which if they could have been found, might have saved Richard Robinson the trouble of translating Leland’s Assertio, etc. into English. But, in truth, honest William was only T. Malory’s printer, as has been already observed.
This work, often cited through the early nineteenth century, is subtitled ‘The Lives of the Most Eminent Persons who have flourished in Great Britain and Ireland from the earliest Ages, down to the present Times’; it is ‘digested in the manner’ of Bale’s history. A number of its articles, including the one on Caxton in which this selection appears, are attributed to William Oldys (1696-1761), antiquary, bibliographer, editor, and biographer, whose most important work was perhaps his life of Ralegh (1736) and who worked with Samuel Johnson on the cataloguing of the Harleian library.
Oldys introduces the notion, repeated through successive decades, that Malory was a priest; he also attributes the popularity of the Morte Darthur to its loose standards of morality. The entry appears in volume II (London: W. Innys, 1748; reprinted Hildesheim: G. Olms, 1969), 1243.
But what was accounted his [Caxton’s] capital work this year , is a large thick volume, intituled, The Byrth, Lyf, and Actes of King Arthur; of his noble Knyghtes of the Round Table, their marvayllous Enquestes and Adventures; th Achyeviyng of the Sang real; and in the end, Le Morte D’Arthur; with the dolorous Deth and Departyng out of thys World of them Al. Whiche book was reduced to the Englisshe by Syr Thomas Malory, Knight, and by me (William Caxton) divyded into twenty one bookes; chaptyred and emprynted, and fynysshed in th’ Abbey Westmestre, the last day of July, the yere of our Lord 1485. That Sir Thomas Malory seems to have drawn this