"and Launcelot abide . . ."

[The letter below is obviously a response to one from Mary Fairbanks to MT. That letter is lost, but based on the pattern of the longstanding relationship between the two people it is possible to reconstruct its message. Mrs. Fairbanks was the woman MT met on the Quaker City trip to the Old World in 1867 and adopted as a surrogate mother to help refine his standards and behavior. She probably read newspaper accounts of the reading MT gave on 11 November 1886 on Governor's Island in New York of his Connecticut Yankee manuscript, and wrote -- as she had almost twenty years earlier, for example, after reading accounts of his speech about "Woman" -- to chastise him for vulgarity and irreverence. Like "Woman" and "the Old Masters," "Camelot" was a sacred cultural icon for the genteel class she represented. She must have written to warn him against deconstructing the castle. Her alarm would have been sincere. How much MT believed in the reassurances he sent back to her is a question his biographers remain undecided about.]
        Hartford Nov. 16 [18]86.

The story isn't a satire peculiarly, it is more especially a contrast. It merely exhibits under high lights the daily life of the time & that of to-day; & necessarily the bringing them into this immediate juxtaposition emphasizes the salients of both. Only two or three chapters of the book have been written, thus far. I expect to write three chapters a year for thirty years; then the book will be done. I am writing it for posterity only; my posterity; my great grandchildren. It is to be my holiday amusement for six days every summer the rest of my life. Of course I do not expect to publish it; nor indeed any other book -- though I fully expect to write one other book besides this one; two others, in fact, if one's autobiography may be called a book -- in fact mine will be nearer a library.

Of course in my story I shall leave unsmirched & unbelittled the great & beautiful characters drawn by the master hand of old Malory (if he drew them -- at any rate he gave them to us) -- I am only after the life of that day, that is all; to picture it; to try to get into it; to see how it feels & seems. I shall hope that under my hand Sir Galahad will still remain the divinest spectre that one glimpses among the mists & twilights of Dreamland across the wastes of the centuries; & Arthur keep his sweetness & his purity, and Launcelot abide & continue "the kindest man that ever strake the sword," yet "the sternest knight to his mortal foe that ever put spear in the rest;" & I should grieve indeed if the final disruption of the Round Table, & the extinction of its old tender & gracious friendships, & that last battle -- the Battle of the Broken Hearts, it might be called -- should lose their pathos & their tears through my handling.

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