"THE DECEIT OF FLATTERING FRIENDS, AND THE INSTABILITY OF PRINCES' FAVORS": 1641 FIRST EDITION OF CAVENDISH'S BIOGRAPHY OF CARDINAL THOMAS WOLSEY, A PROBABLE SHAKESPEARE SOURCE
(SHAKESPEARE SOURCE) CAVENDISH, George. The Negotiations of Thomas Woolsey, the Great Cardinall of England, Containing his Life and Death, viz. 1. The Originall of his Promotion. 2. The Continuance in his Magnificence. 3. His Fall, Death, and Buriall. London: William Sheeres, 1641. Small quarto, early 20th-century full crimson morocco, raised bands; pp. [xii], 118. $2800.
First edition of Cavendish’s biography of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, a likely source for Shakespeare’s Henry VIII. Handsomely bound in full morocco by Sangorski & Sutcliffe.
George Cavendish at age 26 became a gentleman usher and confidant to Cardinal Wolsey, "staying with Wolsey till his death at Leicester in 1530, stripped of his honors and under accusation of high treason by Henry VIII." Cavendish began to write his biography of Wolsey under the reign of Mary in 1557. "The accession of Elizabeth made publication impossible, but the manuscript was secretly passed from hand to hand, including (probably) Shakespeare's… [To Cavendish] belongs the glory of having given to English literature the first specimen of artistic biography… Henry Morley believed that the direct suggestion to Shakespeare of his play of King Henry VIII may have come from his reading of Cavendish's work" (Kunitz and Haycraft, 88). For around 80 years the work remained in manuscript form, generally regarded as too dangerous to publish, until William Sheeres brought out this first edition in 1641.
As the intimate biography of a central figure in English history during a momentous period, The Negotiations presents an authentic record of a multitude of highly important events, for many of which it is the sole authority. In addition to his role as historical source, Cavendish is "recognized as the earliest of the great English biographers and an individual writer of particular charm and originality" (Britannica). This 1641 edition, containing parts of Cavendish's manuscript, is the first time any of Cavendish's writings on Wolsey appeared in print, and stood for years as the only version available outside of manuscript. A more complete version of the Life of Wolsey did not appear until 1810. First edition, with spelling of publisher "Sheeres." Without woodcut frontispiece of the Cardinal. Mispagination as issued; text complete. Wing C-1619. ESTC R19386. Lowndes, 396.
Text generally clean, full morocco binding fine. A handsome copy.