A dying art
Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-92) describes the passing of the legendary King Arthur in his long, leisurely poem, Idylls of the King. Illustrated here by pioneering photographer Julia Margaret Cameron, friend and neighbour of Tennyson in his later years, the poem is in the Poet Laureate's most lush and maserful vein, with sensual, seductive detail enrobing every dramatic occasion. How different from Tennyson's source, the 15th-century outlaw knight and general bad-ass Sir Thomas Malory (1416-71). Malory finished his lengthy Le Morte Darthur in prison around 1470. Shortly thereafter he was released from his sentence for conspiracy and died.
His work, in punchy take-no-prisoners prose, is an uneven recension of many earlier works on the Arthur stories. Parts of it, though, never mind the funny spelling, can stand up and sing with the best narrative in the language.