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Thomas Malory

Thomas Malory

Overview

Sir Thomas Malory was an English
English people
The English are a nation and ethnic group native to England, who speak English. The English identity is of early mediaeval origin, when they were known in Old English as the Anglecynn. England is now a country of the United Kingdom, and the majority of English people in England are British Citizens...

 writer, the author or compiler of Le Morte d'Arthur
Le Morte d'Arthur
Le Morte d'Arthur is a compilation by Sir Thomas Malory of Romance tales about the legendary King Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot, and the Knights of the Round Table...

. The antiquary John Leland (1506–1552) as well as John Bale
John Bale
John Bale was an English churchman, historian and controversialist, and Bishop of Ossory. He wrote the oldest known historical verse drama in English , and developed and published a very extensive list of the works of British authors down to his own time, just as the monastic libraries were being...

 believed him to be Welsh, but most modern scholars, beginning with G. L. Kittredge
George Lyman Kittredge
George Lyman Kittredge was a celebrated professor and scholar of English literature at Harvard University. His scholarly edition of the works of William Shakespeare' as well as his writings and lectures on Shakespeare and other literary figures made him one of the most influential American...

 in 1894, assume that he was Sir Thomas Malory of Newbold Revel in Warwickshire
Warwickshire
Warwickshire is a landlocked non-metropolitan county in the West Midlands region of England. The county town is Warwick, although the largest town is Nuneaton. The county is famous for being the birthplace of William Shakespeare...

, who was a knight, land-owner and Member of Parliament. The surname appears in various spellings, including, Mallerre, Maillorie, Mallory, Mallery, Maelor, Maleore, and as it seems he may have spelled it, Malleorré.
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Quotations

Well, said Merlin, I know whom thou seekest, for thou seekest Merlin; therefore seek no farther, for I am he.

Book I, ch. 1

Whoso pulleth out this sword of this stone and anvil, is rightwise King born of all England.

Book I, ch. 5

In the midst of the lake Arthur was are of an arm clothed in white samite, that held a fair sword in that hand.

Book I, ch. 25

With that truncheon thou hast slain a good knight, and now it sticketh in thy body.

Book II, ch. 14

Knight, keep well thy head, for thou shalt have a buffet for the slaying of my horse.

Book III, ch. 12

Always Sir Arthur lost so much blood that it was a marvel he stood on his feet, but he was so full of knighthood that knightly he endured the pain.

Book IV, ch. 9

What, nephew, said the king, is the wind in that door?

Book VII, ch. 34

The joy of love is too short, and the sorrow thereof, and what cometh thereof, dureth over long.

Book X, ch. 56

The month of May was come, when every lusty heart beginneth to blossom, and to bring forth fruit; for like as herbs and trees bring forth fruit and flourish in May, in likewise every lusty heart that is in any manner a lover, springeth and flourisheth in lusty deeds. For it giveth unto all lovers courage, that lusty month of May.

Book XVIII, ch. 25

Nowadays men cannot love seven night but they must have all their desires: that love may not endure by reason; for where they be soon accorded and hasty, heat soon it cooleth. Right so fareth love nowadays, soon hot soon cold: this is no stability. But the old love was not so.

Book XVIII, ch. 25
Encyclopedia

Sir Thomas Malory was an English
English people
The English are a nation and ethnic group native to England, who speak English. The English identity is of early mediaeval origin, when they were known in Old English as the Anglecynn. England is now a country of the United Kingdom, and the majority of English people in England are British Citizens...

 writer, the author or compiler of Le Morte d'Arthur
Le Morte d'Arthur
Le Morte d'Arthur is a compilation by Sir Thomas Malory of Romance tales about the legendary King Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot, and the Knights of the Round Table...

