Sir Thomas More: Wikis


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The Right Honourable
 Sir Thomas More

In office
Preceded by Thomas Wolsey
Succeeded by Thomas Audley

In office
Preceded by Richard Wingfield
Succeeded by William FitzWilliam

In office
Preceded by Thomas Neville
Succeeded by Thomas Audley

Born 7 February 1478
London, England
Died 6 July 1535 (aged 57)
London, England
Saint Thomas More
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church, Anglican Communion
Beatified 1886, Rome by Pope Leo XIII
Canonized 19 May 1935, Rome by Pope Pius XI
Feast 22 June (Roman Catholic Church)
6 July (on some local calendars and in the Anglican Communion)
Attributes dressed in the robe of the Chancellor and wearing the Collar of Esses; axe
Patronage Adopted children; Ateneo de Manila Law School; civil servants; Diocese of Arlington; Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee; University of Malta; University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Arts and Letters; court clerks; lawyers, politicians, and statesmen; stepparents; widowers; difficult marriages; large families

Sir Thomas More (February 7, 1478 – July 6, 1535), also known as Saint Thomas More, was an English lawyer, scholar, author and statesman. He is also recognised as a saint within the Catholic Church. During his life he gained a reputation as a leading Renaissance humanist, an opponent of the Protestant Reformation of Martin Luther and wrote long treatises opposing William Tyndale and others who wished to see the Bible translated into the English language.  For three years toward the end of his life he was Lord Chancellor.

More coined the word "utopia" - a name he gave to the ideal, imaginary island nation whose political system he described in Utopia, published in 1516. An important counsellor to Henry VIII of England, he was imprisoned and executed by beheading in 1535 after he had fallen out of favour with the king over his refusal to sign the Act of Supremacy 1534, which declared the king to be the Supreme Head of the Church of England, effecting a final split with the Catholic Church in Rome. More was beatified by the Catholic Church in 1886 and canonised, with John Fisher, in 1935. In 1980, he was added to the Church of England calendar of saints.


Early life

Study for a portrait of Thomas More's family, c. 1527, by Hans Holbein the Younger

Born in Milk Street, London, Thomas More was the eldest son of Sir John More, a successful lawyer who served as a judge in the King's Bench court. The younger More was educated at St Anthony's School and was later (1491) a page in the household service of John Morton, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who declared that young Thomas would become a "marvellous man." Morton sent More to attend the University of Oxford for two years as a member of Canterbury Hall (subsequently absorbed by Christ Church), where he was a friend of Erasmus, John Colet, and William Lilye. A pupil of Thomas Linacre and William Grocyn, More studied Latin and logic. He then returned to London, where he studied law with his father and was called to the bar. Admitted to Lincoln's Inn in 1496, in 1501 More became a barrister, where he was eminently successful.

To his father's great displeasure, More seriously contemplated abandoning his legal career in order to become a monk. From 1499 to 1503 he lodged at the London Charterhouse, subjected himself to the discipline of a Carthusian monk, and also considered joining the Franciscan order. He abandoned the order, however, perhaps because he judged himself incapable of celibacy. More finally decided to marry in 1505, but for the rest of his life he continued to observe many ascetical practices, including self-punishment: he wore a hair shirt every day and occasionally engaged in flagellation.

After becoming a Member of Parliament in 1504, More successfully opposed Henry VII's demand for monetary aid upon the marriage of then-Princess Margaret Tudor.

More had four children by his first wife, Jane Colt, who died in 1511. He remarried almost immediately, to a rich widow named Alice Middleton who was several years his senior. More and Alice Middleton did not have children together, though More raised Alice's daughter, from her previous marriage, as his own. More provided his daughters with an excellent classical education, at a time when such learning was usually reserved for men.

Early political career

From 1510, More served as one of the two undersheriffs of the City of London, a position of considerable responsibility in which he earned a reputation as an honest and effective public servant, impressing the king by his arguments in a noted Star Chamber case. Thomas became Master of Requests in 1514; in 1517, he entered the king's service as counsellor and personal servant and became a Privy Counsellor in 1518. At the Field of the Cloth of Gold he met Guillaume Budé. After undertaking a diplomatic mission to the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, accompanying Thomas Wolsey to Calais and Bruges, More was knighted and made undertreasurer in 1521.

As secretary and personal adviser to King Henry VIII, More became increasingly influential in the government, welcoming foreign diplomats, drafting official documents and serving as a liaison between the king and his Lord Chancellor: Thomas Cardinal Wolsey, the Archbishop of York.

Recommended by Wolsey, More was elected the Speaker of the House of Commons in 1523. He later served as High Steward for the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. In 1525 he became chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, a position that entailed administrative and judicial control of much of northern England.

Scholarly and literary work

Woodcut by Ambrosius Holbein for a 1518 edition of Utopia. The traveler Raphael Hythloday is depicted in the lower left-hand corner describing to a listener the island of Utopia, whose layout is schematically shown above him.

Between 1512 and 1518, Thomas More worked on a History of King Richard III, an unfinished work, based on Sir Robert Honorr's Tragic Deunfall of Richard III, Suvereign of Britain (1485),[citation needed], which greatly influenced William Shakespeare's play Richard III. Both Thomas's and Shakespeare's works are controversial to contemporary historians for their unflattering portrait of King Richard III, a bias partly due to both authors' allegiance to the reigning Tudor dynasty that wrested the throne from Richard III with the Wars of the Roses. More's work, however, little mentions King Henry VII, the first Tudor king, perhaps for having persecuted his father, Sir John More. Some historians see an attack on royal tyranny, rather than on Richard III, himself, or on the House of York.

The History of King Richard III is a Renaissance history, remarkable more for its literary skill and adherence to classical precepts than for its historical accuracy. More's work, and that of contemporary historian Polydore Vergil, reflects a move from mundane medieval chronicles to a dramatic writing style; for example, the shadowy King Richard is an outstanding, archetypal tyrant drawn from the pages of Sallust, and should be read as a meditation on power and corruption as well as a history of the reign of Richard III. The 'History of King Richard III was written and published in both English and Latin, each written separately, and with information deleted from the Latin edition to suit a European readership.



More sketched out his most well-known and controversial work, Utopia (completed and published in 1516), a novel in Latin. In it a traveller, Raphael Hythloday (in Greek, his name and surname allude to archangel Raphael, purveyor of truth, and mean "speaker of nonsense"), describes the political arrangements of the imaginary island country of Utopia (Greek pun on ou-topos [no place], eu-topos [good place]) to himself and to Pieter Gillis. At the time, the majority of people could understand the actual meaning of the word "utopia" because of the relatively widespread knowledge of the Greek language. This novel describes the city of Amaurote by saying, "Of them all this is the worthiest and of most dignity".

Utopia contrasts the contentious social life of European states with the perfectly orderly, reasonable social arrangements of Utopia and its environs (Tallstoria, Nolandia, and Aircastle). In Utopia, with communal ownership of land, private property does not exist, men and women are educated alike, and there is almost complete religious toleration. Some take the novel's principal message to be the social need for order and discipline rather than liberty. The country of Utopia tolerates different religious practices, but does not tolerate atheists. Hythloday theorizes that if a man did not believe in a god or in an afterlife he could never be trusted, because, logically, he would not acknowledge any authority or principle outside himself.

More used the novel describing an imaginary nation as a means of freely discussing contemporary controversial matters; speculatively, he based Utopia on monastic communalism, based upon the Biblical communalism in the Acts of the Apostles.

Utopia is a forerunner of the utopian literary genre, wherein ideal societies and perfect cities are detailed. Although Utopianism is typically a Renaissance movement, combining the classical concepts of perfect societies of Plato and Aristotle with Roman rhetorical finesse (cf. Cicero, Quintilian, epideictic oratory), it continued into the Enlightenment. Utopia's original edition included the symmetrical "Utopian alphabet" that was omitted from later editions; it is a notable, early attempt at cryptography that might have influenced the development of shorthand.

Utopia ironically points out through Raphael, More's ultimate conflict between his beliefs as a humanist and a servant of the King at court. More tries to illustrate how he can try and influence courtly figures including the king to the humanist way of thinking but as Raphael points out, one day they will come into conflict with the political reality

Religious polemics

More greatly valued harmony and a strict hierarchy. The greatest danger to the health of the society as he saw it was the challenge that heretics posed to the established faith. For More the unity of Christendom was not only the instrument for the eternal salvation of souls, but also the basis of a common understanding of human nature necessary for just law and earthly happiness. To his mind, the fragmentation and discord of the Lutheran Reformation were dreadful.

