Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel: A comment

November 9, 2009 at 8:51 am (Uncategorized) ()

Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall is a great and entertaining read, as long as you are aware that you are not reading history but a construction of the writer’s imagination. 

  Thomas Cromwell, the benign and loving family man who merely reads the signs of the times and went with the sociological and theological spirit prevailing, and facilitated the policies of his master, Henry VIII, to my mind is a little over the top.

  There is very little evidence that the Reformation in England was a popular movement. It was a policy of the King’s imposed on the English people by a monarch to get a divorce and acquire church property. This is borne out by many historians such as James Gairdner, Eamon Duffy.

  The false impression is given that significant numbers of the population were hungry for Tyndale’s Bible and were questioning traditional Catholic doctrine and practices. The young boy denying the real presence in the Eucharist is a colourful but unlikely event at the time.

  History has painted Thomas Cromwell as a self-serving and efficient administrator but still a complete bastard. Whereas in Mantel’s novel, Thomas More is the objectionable bastard in spite of the positive assessment of scholars like Erasmus and the modern day Anglican and Catholic Churches.

  Given all this, I must say, I enjoyed reading the book, so you too also enjoy it, but don’t delude yourself that it’s history.


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