Blogs Don't Burn

My preferences are not important. Just look at what I've read, note what's lacking, and tell me to read it posthaste.

The History of the Kings of Britain - Geoffrey of Monmouth, Lewis Thorpe

I feel I need not speak at any length about the dubious amount of actual history contained in this influential little volume, nor would I bet money on Monmouth believing in the strict historicity of his work when he wrote it. Monmouth does, unfortunately, believe a little to readily in the patriotic spirit, which obviously inspired him to write it. Where one might smile at the slight ridiculousness of Dumas’s Musketeers, Monmouth invites no such balance of opinion where the monarchs of legend are concerned. That is not to say that moral gray areas escape his notice completely. Brutus, Lear, and Arthur are capable of brutality, and the Romans and Saxons are often spoken of in admirable tones, but Monmouth’s overall message is rather tribal. Monmouth explicitly comments on the irony of Britain’s on and off conflict with Rome, given that legend attributes the founding of Britain and the founding of Rome to the same family. Yet the full implications of this ironic comment never inform the work. Monmouth writes his history with a self-righteous tone that only increases with each chapter. After Britain becomes christianized, the Romans and the Saxons receive the full weight of Monmouth’s scorn, with only a passing compliment here or there. It is still worth reading, given its influence, but as a piece of art in its own right, its accomplishments are rather meager.

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