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248 Reviews Parergon 20.1 (2003) Mayer, Thomas F., Reginald Pole: Prince and Prophet, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2000; cloth; pp. xvi, 468; 43 b/w illustrations; RRP AU$145.00; ISBN 0521371880. This is an immensely erudite book on an important subject. Cardinal Pole was a major figure in the Catholic Reformation of the 1540s and 50s and was twice almost elected pope, on one occasion missing out by only a single vote. Pole was also the international figurehead for Romanist opposition to the regime of Henry VIII after 1536 and finally returned to England, after twenty years’ absence, as papal legate and Mary I’s archbishop of Canterbury in the mid1550s . Given Pole’s significance and the enormous weight of scholarship which is evident in the book’s careful weighing of evidence and the double column of references at the foot of each page, it is sad to report that this is also a rather frustrating book. One has the sense that the two decades’ worth of research which underpin this study ultimately became more than either the author or the publisher could quite manage. As Mayer admits (p. 3), the need for (relative) brevity resulted in the omission of a bibliography, the cutting of quotations and the removal of much contextual information from the text. The latter is an especially grievous loss because Pole’s career spans areas which are nowadays treated as quite distinct subjects of academic specialisation – mid-Tudor England and the politics and theology of the mid-sixteenth century Roman Church. This reviewer certainly struggled with the identities and factional affiliations of the many Catholic priests discussed. By the same token, those readers who are familiar with Catholic politics of the 1540s and 50s would probably like to know that the earl of Wiltshire, for example, is Anne Boleyn’s father. The problem of identifying who is who (and what sort of interests they represent) is compounded by the index, which is distinctly skimpy for such a large book and provides inadequate guidance about its contents. The entries for Pole are restricted to references to his written works and ignore biographical information completely. Less important signs of the unwieldy nature of the book include the reversing of Roman and Italic text in the captions for its many illustrations (although the list of illustrations itself at the front of the book gets it right). This is not a biography of Pole in the normal sense, but rather a study of the cardinal’s various writings and re-writings, which Mayer discusses, contextualises and uses to tease out the tensions in Pole’s personal and political life. Mayer emphasises Pole’s concern to create personae (in the literal sense Reviews 249 Parergon 20.1 (2003) of masks) through his writings and the ‘permanent tension between ambition and self-abnegation’ by which Pole fashioned himself as both ‘the prince and the prophet, as well as a variant of the second, martyr’ (p. 5). Each of the chapters on Pole’s life, which span his early opposition to Henry VIII, his role in the ‘reform tendency’ within the Roman Church, his failure at the Council of Trent and gradual move into the crosshairs of the Inquisition, and his final efforts to resurrect the Roman Church of England, tend to emphasise the cardinal’s inability to sustain a fight: he consistently exhibited a ‘predilection for retirement and avoiding positions that entailed much action’ (p. 216). Even when the papal tiara was seemingly within his grasp, Pole could not bring himself to campaign for it. The unexpected election of his rivals had major consequences for the course of Catholic history, although Pole’s emphasis upon papal poverty and the need to act in accordance with imbecillitas (guilelessness) instead of prudentia (weighing of aims and means) may not have made him a very practical pope during this age of wars of religion. In the field of pastoral work, however, Mayer argues that Pole had a lasting impact, helping to craft many of the means of spiritual education later used to drive the CounterReformation . The final sections of the book discuss the appropriation of Pole’s posthumous reputation by his friends and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1832-8334
Print ISSN
0313-6221
Pages
pp. 248-250
Launched on MUSE
2013-04-03
Open Access
No
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