Advertisement

Legs and the Man: The History of a Medieval Motif

  • Richard Firth Green
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)

Abstract

The nineteenth-century valetudinarian Thomas Hood is little read today, but he made one significant contribution to the tradition of English letters; he effectively put an end to a venerable literary motif — that of the bellicose amputee.1 Hood’s poem “Faithless Nellie Gray,” published in 1826,2 opens in dramatic style:

Ben Battle was a soldier bold,

And used to war’s alarms;

But a cannon-ball took off his legs,

So he laid down his arms!

Keywords

English Letter Commonplace Book Tall Tale Mediaeval Romance Read Today 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 1.
    Stith Thompson, Motif-index of Folk-Literature: A Classification of Narrative Elements in Folktales, Ballads, Myths, Fables, Mediaeval Romances, Exempta, Fabliaux, Jest-books, and Local Legends, 6 vols. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1955–58), 5:S162.1.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Thomas Hood, Whims and Oddities in Prose and Verse (London: Lupton Relfe, 1826), 139–42.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    John Crowe Ransom, Selected Poems, rev. ed. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1964), 43.Google Scholar
  4. 9.
    [Andrew Milne], A Description of the Parish of Melrose (Kelso: James Palmer, [1743]), 21.Google Scholar
  5. 10.
    Sir David Lindsay, Squyre Meldrum, ed. James Kinsley (London and Edinburgh: Thomas Nelson, 1959), 58 (11. 1346–52).Google Scholar
  6. 11.
    Seneca, Ad Lucilium Epistulae Morales, ed. Richard M. Gummere, 3 vols. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1967–1972), 2: 10 (my translation).Google Scholar
  7. 12.
    Seneca, Moral Essays, ed. William Basore, 3 vols. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1958), 32 [my translation]Google Scholar
  8. Basore translates, “holds himself up on his knees,” but in genua se excepit is modelled on se in pedes excipere, “to get to one’s feet” (Lewis and Short, s.v. excipio, II.A.1).Google Scholar
  9. 13.
    Marie Nicolas Bouillet, ed., L. Annaei Senecae omnia opera, 6 vols. (Paris: Lemaire, 1827–31), 2: 12.Google Scholar
  10. 53.
    Ans Saga Bogsveigis, trans. Shaun E. D. Hughes, in Medieval Outlaws: Ten Tales in Modern English, ed. Thomas H. Ohlgren (Stroud: Sutton, 1998), 211Google Scholar
  11. (ch, 6); cf. “stóð hann â knjâm og bauð enn bardagann,” with “einn maðr barðist â knjânum.”Google Scholar
  12. 57.
    A. Sandford Limouze, “Burlesque Criticism of the Ballad in Mist’s Weekly Journal,” Studies in Philology 47 (1950): 614 [607-18].Google Scholar
  13. 58.
    [Henry Paget, 7th] Marquess of Anglesey, One-Leg: The Life and Letters of Henry William Paget, First Marquess of Anglesey (London: Jonathan Cape, 1961), 149 (except where noted, the account of the amputation and the later history of the leg are taken from this source, pp. 148–52).Google Scholar
  14. 59.
    For a slightly different version see Charles C.F. Greville, The Greville Memoirs (Second Part), 3 vols. (London: Longmans, Green, 1885), 1: 135.Google Scholar
  15. 60.
    Philip Henry [Stanhope], 5th Earl Stanhope Notes of Conversations with the Duke of Wellington, 1831–1851 (New York: Longmans, Green, 1888), 183–84.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© R. F. Yeager and Toshiyuki Takamiya 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard Firth Green

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations