free ebooks

A History of the French Novel, Vol. 1

But if he is to be a hero of Rymer


so he called in Love to reinforce War and Religion and to do its proper office of uniting, inspiring, and producing Humanity. He effected, by the union of the three motives, the transformation of a mere dull record of confused fighting into a brilliant pageant of knightly adventure. He made the long-winded homilies and genealogies of the earlier Graal-legend at once take colour from the amorous and war-like adventures, raise these to a higher and more spiritual plane, and provide the due punishment for the sins of his erring characters. The whole story--at least all of it that he chose to touch and all that he chose to add--became alive. The bones were clothed with flesh and blood, the "wastable country verament" (as the dullest of the Graal chroniclers says in a phrase that applies capitally to his own work) blossomed with flower and fruit. Wars of Arthur with unwilling subjects or Saxons and Romans; treachery of his wife and nephew and his own death; miracle-history of the Holy Vessel and pedigree of its custodians; Round Table; these and many other things had lain as mere scraps and orts, united by no real plot, yielding no real characters, satisfying no real interest that could not have been equally satisfied by an actual chronicle or an actual religious-mystical discourse. And then the whole was suddenly knit into a seamless and shimmering web of romance, from the fancy of Uther for Igerne to the "departing of them all" in Lyonnesse and at Amesbury and at Joyous Gard. A romance
undoubtedly, but also incidentally providing the first real novel-hero and the first real novel-heroine in the persons of the lovers who, as in the passage above translated, sometimes "made great joy of each other for that they had long caused each other much sorrow," and finally expiated in sorrow what was unlawful in their joy.

Let us pass to these persons themselves.

[Sidenote: Especially in the characters and relations of Lancelot and Guinevere.]

The first point to note about Lancelot is the singular fashion in which he escapes one of the dangers of the hero. Aristotle had never said that a hero must be faultless; indeed, he had definitely said exactly the contrary, of at least the tragic hero. But one of the worst of the many misunderstandings of his dicta brought the wrong notion about, and Virgil--that exquisite craftsman in verse and phrase, but otherwise, perhaps, not great poet and very dangerous pattern--had confirmed this notion by his deplorable figurehead. It is also fair to confess that all except morbid tastes do like to see the hero win. But if he is to be a hero of Rymer, not merely

Like Paris handsome[34] and like Hector brave,

but as pious as Aeneas; "a rich fellow enough," with blood hopelessly blue and morals spotlessly copy-bookish--in other words, a Sir Charles Grandison--he will duly meet with the detestation and "conspuing" of the elect. Almost the only just one of the numerous and generally silly charges latterly brought against Tennyson's Arthurian handling is that his conception of the blameless king does a little smack of this false idea, does something grow to it. It is one of the chief points in which he departed, not merely from the older stories (which he probably did not know), but from Malory's astonishing redaction of them (which he certainly did).

eBook Search
Social Sharing
Share Button
About us is a collection of free ebooks that can be read online. Ebooks are split into pages for easier reading and better bookmarking.

We have more than 35,000 free books in our collection and are adding new books daily.

We invite you to link to us, so as many people as possible can enjoy this wonderful free website.

© 2010-2013 - All Rights Reserved.

Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Contact Us