Christine Hartweg's biography of John Dudley is, to me, a very useful book. She has noticed some things that I definitely have not, and there are places where her scholarship - her willingness to challenge a well-worn anecdote by investigating the provenance, for example - reveal things that my reading would not (or indeed could not) have. She has surveyed a lot of the same sources that I have used, expanding on them with a lot more digging into the originals than I would ever have the time to do, and reached the broad conclusion that John Dudley, also known as the Earl (or earl, depending on house style) of Warwick and the Duke (duke) of Northumberland (as well as Viscount Lisle earlier on), was a pretty decent bloke who fought hard against some much less decent people to steer the realm through a fairly tricky time. The assessment of Edward Seymour as the 'Good Duke' is unwarranted, and the parallel assessment of Dudley as the 'Bad Duke' is equally flawed. I agree, up to the point that Edward Seymour was nowhere near as good as he is supposed to have been, and Dudley perhaps not quite so bad.
I think there is a slight tinge of disingenuousness about the (sub)title that Hartweg has given her book: she chooses to refer to Dudley as the father-in-law of Jane Grey, who may be a more bankable, famous name but plays only a thin part in the story as we are told it. Indeed, it is striking how little of the book deals with this most tragic of stories, and that is not intended as a criticism. I'm not sure that I can sustain my belief in the essential honesty and probity of John Dudley through the specifics of the last days of Edward's reign and the few weeks after his death, although I will take into account the point made throughout by Hartweg that it is possible that Edward himself was responsible for the devise for the succession, that he drove the shifting of the crown away from his own biological sisters and towards his cousins, and that this was about Protestantism rather than a Dudley bid for power. I don't think Dudley can be absolved of the accusation of manipulating the young king, and I don't think that marrying his son to the girl destined to become queen was a morally neutral event; I also cannot conceive, given what else is said, written and known about queens at the time, that Dudley didn't naturally expect Guildford to be king within a short while. John Dudley had a go at securing himself as the power behind the throne, and it all went very badly wrong. My inclination - as will no doubt be clear to readers of These Matters - is that he had an eye for power throughout Edward's reign, and a depth of cunning that is not part of Hartweg's assessment of him.
So there you have it. Apart from some minor details of editing (dates seem to flash around in some passages), and an odd phrase here and there that seems out of place in a professional history book (by comparison with others; not because those phrases are inapt), this is an excellent book that combines scholarly effort with an easy, fluid style. It's something you can read profitably at bedtime, but equally it's worth a second go at several of the chapters for depth of historical insight. I don't find myself agreeing with some of the conclusions, but it was good to hear what a pro-Dudley has to say.
The title promises 'swimming'. I couldn't find an easy segue, so instead, let's just have it as an observation. Taking children swimming is one of the great privileges of being an adult, especially when the small one isn't involved. The waterslides at Ponds Forge are every bit as good now (as a creaky and cynical adult) as they were when they first opened (when I was a naive and probably disgustingly enthusiastic kid). Going on one for the first time must be a bit frightening, but it definitely was worth it. It seems to be a thing that you're not really supposed to like as an adult, but the world would probably be a better place if people spent more time on waterslides.
And for those for whom this is the last weekend of freedom, good luck next week! The cycle goes on and this last Sunday before the return of the chaos, the thrills and delights, the frustrations and sadnesses of term time is always a tough one. For me this time life will be irretrievably different, although this is not necessarily a negative thing. There are things and people that I will miss, desperately in some cases, and things that are better left behind. There is no remedy for the sad things, some, but by no means all, of which I have written about on here and elsewhere, but that in the end is not the goal, to be cured of the sadness. Sometimes it threatens to overwhelm, and I find that is often on Sunday afternoons and evenings when resilience is hard to come by. Sometimes it is on the proverbial random Tuesday, or even a Friday lunchtime, which should be a time of robust heartiness. I suppose, to pick up my own thought, the goal is to be able to feel the sadness without it being overwhelming, to have some kind of hope (Esperanto! Hope! Hope defeats despair. The despair squid...) that is itself enough to shield you from the difficult bits. Even just to accept that the sad thoughts can pass, just as anything else does, makes them easier to let go. It won't change the past, or bring back a time that has gone, or open up an opportunity to say that one last thing or ask that one last question. That, I suppose, is the nature of the hope that sustains people's belief in an afterlife ("You will meet them again... but not yet!") and why there's such a wrench involved in letting go of that belief.
Anyway, that might come across as a bit bleak for a Sunday lunchtime. But it's not: "We must have felt what it is to die, Morrel, that we may appreciate the enjoyments of life. All human wisdom is contained in these words: wait and hope!"
Talbot nods his head. “When men take up rebellion against the king, that is the only outcome. Pardons do not win men’s hearts. Fear is the only way.”
“Do you truly think that? The king must govern by fear?”
