Henry VIII,the Reign
Biography of Thomas More
Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 38
More, Thomas (1478-1535)
by Sidney Lee More, Thomas (d.1685)→
MORE, Sir THOMAS (1478-1535), lord chancellor of England and author, was born between two and three in the morning of Saturday, 7 Feb. 1477-8 (Notes and Queries, 4th ser. ii. 365, by Dr. W. Aldis Wright). He was the only surviving son of Sir John More, then a barrister, living in Milk Street, Cheapside. His mother was his father's first wife, Agnes, daughter of Thomas Graunger [see under More, Sir John]. Thomas was sent at an early age to St. Anthony's school in Threadneedle Street. The head-master, Nicholas Holt, had already had under his care John Colet [q. v.], the future dean of St. Paul's, and William Latimer [q. v.], both of whom were subsequently among More's intimate friends. At the age of thirteen More was placed by his father in the household of Thomas Morton [q. v.], archbishop of Canterbury and lord chancellor. He was a merry boy, and his intellectual alertness attracted the attention of his master, who prophesied that he would prove 'a marvellous man.' ' At Christmas time he would suddenly, sometimes, step in among the players [in the archbishop's house], making up an extemporary part of his own.' Morton inspired the lad with lasting respect (cf. Utopia, ed. Arber, p. 36), and gave practical proof of his interest in his welfare by recommending that he should be sent to Oxford. About 1492 he seems to have entered Canterbury Hall, which was afterwards absorbed in Christ Church (More). His father gave him barely sufficient money to supply himself with necessaries, and he consequently had no opportunity of neglecting his studies for frivolous amusements. He made the acquaintance of Thomas Linacre [q. v.] and of William Grocyn [q. v.], both of whom had lately returned from Italy, and from the former he received his earliest instruction in Greek. He never became a minute scholar, but by intuition, or an 'instinct of genius,' he was soon able at a glance to detect the meaning of any Greek sentence put before him (cf. Pace, De Fructu, 1517, p. 82), and by steady practice he came to write an easy and harmonious Latin prose (Erasmus, Epist. 447). Besides the classics, he studied French, mathematics, and history, and learned to play on the viol and flute (Stapleton).
His father, who had designed him for the bar, deprecated, according to Erasmus, his devotion to Greek, and feared that his religious orthodoxy might suffer by his growing enthusiasm for the new learning. It is certain that after two years' residence in Oxford More was recalled to London, and about 1494 was entered as a law student at New Inn. In February 1496 he was removed to Lincoln's Inn, and rapidly acquired a good knowledge of law. He was called to the outer bar after a shorter period of probation than was customary, and was appointed reader or lecturer on law at Furnival's Inn, which was dependent on Lincoln's Inn. His lectures were so satisfactory that he was invited to repeat them in three successive years.
While assiduously studying law, More devoted much of his leisure to literature. He wrote 'for his pastime' very promising verse in both Latin and English, and, according to Erasmus, tried his hand at 'little comedies' (comædiolas), while he spent much time over the works of Pico della Mirandola. He sedulously cultivated the acquaintance of men of literary tastes; saw much of his Oxford tutors, Grocyn and Linacre, after they settled in London, and through them came to know Colet and William Lily [q. v.], both scholars of high attainments. Colet, who exercised a powerful influence over him, became his confessor, or, in his own words, 'the director of his life' (Stapleton). With Lily he engaged in friendly rivalry while rendering epigrams from the Greek anthology into Latin, and their joint efforts (' pro-gymnasmata ') were published in 1518. But of greater satisfaction to him was his introduction in 1497 to Erasmus, who was then on a first visit to England. It is possible that they first met at the house of Erasmus's pupil and patron, Lord Mountjoy. More's handsome face, ready wit, and wide culture at once fascinated the great scholar. A very close intimacy followed, and they regularly corresponded with each other until separated by death. In the spring of 1499 More and Erasmus, while at Mountjoy's country house, walked over to a neighbouring mansion, where Henry VII's children were in residence. Prince Henry (afterwards Henry VIII), a boy of nine, stood in the hall, between his two sisters, Margaret and Mary, and More presented him with a poem. This is the earliest evidence of a meeting between More and his future master.
When nearly of age (in 1499) More experienced severe spiritual questionings, and contemplated becoming a priest. He went to live near the Charterhouse, so that he might take part daily in the spiritual exercises of the Carthusians, and devoted himself to 'vigils, fasts, and prayers, and similar austerities' (Erasmus). He wore 'a sharp shirt of hair next his skin, which he never left off wholly' (More), often scourged himself, and gave only four or five hours a day to sleep. He even thought of taking the vows of a Franciscan. While in this frame of mind he seems to have lectured in the church of St. Lawrence Jewry on St. Augustine's 'De Civitate Dei,' probably at the invitation of his friend Grocyn, who was rector of the church. His audience included Grocyn and other men of learning and influence in the city, but none of his lectures are extant. They possibly contained the germs of the 'Utopia.'
At the end of four years thus spent in religious contemplation (1499-1503), More suddenly abandoned all thought of the priesthood, and flung himself with redoubled energy into secular affairs. The cause of this change of purpose has been variously estimated. The discovery of notable corruptions within the church; a newly awakened ambition to make a name for himself either in politics or in his profession where his chances of success seemed secure; an unwillingness to submit to the restraints of celibacy, have all been suggested the first with especial warmth by protestant writers. There is probably an element of truth in each, but strong religious excitement is not uncommon as a merely temporary phase in young men of highly nervous temperament or precociously developed intellect. While relinquishing ascetic practices, he continued till death scrupulously regular in all the religious observances expected of a pious catholic. But his alertness of intellect rendered him intolerant of inefficiency or insincerity in the priesthood, whose defects inspired many of his witty Latin epigrams. Like Erasmus and Colet he trusted to the intelligence of the higher clergy and to the progress of education to uproot ignorance and superstition (cf. his letter denouncing the follies of a friar at Coventry in Lambeth MS. 575, pp. 7-9, printed in Nichols, Bibl. Top. Brit. iv. No. xvii.,1780).
More's work at the bar was brilliantly successful, and he soon began a study of politics. In 1503 he lamented in English verse the death of Queen Elizabeth (English Works). In the spring of 1504 he was elected a member of parliament, but the extant returns fail to mention his constituency. Edmund Dudley [q. v.] was speaker. The heavy exactions for which Henry VII, with Dudley's aid, had made himself notorious excited More's disgust, and had formed the subject of some scathing Latin verse. When, therefore, a bill was introduced demanding an aid of three-fifteenths on the plea of the recent marriage of the king's eldest daughter Margaret with the king of Scotland, More took part in the debate, and used ‘such arguments and reasons thereagainst that the king's demands were thereby clean overthrown.’ The king had to forego the 113,000l. demanded, and felt bound to surrender 10,000l. of the 40,000l. offered by the commons in substitution (Stat. of Realm, ii. 975). More had not attacked the king directly; otherwise, Dudley told him later, he would have lost his head. But when Henry learned ‘that a beardless boy,’ who had nothing to lose, had ‘disappointed all his purpose,’ he revenged himself by devising ‘a causeless quarrel against More's father, keeping him in the Tower till he had made him pay to him a hundred pounds fine.’
Meanwhile More was resorting ‘to the house of one Maister [John] Colte, a gentleman of [Newhall, near Chelmsford] Essex, that had oft invited him thither,’ and had three daughters. According to one of his Latin epigrams he had fallen in love in his sixteenth year, but the passion was transient. Now ‘the honest conversation and virtuous education’ of Colte's daughters provoked More ‘there specially to set his affection.’ ‘And, albeit,’ writes his biographer Roper, ‘his mind most served him to the second daughter, for that he thought her the fairest and best favoured, yet when he considered that it would be both great grief and some shame also to the eldest to see her younger sister preferred before her in marriage, he then, of a certain pity, framed his fancy towards’ the eldest. More accordingly married Jane Colte in 1505 and settled in Bucklersbury. He proved a model husband, delighting in domesticity, and dividing his leisure between the care of his household and literary pursuits. Within a year he invited Erasmus to stay with him, and they amused themselves by translating some of Lucian's dialogues into Latin. In 1508 he went abroad and visited the universities of Louvain and Paris, in which he detected no superiority over Oxford or Cambridge. In the same year Erasmus paid him another visit, and wrote under his roof the ‘Moriæ Encomium,’ the title of which was intended as a pun on More's surname, and to More the book was dedicated. His first wife died about 1511, after bearing four children, and according to his confessor, John Bouge or Bonge, he obtained a dispensation to marry again within a month of the lady's death, and ‘without any banns asking’ (English Historical Review, 1892, vii. 712-15). The second wife was a widow, Alice Middleton, with an only daughter, afterwards wife of Sir Giles Alington. She was seven years More's senior, and neither beautiful nor well educated, but she was an active and vigilant housewife. Although she was seldom able to appreciate her husband's jests, the union seems to have proved satisfactory. Cresacre More's story that More was drawn into the match while pleading the suit of a friend with Mrs. Middleton is uncorroborated. After his second marriage More removed to Crosby Place, in Bishopsgate Street Without, and in 1523 he bought land at Chelsea on which he built a far-famed mansion.
