chapter  14
24 Pages

TILLY AR D on Wyatt, 1929

Tillyard ( 1889-1962) was an eminent writer and teacher of English literature, ending his career as Master of Jesus College, Cam­ bridge.

(a) Of the poets of the English Renaissance, Wyatt, Surrey and Sidney, by their lives and character, seem to approach nearest the contemporary ideal of the scholar-courtier. In Wyatt's character there was that balance of antithetical qualities that seemed to mark the type : genius for action and refined scholarship ; impetuosity and the restraint (sometimes) of gentle manners ; versatility and fidelity-and above all high ambitions and modesty, for Leland in his Elegies! on one page compares him to the high-soaring eagle and on the next records that he never grew proud by worldly success and the splendour of the court. But if Wyatt approached an ideal common to the western countries of Europe he is yet most transparently English. He was no Italianate Englishman ; his familiarity with foreign ways and tongues implied no surrender of nationality. His general feeling about Spain is very much that of a modem English tourist in the same country who discovers a 'mistake' in the change given him by a grave, middle-aged shopkeeper. Honesty, straightforwardness, even bluntness, those were the qualities he prized highest, for all his exotic culture : 'Wisdom, Gentlenes, Soberness, desire to do good, Friendliness to get the love of many, and Truth above all the rest,'2 are the virtues he recommends to his son. There is irony in these words if it is remembered that this very son was to pay the penalty of death for treason to his sovereign.