A FINAL attempt to appraise Malory's art must be based on a comparison of the Morte Darthur with the sources from which it was drawn.
Such a comparison is full of interest, but it calls for a caution at the outset. No one can tell how far Malory's book is original, and how far it may lean on some intermediate source, now lost, in which the process of combination and compression had already been carried out. After the tremendous expansion of romantic material which began in the early thirteenth century had spent itself, a counter process of condensation had set in: compilations, and books of extracts, were fairly common, and Malory may have had access to one or more. The Morte Darthur is based on many long romances, and it is a question whether a simple Warwickshire knight would have had so large a number in his library. Dr. Sommer presupposes an undiscovered source, resting on some Brut, or imaginative history of England, and enlarged to include full treatment of the reigns of Uther and Leodogan and of the Table Round. "The French book" to which Malory frequently alludes may thus have been one solitary book of moderate size. One may conjecture that he picked it up during his campaign in France; one may conjecture
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Publication information: Book title: Le Morte Darthur of Sir Thomas Malory & Its Sources. Contributors: Vida D. Scudder - Author. Publisher: E.P. Dutton. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1917. Page number: 365.