'Much honour and much fame were lost': Idylls of the King and Camelot's celebrity circle

Páraic Finnerty*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


In ‘Lancelot and Elaine’, the seventh of the twelve idylls that comprise Tennyson’s Idylls of the King (1859-85), while on their way to a field near Camelot where the tournament of the diamond is about to take place, Sir Lavaine of Astolat is told by his anonymous travelling companion: ‘you ride with Lancelot of the Lake’.1 On hearing this, ‘Abash’d Lavaine, whose instant reverence, / Dearer to true hearts than their own praise, / But left him leave to stammer, “Is it indeed?”’ (416-18). After catching his breath, the still muttering and shocked young man contrasts this unexpected brush with ‘the great Lancelot’ with his expectation of seeing at the tourney, ‘our liege lord / The dread Pendragon, Britain’s King of kings, / Of whom the people talk mysteriously’ (419, 421-23). On his arrival at the lists, Lavaine ‘let his eyes / Run thro’ the peopled gallery’ until he found the ‘clear-faced King, who sat / Robed in red samite, easily to be known’ (427-28, 430-31). As Lavaine ‘gaped upon [King Arthur] / As on a thing miraculous’, Lancelot tells him:

Me you call great: mine is the firmer seat,
The truer lance: but there is many a youth Now crescent, who will come to all I am
And overcome it; and in me there dwells
No greatness, save it be some far-off touch
Of greatness to know well I am not great:
There is the man.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationVictorian Celebrity Culture and Tennyson's Circle
EditorsCharlotte Boyce, Páraic Finnerty, Anne-Marie Millim
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages43
ISBN (Electronic)9781137007940
ISBN (Print)9781137007933, 9781349435401
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2013


  • Round Table
  • public figure
  • open shame
  • Arthurian epic
  • celebrity culture


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