More's professional work soon brought him 400l. a year—equivalent to 5,000l. now—but he developed with his success a notable independence of character. He gave his numerous clients perfectly disinterested advice, and deprecated their proceeding with suits that seemed to him unjust or frivolous. Soon after Henry VIII's accession in 1509 he was elected a bencher of Lincoln's Inn, and was reader there for the first time in 1511, and again in Lent 1516. On 3 Sept. 1510 he had been made under-sheriff of London—an officer who then acted as a judicial representative of the sheriff in cases now relegated to the sheriff's court. In 1514 quarrels arose between the London merchants and the foreign traders of the Steelyard, and it was necessary to send an embassy to Flanders to secure by treaty fuller protection of English commercial interests. Flattering reports of More had reached the king and Wolsey, and when the London merchants represented to the latter that More could best support their views in the negotiations, Wolsey readily nominated ‘young More’ one of the envoys. He had already attracted Henry's notice by presenting to him an elaborate epithalamium on his marriage to Catherine of Aragon in June 1509. On 8 May 1514 it was agreed by the common council ‘that Thomas More, gentleman, one of the under-sheriffs of London, should occupy his office and chamber by a sufficient deputy during his absence as the king's ambassador in Flanders.’ But the embassy, which was under the direction of Cuthbert Tunstall, did not leave England till 12 May 1515, when a similar concession was made More by the corporation. More was absent more than six months, and he received only 13s. 4d a day—a sum insufficient (he told Erasmus) to maintain himself abroad, as well as his wife and children in London. He could not induce his family (he humorously regretted) to fast in his absence (Brewer, i. 150). His time was chiefly spent at Bruges, Brussels, and Antwerp. In the latter city he delighted in the society of Peter Giles or Ægidius, a friend of Erasmus, and found time to sketch his imaginary island of ‘Utopia.’ The work was completed and published the next year.
In 1515 More was included in the commission of the peace for Hampshire, an honour that was again conferred on him in 1528 (Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, ii. 170, 670, 3917). In 1516 he wrote to Erasmus: ‘When I returned from my embassage of Flanders the king's majesty would have granted me a yearly pension, which surely, if I should respect honour and profit, was not to be contemned by me; yet have I as yet refused it.’ But neither Wolsey nor the king was willing to accept a refusal. On 17 Feb. 1516 More was reported to be frequently in Wolsey's antechamber, and on 10 March Erasmus expressed a fear that he would be carried away by a whirlwind of court favour (Epist. 21). In the same year he accepted a pension of 100l. for life (Letters and Papers, vol. ii. pt. i. No. 2736). A riot in the city on May-day 1517, caused by a sudden outbreak of popular fury against foreign merchants, brought More again to the notice of the authorities. He undertook to address the rioters near St. Martin's Gate, and treated them to disperse (Hall). He was afterwards appointed by the city to examine into the causes of the disturbance (Apology, ch. xlvii.) In the following August, while the sweating sickness, he tells us, raged in London, he was nominated, much against his will, a member of a new embassy to Calais which was to arrange disputes with envoys of France (Brewer, i. 188). ‘Thus it is,’ wrote Erasmus regretfully (Epist. 318), ‘that kings beatify their friends; this it is to be beloved of cardinals.’ The squabblings of the conference disappointed More, who played a very subordinate part, but he was not home again till November (Brewer, i. 197). After his return he argued successfully in the Starchamber against the claim of the crown to seize a ship belonging to the pope which had put in at Southampton. The adroitness of his argument impressed Henry VIII with the necessity of making him at once an officer of the crown. In 1518 he was nominated master of requests, or examiner of petitions presented to the king on his progresses through the country—an office which required its holder to reside with the court, and to be in constant personal relations with Henry. Although More is called ‘councillor’ in the pension grant of 1516, his actual introduction to the privy council seems to have been delayed till the summer of 1518 (Venetian State Papers, ii. 1072). His absorption by the court was completed on 23 July 1519, when he resigned the office of under-sheriff.
Although More had already in his ‘Utopia’ offered as a philosopher many counsels of perfection to politicians, he held no exaggerated views of the practical power of statesmen to root out evil opinions and practices ‘in the commonwealth and in the councils of princes.’ He was an intelligent, peace-loving conservative, sprung from the people, who desired the welfare of all classes; but he never contemplated achieving reform in any department of the state or church by revolution. By his tact and discretion a politician might so order what was bad, he thought, ‘that it be not very bad’ (Utopia, p. 65). ‘For it is not possible,’ he wrote, ‘for all things to be well unless all men were good, which I think will not be yet these many years.’ The first words that Henry VIII addressed to him on entering the royal household—‘willing him first to look unto God and after God unto him’—largely indicated the spirit in which he devoted himself to political life.
Throughout his attendance at court More was enthusiastic in his praises of Henry's affability and courtesy, while Henry on his side was charmed by More's witty conversation, and treated him with exceptional familiarity. Henry would often send for him into his private chamber to talk ‘in matters of astronomy, geometry, divinity, and such other faculties,’ or would invite him to sup in private with him and the queen, ‘to be merry with them.’ At times, too, the king would present himself as an unbidden guest at dinner-time at More's own house, and would walk with More about his garden at Chelsea, ‘holding his arm about his [councillor's] neck.’ But More was under no delusion respecting his tenure of the king's affection. ‘If my head should win him a castle in France,’ he told Roper in 1525, ‘it should not fail to go.’ His devotion to the new learning met with Henry's full approval. When he was with the king at Abingdon in the spring of 1518, an old-fashioned clergyman preached at court against the study of Greek and against ‘the new interpreters,’ and after the sermon More was deputed to confute his arguments in the royal presence. More brought his opponent to his knees, to the amusement of his audience (Erasmus, Epist. 346). Similarly when More called the king's attention to the outcry of the ‘barbarians’ at Oxford against the incursion of Greek learning into the university, he drew from Henry a strong expression of opinion adverse to the brawlers (ib.) and at the same time wrote a powerful letter to the university urging the tutors to recognise the necessity of extending the topics of education beyond mediæval limits. In 1520 he defended in a like spirit Erasmus's Latin translation of the Greek Testament and his ‘Morise Encomium,’ both of which had been attacked by a Louvain professor, Martin Dorpion or Dorpius.
As master of requests meanwhile More seized many opportunities of helping poor petitioners, and in 1521 the council, doubtless at his suggestion, put in force the statutes against unauthorised enclosures.
With More's natural grace of manner went a cultivated power of speech, and he was often selected as the spokesman of the court at ceremonial functions. When the legate Campeggio arrived in London in July 1518, More welcomed him in a Latin oration as he went in procession through Cheapside (Brewer, i. 281). In June 1520 he was with the king at the Field of the Cloth of Gold, and met at Calais Erasmus, who introduced him to a new friend, William Budée or Budæus, the French king's secretary and the greatest Greek scholar of the age. Budée was already favourably known to More by his writings. With another French attendant on the French royal family More's relations were less agreeable. He had in 1518 published in his ‘Epigrammata’ some severe epigrams on Germain de Brie (Brixius), the French queen's secretary, who had written a poem, ‘Chordigera,’ in celebration of the destruction of an English ship by the French ship Cordelier in 1512. De Brie retaliated in 1520 in a scurrilous pamphlet entitled ‘Anti-Morus,’ Basle, 1520, and More wrote a virulent reply. He showed it at Calais to Erasmus, who deprecated its publication. But at the close of 1520 it appeared in print. More's controversial tone was unfortunately as coarse as was habitual to the scholars and theologians of his time. He declared, however, that, in accordance with Erasmus's advice, he had distributed only seven copies of the impression (Erasmus, Epist. 571).
In the spring of 1521 More was knighted, and was made sub-treasurer to the king (ib. 605; cf. Letters and Paper's, 1437-1527). A month later he accompanied Wolsey to Calais and Bruges to conduct further negotiations with French and imperial envoys. While he was staying at Bruges a vainglorious student offered to publicly dispute on any subject of human learning. More jestingly challenged him to discuss with him ‘An averia capta in withernamia sunt irreplegiabilia,’ i.e. ‘whether cattle seized under the writ termed withernam were irrepleviable,’ but the student wisely acknowledged himself baffled by the question. More was sent by Wolsey, with Sir William Fitzwilliam, to carry special messages from Calais to Henry VIII (in October 1521), and next June he took part in the elaborate entertainments held in honour of Charles V's visit, welcoming him to London in a Latin speech (Brewer, i. 452). In 1522 and 1525 he was granted by Henry large gifts of land in Oxfordshire and Kent.
