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Synopsis

We owe this our English Epic of Le Morte Darthur to Sir Thomas Malory, and to William Caxton the first English printer. Caxton’s Preface shows (what indeed would have been certain from his appeal to the ‘Knights of England’ at the end of ‘The Order of Chivalry’) that however strongly he, ‘William Caxton, simple person,’ may have been urged to undertake the work by ‘divers gentlemen of this realm of England,’ he was not less moved by his own love and reverence for ‘the noble acts of chivalry,’ and his deep sense of his duty and responsibility in printing what he believed would be for the instruction and profit of his readers, ‘of whatever estate or degree.’ But to Sir Thomas Malory he gives all the honour of having provided him with the copy which he printed. And ever since, for more than four hundred years, successive generations have approved the fitness of Caxton’s choice. For it is Malory’s book, and not the older forms of King Arthur’s story which we still read for enjoyment, and for the illustration of which scholars edit those earlier books.

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