c o n t r i b u t o r s
This month’s pulpit is written by D J Taylor, whose collection of literary parodies, What You Didn’t Miss, is published by Constable this month. His next novel, The Windsor Faction, will be published in 2013. Elspeth Barker is a novelist and writer of short stories. Dog Days, a selection of essays and journalism, will be published this year. Jonathan Barnes is the author of two novels, The Somnambulist and The Domino Men. Lucy Beresford is a broadcaster, psychotherapist and the author of the novel Something I’m Not. Her next book, Happy Relationships, comes out in January 2013. Robert Bickers is the author of The Scramble for China: Foreign Devils in the Qing Empire, 1832-1914 (Penguin). Christopher Bray is at work on a book about Dr Beeching, Peter Cook, Harold Pinter, monochrome photography and bongos. Michael Burleigh won the 2012 Nonino International Master of His Time Prize. He is finishing a book on the global Cold War from 1945 to 1965. David Cesarani is currently writing a book on the fate of the Jews between 1933 and 1949. Rupert Christiansen writes a regular arts column for the Daily Telegraph. Nick Cohen is a columnist for The Observer. His You Can’t Read This Book: Censorship in an Age of Freedom has just been published by Fourth Estate. Vanessa Collingridge is a broadcaster and writer, specialising in history, science and geography. Her books include Captain Cook and The Story of Australia. Anthony Daniels is a retired doctor. John Dugdale is the author of books on Thomas Pynchon and Sam Shepard. David Gilmour’s most recent book is The Pursuit of Italy: A History of a Land, its Regions and their Peoples (Allen Lane). Edmund Gordon is writing a biography of Angela Carter. Matthew Green is the author of The Wizard of the Nile, a book about Joseph Kony, the leader of Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army rebels.
Neil Gregor is Professor of Modern History at the University of Southampton. He is the author of Daimler-Benz in the Third Reich and, most recently, Haunted City: Nuremberg and the Nazi Past. D D Guttenplan is London correspondent of The Nation. His most recent book is American Radical: The Life and Times of I F Stone (Charles Glass/Quartet). Robert Irwin’s most recent book is Memoirs of a Dervish. Alan Judd’s latest novel, Uncommon Enemy, is published by Simon & Schuster. Jonathan Keates’s most recent book, The Siege of Venice, is published by Chatto. Sam Kitchener is a freelance reviewer. Paul Lay is editor of History Today. He is writing a book on the year 1657. Sam Leith’s You Talkin’ To Me?: Rhetoric from Aristotle to Obama is out now from Profile. His novel The Coincidence Engine has recently been published in paperback. Paul Levy, food and wine editor of The Observer from 1980 to 1991, was among those who coined the word ‘foodie’. He chairs the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery. Toby Lichtig is a freelance writer, editor and television producer living in London. Andrew Lycett is working on a biography of the novelist Wilkie Collins for Hutchinson. Jessica Mann is the author of twenty crime novels. Her polemical memoir, The Fifties Mystique, was recently published by Quartet. Keith Miller works for the Daily Telegraph. His book on St Peter’s is published by Profile. Jonathan Mirsky is a journalist specialising in Chinese affairs. Leslie Mitchell is an emeritus fellow of University College, Oxford.
Harry Mount’s How England Made the English has just been published by Viking. Pamela Norris’s most recent book is Words of Love, published by HarperCollins. She is currently working on a novel. Richard Overy’s The Bombing War: Europe 1939–1945 will be published in spring 2013. Catherine Peters taught English literature at Somerville College, Oxford, until retiring. She is the author of biographies of Thackeray, Wilkie Collins, Dickens and Byron. Lucy Popescu was Programme Director of English PEN’s Writers in Prison Committee from 1991 to 2006. Linda Porter is the author of Katherine the Queen: The Remarkable Life of Katherine Parr. Michael Prodger is the art critic of Standpoint magazine. Anthony Sattin’s books include A Winter on the Nile: Florence Nightingale, Gustave Flaubert and the Temptations of Egypt. The Pharaoh’s Shadow: Travels in Ancient and Modern Egypt will be published in October. Lloyd Shepherd’s novel The English Monster is published by Simon & Schuster. His next book, The Poisoned Island, will be out in 2013. Gillian Slovo’s recent novel, An Honourable Man, is published by Virago. Joan Smith is writing a sequel to Misogynies, which will be published next year along with a new edition of the original book. Frances Spalding’s Prunella Clough: Regions Unmapped was published earlier this year. Guy Stagg works at the Daily Telegraph. He writes about culture and social trends. John Stubbs’s Reprobates: The Cavaliers of the Civil War was issued in paperback this year by Penguin. Toby Thomas is a freelance journalist living in London. Donald Trelford was editor of The Observer from 1975 to 1993 and is Emeritus Professor in Journalism Studies at Sheffield University. Frances Wilson’s most recent book is How to Survive the Titanic; Or, The Sinking of J Bruce Ismay.
