(?1416-?1471) English author of Le Morte Darthur (written before 1471; coll 1485, including distinguished Preface by the book's printer, William Caxton [circa 1422-1491]), the title being usually written thus not on the basis of the first edition's title page (it has none) but in accordance with the colophon that ends the text. TM is often identified with the colourful Sir Thomas Malory of Newbold Revel in Warwickshire, although this identification is not certain, and a variety of other candidates have been proposed. Le Morte Darthur itself provides very little information about him, other than that he wrote it while in prison. The work occupies a key position in the development of Arthurian literature (> Arthur), and has widely become regarded as almost the canonical version. He drew mainly upon French sources, in particular the 13th-century prose Romances known as the Vulgate Cycle. He also drew upon the Middle English alliterative poem Morte Arthure, the French Perlesvaus, and the 15th-century English stanzaic poem Le Morte Arthur. But TM's Le Morte Darthur is far from a simple translation, and he introduced many elements of characterization and motivation, as well as improving the consistency of the tales. It remains uncertain if any part of the work is his own invention, although a strong case has been put forward for "The Tale of Sir Gareth". The influence of TM on later writers of Arthurian material in English has been profound: many authors have based their account directly upon his. The definitive modern edition is The Works of Sir Thomas Malory (coll 1947 3 vols; rev 1967; further rev by P J C Field 1990) ed Eugène Vinavar (1899-1979). [KLM]
further reading: The Life and Times of Sir Thomas Malory (1993) by P J C Field; A Companion to Malory, (1996) ed E Archibald and A S G Edwards.
[Sir] Thomas Malory