The Arthur of the English Poets

By Howard Maynadier | Go to book overview
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XXI
THE NEWER SPIRIT

AFTER all, it must be said that the Praæ-Raphaelites, despite the beauty of their mediævalism, have not produced the best Arthurian poetry of the nineteenth century. Opposed as the spirit of that century was to such violation of Arthurian traditions as Bulwer's introduction of romantic and mythological characters entirely foreign to the old stories, it sought nevertheless in its most characteristic manifestation to give them more of its own time than did the Præ-Raphaelites. Thus Peacock, whose antiquarian fidelity exceeded that of any other Arthurian writer, inasmuch as he tried to reproduce sixth-century Britain, was yet by his use of nineteenth-century satire more representative of his age than Morris, Hawker, Westwood, and Mr. Swinburne. They, apart from their elaborate technique, and sometimes extremely subjective method of portraying character, have been merely so many different manifestations of mediævalism. Other nineteenth-century writers, together with fidelity to the spirit and the incidents of the old stories, have sought still more than Peacock to bring them into conformity with contemporary feeling; they have tried either to teach new lessons by the stories or to give new sentiments to the characters, or sometimes to do both. Thus Heber modernised his story by changing the natures

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