“I do not think that fear is necessary when the realm is quiet. But when it is disordered as it is today, the people must fear the king so that they follow his law.”
“Do you think it is so with God?”
“That is a strange question, young Master Fletcher. I do not know how to answer it. You should ask a priest.”
“The priests tell me only that God loves me, but then they threaten me with hell if I do not love Him back.”
Talbot smiles. “Do you fear God? Death?”
“I fear death. I do not know whether I should fear God. That is why I ask.”
“You sound like-”
“Strelley, yes, I know. You are not the first to make that observation.”
That'll be George Talbot, the son of the fourth Earl of Shrewsbury, and Guy Fletcher, sitting outside Exeter contemplating bringing about the end of the Prayer Book Rebellion. Book IV is at just over 70000 words, with several strands nearing completion and one with a way to go. Hopefully progress will be sustained!
Last time I wrote on this news feed, England were getting absolutely hammered by the Australians. On my birthday - my birthday! - England had capitulated to a frankly embarrassing 67 all out. The following day, the Australians opened up a lead that began to feel insulting at times. But, come the fourth innings, wickets did not fall at the frequent rate they had done, Root and Denly set it up for the last day, and then - with apologies for the fact that clearly this content is not licensed and is just some bloke filming the TV with his phone - this.
The funny thing about this one is that I was checking the score, moaning about how we were going to lose. I think there's a particular type of psychology about being an England fan that leads to this. If we expect to lose, it hurts less when we do. That's why this one was so exciting. It might even be better than the Edgbaston 2005 one. Just as with that one, there was a massive wrong umpiring decision in England's favour just before the match finished. Stokes was LBW - although to the naked eye, it did look like it might be going down leg - with a couple still to get. Kasprowicz's hand wasn't on the bat handle. The rules say he wasn't out. But Bowden's finger went up, and England collectively lost it.
Then, I was watching the cricket on Channel 4. Now (as in, on Sunday afternoon), I was following on the BBC website. And I genuinely think it is sad that you can't watch the (test) cricket live on free-to-air TV, and I honestly think we would do better as a test-playing nation if we put it back on, at least in a few years' time. But it still has that same chest-tightening brilliance, even on the highlights.
Those moments are few, taken over a whole life. Maybe the offer letter or A level results opening, maybe the birth of a child, maybe the touch of that one person's hand... You couldn't handle one of these a day. It would just be too stressful, because these moments can only come with fear of failure, if they are to mean anything. There has to be the possibility that the hope will not be realised. That's why being Australian (over my lifetime, at least) must have been less fulfilling. They expect to win, and if you read Glenn McGrath's writing, they pretty much expect to win 5-0. That's why beating them (even if it's only one time in four) is worth the defeats.
And I have tried - and in some cases, even felt like I might have made some inroads into - putting these moments into my writing. The quotation from Fleabag on the right of this page is an example of a moment that someone else gave to me, as often are the song lyrics that adorn the landing page of this site. That's the goal, seeing as how the likelihood of selling enough books to make a living is so remote as to be negligible. I hope that for some of those who have read the books, that comes across. And if you haven't read the books...?
Well, it sounds like a good idea. Until, on a windswept beach in north Wales, you are dragged into the sea by a child in a full wetsuit (the child, not me; I was in swimming shorts appropriate to a heated indoor pool) and spend the next half-hour wondering if you will get done by a jellyfish. I did get to do the weeing on the jellyfish joke (no, the woman in the coffee cart did not get it), which sort of made up for the borderline hypothermia that we both suffered as a result. Turns out 90mph winds don't make for pleasant beach conditions. Then there were the three women who swam knowingly past the sign which basically said 'don't swim past this sign, mofos, because when we drag you out of the sea at Wexford you won't be able to appreciate it when we say 'we did tell you, you know.' Or words to that effect. But they were grown adults who were capable of making sensible choices about their doings, even if they chose not to. The twenty-month old Tasmanian Devil who seems to dog my every move at the moment does not make these sorts of sensible decisions, which can lead to some tricky situations. He has recently developed the 'ability' to 'run', which he uses mainly to find out that he can't turn his oversized head without falling over. You'd think that the human race would have wiped itself out at a much earlier stage in its existence, watching him. He can, however, utter reasonably intelligible sentences (today's was "Ma get in the water," the kind of bossy instruction that he has learned to talk for the sole purpose of issuing, it seems), which makes up for the lack of physical coordination. This has had the unfortunate side-effect of making him capable of repeating the coarse phrases his father routinely uses, and the fact that the question of vulpine lexicon is used at least semi-appropriately (often with the addition of his own name at the end) indicates that he gets the idea of swearing, even if he doesn't know exactly what he is saying. I know what he is saying, to the extent that I have had to 'fess up to being the source, lest other innocent parties be caught in the crossfire.
