‘The Arthurian Legends in Tennyson’, Contemporary Review, 7 (April, 1868), 497-514.
Samuel Cheetham (1827-1908), later archdeacon of Rochester, was at the time of writing this article, professor of pastoral theology at King’s College, London. He was a contributor on varied subjects to the Quarterly Review and to the Contemporary Review, his other publications were chiefly sermons and church history.
The title of the article suggests its intent, which is partly to show Tennyson’s art and skill in transforming the old stories. The early part of the essay is concerned with tracing the legend from the historical Arthur, through Geoffrey and Wace, to Anglo-Norman, French, and German romancers. Cheetham finds that the Morte Darthur’s lack of prurience and sensuousness renders it, though indelicate at times, far less injurious to morals than many contemporary novels. The extract combines passages from pp. 501-3 and 513.
When Caxton set up his press in Westminster Abbey, he was (as he tells us) pressed by ‘many noble and dyvers gentylmen of this royaume’ to print an English history of King Arthur. He printed, accordingly, a work by Sir Thomas Malory, who had compiled a book ‘oute of certeyn bookes of Frensshe, and reduced it into Englysshe.’ Of this Sir Thomas, the compiler of one of the most famous books in the English tongue, we know no more than he tells us himself, that he was a knight, and that he finished his work in the ninth year of Edward IV. (1469-70). Caxton completed the printing of it in the abbey of Westminster on the last day of July, 1485. This is the famous ‘Mort d’Arthure’ which was once the favourite reading of English knights.
If forms a strange tangled thread of many colours. Round the leading story of King Arthur are twined the principal incidents of