Jessie Laidlay Weston, 1850-1928

Portrait

Biographical note

Scholar and folklorist, working mainly on mediaeval Arthurian texts.

Her best-known work is From Ritual to Romance (1920). In it she brought to bear an analysis harking back to James George Frazer on the Grail legend, arguing for origins earlier than the Christian or Celtic sources conventionally discussed at the time. It was cited by T. S. Eliot in his notes to The Waste Land. The interpretation of the Grail quest as mystical and connected to self-realisation, which she added to the anthropological layer of reading, was to become increasingly popular during the 1920s.

While Weston's work on the Grail theme has been derided as fanciful speculation in the years since the publication of From Ritual to Romance, her editions of numerous medieval romances have been commended as valuable translations.

Works

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