The Candle in the Wind by T.H. White (1958) 120 p.

The Candle in the Wind is the fourth and sort-of-final book in T.H. White’s Arthurian mega-book The Once and Future King, since the very final instalment The Book of Merlyn was published separately and posthumously. It deals with the final stages of King Arthur’s life, as Lancelot and Guinevere’s affair is exposed and the Arthur is reluctantly forced to pursue violent justice against them.

I feel this series dropped in quality considerably beyond its opening volume, but The Candle in the Wind is probably the strongest book since then. Even though I found the majority of it weak, the final stages – and I’m only talking about a matter of perhaps ten pages – are beautiful, as Arthur sits in his war tent philosophising about everything he has learnt thus far, and finally passes his wisdom onto a young page, implied to be Thomas Mallory. Put like that it sounds trite, but for all the silliness present in this series, White is often capable of a very beautiful writing style.

I still find The Once And Future King to be odd and uneven. The gravity of the themes and the occasional bursts of eloquent writing don’t really gel too well, in my opinion, with the perky, English, P.G. Wodehouse-style writing that dominates for 90% of the series. But the flashes of beauty in there are sometimes worth it and I was pretty pleased with the ending of The Candle in the Wind. The next and final book is The Book of Merlyn.