The Once and Future King by T. H. White
New York : G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1958. Book club edition. Hardcover. 631 pages ; 21 cm. In original dust jacket with minimal wear. Black cover boards with gilt title at spine. Foxing on top pages edge. Owner name on copyright page. Otherwise, no markings elsewhere to pages. Binding is firm.
T. H. White, whose THE SWORD IN THE STONE has been read by hundreds of thousands, now at last has turned his hand to retelling the entire Arthurian Epic. THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING takes Arthur from the glorious lyrical phase of his youth through the disillusioning early years of his reign to the mature years in which his vision of the Round Table develops into the search for the Holy Grail and finally to his weary old age.
In part, T. H. White has drawn on published material which he has revised and reworked heavily to bring form and continuity to an overall work, a tetralogy which will stand as unique and vivid and quite apart from the individual effects of the various particular books. And in part the author has created new material as enchanting as any he has ever set on paper. The overall result is a great work, greater than THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING: a truly important book.
The author writes:
"I have had the Matter of Britain on my hands for twenty years. That is what it has been called since before the days of Malory, and it is a serious subject. I have tried to deal with every side of it— with the clash between Might and Right, man's place in nature, the problem of war, the racial background which is an important part of the story, and with King Arthur's personal doom: The Aristotelian tragedy which made Malory call his long book the Morte d'Arthur. I have tried to look at it through the innocent eyes of young people, because I don't very much believe in the modern theory that the whole object of life is gratified desire. Malory didn't either. I have tried to make the seriousness acceptable by getting as much fun as possible out of the comic characters. I have invented a love-affair for King Pellinore—the only addition to Malory, except that he did not say that Lancelot was ugly. Almost all the people in this book are in his wonderful one, and have the same characters in both. I hope the moral is not too heavy, but the story was always a deep one. After all, it is the major British epic—more so than Milton's Italian excursion. English writers, including great ones like Tennyson, have been mulling it over for a thousand years, and for that matter Milton himself thought of doing it before he decided to deal with Adam."
T. H. White, who died in November, 1963, was an outstanding authority on all aspects of medieval life. In addition to his vivid fictional re-creations of the Arthurian legend, THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING and THE SWORD IN THE STONE, Mr. White wrote such outstanding non-fiction works as THE BESTIARY, an annotation of a medieval bestiary, and THE GOSHAWK, which tells of his own experiences with falconry.
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