THE books from VIII. to XI. are drawn from the prose Tristram; and Book VIII. starts abruptly with a new beginning: "It was a king that hight Meliodas, and he was lord and king of the country of Liones . . . and at that time King Arthur reigned." There is no finesse to Malory's transitions; whatever unity may obtain in the design as a whole, the joints are always as evident as in rough carpenters' work. The insertion of this brand-new story from a fresh source at this point seems at first sight awkward; yet a deliberate reason existed for it.
Malory's method, once his stage is set, is to focus attention on one element in chivalry after another. Loyalty to the overlord needs no exposition just now; Arthur is the center of a devoted knighthood, and the relation to him is basic throughout the entire story. Two chief forces remain, -- forces represented, apart from chivalric romance, in those characteristic mediæval works, the Romaunt of the Rose and the Legenda Aurea: mystic asceticism, and woman-worship. Malory meant to show both, first in their succession, then in their conflict, and L'amour Courtois had the right of way.