His personal counter-attack began when he assisted Henry VIII with writing the Defence of the Seven Sacraments (1521)[citation needed], a polemic response to Martin Luther's On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church. When Luther replied with measures of reform in Contra Henricum Regem Anglie (Against Henry, King of the English), More appeared as a champion of the king, tasked with writing a counter-response, Responsio ad Lutherum (Reply to Luther). This exchange included many intemperate personal insults on either side. At times More's language and techniques could become very down-to-earth, even scatological; Michael Farris describes C. S. Lewis as describing More as "almost obsessed with harping on about Luther's 'abominable bichery' to the point where he 'loses himself in a wilderness of opprobrious adjectives'".[1] However, "More did not rely solely on ridicule and satire .... He also appealed to the common sense of his fellow Englishmen. As the title of his book indicates his attempt was not simply to ridicule Luther; it was more basically to confront and refute Luther's accusations."[2]

Moreover Luther was himself a master of "opprobrious adjectives" and neither he nor More were averse to using strong and even shocking scatological language in their polemics when they deemed it suited their purposes. More, for example, who had been commissioned by Henry VIII to respond in kind to insults that it did not befit a monarch to engage in, near the beginning of chapter 21 in the first book of the Responsio, quotes from Luther's book Against Henry:

[The king] would have to be forgiven if humanly he erred. Now, since he knowingly and conscientiously fabricates lies against the majesty of my king in heaven [Christ], this damnable rottenness and worm, I will have the right, on behalf of my king, to bespatter his English majesty with muck and dung and to trample underfoot that crown of his which blasphemes against Christ.[3]

More responded thus:

Come, do not rage so violently, good father; but if you have raved wildly enough, listen now, you pimp. You recall that you falsely complained above that the king has shown no passage in your whole book, even as an example, in which he said that you contradict yourself. You told this lie shortly before, although the king has demonstrated to you many examples of your inconsistency ....

But meanwhile, for as long as your reverend paternity will be determined to tell these shameless lies, others will be permitted, on behalf of his English majesty, to throw back into your paternity's filthy mouth, truly the dung-pool of all dung, all the muck and filth which your damnable rottenness has vomited up, and to empty out all the sewers and privies onto your crown divested of the dignity of the priestly crown, against which no less than against the kingly crown you have determined to play the buffoon.

In your sense of fairness, honest reader, you will forgive me that the utterly filthy words of this scoundrel have forced me to answer such things, for which I should have begged your leave. Now I consider truer than truth that saying: 'He who touches pitch will be wholly defiled by it' (Sirach 13:1). For I am ashamed even of this necessity, that while I clean out the fellow's shit-filled mouth I see my own fingers covered with shit.

But who can endure such a scoundrel who shows himself possessed by a thousand vices and tormented by a legion of demons, and yet stupidly boasts thus: 'The holy fathers have all erred. The whole church has often erred. My teaching cannot err, because I am most certain that my teaching is not my own but Christ's,' alluding of course to those words of Christ, 'My words are not my own but His who sent me, the Father's' (John 12:49)?[4]

It is evident that, beyond his overwhelming invective, More seeks to demonstrate the audacity of Luther's claim that his own teaching is more authoritative than hundreds of years of thoughtful dialogue, such authority as among Christians is generally given only to the words of Christ himself. Later, in the second book of the Responsio (ch. 27, last chapter), More again feels compelled to respond to Luther in language most unseemly:

[Luther is a] person in whose pen there is nothing but calumnies, lies and deceptions; in whose spirit there is nothing but venom, bombast and ill will; who conceives nothing in his mind but folly, madness, and insanity; who has nothing in his mouth but privies, filth and dung .... But if he proceeds to play the buffoon in the manner in which he has begun, and to rave madly, if he proceeds to rage with calumny, to mouth trifling nonsense, to act like a raging madman, to make sport with buffoonery, and to carry nothing in his mouth but bilge-water, sewers, privies, filth and dung, then let others do what they will; we will take timely counsel, whether we wish to deal with the fellow thus ranting according to his virtue and to paint with his colors, or to leave this mad friarlet and privy-minded rascal with his ragings and ravings, with his filth and dung, shitting and beshitted.[5]

(Numerous examples of Luther's own use of scatological language, particularly against the Pope and the bishops, may be found in The Table-Talk and the First Notes of the Same.)[6]

In 1528, More directed his first book of English controversy (Dialogue) against the writings of Tyndale.


After Wolsey fell, More succeeded to the office of Lord Chancellor in 1529. He dispatched cases with unprecedented rapidity. At that point fully devoted to Henry and to the cause of royal prerogative, More initially co-operated with the king's new policy, denouncing Wolsey in Parliament and proclaiming the opinion of the theologians at Oxford and Cambridge that the marriage of Henry to Catherine had been unlawful. But as Henry began to deny the authority of the Pope, More's qualms grew.

Campaign against the Reformation

More supported the Catholic Church and saw heresy as a threat to the unity of both church and society. "He agreed with established English law, and with the lessons taught by the thousand-year experience of Christendom, that in order for peace to reign, heresy must be controlled. At the time, heresies were identified as seditious attempts to undermine existing authority .... More heard Luther's call to destroy the Catholic Church as a call to war. He therefore followed traditional procedures to ensure the safety of this legitimate and time-honored institution."[7] However, More also sought radical clergy reform and more rational theology.[citation needed]

His early actions against the Reformation included aiding Wolsey in preventing Lutheran books from being imported into England. During this time most of his literary polemics appeared. After becoming Lord Chancellor of England, More set himself the following task:

Now seeing that the king's gracious purpose in this point, I reckon that being his unworthy chancellor, it appertaineth ... to help as much as in me is, that his people, abandoning the contagion of all such pestilent writing, may be far from infection.

[citation needed]

Sir Thomas More is commemorated with a sculpture at the late 19th-century Sir Thomas More House, opposite the Royal Courts of Justice, Carey Street, London.

In June 1530 it was decreed that offenders were to be brought before the King's Council, rather than being examined by their bishops, the practice hitherto. Actions taken by the Council became ever more severe. In 1531, Richard Bayfield, a graduate of the University of Cambridge and former Benedictine monk, was burned at Smithfield for distributing copies of Tyndale's English translation of the New Testament.[8]

In 1532 More published a six volume (half a million word) Confutation of Tyndale's Answer in response to Tyndale's An Answer unto Sir Thomas More's Dialogue in which he criticized Tyndale errors as a translator and as a theologian.

Rumours circulated both during More's lifetime and posthumously regarding the treatment of heretics during his time as Lord Chancellor. The popular anti-Catholic polemicist John Foxe, who "placed Protestant sufferings against the background of ... the Antichrist"[9] was instrumental in spreading rumours of torture in his famous Book of Martyrs, claiming that More had often personally used violence or torture while interrogating heretics: more current Protestant authors, such as the amateur historians Brian Moynahan and Michael Farris, continue to cite Foxe as a source when repeating these allegations in their own respective works.[10] More himself, however, took pains to refute these charges, as recounted by British historian Peter Ackroyd in his biography The Life of Thomas More:

Stories of a similar nature were current even in More's lifetime and he denied them forcefully. He admitted that he did imprison heretics in his house — 'theyr sure kepynge' — he called it - but he utterly rejected claims of torture and whipping.[11]

As Ackroyd surmises, since More rejected the rumoured reports of torture as false, 'so helpe me God': "He was not a man falsely to invoke the deity and it can be believed that the heretics whom he detained and interrogated suffered 'neur . . . so mych as a fylyppe on the forhed.'" [12]

In total, there were six heretics burned at the stake during More's Chancellorship: Thomas Hitton, Thomas Bilney, Richard Bayfield, John Tewkesbery, Thomas Dusgate, and James Bainham.[13] It should be noted that burning at the stake was seen as the acceptable punishment for unrepentant heretics at the time, even for more moderate people like Erasmus and many Protestants — about thirty burnings had taken place in the century leading to More's elevation to Lord Chancellor.[14] In context, this number was slight compared to the nearly 300 burnings of Protestants which took place during the subsequent reign of Mary Tudor,[15] or even the casualties inflicted upon Catholic dissidents during the latter part of the reign of Henry VIII, such as the many hung to death in the gallows after the failed Pilgrimage of Grace.[16]


In 1530 More refused to sign a letter by the leading English churchmen and aristocrats asking the Pope to annul Henry's marriage to Catherine; he also quarrelled with Henry VIII over the heresy laws. In 1531 he attempted to resign after being forced to take an oath declaring the king the Supreme Head of the English Church "as far as the law of Christ allows"; he refused to take the oath in the form in which it would renounce all claims of jurisdiction over the church except the sovereign's. In 1532 he asked the king again to relieve him of his office, claiming that he was ill and suffering from sharp chest pains. This time Henry granted his request.[citation needed]

Trial and execution

Rowland Lockey after Hans Holbein the Younger, The Family of Sir Thomas More, c. 1594

In 1533, More refused to attend the coronation of Anne Boleyn as the Queen of England. Technically, this was not an act of treason as More had written to Henry acknowledging Anne's queenship and expressing his desire for the king's happiness and the new queen's health.[17] Despite this, his refusal to attend was widely interpreted as a snub against Anne and Henry took action against him.

