for many years, and I finally got around to it.
This is a selection; only a serious student could cope with the whole lot – thousands of letters seized from Arthur Plantagenet, Lord Lisle, on a trumped-up charge which was a mere sideshow to the power struggle going on around that repellent and corrupt figure Thomas Cromwell, right under the nose of his equally unpleasant lord and dirty old man, Henry VIII. You clearly perceive a world in which everyone is looking over his shoulder to check if a professional perjurer is standing there (or possibly the executioner, ready to deliver one of the hideous ends so lavishly distributed among high and low alike). Merrie England!
The letters have been chunked and grouped into themes with explanatory paragraphs by the editors. The spelling has been modernised, which makes the complex political and legal correspondence slightly more comprehensible, but some of the original freeform renderings have been preserved in the simpler extracts (for example, Lisle’s wife Honor giving an account of ‘boystews and windy’ weather). Of the characters, perhaps one feels most for their highly responsible fixer, representative and factotum, John Hussee, permanently under orders to do six impossible things before breakfast and receiving abuse from all sides.
The story is too tangled and political for a novel, but the pure pathos of Lisle’s end could never be achieved in fiction.