. The antiquary John Leland (1506–1552) as well as John Bale
John Bale
John Bale was an English churchman, historian and controversialist, and Bishop of Ossory. He wrote the oldest known historical verse drama in English , and developed and published a very extensive list of the works of British authors down to his own time, just as the monastic libraries were being...

 believed him to be Welsh, but most modern scholars, beginning with G. L. Kittredge
George Lyman Kittredge
George Lyman Kittredge was a celebrated professor and scholar of English literature at Harvard University. His scholarly edition of the works of William Shakespeare' as well as his writings and lectures on Shakespeare and other literary figures made him one of the most influential American...

 in 1894, assume that he was Sir Thomas Malory of Newbold Revel in Warwickshire
Warwickshire
Warwickshire is a landlocked non-metropolitan county in the West Midlands region of England. The county town is Warwick, although the largest town is Nuneaton. The county is famous for being the birthplace of William Shakespeare...

, who was a knight, land-owner and Member of Parliament. The surname appears in various spellings, including, Mallerre, Maillorie, Mallory, Mallery, Maelor, Maleore, and as it seems he may have spelled it, Malleorré. The name comes from the Old French
Old French
Old French was the Romance dialect continuum spoken in territories that span roughly the northern half of modern France and parts of modern Belgium and Switzerland from the 9th century to the 14th century...

 adjective maleüré (from Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 male auguratus) meaning ill-omened or unfortunate.

Biography


Virtually all that is known about Malory the writer (there were at least six Thomas Malorys alive in the 15th century when Le Morte d'Arthur was written), for certain, is what can be gathered from the prayers in the Winchester Manuscript. At the end of the "Tale of King Arthur
King Arthur
King Arthur is a legendary British leader of the late 5th and early 6th centuries, who, according to Medieval histories and romances, led the defence of Britain against Saxon invaders in the early 6th century. The details of Arthur's story are mainly composed of folklore and literary invention, and...

," being Books I-IV in the printing by William Caxton
William Caxton
William Caxton was an English merchant, diplomat, writer and printer. As far as is known, he was the first English person to work as a printer and the first to introduce a printing press into England...

, is written:
"For this was written by a knight prisoner Thomas Malleorre, that God send him good recovery."
At the end of "The Tale of Sir Gareth," Caxton's Book VII:
"And I pray you all that readeth this tale to pray for him that this wrote, that God send him good deliverance soon and hastily."
At the conclusion of the "Tale of Sir Tristram
Sir Tristram
For the Knight of the Round Table, see Tristan.For the ship of the same name see RFA Sir Tristram Sir Tristram was an Irish-bred Thoroughbred racehorse who stood at stud in New Zealand, where he sired an extraordinary 45 Group One winners, including three Melbourne Cup winners...

," Caxton's VIII-XII:
"Here endeth the second book of Sir Tristram de Lyones, which was drawn out of the French by Sir Thomas Malleorre, knight, as Jesu be his help."
Finally, at the conclusion of the whole book:
"The Most Piteous Tale of the Morte Arthure Sanz Gwerdon par le shyvalere Sir Thomas Malleorre, knight, Jesu aide ly pur votre bon mercy."
However, all these are replaced by Caxton with a final colophon
Colophon (publishing)
In publishing, a colophon is either:* A brief description of publication or production notes relevant to the edition, in modern books usually located at the reverse of the title page, but can also sometimes be located at the end of the book, or...

 reading:
"I pray you all gentlemen and gentlewomen that readeth this book of Arthur and his knights, from the beginning to the ending, pray for me while I am alive, that God send me good deliverance and when I am dead, I pray you all pray for my soul. For this book was ended the ninth year of the reign of King Edward the Fourth
Edward IV of England
Edward IV was King of England from 4 March 1461 until 3 October 1470, and again from 11 April 1471 until his death. He was the first Yorkist King of England...

 by Sir Thomas Maleore, knight, as Jesu help him for his great might, as he is the servant of Jesu both day and night."


It must be said that the author must have been from a rich enough family to ensure his education was sufficient to the point of being able to read French, and also to have been familiar with the Yorkshire dialect. A claimant's age must also fit the time of writing.

Welsh Poet


This knight prisoner has led many to assume various identities for Malory, or Malleorre as it seems he spelled it. The earliest conclusion was made by John Bale
John Bale
John Bale was an English churchman, historian and controversialist, and Bishop of Ossory. He wrote the oldest known historical verse drama in English , and developed and published a very extensive list of the works of British authors down to his own time, just as the monastic libraries were being...

, a 16th century antiquarian, who declared that Malory was Welsh, hailing from Maloria on the River Dee. This candidate received further support from Sir John Rhys, who, in 1893, proclaimed that the alternative spelling indicated an area straddling the England-North Wales border, Maleore in Flintshire, and Maleor in Denbigh. This would possibly relate Malory to Edward Rhys Maelor, a fifteenth-century Welsh poet.

Thomas Malory of Papworth


A second candidate was presented by A. T. Martin, another antiquarian, who proposed in an article written in 1897, that the author was Thomas Malory of Papworth St. Agnes in Huntingdonshire. The brief biography of Malory goes thus: Born on 6 December 1425 at Morton Court, Shropshire, he was the eldest son of Sir William Malory, representative of Parliament to Cambridgeshire. Thomas inherited his father's estates in 1425, and was placed in the wardship of the King for reasons unknown, remaining there until within four months of his death, in 1469. Nothing else is known of him, save one peculiar incident, discovered by William Matthews. In a collection of chancery proceedings, it is heard of a petition brought against Malory by Richard Kyd, parson of Papworth, claiming that Malory ambushed him on a November evening, and took him from Papworth, to Huntingdon, and then to Bedford, to Northampton, all the while being threatened on his life to either forfeit his church unto Malory, or else give £100. The outcome of this is unknown, but it seems to indicate something more than an average country gentleman, and his wardship explains the "knight prisoner."

Thomas Malory of Newbold Revel


The third contender, is not only most well documented, but most popular as a claimant. This is Sir Thomas Malory of Newbold Revel in Warwickshire. H. Oskar Sommer first put forth this theory in his 1890 edition of Le Morte d'Arthur and Harvard Professor George Lyman Kittredge
George Lyman Kittredge
George Lyman Kittredge was a celebrated professor and scholar of English literature at Harvard University. His scholarly edition of the works of William Shakespeare' as well as his writings and lectures on Shakespeare and other literary figures made him one of the most influential American...

 provided the evidence in 1896. Kittredge showed Malory as a soldier and member of Parliament who fought at Calais with Richard Beauchamp
Richard de Beauchamp, 13th Earl of Warwick
Richard de Beauchamp, 13th Earl of Warwick, Count of Aumale, KG was an English medieval nobleman and military commander.-Early Life:...

, Earl of Warwick. However, a biography by Edward Hicks in 1928, revealed him as a thief, bandit, kidnapper, and rapist, hardly in keeping with the high chivalric standards in the book.

This Malory was born to Sir John Malory of Winwick and Lady Phillipa Malory, heiress of Newbold. Thomas, their only son, was born between 1393 and 1416. he became a professional soldier and served under the Earl of Warwick, but all dates are vague, and it is unknown how he became distinguished. He acted as an elector in Northamptonshire, but in 1443 was accused, along with an accomplice, Eustace Barnaby, of attacking, kidnapping, and stealing £40 of goods from Thomas Smythe. Nothing became of this charge, and he soon married a woman named Elizabeth Walsh, who would bear him a son, Robert.

The same year, Malory was elected to Parliament, serving at Westminster for the rest of 1443, and being appointed to a Royal Commission charged with the distribution of monies to impoverished towns in Warwickshire. Despite the charge against him, he seemed to have remained in good standing amongst his peers.