Shortly thereafter More was charged with accepting bribes, but the patently false charges had to be dismissed for lack of any evidence. In early 1534, More was accused of conspiring with "holy maid of Kent" Elizabeth Barton, a nun who had prophesied against the king's annulment, but More quickly produced a letter in which he had instructed Barton not to interfere with state matters.

On April 13, 1534, More was asked to appear before a commission and swear his allegiance to the parliamentary Act of Succession. More accepted Parliament's right to declare Anne Boleyn the legitimate queen of England, but he steadfastly refused to take the oath because of an anti-papal preface to the Act asserting Parliament's authority to legislate in matters of religion by impugning the authority of the Pope, which More would not accept; he also would not swear to uphold Henry's divorce from Catherine. John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, refused the oath along with More. The oath reads:

.... By reason whereof the Bishop of Rome and See Apostolic, contrary to the great and inviolable grants of jurisdictions given by God immediately to emperors, kings and princes in succession to their heirs, hath presumed in times past to invest who should please them to inherit in other men's kingdoms and dominions, which thing we your most humble subjects, both spiritual and temporal, do most abhor and detest;[18]

Four days later More was imprisoned in the Tower of London, where he prepared a devotional, Dialogue of Comfort against Tribulation. While More was imprisoned in the Tower, he had a few visits from Thomas Cromwell who urged More to take the oath, but More persistently refused to do so.

On July 1, 1535, More was tried before a panel of judges that included the new Lord Chancellor, Sir Thomas Audley, as well as Anne Boleyn's father, brother, and uncle. He was charged with high treason for denying the validity of the Act of Succession. More believed he could not be convicted as long as he did not explicitly deny that the king was the head of the church, and he therefore refused to answer all questions regarding his opinions on the subject. Thomas Cromwell, at the time the most powerful of the king's advisors, brought forth the Solicitor General, Richard Rich, to testify that More had, in his presence, denied that the king was the legitimate head of the church. This testimony was almost certainly perjured (witnesses Richard Southwell and Mr. Palmer both denied having heard the details of the reported conversation), but on the strength of it the jury voted for More's conviction.

More was tried, and found guilty, under the following section of the Treason Act 1534:

If any person or persons, after the first day of February next coming, do maliciously wish, will or desire, by words or writing, or by craft imagine, invent, practise, or attempt any bodily harm to be done or committed to the king's most royal person, the queen's, or their heirs apparent, or to deprive them or any of them of their dignity, title, or name of their royal estates ...

That then every such person and persons so offending ... shall have and suffer such pains of death and other penalties, as is limited and accustomed in cases of high treason.

—Treason Act 1495[19][20]

After the jury's verdict was delivered and before his sentencing, More spoke freely of his belief that "no temporal man may be the head of the spirituality". He was sentenced to be hanged, drawn, and quartered (the usual punishment for traitors) but the king commuted this to execution by decapitation. The execution took place on July 6, 1535. When he came to mount the steps to the scaffold, he is widely quoted as saying (to the officials): "I pray you, I pray you, Mr Lieutenant, see me safe up and for my coming down, I can shift for myself"; while on the scaffold he declared that he died "the king's good servant, but God's first."[21] Another comment he is believed to have made to the executioner is that his beard was completely innocent of any crime, and did not deserve the axe; he then positioned his beard so that it would not be harmed.[22] More asked that his foster daughter Margaret Giggs should be given his headless corpse to bury.[23] He was buried at the Tower of London, in the chapel of St Peter ad Vincula in an unmarked grave. His head was fixed upon a pike over London Bridge for a month, according to the normal custom for traitors. His daughter Margaret (Meg) Roper then rescued it, possibly by bribery, before it could be thrown in the River Thames.

The skull is believed to rest in the Roper Vault of St. Dunstan's Church, Canterbury, though some researchers have claimed it might be within the tomb he erected for himself in Chelsea Old Church (see below). The evidence, however, seems to be in favour of its placement in St. Dunstan's, with the remains of his daughter, Margaret Roper, and her husband's family, whose vault it was. Margaret would have treasured this relic of her adored father, and legend is that she wished to be buried herself with his head in her arms.[citation needed]


Statue of Thomas More by Leslie Cubitt Bevis in front of Chelsea Old Church, Cheyne Walk, London.

More was beatified by Pope Leo XIII in 1886 and canonised, with John Fisher, on 19 May 1935 by Pope Pius XI. His name was added to the Roman Catholic calendar of saints in 1970 for celebration on 22 June jointly with Fisher, the only remaining Bishop (owing to the coincident natural deaths of eight aged bishops) who, during the English Reformation, maintained, at the King's mercy, allegiance to the Pope.[24] In 2000, Pope John Paul II declared More the "heavenly patron of statesmen and politicians".[25] In 1980, More was added to the Anglican calendar of Saints and Heroes of the Christian Church, jointly with John Fisher, More is commemorated on 6 July.[26]

Influence and reputation

The steadfastness and courage with which More held on to his religious convictions in the face of ruin and death and the dignity with which he conducted himself during his imprisonment, trial, and execution, contributed much to More's posthumous reputation, particularly among Catholics.

More's conviction for treason was widely seen as unfair, even among some Protestants.[citation needed] His friend Erasmus, himself no Protestant, but broadly sympathetic to reform movements within the Catholic Church, declared after his execution that More had been "more pure than any snow" and that his genius was "such as England never had and never again will have."

Winston Churchill wrote about More in the History of the English-Speaking Peoples: "The resistance of More and Fisher to the royal supremacy in Church government was a noble and heroic stand. They realised the defects of the existing Catholic system, but they hated and feared the aggressive nationalism which was destroying the unity of Christendom. [...] More stood as the defender of all that was finest in the medieval outlook. He represents to history its universality, its belief in spiritual values and its instinctive sense of other-worldliness. Henry VIII with cruel axe decapitated not only a wise and gifted counsellor, but a system, which, though it had failed to live up to its ideals in practice, had for long furnished mankind with its brightest dreams."

Roman Catholic writer G. K. Chesterton said that More was the "greatest historical character in English history".

Literary echoes and evaluations

More was portrayed as a wise and honest statesman in the 1592 play Sir Thomas More, which was probably written in collaboration by Henry Chettle, Anthony Munday, William Shakespeare, and others, and which survives only in fragmentary form after being censored by Edmund Tylney, Master of the Revels in the government of Queen Elizabeth I (any direct reference to the Act of Supremacy was censored out).

As the author of Utopia, More has also attracted the admiration of modern socialists. While Roman Catholic scholars maintain that More's attitude in composing Utopia was largely ironic and that he was at every point an orthodox Christian, Marxist theoretician Karl Kautsky argued in the book Thomas More and his Utopia (1888) that Utopia was a shrewd critique of economic and social exploitation in pre-modern Europe and that More was one of the key intellectual figures in the early development of socialist ideas.

The 20th-century agnostic playwright Robert Bolt portrayed More as the ultimate man of conscience in his play A Man for All Seasons, the title drawn from what Robert Whittington in 1520 wrote of him:

"More is a man of an angel's wit and singular learning. I know not his fellow. For where is the man of that gentleness, lowliness and affability? And, as time requireth, a man of marvelous mirth and pastimes, and sometime of as sad gravity. A man for all seasons."[27]

In 1966, the play was made into the successful film A Man for All Seasons directed by Fred Zinnemann, adapted for the screen by the playwright himself, and starring Paul Scofield in an Oscar-winning performance. The film won the Academy Award for Best Picture for that year. In 1988, Charlton Heston starred and directed in a made-for-television film that followed Bolt's original play almost verbatim, restoring for example the commentaries of "the common man".