Wolsey's opinion of More increased with their intimacy; they corresponded repeatedly on official topics, and More, when in attendance at court, very often communicated to the cardinal Henry's advice on current politics (cf. Ellis, Orig. Letters, 1st ser. i. 195-213, 2nd ser. i. 289-91). In April 1523 Wolsey recommended More's election as speaker of the House of Commons. More ‘disabled himself both in wit, learning, and discretion,’ but Wolsey declared Henry to be well satisfied with the appointment (Hall). According to Koper, More's son-in-law, More showed more independence than was agreeable to his patron in his new office. The house evinced reluctance to grant the subsidy demanded by the crown, and when the cardinal came with a long retinue to make a personal appeal to the commons, More (in Roper's narrative) declined on his knees to give any answer until Wolsey's speech had been fully debated. When Wolsey next met More he remarked, ‘Would God you had been at Rome when I made you speaker!’ and recommended that he should be appointed to the embassy at Madrid. More is said to have begged the king to confer the post on another. ‘It is not our pleasure, Mr. More,’ Henry replied, ‘to do you hurt, but to do you good would we be glad’ (Roper). But Roper's story is contradicted by contemporary accounts of the proceedings of the parliament of 1523. No sign of disagreement between Wolsey and More was at any time apparent there, and More while speaker is represented as joining, contrary to usage, in the debates in order to urge on an unwilling house the duty of granting the full subsidy applied for by the king (Brewer, i. 469-80; cf. Hall). The subsidy was obtained in due course, and Wolsey soon afterwards recommended More, 24 Aug. 1523, for a gratuity of 100l. in addition to the fee of the same amount usually bestowed on the speaker (Letters and Papers, iii. 3270). ‘I am the rather moved,’ Wolsey wrote, ‘to put your highness in remembrance thereof because he is not the most ready to speak and solicit his own cause.’ More thanked Wolsey effusively (MS. Cott. Titus, B. I. f. 323; Letters and Papers, iii. 3274). But some divergence in their views sprang up soon afterwards. When the cardinal proposed in the council the creation of a new dignity, that of supreme constable of the kingdom, More declared himself opposed to the scheme. ‘You show yourself a foolish councillor,’ said Wolsey. More retorted with thanks to God that the king had only one fool in his council.
More was appointed a collector of the subsidy in Middlesex in August 1523. In 1525 he became high steward of Cambridge University (Cooper, and cf. MS. 318, No. 2, at Corpus Christi Coll. Oxf.); in June he played a prominent part in the elaborate pageants which attended the creation of the king's natural son Henry as Duke of Richmond (Brewer, ii. 102). He was promoted in July to the chancellorship of the duchy of Lancaster, to be held with his other offices. He received a license to export one thousand woollen cloths in 1526, and in the same year he joined a sub-committee of the council, consisting of three persons, two of whom were to wait on the king every day (ib. i. 54). Soon afterwards he once again took part in important negotiations in Wolsey's company at Amiens in August 1527, and in Tunstall's company at Cambray in July 1528.
Although More in early life had, like Colet and Erasmus, looked forward to a reformation of the church from within, he had no sympathy with Luther's attempt to reform the church from without. But he showed at first no anxiety to enter into the controversy. Henry VIII subsequently asserted that More persuaded him to write his ‘Defensio Septem Sacramentorum’ (1521) in reply to Luther's ‘Babylonish Captivity;’ but More claimed to have done no more than supply the index (Roper, p. 25; cf. Archæologia, xxiii. 73). When Luther, however, retaliated in a scurrilous attack on Henry VIII, conscience led More into the fray. Under the pseudonym of William Ross, an Englishman represented as on a visit to Rome, and doubtfully said to be the name of an early friend of More lately dead, More put forward a bantering rejoinder (London, 1523, 4to), which, despite frequent lapses into vulgarity, embodied his most sacred convictions (Brewer, i. 608-9). In it he seriously appealed to ‘illustrious Germany’ to reject the heresies which Luther and his allies were disseminating, and he impressively asserted his faith in the papacy. He acknowledged the vices of some of the popes, but declined to impute them to the office, believing that God would yet raise up ‘such popes as befit the dignity of the apostolic office.’ The flowing tide of Lutheranism was not affected by More's onslaught, and he soon flung himself without disguise into the struggle. In March 1527 he received permission from Bishop Tunstall to read heretical books (Burnet, i. ii. 13), and the Hanse merchants issued in the same month a printed circular announcing that Wolsey and More had forbidden the importation of Lutheran works into England (cf. copy in Brit. Mus. C. 18. e. 1, No. 94). In 1528 More completed his ‘Dialogue,’ his first controversial book in English, which was directed mainly against Tindal's writings. Thenceforth with Tindal and his allies, Frith and George Joye, he waged unceasing battle till his death.
On 19 Oct. 1529 Wolsey was deprived of his post of chancellor. Archbishop Warham was pressed to accept the honourable office, but he declined it on the score of age (Erasmus, Epist. 1151,ii. 1348; Foxe, iv. 610-11). On 25 Oct. the seals were handed to More by the king at Greenwich, and next day he took the oaths in Westminster Hall, when the Duke of Norfolk delivered to him the king's admonition to administer justice impartially. The promotion was without precedent. For the first time the chancellor was a layman. Erasmus wrote on hearing the news: ‘I do indeed congratulate England, for a better or holier judge could not have been appointed’ (Epist. 1034). But Henry made it plain that More's political power was very limited; the general direction of affairs was mainly in the hands of the Duke of Norfolk, the president of the council. According to Cardinal Pole, More owed his elevation to the king's desire to win his support; in the proceedings he had begun for his divorce from Queen Catherine. But More never wavered in his devotion to her, or to the papacy which had championed her cause. ‘He is,’ wrote Chapuys at the time of his promotion, ‘an upright and learned man, and a good servant of the queen’ (Letters and Papers, iv. 6026). In a later letter to Cromwell (5 March 1534) More admitted that on his return from France in September 1527 the king first spoke to him of his scruples respecting the legitimacy of his union with the queen, and that he offered no opinion on the subject. After his appointment as chancellor, however, at Henry's invitation he seriously considered the king's views, but he announced that he was unable to agree with them. Thenceforth he declares he was left ‘free,’ but he did not conceal from himself the possible dangers to which even a silent divergence of opinion exposed him.
His first duty as chancellor was to open the new parliament meeting on 3 Nov. 1529 in the presence of the king. It was summoned, he was charged to say, ‘to reform such things as had been used or permitted by inadvertence or by changes of time had become inexpedient’ (Hall); but of the sweeping ecclesiastical reforms which were to be accomplished before this parliament was dissolved More clearly had no knowledge. According to Hall, an unfriendly witness, More added to his opening speech an unfriendly description of Wolsey as ‘a great wether’ that ‘had craftily juggled with the king,’ but neither Roper nor the parliamentary history gives any hint of the remark (Brewer, ii. 390-1). He signed the articles of Wolsey's impeachment, and doubtless assented as a lawyer to the policy both of declaring Wolsey guilty of a breach of the Præmunire Act, and of fining the clergy for having acknowledged Wolsey's legatine authority. But he had no share in penning the king's proclamation, ordering the clergy while paying their fines to acknowledge Henry, ‘as far as the law of Christ will allow, supreme head of the church’ (11 Feb. i 1530-1). According to Chapuys, More proffered his resignation as soon as he heard of the king's ‘usurpation’ of a title hitherto reserved to the pope (Letters and Papers, v. 112). But the king had hopes of More, and he remained in office. In March 1531 he announced to the House of Lords the opinions of the universities respecting the divorce. More was invited to declare his private opinion of the proceedings against Queen Catherine, but he cautiously remarked that he had already announced his views to the king many times (ib. v. 171). Next year parliament was induced to revoke all constitutions made by the clergy in convocation, and to prohibit the holding of convocations thenceforward without the royal license (23 Hen. VIII, c. 19). This was the first of the acts that were to disestablish the papacy in England. There followed a bill to suspend the payment of first-fruits to the papacy. Sir George Throckmorton spoke against the bill, and More sent for him privately and commended his attitude (Froude, i. 360-1), while he vigorously opposed the proposal in the council, 13 May 1532. Nor did he conceal his dislike of the king's suggestion that the laws against heresy should be relaxed (cf. Spanish Calendar, iv. i. 446). The king showed signs of anger, and three days later More, perceiving his position impossible, resigned his office of chancellor in the gardens of York Place. He had held it little more than two years and a half. ‘Every one is concerned,’ wrote Chapuys, ‘for there never was a better man in office’ (ib. v. 1046). Going home, he broke the news to his wife and daughters with every appearance of light-hearted indifference. He at once adapted his household arrangements to his suddenly diminished income. He sold his plate, and cheerfully determined to live on some 100l. a year, the rent of lands which he had purchased, but for a time he received in addition some emoluments from the state (cf. Letters and Papers, 7 March 1534). In announcing his change of fortune to Erasmus he ascribed it to his ill-health, but Erasmus expressed his satisfaction at his withdrawal from politics (cf. Erasmus, Epist. 1856). When the Duke of Norfolk was inducting the new lord chancellor (Sir Thomas Audley) into office, More was gratified by the complimentary reference made to him, and he hotly denied the rumour that he had been dismissed from office, or had incurred the king's displeasure. In Chelsea Church he at once set up a tomb with a long epitaph upon it, in which he declared that he intended, as he had desired to do from a child, to devote his last years to preparing himself ‘for the life to come’ (ib. 1441-2).
