WYATT, Sir Thomas

Thomas Wyatt is credited with having "Englished" the Italian poet Petrarch and more generally with having brought the polish and continental sophistication to English poetry that earned him George Puttenham's commendation in 1598 as one of the "two chief lanterns of light" to subsequent English poets. The other "lantern" was Henry Howard,* the earl of Surrey, with whom Wyatt re­mains associated, and whose elegy for Wyatt claimed that he "reft Chaucer the glory of his wit."
Wyatt was born in Kent, England, to a father whose loyalty to Henry VII had placed him in a series of high positions at court. Thomas Wyatt was thus intro­duced early to courtly life, serving in 1516 at the christening of Princess Mary* as sewer extraordinary (attendant). After graduating from Cambridge and enter­ing into a disastrous first marriage that ended in early estrangement, Wyatt went to court and began his lifelong career as courtier under King Henry VIII.* By 1526 Wyatt was esteemed enough to be sent on a special embassy to the French court and in the following year was sent on another embassy to the papal court. Traveling in Italy afterwards, he was taken prisoner by Spanish troops near Ferrara, but was ultimately released. From 1528 to 1532 he was stationed in Calais and served for a time as high marshall. Wyatt's interest in French and Italian literature seems to have been greatly stimulated during these years, for though his reputation as a writer of lyrics was established at court before his travels, his more famous and influential adaptations of continental writers like Ludovico Ariosto* and Petrarch probably date from after these trips.
His life as a courtier after returning to England reached something of an ironic pinnacle in 1533 when he represented his father as chief sewer at the coronation of Henry VIII's second wife, Anne Boleyn. Within three years Anne was be­headed following charges of adultery with numerous men, including Wyatt (though prior to her marriage). The charges against Wyatt have never been substantiated, but one of his most famous poems, an adaptation of Petrarch that begins "Whoso list to hunt," hints at least at deep erotic interest on Wyatt's part in the queen. Wyatt did nonetheless suffer imprisonment for over a month, but was released and then later in the same year was advanced by the king to several positions, including sheriff of Kent, which ultimately suggests that the king never took the charges too seriously. The strong bond between them is further attested by Wyatt's raising 350 men to help suppress a northern rebellion against the king's policies called the Pilgrimage of Grace.
In 1537 Wyatt was sent for two years to the imperial court to improve rela­tions between Henry and the Holy Roman Empire, which had been under great strain because of Henry's divorce from the emperor's kinswoman Catherine of Aragon. The embassy proved a disaster in every way. Wyatt, along with two other English ambassadors, Edmund Bonner and Simon Heynes, found no suc­cess with the emperor, who, meanwhile, had achieved a closer alliance with the anti-Henry Francois I* of France. Further, Edmund Bonner filed a litany of accusations against Wyatt that included being too familiar with "papists" (the worst and most used slander in Bonner's vocabulary) and spending money "unthriftly." Thomas Cromwell, chief minister to Henry VIII, reviewed the charges but dismissed them. On the brighter side, a collection of lyrics titled The Court of Venus that dates from this period included some of Wyatt's poems.
Shortly after Wyatt's return to England in 1540, Cromwell was arrested and executed. In the following year, without Cromwell's protection, Wyatt was ar­rested for treason based on Bonner's previous charges; however, due in part to a written declaration of his innocence, and perhaps a prepared oration that sur­vives but may never have been delivered, the charges were ultimately dismissed.
Soon thereafter, he regained the favor of the king, eventually being named chief steward of the royal manor at Maidstone and vice admiral of a fleet prepared against France. Wyatt's renewed fortunes were short-lived, as he died on 11 October 1542. Wyatt remains a critical figure in literary history for his role in shaping continental forms for use in a distinctly English style.
S. M. Foley, Sir Thomas Wyatt, 1990.
Yu Jin Ko

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Wyatt, Sir Thomas — (?1503 1542)    He was born at Allington Castle, Kent, the only son of Sir Henry Wyatt. He graduated B.A. (1518), and M.A. (1520) from St. John s College, Cambridge. Although he married at seventeen, he was the lover of Anne Boleyn before she… …   British and Irish poets

  • Wyatt,Sir Thomas — Wy·att or Wy·at (wīʹət), Sir Thomas. 1503 1542. English diplomat and poet noted for introducing the sonnet form into English literature. * * * …   Universalium

  • Wyatt, Sir Thomas — ▪ English poet Wyatt also spelled  Wyat   born 1503, Allington, near Maidstone, Kent, Eng. died Oct. 6, 1542, Sherborne, Dorset       poet who introduced the Italian sonnet and terza rima verse form and the French rondeau into English literature …   Universalium

  • Wyatt, Sir Thomas — (1503 1542)    Poet, s. of Sir Henry W., a servant of Henry VII., and ed. at St. John s Coll., Camb., came to Court and was frequently employed by Henry VIII. on diplomatic missions. He is said to have been an admirer of Anne Boleyn before her… …   Short biographical dictionary of English literature

  • WYATT, SIR THOMAS —    1) English poet, courtier, and statesman, born at Allington Castle, in Kent, and educated at St. John s College, Cambridge; was a welcome presence at court, a friend of Anne Boleyn, in high favour with the king, and knighted in 1537; did a… …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • Wyatt, Sir Thomas, the Younger — ▪ English soldier Wyatt also spelled  Wyat   born c. 1521 died April 11, 1554, London  English soldier and conspirator who led an unsuccessful rebellion against Queen Mary I, probably the most formidable uprising ever faced by a Tudor monarch.… …   Universalium

  • Sir Thomas Wyatt — (* 1503 auf Allington Castle, Maidstone, Kent; † 11. Oktober 1542 in London) war ein englischer Dichter und Diplomat. Leben Wyatt entstammte dem Adel und diente am Hof des englischen König Heinrich VI …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Sir Thomas Wyat — noun English poet who introduced the sonnet form to English literature (1503 1542) • Syn: ↑Wyatt, ↑Sir Thomas Wyatt, ↑Wyat • Instance Hypernyms: ↑poet …   Useful english dictionary

  • Sir Thomas Wyatt — noun English poet who introduced the sonnet form to English literature (1503 1542) • Syn: ↑Wyatt, ↑Wyat, ↑Sir Thomas Wyat • Instance Hypernyms: ↑poet …   Useful english dictionary

  • Thomas Wyatt (Dichter) — Sir Thomas Wyatt Sir Thomas Wyatt (* 1503 auf Allington Castle, Maidstone, Kent; † 11. Oktober 1542 in London) war ein englischer Dichter und Diplomat. Leben Wyatt entstammte dem Adel und diente am Hof des englischen König …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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