Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Malory: The Life and Times of King Arthur's Chronicler

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Malory: The Life and Times of King Arthur's Chronicler

Article excerpt

Christina Hardyment, Malory: The Life and Times of King Arthur's Chronicler (London: HarperCollins, 2005). xx + 634 pp.; 49 plates. ISBN 0-00-711489-3. £25.00.

This is a big book. Thus Christina Hardyment has unearthed considerable new evidence, or she makes a lot of guesses. Hardyment admits immediately that the latter is the case: her book is 'stuffed to the brim with conjectures, breaks a great many scholarly conventions, and ... is as much an imagined life as a true biography'. One of the most violated conventions regards documenting of sources. There are ninety-nine pages of endnotes, but no note numbers or symbols in the text to indicate a note: readers must guess whether a particular item of information or even a quotation is documented or not. This is all the more frustrating given that there is a wealth of information in the notes, including that the Cambridgeshire Malory secured a 146; distraint against being a knight, thus corroborating P. J. C. Field's view that he could not be the author of Le Morte Darthur. As this note reveals, Hardyment has done considerable research into both the primary and secondary sources; her introduction offers a judicious overview of the various candidates and criticisms put forward regarding the Morte's authorship, and both research and fancy are employed to support the prevailing view that the Morte's author is Sir Thomas Malory of Newbold Revel. She argues that we must situate Malory more fully in his sociohistorical context, and that doing so reveals his character to be more in accord with the values of his text than is currently realized. This may be true, but despite Hardyment's efforts much of Malory's character must still be surmised, meaning that Hardyment's study is a generic hybrid combining scholarly biography with historical fiction. Some readers will appreciate this and some will not. …

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