taken the trouble to compare the old prose with the modern verse can fail to admire the skill with which the somewhat crude originals have been transformed by the brilliant word-painting of the poet. The contrast between the older and the newer form of the stories is something like that between a mediaeval illumination and a finished picture by Mr. Millais or Mr. Holman Hunt. The miniatures in an old MS. have often great beauty and expressiveness, but the bloodless figures are devoid of life, and the surroundings are purely conventional; the touch of the modern painter gives life and movement to the stiff forms. So it is in Mr. Tennyson’s pictures of the Arthurian heroes. No doubt Sir Lancelot is a ‘modern gentleman,’ and the fair Guenevere a modern lady, thrown back into the olden time; but so are the Lancelot and Guenevere of the old romance characters of the Plantagenet era thrown back so far as to derive from distance a new charm; and we are grateful to the poet for having painted for us the old heroes with the thoughts and feelings which animate this ‘wondrous motherage.’
J.W. Edward Conybeare (1843-1931), in addition to an abridged and expurgated edition of the Morte Darthur, wrote guide books to Cambridgeshire and, later in his life, works on Alfred and on Roman Britain. Here, as an expurgator, he takes a stronger position than that of Knowles (see No. 21) on the defects of Malory’s work that his edition will remedy, but he, too, guides the reader back to the unexpurgated version.
His remarks appear in La Morte D’Arthur: The History of King Arthur Compiled by Sir Thomas Mallory, abridged and revised by Edward Conybeare (London: Edward Moxon, 1868), pp. iii-v.
In bringing out this edition of the History of King Arthur, the object of the Editor has been to put into a more popular form one
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Publication information: Book title: Sir Thomas Malory:The Critical Heritage. Contributors: Marylyn Parins - Author. Publisher: Routledge. Place of publication: London. Publication year: 1995. Page number: 173.
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