Sunday, April 3, 2011

Quotes of the day

I'm finally getting to the end of Mantel's Wolf Hall. Occasionally a sentence will leap out from the rest. Referring to Henry VIII's need to discover the value of the Church's properties: "The king -- lord of generalities -- must now learn to labor over detail, led on by intelligent greed." (p. 566; paperback ed.)

Mantel is good at drawing not only Cromwell and Henry and Anne Boleyn and Charles V's ambassador Chapuys and other wielders or agents of power, but also younger women and men (girls and boys, really). Here's the Duke of Richmond, Henry's thirteen-year-old illegitimate son, in conversation with Cromwell (p.369):
"Master Cromwell," he says, "I have not seen you since the cardinal [Wolsey] came down." A moment's awkwardness. "I am glad you prosper. Because it is said in the book called The Courtier that in men of base degree we often see high gifts of nature."

"You read Italian, sir?"

"No, but parts of that book have been put into English for me. It is a very good book for me to read."
This seems to catch how a young prince, "endowed with a proper sense of himself and his own dignity," might speak to his father's powerful (but non-noble) counselor. Whether people actually spoke this way or not, it reveals character and thus works as dialogue. Her ability to do this is one reason I've persevered, despite not having found it a page-turner.

No comments: