By Charles Matthews

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

11. "Wolf Hall," by Hilary Mantel, pp. 182-202

Part III, II, "Entirely Beloved Cromwell," Spring-December 1530, continued, from "When the king next calls him to court...." through "...Did he tell you about the barmaid?"
Cromwell unexpectedly "spends an amiable hour with Brandon" who, after Cromwell suggests a remedy for the blindness of one of the king's hounds, pronounces him "a useful sort of man." He also confides that there is tension with his wife because of Anne Boleyn: Brandon's wife has always been a friend of Katherine's and as a former Queen of France, she resents that "Norfolk's niece" (Anne) will have precedence over her at court. He also wonders if he should tell Henry that Anne and Thomas Wyatt have been lovers. Cromwell advises him not to.

At Austin Friars the household now includes Thomas Avery, who is being trained to handle Cromwell's personal finances, and Thomas Wriothesley "pronounced Risley," whom Richard Cromwell and Rafe Sadler accuse of being a spy for Stephen Gardiner. Cromwell thinks about one of the young women at Anne Boleyn's: "He had meant to write to Gregory and say, I have seen such a sweet girl, I will find out who she is and, if I steer our family adroitly in the next few years, perhaps you can marry her."

Cromwell is invited to Thomas More's to discuss what is to happen with Wolsey's colleges -- and to see his roses and his new carpet. Stephen Gardiner is there. Cromwell meets More's large household, including his fool, Henry Pattinson: "normally you take in a fool to protect him, but in Pattinson's case it's the rest of the world needs protection." Cromwell displays his expertise in examining More's new carpet, and also displays some of his character: "There are some people in this world who like everything squared up and precise, and there are those who will allow some drift at the margins. He is both these kinds of person. He would not allow, for example, a careless ambiguity in a lease, but instinct tells him that sometimes a contract need not be drawn too tight." When More asks if he should walk on the carpet or hang it on the wall, Cromwell chooses the latter.

The dinner conversation at More's is in Latin, although More's wife doesn't speak it. Cromwell reflects on the difference between the family as painted by Holbein and the one he sees here: "The painter has grouped them so skillfully that there's no space between the figures for anyone new. The outsider can only soak himself into the scene, as an unintended blot or stain; certainly, he thinks, Gardiner is a blot or stain." He also thinks of Holbein's portrait of More, "you can see that he's thinking, but not what he's thinking, and that's the way it should be."

As he leaves, Alice More asks why Cromwell doesn't marry again: "Got a good house, haven't you? Got the king's ear, my husband says. And from what my sisters in the city say, got everything in good working order." He walks with Gardiner, who says "More goes to bed at nine o'clock." "With Alice?" Cromwell asks. "People say not." "You have spies in the house?" He gets no answer from Gardiner. When Gardiner talks about Cromwell's marrying again, "He feels afraid.... He is sure he and Johane have been secret." Johane Williamson, Liz's sister, and her husband live at Austin Friars. When he tells Gardiner that he is going to see Anne Boleyn, "Gardiner is affronted."

When he tells Anne that he has been to More's, she says, "They say that Thomas More is in love with his own daughter." He replies, "I think they may be right." He reflects that Anne's brother, George, and her father, Thomas, Earl of Wiltshire, have gotten rich because of Wolsey's fall. When he asks why she sent for him, Anne replies, "We like to know where you are." And when he asks why her father or brother didn't send for him in that case, she says, "They do not think you would come."

In the cardinal's move northward, he has been greeted with enthusiastic crowds, which upsets the Duke of Norfolk. "Rumors of the cardinal's popularity don't make him glad, they make him afraid." But Norfolk commends Cromwell for his loyalty to the cardinal and says, "It's a pity you don't work for me." Cromwell replies, "we all want the same thing. For your niece to be queen. Can we not work together?"

On the next visit to Anne, he sees that "something shadowy is bobbing about, on the fringes of the circle of light." It is Thomas Cranmer. "They embrace cautiously: Cambridge scholar, person from Putney."  Anne shows them a drawing she discovered in her bed: the king and two women, one of whom has no head. "Anne sans tête," she says. Cromwell wishes he could get Mary Boleyn out of all this. "She asked me once. I failed her. If she asked me again, I would fail her again."

On the way out with Cranmer, he meets the pale girl he had noticed before and learns that she is "John Seymour's daughter. From Wolf Hall." She is there to spy for her brothers. "Every rising family needs information. With the king considering himself a bachelor, any little girl can hold the key to the future, and not all the money is on Anne." He has a suspicion that she may have been the one who left the drawing in Anne's bed. As he leaves, Cranmer says, "You owe much to Anne Boleyn. More than perhaps you think. She has formed a good opinion of you. I'm not sure she cares to be your sister-in-law, mind..."

1 comment:

  1. Mantel's fictional account of Cromwell's interaction with Henry is probably the best illustration of Machiavelli's The Prince I have ever read!