Catholic science fiction writer R. A. Lafferty wrote his novel Past Master as a modern equivalent to More's Utopia, which he saw as a satire. In this novel, Thomas More is brought through time to the year 2535, where he is made king of the future world of "Astrobe", only to be beheaded after ruling for a mere nine days. One of the characters in the novel compares More favourably to almost every other major historical figure: "He had one completely honest moment right at the end. I cannot think of anyone else who ever had one." He was also greatly admired by the Irish Anglican clergyman and satirist Jonathan Swift.

Karl Zuchardt's novel, Stirb du Narr! ("Die you fool!"), about More's struggle with King Henry, portrays More as an idealist bound to fail in the power struggle with a ruthless ruler and an unjust world.

A number of modern writers, such as Richard Marius, have attacked More for alleged religious fanaticism and intolerance (manifested, for instance, in his persecution of heretics). James Wood calls him, "cruel in punishment, evasive in argument, lusty for power, and repressive in politics".[28] The historian Jasper Ridley, author of several historical biographies including one on Henry VIII and the other on Mary Tudor, goes much further in his dual biography of More and Cardinal Wolsey, The Statesman and the Fanatic, describing More as "a particularly nasty sadomasochistic pervert," a line of thinking also followed by the late Joanna Denny in her 2004 biography of Anne Boleyn. Brian Moynahan in his book "God's Messenger: William Tyndale, Thomas More and the Writing of the English Bible", takes a similarly critical view of More, as does the American writer, Michael Farris. The novelist Hilary Mantel portrays More as a religious and masochistic fanatic in her 2009 novel Wolf Hall, which is written from the perspective of Thomas Cromwell, whom it portrays favorably.

Aaron Zelman's non-fiction book "The State Versus the People" includes a comparison of "Utopia" with Plato's "Republic". Zelman is undecided as to whether More was being humorous towards his work or seriously advocating a nation-state, and comments that "More is the only Christian saint to be honoured with a statue at the Kremlin", implying that his work had influenced on the Soviet Union, despite its general antipathy towards organized religion.

Other biographers, such as Peter Ackroyd, have offered a more sympathetic picture of More as both a sophisticated humanist and man of letters, as well as a zealous Roman Catholic who believed in the necessity of religious and political authority.

The protagonist of Walker Percy's novels, Love in the Ruins and The Thanatos Syndrome, is Dr. Thomas More, a reluctant Catholic and descendant of Sir Thomas More.

He is also the focus of the Al Stewart song A Man For All Seasons from the 1978 album Time Passages, and of the Far song Sir, featured on the limited editions and 2008 re-release of their 1994 album Quick.

Jeremy Northam portrays More in the television series, The Tudors, where he is shown as a peaceful man, a devout Catholic and family head, who unabashedly expresses his loathing for Lutheranism. He orders Martin Luther's books destroyed, yet when the books are actually burned, he expresses a sense of unease and regret. He is shown exercising his new power as chancellor by burning convicted heretics. The series also shows him engaging in the conversation that Richard Rich testified as having taken place, regarding the King's status as Head of the Church in England, despite it being widely believed that this testimony was perjured.

Institutions named after Thomas More

There are many legal and educational institutions named Thomas More:

There are various St. Thomas More Societies for Catholic lawyers.

Historic sites

Westminster Hall

Visitors to the Houses of Parliament at the Palace of Westminster in London will notice a plaque in the middle of the floor of Westminster Hall commemorating More's trial for treason and condemnation to execution in that original part of the Palace. This building would have been well known to More, who served as Speaker of the House of Commons prior to becoming Lord Chancellor of England.

Crosby Hall

More's home and estate along the Thames in Chelsea was confiscated by the Crown from his wife Alice after his execution. But in later times Crosby Hall, which formed part of More's London residence, was relocated to the site in his commemoration and reconstructed there by the conservation architect, Walter Godfrey. Today after further rebuilding in the 1990s it stands out as a white stone building amid modern brick structures that apparently aim to recapture the style of More's manor that formerly occupied the site. Crosby Hall is privately owned and closed to the public. The modern structures face the Thames and include an entry way that displays More's arms, heraldic beasts, and a Latin maxim. Apartment buildings and a park are built over the former locations of his gardens and orchard, and some are named after their former functions: Roper's Garden is the park occupying one of More's gardens, sunken as his was believed to be. Other than these, there are no remnants of the More estate.

Chelsea Old Church

This small park sits between Crosby Hall and Chelsea Old Church, an Anglican church on Old Church Street whose southern chapel was commissioned by More and in which he sang with his parish choir. The medieval arch connecting the chapel to the main sanctuary was commissioned by More and displays on its capitals symbols associated with his person and office. On the southern wall of the sanctuary is the tomb and epitaph he erected for himself and his wives, detailing in a lengthy Latin inscription his ancestry and accomplishments, including his role as peacemaker between the Christian nations of Europe and a curiously altered portion detailing his curbing of heresy. This tomb was probably located here because it was his custom to assist the priest at Mass and he would leave by the door just to the left of it. He is not, however, buried here, nor is it entirely certain which of his family may be. Except for his chapel, the church was largely destroyed in the Second World War and was rebuilt in 1958. It is open to the public only at specific times. Outside the church is a statue commemorating him as "saint", "scholar", and "statesman", the back of which displays his coat-of-arms. In the same neighborhood, on Upper Cheyne Row, is the Roman Catholic Church of the Holy Saviour and St. Thomas More, which honours him according to the Church he defended with his life.

Tower Hill

More was executed on a scaffold erected on Tower Hill, London, just outside the Tower of London. A plaque and small garden commemorate the famed execution site and all those who were executed there, many as religious martyrs or as prisoners of conscience. His body, minus his head, was unceremoniously buried in an unmarked grave in the Royal Chapel of St. Peter Ad Vincula, within the walls of the Tower of London. It was the custom for traitors executed at Tower Hill to be buried in the mass grave beneath this chapel, which is accessible to visitors to the Tower.

St Dunstan's Church, Canterbury

St Dunstan's Church, an Anglican parish church in Canterbury, possesses More's head, rescued by his beloved daughter Margaret Roper. This is sealed in the Roper family vault beneath the altar of the Nicholas Chapel, to the right of the church's sanctuary or main altar. The stone marking the sealed vault is to the immediate left of the altar below which it lies. St Dunstan's Church has carefully investigated, preserved and sealed this burial vault of the Roper family who lived in Canterbury. The last archaeological search of the Roper Vault demonstrated that the believed head of the martyr rests in a niche separate from the other bodies there, possibly due to later interference.[citation needed] A few displays in the chapel record the archaeological findings in written accounts and pictures. The walls of the chapel are host to impressive stained glass donated by Roman Catholics to commemorate the events in More's life. Down and across the street from the parish the facade of the former home of Margaret Roper and her husband William Roper survives and is marked by a small plaque.

Other relics

Our Lady Queen of Martyrs and St Ignatius Catholic Church in Chideock, Dorset is said to have the relic of his hairskin shirt frequently worn by him as a form of penance and a reminder of humility underneath his robes of state.[citation needed] Other small relics of the saint are known in Catholic churches, such as St Thomas of Canterbury's in Canterbury, the Tyburn Convent in London and (in the United States) the Cathedral of St Thomas More, in Arlington, Virginia.

