WHYTHORNE AND THE DUDLEY FAMILY
BECAUSE of Whythorne's usual reluctance to reveal the names of his employers, patrons, and friends, it has been difficult to identify most of the persons with whom he was associated. Enough hints are given, however, to suggest that he benefited intermittently over forty years from the patronage of the Dudleys, a family second to none in the power complex of sixteenth-century England.
The first hint occurs about 1551, when Whythorne received the offer of a position in the household of a duchess to be tutor to her daughter (p. 55). This offer was a blow to the pride of his current employer, the Suds-of-Soap widow, who by combining tears with a steep increase in wages kept Whythorne from transferring his services to the duchess. Soon after this, Whythorne's employer suffered a fall in fortune (p. 60), which preceded a 'worse fall' by the duchess and her husband a short time later. Whythorne used this break in employment to travel on the Continent.
After Whythorne's return from approximately two years abroad (c. 1555), he was engaged as 'chief waiting man' and music tutor in the household of a nobleman who, as Whythorne informs us, was heir to the 'noble woman . . . aforesaid' (p. 85). This duke's son, we learn, 'did fall also, yet being afterward set at liberty again, he lived very honourably by the living which he had by his lady and wife'. During the period of Whythorne's employment, the nobleman was 'called to serve . . . [at St. Quentin], where to recover his honour before lost, he consumed much of his lady's land and substance' (p. 85). These financial reverses forced the nobleman to revoke an annuity he had promised to Whythorne. Prudence born of disappointment now caused the 'chief waiting man' to decide to seek greener pastures, so Whythorne left the duke's son, and took a position in the household of a Privy Councillor (p. 86).
The details of the story fit neatly with the history of the Dudley family. By 1551 John Dudley, recently created Duke of Northumberland, had become the most powerful man in England. Promptly, he humbled his chief opponent, Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, who was executed in January 1552.1 Despite Northumberland's____________________
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Publication information: Book title: The Autobiography of Thomas Whythorne. Contributors: James M. Osborn - Editor, Thomas Whythorne - Author. Publisher: Clarendon Press. Place of publication: Oxford. Publication year: 1961. Page number: 297.
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