George Cavendish Biography


Not much is known of the life of George Cavendish. He was born in 1500, the elder son of Thomas Cavendish, clerk of the exchequer. He went to Cambridge University but left without taking a degree. Soon after his father died in 1524, Cavendish married Margery, the daughter of William Kemp and niece of Sir Thomas More. Around 1522, he entered the service of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey as his gentleman usher. He accompanied the cardinal on his various missions to the Continent. During Henry VIII’s successful campaign against France, Cavendish was made the king’s lieutenant general. He served Wolsey faithfully until the cardinal’s death of dysentery at Leicester in 1530. King Henry offered to take Cavendish in his service because of the loyalty he had shown after Wolsey’s death by helping the king to recover approximately 1,500 pounds that the cardinal had secured for him. The king rewarded Cavendish by giving him six of Wolsey’s best cart horses with a cart to carry his possessions, ten pounds to cover back wages, and twenty additional pounds. Cavendish thereupon returned to his home at Glemsford in Suffolk, where he led a quiet life.

Around 1554, he set to work writing The Life and Death of Cardinal Wolsey; he completed it in 1558. Writing after the restoration of Catholicism during the reign of Mary Tudor, he hoped to expunge both Catholic accusations that held Wolsey responsible for the divorce of Henry VIII and the consequent Reformation...

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Anderson, Judith H. “Cavendish: Patterns Without Meaning.” In Biographical Truth: The Representation of Historical Persons in Tudor-Stuart Writing. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1984. A formalist critical study that examines Cavendish’s symmetrical style and subtle psychological characterization of his subject.

Cavendish, Edward, ed. Preface to Metrical Visions, by George Cavendish. Edited by A. S. G. Edwards. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1980. A helpful biographical preface.

Crewe, Jonathan. “The Wolsey Paradigm?” Criticism 30 (Spring, 1988). Discusses Cavendish’s manipulation of Wolsey’s theatricality of power as both gentleman usher and biographer.

Edwards, A. S. G. “The Text of George Cavendish’s Metrical Visions.” Analytical and Enumerative Bibliography 2 (1978). Examines Cavendish’s poetry to illustrate manuscript transmission in the reign of Mary I.

Sylvester, Richard Standish, and Davis Philoon Harding, eds. Preface to Two Early Tudor Lives: “The Life and Death of Cardinal Wolsey.” New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1962. Another helpful preface.

Wooden, Warren W. “The Art of Partisan Biography: George Cavendish’s Life of Wolsey.” Renaissance and Reformation 11 (1977). Formalist critical study that examines Cavendish’s symmetrical style and subtle psychological characterization of his subject.