As a judge More rendered his tenure of the chancellorship memorable. His rapidity and despatch were without precedent, and the chancery was soon so empty of causes that on one occasion he returned to his house at Chelsea at ten o'clock in the morning, and, calling for wine, thanked God ‘he had not one cause’ (Goodman, Court of James I, ed. Brewer, i. 227). A current rhyme was long remembered:
When More some time had Chancellor been,
No more suits did remain;
The like will never more be seen
Till More be there again.
(Notes and Queries, 1st ser. vii. 80, x. 173, 393.) The poorest suitor obtained ready access to him and speedy trial, while the claims of kindred found no favour (Foss). His son-in-law, Giles Heron, relying on the chancellor's family affection, once refused to accept a reasonable arbitrament, but More at once gave ‘a flat decree against him.’ He encouraged suitors to resort to him at his own house, ‘where he would sit in his open hall, in many instances bringing the parties to a friendly reconcilement of their disputes. He forbade any subpoena to be granted until the matter in issue had been laid before him, with the lawyer's name attached to it, when, if he found it sufficient, he would add his fiat, but if too trifling for discussion would refuse a writ.’ He did not refrain from the common judicial practice of seasoning his judgments with an unpretending joke. When a frivolous application was made to him by one Tubbe, an attorney, he returned a paper handed to him with the words ‘a tale of a’ prefixed to the lawyer's signature, ‘Tubbe.’ The common-law judges complained that their judgments were too often suspended by injunctions out of chancery; but Sir Thomas caused a list of his judgments to be drawn up, and, inviting the judges to dinner, discussed with them the grounds of his decision in each case. On their acknowledging his action to be reasonable, he recommended them in future to qualify the rigour of the law by equitable considerations.
After his retirement from the chancellorship one charge of taking a present of a gilt cup from a suitor was brought against him in the council. He had undoubtedly exchanged occasional gifts with suitors, in accordance with the evil custom of the day; but he had more often declined presents, and rebuked those who offered them, and no proof was adduced that his judgments were influenced by what was regarded as conventional marks of courtesy (Bacon, Lit. Works, ii. 128; Spedding, Bacon, vii. 266).
On the other hand, the treatment to which More, as chancellor, subjected persons charged with heresy caused severe attacks on his administration by protestants in his own day, and has been the subject of much subsequent controversy. In his ‘Utopia’ the most advanced principles of religious toleration held sway. Although all Utopians attended a public worship which was so simple as to be in conflict with no particular form of religious belief, every man was practically permitted to hold in private whatever religious opinions he chose. Only two restrictions were imposed: first, any one rejecting belief in God or in a future state was ineligible for civic office; and, in the second place, a citizen who attacked the religion of his neighbour was held to be guilty of sedition, and was punishable by banishment. But no theory of toleration influenced More's official conduct. He hated heretics, he wrote to Erasmus in the summer of 1533 (Epist. 466), but it was their vices, not their persons, he explained elsewhere, that excited his hatred (Apology, ch. xlix.) He boasted of his hostility to heretics in his epitaph, where he described himself as ‘hereticis molestus;’ and he allowed that when every effort had failed ‘to pull malicious folly out of a poisoned, proud, obstinate heart,’ the heretic's death was preferable to his continued sojourn on earth, with power to disseminate pernicious opinions, to the destruction of others (ib.; see English Works, pp. 351-2). The contemporary chronicler Hall describes him as ‘a great persecutor of such as detested the supremacy of the bishop of Rome’ (p. 817). Foxe represents him as ‘blinded in the zeal of popery’ to all humane considerations in the treatment of Lutherans (iv. 688), and Mr. Froude denounces him as ‘a merciless bigot.’ More undoubtedly viewed with equanimity the cruel incidents of persecution; and although Stokesley, bishop of London, shares with him much of the blame attaching to his proceedings, his personal responsibility for the barbarous usage of many protestants has not been satisfactorily disputed (cf. Froude, i. 550; Bridgett, 264 sq.) When all allowances are made for the rancour of his protestant critics, it must be admitted that he caused suspected heretics to be carried to his house at Chelsea on slender pretences, to be imprisoned in the porter's lodge, and, when they failed to recant, to be racked in the Tower. In a few instances the complaints against him were, he tells us, investigated by the council after he went out of office, and although his judges were not too well disposed towards him, he claimed to have been acquitted of undue severity. He admitted, however, that he had caused the officers of the Marshalsea and other prisons to use with severity persons guilty of what he deemed to be sacrilege, and that he had kept heretics in safe custody at Chelsea. But in only two cases did he admit that he had recommended corporal punishment: he had caused a boy in his service, who taught heresy to a fellow-servant, to be whipped; and a madman, who brawled in churches and had been committed to a madhouse, was tied to a tree and beaten into orthodoxy by his orders (cf. English Works, p. 901). It is clear, however, that he under-estimated his activity. He is known to have, personally searched for heretical books the house of John Petit, a friend of his in the city, and committed him to prison, where he soon died, before any distinct charge had been formulated against him (Nichols, Narratives of the Reformation, Camd. Soc., pp. 26-7). Of John Tewkesbury, an inoffensive leatherseller of London, who was burnt on 20 Dec. 1531, More wrote, ‘There was never a wretch, I wene, better worthy’ (English Works, p. 348; Foxe, iv. 688. sq.; cf. Letters and Papers, vi. .p. 448); and the enormities practised in the case of James Bainham [q. v.] must be largely laid to More's charge.
For the year and a half following his resignation More lived in complete retirement, mainly engaged in religious controversy with Tindal and Frith. The king's relations with Anne Boleyn troubled him, and he kept away from court. To no purpose did Bishops Tunstall, Clerk, and Gardiner forward to him 20l. with an invitation to attend the coronation of the new queen (1 June 1533); but he avoided all open rupture with the authorities. At Christmas 1533 the council issued a proclamation attacking the pope, and justifying Henry VIII's action in divorcing Queen Catherine. A pamphlet issued by More's nephew, William Rastell, defended the pope, and More was suspected by Cromwell of the authorship. Rastell was summoned before the council. He flatly denied his uncle's responsibility, and More repeated the denial in a letter to Cromwell. He solemnly assured Cromwell that he was not capable of dealing with such lofty matters of politics, and knew his bounden duty to his prince too well to criticise, or encourage others to criticise, his policy (1 Feb. 1533-4). The matter went no further, but both Cromwell and his master resented More's neutrality, and Cromwell awaited an opportunity of extorting a direct expression of opinion.
Throughout 1533 the Holy Maid of Kent [see Barton, Elizabeth] was prophesying with growing vehemence the king's perdition as the penalty he should pay for the divorce. At the close of the year she and the priests who had supported her pretensions to divine inspiration were arrested, and their confessions showed that More was among her disciples. Cromwell invited an explanation. More readily explained that eight or nine years ago he had examined some messages sent by the Maid to the king, and had regarded them as frivolous impostures; but during 1533 several friars of his acquaintance had awakened his interest in her anew, and he had visited her when she was sojourning with the Carthusians at Sion House. Her spiritual fervour then impressed him favourably, but he advised her to devote herself to pious exercises, and both by word of mouth and subsequently by a letter, of which he sent Cromwell a copy, he specially warned her against discussing political topics (Burnet). More's story of his relations with the woman is corroborated by her own confessions and those of her accomplices. After learning of their arrest and of the evidence adduced against them, he freely admitted that he had been the dupe of a foolish imposture (cf. Letters and Papers, 1534, pp. 118 sq.)
