- Paperback: 384 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Impression edition (25 Jan. 1973)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0140441700
- ISBN-13: 978-0140441703
- Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 3 x 19.8 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 102,324 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The History of the Kings of Britain (Classics) Paperback – 25 Jan 1973
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About the Author
Very little is known of Geoffrey of Monmouth. He seems to have lived for a time in Oxford and in 1151 he became Bishop Elect of St Asaph, North Wales. He was ordained at Westminster in 1152. According to the Welsh Chronicles he died in 1155.
Lewis Thorpe was Professor of French at Nottingham University from 1958 to 1977. He has published many books and articles on Arthur, both on the French and English traditions. He died in 1977.
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Top Customer Reviews
As history, it's not at all reliable with the kind of distant relationship with anything that may have occured that the Iliad has to Mycenae. Do not treat as anything remotely resembling gospel as he's clearly made up chunks all over the place.
On the other hand, it is believed that he had access to welsh sources other than the Mabinogion, now lost and that alone would be reason to read him.
The actual tale as far as I can tell is written to condemn the Saxons (called Angles only once) and paint the real Britons as being of great stock, apparently descended from the Trojans and related to the Romans. The Britons have a long history full of strange names and detail - for example the source of King Lear! All very well until we hit Merlin and Uther Pendragon. There is the story of the conception of Arthur and a massive prophecy from Merlin who then mostly vanishes. The Arthur story has the sword Caliburn and Guinevere, noble knights and great battles. Unknown to me Arthur also conquers Iceland, France and Rome! In fact the book is riddled with attacks on Gaul or by Gaul, and Brittany is of course Amorica and really settled by the Britons. Arthur is betray by Mordred and vanishes of allowing the text to quickly pass through to the ultimate demise of the Britons (apart from a few scattered in the places now recognised as Celtic - Wales, Cornwall and so forth).
So the English are the baddies and thankfully the Normans sorted them out in 1066, but one day the Britons will rise with their King Arthur - what will we English do I wonder?
All in all an amusing read, and shows the power of politics and the seeds of the more modern legends.
The account of Arthur given here differs from the later, romantic tales in ways that are good and bad. One the plus side, the focus stays on Arthur and doesn't drift to the knights of his court. Best of all, this is a version without that dreadful prig Lancelot (the most irritating character in English literature). On the minus side, Arthur's story is reduced to little more than a series of battles, and Geoffrey's account of his death, or retirement to Avalon, is even more cursory than Malory's.
Some of the other Kings whose lives are recounted here, such as Lear, Vortigern, Aurelius Ambrosius and Cadwallo, are actually more interesting. Sometimes this is because of their characters, sometimes it's because of the events through which they live, sometimes it's because their stories appear to lie closer to true history than those of Merlin and Brutus, for example. This is the main attraction of this book: not the fact that it inspired later writers like Shakespeare, etc., but the teasing prospect that somewhere in here, beneath all the distortion and elaboration, lie nuggets of truth.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The item is as it was described by the seller and is of perfect quality.Published 17 months ago by Cameron Hunter
A captivating book, with a good range of thoughtful vocabulary. I would like to add, that Geoffery of Monmouth, has embedded such a detail that has created an impact towards using... Read morePublished on 6 Sept. 2010 by yoghurt
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