The Sorcerer's Tale: Faith and Fraud in Tudor England by Alec Ryrie
|The Sorcerer's Tale: Faith and Fraud in Tudor England by Alec Ryrie|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: A vivid uncovering of the Elizabethan underworld. It begins with the planning of a dynastic murder and proceeds to connect the dots between religion, health, crime and magic in Tudor society. Fascinating, energetic and open to the lay reader, it's recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 212||Date: October 2008|
|Publisher: OUP Oxford|
When Henry, Lord Neville, plotted to murder his father, the Earl of Westmoreland, and his wife, he hired a hit man of an altogether different cast to the hit man we imagine today. Lord Henry was relying on malign magic, not an assassin with a knife. But poor Lord Henry, a gambling addict, was as much victim as criminal, having fallen into the clutches of one Gregory Wisdom, physician, magician, and con-man.
Specialism is a modern phenomenon. The sixteenth century was a time of political intrigue, religious reformation and scientific discovery, but the arts and sciences still converged in its world. And so, it was perfectly possible for Gregory Wisdom to inhabit all these guises. However, Tudor England also had political rivalry, financial wheeling and dealing and greed, and a rapacious underworld criminal society, much as we do today.
In this lively and entertaining history, Alec Ryrie looks at this energetic and vivid world through the prism of Gregory Wisdom, a man who straddled much of it in the course of his life. And we see how intimate the connections were. From gambling dens through churches and even at court, magic seeped into everyday life - some of it was early science, some of it was genuine spirituality, and some of it - but by no means all of it - was little more than a tawdry con trick.
It's elegantly written with some dashes of humour and plenty of extensions for the modern mind to compare and consider. It's also absolutely accessible to the lay reader and told with great affection - it seemed to me as though this has been a pet project for Ryrie for some time. And it's come to fruit with distinction. I thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend it heartily to you.
My thanks to the nice people at OUP for sending the book.
Those interested in Tudor England might enjoy Edward VI: The Lost King of England by Chris Skidmore. Those interested in rather more down-at-heel history would love Remember, Remember the Fifth of November by James Sharpe.
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