See also


  1. ^ Quoted by Michael Farris in his book, From Tyndale to Madison, 2007
  2. ^ Gerard B. Wegemer, "Thomas More: A Portrait of Courage"
  3. ^ Responsio ad Lutherum in The Complete Works of St. Thomas More, John Headley, ed., Sister Scholastica Mandevilled, tr., Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1969, ISBN 0300011237 ISBN 978-0300011234, vol. 5, pt. I, p. 311.
  4. ^ Ibid. p. 311.
  5. ^ Ibid. p. 683.
  6. ^ In Luther by Hartmann Grisar, vol. 3, pp. 217-241.
  7. ^ Gerard B. Wegemer, "Portrait of Courage", p. 136.
  8. ^ Moynahan, Brian, God's Bestseller: William Tyndale, Thomas More, and the Writing of the English Bible - A Story of Martyrdom and Betrayal, St Martin's Press; 1st edition (August 23, 2003)
  9. ^ Diarmaid MacCulloch, 277.
  10. ^ Michael Farris, From Tyndale to Madison, 2007.
  11. ^ Ackroyd, Peter.The Life of Thomas More. New York, Anchor Books. 1999. pg 298
  12. ^ Ackroyd, Peter.The Life of Thomas More. New York, Anchor Books. 1999. pg 298
  13. ^ Ackroyd, Peter.The Life of Thomas More. New York, Anchor Books. 1999. pg 299 - 306
  14. ^ Guy, John A. Tudor England Oxford, 1988. pg 26
  15. ^ Brigden, Susan. New Worlds, Lost Worlds: The Rule of the Tudors: 1485-1603 Viking, 2000. pg 208
  16. ^ Brigden, Susan. New Worlds, Lost Worlds: The Rule of the Tudors: 1485-1603 Viking, 2000. pg 129
  17. ^ Eric W. Ives, The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn (2004), p. 47. More wrote on the subject of the Boleyn marriage that "[I] neither murmur at it nor dispute upon it, nor never did nor will .... I faithfully pray to God for his Grace and hers both long to live and well, and their noble issue too ...."
  18. ^ Elton, Geoffrey Rudolph (1982). "The Crown". The Tudor constitution : documents and commentary (2nd ed.). Cambridge, Cambridgeshire: Cambridge University Press. p. 7. ISBN 0521245060. OCLC 7876927. Retrieved 24 July 2009. 
  19. ^ The Act (technically referred to as 11 Hen. 7, c. 1) has no official short title but is often informally called the Treason Act 1495. (Official text of The Act 11 Hen. 7 (c.1) as amended and in force today within the United Kingdom, from the UK Statute Law Database)
  20. ^ "Annotated original text". 
  21. ^ "Account of trial". Retrieved 2007-07-27. 
  22. ^ Henry Hyde, US Congressman (9 September 1988). United States Congressional Record Conference Report on H.R. 4783, Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriation Act, 1989. House of Representatives, Proceedings and Debates of the 100th Congress, Second Session, Volume 134, Page H7332-03 (H7333) (noting that when Thomas More was beheaded by Henry VIII, More gave notoriety to his beard with his famous line, saying to the axeman, "Be careful of my beard, it hath committed no treason").
  23. ^ Guy, John, A Daughter's Love: Thomas & Margaret More, London: Fourth Estate, 2008, ISBN 9780007192311, p. 266.
  24. ^ Diarmaid MacCulloch, The Reformation, (New York: Viking, 2004), 194
  25. ^ Apostolic letter issued moto proprio proclaiming Saint Thomas More Patron of Statesmen and Politicians
  26. ^ Calendar of Holy Days of the Church of England
  27. ^ A Man for all Seasons: an Historian's Demur
  28. ^ Wood, James, The Broken Estate, Essays on Literature and Belief, Pimlico, 2000, ISBN 0-7126-6557-9, 16.


  • William Roper, "The Life of Sir Thomas More" (written by More's son-in-law ca. 1555, but first printed in 1626)
  • Cresacre More, The life and death of Sir Thomas More, Lord High Chancellour of England (written by his great-grandson), 1630
  • Princesse de Craon, Thomas Morus, Lord Chancelier du Royaume d'Angleterre au XVIe siècle (First edition in French, 1832/1833 - First edition in Dutch 1839/1840)
  • E.E. Reynolds, The Trialet of St Thomas More, (1964)
  • E.E. Reynolds, Thomas More and Erasmus, (1965)
  • John Guy The Public Career of Sir Thomas More (1980) ISBN 978-0300025460
  • Jasper Ridley, Statesman and Saint: Cardinal Wolsey, Sir Thomas More, and the Politics of Henry VIII (1983) ISBN 0-670-48905-0; published in Great Britain as The Statesman and the Fanatic (1982)
  • Richard Marius, Thomas More: A Biography (1984)
  • Gerard Wegemer, Thomas More: A Portrait of Courage (1995) ISBN 978-1889334127
  • Peter Ackroyd, The Life of Thomas More (1999)
  • John Guy, Thomas More (2000) ISBN 978-0340731383
  • John Foxe, Foxe's Book of Martyrs
  • Brian Moynahan "God's Messenger: William Tyndale, Thomas More and the Writing of the English Bible" (St Martin's Press, 2003).
  • John Guy, "A Daughter's Love: Thomas More and his daughter Meg," 2009
  • Bernard Basset, S.J., "Born for Friendship: The Spirit of Sir Thomas More," Burns and Oates, London 1965
  • Charles A. Brady, "Stage of Fools: A Novel of Sir Thomas More," Dutton 1953

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Sir Thomas Neville
Speaker of the House of Commons
Succeeded by
Sir Thomas Audley
Preceded by
Sir Richard Wingfield
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
Succeeded by
Sir William Fitzwilliam
Preceded by
Thomas Cardinal Wolsey
Lord Chancellor
Succeeded by
Sir Thomas Audley
(Keeper of the Great Seal) 

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

SIR THOMAS MORE (1478-1535), English lord chancellor, and author of Utopia, was born in Milk Street in the city of London, on the 7th of February 1478. He received the rudiments of education at St Anthony's School in Threadneedle Street, at that time under Nicolas Holt, held to be the best in the city. He was early placed in the household of Cardinal Morton, archbishop of Canterbury. Admission to the cardinal's family was esteemed a high privilege, and was sought as a school of manners and as an introduction to the world by the sons of the best families in the kingdom. Young Thomas More obtained admission through the influence of his father, Sir Thomas, then a rising barrister and afterwards a justice of the court of king's. bench. The usual prognostication of future distinction is attributed in the case of More to Cardinal Morton, " who would often tell the nobles sitting at table with him, where young Thomas waited on him, whosoever liveth to trie it shall see this child prove a notable and rare man." At the proper age young More was sent to Oxford, where he is said vaguely to have had Colet, Grocyn and Linacre for his tutors. 2 All More himself says. is that he had Linacre for his master in Greek. Learning Greek was not the matter of course which it has since become. Greek was not as yet part of the arts curriculum, and to learn it voluntarily was ill looked upon by the authorities. Those who did so were suspected of an inclination towards novel and dangerous modes of thinking, then rife on the Continent and slowly finding their way to England. More's father, who intended his son to make a career in his own profession, took the alarm; he removed him from the university without a degree, and entered him at New Inn to commence at once the study of the law. After completing a two-years' course in New Inn, an inn of chancery, More was admitted in February 1496 at Lincoln's Inn, an inn of court. " At that time the Inns of Court and Chancery presented the discipline of a well-constituted university, and, through. professors under the name of readers and exercises under the name of mootings, law was systematically taught " (Campbell). In his professional studies More early distinguished himself,, so that he was appointed reader-in-law in Furnival's Inn; but he would not relinquish the studies which had attracted him in. Oxford. We find him delivering a lecture to audiences of " all the chief learned of the city of London." 3 The subject he chose was a compromise between theology and the humanities, being St Augustine's De civitate. In this lecture More sought less to expound the theology of his author than to set forth the philosophical and historical contents of the treatise. The lecture-room was a church, St Lawrence Jewry, placed at his. disposal by Grocyn, the rector.

Somewhere about this period of More's life two things happened which gave in opposite directions the determining impulse to his. future career. More's was one of those highly susceptible natures which take more readily and more eagerly than common minds the impress of that which they encounter on their first contact with men. Two principal forms of thought and feeling were at this date in conflict, rather unconscious than declared, on English soil. Under the denomination of the " old learning," the sentiment of the middle ages and the idea of Church authority was.