Literary Review | s e p t e m b e r 2 0 1 2 4 r l f a d l i f e o f t h e p e n j ohn s t u b b s
Politics & Poetry Thomas Wyatt: The Heart’s Forest
By Susan Brigden (Faber & Faber 714pp £30)
Sir Thomas Wyatt was the ambassador, the ‘beloved familiar’ and allegedly the rival in love of Henry VIII. During his rather short but fiery lifetime, he found himself banished from court and clapped in the Tower for offences ranging from affray to a supposed affair with Anne Boleyn. In truth, the legend of this romance rather served Henry’s purposes by the time he decided to be rid of his second queen. Yet towards the end, only the royal whim – and the intervention of influential friends – saved Wyatt from a traitor’s death.
Long after he died in 1542, Wyatt remained one of a select number of models for courtiers with literary and intellectual pretensions. In person, he was also the most obviously regal of English poets: a propertied man of great territorial influence, he closely resembled the subtle giant of a monarch who tore his realm apart for the sake of his desires. He was tall, stronglimbed, broad-faced and bearded, yet with a beguiling delicacy of expression captured unnervingly by Holbein.
Wyatt went chest-deep through most of the major controversies of his era (at times even in over his head), at home and abroad. He was born in or around 1504 to an ambitious and clever landowner, and brought up for the court and great things. He would be more than noteworthy for his political career alone, which Susan Brigden’s authoritative Thomas Wyatt traces both strikingly and assiduously. We find him on diplomatic and unofficial military service across a continent reeling from the early shock of Reformation, suffering kidnap in Italy and claustrophobic intrigue in Spain, and involved in frequent clashes within the radius of the royal court. Unsurprisingly his poetry is as volatile and complex as his public and personal life, and often intimately connected with it.
On the page, Wyatt feels modern. His lyrics work at and worry their vocabulary,
turning words about in minimalistic kaleidoscopes. A Wyatt poem never sounds the same way twice: buried emphases and divergent metres reach the ear every time. This is partly the result of his testing out of Italian literary forms and techniques against the patterns and instincts of sixteenth-century English. An early English Petrarchan, Wyatt was probably the first exponent of what we recognise now as a sonnet. In his day, then, he was avantgarde and, through his sometimes alien scansion and free punctuation, he still reads like an expressionist:
Forget not yet forget not thys how long ago hath been and ys the mynd that never ment amys Forget not yet
Wyatt’s plea to memory is a key theme for Brigden. Other poets – notably Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey – soon realised the high conceptual work Wyatt had done for all poetry in English, by importing and transforming not only the Petrarchan Canzoniere but also, for example, the Horatian epistle. Yet despite the grandeur of the project, despite the charisma of the writer – ‘who quick could never rest’ – Wyatt’s finest lyrics are the quietest. They are best spoken in a whisper, graven on a ring.
His poetry alludes both to personal emergency and to a land in crisis. The characteristic emotion is outraged fidelity. ‘They flee from me that sometyme did me seke’ begins his best-known poem. While the naked foot that stalks across the speaker’s bedroom belongs to an idea of woman as much as to Anne Boleyn or any other putative lover in particular, this opening line encompasses many presences in Wyatt’s life, including the king’s. Henry placed Wyatt in high trust, and then shunned him – and then, bewilderingly, restored him to his former footing. Yet Brigden gently indicates how the most erratic figure here was none other than Wyatt himself. We find
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