By Charles Matthews

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

17. "Wolf Hall," by Hilary Mantel, pp. 277-294

Part IV, II, "'Alas, What Shall I Do for Love?'" Spring 1532, through "...into which they pour their fears, fantasies, desires."
Parliament meets mid-January. The business of the early spring is breaking the resistance of the bishops to Henry's new order, putting in place legislation that -- though for now it is held in suspension -- will cut revenues to Rome, make his supremacy in the church no more form of words. 
The king is angry with Stephen Gardiner about the progress of his plans. "The king has a high voice, for a big man, and it rises when he is angry to an ear-throbbing shriek." Gardiner is shaken by the encounter and when Cromwell encounters him afterward, he says, "If he does lock you up, I'll make sure you have some small comforts." This only makes Gardiner angry: "God damn you, Cromwell. Who are you? What office do you hold? You're nothing. Nothing." But Cromwell is able to get the king to calm down and see Gardiner's point of view, to which Henry comments, "I know you dislike Gardiner." Cromwell replies, "That is why Your Majesty should consider my advice." Cromwell says to himself, "you owe me, Stephen. The bill will come in by and by."

Meanwhile, Anne is still playing her part. The king gives her a bedroom at Whitehall: "He led her to it himself, to see her gasp at the wall hangings." Henry Norris tells Cromwell that Anne missed her cue and just admired the room. "Then she remembered what she ought to do; she pretended to feel faint at the honor, and it was only when she swayed and the king locked his arms around her that the gasp came. I do devoutly hope, Norris had said, that we shall all at least once in our lives cause a woman to utter that sound."

When Cromwell visits Anne, he notices the presence of Mark Smeaton and refers to him as "your goggle-eyed lover." When he leaves, Mary Boleyn follows him. She mentions that all is not well between George Boleyn and his wife, Lady Jane Rochford: "Jane and our brother George, you know they hate each other? He won't go to bed with her. If he is not with some other woman he sits up at night with Anne in her rooms." She reminds Cromwell that she warned him against getting too involved with Anne: "But now we cannot do without you. Even my father and my uncle say so. Nothing is done, nothing, without the king's favor, without his constant company, and nowadays when you are not with Henry he wants to know where you are." He says he needs a job in the household, perhaps in the Jewel House or the Exchequer. Mary says of Anne: "She made Tom Wyatt a poet. She made Harry Percy a madman. I'm sure she has some ideas about what to make you."

Thomas Wyatt comes to apologize for his misbehavior. "My father says that now Wolsey is dead you're the cleverest man in England." And he tells Cromwell, "If Anne is not a virgin, that's none of my doing." Cromwell asks how many lovers Anne has had, but Wyatt doesn't know: "Brandon tried to tell Henry she was soiled goods. But he sent Brandon away from court." He worries that when she does sleep with the king he'll know she isn't a virgin, but Cromwell says, "the king is no judge of maidenheads. He admits as much. With Katherine it took him twenty years to puzzle out his brother had been there before him." But he also warns Wyatt that the king will be jealous once they're married, which he assures him is very likely. And he tells Wyatt about his father's story about the lion. Wyatt replies, "it doesn't seem to me like a thing I would do.... More like something you would do, Master Cromwell."

Thomas More visits him:
"I know about your letters that come and go to Stephen Vaughan. I know he has met with Tyndale."

"Are you threatening me? I'm just interested."

"Yes," More says sadly. "Yes, that is precisely what I am doing."

He sees that the balance of power has shifted between them: not as officers of state, but as men.
Cromwell recalls the burning of a "Loller" that he witnessed when he was nine years old.

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