This isn't one of those parenting blogs where I tell stories of the inadequacies of my or others' parenting, the funny things my children say and do, or the infuriation of day-to-day life with a toddler. There are plenty of things that would be worth writing about in a more formal context (those who know me will remember that I have a very deep interest in early language acquisition, as well as being interested in how children interact with the world, especially when those interactions are disordered in some way), but this is not the place for it. But I will indulge myself with just the one post, this one, on the subject. Whoever came up with the idea of going on holiday with the children was barking up the wrong tree altogether. It's just more difficult than being at home, because none of the stuff is in the right place, it's windy (and, being north Wales, miserably grey for a decent part of the time), it's steep, the shops are absurdly limited. Although there was a place - crewed by a pair of implausibly large young men - that did an actual flat white, as opposed to the usual flatte on offer, and to add to the charm, it also had a large selection of Thomas-related children's toys for him to play with. How there weren't more folk in there sheltering from the force 12 hurricane blowing in off the sea, I don't know.
So, anyway, after a couple of instances of shoulder-carrying the big one (at 30kg, a not inconsiderable mass to lift) back up the hill from the beach to the house - her recent dance-induced broken ankle having not healed adequately for a pebble beach - and miles of pavement pounding trying to get the small one to sleep, I've come home for a holiday. Except they're still here. They do that to you, kids. Follow your every move. Demand attention at every turn. And, like all the people you love, you don't begrudge them that. Because, even when you're reading Zog for the 812th time, or being forced to watch Peppa Pig (seriously, who is responsible for it? even the 'guess the voice' game loses its entertainment value by the seventh hour...), or standing in the clot-cold sea avoiding jellyfish, it's (sort-of) worth it. Each of those moments spent with someone you really care about, really love, matters both at the time and afterwards. And those moments might be gone (the small one's rendering of his sister's name as a series of tongue-waves and babble is now, sadly, replaced by a recognisable saying of her actual name), but that doesn't diminish the value that they had both at the time and as happy memories. Even the sad ones have their place. If this was a more conventional blog, I guess I might write something inspirational about appreciating all the moments you spend with your loved ones, and living in the moment. But it's not. So, instead, here's a bit from book IV:
“By God, Master Ascham, I miss him,” Elizabeth says, this time with a genuine smile. “All that time we spent together, I never knew how happy I was, not until he was gone.”
“That happiness was real. Look on it as you would a gift of crystal ginger. As you enjoyed it, it was thereby gone.”
“He is still out there, somewhere. And if I know him, he is as crushed as I am.”
“Madam, I have no doubt that he loves you still. But there is nothing to be done with that. Put him from your mind.”
“Have you ever loved, Master Ascham? Have you ever felt it so that one person occupies your thoughts to the exclusion of all else? So that time seems only to drag and grate?”
“Elizabeth,” he says, quietly, compassionately, “I understand. But you cannot live the rest of your life waiting for him.”
“I’m not sure you do understand, Sir. Without him… Nothing has any flavour. It is as thought the colour has gone from the world. It would be easier, I think, if he had died. Then I could grieve for him. But it is the hope that hurts. ‘And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity.’ Caritas, Ascham. God does not love me, Sir. And there are times when I cannot find it in my heart to love Him because he has taken my Edward away from me.” Elizabeth breaks down, the sobs taking over. Ascham stands, goes behind her, and puts a hand on her shoulder.
There's something stirring about a castle. I don't really know what it is, but it touches a different part of me compared to what a cathedral does. Cathedrals are more impressive, in a lot of cases, requiring cleverer stonemasons to get it happening, and they are generally far more decorative. But there's something about the naked aggression (if that is the right word!) of a castle, its entirely warlike purpose, that speaks to a part of me (and, evidently, a lot of other people) that enjoys a good battle. As I've got older, that part of me is less prevalent. I find myself less interested in battles, tactics, weapons and armour. Perhaps that is because through vicariously living my characters' lives I have lost a taste for it. Perhaps it is a young man's game, and I am no longer young. Perhaps it is the stark realisation that despite the portrayal in books, battle is a pretty miserable affair. I once witnessed a medieval revivalist group, who showed how fighting would have happened in about the 11th or 12th century, and it was extremely revealing about exactly how big the gap between the film/TV version and the reality of it is. In the first instance, the weapons are a lot smaller than they are in the films. Most of the swords they wang around in films or TV would bend unhelpfully at the first sign of any action. And the swords all had big notches in them. The armour is heavy, the men move slowly in it, and within five minutes of engaging in the fights they were exhausted, sweating and incapable. Admittedly, these weren't people who were trained athletes - they were amateur enthusiasts - but this is instructive. The impressive swordplay of Kingdom of Heaven or King Arthur (the Clive Owen and Keira Knightley version) is exactly that: play.
Swords seem to be the thing, for some reason. Whether it is because of their appearance, or the appeal of being able to call yourself a great swordsman, or something else I do not know. But the sword seems to have an enduring appeal, even in this era of drone strikes and sniper rifles. One only needs to inhabit the writing community of Twitter for a few weeks to see exactly how limited - and I don't mean that in a judgemental way - the range of fantasy actually is, with swords being fairly high on the agenda, and magic even higher. It's relatively rare to see a fantasy book advertised that seems to be doing away with these tropes and replacing them with something entirely different. And I appreciate that there are conventions within a genre, and that it perhaps isn't my area of expertise. But it does seem to me that the idea of fantasy opens up a lot of doors that are then closed by those conventions. The inventions of, to go for a recent and well-worn example, Game of Thrones (and I warn any die-hards that I have seen only some of the TV programme and read none of the books) seem to be limited to a set of fairly convention-conforming tropes and a bit more of the 50 Shades of Grey than is normally seen in the genre. It's rare to find a fantasy that isn't hinged around a war or a battle of some kind, although there are notable exceptions to this rule. For example, even though there is a sort of conflict at the heart of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials, it is not a fantasy in which swords and armour do their thing. It is a much more fully realised fantasy than a lot of fantasies, although it doesn't stray very far from the real world in being so.
I mentioned cathedrals a bit back, and there's just one further observation I want to make. Regular readers may know that I have a very awkward relationship with churches, to the extent that an hour in a church with the service going on can be a very testing hour for me. I love churches, most especially the small village-y ones that contain more love (of God and of people) in their way than the monstrous medieval cathedrals do. A few quiet moments in a church - or even, on a recent trip to the West Country, just the yard - can pull my reflections in all manner of directions, not all of them sad, and some of the sad ones are those sad reflections that actually contain a core of happiness (even joy), but happiness passed. It is difficult to reflect on that happiness passed without thinking that once being happy brings a sort of inevitable sadness, but it doesn't (or at least shouldn't) render the past any less happy or make that happiness any less real. Some moments in church - the voices of the people who inhabit particular churches and particular memories - are truly devastating, and will never fully quiet themselves into peace. Re-reading book IV to try to knock some sort of shape into it shows me that Edward Strelley has that same trait. He walks into a church and is at once both distant from it, the religion that it embodies, the ritual and the relationship with God, and at the same time has what is probably a more significant relationship with it than most of the Christians who congregate there. It is the very absence of God, of forgiveness for sin, of the tranquility of knowing that out there is benevolence, of the redemptive power of Christ, it is this that tears him (and me) so violently. And the desperate struggle to accept that love of a different kind does not bring peace or redemption. God does not speak to him, as he frequently says. No matter how often he asks. Nor, for that matter, does God speak to me.
It wouldn't be a bad title for book IV, but it's not a contender. Twitter (all 15 of them) recently voted, and the winner (such as it was, given the relative size of the community against the number of people who actually clicked to vote) was 'The Mask You Hide Behind'. Which is appropriate, although I later realised that I think 'A Mask to Hide Behind' might be better. I like a short, to-the-point title, but I also want it to be something the book is about or, to take another line on the same idea, that when a reader makes her way through the book, they should agree on the appropriateness of the title. This Matter of Faith was - relatively - easy to pick. Strelley says it, but he actually says 'these matters of faith'. In the second one, Kat Astley threaten's Strelley with every last one of Heaven's avenging angels. You'd be surprised at how often I mis-type that as Heaven's Avenging Angles, which would be a different story indeed. Most recently, the title is actually a documented (although with what accuracy it is hard to tell) line from Thomas Seymour. De Winter is the one who utters the line about the mask, and the thought is that what you allow out there, for what might be called public consumption, isn't the same stuff that's going on behind that mask. For some of us, the mask is a barrier, a way of keeping up the appearances of following conventions and not letting the less praiseworthy side of our character out. It can be more, and in de Winter's case it is significant that he won't tell his friends - in fact, he has not told anyone, including his confessor - what his sin is. He hints that it is a sin of imagining rather than of actual commission, which in some ways is the worst kind to torture yourself with, because - for a mind that can be prone to obsessive or intrusive thoughts or rumination - you can end up punishing yourself for the thing you didn't do. When Dumbledore says to Harry that it is our choices rather than our abilities that show who we truly are, it is worth adding that the things we imagine doing but choose not to should actually count in our favour, not against us. What defines a sin - whether you are a secular humanist or a Christian - seems to be, centrally, the negative effect on other people. Imagining doesn't have this negative effect.