1 Life by B. R. Ibid. a Roper, Life. established and in full possession of the religious houses, the universities, and the learned professions. The foe that was advancing in the opposite direction, though without the conscience of a hostile purpose, was the new power of human reason animated with the revived sentiment of classicism. In More's mind both these hostile influences found a congenial home. Each had its turn of supremacy, and in his early years it seemed as if the humanistic influence would gain the final victory. About the age of twenty he was seized with a violent access of devotional rapture. He took a disgust to the world and its occupations, and experienced a longing to give himself over to an ascetic life. He took a lodging near the Charterhouse, and subjected himself to the discipline of a Carthusian monk. He wore a sharp shirt of hair next his skin, scourged himself every Friday and other fasting days, lay upon the bare ground with a log under his head, and allowed himself but four or five hours' sleep. This access of the ascetic malady lasted but a short time, and More recovered to all outward appearance his balance of mind. For the moment the balance of his faculties seemed to be restored by a revival of the antagonistic sentiment of humanism which he had imbibed from the Oxford circle of friends, and specially from Erasmus. The dates as regards More's early life are uncertain, and we can only say that it is possible that the acquaintance with Erasmus might have begun during Erasmus's first visit to England in 1499. Tradition has dramatized their first meeting into the story given by Cresacre More' - that the two happened to sit opposite each other at the lord mayor's table, that they got into an argument during dinner, and that, in mutual astonishment at each other's wit and readiness, Erasmus exclaimed, " Aut tu es Morus, aut nullus," and the other replied, " Aut tu es Erasmus, aut diabolus ! " Rejecting this legend, which bears the stamp of fiction upon its face, we have certain evidence of acquaintance between the two men in a letter of Erasmus, with the date " Oxford, 29th October 1499." If we must admit the correctness of the date of Ep. 1 4 in the collection of Erasmus's Epistolae, we should have to assume that their acquaintance had begun as early as 1497. It rapidly ripened into warm attachment. This contact with the prince of letters revived in More the spirit of the " new learning," and he returned with ardour to the study of Greek, which had been begun at Oxford. The humanistic influence was sufficiently strong to save him from wrecking his life in monkish mortification, and even to keep him for a time on the side of the party of progress. He acquired no inconsiderable facility in the Greek language, from which he made and published some translations. His Latin style, though wanting the inimitable ease of Erasmus and often offending against idiom, is yet in copiousness and propriety much above the ordinary Latin of the English scholars of his time.

More's attention to the new studies was always subordinate to his resolution to rise in his profession, in which he was stimulated by his father's example. .As early as 1502 he was appointed under-sheriff of the city of London, an office then judicial and of considerable dignity. He first attracted public attention by his conduct in the parliament of 1504, by his daring opposition to the king's demand for money. Henry VII. was entitled, according to feudal laws, to a grant on occasion of his daughter's marriage. But he came to the House of Commons for a much larger sum than he intended to give with his daughter. The members, unwilling as they were to vote the money, were afraid to offend the king, till the silence was broken by More, whose speech is said to have moved the house to reduce the subsidy of threefifteenths which the Government had demanded to £30,000. One of the chamberlains went and told his master that he had been thwarted by a beardless boy. Henry never forgave the audacity; but, for the moment, the only revenge he could take was upon More's father, whom upon some pretext he threw into the Tower, and he only released him upon payment of a fine of £ioo. Thomas More even found it advisable to withdraw from public life into obscurity. During this period of retirement the old dilemma recurred. One while he devoted himself to the sciences, " perfecting himself in music, arithmetic, geometry and ' Life, P. 93.

astronomy, learning the French tongue, and recreating his tired spirits on the viol," 2 or translating epigrams from the Greek anthology; another while resolving to take priest's orders. From dreams of clerical celibacy he was roused by making acquaintance with the family of John Colt of New Hall, in Essex. The " honest and sweet conversation " of the three daughters attracted him, and though his inclination led him to prefer the second he married the eldest, Jane, in 1505, not liking to put the affront upon her of passing her over in favour of her younger sister. The death of the old king in 1509 restored him to the practice of his profession, and to that public career for which his abilities specially fitted him. From this time there was scarce a cause of importance in which he was not engaged. His professional income amounted to £400 a year, equal to £4000 in present money, and, " considering the relative profits of the law and the value of money, probably indicated as high a station as £ io,000 at the present day " (Campbell). It was not long before he attracted the attention of the young king and of Wolsey. The spirit with which he pleaded before the Star Chamber in a case of The Crown v. The Pope recommended him to the royal favour, and marked him out for employment. More obtained in this case judgment against the Crown. Henry, who was present in person at the trial, had the good sense not to resent the defeat, but took the counsel to whose advocacy it was due into his service. In 1514 More was made master of the requests, knighted, and sworn a member of the privy council. He was repeatedly employed on embassies to the Low Countries, and was for a long time stationed at Calais as agent in the shifty negotiations carried on by Wolsey with the court of France. In 1519 he was compelled to resign his post of under-sheriff to the city and his private practice at the bar. In 1521 he was appointed treasurer of the exchequer, and in the parliament of 1523 he was elected Speaker. The choice of this officer rested nominally with the house itself, but in practice was always dictated by the court. Sir Thomas More was pitched upon by the court on this occasion in order that his popularity with the Commons might be employed to carry the money grant for which Wolsey asked. To the great disappointment of the court More remained firm to the popular cause, and it was greatly owing to his influence that its demands were resisted. From this occurrence may be dated the jealousy which the cardinal began to exhibit towards More. Wolsey made an attempt to get him out of the way by sending him as ambassador to Spain. More defeated the design by a personal appeal to the king, alleging that the climate would be fatal to his health. Henry, who saw through the artifice, and was already looking round for a more popular successor to Wolsey, made the gracious answer that he would employ More otherwise. In 1525 More was appointed chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, and no pains were spared to attach him to the court. The king frequently sent for him into his closet, and discoursed with him on astronomy, geometry and points of divinity. This growing favour, by which many men would have been carried away, did not impose upon More. He discouraged the king's advances, showed reluctance to go to the palace, and seemed constrained when there. Then the king began to come himself to More's house at Chelsea, and would dine with him without previous notice. William Roper, husband of More's eldest daughter, mentions one of these visits, when the king after dinner walked in the garden by the space of an hour holding his arm round More's neck. Roper afterwards congratulated his father-in-law on the distinguished honour which had been shown him. " I thank our Lord," was the reply, " I find his grace my very good lord indeed; and I believe he doth as singularly favour me as any subject within this realm. Howbeit, son Roper, I may tell thee I have no cause to be proud thereof, for if my head would win him a castle in France it should not fail to go." As a last resource More tried the expedient of silence, dissembling his wit and affecting to be dull. This had the desired effect so far that he was less often sent for. But it did not alter the royal policy, and in 1529, when a successor had to be Roper, Life. found for Wolsey, More was raised to the chancellorship. The selection was justified by More's high reputation, but it was also significant of the modification which the policy of the court was then undergoing. It was a concession to the rising popular party, to which it was supposed that More's politics inclined him. The public favour with which his appointment had been received was justified by his conduct as judge in the court of chancery. Having heard causes in the forenoon between eight and eleven, after dinner he sat again to receive petitions. The meaner the suppliant was the more affably he would speak to him and the more speedily he would despatch his case. In this respect he formed a great contrast to his predecessor, whose arrears he soon cleared off. One morning being told by the officer that there was not another cause before the court, he ordered the fact to be entered on record, as it had never happened before. He not only refused all gifts - such as had been usual - himself, but took measures to prevent any of his connexions from interfering with the course of justice. One of his sons-in-law, Heron, having a suit in the chancellor's court, and refusing to agree to any reasonable accommodation, because the judge " was the most affectionate father to his children that ever was in the world," More thereupon made a decree against him.

Unfortunately for Sir Thomas More, a lord chancellor is not merely a judge, but has high political functions to perform. In raising More to that eminent position, the king had not merely considered his professional distinction but had counted upon his avowed liberal and reforming tendencies. In the Utopia, which, though written earlier, More had allowed to be printed as late as 1516, he had spoken against the vices of power, and declared for indifference of religious creed with a breadth of philosophical view of which there is no other example in any Englishman of that age. At the same time, as he could not be suspected of any sympathy with Lutheran or Wickliffite heretics, he might fairly be regarded as qualified to lead the party which aimed at reform in State and Church within the limits of Catholic orthodoxy. But in the king's mind the public questions of reform were entirely sunk in the personal one of the divorce. The divorce was a point upon which Sir Thomas would not yield. And, as he saw that the marriage with Anne Boleyn was determined upon, he petitioned the king to be allowed to resign the Great Seal, alleging failing health. With much reluctance the royal permission was given and the resignation accepted, on the 10th of May 1532, with many gracious expressions of goodwill on the part of the king. The promise held out of future bounty was never fulfilled, and More left office, as he had entered it, a poor man. His necessitous condition was so notorious that the clergy in convocation voted him a present of f5000. This he peremptorily refused,. either for himself or for his family, declaring that he " had rather see it all cast into the Thames." Yet the whole of his income after resigning office did not exceed .ioo a year.

