Graven With Diamonds: The Many Lives of Thomas Wyatt: Poet, Lover, Statesman, and Spy in the Court of Henry VIII
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In this thrillingly entertaining book, Nicola Shulman interweaves the bloody events of Henry VIII's reign with the story of English love poetry and the life of its first master, Henry VIII's most glamorous and enigmatic subject: Sir Thomas Wyatt.
Poet, statesman, spy, lover of Anne Boleyn and favorite both of Henry VIII and his sinister minister Thomas Cromwell, the brilliant Wyatt was admired and envied in equal measure. His love poetry began as risqué entertainment for ambitious men and women at the slippery top of the court. But when the axe began to fall and Henry VIII's laws made his subjects fall silent in terror, Wyatt's poetic skills became a way to survive. He saw that a love poem was a place where secrets could hide.
to behold the sudden appearance of this new beauty’ in their midst, and enraptured by her ‘witty and graceful speech’ even more than by her appearance, made his advances, but she kept her distance from him as a married man. She did not altogether scorn him, however, having noticed ‘the general favour and good-will she perceived all men to bear him, which might the (sic) rather occasion others to turn their looks to that which a man of his worth was brought to gaze at in her, as indeed there after
and all you have is another man’s words – in this case a poem by a long-dead poet about a long-dead woman. 1 George Cavendish, The Life of Cardinal Wolsey, ed. S.W. Singer (1825) 2 By the 19th-century historian J.A. Froude, for example. 3 In sonnet 33, where the gilding effect of the early morning sun on the landscape is likened to royal favour: Full many a glorious morning have I seen Flatter the mountain tops with sovereign eye Despite climate change, the 16th-century English sun behaved
were far more experienced diplomats to hand, did they send this almost untested individual on this most sensitive mission? The answer, at least in part, is: because he was their best poet. Wyatt’s career has often appeared to divide into two distinct halves, with the courtier-poet supplanted by the sober diplomat of the late 1530s. This perception is an inevitable consequence of the unbalanced source material available to his biographers: his life after 1537 is told through diplomatic letters
with your own resources ‘and no council but my own foolish head’,4 as Wyatt said. The extent of the misinformation in ambassadors’ letters suggests that these lines were often imperfectly laid. Then there was the business of leaving your own affairs in the hands of surrogates, paid agents of questionable perseverance or ‘friends’ at court who would, it was hoped, press for your interests, but were usually more diligent on their own behalf. Then there was homesickness and the sense of emotional
Castle Perilous. To meet her, he has to pass through a series of trials, and undergo instruction from the various allegorical figures who bar his way. In the classical French allegories of Hawes’s models, these are personified aspects of the hero’s moral drama, such as Chastity, Covetise (envy), Honte (pride), and so on. But Hawes was an inveterate educationalist and, impressively, saw underused didactic potential in the form. In a move without precedent or followers, Hawes sends Graunde Amoure