But Henry was not easily satisfied, and More found that his name figured as guilty of misprision of treason in the bill of attainder aimed at the nun's friends, which was introduced on 21 Feb. 1533-4 into the House of Lords (cf. ib. No. 1468, p. 2). More applied for permission to address the house in his defence. By way of reply he received a summons to appear before four members of the council (Cranmer, Audley, Norfolk, and Cromwell). When in their presence he found he had to meet another issue. He was asked why he had declined to acknowledge the wisdom and necessity of Henry's recent attitude to the pope. He replied that he wished to do all that was acceptable to the king, and that he had from time to time explained his position without incurring the royal displeasure. His personal popularity proved so great, however, that Henry reluctantly agreed to strike his name out of the bill, but not until it had been read a third time (Lords' Journals, p. 72). For this concession More wrote in grateful terms to the king (Ellis, Orig. Lett. ii. 48-52; cf. Letters and Papers, vol. vii. No. 387). The incident roused More to a sense of his danger, but did not disturb his equanimity. When warned by the Duke of Norfolk that ‘indignatio principis mors est,’ he coolly answered, ‘Is that all, my lord? Then in good faith between your grace and me is but this, that I shall die to-day and you to-morrow.’
On 30 March 1534 a bill imposing an oath of adherence to the new act of succession which vested the crown in Anne Boleyn's issue received the royal assent. The commissioners nominated to administer the oath added to it a formula abjuring ‘any foreign potentate,’ and, in the case of the clergy, demanded a full renunciation of the pope. More was in no yielding mood. On 13 April, after hearing mass and taking the holy communion, he appeared by summons at Lambeth before the commissioners (Cranmer, Audley, Cromwell, and Benson, abbot of Westminster). He explained that, while ready to swear fidelity to the new succession' act, he could take no oath that should impugn the pope's authority or assume the justice of the divorce. The abbot of Westminster urged that he was setting up his private judgment against the wisdom of the nation, as expressed by the parliament and council. More replied that the council of one realm was setting itself ‘against the general council of Christendom’ (More to his daughter, English Works, p. 1428). He was committed to the custody of the abbot of Westminster. Four days later Cranmer suggested that the king might be well advised in accepting More's modified oath of fidelity (17 April). But Anne Boleyn was especially incensed against him, and the king and Cromwell declined to make an exception in his favour. On 17 April he was committed to the Tower, and he remained a prisoner till death. His friend John Fisher, bishop of Rochester, assumed a like attitude to the new oath, and he shared More's punishment.
More's contention that the recent act of succession did not justify the oath impugning the papal supremacy was acknowledged by some members of the council. Accordingly, when parliament met again on 3 Nov. 1534, it was voted that the double-barrelled oath as administered to More and Fisher was to be ‘reputed the very oath intended by the act of succession.’ ‘At the same time More was attainted of misprision of treason; grants of laud made to him in 1522 and 1525 were resumed; he was declared to be a sower of sedition and guilty of ingratitude to his royal benefactor.
As a knight, More paid, while in the Tower, fees of 10s. a week for himself and 5s. for his servant, and was treated with much leniency by his gaolers. Although his physical health was bad he suffered from oppression on the chest, gravel, stone, and cramp his spirits were always untameable, and he talked with his family and friends, on their occasional visits to him, with infectious gaiety. In the first days of his imprisonment he wrote many letters, performed punctually all pious observances, and prepared a ‘Dialogue of Comfort against Tribulation’ and treatises on Christ's passion. His resolution to adhere to his position was immovable. His wife, who did not appreciate his conscientious scruples, urged him in vain to yield to the king and gain his freedom. His cheerful reply, ‘Is not this house as nigh heaven as mine own?’ failed to convince her. His stepdaughter, Lady Alington, and his daughter Margaret also begged him to reconsider his action with greater tact, but with no greater success. At the end of 1534 Lady More and her children petitioned Henry for his pardon and release on the ground of his sickness and their poverty. ‘His offence,’ they asserted, ‘is not of malice or obstinacy, but of such a long-continued and deep-rooted scruple as passeth his power to avoid and put away’ (Arundel MS. 152, f. 300 b). In May 1535 the appeal was renewed. Lady More had been compelled to sell her clothes to pay her husband's fees for board in prison (Wood, Letters, ii. 178-80). But Henry was obdurate. In January 1535 he bestowed More's Oxfordshire property (Doglington, Fringford, and Barly Park) on Henry Norris, and in April his manor of South in Kent on Anne Boleyn's brother, George, viscount Rochford. The Duke of Suffolk made application for the Chelsea property, but it was not immediately disposed of.
The parliament that had met in November conferred, for the first time, on Henry the title of Supreme Head of the Church, and rendered it high treason to ‘maliciously’ deny any of the royal titles. In April 1535 Cromwell went to the Tower and asked More for his opinion of these new statutes: were they lawful in his eyes, or no ? More declared himself a faithful subject to the king, and declined any further answer. On 7 May and 3 June the scene was repeated. Cromwell at the third meeting threatened that the king would compel More to give a precise reply. On 12 June Rich, the solicitor-general, held a conversation with him, which is variously reported by the interlocutors. Rich asserted that More denied the right of parliament to confer the ecclesiastical supremacy on the king. On 7 June the discovery that More had succeeded in interchanging letters with his fellow-prisoner, Fisher, had given the council a new opportunity of attack. An inquiry, more rigorous than before, was held on 14 June; More admitted that he had sent Fisher from time to time accounts of his examinations, and had made similar communications to his daughter. He had received replies, but they had conspired together in nothing. The old questions were put to him again, but with the old result. He was accordingly deprived of books and writing materials, although he occasionally succeeded in writing to his wife and daughter Margaret on scraps of paper with pieces of coal. Thenceforth he caused the shutters of his cell to be closed, and spent most of his time in the dark.
The end was now near. On 19 June the Carthusians were convicted and executed for refusing to accept the king's supremacy. Six days later Fisher suffered in the same cause, and royal orders were issued the same day bidding the preachers dwell on his treason and on More's conjointly. More learned the tidings with the utmost calmness. On 1 July he was himself indicted of high treason at Westminster Hall. A special commission of oyer and terminer for Middlesex had been issued for the purpose five days earlier to Lord-chancellor Audley, the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk, Cromwell, Anne Boleyn's father and brother, four other peers, and ten judges. The indictment rehearsed at great length that the prisoner had in divers ways infringed the Act of Supremacy (26 Hen. VIII, caps. 1 and 23); it relied for proof on his answers to the council while in the Tower, on the alleged correspondence with Fisher, and on the alleged conversation with Rich. More, owing to his infirmities, was allowed to be seated. With much dignity he denied the principal charges. He had never maliciously opposed the king's second marriage; he had not advised Fisher to disobey the act of supremacy, nor had he described that act as a two-edged sword, approval of which ruined the soul, and disapproval the body. Rich, the solicitor-general, he denounced as a perjurer. The jury at once returned a verdict of guilty, and he was sentenced to be hanged at Tyburn. Before leaving the court More denied that any approved doctor of the church had admitted that a temporal lord could or ought to be head of the spirituality; when the papal authority was first threatened he had devoted seven years to a study of its history, and had arrived at the conclusion that it was grounded on divine law and prescription; he confessed that he had never consented to the king's union with Queen Anne (cf. 3rd Rep. of Deputy-Keeper of Records, pp. 240-1; Mémoires de Michel de Castelnau, ed. J. Le Laboureur (1731), i. 415-18; Letters and Papers, viii. 385 sq.; Archæologia, xxvii. 361-74). His favourite daughter, Margaret, met him on the Tower wharf as he came from Westminster, and he gave her his blessing and words of comfort. On 5 July he wrote her his last letter (in English), full of kindly remembrances to her and other members of his household, and at the same time he thanked in Latin an Italian friend, Antonio Bonvisi, for his sympathy. Later in the day the king commuted the sentence of hanging to that of beheading—a favour which More grimly expressed the hope that his friends might be spared—and before nine o'clock next morning he was executed on Tower Hill. His composure on the scaffold is probably without parallel. ‘I pray thee see me safely up,’ he said to the lieutenant on reaching the steps, ‘and for my coming down let me shift for myself.’ With a light-hearted jest he encouraged the headsman to perform his duty fearlessly (cf. Addison, Spectator, No. 449). He moved his beard from the block with the remark that ‘it had never committed treason’ (More), told the bystanders that he died ‘in and for the faith of the catholic church,’ and prayed God to send the king good counsel. The king gave permission to his wife and children to attend his funeral.
