Author(s): Nicola Shulman
Learned divines despised it, sober heads ignored it, but for Henry, the beau ideal of chivalry, poetry made things happen. It affected his wars, his diplomacy and his many marriages. It was at the root of his fatal attraction to Anne Boleyn, the source of her power and it was the means of her destruction. In this witty, intriguing, accessible account, Nicola Shulman interweaves the bloody events of Henry's reign with the story of English love poetry and the life of its first master, Henry's most glamorous and enigmatic subject: Sir Thomas Wyatt. Courtier, spy, wit, diplomat, assassin, lover of Anne Boleyn, and favourite both of Henry and his sinister minister Thomas Cromwell, the brilliant Wyatt was admired and envied in equal measure. His love poetry began as an elite and risque entertainment for the group of ambitious men and women at the slippery top of the court. But when the axe began to fall among this group, and Henry's laws made his subjects fall silent in terror, Wyatt's poetic skills became a way to survive. He saw that a love poem was a place where secrets could hide.
"Masterly... the best work of history this year" AN Wilson, Book of the Year - Evening Standard "One of the most persuasive and pleasurable accounts of English Renaissance poetry to appear... in years --Boyd Tonkin" The Independent "Beautifully intelligent and lucid... Shulman does a wonderful job of showing how Wyatt is one of those poets (one of the best types of poet) whose work conceals enormous complexity and strong countercurrents of thought and feeling underneath an apparently plain and transparent surface" John Lanchester, Book of the Year - New Statesman "Sharp, dangerous and exhilarating... bursting with drama as well as being scholarly and full of surprises" Geordie Greif, Book of the Year - Evening Standard "Wyatt was not only a poet... he may have been the lover of Anne Boleyn, and also had a reputation as both an assassin and a spy. All of these disparate threads, with a lavish helping of his verse, are woven through Graven With Diamonds by Nicola Shulman, whose lyrical prose creatively matches that of her extraordinary subject." The Times "The court comes alive in Shulman s account; a place full of blusterers and sycophants, of brilliant wits and gallants and of fulsome fools... Shulman has a gift for detail and for vivid phraseology; The complexities of Henrician intrigue are laid out by Shulman in easily comprehensible fashion so that even a novice such as I can grasp them; and through it all stalks Wyatt, a man of deeper wit whose poems express such turbulence, though so carefully composed... Shulman argues convincingly in this erudite yet elegant study that Wyatt s poems are codes, supremely artistic ways of expressing grievance, reproach, disappointment and unrequited desire. The people who received the physical object of the poem would know the keys to unlocking the texts; that is why to later generations (she says) the poems seem flat. Her analysis is graceful and intelligent, This finely considered, silver-veined biography is a decorous and wise monument: now, as Shulman provides the right circuitry, his poems will spark up for us all." Philip Womack, Daily Telegraph 'A brilliant example of literary rehabilitation... A narrative full of scheming courtiers, amorous women, slippery foreigners and a cruel but oddly earnest king who worshipped poetry... What is so compelling about Graven with Diamonds is not the just the story Nicola Shulman tells, but the way she tells it... The result is a thrilling book that manages to be both scholarly and wonderfully readable" ***** --Kathryn Hughes, Mail on Sunday |CS Lewis may have found Wyatt drab, but in Shulman's company he is utterly captivating. Graven with Diamonds revives the contexts and conversations that shaped, and were shaped by, the poetry... Inasmuch as is possible after almost half a millennium, Nicola Shulman has done a superb rewiring job. The poems glisten again, illuminating everything and everyone around them. It is a marvellous achievement and a lovely book." The Literary Review "The great strength of Shulman's book lies in its incisive readings of Wyatt's verse and its likely motivations. She writes precisely, with original, sympathetic perceptions and an infectious relish for her subject..." The Daily Telegraph - Five stars "Shulman tells her tale with agreeable zest... This colourful book gives recognition of Wyatt's greatness a very welcome, vigorous push." The Times
Nicola Shulman is a writer and reviewer for publications including the Sunday Telegraph, the TLS and Harpers & Queen. She lives with her family in London and in Yorkshire. She published A Rage for Rock Gardening, The story of Reginald Farrer, gardener, writer and plant collector with Short Books in 2002.