Thomas Wyatt: The Heart’s Forest

Katherine Rundell writes:

In 1534, Wyatt killed a man. The news quickly reached as far as Calais: ‘There was a great fray between Master Wyatt and the serjeants of London, where one of the serjeants was slain, and divers of them hurt.’ Wyatt was sent to the Fleet prison, though not for long, and there seems to be no verse about the episode: it was grubby, ignoble, and not the stuff of poetry. We have few clues about the reason Wyatt flashed so irrevocably into violence. It is possible that the timing is important, for these were the dark days in which the defenders of the old faith faced either courageous death or self-disgust, and Wyatt’s explosion may have been political. Equally, trained up for war through the mock-war of jousting and tournament, the young men at court turned easily to private violence. The question remains haunting; Brigden, whose book will be the standard biography for years to come, calls it ‘one of the most unfathomable moments of his life’.

(LRB 6 December 2012)

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