This document is an annotation to the author's transcription of Charles Dickens's "Philadelphia, and its Solitary Prison," from American Notes (1842)
"The Lady of the Lake" may be an allusion to Arthurian legend, in particular to the chapter in Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur (1485) in which Arthur receives the sword Excalibur from the Lady of the Lake. However, the phrase also denotes the six-canto narrative poem that Sir Walter Scott published in 1810, in which the heroine, Ellen, daughter of the outlawed James of Douglas, grows up on the shores of sixthteenth-century Loch Katrine and redeems her lover from prison with a ring. It is likely that Dickens is alluding to the latter work rather than the former.
In another work published in the same year as American Notes, "The Epic" or "Morte d'Arthur," Tennyson briefly mentions the Lady of the Lake's hand rising from the water to retrieve Excalibur when Bedivere hurls it in into the mere, but he does not name her. "The Lady of the Lake,/Who knows a subtler magic" than Merlin's appears at Arthur's coronation in "The Coming of Arthur," which was not published until 1869. [GPL]
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Last modified 8 July 2004