Wolf Hall and Sir Thomas More: Historical Fact vs. Historical Fiction

Anton Lesser portrays Thomas More in the BBC adaptation of Wolf Hall. Photograph: BBC.

Like many lovers of historical fiction, last Sunday night, I tuned in to the Masterpiece Theater premiere of Wolf Hall.  In scope and scale, I was not disappointed.  The sets were magnificent.  The costumes designed with understated accuracy.  And the acting and dialogue quiet, thoughtful, and a great deal less soapy than the last television series to feature this particular cast of historic characters.  (*Disclaimer: Soapy or not, I thoroughly enjoyed The Tudors.)

Somewhat surprisingly, Thomas Cromwell is depicted as the protagonist of Wolf Hall.  We learn about his working class upbringing, his abusive father, and his struggles to fit in at his job.  We meet his devoted wife and angelic daughters.  And somehow along the way, with what can only be described as a hefty dose of artistic license, the Cromwell of history – a man who was both hated and feared – becomes a sympathetic figure.

This novel version of Cromwell should have prepared me for an equally novel version of Thomas More.  It did not.  When More first appeared on the screen, I was astonished.  Could it be that in the fictional world of Wolf Hall Saint Thomas More is the villain?[…]Continue Reading

Law Meets Literature: Bleak House and the British Court of Chancery

By the early nineteenth century, the British Court of Chancery had become synonymous with procedural dysfunction and injustice.  This was especially so for the middle classes, who could not afford to bring a claim lest they end up having their entire fortunes swallowed up by the process.

This image is in the public domain because its copyright has expired.
Court of Chancery, 1808.

However, though “the evils of Chancery were well known and had been exposed over and over again,” the 1852 publication of Charles Dickens’ novel Bleak House shone an even brighter light both on the Court and on the lives ruined by its corruption and dysfunctionality.[…]Continue Reading

Venetia and the Byronic Hero

As romance writers and readers, we are all intimately acquainted with the Byronic hero. That particular brand of brooding, mysterious, misunderstood – and did I mention handsome? – Regency venetiarogue that has stolen the heart of many a sheltered young Regency heroine. He is Captain Conrad in The Corsair, Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights, and Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre. And as dark and dangerous as he is, he makes the honorable, morally upright gentlemen with whom he shares the page seem downright unappealing.[…]Continue Reading

The Beau Monde's Regency Turns 80 Celebration - These Old Shades

It is the 80th anniversary of the first Georgette Heyer Regency novel.  In celebration, throughout 2015 The Beau Monde will be posting articles on each of Heyer’s novels.  […]Continue Reading