Sir Thomas Wyatt: The Heart's Forest

Sir Thomas Wyatt: The Heart's Forest

Susan Brigden

Language: English

Pages: 1218

ISBN: 2:00261897

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Thomas Wyatt (1503-1542) was the first modern voice in English poetry. His poetry holds a mirror to the secret, capricious world of Henry VIII's court, and alludes darkly to events which it might be death to describe. In the Tower, twice, Wyatt was betrayed and betrayer. Thought to be the lover of Anne Boleyn, he was also the devoted 'slave' of Katherine of Aragon. He was driven to secrets and lies, and forced to live with the moral and mortal consequences of his shifting allegiances. As ambassador to Emperor Charles V, he enjoyed favour, but his embassy turned to nightmare when the Pope called for a crusade against the English King and sent the Inquisition against Wyatt. At Henry VIII's court, where only silence brought safety, Wyatt played the idealized lover, but also tried to speak truth to power. Wyatt's life provides a way to examine the Renaissance and Reformation in England. Above all, this new biography is attuned to Wyatt's voice, the paradox within him of inwardness and the will to 'make plain' his heart, which make him exceptionally difficult to know - and fascinating to explore.

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Charles still needed Henry’s friendship as counter, and held on to the faint hope of his reconciliation with Rome and aid against the Turk. But ominously for Henry, one reason adduced for peace between the Emperor and the French King was ‘in case of the Pope fulminating censures or invoking the help of the secular arm against the King of England’.191 While the plenipotentiaries parleyed in no-man’s-land, Charles revolved courses of action so secretly that he revealed them to no one, and said that

vols. (Messina, 1924), i, pp. 681–93. 49 ‘Il corpo mystico di christo cioe de la chiesa sua’: AGS, Estado, legajo 1311/137; Cardinal Contarini to Charles V, 5 June 1535, Venice. 50 See, for example, ASV, SS, Principi, 14A, fos. 115, 215v; Cardinal Farnese to Poggio, 12 February 1539, and to the nuncio in France, 30 March 1539. AGR, Papiers Gachard, 643, fos. 47, 158; Poggio to Cardinal Farnese, 17 January, 20 November 1538. 51 For ‘quel perduto Re’, ‘quel Re perso’: ASV, SS, Principi, 13,

Deputy of Ireland. But some had known already, and would know again, the chill of exclusion from the royal presence. In 1519 Bryan, Francis Poyntz and Carew had been expelled from the court and exiled to Calais because they were suspected of having too great an influence over the King.80 Far worse was to be ‘sent for’ – the command that struck terror into the hearts of Henry’s subjects. Bryan would be ‘sent for’, and Wyatt was twice imprisoned in the Tower of London, whence few returned alive. In

following day. Seeing Mantell, the ‘handsomest and best bred man in England’, and the young nobleman dragged through the streets and shamed by public hanging aroused great pity.100 The outrage was heightened by awareness that the King, who gained by accrual of their property and wardships, was reinforcing his legal victory in the great case of Lord Dacre of the south which had been so ominous for English landowners.101 Dacre’s bereft widow and sister sought explanation and precedent by reading

unsurpassable; although ‘unperfected for time’, for he had died before completing the poetry he promised. ‘That simple soul’, ‘this jewel’, had fled to Heaven, which deserved him as this world did not, leaving an undying ‘witness of faith’, his paraphrase of the seven Penitential Psalms. Surrey’s epitaph was laconic and impersonal, befitting its classical form. But he also wrote three mortuary sonnets bewailing Wyatt’s death, recording his own grief. In these Surrey claimed a privileged

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