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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503–1542)
Critical and Biographical Introduction
 
SIR THOMAS WYATT, the elder friend of the poet Surrey, and one of the “two chief lanternes of light to all others that have since employed their pennes upon English poesie,” was one of the most attractive figures at the court of Henry VIII. “Let my friend bring me into court, but let my merit and my service keep me there,” he wrote; and although his rash courage led him, as he warned his son, “into a thousand dangers, and hazards, enmities, hatreds, prisonments, despites, and indignations,” yet he emerged from them all with untarnished integrity, and the restored confidence of the King. His safeguard was unswerving sincerity. “If you will seem honest, be honest, or else seem as you are,” he wrote his son. “Well I wot honest name is goodly. But he that hunteth only for that is like him that had rather seem warm than be warm, and edgeth a single coat about with a fur.” So when accused of high treason in 1541, and thrown into the Tower, he was able to vindicate his innocence in a stout-hearted defense, which has come down to us as a model of simple eloquence.  1
  His father, Sir Henry Wyatt of Allington Castle, Kent, had also been a courtier, and had been of the King’s suite to the memorable Field of the Cloth of Gold. He prepared a promising career for his son; and Sir Thomas had already borne many honorable responsibilities, and was fast becoming a trusted councilor of the King, when he died prematurely at the age of thirty-nine. He had been sent to Falmouth to escort an ambassador from the Emperor of Germany, and heat and hurry brought on a fever from which he died on the way.  2
  It is quite likely that after finishing his course at St. John’s College, Cambridge, where he took the degree of B. A. in 1518 and that of M. A. in 1520, Sir Thomas, like other young noblemen of his day, went to Italy for a time. He was certainly familiar with Italian literature; and his great title to consideration is that he introduced the sonnet into English poetry, and made the little poem of Petrarch a popular model for greater poets than himself. He wrote also rondeaux and other lyrics, with grace and sweetness, and has left some spirited satiric verse. Most of his poems are wistful love songs;—inspired, according to tradition, by a hopeless passion for unfortunate Anne Boleyn. Little is known of Lady Elizabeth Brooke, the young wife Wyatt married when he was eighteen; but his plaintive lines indicate a later and unhappy love. If the Queen was the object, the fact did not lessen the King’s friendship for Wyatt, or the latter’s stanch loyalty. Although during her trial he was confined in the Tower on some charge now unknown, it was probably unconnected with her. Yet it is said that after her execution in 1536, he was a changed man. The dashing courtier, noted for his wit, became a sedate and thoughtful statesman. He seemed to leave youth behind, and grow suddenly mature; and his later poems reflect the change. Wyatt’s verse, although uneven, is often pleasantly melodious. It has the charm of spontaneity; and although less skillful than that of Surrey, contains some homely similes that foreshadow Elizabethan vividness.  3
 
 
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