In any case, I haven't decided yet. I have been doing a bit of work on these short flash fictions, which have occasionally popped up on here. Some of them are a little bit too close to home to be shared, which is a shame, because they come out quite well. There will come a point in future years when I can, but sometimes I think the need just to get the words out of my head and onto a page makes it redundant whether or not they are any kind of publishable. They have a sort of 'blocking' quality: the short fiction idea sits so much front and centre that no progress happens on the novel until the idea is out. But those ideas have some of that potential for negative effect that renders them private. I don't keep a diary or journal - I once tried to make 'notes' but I realised quickly that my disastrous lack of personal organisation and my general need not to dwell on the happenings of any given day made it impracticable - and I suppose these flashes are in lieu of that.
Writers sometimes get asked whether they write about themselves, and there's a bit of me that thinks this question is redundant, and another bit of that doesn't. Of course my writing is about me - it all comes from inside my head - but at the same time, that doesn't mean everything in the books is something that happened to me. I was not, for example, present at the siege of Norwich in 1549, but at least part of the way the characters react to that situation is how I imagine I might. You can probably tell by reading the existing books and the excerpts from book IV that some of the how-it-feels-to-be-that-person-in-that-situation is more 'alive' to me that some other parts; where the story is about people and feelings rather than sieges and politics, it makes sense that it should be so. So why the cruelty of obsession? It's a phrase that captures a major strand of book IV, and something that I have experienced from several angles. The casual bandying about of the phrase "I'm a bit OCD" highlights the lack of general understanding of what obsession is, and what it can do to a person. Edward Strelley's obsession with Elizabeth is undoubtedly cruel, because he cannot have her - his station and hers, and history, prevent it - just as is her obsession with him. But theirs is a mutual affection, and therein lies the cruelty in that particular case. I wonder if the reason I would not choose it as the title is precisely because of the implication of one-sidedness that really isn't right for my story. I also wonder if it shades into the 'thriller' realm, which is comically far away from what I'm writing. So, The Cruelty of Obsession will not be the title of the fourth book. But I wonder if this should be my dedication: "To all the Edward Strelleys and Elizabeth Tudors of the world: may life bring you peace."
Here are some passages from book IV that might generate the title... Hint: heavy on the spoilers.
God Does Not Speak
“Something troubles you?”
“Yes. God does not speak to me.”
Cranmer raises an eyebrow. “What do you expect His voice to sound like?”
“I do not know. I have tried to be good. I have taken the sacraments, I have done good, but I accept that it is my faith, not my charity, that will justify me.”
“Do you expect God’s voice to be thunderous? Insistent?”
Strelley thinks on the question. “No.”
“What could you hear that you would take to be God’s voice?”
“I do not know. I want to know what it is that I should do.”
“You find yourself on the horns of a dilemma. Might I ask the nature of it?”
“There is a woman. She is very dear to me. I think of her almost to the exclusion of all else.”
“But,” Cranmer says, “there is some impediment to your attachment.”
“An impediment, Your Grace, might be overcome. Were I to follow where my heart leads me, I would commit a great and terrible crime. So you see my trouble.”
“I do. Your love, if I may so describe it, is not merely difficult. It is proscribed.”
From here... A True Believer or God's Work
“Good morning,” Hellyons says, screwing his eyes up as looks at Strelley and thus into the rising sun. “You are awake.”
“I do not sleep well.”
“So it seems.” Hellyons looks at the sketch of the church. “You don’t go to church. And yet you draw it.”
Strelley points in the direction of the church. “It’s what man does best.”
Hellyons shrugs. “God’s work. Let us hope that this situation resolves itself, and God’s work can continue.”
Strelley sets aside his sketch and looks at Hellyons for a few moments. “Are you a priest yourself?”
“No. Just a true believer.”
Strelley returns his attention to the play of light around the church tower. Hellyons stands about for several minutes, as though he is expecting Strelley to stop his drawing and converse. But Strelley ignores him, and after a little while, Hellyons gives up and goes back to the inn. Strelley frowns after him, then carries on with his sketch.
The Mask You Hide Behind
“Imagine,” de Winter is saying, “that every time you’re in church, you feel God judging you. He sees right into you. All the lies, the mask you hide behind, He sees through it.”
“God forgives you. That’s the point, isn’t it?” Longshawe says.
“He does. But he forgives sins for which we repent. Confess.” De Winter thumbs a cross that he wears around his neck. “You do not confess.”
Longshawe narrows his eyes. “I do not. That is true. But this new way, the king’s way, Cranmer’s way… It does not require confession. It asks only that you commune with God, and listen for him. No priest to channel him.”
“Yes,” de Winter says, “I understand it. You will reach salvation by faith alone. A comforting doctrine for those who do not want the trouble of attending Mass. Of praying. Of confessing.”
Andrew Shepherd cuts in. “I do not see that God would put real power in the hands of the priests. They’re just men.”
De Winter smiles. “That is true. But they act in the person of Christ himself.”
“George,” Longshawe says, “do you not think that God, if He is so loving as we are told, would accept both your way of worship and the new way?”
