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T.H. White's Troubled Heart

T.H. White's Troubled Heart: Women in The Once and Future King

Kurth Sprague
Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 234
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  • Book Info
    T.H. White's Troubled Heart
    Book Description:

    The contexts for the The Once and Future King are here expertly analysed through the lenses of previously unpublished materials (and drawings) from the Ransom Center, by the late novelist and poet Kurth Sprague. The author concentrates on White's misogyny as a result of his reaction to his difficult mother Constance, but he equally focuses on the charm of White's other queen, Guenevere. Nothing had more impact on White than his mother, his dogs, and his friendships (though his readings in the history of chivalry are very deep), and this book enables us to see the development of White's monumental and symphonic work.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-598-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Sociology
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. iii-vii)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. viii-viii)
  3. [Illustration] (pp. ix-ix)
  4. Acknowledgements (pp. x-x)
  5. Foreword: T. H. White Holdings at the Harry Ransom Center (pp. xi-xii)

    Kurth Sprague’s study of T.H. White’sThe Once and Future Kingis based in part on his research in the large White archive at the Harry Ransom Center (University of Texas at Austin). The recent arrival of additional correspondence provides an opportunity to acquaint scholars with the Center’s substantial (and underutilized) holdings of White materials and research opportunities therein.

    White’s archives were purchased by the Ransom Center between 1967 and 1969 and include manuscript materials for 108 novels, short stories, articles, poems, and other works. Titles represented includeThe Age of Scandal, The Book of Beasts, The Elephant and the...

  6. Preface (pp. xiii-2)
  7. Introduction (pp. 3-6)

    This study sets out to accomplish three main objectives. It attempts to show the difficulties under which T.H. White labored when he came to write about the women inThe Once and Future King,¹ and how these difficulties shaped his view of Lancelot, who was, for him, largely a figure of self-identification, and his depiction of Mordred, who became the incarnation of sexual transgression. Second, it tries to illustrate through a study of his writing process how White succeeded in overcoming his handicaps and created in Guenever a memorable female character. Third, in support of my arguments I’ve made available...

  8. Chapter One T.H. White (pp. 7-32)

    The S.S.Exeterput out from New York in the last days of 1963, bound for Spain, Italy, Egypt, Lebanon, and Greece.¹ It was a typical North Atlantic winter passage, with a heavy choppy beam sea making hard going. White, a passenger on the cargo vessel, kept a careful eye on his luggage stacked in the corners of his cabin. Rough as the voyage was, White managed to write to his friend Harry Griffiths. This was typical of White. He told Griffiths that he might see Vito when theExeterput in at Naples; he didn’t know what the boy’s...

  9. Chapter Two Constance White (pp. 33-46)

    Constance White was the most important figure in her son’s life. She caused his distrust of women and his inability to come to grips with the demands of heterosexual love. She either caused or enhanced his fascination with physical pain and cruelty and the attraction he came to feel for sadism. Less profoundly perhaps, but no less certainly, she provided, through her own intelligence and self-expression, an example that inspired much that was good in his own writing. It is revealing of Constance White’s powerful and multifaceted personality that she was able to maim her son’s sexual character at the...

  10. Chapter Three White’s Sources (pp. 47-72)

    The genesis and growth of any literary work is a fascinating process to behold; with White and the writing ofTOAFK, the fascination is increased a hundred-fold because, from the initial stage of planning to the point of execution, so much of the book’s generation is clearly documented by virtue of White’s letters, his journal entries, and the character of his books, in many of which he made detailed notations.

    This chapter deals with White’s writing plan, his use of Malory, the historical setting he chose forTOAFK, his technique of using deliberate anachronisms, his recourse to scholarship, his well-deserved...

  11. Chapter Four Omitted and Minor Characters (pp. 73-94)

    There exists inTOAFKa number of minor female characters as well as a number of characters present in Malory omitted by White worthy of note, the majority of whom appear (or do not) inSword, the book of Arthur’s childhood. Since, however, the women other than Elaine who appear in later books ofTOAFKmust be considered major figures worthy of chapters in their own rights, I shall include my discussion of Elaine with those women who haunt the pages ofSword. This early book contains four minor characters that are women: the governess of the Castle Sauvage, who...

  12. Chapter Five Morgause (pp. 95-116)

    The story of Morgause is also the story of White’s struggles withQueen. Her depiction cost White a great deal of effort and worry as he revised numerous times the book in which she first appears. His correspondence with Garnett and others as well as his journal entries attest to the difficulty under which he labored as he attempted to exorcise the presence of his mother in the witch. She dominatesQueen, the book thatWitchbecame, and so I shall first examine the history of this book and her presence in it before considering her return in the final...

  13. Chapter Six Guenever (pp. 117-142)

    Guenever is White’s only full-drawn woman inTOAFK, and the success of his achievement is made more remarkable when one considers the failure of Morgause, for example, to be more than a one-dimensional drawing etched in acid, almost a caricature. Guenever is a polychrome oil painting, not a pen-and-ink sketch.

    Although Guenever appears only in the final two books ofTOAFK, the reader rarely, if ever, forgets her presence in them. But it isCandlethat is her book, possessing as it does some of the most poignant scenes inTOAFKbetween the aged lovers Guenever and Lancelot.Knightis...

  14. Conclusion (pp. 143-170)

    As the focus of this book has been not only on White’s women, but on White himself, I would be remiss were I to fail to examine the character with whom White most identified, Lancelot. Much of White’s personality can be found in Lancelot and his relationships to the women inTOAFK. Further, the history of the composition ofKnightandMerlyn, like that ofWitchandQueen, reveals much about White’s feelings toward women as well as his ability as a superb craftsman to overcome his limitations. Indeed, examination of White’s life during the time of his writing casts...

  15. Appendixes (pp. 171-196)
  16. Notes (pp. 197-208)
  17. Survey of Criticism on White (pp. 209-213)
  18. [Illustration] (pp. 214-214)
  19. Bibliography (pp. 215-217)
  20. Back Matter (pp. 218-218)