More's body was buried in the church of St. Peter in the Tower; and, according to a Latin life of Fisher written in Queen Mary's reign (Arundel MS. 152, f. 233), Fisher's body, after lying seven years in All-hallows' churchyard, was removed to More's grave. Cresacre More states that Fisher's body was re-interred beside that of More within a fortnight of the former's death. More had, in 1532, set up a tomb for himself in Chelsea Church (cf . Eras. Epist. 426 in App.), and Weever and Fuller both assert that his headless corpse was ultimately conveyed thither by his daughter. Neither Stapleton nor Cresacre More gives any hint of this; and William Roper, in his will (4 Jan. 1577-8), speaks of the More vault at Chelsea as the spot where his father-in-law ‘did mind to be buried,’ but clearly implies that he was buried elsewhere. More's head, after being parboiled, as was customary, was affixed to a pole and exhibited on London Bridge. In November 1535 it was reported to have turned black and been thrown into the river (Letters and Papers, ix. 294). Sir Richard Morison [q. v.], in his answer to Cochlæus, written in 1536, speaks of it as being still on the bridge in that year. But, according to Stapleton, it was privately purchased by his daughter Margaret within a month of its exposure, and she preserved it in spices till her death in 1544. She was buried in Chelsea Church, and the head is doubtfully said to have been buried with her. On the other hand, her husband, who had property in the parish of St. Dunstan's, Canterbury, was buried in 1578 in what was known as the Roper chancel in the church there. An ancient leaden box discovered in the Roper vault was opened in June 1824, and contained a head, which was assumed to be More's (Gent. Mag. 1824, i. 626; Bridgett, pp. 436-7).
Catholic Europe was startled by the news of More's death. Cardinal Pole asserted in his ‘Pro Ecclesiæ Unitatis Defensione,’ f. xciii, which he forwarded to Henry soon afterwards, that utter strangers wept at hearing the news. Pope Paul III extolled him as ‘excelling in sacred learning and courageous in the defence of truth,’ and prepared a bull excommunicating Henry for the crime. Charles V declared that had he had such a councillor he would have preferred to lose his best city. In order to allay the threatening excitement, the English ambassadors at foreign courts were instructed to announce that More and Fisher were found traitors by due course of law (Letters and Papers, ix. 70; Strype, Memorials, i. i. 360). An illustrated ‘Expositio fidelis de Morte Thomæ Mori et quorundam aliorum insignium Virorum in Anglia’ appeared at Paris in 1535 and Antwerp in 1536, and described in detail the martyr's death. Versions were also issued in French, Spanish, and German (Letters and Papers, ix. 395-6). The Latin poets on the continent freely drew parallels between More and Socrates, Seneca, Aristides, Boethius, or Cato (cf. prefatory verses in Opera Omnia, 1689).
Gregory XIII, on succeeding to the papacy in 1572, bestowed on More the honour of public veneration in the English College at Rome. On 9 Dec. 1886 he was beatified by Pope Leo XIII. Various relics of More are religiously preserved at Stonyhurst College. They include his hat, silver seal, George, gold cross, and other articles. His hair shirt is said to be the property of the Augustinian canonesses of Abbot's Leigh, near Newton Abbot; and a cup once used by him is stated to belong to Monsignor Eyston of East Hendred, Berkshire. A statue was placed in 1889 over a doorway of a corner house in Carey Street, Chancery Lane, by George Arnold, esq., of Milton Hall, Gravesend, and a passage leading from Carey Street to New Square was christened More's Passage at the same time.
With his stern devotion to principle, his overmastering religious fervour, and his invincible courage, More combined an imperturbable cheerfulness which enabled him to detect a humorous element in the most unpromising situations. According to his friend Erasmus (Epist. 447, to Ulrich von Hutten, 1519), he was a second Democritus, always full of gaiety, excelling in witty repartees, and conversing with ease with men in every rank of life. The chronicler Hall complains that he could never make the most ordinary communication without importing ‘some mocke’ into it, and condemns as ‘absurd’ his ‘idle jests’ on the scaffold. Cresacre More says that his witty sayings and merry jests would fill a volume. His indulgences were few. He drank little wine; neither expensive food nor dress attracted him, and he wore his gown so loosely on his shoulders as to give him at times an appearance of deformity. The careless habit was, according to Ascham, imitated by a foolish admirer (Scholemaster, ed. Mayor, p. 180). He disliked all ceremony or ostentatious luxury in private life (cf. Supplication of Souls), and abhorred games of tennis, dice, or cards. At Chelsea he lived in a homely patriarchal fashion (ib. p. 426), ‘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 also resided with him a learned young kinswoman, Margaret Giggs, who married John Clements [q. v.]; and before he was chancellor he delighted in the society of his fool, Henry Pates or Pattenson, who, when he retired from office, obtained a place in the lord mayor's household. John Harris, his secretary, he also highly valued. ‘There is not,’ Erasmus asserted, ‘any man living so affectionate to his children as he, and he loveth his old wife as if she were a girl of fifteen.’ Very charitable to his poor neighbours and a kindly master to his servants, he was a charming host to congenial friends. Much of his leisure was devoted to the education of his household. ‘Plato's academy was revived again; only whereas in the academy the discussions turned upon geometry and the power of number, the house at Chelsea is a veritable school of the 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 lofty carriage and frequent rebukes, but by gentleness and amiable manners. Every member is busy in his place, performing his duty with alacrity, nor is sober mirth wanting.’ Elsewhere Erasmus relates that Livy was the chief author recommended by More to his children to read (Epist. 605).
More was fond of animals, even of foxes, weasels, and monkeys, and had an aviary at Chelsea (Erasmus). A chained monkey is represented as playing at the side of his wife in Holbein's authentic picture of the family; he gave his friend Budæus two valuable dogs, apparently greyhounds, and wrote Latin epigrams on a cat playing with a mouse, and a spider and a fly.
More built his house at Chelsea at the north end of what is now Beaufort Row. A spacious garden and orchard, to which he devoted much attention, were attached, and at some distance from the dwelling he set up ‘The New Building,’ which contained a chapel, library, and gallery, to be used ‘for devotion, study, or retirement.’ The property seems to have been granted by Henry VIII to Sir William Paulet on 4 April 1537 (Pat.Rot.28Hen.VIII), and was known as ‘The Great More House.’ It was successively the residence of John Paulet, second marquis of Winchester; of Margaret, baroness Dacres; of Henry, earl of Lincoln; of Sir Arthur Gorges; of Lionel, earl of Middlesex, in 1629; of the Duke of Buckingham; of William Plummer, a citizen of London; and of the Earl of Bristol, from whose heirs it ultimately passed to the Duke of Beaufort. The latter rechristened it Beaufort House. It was sold to Sir Hans Sloane in 1738, and pulled down in 1740 (Lysons, Environs). A print by L. Knyff, dated 1699, is reproduced in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine,’ 1829, i. 497, and in Faulkner's ‘Chelsea.’ Some fragments of walls and windows at the south end of the Moravian burial-ground are said to be parts of the original building (Gent. Mag. 1833, ii. 482). More's house has been at times wrongly identified with Danvers House, built by Sir John Danvers on the site of the present Danvers Street (Faulkner, Chelsea, 2nd ed. i. 118; Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. ii. 324, 516, iii. 317, 495-7; Gent. Mag. 1829, i. 497).
To the parish church of Chelsea More, probably in 1528, added a chapel, at the southern side of ‘the lower chancel,’ and it now forms part of the south aisle. The ‘More Chapel’ was apparently built for the accommodation of his large household during divine service, and the right to the pew there was sold with More House until 1629. In the tomb in the chancel, built in 1532, he deposited the remains of his first wife, intending that he himself and his second wife should be also buried there; but that intention was frustrated. The epitaph written by himself and the armorial bearings of himself and his wives were engraved on the tomb (Notes and Queries, 4th ser. iv. 611). It was restored before 1638, and again in 1833, when the slab containing the epitaph was removed to another site near at hand, and the words attesting his severity to heretics erased (Gent. Mag. 1833, ii. 481-6).
Strict in his religious observances, and always wearing a hair shirt next his skin, More encouraged in his parish church at Chelsea very simple forms of worship, and was once found by his friend the Duke of Norfolk, to the duke's disgust, wearing a surplice and singing in the choir.
But, like all the scholars of the new learning, More had strong artistic tastes. He filled his house with curious furniture and plate. He was fond of music, and, according to Richard Pace, he induced his wife, who had no claims to culture, to learn the flute with him (Pace, De Fructu qui ex doctrinâ percipitur, Basle, 1517).
Of painting, More was both a critic and a patron, and his relations with Holbein give him a place in the history of art. To the 1518 edition of the ‘Utopia’ Holbein contributed, at the request of Froben and Erasmus, besides the map, a genre picture of More and his friends listening to Raphael's narration, and he permitted engraved borders already issued in other books to reappear there. In 1526 Holbein first came to England on a visit to More, to whom Erasmus had introduced him, and it is said he stayed at Chelsea for three years. Holbein is not known to have undertaken any work for Henry VIII until 1536, but the king doubtless met him at More's house for the first time. Holbein returned More's hospitality by painting portraits of him and his family.