“You had best hope so!” De Winter laughs. “I fear God. I fear that He knows the truth, the things I hide at every moment from the world. Sins I have imagined but not committed, that are not of my own choice. Sins I fear even to speak aloud in Confession. Sins that I am not sure even He could forgive.”
Longshawe and Shepherd both look at him, questioning. De Winter moves his focus from one to the other and back again.
“Sins,” de Winter picks up, “that I shall not be revealing to you two.”
There is a moment when all three seem to consider the seriousness of de Winter’s words. Then, Andrew Shepherd breaks the tension.
“Must be something original, then. Or is it your father for whom you wish to atone?” He smiles. “Since you’re not going to inherit your father’s estate, why should you inherit his sins?”
De Winter eyes him, frowning. “I don’t think that’s how it’s supposed to work.”
“Isn’t that God’s decision?” Shepherd is absolutely in earnest, challenging his master’s doctrine, as dangerous as that might be for a servant. “God is love, is he not? Why should he hold you to a debt that your father, or his father, has acquired? Can you not repent of your own sins inwardly? Speak to God without the priest?”
De Winter shakes his head. “I would recommend caution, Master Shepherd. These are words that might pass for exuberance among your friends, but they are not to be repeated at Beaulieu, in the hearing of Lady Mary or her household. Do you understand?”
Candidate from here: Live, Love and Die
Harper looks at him for a long time, eyes working across Strelley’s face. Strelley is perfectly still. Harper says, “I do not want this. I do not want to be the figurehead of a rebellion. Much less to displease my bishop. Less still to displease God.”
“I have no words of comfort. Indeed, I seek your counsel.”
“Yes. When I speak of you, Father, it will be of a man of great loyalty and faith. So I seek your counsel, as I say.”
“On what matter?”
“The Lord has sent you a great trial, Father. I see that. I have had mine. And I fear that I have failed it.”
“What form did this trial take?”
“A woman. That I loved - love - as much as a man can. But I cannot be with her. Her station prevents it.”
“Many of us have loved that which we cannot have.”
“She would have had me, I think.”
“Then you are a good man for not allowing it.”
“I feel as though I could live another fifty years and never enjoy a day. Without her, life is purposeless.”
“Your grief will lessen, in time.”
“That is what Cranmer told me.”
“You have spoken to the archbishop? Of this?”
“That book,” Strelley says, gesturing vaguely, “is as much mine as it is his. I sought his counsel as well.”
“Then mine is redundant.”
“Not so. You are here. He is not. You are a man of the people.”
Harper smiles again. “I thank you for your flattery. All I can say is that God does not punish us for our sins if we repent them.”
“Which is the sin? To deny the love we both feel? Or to break the law?”
“You are a man of great intelligence, Edward Strelley. Here you are, distant from this lady. You have found a reason to travel far away from her. Your conscience says you must not be together.” Harper’s mind catches up with the conversation. “You say that is your book as much as Cranmer’s?”
“That is a little unfair on him. Some of it is mine. Most of it is his.”
“Whatever the people think of it, it is beautiful. One day, the people of this nation will live, love and die by your words.”
And this chunk suggests A Good Man. Or, perhaps She Will Be Great. But I don't like that second one enough.
Strelley frowns. “I will survive, Gilbert. I will not throw away my life recklessly.”
“I’m sure you will. I hope she was worth it.”
As they walk, Strelley speaks, but without turning to look at Gilbert. “There will come a day when she will be called ‘great’. But, to me, she is comfort, joy, peace. Not glory. Not a princess. Just Elizabeth.”
“But to everyone else…”
“To everyone else, she is heir to the throne. She would, I think, give it all up. She said that to me, as I left her.”
“But you told her ‘no’.”
“I did. She has her life to live.”
Gilbert puts a friendly hand on Strelley’s shoulder. “You are a good man, Edward Strelley.”
And what about The Light Is Gone...?
“What may I do for you, then?” Cranmer says. “What troubles our young princess?”
Astley and Ascham look at each other. Cranmer watches them, and then decides to remove the doubt.
“You are wondering how best to tell me that this girl who is second in line to the throne of England has fallen in love with a common servant,” he says, then he arches an eyebrow. “Yes, Mistress Astley, Master Ascham, I am aware of it. Not from her, or from any spy of mine. The common servant, if that he is, is a correspondent of mine. He is a rather gifted translator, in fact, and has helped me with the new book.”
Astley leans forward. “She wishes him to return. From whatever exile he has chosen.”
“Ah,” Cranmer says. “I wondered if we might face this. I will tell you two things. I do not know where he is, and I would counsel you to leave him be.”
“For Elizabeth’s sake?” Ascham asks, a note of tenderness clear in his voice.
“No. For his own sake. If Elizabeth asks for him, he will come. Without a moment’s hesitation, he will come. Because he is desperately, hopelessly in love with her. And his strength to keep himself away from her comes only from the fear that he will condemn her.”
