Sir Thomas Malory: The Critical Heritage

By Marylyn Parins | Go to book overview

30.

A.C. Swinburne and R.H. Hutton

1872, 1886, 1888

Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909), like other critics and reviewers, included remarks on Malory in his criticism of Tennyson’s Idylls of the King. Tennyson’s conception of a ‘blameless king’, he believes, vitiates the force of Malory’s version, a version that Swinburne, like Morris, Rossetti, and Burne-Jones, drew upon for artistic inspiration.

The first selection is from Under the Microscope (London: D. White, 1872), pp. 35-42. Swinburne’s remarks on the Idylls constitute a longish digression here considerably abridged. The second is from an essay, ‘Tennyson and Musset’, published in Miscellanies in 1886 (London: Chatto & Windus, 1911), pp. 248-51. The third selection is the response of the critic Richard Holt Hutton (1826-97) to Swinburne’s criticism of Tennyson’s Arthur. His essay first appeared in Macmillan’s Magazine in 1872; the extract here is from Hutton’s Literary Essays (London: Macmillan, 1888), pp. 400-7.

The lines in Greek in (a) are the concluding lines of Aeschylus’ The Libation Bearers: ‘Oh when will it work its accomplishment, when will the fury of calamity, lulled to rest, find an end and cease?’ —H.W. Smyth, Loeb Classical Library (1926).

(a) Under the Microscope

…the enemies of Tennyson…are the men who find in his collection of Arthurian idyls, —the Morte d’Albert as it might perhaps be more properly called, after the princely type to which (as he tells us with just pride) the poet has been fortunate enough to make his central figure so successfully conform, —an epic poem of profound and exalted morality. Upon this moral question I shall take leave to intercalate a few words…. It seems to me that the moral tone of the Arthurian story has been on the whole lowered and degraded by Mr. Tennyson’s mode of treatment. Wishing to

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Sir Thomas Malory: The Critical Heritage
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • General Editor’s Preface v
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Caxton’s Preface 47
  • 2 - Wynkyn de Worde Interpolation 51
  • 3 - Tudor Historians on Malory 52
  • 4 - Renaissance Views 56
  • 5 - Two Seventeenth-Century Comments 61
  • 6 - Biographia Britannica 64
  • 7 - Samuel Johnson 66
  • 10 - Early Nineteenth-Century Scholars and Bibliographers 81
  • 13 - Robert Southey 95
  • 17 - Unsigned Review of Wright’s Edition, Christian Examiner 114
  • 18 - David Masson 117
  • 19 - Unsigned Review of Wright’s Edition, Blackwood’s Magazine 120
  • 21 - James T. Knowles 152
  • 24 - Herbert Coleridge 157
  • 25 - F.J. Furnivall 165
  • 26 - Samuel Cheetham 170
  • 27 - Edward Conybeare 173
  • 28 - Edward Strachey 175
  • 30 - A.C. Swinburne and R.H. Hutton 189
  • 32 - Harriet W. Preston 202
  • 34 - George W. Cox 211
  • 37 - Brief References 233
  • 38 - Edward R. Russell 240
  • 39 - Frederick Ryland 252
  • 42 - Andrew Lang 292
  • 43 - Reviews of Sommer’s Edition of Malory 303
  • 44 - ‘An Arthurian Journey’, Unsigned Essay, Atlantic Monthly 314
  • 46 - Other Nineteenth-Century Editors after Sommer 329
  • 48 - Mungo Maccallum 347
  • 50 - G.H. Maynadier 379
  • Index 403
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