Hitherto he had maintained a large establishment, not on the princely scale of Wolsey, but in the patriarchal fashion of having all his sons-in-law, with their families, under his roof. When he resigned the chancellorship he called his children and grandchildren together to explain his reduced circumstances. " If we wish to live together," said he, " you must be content to be contributories together. But my counsel is that we fall not to the lowest fare first: we will not, therefore, descend to Oxford fare, nor to the fare of New Inn, but we will begin with Lincoln's Inn diet, where many right worshipful men of great account and good years do live full well; which if we find ourselves the first year not able to maintain, then we will in the next year come down to Oxford fare, where many great learned and ancient fathers and doctors are continually conversant; while if our purses stretch not to maintain neither, then may we after, with bag and wallet, go a-begging together, hoping that for pity some good folks will give us their charity." More was now able, as he writes to Erasmus, to return to the life which had always been his ambition, when, free from business and public affairs, he might give himself up to his favourite studies and to the practices of his devotion. Of the Chelsea. interior Erasmus has drawn a charming picture, which may vie with Holbein's celebrated canvas, " The Household of Sir Thomas More." " More has built, near London, upon the Thames, a modest yet commodious mansion. There he lives surrounded by his numerous family, including his wife, his son, and his son's wife, his three daughters and their husbands, with eleven grandchildren. There is not any man living so affectionate to his children as he, and he loveth his old wife as if she were a girl of fifteen. Such is the excellence of his disposition that whatsoever happeneth that could not be helped, he is as cheerful and as well pleased as though the best thing possible had been done. In More's house you would see that Plato's Academy was revived again, only, whereas in the Academy the discussions turned upon geometry and the power of numbers, the house at Chelsea is a veritable school of Christian religion. In it is none, man or woman, but readeth or studieth the liberal arts, yet is their chief care of piety. There is never any seen idle; the head of the house governs it not by a lofty carriage and oft rebukes, but by gentleness and amiable manners. Every member is busy in his place, performing his duty with alacrity; nor is sober mirth wanting." 1 But More was too conspicuous to be long allowed to enjoy the happiness of a retired life. A special invitation was sent him by the king to attend the coronation of Anne Boleyn, accompanied with the gracious offer of 20 to buy a new suit for the occasiont More refused to attend, and from that moment was marked out for vengeance. A first attempt made to being him within the meshes of the law only recoiled with shame upon the head of the accusers. They were maladroit enough to attack him on his least vulnerable side, summoning him before the privy council to answer to a charge of receiving bribes in the administration of justice. One Parnell was put forward to complain of a decree pronounced against him in favour of the contending party Vaughan, who he said had presented a gilt cup to the chancellor. More stated that he had received a cup as a New Year's gift. Lord Wiltshire, the queen's father, exultingly cried out, " So, did I not tell you, my lords, that you would find this matter true ?" " But, my lords," continued More, " having pledged Mrs Vaughan in the wine wherewith my butler had filled the cup, I restored the cup to her." Two other charges of a like nature were refuted as triumphantly. But the very futility of the accusations must have betrayed to More the bitter determination of his enemies to compass his destruction. Foiled in their first ill-directed attempt, they were compelled to have recourse to that tremendous engine of regal tyranny, the law of treason. A bill was brought into parliament to attaint Elizabeth Barton, a nun, who was said to have held treasonable language. Barton turned out afterwards to have been an impostor, but she had duped More, who now lived in a superstitious atmosphere of convents and churches, and he had given his countenance to her supernatural pretensions. His name, with that of Fisher, was accordingly included in the bill as an accomplice. When he came before the council it was at once apparent that the charge of treason could not be sustained, and the efforts of the court agents were directed to draw from More some approbation of the king's marriage. But to this neither cajolery nor threats could move him. The preposterous charge was urged that it was by his advice that the king had committed himself in his book against Luther to an assertion of the pope's authority, whereby the title of " Defender of the Faith " had been gained, but in reality a sword put into the pope's hand to fight against him. More was able to reply that he had warned the king that this very thing might happen, that upon some breach of amity between the crown of England and the pope Henry's too pronounced assertion of the papal authority might be turned against himself, " therefore it were best that place be amended, and his authority more slenderly touched." " Nay," replied the king, " that it shall not; we are so much bound to the see of Rome that we cannot do too much honour unto it. Whatsoever impediment be to the contrary, we will set forth that authority to the utmost; for we have received from that see our crown imperial," " which," added More, " till his grace with his own mouth so told 'me ' 1 Ep. 426, Appendix.

I never heard before." Anything more defiant and exasperating than this could not well have been said. But it could not be laid hold of, and the charge of treason being too ridiculous to be proceeded with, More's name was struck out of the bill. When his daughter brought him the news, More calmly said, I' faith, Meg. quod differtur, non aufertur: that which is postponed is not dropt." At another time, having asked his daughter how the court went and how Queen Anne did, he received for answer, " Never better; there is nothing else but dancing and sporting." To this More answered, " Alas, Meg, it pitieth me to remember unto what misery, poor soul, she will .shortly come; these dances of hers will prove such dances that she will spurn our heads off like footballs; but it will not be long ere her head will dance the like dance." 1 So the speech runs in the Life by More's great-grandson; but in the only trustworthy record, the life by his son-in-law Roper, More's reply ends with the words, " she will shortly come." In this, as in other instances, the later statement has the appearance of having been an imaginative extension of the earlier.

In 1534 the Act of Supremacy was passed and the oath ordered to be tendered. More was sent for to Lambeth, where he offered to swear to the succession, but steadily refused the oath of supremacy as against his conscience. Thereupon he was given in charge to the abbot of Westminster, and, persisting in his refusal, was four days afterwards committed to the Tower. After a close and even cruel confinement (he was denied the use of pen and ink) of more than a year, he was brought to trial before .a special commission and a packed jury. Even so More would have been acquitted, when at the last moment Rich, the solicitorgeneral, quitted the bar and presented himself as a witness for the Crown. Being sworn, he detailed a confidential conversation he had had with the prisoner in the Tower. He affirmed that, having himself admitted in the course of this conversation " that there were things which no parliament could do - e.g. no parliament could make a law that God should not be God," Sir Thomas had replied, " No more could the parliament make the king supreme head of the Church." By this act of perjury a verdict of " guilty " was procured from the jury. The execution of the sentence followed within the week, on the 7th of July 1535. The head was fixed upon London Bridge. The vengeance of Henry was not satisfied by this judicial murder of his friend and servant; he enforced the confiscation of what small property More had left, expelled Lady More from the house at Chelsea, and even set aside assignments which had been legally executed by More, who foresaw what would happen before the commission of the alleged treason. More's property was settled on Princess Elizabeth, afterwards queen, who kept possession of it till her death.

Sir Thomas More was twice married, but had children only by his first wife, who died about 1511. His only son, John, married an heiress, Ann Cresacre, and was the grandfather of Cresacre More, Sir Thomas More's biographer. His eldest daughter, Margaret (1505-1544), married to William Roper (1496-1578), an official of the court of king's bench and a member of parliament under Henry VIII., Edward VI. and Mary, is one of the foremost women in the annals of the country for her virtues, high intelligence and various accomplishments. She read Latin and Greek, was a proficient in music, and in the sciences so far as they were then accessible. Her devotion to her father is historical; she gave him not only the tender affection of a daughter but the high-minded sympathy of a soul great as his own.

More was not only a lawyer, a wit, a scholar, and a man of wide general reading; he was also a man of cultivated taste, who delighted in music and painting. He was an intimate friend of Holbein, whose first introduction to England was as a visitor to More in his house at Chelsea, where the painter is said to have remained for three years, and where he probably first met Henry VIII. Holbein painted portraits of Sir Thomas and his family. More was beatified by Leo XIII. in 1886.

The Epistola ad Dorpium exhibits More emphatically on the 1 Cresacre More, p. 231.

side of the new learning. It contains a vindication of the study of Greek, and of the desirability of printing the text of the Greek Testament - views which at that date required an enlightened understanding to enter into, and which were condemned by the party to which More afterwards attached himself. On the other hand, he can at the most be doubtfully exculpated from the charge of having tortured men and children for heresy. It is admitted by himself that he inflicted punishment for religious opinion. Erasmus only ventures to say in his friend's defence " that while he was chancellor no man was put to death for these pestilent opinions, while so many suffered death in France and the Low Countries." His views and feelings contracted under the combined influences of his professional practice and of public employment. In the Utopia, published in Latin in 1516 (1st English translation, 1551), he not only denounced the ordinary vices of power, but evinced an enlightenment of sentiment which went far beyond the most statesmanlike ideas to be found among his contemporaries, pronouncing not merely for toleration, but rising even to the philosophical conception of the indifference of religious creed. It was to this superiority of view, and not merely to the satire on the administration of Henry VII., that we must ascribe the popularity of the work in the 16th century. For as a romance the Utopia has little interest either of incident or of character. It does not, as has been said, anticipate the economical doctrines of Adam Smith, and much of it is fanciful without being either witty or ingenious. The idea of putting forward political and philosophical principles under the fiction of an ideal state was doubtless taken from Plato's Republic. The Utopia in turn suggested the literary form adopted by Bacon, Hobbes, Filmer, and other later writers; and the name of the book has passed into the language as signifying optimistic but impracticable ideals of reform.