“But,” Astley says, “she is without hope. The light is gone from her eyes.”
“As I said to this young man of whom you speak, time and faith will heal.”
“It has been six months since last she saw him,” Astley answers, “and she has not got any better. I have never known anyone be more certain about her love.”
“My Lady,” Cranmer says, “Elizabeth is sixteen. A girl. A princess, indeed. She has her whole life before her.”
Ascham frowns at this. “She is as clever as any man I know. And wise beyond her years.”
“Do you mean, Master Ascham,” Cranmer says, “that we should indulge this fantasy? I did not know that you were sentimental.”
“He is not,” Astley intervenes. “He is doing his best to do right for Elizabeth. Keeping them apart is not making her happy.”
“Bringing them together will not make her happy either.” Cranmer sits back in his chair. “And of the two choices, apart at least has the virtue of not making either of them guilty of treason.”
I'm really not sure. But I'll get there!
Because, sometimes, an idea comes into my head, and it needs to go onto 'paper' before it slips away. So here is another of these 500 word flash fictions for you...
She looks at me, and it is for a little longer than she should, her eyes narrow. She has the same pale complexion as her famous cousin, the same red hair. But the hair is a little redder, less curled, less often styled, the face a little younger, less handsome, more pretty. Without the scars that mark the other's face, and younger by three or four years, she still has some of that radiance of youth that has been absent in her cousin since her brother died.
“Do you still think of her?” she asks. She knows the answer, but for a moment I consider dissembling. “Edward,” she says, “I asked you-“
“I know, Jane. I heard."
“Well," she says, "do you…?”
“It would be impossible not to.”
“I do not mean that. I mean to ask if you think of her with affection.”
“I loved her once. That is true. As I love you now.” But it is not the truth. Because although I spoke truly to say I did love her once, I still do now. I am not sure I will ever be free of her entirely. I search for something that I can say wholly truthfully but that will also be kind. I am a poor liar, despite what my friends seem to think. “My life, my future... It is here with you. Not with her.” But I do not say that there was once a time when I hoped and I despaired to think of my life, my future with her. The other.
“Edward...” When she speaks my name, I can hear in it all the love that caused her to break her vows, to leave the place that she had bound herself to, to deny God and come instead to me. She pauses, and her mouth purses, before she says, “I don't resent her. She made you the person you are now. The person I love.”
I take her hand. “Jane,” I say, “now is the only thing that matters.” And I have finally found it. The truth that is both comforting and honest. I do not add to it to say that there are times I still dream of her, and wake wondering what I shall say when next we meet. But that meeting doesn't happen. That is my choice, even though it is in her power to summon me at any moment. There are times in the half-sleep of the evening or the morning when my mind swaps the one lying next to me, the one I have chosen to spend my life with, for the one with whom I did not. Now is truly the only thing that matters, but that does not make me regret what I once felt for her. The other. I am not lying to her when I say, quietly, “I love you, Jane,” but it is not the whole truth. The whole truth would undo us all.
Obviously you're not getting the other side of the argument from this post, but I'm sure that he would appreciate me posting the link here (because of the many, many clicks it will get). Anyway, here's what I wrote, while sitting in the car waiting for the baby to wake up.
Morning again. I've had a brief read of some of the links you sent, and have a few observations. The first is that you are very negative about scientists and existing philosophers of science. I think you assume a bit more about how they think than is justified. In particular, there is a whole literature of the relationship between evidence and theory that explores the way an observation might interact with a theory. There's also the acknowledgement in the literature of the theory-ladenness of any observation. That seems to be your principle target, and although I agree with a decent proportion of that attack, I don't agree with the idea that science has disproved and should have discarded the idea of an objective reality. I do broadly agree that it's an axiom of scientific thought, which is why observer - dependent changes in quantum behaviour are so hard to reconcile. But there are consistently scientific ways to avoid that seeming centrality of the observer. As a related point, I think you are on to something about the idea of evolution. I have tried to describe it as neither a theory (because it doesn't do the legwork of a typical theory) nor scientific, because all the explanations it leads to are just so stories. But that in itself doesn't mean that it's a bad description (model might be a better word) of the way that life changes over time. It doesn't require any spookily metaphysical forces, though. Just random chance... Properly understood, I think it is very broadly analagous to the second law of thermodynamics, in that it isn't so much an explanatory tool as a sketch of the rules of the game. Indeed, it might be that the second law, added to an axiom describing self-copying replicators that can be less than perfectly accurate, leads to the theory of evolution as a logical consequence. But I have neither the skill nor the energy to investigate that claim. Lastly, for now at least, I'm not sure that the points you do make are sufficient for a revolution in thought from the ground up. Some of them are live discussions in Philosophy, Philosophy of Science and Science, to which you can contribute but not necessarily expect people who have, like you, devoted their entire life energy to thinking and writing about the same problems, to abandon their modes of thought altogether. I get the point: that there is a category error at the very basis of those thought processes; but that thought is not established as unarguably true by the points you make. I hope this is of some value. As I say, I haven't read everything in detail, but I think I get the central point.
