London: Printed for William Sheeres, 1641. First Edition. Leather-bound. 12mo. 7" x 5 1/2'. 118 pp (lacking frontispiece portrait and the final blank leaf).
Scarlet crushed morocco A lovely rebinding in scarlet crushed morocco by renowned London binders Sangorski and Sutcliffe (signed in gilt on front turn-in), single-ruled in gilt. Five raised bands (six compartments) with author and title in second compartment, and date (1641) at bottom. Turn-ins double-ruled in gilt. Woodcut title decoration, decorative woodcut headpieces, tailpiece, and initials. Title page slightly darkened and text leaves generally a little limp (from a light washing and pressing?), few pages closely trimmed at top (with no loss of text). Pagination is all over the place (eg. 36, 39, 38, 39; 42, 41, 42, 43; 43-56; 75; 58-60; 57-118), but contiguous and uninterrupted. Otherwise only trivial imperfections internally, in a bright, lovely binding, SIGNED by binders Sangorski and Sutcliffe, on bottom turn-in of front pastedown endpaper. (Wing C-1619; Lowndes I, 396) (ESTC R19386; STC C1619A). Near Fine. Item #80707
This is the scarce first edition of the work often reprinted as the 'Life of Wolsey (1724, etc.), a biography of great historical and literary importance. Written in 1557, but while passed around with discretion, for 80 years remained in manuscript form, generally regarded as being too dangerous to publish until 1641 when it was published in this actual first edition: The Negotiations of T. Woolsey. Shakespeare is believed to have read and used the manuscript.
'Wolsey was a key participant in the events of the reign of Henry VIII, negotiated secret treaties with Spain against France, divorce from Catherine of Arragon, incurred the dislike of Anne Boleyn, arrested by her influence, pardoned, arrested again for high treason. Apparently all this was too hot to handle even as late as 1706. Cavendish, however, seems to have been factual, thoughtful and levelheaded.
The first edition was previously attributed to George Cavendish's older brother, Sir William Cavendish (ESTC 223198) n three sections: 1. The Origins of his promotion. 2. The Continuance in his Magnificence. 3. His Fall, Death, and Buriall."
As the intimate biography of a central figure in English history during a momentous period, it 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 (1500-62?), Wolsey''s gentleman-usher and deeply devoted servant, is 'recognized as the earliest of the great English biographers and an individual writer of particular charm and originality.' (Encyclopaedia Britannica).
When Henry VIII became King of England in 1509, Wolsey became the King's distributor of alms. In 1522, George Cavendish entered into service of Thomas Wolsey, an English archbishop, statesman and a cardinal of the Catholic Church. Wolsey's affairs prospered, and by 1514 he had become the controlling figure in virtually all matters of state. Cavendish remained a close member of the household until Wolsey's death in 1530.