English courtier and writer who won a minor but lasting reputation through a single work, his Life of Cardinal Wolsey, a landmark in the development of English biography, an important document to the student of Tudor history, and a rare source of information on the character of the author himself. Cavendish applied to his subject methods of concrete observation in matters of behaviour, gesture, and speech, so that in his shapely and unaffected narrative the figure of the cardinal emerges with an air of life. Besides thus anticipating later biographical principles, Cavendish, though still close to medieval tragedy in conceiving Wolsey's rise and fall as governed by Fortune's wheel, moved away from the older idea that biographies should deal only with saints or royal personages.
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