By Charles Matthews

Saturday, April 3, 2010

7. "Wolf Hall," by Hilary Mantel, pp. 95-116

Part II, II, "An Occult History of Britain," 1521-1529, continued, from "1527: when the cardinal comes back from France..." through "... He wonders if she intends to poison him. Or eat him."
The cardinal returns, having failed to end the king's marriage to Katherine, and learns that Henry has sent his own envoy to try to bring the divorce about. Everyone recognizes that the negotiations are doomed, even Henry, who as the younger son "was brought up and trained for the church, and for the highest offices within it," so he recognizes the problem. And both the cardinal and Cromwell begin to sense that Wolsey's power is beginning to decline.

In spring 1528, Cromwell and More meet in a scene that further emphasizes their differences. More "is genial, always genial; his shirt collar is grubby." He is also intensely set against Luther and in the scatological language More has used in his pamphlets against him, "No one has rendered the Latin tongue more obscene." More is also on the hunt for Tyndale, and Cromwell turns the tables on him by asking "Have you found sedition in Tyndale's writing?" which implies that More is familiar with them. Cromwell reflects that "More would have been a priest, but human flesh called to him with its inconvenient demands. He did not want to be a bad  priest, so he became a husband."

Meanwhile, Wolsey tips off Cromwell, in slyly indirect fashion, that a friend of Tyndale's, Humphrey Monmouth, is under suspicion. But "When Monmouth's house is raided, it is clear of all suspect writings. It's almost as if he was forewarned." Cromwell knows that "Monmouth himself would be a heap of ashes, if Thomas More had his way."

Cromwell's daughter Anne is "not like a flower, a nightingale; she's like ... like a merchant adventurer, he thinks." When the plague comes back in the summer, he sends her and Grace to the country. "This time the court is infected" and Anne Boleyn is also sent to the country, but falls ill, as does her father. They survive but Mary Boleyn's husband dies. Wolsey says to Cromwell, "I am praying for everybody.... Only when I say to the Lord, 'Now, about Thomas Cromwell--' does God say to me, 'Wolsey, what have I told you? Don't you know when to give up?'"

Cromwell learns that two Oxford scholars, Clerke and Sumner, who had been imprisoned for possessing Lutheran books, have died there, "in the college cellars, the deep cold cellars intended for storing fish. Even in that silent place, secret, icy, the summer plague sought them out. They died in the dark and without a priest." Wolsey is also distressed to learn of their deaths, but when Cromwell pleads for the release of another critic of the church, Father Bilney, to be released from the Tower, the cardinal is reluctant. "Heresy -- his brush with it -- is a little indulgence that the cardinal allows him."

One thing that Cromwell doesn't tell Wolsey about is Mary Boleyn's flirtation with him. He meets her one day and learns from her that the king has been writing love letters to Anne. He urges Mary to steal them for him. She also talks about her own son named Henry, and says that Anne forbade the king from acknowledging him, as he has done with his other illegitimate son. "He does what she says. She means to give him a prince herself, so she doesn't want mine in his nursery." And the recently widowed Mary says to Cromwell,
"Do you know what I want? I want a husband who upsets them. I want to marry a man who frightens them."
There is a sudden light in her blue eyes. An idea has dawned....
Thomas Howard for an uncle? Thomas Boleyn for a father? The king, in time, for a brother?
"They'd kill you," he says.
Afterward, he reflects, "There are some men, possibly, who would be fascinated by a woman who had been a mistress to two kings, but he is not one of them." Still, he has to tell someone, so he tells Rafe Sadler, who says, "I think you imagined it." And he realizes, "To the Boleyns, other people are for using and discarding." He later "hears that Anne has taken the wardship of her sister's son, Henry Carey. He wonders if she intends to poison him. Or eat him."

No comments:

Post a Comment