However, this would change rapidly, when, in 1450 he was accused of ambushing the Duke of Buckingham, Humphrey Stafford
Humphrey Stafford, 1st Duke of Buckingham
Humphrey Stafford, 1st Duke of Buckingham KG , an English nobleman, great grandson of King Edward III on his mother's side, was best known as a military commander in the Hundred Years' War and in the Wars of the Roses....

, along with a gang of 26 other men. The accusation was never proved. In May of that year, he was next accused of exhorting 100 shillings from Margaret King and William Hales of Monks Kirby, and, the next August, of committing the same injury against John Mylner, for 20 shilings.

In between, in June 1450, he found the time to break into the house of Hugh Smyth of Monks Kirby, stealing £40 pounds of goods, and raping his wife. Eight weeks later, Malory alone was charged with attacking the same woman, in Coventry. Nine months later, on 15 March 1451, he and 19 others were ordered to be arrested. Nothing came of this and in the following months, the Malory gang racked up crimes consisting of violent robberies, rising past 100. At one point, he was arrested and imprisoned in Maxstoke Castle
Maxstoke Castle
Maxstoke Castle is a privately owned moated castle dating from medieval times situated to the north of Maxstoke, Warwickshire.-Details:It was built by Sir William de Clinton, 1st Earl of Huntingdon, in 1345 to a rectangular plan, with octagonal towers at each angle , a gatehouse on the east, and a...

, but he escaped, swam the moat, and regrouped with his gang at Newbold Revel.

This continued, until the matter finally came to trial on 23 August 1451, in Nuneaton
Nuneaton
Nuneaton is the largest town in the Borough of Nuneaton and Bedworth and in the English county of Warwickshire.Nuneaton is most famous for its associations with the 19th century author George Eliot, who was born on a farm on the Arbury Estate just outside Nuneaton in 1819 and lived in the town for...

. Those accused included him and several others, with numerous charges. The judgement went against Malory and he was in London's Marshalsea
Marshalsea
The Marshalsea was a prison on the south bank of the River Thames in Southwark, now part of London. From the 14th century until it closed in 1842, it housed men under court martial for crimes at sea, including those accused of "unnatural crimes", political figures and intellectuals accused of...

 prison by 1452, where he remained for a year. His response was to plead "not guilty," and demand a retrial with a jury of men from his own county. This never took place, but he was released. In March, he was back in Marshalsea, from which he escaped two months after, possibly by bribing the guards and gaolers. After a month, he was back in prison, and was held until the following May, released on a bail of £200, a considerable sum.

Next, when Malory was to answer for his crimes, he could not be found. This was because he was in custody in Colchester, accused of more crimes involving robbery and the stealing of horses. Once again, he escaped, and was at liberty until November, when he was apprehended and returned to Marshalsea, under penalty for escape of £1000.

He seems to have lain low for a few years, being either imprisoned in Newgate Prison
Newgate Prison
Newgate Prison was a prison in London, at the corner of Newgate Street and Old Bailey just inside the City of London. It was originally located at the site of a gate in the Roman London Wall. The gate/prison was rebuilt in the 12th century, and demolished in 1777...

 or Marshalsea. He obtained bail at least once, but was soon locked up again for failing to pay back loans made to him by various people for his extensive bail payments. All these terms in prison would have given him ample time to write Le Morte d'Arthur.

In and out of prison for years, he was pardoned at the accession of Edward IV to the throne in 1461. After this, little is heard, spare that a grandson, Nicholas, was born to Robert, who soon died. Sir Thomas Malory of Newbold Revel died on 14 March 1470, and was buried with adequate splendor in Christ Church Greyfriars
Christ Church Greyfriars
Christ Church Greyfriars, also known as Christ Church Newgate, was an Anglican church located on Newgate Street, opposite St Paul's Cathedral in the City of London. Built first in the gothic style, then in the English Baroque style by Sir Christopher Wren, it ranked among the City's most notable...

