Routes of Romance II

Routes of Romance II

Many writers and artists in the nineteenth century looked to the Middle Ages as a highpoint of chivalric honour, innocent belief and romantic passion. The works of Walter Scott, Alfred Tennyson and William Morris, for example, were all widely read and emulated—or rejected as dangerous illusions. A powerful aesthetic of medievalism still surrounds us in the many Gothic revival buildings constructed during that time, notably in Oxford. At the same time, the scholarly study of medieval literature and manuscripts was gathering pace. Interacting with the early socialist and Arts and Crafts movements, the works of pre-Raphaelite artists and writers such as Morris and Burne-Jones use medieval romances as an arena to dramatize the fears, constraints and desires of their own society.

The Eglinton Tournament of 1839 was one of the most extravagant chivalric events of the nineteenth century, with dozens of participants practising for up to a year in preparation. Inspired partly by...

The Eglinton Tournament

William Morris's romance The Well at the World's End, with pictures designed by Burne-Jones, was painstakingly produced at Morris's Kelmscott Press at Hammersmith in 1896. Printed on handmade paper,...

William Morris writes a romance

Alfred Tennyson’s Arthurian poetry, including The Idylls of the King and The Lady of Shalott, inspired many artistic responses. William Holman Hunt (1827–1910) had illustrated the latter...

The Lady of Shalott

This is a chapbook edition of The pleasant History of Roswal and Lillian (?Edinburgh, c.1785). Chapbooks were small and cheap prints that retold popular stories, ballads and romances, often in...

Roswal and Lillian

Between 1857 and 1859, some young artists were commissioned by John Ruskin to paint Arthurian murals in the new debating chamber (now the Old Library) at the Oxford Union—the student-run...

Rossetti, Lancelot's Vision of the Sanc Grael

Walter Scott (1771–1832) was a major figure in the nineteenth-century surge of interest in medieval culture, both through novels such as Ivanhoe (1820), and through his championing of...

Sir Walter Scott as romance scholar

Edward Burne-Jones (1833–98) was captivated by the medieval manuscripts and narratives that he encountered with William Morris as students at Exeter College, Oxford—especially...

The Knight's Farewell

Thomas Malory’s great compilation Le Morte Darthur, completed c.1470, was an inspiration to Morris and Burne-Jones. The latter’s wife Georgiana Burne-Jones later wrote of Edward’s...

Edward Burne-Jones's Malory

This is the first English edition of Mark Twain’s comic satire, more commonly known now as A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur’s Court. Its protagonist Hank Morgan finds himself back in...

Mark Twain’s Arthurian dystopia

King Arthur, written by J. Comyns Carr (Tennyson had previously declined the commission), was a huge success at the Lyceum Theatre in 1895, with over a hundred performances, before touring to acclaim...

Henry Irving as King Arthur

Origin Stories
Origin Stories
Romance and the Medieval World
Romance and the Medieval World
Truth, Deceit and Desire
Truth, Deceit and Desire
Empires of Romance: Arthur
Empires of Romance: Arthur
Empires of Romance: Alexander
Empires of Romance: Alexander
The Objects of Romance
The Objects of Romance
Cities under Siege
Cities under Siege
Strange Encounters
Strange Encounters
The Fortunes of Sir Gawain
The Fortunes of Sir Gawain
Composing, Writing, Preserving
Composing, Writing, Preserving
The Percy Folio
The Percy Folio
Routes of Romance I
Routes of Romance I
Routes of Romance II
Routes of Romance II
Romance and the Modern World
Romance and the Modern World