IT will be well at this point to make a more detailed examination of some one section in Malory's book, as compared with the corresponding portion of other versions. A good part to choose is the eighteenth book, with the stories of the poisoning of Sir Patrise and of the Maid of Astolat; for these stories are found not only in the prose Lancelot but also in the middle English poem, written at least a hundred years before Malory. To place the three forms side by side is to find suggestive hints as to the degree in which development is due to Malory, or may already have occurred before his day.
Malory's version runs very close to the older forms; indeed, the resemblance between his work and the poem is so great, extending even to verbal detail, that a lively controversy has been waged as to whether or no the poem was his direct source. The answer seems at present to be negative, yet it is difficult to resist the conclusion that although Malory's version can not be wholly accounted for from the poem, he must have had a copy of that work before him while he wrote. There is, however, one great difference between his telling of the tale and that of both his predecessors. He narrates the episodes consecutively; the prose Lancelot and the poem alike interweave them, interrupt-