By Charles Matthews

Sunday, April 11, 2010

15. "Wolf Hall," by Hilary Mantel, pp. 250-263

Part IV, I, "Arrange Your Face," 1531, continued from "Lent saps the spirits, as of course it is designed to do...." through "...they stand bareheaded till he has gone by."
At Anne Boleyn's Cromwell finds Mark Smeaton playing the lute. She claims not to know Smeaton's name. When he sees the king, he finds him grumpy: "He has a headache. The Duke of Suffolk is stupid. The weather is too warm for the time of year. The country is going to the dogs. He's anxious too; afraid of spells, and of people thinking bad thoughts about him in any specific or unspecific way."

At home, he determines to break off his affair with Johane, who informs him that her mother, Mercy, knows of it. Johane tells him the gossip:
"They say you intend to, what you intend, to break the bishops and make the king head of the church and take away his revenues from the Holy Father and give them to Henry, then Henry can declare the law if he likes and put off his wife as he likes and marry Lady Anne and he will say what is a sin and what not and who can be married. And the Princess Mary, God defend her, will be a bastard and after Henry the next king will be whatever child that lady gives him." 
When he more or less confirms it, she's appalled: "The Commons will not vote it. The Lords will not. Bishop Fisher will not allow it. Archbishop Warham. The Duke of Norfolk. Thomas More." But he replies that Fisher and Warham are old, and that Norfolk has pretty much given in to the inevitable. He doesn't mention More. He tells her that Wolsey's fall has deprived the king of a money manager, and that Henry Norris is an obstacle to his becoming that person.

Halley's Comet appears in 1531, which spooks people. Cromwell wonders why comets are supposed to be bad signs. He goes to see the king and finds him with Anne. Mary Boleyn approaches Cromwell, "an inch closer than anyone else would be," and tells him that Anne is "selling herself" to the king "by the inch. The gentlemen all say you are advising her. She wants a present in cash for every advance above her knee.... Anne has very long legs. By the time he comes to her secret part he will be bankrupt."

Evaluating his friends and enemies, he marks down Stephen Vaughan as potentially dangerous: "Men who say they understand you, whose embrace is so tight and ungiving they will carry you over the abyss."

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