T. H. White: Arthurian Fantasies and War

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T. H. White was born on 29 May 1906 in Bombay, India, where his father was a member of the Indian Civil Service, and was educated at Cheltenham and Queen's College, Cambridge. He was an English master at Stowe School from 1930 to 1936, and while there, completed his first real critical success, England Have My Bones, which was an autobiographical account of his country life.

He afterward devoted himself exclusively to writing and to studying such obscure subjects as the Arthurian legends, which were to provide the material for his books. White was reclusive by nature, often isolating himself for long periods from human society, and spending his time hunting, fishing, and looking after his often strange collection of pets.

He was a novelist, a satirist, and a social historian who probably was best known for his brilliant adaptation of Sir Thomas Malory's 15th-century romance, Morte d’Arthur, into the quartet of novels called The Once and Future King. He wrote books about hunting and other sports, a detective novel, books of adventure and fantasy, and many short stories and poems. He published a book of poems while still at Cambridge (Loved Helen and Other Poems), and continued to write poetry throughout his life. He died on 17 January 1964 aboard ship in Piraeus (Athens), Greece while returning home from his American lecture tour. His last book, America At Last, which was published after his death, records the tour.

Source: http://www2.netdoor.com/~moulder/thwhite/biograph.html

 

Excerpts


The Once and Future King is an Arthurian fantasy novel written by T. H. White. It was first published in 1958 and is mostly a composite of earlier works written in a period between 1938 and 1941. 

In war, our elders may give the orders...but it is the young who have to fight. 

It is a pity that there are no big creatures to prey on humanity. If there were enough dragons and rocs, perhaps mankind would turn its might against them. Unfortunately man is preyed upon by microbes, which are too small to be appreciated. 

There is one fairly good reason for fighting - and that is, if the other man starts it. You see, wars are a great wickedness, perhaps the greatest wickedness of a wicked species. They are so wicked that they must not be allowed. When you can be perfectly certain that the other man started them, then is the time when you might have a sort of duty to stop them.  

In war, our elders may give the orders...but it is the young who have to fight.

Those who lived by the sword were forced to die by it.

There was just such a man when I was young—an Austrian who invented a new way of life and convinced himself that he was the chap to make it work. He tried to impose his reformation by the sword, and plunged the civilized world into misery and chaos. But the thing which this fellow had overlooked, my friend, was that he had a predecessor in the reformation business, called Jesus Christ. Perhaps we may assume that Jesus knew as much as the Austrian did about saving people. But the odd thing is that Jesus did not turn the disciples into strom troopers, burn down the Temple at Jerusalem, and fix the blame on Pontius Pilate. On the contrary, he made it clear that the business of the philosopher was to make ideas available, and not to impose them on people.

“It is a pity that there are no big creatures to prey on humanity. If there were enough dragons and rocs, perhaps mankind would turn its might against them. Unfortunately man is preyed upon by microbes, which are too small to be appreciated.” 

~T.H. WhiteThe Book of Merlyn: The Unpublished Conclusion to The Once & Future King