, near Newgate Prison. His being interred here suggests that his misdeeds were forgiven and that he possessed some wealth, either the result of his robberies, or some unknown patron, possibly Richard Neville
Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick
Richard Neville KG, jure uxoris 16th Earl of Warwick and suo jure 6th Earl of Salisbury and 8th and 5th Baron Montacute , known as Warwick the Kingmaker, was an English nobleman, administrator, and military commander...

, Earl of Warwick, under whom Malory may have spent time as a paid spy.

Malory's tomb read:
"HIC JACET DOMINUS THOMAS MALLERE, VALENS MILES OB 14 MAR 1470 DE PAROCHIA DE MONKENKIRBY IN COM WARICINI,"
meaning:
"Here lies Sir Thomas Mallere, Valiant Knight. Died 14 March 1470, in the parish of Monkenkirby in the county of Warwick."


His grave was lost when Greyfriars was dissolved by Henry VIII. His grandson, Nicholas lived to inherit his lands and was respected enough to be appointed High Sheriff in 1502.

Thomas Malory of Hutton Conyers


The fourth and final contender for the title of authorship is the little-known Thomas Malory from Hutton Conyers, in Yorkshire. His claim was put forth by the aforementioned Professor William Matthews of California University. This claim was met with little enthusiasm, despite considerable linguistic evidence, which demonstrates that the author spoke a regional dialect which matches with the writing of Le Morte d'Arthur. This Malory's not being a knight is considered a large flaw.

In fiction


A young Malory appears as a character at the end of T.H. White's book The Once and Future King
The Once and Future King
The Once and Future King is an Arthurian fantasy novel written by T. H. White. It was first published in 1958 and is mostly a composite of earlier works written in a period between 1938 and 1941....

, which was based on Le Morte d'Arthur. This cameo is included in the Broadway
Broadway theatre
Broadway theatre, commonly called simply Broadway, refers to theatrical performances presented in one of the 40 professional theatres with 500 or more seats located in the Theatre District centered along Broadway, and in Lincoln Center, in Manhattan in New York City...

 musical Camelot
Camelot (musical)
Camelot is a musical by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe . It is based on the King Arthur legend as adapted from the T. H. White tetralogy novel The Once and Future King....

, and in the later film
Camelot (film)
Camelot is a 1967 film adaptation of the musical of the same name. Richard Harris stars as Arthur, Vanessa Redgrave as Guinevere, and Franco Nero as Lancelot. The film was directed by Joshua Logan.-Plot:...

, where his name is given as "Sir Tom of Warwick", thus supporting the claim of Thomas Malory of Newbold Revel. Many modern takes on the Arthurian legend have their roots in Malory, including John Boorman
John Boorman
John Boorman is a British filmmaker who is a long time resident of Ireland and is best known for his feature films such as Point Blank, Deliverance, Zardoz, Excalibur, The Emerald Forest, Hope and Glory, The General and The Tailor of Panama.-Early life:Boorman was born in Shepperton, Surrey,...

's 1981 movie Excalibur
Excalibur (film)
Excalibur is a 1981 dramatic fantasy film directed, produced and co-written by John Boorman that retells the legend of King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table. Adapted from the 15th century Arthurian romance, Le Morte d'Arthur by Thomas Malory, Excalibur features the music of Richard Wagner...

, which includes selected elements of the book. Parts of Malory's book form a key element in Cynthia Harnett
Cynthia Harnett
Cynthia Harnett was a highly acclaimed English writer of children's historical fiction.Known for her exceptional attention to detail and meticulous background research, combined with ingenious and engrossing plots, Harnett wrote only seven novels. The Wool-Pack won the Carnegie Medal in 1951...

's children's novel "The Load of Unicorn
The Load of Unicorn
The Load of Unicorn is a children's historical novel written and illustrated by Cynthia Harnett. It was first published in 1959, and was republished by Egmont Classics in 2001. It is set in London in the fifteenth century, and concerns the adventures of an apprentice of William Caxton, the printer...

".

External links



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