Graven with Diamonds: The Many Lives of Thomas Wyatt, Courtier, Poet, Assassin, Spy

Nicola Shulman

Graven with Diamonds: The Many Lives of Thomas Wyatt, Courtier, Poet, Assassin, Spy

Learned divines despised it, sober heads ignored it, but for Henry, the beau ideal of chivalry, poetry made things happen. It affected his wars, his diplomacy and his many marriages. It was at the root of his fatal attraction to Anne Boleyn, the source of her power and it was the means of her destruction. In this accessible account, 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's most glamorous and enigmatic subject: Sir Thomas Wyatt. Courtier, spy, wit, diplomat, assassin, lover of Anne Boleyn, and favourite both of Henry and his sinister minister Thomas Cromwell, the brilliant Wyatt was admired and envied in equal measure. His love poetry began as an elite and risqué entertainment for the group of ambitious men and women at the slippery top of the court. But when the axe began to fall among this group, and Henry's laws made his subjects fall silent in terror, Wyatt s poetic skills became a way to survive. 3.9 out of 5 based on 9 reviews
Graven with Diamonds: The Many Lives of Thomas Wyatt, Courtier, Poet, Assassin, Spy

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre Biography, Literary Studies & Criticism
Format Hardback
Pages 352
RRP £20.00
Date of Publication April 2011
ISBN 978-1906021115
Publisher Short Books
 

Learned divines despised it, sober heads ignored it, but for Henry, the beau ideal of chivalry, poetry made things happen. It affected his wars, his diplomacy and his many marriages. It was at the root of his fatal attraction to Anne Boleyn, the source of her power and it was the means of her destruction. In this accessible account, 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's most glamorous and enigmatic subject: Sir Thomas Wyatt. Courtier, spy, wit, diplomat, assassin, lover of Anne Boleyn, and favourite both of Henry and his sinister minister Thomas Cromwell, the brilliant Wyatt was admired and envied in equal measure. His love poetry began as an elite and risqué entertainment for the group of ambitious men and women at the slippery top of the court. But when the axe began to fall among this group, and Henry's laws made his subjects fall silent in terror, Wyatt s poetic skills became a way to survive.

Interview: Nicola Shulman | Evening Standard | 31/3/11

Reviews

The Independent

Boyd Tonkin

... one of the most persuasive and pleasurable accounts of English Renaissance poetry to appear from a general publisher in years ... With unflagging flair, wit and tenacity, she follows the threads of romantic intrigue, factional conspiracy and theological dispute in Henry's households as he swapped wives, changed directions and broke with Rome.

20/05/2011

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The Literary Review

Jessie Childs

Shulman is such a wise reader of Wyatt that it is perhaps a shame that she doesn’t linger over the epistolary satires or his versions of the penitential psalms. One can understand why, though … Inasmuch as is possible after almost half a millennium, Nicola Shulman has done a superb rewiring job. The poems glister again, illuminating everything and everyone around them. It is a marvellous achievement and a lovely book.

01/04/2011

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The Mail on Sunday

Kathryn Hughes

What is so compelling about Graven With Diamonds is not just the story Nicola Shulman tells, but the way she tells it. With the exception of Chaucer, late medieval poetry is usually pretty heavy-going, but Shulman takes one short line of Wyatt's apparently lumpy verse and unravels all the double and triple meanings hidden inside. The result is a thrilling book that manages to be both scholarly and wonderfully readable.

03/04/2011

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The Daily Telegraph

Freya Johnston

The great strength of Shulman’s book lies in its incisive close readings of Wyatt’s verse and its likely motivations. She writes precisely, with original, sympathetic perceptions and an infectious relish for her subject. Some readers may wince at her updates of the past: courtly lyric is compared to reality television; a Tudor text is the equivalent of Facebook; Anne Boleyn suffers “meltdowns”. But more often than not Shulman’s glosses are strikingly apt.

16/04/2011

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The Sunday Times

John Guy

In this poised, lucid, often arresting and frequently witty biography, described by its author as less a life of Wyatt than of his lyric poetry, Nicola Shulman strides confidently where academics fear to tread

01/05/2011

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The Economist

The Economist

Ms Shulman does well to bring the poems back to life, but in the course of overstretching her argument she forgets about the man.

05/05/2011

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The Guardian

Charles Nicholl

Trenchant … This lively and sensitive exploration shows us the immense toughness of the poet, writing constantly in a climate of political danger, and anatomising so precisely the "brackish joys" of courtly life.

23/04/2011

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The Sunday Telegraph

Anna Whitelock

In its discussion of court literary culture and its close reading of Wyatt’s enigmatic poetry, Graven with Diamonds has much to recommend it ... But the ambition to link Wyatt’s life and poetry does, perhaps inevitably, make for a somewhat disjointed narrative ... More importantly, and frustratingly, is the erratic and inaccurate use of footnotes ... Ultimately, despite the admirable ambition, it doesn’t quite deliver.

10/04/2011

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The Times

Derwent May

Shulman tells her tale with agreeable zest. But it is very speculative, and she misjudges her tone when she makes modern comparisons, such as likening Wyatt’s risky missions to those of James Bond. Most importantly, however, she recognises the power of Wyatt’s best poems, regardless of any role they played in his life:

16/04/2011

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