THE CHRONICLES AND THE LAIS
WE, have seen that Geoffrey, whose so-called history is the first extensive literary treatment of any part of the Arthurian stories, by no means invented the fame of Arthur and his knights. What he did was to give the stories literary dignity and consideration which they bad not enjoyed before. When William of Malmesbury mentions the stories, writing some ten years before Geoffrey, he speaks of them as tales old wives might tell. Ten years after Geoffrey's history appeared they were above such scorn; and by the end of the century they bad become, as they were to remain, the greatest mediæval hero-saga. So important were they that you will find some mention of Arthur in the pages of almost every chronicler down to the Elizabethan Holinshed, who gives, much abbreviated, what is substantially the same account as Geoffrey's. Of all these pseudo-historians, only two contributed materially to the development of the Arthurian stories; in the works of the others, virtually nothing new appears. The two important chroniclers are Wace, a Norman, who wrote within twenty years of Geoffrey, and Layamon, an Englishman, who wrote fifty years after Wace.
Wace, born in the island of Jersey about 1100, seems to have entered the church, and to have been interested early in literature. He decided to translate Geoffrey's history into Norman-French, and completed