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<<  -- 3 --  David Bury    SCHOLARSHIP AND ORIGINALITY


By 1901 Victoria was dead and the age of neo-Gothic Chivalry dying. By 1912, fired too by personal sorrow such as the deaths of his parents, Rodewald, Jaeger, Canon Gorton etc, Edward's most introspective work The Music Makers was anything but joyful or forward-looking. Then, of course, came the Great War closely followed by the death of Alice Elgar. After reading Robert Anderson's superb book I am now put in mind of that other great Arthurian battle which in Tennyson's telling ends with a dying age, a dying King and Bedivere left alone to realise that 'the true old times are dead', and then to revolve 'many memories' until 'on the mere the wailing died away'. Is it fanciful to see Elgar cast as Bedivere, yet going out into the world with courage still occasionally, as with the Arthur music, the Severn Suite and the unfinished Symphony, to be true to the former ideal?

At any rate I trust Robert Anderson will not mind my flights of fancy occasioned by his book. Indeed it seems to me that this is the great merit of this book. Its scholarship and originality, insight and wisdom provide far more than mere narrative biography. Rather what we have is a stimulus to look afresh at Edward's life, to listen again to his great music.

Elgar Editions have done Dr Anderson proud. The book is beautifully produced, lavishly illustrated with images as fascinating and erudite as the text, and comes with both a good index and an incredibly low price! It is an essential book at any price. I recently read Professor Blair Worden's review of Austin Woolrych's Britain in Revolution 1625-1660 (OUP 2002), another masterly study. I cannot better his words when I consider Elgar and Chivalry -- 'I can think of no other ... book of recent times that has controlled so large and so demanding a subject so skillfully. It is a wonderful achievement.'

Copyright © 19 January 2003 David Bury, Surrey, UK


Elgar and Chivalry
by Robert Anderson

Elgar Editions, 2002
ISBN 0 9537082 5 X, Hardback,
480 pages, 93 illustrations




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