Synopses & Reviews
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.
"A distinguished courtier, probable lover of Anne Boleyn, and the first English poet to write a sonnet, Thomas Wyatt (1503 1542) was well positioned to make a name in belles lettres, as this lively biography attests. In Shulman's (A Rage for Rock-Gardening: The Story of Reginald Farrer) assessment, the state of English verse was in sad decline in the early Tudor era, and an educated and witty poet such as Wyatt easily became a master of the poetry of courtly love. A verse form that heaved with flirtation and frustration, courtly love poetry wasn't intended as literature (none of Wyatt's verse was published in his lifetime) so much as a means by which courtiers and royalty communicated, gossiped, and upheld standards of chivalry. Shulman deftly interweaves close readings of Wyatt's poems through her reconstruction of Henry VIII's court, showing how they illuminated dalliances and intrigues and even could be read as a commentary on the Reformation after Henry severed ties with Rome. Shulman's vivacious prose complements her scholarship. As she writes of the dearth of poetic talent in England between Chaucer and Shakespeare, 'aspiring poets-and-lovers of Henry's reign were treading the slack water between two towering waves of genius.' Her delightful book puts polish to a potentially dusty era. Agent: Caitlin McKenna, the Melanie Jackson Agency." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Nicola Shulman is a writer and reviewer for publications including the Sunday Telegraph, The TLS and Harpers & Queen. She lives with her family in London and in Yorkshire. She previously published A Rage For Rock-Gardening: The Story of Reginald Farrer.