Le Morte d’Arthur

(Fiction; 1485; repr., Cassell & Co., 2000)

It’s 1450, give or take. An English knight sits in a prison cell, passing the time by writing stories of chivalry and adventure based on popular court romances, and adding his own grit to the gallantry. The “knight prisoner,” as he called himself, was Sir Thomas Malory, and his tale of King Arthur and the Round Table became part of the founding myth of Britain.

What we know of Malory we infer from the text and from scant historical records. Most contemporary scholars agree that Malory was born the son of a knight, became a professional soldier, and got elected to parliament in 1443. At the same time he emerged as the leader of a gang of highway robbers. He and his band committed hundreds of violent offenses, and even, allegedly, ambushed the Duke of Buckingham.

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