Sir Thomas Littleton

All Sources -
Updated Media sources (1) About content Print Topic Share Topic
views updated

Sir Thomas Malory (măl´ərē), d. 1471, English author of Morte d'Arthur. It is almost certain that he was Sir Thomas Malory of Newbold Revell, Warwickshire. Knighted in 1442, he served in the parliament of 1445. He was evidently a violent, lawless individual who committed a series of crimes, including poaching, extortion, robbery, rape, and attempted murder. Most of his life from 1451 on was spent in prison, and he probably did most of his writing there. Malory's original book was called The Book of King Arthur and His Noble Knights of the Round Table and was made up of eight romances that were more or less separate. William Caxton printed it in 1485 and gave it the misleading title of Morte d'Arthur. This work is generally regarded as the most significant accomplishment in English literature in the two centuries between the works of Chaucer and those of such masters as Spenser and Shakespeare. The last medieval English work of the Arthurian legend, Malory's tales are supposedly based on an assortment of French prose romances. The Morte d'Arthur is noted for its excellent dramatic narrative and the beauty of its rhythmic and simple language. It remains the standard source for later versions of the legend.

See The Works of Sir Thomas Malory, ed. by E. Vinaver (3 vol., 2d ed. 1967); biographies by P. J. C. Field (1993) and C. Hardyment (2006); studies by W. Matthews (1966), P. J. C. Field (1971), M. Lambert (1975), B. Dillon, ed. (1978), T. Takamiya and D. Brewer (rev. ed. 1986), M. J. Parins, ed. (1988), T. McCarthy (1991), E. Archibald and A. S. G. Edwards, ed. (1996), D. T. Hanks, Jr. (1992 and 2000), M. D. Svogun (2000), E. Edwards (2001), C. Batt (2002), D. Armstrong (2003), N. Dentzien (2004), and K. S. Whetter and R. L. Radulescu, ed. (2005).

views updated


Sir Thomas Littleton was an English judge and writer who is known for his treatise on land law, entitled On Tenures (1481). Littleton's work served as an inspiration and model for later English jurists, including sir edward coke.

Littleton was born in 1422 in Frankley Manor House, Worcestershire. He became a counsel at law in 1445 and served as a recorder of Coventry in 1450. In 1455 he became a judge of assize on the Northern Circuit, and he was appointed a justice of common pleas in 1466. In 1475 King Edward IV made him a knight of the Bath. He died in 1481 and was buried in Worcestershire Cathedral.

Littleton's On Tenures is regarded as a model of legal scholarship, a clear and concise classification of English land law. Its significance rests in Littleton's attempt to impose a rational and orderly arrangement on legal rights in land. At the time the work was written, English land law had become extremely complicated.

The treatise consists of three books. The first deals with various estates in land; the second with the incidents of tenure (the holding of lands in subordination to some superior); and the third with co-ownership and other specialized doctrines relating to property. Unlike previous authors, Littleton did not rely on roman law but dealt exclusively with English land law.

Littleton followed a consistent method of analysis. He first defined a particular class of rights and then analyzed the many variations and implications of that class. Having identified certain key principles underlying a particular area of land law, Littleton then demonstrated how novel problems might be solved by reference to them. Modern commentators have lauded Littleton for the scientific organization of his material.

On Tenures was the first major legal treatise written in French instead of Latin and the first work on english law to be printed in London. For more than three centuries, it formed the standard introduction to students of English real property law. Coke, who considered it a model of clear and lucid exposition of English law, made it the subject of his First Institute, Coke upon Littleton (1628). It stands as an early classic of English law.

views updated

Malory, Sir Thomas (d. 1471). The identity of Malory, author of Le Morte Darthur, is not certain. The author referred to himself as a ‘knight-prisoner’. The most likely suggestion is Sir Thomas Malory of Newbold Revel (War.), who had been in prison for crimes of violence. If it is correct, he had been knighted in 1445, served in Parliament for Warwickshire the same year, and was a follower of Warwick the Kingmaker. Of several other candidates who have been proposed, only Thomas Malory of Papworth (Cambs.) and Thomas Malory of Hutton Conyers (Yorks.) seem worth serious study, though neither of them appears to have been knighted. Malory's famous volume was a compilation from various sources, mainly French, and was printed by Caxton in 1485.

J. A. Cannon

views updated

Sir Thomas Littleton, 1422?–1481, English jurist. He became a sergeant-at-law, i.e., a barrister, in the Court of Common Pleas in 1453 and a judge in 1466. He is best known for his Tenures, a short work in French on the types of estates in land in England. The work, one of the earliest printed books in England, was much admired for its concise and simple quality. In the much-expanded edition of Sir Edward Coke, the Tenures was the standard text on property law until the 19th cent. His name also occurs as Lyttelton or Lyttleton.

views updated

Malory, Sir Thomas (active 1460–70) English writer. He penned Le Morte d'Arthur, which recounts the legends associated with King Arthur. The book was apparently written in prison and completed in 1469, but Malory's identity is obscure.

views updated

Sir Thomas Lyttelton: see Littleton, Sir Thomas.