Wyatt, Sir Thomas

Wyatt, Sir Thomas (1503 - 1542)


Sir Thomas Wyatt was born at Allington Castle, Kent, in 1503, the son of Henry Wyatt and Anne Skinner. He was educated at St. John's College Cambridge, become a diplomat in the service of Henry VIII about 1526 and travelled to Italy first in 1527. After a brief imprisonment for his affair with Anne Boleyn in 1536, the king's second wife who was executed for treason, Wyatt went to Spain as English ambassador to Charles V from 1537 to 1539. In 1541, after the fall of Thomas Cromwell, Wyatt was arrested again and charged with treason but his release followed shortly. He died October 11, 1542, and was buried at Sherborne. Having separated from his wife Elizabeth Brooke, daughter of Lord Cobham, Wyatt was survived by his mistress Elizabeth Darrell and their son Francis. The best modern editions of Wyatt's poems are Sir Thomas Wyatt: The Complete Poems, ed. R. A. Rebholz (Penguin, 1978), Richard C. Harrier's The Canon of Sir Thomas Wyatt's Poetry (a diplomatic transcription of the Egerton MS poems, for which see below), and the Collected Poems, edited by Kenneth Muir and Patricia Thomson (London: Routledge, 1969), who give especially full notes.


  • Burrow, Colin. "Wyatt, Sir Thomas (c.1503–1542)." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford: OUP, 2004. Online ed. Ed. Lawrence Goldman. May 2011.
  • Muir, Kenneth Muir. Life and Letters of Sir Thomas Wyatt. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1963.
  • Thomson, Patricia. Sir Thomas Wyatt and his Background. London: Routledge, 1964.

Thirteen original sources exist for Wyatt's poems.

  1. Harington MS, Arundel Castle: see The Arundel Harington Manuscript of Tudor Poetry, 2 vols. (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1960).
  2. Blage MS, Trinity College, Dublin
  3. Parker MS 168, Corpus Christi College Cambridge
  4. Devonshire Ms 17492, British Library
  5. Egerton MS 2711, British Library: see Richard Harrier, The Canon of Sir Thomas Wyatt's Poetry (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1975), Part II, the best edition of the best version.
  6. Harleian MS 78, British Library
  7. Additional MS 36529, British Library (Park-Hill MS)
  8. Royal MS 17.A.xxii, British Library
  9. University MS Ff.5.14, Cambridge University Library
  10. Certayne psalmes chosen out of the psalter of Dauid, called thee. vii. penytentiall psalmes, drawen into englyshe meter by sir T. Wyat, ed. J. Harrington (London, 1549). STC 2726.
  11. A Boke of Balettes, extant in one copy only, a fragment of two leaves. STC 26053.5.
  12. Songes and sonettes, written by Henry Haward late earle of Surrey, and other (June 5, 1557). STC 13860. See Tottell's Miscellany (1557-1587), ed. H. E. Rollins, 2 vols., 2nd edn. (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1965).
  13. The courte of Venus, a fragment of an edition ca. 1563. STC 24650.5. See The Court of Venus, ed. R. A. Fraser (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1955).

Wyatt's poems were circulated in manuscript during his lifetime. The most important early MS is the Egerton. Fifteen years after Wyatt's death, Richard Tottel included 97 poems attributed to Wyatt in a collection of Surrey's poems. Tottel supplied Wyatt's poems with titles of his own and, in his desire to appeal to contemporary taste, frequently departed from the manuscript copy of his earlier authors, removing archaisms and smoothing out the rhythm. Wyatt also published Petrarch's De tranquillitate animi in English translation: see Tho, wyatis translatyon of Plutarckes boke, of the quyete of mynde in 1528 (STC 20058.5) and Plutarch's Quyete of Mynde translated by Thomas Wyat (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1931). Many of Wyatt's and Surrey's sonnets are translations or adaptations of Petrarch's Sonnetti in Vita di Madonna Laura and Sonnetti in Morte di Madonna Laura. Petrarch's poems are numbered as in modern standard editions with Petrarch's original numbering in brackets. The difference in numbering is due to the inclusion in Petrarch's sonnet cycle of a number of poems in other forms, including canzoni, madrigali, and ballate. The Italian texts are from Le Rime di Francesco Petrarca, ed. Giovanni Mestica (Firenze: G. Barbèra, 1896; PQ 4476 E96 ROBA). Modernization has not been applied to those passages where it might have grossly obscured the rhythm of the original.

Given Name
Sir Thomas
Family Name
Birth Date
0, 1503
Death Date
October 11, 1542
Family Relations
father : Henry Wyatt
mother : Anne Wyatt
wife : Elizabeth Wyatt (from 1520)
son : Thomas Wyatt
Literary Period
Literary Movement
First RPO Edition