Erasmus described More in 1519 as of middle height, a complexion not very highly coloured, dark brown hair, and greyish blue, eyes. While in the Tower he let his beard grow, but through life he was almost clean shaven. It is thus that Holbein painted him. His expression in the pictures is always serious and penetrating, but the eyes look capable of a humorous twinkle. The earliest of Holbein's portraits of More is doubtless that painted in 1527, and now belonging to Edward Huth, esq. Two studies for it are in the royal collection at Windsor, along with sketches of More's father, his son, and daughter-in-law, and his daughters, Cecilia and Elizabeth; these were reproduced by Bartolozzi in Chamberlain's ‘Heads’ (1792). Another portrait, dated 1532, belongs to T. L. Thurlow, esq. More and his father were also painted together by Holbein in a picture belonging to Sir Henry Vane. A portrait, said to be by a pupil of Holbein, from the Windsor sketch is in the National Portrait Gallery. A half-length of uncertain authorship belongs to Baroness Burdett-Coutts, and another is at Knole House, Sevenoaks. A genuine Holbein in the Louvre, usually said to represent More, is a portrait of Sir Henry Wyatt; and a spurious Holbein in the Brussels Gallery, which was engraved by Vorsterman, and is reproduced in Le Clerc's edition of Erasmus's correspondence as a portrait of More, is by the French artist Clouet, and does not tally with any authentic picture of More. The face is bearded, and a dog lies before the figure.
Holbein also painted a large group of More's household. The original sketch, which More sent to Erasmus, is now in the Basle Museum, and supplies the names and ages, in More's handwriting, of all the persons depicted, with some suggestions for alterations in Holbein's autograph. It was engraved by Mechel in 1787, with the added inscription, ‘Johannes Holbein ad vivum delin. Londini, 1530’—a date probably three years too late (Seebohm, pp. 525-6). A second engraving, by Mechel, of More's family, ‘Ex tabula Joh. Holbenii in Anglia adservata,' was a fanciful exercise of the engraver (Woltmann, Holbein, p. 321, note). The Basle sketch includes More, his father, his second wife, three daughters, his son John More and his son's future wife, Anne Cresacre, his ward Mrs. Clements, and Henry Pattenson, his jester, with two servants in a room behind. The finished picture is lost. In 1530 it was in the collection of Andreas de Loo in London, whence it passed to William Roper at Well Hall, Eltham, and soon after his death in 1578 to a grandson of the chancellor. An authentic sixteenth-century copy is now at Nostell Priory, the property of Lord St. Oswald, to whose ancestor it came through the Roper family. It differs in some details notably, the introduction of John Harris, More's secretary—from the Basle sketch. A somewhat similar family group, painted by Rowland Lockey [q. v.] in 1593, included many later descendants; it formerly belonged to the Lenthall family of Burford Priory, was sold after 1829, and is now at Cockthorpe Park, Ducklington, near Witney, the property of Mrs. Strickland. It has been engraved by Lodge. A third copy, resembling that at Nostell, belongs to C. J. Eyston, esq., of East Hendred, Berkshire, and was at one time at Barnborough, the seat of the chancellor's son, John More, and his descendants.
Quintin Matsys, the painter of Antwerp, was also known to More. At More's desire he painted a portrait of Ægidius, who bears in his hand a letter from More, in which the latter's handwriting is exactly reproduced. More described this picture in both prose and verse (Erasmus, Epist. 287, 384, 1615, 1631, 1634). It is at Longford Castle; a portrait of Erasmus, probably painted on the same panel, has been detached from it, and has disappeared. Engravings of More appear in the 1573 edition of the ‘Dialogue of Comfort,’ and in Stapleton's ‘Tres Thomæ’ (1588). One by Anton Wierx is reproduced in Holland's ‘Herωologia;’ another, attributed to P. Galle, resembles that in Boissard's ‘Bibliotheca’ (1597-1628). Elstracke and Marshall, in More's ‘Epigrams’ (1638) and Houbraken in Birch's ‘Heads’ (1741) have also engraved portraits after Holbein.
More was an omnivorous reader. All the chief classical authors were at his command. Plato, Lucian, and the Greek anthology specially appealed to him; and of Latin writers he most frequently quoted Plautus, Terence, Horace, and Seneca. St. Augustine's works were often in his hands, and he had studied deeply the canon law and the ‘Magister Sententiarum;’ but it is doubtful if he were well versed in either scholastic or patristic literature. Of the works of contemporaries he laughed over Sebastian Brandt's ‘Narrenschiff’ (epigram in Brixium), and had derived the fullest satisfaction from the writings of such champions of the new learning as Pico della Mirandola and his friends Erasmus and Budseus. Erasmus's Latin version of the New Testament he studied with unalloyed admiration. His own contributions to literature, apart from the ‘Utopia,’ are of greater historic than æsthetic value. His best English poem, ‘A Pageant of Life,’ written to illustrate some tapestry in his father's house, is serious in thought and forcible in expression, but is not informed by genuine poetic genius. His Latin verse and prose are scholarly and fluent, and, although in the epigrams a coarse jest often does duty for point, they embody much shrewd satire on the follies and vices of mankind. His English prose in his controversial tracts is simple and direct: he delights in well-contested argument thrown into the form of a dialogue, and he is fertile in unexpected illustration and witty anecdote. He quotes his opponent's views with great verbal accuracy, but repeatedly descends to personal abuse, which appears childish to the modern reader. His devotional works, although often rising to passages of fervid eloquence, are mainly noticeable for their sincerity and inordinate length. For two centuries More was regarded in catholic Europe as one of the glories of English literature. In 1663 Cominges, the French ambassador at Charles Il's court, when invited by his master to enumerate eminent English authors, recognised only three as worthy of mention, More and two others Bacon and Buchanan (Jusserand, French Ambassador, p. 205).
More's ‘Utopia’—his greatest literary effort—was written in Latin, and, unlike his controversial tracts, which he wrote in English, was addressed to the learned world. It is in two books—the second composed while on his first embassy to the Low Countries in 1515, the first after his return to London in 1516. In the first book More relates that while at Antwerp he had been introduced by Erasmus's friend, Peter Giles, to a Portuguese mariner, Raphael Hythlodaye, who had made several voyages with Amerigo Vespucci to the New World. The man, who is a wholly fictitious personage, informs More that on the last voyage he was, at his own wish, left behind near Cape Frio, and had thence made his way to the island of Utopia, where he found in operation an ideal constitution. The word ‘Utopia’ is formed from ού and τόπος, and is rendered in More's and most of his friends' Latin correspondence by ‘Nusquama,’ i.e. nowhere, while Budæus playfully paraphrases it as ‘Udepotia,’ from ούδέποτε, and Sir Walter Scott translated it by ‘Kennaquhair.’ The supposition that it is derived from εύ τόπος—‘a place of felicity’ has nothing to support it (cf. Notes and Queries, 7th ser. v. 101, 229, 371). To More's question whether Raphael had visited England, he replies that he had spent some time there, and reports at length a conversation which he had with Cardinal Morton respecting its social defects. He found, he declares, the labouring classes in the direst poverty, owing to the severity of the criminal law, the substitution of pasture for arable land, the prevalence of high prices, the readiness of princes to engage in war, and the licentiousness and greed of the rich. The labourers were reduced to beasts of burden so that a few rich men might live in idleness and luxury. Raphael suggests as remedies the abolition of capital punishment for theft and the development of agriculture, and urges that the law should be so contrived as to bestow on all men equal portions of riches and commodities. Such a dispensation was ‘the one and only way to the wealth of a community.’ In the second book the traveller describes, by way of contrast to the principles of government prevailing in contemporary Europe, the political and social constitution of the imaginary island of Utopia. The king is an officer elected for life, but removable if suspected of attempting to enslave his people, Communism is the law of the land, and personal liberty is at its zenith. No one is idle, yet the hours of labour are limited to six a day, and all leisure is devoted to the pursuit of the arts, literature, and science, with an occasional game of chess; but each citizen is allowed the fullest freedom in selecting his subject of study. A national system of education is extended as fully to women as to men. Sanitation is practised to perfection. No house is without a garden or abundant supply of fresh water. Hospitals and slaughter-houses are placed outside the towns. All meals are taken in common halls, as in the constitutions of Lycurgus. The Utopians never make leagues or treaties, nor engage in war unless in self-defence. They have few laws and no lawyers. Law-breakers are condemned to slavery until they give promise of amendment. Their philosophy is pure utilitarianism, and recognises the felicity of the body politic as the summum bonum to which the immediate pleasure of the individual citizen must be postponed. In matters of religion the freest toleration is recognised.