And since you're here reading, let's move from the more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in my (or his) philosophy, to a bit of These Matters. Alert readers may recognise the names of the two centurions. Prizes for figuring out where from, working on the principle that it won't be the original Caesar.
“Good morning, My Lady,” she says. “My father spoke very highly of your Grandfather. It is a pleasure to welcome you formally to this household.”
Jane Grey returns the look, lifting her chin. There is a hardness to her smile, which doesn't quite suit her young face, as she appraises Elizabeth showing off with her rich attire. “It is my great pleasure to be here,” Jane replies.
Elizabeth sits herself, forcing Jane to move her chair slightly to accommodate her at the desk. She looks over the work. “Caesar?” Elizabeth sneers. “Have we not moved on past this, gentlemen?”
Strelley closes his eyes for a little longer than he needs to. Grindal breathes in sharply. It is Grindal who replies, in his most soothingly diplomatic voice. “My Lady, it would be a shame to miss out on the thoughts of one of history's greatest leaders, would it not?” He looks between the two girls. “You are the daughter of a king, Jane is the great-granddaughter of a king. You must be educated not just in the language-”
Elizabeth raises a hand. “If it please Master Grindal, may we concentrate rather on the text?” She glances across at Jane to see the effect of her display of power. Jane sits, cool, impassively watching the exchange.
Elizabeth reads over the portion of text that Jane has already translated. Her own translation is rather quicker and more flowing than Jane's, but it is marred by the odd mistake from not concentrating carefully enough. As she comes to an end, she casts another superior look at her young cousin. Jane is nodding slightly, but her eyes remain indifferent. “You see,” Elizabeth says, “I do not think that Caesar is much of a stylist in his writing. Great commander he may have been, I think he was rather rough. Was he not?” She directs the question at Jane, but Grindal does not leave her a chance to answer.
“Let us rather discuss the text, as the lady herself requested,” he says, a little flustered by Elizabeth's showing off. Strelley watches him, an easy smile playing about his features. This sort of rancorous behaviour is obviously unfamiliar to Grindal, and Strelley seems to be enjoying his discomfort.
Jane Grey has the practised, studied intonation of one who sits carefully at her lessons and learns them well. Her translation is methodical, clear enough but lacking in expression. Elizabeth is more flamboyant, more confident in herself and able to find some fitting phrase for all but the most challenging of the Latin. It is Jane who reads the following phrase:
“Erant in ea legione fortissimi viri, centuriones, qui primis ordinibus appropinquarent, Titus Pullo et Lucius Vorenus. Hi perpetuas inter se controversias habebant, quinam anteferretur, omnibusque annis de locis summis simultatibus contendebant.”
She translates, “There were in that legion two very brave men, centurions who were approaching the first rank, Titus Pullo and Lucius Vorenus. These two always had... disputes? Disputes among themselves... And...” She tails off.
Elizabeth smiles as she steps in. “Over which should be preferred.” She waves a hand delicately, then sits back in her chair. “Should I continue? Every year they quarrelled over which should be... promoted... with great animosity.” She smiles at Strelley. “Was this section picked carefully, Master Strelley?”
Strelley returns a wry smile. “What does the lady mean?” Elizabeth does not pursue her line of questioning out loud, though, simply shaking her head slightly at Strelley and returning to the lesson.
Progress. With the stress on the first syllable, and the 'o' round (for any Americans reading!).
“Oh no, that is not what I mean. I mean that you will choose as you will, and that you can find justification for it in that it is in the interest of the king, even if it contradicts his actual wish.”
“I have not found myself in that situation.”
“The only cause to pledge your loyalty to, James… It’s God. It has always been God, and it shall always be God.”
“You think the king is a heretic, George.”
“He is a heretic. If you were truly loyal, you would tell him so, and you would correct him.”
“I do not have the ability. I do not have the wish, either.”
“Because you agree, or because you don’t care?”
“Because, George, I think that a man should be free to practise his religion. Or not, if he so chooses.”
“No.” Longshawe looks down, then around at his soldiers, who are maximising their rest time by lying on the ground, stretched out in the mid-morning sun. “Fletcher.”
De Winter shakes his head. “Do you think that pagans and heretics should be free to spread their evils?” He frowns. “What about atheists?”
“I am not called to religion as you are. Strelley and Fletcher have not set out to rid the world of religion either. It is just that God does not speak to them.”
De Winter crosses himself. Then, after a pause in which he holds Longshawe’s gaze for a moment too long, he says, “I shall pray for you. And for them.”
When to the sessions of sweet silent thought