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A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature/Wyatt, Sir Thomas

< A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature

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 marriage, and on her disgrace was thrown into the Tower for a short time. In 1537 he was knighted, and two years later was against his will sent on a mission to the Emperor Charles V. On the death in 1540 of Thomas Cromwell, to whose party he belonged, W. was accused of misdemeanours during his embassy and again imprisoned in the Tower, where he wrote a defence which resulted in his release. In 1542 he was sent to meet the Spanish Ambassador at Falmouth, and conduct him to London, but on the way caught a chill, of which he d. W. shares with the Earl of Surreypage 418 (q.v.) the honour of being the first real successor of Chaucer, and also of introducing the sonnet into England. In addition to his sonnets, which are in a more correct form than those of Surrey, W. wrote many beautiful lyrics; in fact he may be regarded as the reviver of the lyrical spirit in English poetry which, making its appearance in the 13th century, had fallen into abeyance. In the anthology known as Tottel's Miscellany, first pub. in 1557, 96 pieces by W. appear along with 40 by Surrey, and others by different hands. W. has less smoothness and sweetness than Surrey, but his form of the sonnet was much more difficult as well as more correct than that invented by the latter, and afterwards adopted by Shakespeare, and his lyrical gift is more marked.