Chapter One
SIR THOMAS MALORY AND HIS PRINTER

I
The 'Life and Acts' of Sir Thomas Malory

OUR knowledge of Sir Thomas Malory's authorship rests upon the modest statement at the end of his book: 'this book was ended the IX yere of the reygne of Kyng Edward the fourth by syr Thomas Maleore,1 knyght, as Jhesu help hym for hys grete myght, as he is the servaunt of Jhesu bothe day and nyght.' These lines warrant the conclusion that he was a knight, and that he completed his work in the ninth year of Edward IV, i.e. between 4 March 1469 and 3 March 1470.

The only Sir Thomas Malory (or Malorey), knight, known to have been alive at that date is a Warwickshire gentleman of Newbold Revel (or Fenny Newbold). A consensus of opinion identifies him with the author of the Morte Darthur,2 and I shall here attempt to summarize what is known about his life.3

The fundamental ideas underlying the Morte Darthur suggest that the author was of noble blood. Its tone is aristocratic throughout. The story of the 'rich blood of the Round Table' is largely based upon the distinction between noble and churl. Malory's favourite motive is that of a kitchen knave or cowherd's son who proves his noble descent by feats of prowess. Arthur, the foster- child of Ector; Gareth, the kitchen boy; and Brunor, of the 'evil shapen coat', are all examples of the same type

____________________
1
On the spelling of Malory's name in the extant records, v. infra, pp. 115- 16. It appears in the eleventh century as Maloret, later Malore, Maleore, Malory, &c. It is not unlikely that the name has its origin in the Old French verb orer (= to frame, to surround) and that Maloret was a nickname meaning 'ill framed' or 'ill set'. Cf. Romania, xxvii. 322.
2
V. infra, pp. 115-16.
3
The documents I have used are cited and discussed in Appendix I.

-1-

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Malory
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • List of Illustrations x
  • Chapter One - Sir Thomas Malory and His Printer 1
  • Chapter Two - the Genesis of Arthurian Romance 14
  • Chapter Three - Narrative Technique 29
  • Chapter Four - Romance and Realism 43
  • Chapter Five - the Genius of Chivalry 55
  • Chapter Six - Camelot and Corbenic 70
  • Chapter Seven - the New Arthuriad 85
  • Chapter Eight Translation and Style 100
  • Conclusion 109
  • Appendix One Materials for Malory's Biography 115
  • Appendix Two the Sources of the Mort Darthur 128
  • Appendix Three 155
  • Bibliography 189
  • Index 199
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