Sir Thomas Malory: The Critical Heritage

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and for the omission of which he would apologise most earnestly to those who, like himself, are lovers of this noble romance in its original form. If his work leads any who do not already know King Arthur to read and appreciate the book in its integrity, his object will have been gained.


28.

Edward Strachey

1868

Sir Edward Strachey (1812-1901) edited a popular Globe edition of the Morte Darthur for Macmillan in 1868. He collated the two Caxtons with Southey’s 1817 edition to establish a text, but then expurgated it; unlike Conybeare and Knowles, however, he did not omit whole episodes. His defence of Malory’s ‘morality’ is spirited, and his admiration of style, characterization, and epic structure is strongly stated as is his insistence that the Morte Darthur continues and deepens its appeal past boyhood. Strachey’s is the earliest comprehensive appreciation of Malory’s work, and his tone will become even more positive in the revised introduction (see No. 45) that followed Sommer’s scholarly edition and assessment of Malory (No. 41).

Extracts are from the introduction (London: Macmillan, 1868), pp. vii-xviii.

1.


THE ORIGIN AND MATTER OF THE BOOK.

We owe this our English Epic of Morte Arthur to Sir Thomas Malory, and to William Caxton the first English printer. Caxton’s Preface shows (what indeed would have been certain from his appeal to the ‘Knights of England’ at the end of ‘The Order of Chivalry’) that however strongly he, ‘William Caxton, simple person,’ may have been urged to undertake the work by ‘divers gentlemen of this realm of England,’ he was not less moved by his

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