Contra Chew's View of the Arthurian Elements in Tristram

Anthony H. Harrison, Professor of English, North Carolina State University


Note 10, Chapter 5, in the author's Swinburne's Medievalism: A Study in Victorian Love Poetry which Louisiana State University Press published in 1979. It has been included in the Victorian web with the kind permission of the author, who of course retains copyright.

Chew claims that the Arthurian matter is not integral to Swinburne's narrative purpose. He insists that it obtrudes primarily in order to create "dramatic relief," which "is sought but not very well obtained by introducing one or two unrelated episodes such as the story of King Arthur's incestuous love. In itself this passage is interesting as an indirect attack upon the Tennysonian conception of the 'blameless king' but in the context it forms an irritating interruption of the narrative" (Swinburne, 171). The most obvious argument against Chew's notion is that the longest Arthurian section (five pages of verse in all) occurs only seven pages into "The Sailing of the Swallow," where dramatic relief is hardly needed.

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Last updated: June 2000