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An Aubrey Beardsley illustration for Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur

Sir Thomas Malory (c. 1405 – 14 March 1471) was an English writer, the author or compiler of Le Morte d'Arthur. The antiquary John Leland (1506–1552) believed him to be Welsh, but most modern scholars, beginning with G.L. Kittridge in 1894,[1] assume that he was Sir Thomas Malory of Newbold Revel in Warwickshire, who was a knight, land-owner and Member of Parliament.[2] The surname appears in various spellings, including Maillorie, Mallory, Mallery, and Maleore. The name comes from the Old French adjective maleüré (from Latin male auguratus) meaning ill-omened or unfortunate.

Few facts are certain in Malory's history. He was probably born sometime around 1405 (though some scholars have suggested an earlier date). He died in March of 1471, less than two years after completing his lengthy book. Twice elected to a seat in Parliament, he also accrued a long list of criminal charges during the 1450s, including burglary, rape, sheep stealing, and attempting to ambush Humphrey Stafford, the Duke of Buckingham. He escaped from jail on two occasions, once by fighting his way out with a variety of weapons and by swimming a moat. Malory was imprisoned at several locations in London, but he was occasionally out on bail. He was never brought to trial for the charges that had been levelled against him, and has been considered by some scholars (including Peter Field) to have been a political prisoner, innocent of any serious offence. In the 1460s he was at least once pardoned by King Henry VI, but more often, he was specifically excluded from pardon by both Henry VI and his rival and successor, Edward IV. It can be construed from comments Malory makes at the ends of sections of his narrative that he composed at least part of his work while in prison. William Oldys speculates that he may have been a priest,[3] based on Malory's description of himself in the colophon to Le Morte d'Arthur:

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, by Sir Thomas Maleore, knight, as Jesu help him for His great might, as he is the servant of Jesu both day and night. (Malory p. 531)

Malory was married to Elizabeth Walsh[4] and they had a son, Robert, though very little additional information is known about his family or domestic life.[5]

A young Malory appears as a character at the end of T.H. White's book The Once and Future King, which was based on Le Morte d'Arthur; this cameo is included in the Broadway musical Camelot. Many modern takes on the Arthurian legend have their roots in Malory, including John Boorman's 1981 movie Excalibur, which includes selected elements of the book. Parts of Malory's book form a key element in Cynthia Harnett's childrens novel "The Load of Unicorn".


  1. ^ Whitteridge, Gweneth. “The Identity of Sir Thomas Malory, Knight-Prisoner.” The Review of English Studies 24.95 (1973): 257-265. JSTOR. Web. 30 Nov. 2009.
  2. ^ Riddy, Felicity. Sir Thomas Malory. The Netherlands: E.J. Brill, 1987. Print.
  3. ^ Oldys, William: article on William Caxton, Biographia Britannica, 1747–66.
    Further, there is a discussion about whether Malory was a priest at googlebooks
  4. ^ Field, P.J.C. The Life and Times of Sir Thomas Malory. Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 1993. Print
  5. ^ Riddy, Felicity. Sir Thomas Malory. The Netherlands: E.J. Brill, 1987. Print.


  • Malory, Thomas, Janet Cowen, and John Lawlor. Le Morte D'Arthur. Volume II. London: Penguin Books, 1969.googlebooks Retrieved December 2, 2007
  • Eugène Vinaver, "Sir Thomas Malory" in Arthurian Literature in the Middle Ages, Roger S. Loomis (ed.). Clarendon Press: Oxford University. 1959. ISBN 0-19-811588-1
  • P.J.C. Field, The Life and Times of Sir Thomas Malory, Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 1993. ISBN 0261-9814
  • Sheila V. Mallory Smith, A History of the Mallory Family, Phillimore, 1985, ISBN 0850335760
  • Christina Hardyment, Malory: The Life and Times of King Arthur's Chronicler, Harper Collins, 2005, ISBN 0066209811
  • Riddy, Felicity. Sir Thomas Malory. The Netherlands: E.J. Brill, 1987. Print.
  • Whitteridge, Gweneth. “The Identity of Sir Thomas Malory, Knight-Prisoner.” The Review of English Studies 24.95 (1973): 257-265. JSTOR. Web. 30 Nov. 2009.

External links



Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Sir Thomas Malory (c. 1405 - 14 March 1471) was an English author. His prose epic Le Morte d'Arthur, written during a long imprisonment in Newgate Prison as a captured partisan of the Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick during the Wars of the Roses, covers the careers of King Arthur and his knights. It is largely a free translation of various French romances.



Le Morte d'Arthur (c. 1469) (first known publication 1485)

  • It befell in the days of Uther Pendragon, when he was king of all England, and so reigned, that there was a mighty duke in Cornwall that held war against him long time. And the duke was called the duke of Tintagil.
    • Book I, ch. 1
  • 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
  • All ye that be lovers call unto your remembrance the month of May, like as did Queen Guenever, for whom I make here a little mention, that while she lived she was a true lover, and therefore she had a good end.
    • Book XVIII, ch. 25
  • I shall curse you with book and bell and candle.
    • Book XXI, ch. 1
  • Through this man (Launcelot) and me (Guenever) hath all this war been wrought, and the death of the most noblest knights of the world; for through our love that we have loved together is my most noble lord slain.
    • Book XXI, ch. 9
  • For as well as I have loved thee, mine heart will not serve me to see thee, for through thee and me is the flower of kings and knights destroyed.
    • Book XXI, ch. 9
  • Then Sir Launcelot saw her visage, but he wept not greatly, but sighed.
    • Book XXI, ch. 11
  • Thou Sir Launcelot, there thou liest, that thou were never matched of earthly knight's hand. And thou were the courteoust knight that ever bare shield. And thou were the truest friend to thy lover that ever bestrad horse. And thou were the truest lover of a sinful man that ever loved woman. And thou were the kindest man that ever struck with sword. And thou were the goodliest person that ever came among press of knights. And thou were the meekest man and the gentlest that ever ate in hall among ladies. And thou were the sternest knight to thy mortal foe that ever put spear in the rest.
    • Book XXI, ch. 13


  • For herein may be seen noble chivalry, courtesy, humanity, friendliness, hardiness, love, friendship, cowardice, murder, hate, virtue, and sin. Do after the good and leave the evil, and it shall bring you to good fame and renown.
    • William Caxton's "Preface" to the first edition of Le Morte d'Arthur (1485)
  • In our forefathers' time...few books were read in our tongue, saving certain books of one for example, Morte Arthure: the whole pleasure of which book standeth in two special points, in open manslaughter, and bold bawdry: In which book those be counted the noblest Knights, that do kill most men without any quarrel, and commit foulest adulteries by subtlest shifts...This is good stuff for wise men to laugh at, or honest men to take pleasure at. Yet I know, when God's Bible was banished the Court, and Morte Arthure received into the Prince's chamber.
    • Roger Ascham The Schoolmaster (1570)
  • Malory's description of himself as "the servant of Jesu both day and night" has been assumed to imply that he was a priest, but his description of himself as a "knight" confutes the suggestion. Pious ejaculation at the conclusion of their labours is characteristic of medieval authors.
    • Sidney Lee, in The Dictionary of National Biography

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