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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).>br>Volume I. From the Beginnings to the Cycles of Romance.

XII. The Arthurian Legend

§ 7. Caradoc of Llancarvan

In the epilogue to his History, where he bids William of Malmesbury and Henry of Huntingdon “be silent as to the kings of the Britons,” Geoffrey commits the task of writing their further history to “Caradoc of Llanacarvan, my contemporary.” No Latin chronicle bearing Caradoc’s name is known to exist; but certain Welsh compilations, continuing Geoffrey’s narrative down to the year 1156, are, on very doubtful authority, ascribed to him. Caradoc’s authorship is, however, claimed with more confidence for a work which embodies a few Arthurian traditions of which Geoffrey seems to have been ignorant—the Latin Life of Gildas. In this curious production, written either before or shortly after Geoffrey’s death, Arthur is described, first of all, as being engaged in deadly feud with Hueil, or Huel, king of Scotland and one of Gildas’s twenty-three brothers, whom he finally kills; he subsequently comes into collision with Melwas, the wicked king of “the summer country,” or Somerset, who had, unknown to him, abducted his wife, Guenever, and concealed her in the abbey of Glastonia. Just as the two kings are about to meet in battle, the monks of Glastonia, accompanied by Gildas, intervene and succeed in persuading Melwas to restore Guenever to Arthur. This would seem to be the earliest appearance of the tradition which makes Melwas (the Mellyagraunce of Malory) an abductor of Guinevere. Other Latin lives of Welsh saints, written not long after the Life of Gildas, record traditions about Arthur which are quite independent of Geoffrey, which would seem to indicate that Geoffrey’s direct borrowings of Arthurian stories from Welsh sources are comparatively slight.

Popular though it immediately became elsewhere, Geoffrey’s History, it is strange to find, seems to have aroused little interest in Wales. An important Welsh translation of it, which was, at one time, supposed to have been its “British” original, was, indeed, made at an early date, but the medieval Welsh bards remained altogether indifferent to Arthurian story. The second great period of Welsh bardic activity extends from the twelfth century down to the death of Prince Llywelyn ap Gruffud in 1282; but we look in vain among the works of the crowd of bards who flourished at this period for any celebration of Arthur and his deeds. There is no Welsh metrical romance, or epic, of Arthur. The medieval bards sing, in preference, of living warriors or of those lately dead, well knowing that such encomiastic poetry brought its ready rewards. It is to her prose story-tellers that Wales owes her one incomparable contribution to Arthurian romance in the native tongue.