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RACTIONS OF THE ARTHURIAN LEGEND – DISCUSSIONS ON THEIR ATT sources—THE PERSONALITY OF ARTHUR-THE FOUR WITNESSESTHEIR TESTIMONY — THE VERSION OF GEOFFREY – ITS LACUNAE– HOW THE LEGEND GREW–WACE—LAYAMON.—THE ROMANCES PROPER _wALTER MAP–ROBERT DE BORRON —CHRESTIEN DE TROYEs— PROSE OR VERSE FIRST –A LATIN GRAAL-Book—THE MABINoGION _ THE LEGEND ITSELF—THE STORY OF Joseph of ARIMATHEA – MERLIN–LANCELoT-THE LEGEND BECOMES DRAMATIC–STORIES OF GAwain AND OTHER KNIGHTS.–SIR TRISTRAM—HIS STORY ALMOST cERTAINLY CELTIC–SIR LANCELOT-THE MINOR KNIGHTS.–ARTHUR _GUINEVERE-THE GRAAL–HOW IT PERFECTS THE STORY-NATURE OF THIS PERFECTION.—No SEQUEL possIBLE—LATIN EPIsodes—THE LEGEND AS A WHOLE–THE THEORIES OF ITS ORIGIN–CELTIC– reesch–Esglish-Literary—the CELTIC THEORY-THE FRENCH cLAIMs—THE THEORY OF GENERAL LITERARY GROWTH-THE ENGLISH oR ANGLO-NORMAN PRETENSIONs—ATTEMPTED HYPOTHESIs.
TO English readers, and perhaps not to English readers ly, the middle division of the three great romanceo ought to be of far higher interest than the
1 See the quotation from Jean Bodel, p. 26, note. The literature Arthurian question is very large ; and besides the drawbacks "...one text, much of it is cattered in periodical. The ... recent things in English are Mr Nutt's Studies on the in
others; and that not merely, even in the English case, - for reasons of local patriotism. The mediAttractions of - • the Arthurian aeval versions of classical story, though atI. d. - - agen tractive to the highest degree as evidence of the extraordinary plastic power of the period, which could transform all art to its own image and guise, and though not destitute of individual charm here and there, must always be mainly curiosities. The cycle of Charlemagne, a genuine growth and not merely an incrustation or transformation, illustrated, moreover, by particular examples of the highest merit, is exposed on the one hand to the charge of a certain monotony, and on the other to the objection that, beautiful as it is, it is dead. For centuries, except in a few deliberate literary exercises, the king & la barbe florie has inspired no modern singer—his geste is extinct. But the Legend of Arthur, the latest to take definite form of the three, has shown Legend of the Holy Grail (London, 1888); Professor Rhys's Arthurian Legend (Oxford, 1891); and the extensive introduction to Dr Sommer's Malory (London, 1890). In French the elaborate papers on different parts which M. Gaston Paris brings out at intervals in Romania cannot be neglected; and M. Loth's surveys of the subject there and in the Revue Celtique (October 1892) are valuable. Naturally, there has been a great deal in German, the best being, perhaps, Dr Kölbing's long introduction to his reprint of Arthour and Merlin (Leipzig, 1890), Other books will be mentioned in subsequent notes; but a complete and impartial history of the whole subject, giving the contents, with strictly literary criticism only, of all the texts, and merely summarising theories as to origin, &c., is still wanting, and sorely wanted. Probably there is still no better, as there is certainly no more delightful, book on the matter than M. Paulin Paris's Romans de la Table Ronde (5 vols., Paris, 1868-77). The monograph by M. Clédat on the
subject in M. Petit de Julleville's new History (v. supra, p. 23, note) is unfortunately not by any means one of the best of these studies.
bating by which scholars in modern tongues seem to think it a point of honour to rival the scholars of a former day in the classics, though the vocabulary used is less picturesque. A great deal of this debate, too, turns on matters of sheer opinion, in regard to which language only appropriate to matters of sheer knowledge is too often used. The candid inquirer, informed that Mr, or M., or Herr So-and-so, has “proved” such and such a thing in such and such a book or dissertation, turns to the text, to find to his grievous disappointment that nothing is “proved " — but that more or less probable arguments are advanced with less or more temper against or in favour of this or that hypothesis. Even the dates of MSS., which in all such cases must be regarded as the primary data, are very rarely data at all, but only (to coin, or rather adapt, a much-needed term) speculata. And the matter is further complicated by the facts that extremely few scholars possess equal and adequate knowledge of Celtic, English, French, German, and Latin, and that the best palaeographers are by no means always the best literary critics. Where every one who has handled the subject has had to confess, or should have confessed, imperfect equipment in one or more respects, there is no shame in confessing one's own shortcomings. I cannot speak as a Celtic scholar; and I do not pretend to have examined MSS. But for a good many years I have been familiar with the printed texts and documents in Latin, English, French, and German, and I believe that I have not neglected any important modern discussions of the subject. To have no Celtic is the less disqualification in that all the most qualified Celtic scholars themselves admit, however highly they may rate the presence of the Celtic element in spirit, that no texts of the legend in its romantic form at present existing in the Celtic tongues are really ancient. And it is understood that there is now very little left unprinted that can throw much light on the general question. I shall therefore endeavour, without entering into discussions on minor points which would be unsuitable to the book, to give what seems to me the most probable view of the case, corrected by (though not by any means adjusted in a hopeless zigzag of deference to) the various authorities, from Ritson to Professor Rhys, from Paulin Paris to M. Loth, and from San Marte to Drs. Förster and Zimmer. The first and the most important thing—a thing which has been by no means always or often done is to keep the question of Arthur apart from the uestion of the Arthurian Legend. That there was no such a person as Arthur in reality was at Ono time a not very uncommon opinion among men who could call themselves scholars, though of late it has yielded to probable if arguments. The two most damaging facts ire silence of Bede and that of Gildas in reare the o The silence of Bede might be accidental, gard to hi ote ea, hypothesi nearly two centuries after and he ". Yet his collections were extremely Arthur's the neighbourhood of his own North