The Arthur of the English Poets

By Howard Maynadier | Go to book overview

XVIII
THE LATER EIGHTEENTH CENTURY

As the generation passed which had been in its prime when Anne was on the throne, the time came for Arthurian stories to receive more worthy treatment. Having steadily declined in favor for the last hundred years, they were now to grow in favor until in the nineteenth century they should hold as honorable a place as ever they held in the Middle Ages. This return of the legends to the high position which was their right came about with the growth of the romantic spirit in literature and the other fine arts.

Critics have found romanticism hard to define. We can form some idea of it only by saying that our literature in the first quarter of the nineteenth century was romantic as distinguished from that of the first quarter of the eighteenth century, which was classic, or rather pseudo-classic. A more exact definition is difficult because romanticism was made up of various elements, several of which especially deserve notice. In form, romanticism broke away from the precise verse and the artificial diction of Pope and his school. In mood, it substituted mystery, subjectivity, and individuality for reason, objectivity, and impersonality. And in matter, it extended its interest beyond contemporary society to nature and the society of former and rougher ages. Sometimes the various elements of

-314-

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The Arthur of the English Poets
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • The Arthur of English Poets I the Vigor of the Arthurian Legends 1
  • Iii the Arthur of Popular Story 32
  • Iv the Chronicles and the Lais 50
  • Vi Merlin 79
  • Vii Lancelot 84
  • Viii the Holy Grail 106
  • Ix the Grail and the Swan-Knight 143
  • X Tristram and Iseult 153
  • Xi the Moulding of the Legends 175
  • Xiii Sir Thomas Malory 197
  • Xiv Caxton and the Transition 247
  • Xvi from Spenser to Milton 278
  • Xvii the Age of Prose and Reason 295
  • Xviii the Later Eighteenth Century 314
  • Xix the Early Nineteenth Century 335
  • Xx the High Tide of MediÆvalism 344
  • Xxi the Newer Spirit 378
  • Xxii Tennyson 410
  • Index 439
  • Index 441
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