The author began by telling us that if the only types of education that can be considered useful are those that serve to gain us more money or social status, then the subject of Mythology cannot be counted as useful. But if those things that serve to make us happy and enrich our inner lives can also count as useful then we must count Mythology along with the more practical studies.
Mythology is like a gateway that allows us access to great literature of the past and present. So much of classic literature makes references and allusions to mythology that a lack of knowledge of the subject causes us, in the best cases, to lose some meaning behind many great works, and in the worst case, makes certain literature incomprehensible. The options that the author saw available up to his time did not really help the situation; one could make a study of reading the translated myths in their entirety, but that in itself is time consuming and will find a reader lost with many phrases that he does not understand because they are referencing yet another myth. Still, one could obtain a reference dictionary and work their way through the myths with it always on hand, but for all but the most devoted students this will quickly lead to fatigue and cause the student to give up referencing and so lose much of the imagery of the story.
The author’s solution is this book, The Age of Fable, in which he has retold poetic mythology in prose. But his translation is not a word for word translation since in doing that we would lose all the beauty of the original. Instead he has recreated the stories using the beautiful language of our own time (or his own time, which was in the late 1700’s) allowing us to still have the vivid and captivating imagery that is alluded to in other classic works of literature and he assures us that for this reason his book is not meant for the learned person but rather the student. He ends the preface with a quote from Coleridge’s Piccolomini about the timelessness of the imagery found in the Greek and Roman Myths.