is commonly the case, the medieval is the more intellectual. But why is it that we mainly remember the Middle Ages by absurd things? We remember Henry I not by the First Charter, but by the dish of lampreys. We forget that Henry VIII was intellectual, but we remember that he was fat. I do not mean that the miracle plays are merely absurd: they sometimes were. But I mean that we neglect the rest. Few modern people know what a mass of illuminating philosophy, delicate metaphysics, clear and dignified social morality exists in the serious scholastic writers of mediaeval times. But we seem to have grasped somehow that the ruder and more clownish elements in the Middle Ages have a human and poetical interest. We are delighted to know about the ignorance of mediaevalism; we are contented to be ignorant about its knowledge. When we talk of something mediaeval, we mean something quaint. We remember that alchemy was mediaeval, or that heraldry was mediaeval. We forget that Parliaments are mediaeval, that all our Universities are mediaeval, that city corporations are mediaeval, that gun-powder and printing are mediaeval, that half the things by which we now live, and to which we look for progress, are mediaeval. We remember the Philosopher’s Stone, but we forget the philosopher.
– The Illustrated London News, 14 July 1906.