As the principal narrative poem of nineteenth-century England, Tennyson's Idylls of the King is an ambitious and widely influential reworking of the Arthurian legends of the Middle Ages, which have provided a great body of myth and symbol to writers, painters, and composers for the past hundred years. Tennyson's treatment of these legends is now valued as a deeply significant oblique commentary on cultural decadence and the precarious balance of civilization.
Drawing upon published and unpublished materials, Tennyson's Camelot studies the Idylls of the King from the perspective of all its medieval sources. In noting the Arthurian literature Tennyson knew and paying special attention to the works that became central to his Arthurian creation, the volume reveals the poet's immense knowledge of the medieval legends and his varied approaches to his sources. The author follows the chronology of composition of the Idylls, allowing the reader to see Tennyson's evolving conception of his poem and his changing attitudes to the medieval accounts. The Idylls of the King stands, ultimately, as the poet's own Camelot, his legacy to his generation, an indictment of his society through a vindication of his idealism.