Why the Middle Ages?

“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 . . . Why is it that we mainly remember the Middle Ages by absurd
things? . . . 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 gunpowder and printing are mediaeval,
that half the things by which we now live, and to which we look for
progress, are mediaeval.”

{“The True Middle Ages,” The Illustrated London News, 14 July 1906} – G. K.