1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/More, Sir Thomas

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MORE, SIR THOMAS (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.”[1] 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 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[4]—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 hfition 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. 14 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 mortihcation, and even tokeep 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 three fifteenths 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 £IO0. 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 astronomy, learning the French tongue, and recreating his tired spirits on the viol,”[5] or translating epigrams from the Greek antholi-ogy; 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 £10,000 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 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 £5000. 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 £100 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 theircharity.”

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 thin 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.”[6]

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 occasion! 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 where 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 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.”[7] 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 solicitor-general, 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 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 Dict. 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 Rastel, in 1513, and first printed in a corrupt version in Crafton’s continuation of Hardin in 1543; 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 apostali, S. Thomae archiepiscopi Cantuariensis, Thomae Mori (Douay, 1588; Cologne, 1612) and the Vita 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 wvritings of his contemporaries. Cresacre More, great-grand-son 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 Thomas 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 wigs 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 Morus, 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. 1., 1848–1850); by D. Nisard in Renaissance et Réforme (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.) 

  1. Life by B. R.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Roper, Life.
  4. Life, p. 93.
  5. Roper, Life.
  6. Ep. 426, Appendix.
  7. Cresacre More, p. 231.