For a bibliography of More's numerous works see the article in the Diet. Nat. Biog. and the Catalogue of the Alfred Cock collection of books and portraits of or relating to Sir Thomas More which is preserved in the Guildhall Library, London. The more important of his works and their editions are here given. Luciani dialogi. compluria opuscula ab Erasmo Roterodamo et Thoma Moro. .. traducta (Paris, 1506 and 1514; Venice, Aldus, 1516, &c.) was accomplished by Erasmus and More in 1505. The Lyfe of John Picus, earle of Mirandula.. . printed by Wynkyn de Worde in 1510, translated by More from the Venice ed. of 1498, was edited by J. M. Rigg for the Tudor Library in 1890. Historie of the pittiful Life and unfortunate Death of Edward the Fifth and the then Duke of York with. Richard the Third was written, according to Rastell, in 1513, and first printed in a corrupt version in Grafton's continuation of Harding in 1 543; it is included by Rastell in his 1557 edition of More's Workes, but it has been suggested that the Latin original was by Cardinal Morton; as the History of King Richard III. it was edited by J. R. Lumby for the Pitt Press in 1883. The Libellus vere aureus.. . better known as Utopia, was printed at Louvain in 1516, under the superintendence of Erasmus, and appeared in many subsequent editions, many of them of great bibliographical value, the finest being the Basel edition of 1518. It was translated into the chief languages of Europe, and into English by Ralph Robinson as A fruteful and Pleasaunt Worke of the best State of a Publyque Weale, and of the newe Yle called Utopia (Abraham Nell, 1551); modern editions are by J. Dibdin (2 vols., 1808), Professor E. Arber (English Reprints, 1869), by J. R. Lumby for the Pitt Press (1879), by William Morris at the Kelmscott Press (1893), by J. Churton Collins for the Clarendon Press (1904), by R. Steele for the King's Classics (1908), &c. Other translations of Utopia are by Gilbert Burnet (1684) and by A. Cayley (Memoirs of More, 2 vols., 1808). Against Luther and Tyndale Sir T. More wrote A Dyaloge of Syr Thomas More, Knt., written in 1528 and printed by John Rastell in 1529; Sir Thomas More's Answere to the fyrste parte of the Poyson'd book. The Souper of the Lorde (William Rastell, 1532) with a " Second Parte " in 1533. The Apologye of Syr Thomas More, written in 1533, is a defence of his own polemical style and of the treatment of heretics by the clergy. A Dyaloge of Comfort against Tribulacion, printed by Rastell in 1533, was destined primarily for More's family.

More's English works were collected by William Rastell and published as The Worke of Sir Thomas More Knyght by Cawood, Waly and Tottel in 1557; his Latin works Thomae Mori. Lucubrationes were partially collected at Basel 1563 and in 1566 (omnia opera) at Louvain; a fuller edition drawn chiefly from these two appeared at Frankfort and Leipzig in 1689. Modern selections were edited by W. J. Walter (Baltimore, 1841), by T. E. Bridgett (Wisdom and Wit of Blessed Thomas More, London, 1891). His correspondence with Erasmus is partly included in the editions of the Letters of Erasmus, and much of his correspondence is calendared in Gairdner's Letters and Papers of Henry VIII., the letters written to his family in his last days being found in vol. viii.

The Mirror of Vertue in Worldly Greatness; or, the Life of Syr Thomas More was written by his son-in-law William Roper about the end of Mary's reign. It was preserved in MS. during the reign of Elizabeth, and handed down in copies, many of which were carelessly made. It was not given to the press till 1626, with the date of Paris. Reprints were made by Hearne (Oxford, 1716), by Lewis (1729, 1731), who added an appendix of documents, and by Singer (1817, 1822) and for the King's Library (1902). Roper's Life is the source of all the many subsequent biographies. More's Life in MS. (Harleian 6253 and elsewhere), anonymous, but by Nicolas Harpsfield, was also written in Mary's reign. All that is material in this MS. is taken from Roper. Another anonymous Life, written in 1599, printed in Wordsworth's Ecclesiastical Biography, ii. 43-185, is chiefly compiled from Roper and Harpsfield. The preface is signed Ro. Ba. (Robert Barnstaple ?). William Rastell's Life of More, of which fragments are preserved in the Arundel Coll. (Brit. Mus.), is, unhappily, lost. Thomas Stapleton (Tres Thomae, s. res gestae S. Thomae apostoli, S. Thomae archiepiscopi Cantuariensis, Thomae Mori (Douay, 1588; Cologne, 1612) and the Vila Thomae Mori (separately), (Gratz, 1689) translates Roper, interweaving what material he could find scattered through More's works and letters and the notices of him in the writings of his contemporaries. Cresacre More, great-grandson of Sir Thomas, compiled a new life about the year 1627. It was printed at Paris without date, but, according to the editor, J. Hunter, in 1631. The title of this edition is. The Life and Death of Sir Thos. More, Lord High Chancellour of England, and with new title-page, 1642, 1726, 1828. This biography is cited by the subsequent biographers as an independent authority. But it is almost entirely borrowed from Roper and Stapleton. The additions made have sometimes the appearance of rhetorical amplifications of Roper's simple statements. At other times they are decorative miracles. The whole is couched in that strain of devotional exaggeration in which the lives of the saints are usually composed. The author seems to imply that he had received supernatural communications from the spirit of his ancestor. Already, only eighty years after More's execution, hagiography had taken possession of the facts and was transmuting them into an edifying legend. Cresacre More's Life cannot be alleged as evidence for any facts which are not otherwise vouched. It has been remarked by Hunter that More's life and works have been all along manipulated for political purposes, and in the interest of the holy see. In Mary's reign, and in the tide of Catholic reaction, Roper and Harpsfield wrote lives of him; Ellis Heywood dedicated his Il Moro (Florence, 1556) a fanciful account of More's life at Chelsea, to Cardinal Pole, and Tottell reprinted the folio of his English works. Stapleton prepared his Tres Thomae in 1588, when the recovery of England to the see of Rome was looked for by the Spanish invasion. In 1599, when there was a prospect of a disputed succession, the anonymous Life by Ro. Ba was composed; and soon after Charles had allied himself with a Catholic, the Life by Cresacre More issued from the press. Hunter might have added that Stapleton was being reprinted at Gratz at the time when the conversion of England was expected from James II. The later lives of Sir Thomas More have been numerous, the best being those by G. T. Rudhart Thomas Mores, aus den Quellen bearbeitet (Nuremberg, 1829); by T. E. Bridgett, Life and Writings of Sir Thomas More (1891); and by W. H. Hutton, Life and Writings of Sir Thomas More (1891). Other lives are by J. Hoddesdon (London, 1652, 1662); by Sir A. Cayley (2 vols., London, 1808); by Sir J. Mackintosh, Lardner's Cab. Cyclop. (London, 1831, 1844) and in More's Works (London, 1845); by Lord Campbell in Lives of the Chancellors (vol. i., 1848-1850); by Nisard in Renaissance et Reforme (Paris, 1855); by Baumstark (Freiburg, 1879); by F. Seebohm in the Oxford Reformers of 1498 (London, 1867). A biographical study on More's Latin poems is Philomorus, by J. H. Marsden (2nd ed., London, 1878). Cf. John Bruce, " Inedited documents rel. to the imprisonment and condemnation of Sir T. More," in Archaeologia , xxvii. 361-374) Southey, Sir Thomas More, or Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society (London, 1829); Anne Manning, The Household of Sir Thomas More (1851, reprinted in King's Novels, 1905); S. Lee, Great Englishmen of the Sixteenth Century (1904). The tragedy of Sir Thomas More, edited by A. Dyce for the Shakespeare Society in 1844, and connected by some commentators with Shakespeare, was written about 1590, and therefore gives a nearly contemporary view of More. A later playwright, James Hurdis, made More's career the subject of a play in 1792. (M. P.)

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