More conducts the dialogue between his fictitious traveller, Raphael, and living personages, like Peter Giles, Morton, and himself, with admirable dramatic skill, and a reader may easily be puzzled to detect where the fact ends and the fiction begins. In elaborating the details of his imaginary republic he displays fertile powers of invention, while his satiric reflections on the practices of the diplomatists and statesmen of his own day, especially in Raphael's remarks on leagues and treaties, could not have been bettered by Swift (cf. Brewer, Henry VIII, i. 288-97). But unless the poor-law legislation of Elizabeth's reign can be ascribed to its influence, the ‘Utopia’ cannot be credited with more practical effect than Plato's ‘Republic.’ It doubtless suggested such speculative treatises as Campanella's ‘Civitas Solis,’ Bacon's fragmentary ‘New Atlantis,’ Hobbes's ‘Leviathan,’ Harrington's ‘Oceana,’ and Filmer's ‘Patriarchal.’ In many ways, too, the work anticipates the arguments of modern socialists, and some socialist reformers, despite the facts that monarchy and slavery are essential features of the Utopian commonwealth, have of late years adopted it as their text-book.
More, although an expounder, was no serious champion of a socialistic system. The ‘Utopia’ was mainly an exercise of the imagination, a playful satire on the world as it was (cf. Erasmus, Epist. ii. 1155). To a large extent it was an adaptation of Plato's ‘Republic’ and of the recorded practices of the early Christians, with some reminiscence of St. Augustine's ‘Civitas Dei’ (cf. Plato Republic, transl. by Jowett, Oxford, 1891, Preface). More doubtless believed that classical ideals and the spirit of early mediæval monasticism might be both studied with advantage in an epoch which seemed to him dominated by the avarice of the rich and by too exclusively a mercantile spirit. But he distinctly disavowed any personal belief, in the practicability of communism, the leading principle in his fanciful State. After Raphael had explained his communistic panacea for the poverty of the many, More interposes in his own person the remark, ‘But I am of a contrary opinion’ (p. 69), and argues that ‘continued sedition and bloodshed’ must be the outcome of the abolition of private property. Subsequently in his ‘Supplication of Souls’—his reply to Fish's ‘Supplication of Beggars’—he sought with much vehemence to confute the theory that ‘hand labour’ was alone profitable to a state, and denounced Fish's proposal to confiscate church property on the ground that it would prove a prelude to a disastrous plunder of the rich by the poor. His theological tracts and his personal practice in and out of office amply prove that he viewed religious toleration in workaday life as undermining the foundations of society, and in conflict with laws both human and divine. More's practical opinions on religion and politics must be sought elsewhere than in the ‘Utopia.’
Completed in October 1516, the ‘Utopia’ seems to have been sent in manuscript to Peter Giles, Tunstall, and Erasmus, all of whom were enthusiastic in its praise. Erasmus, who described it as a revelation of the source of all political evils, arranged for its first publication at Thierry Martin's press at Louvain. It appeared in December 1516, with the title, ‘Libellus vere aureus nec minus salutaris quam festivus de optimo reip. statu deque nova Insula Utopia.’ After a rough chart of the island, a fanciful Utopian alphabet, and a Utopian ‘hexastichon,’ appear commendatory letters or poems, by Peter Giles, John Paludanus, Busleyden, Cornelius Graphæus, and Gerardus Noviomagus. The book at once became popular. ‘A burgomaster at Antwerp,’ wrote Erasmus (ii. 963), ‘is so pleased with it that he knows it all by heart,’ and Ulrich von Hutten applied to Erasmus in 1519 for an account of the author. William Budæus described its merits in a letter to Lupset, who caused a second edition to be printed in Paris at the press of Gilles de Gourmont in March 1517. A third and corrected edition—by far the finest of the early issues—appeared with illustrations by Holbein, under Erasmus's auspices, at Froben's press at Basle in 1518, some copies giving the month as March and others as December. The title ran: ‘De Optimo Reipublicæ Statu, deque nova insula Utopia, libellus vere aureus, nec minus salutaris quàm festivus, clarissimi disertissimique viri Thomæ Mori inclytæ civitatis Londinensis civis et vicecomitis;’ with it the Latin epigrams of More and Erasmus were bound up, preceded by ‘Erasmi Querela Pacis undique gentium et alia opuscula.’ Other reissues of the Latin original are dated Vienna, 1519, 4to; Basle, 1520, 4to, with Holbein's border round the title; Louvain, 1548 (Brit. Mus.); Basle, 1563, with Nucerinus's account of More's and Fisher's death; Wittenberg, 1591, 8vo; Frankfort, 1601, 12mo; Cologne, 1629, 12mo; Hanover. 1613, 12mo; Amsterdam, 1629 and 1631, 12mo; Oxford, 1663, 12mo; Glasgow, 1750, 12mo (by Foulis). The ‘Utopia’ was translated into French before it appeared in English. The first French translation, by Jehan Leblond, was issued at Paris by L'Angelier in 1550, and this, corrected by Barthélemy Anneau, reappeared at Lyons (by J. Sangram) in 1559. It has been rendered into French in later years : by Samuel Sorbière (Amsterdam, J. Blaew, 1643); by N. P. Guendeville (Amsterdam, F. L'Honoré, 1715?); and by M. T. Rousseau, Paris, 1780, 2nd edit. 1789).
The ‘Utopia’ has been thrice translated into English. The earliest version, that by Raphe Robinson [q. v.], appeared in 1551. The title ran : ‘A fruteful and pleasaunt Worke of the beste State of a publyque Weale, and of the newe yle called Utopia; written in Latine by Syr Thomas More, knyght, and translated into Englyshe by Ralph Robynson, Citizen and Goldsmythe of London, at the procurement, and earnest request of George Tadlowe, Citezein and Haberdassher of the same Citie. Imprinted at London by Abraham Vele, dwelling in Paul's Churcheyarde at the Sygne of the Lambe. Anno 1551,’ 8vo, bl. l. (Brit. Mus.) After the dedication to William Cecil is More's epistle to Peter Giles, which is wanting in later impressions. Robinson's version was reissued in 1556 (Brit. Mus.); 1597 (ib.); 1624 (ib., dedicated to Cresacre More); 1639 (ib.); 1808 (elaborately edited by T. F. Dibdin); in 1869 in Professor Arber's ‘Reprints;’ in 1878, edited by R. Roberts of Boston, Lincolnshire; in 1880 in the Pitt Press Series, ed. Lumby; in 1886 in Cassell's National Library, ed. Morley; and in 1893 at the Kelmscott Press, edited by Mr. William Morris.
The second translator, Gilbert Burnet, published his version in 1684, and reissues are dated Dublin, 1737; Glasgow, 1743; Oxford, 1751 (edited by Thomas Williamson); Oxford, 1753 (edited by ‘a gentleman of Oxford’); London, 1758 (in Warner's ‘Memoirs of More’); London, 1795, in ‘Political Classics,’ vol. iii., with Rousseau's ‘Social Compact;’ London, 1838, in ‘The Masterpieces of Prose Literature,’ vol. iv. (edited by J. A. St. John); London, 1849; London, 1850 (in John Minter Morgan's Phœnix Library). The third translator, Arthur Cayley, published his rendering in his ‘Memoirs of More,’ London, 1808 (2 vols.), ii. 1-145. The ‘History of Richard III’ and More's Latin poems are here also reprinted.
A German translation appeared at Basle in 1524 and at Leipzig in 1753 and 1846. An Italian version, by A. F. Doni, was issued at Venice in 1548; a Dutch version at Antwerp in 1553 and 1562; and a Spanish version at Madrid in 1790.
I. More's English Works.—Two poetic tracts in English were published by More in his lifetime, viz. ‘A mery jest how a sergeant would learne to playe the frere,’ London, by Julian Notary (reissued in the ‘Workes,’ 1557, and commemorated in Laneham's ‘Account of Captain Coxe's Library’ in 1575); and ‘The Boke of the fayre Gentylwoman that no man shoulde put his truste or confydence in: that is to say, Lady Fortune.’ London, 8vo, n. d., by Robert Wyer (unique copy at Lambeth). A few verses are in French; extracts only appear in More's English works, 1557; the whole is reprinted in Huth's ‘Fugitive Tracts,’ 1875, 1st ser.
In 1510 More published his ‘Life of John Picus, Earl of Mirandula, a great Lord of Italy, an excellent, cunning man in all sciences, and virtuous of living, with divers Epistles and other works of the said John Picus,’ printed by Wynkyn de Worde in 1510 in a small black letter 4to (Brit. Mus.) It was translated from the Latin of Pico's nephew, Giovanni Francesco Pico (Venice, 1498). More's dedication was addressed to his ‘sister in Christ, Joyeuce Leigh,’ possibly a nun. At the close is a paraphrase in English verse, from Pico's Latin prose, of ‘Twelve Rules of a Christian Life.’ An admirable reprint, edited by J. M. Rigg, esq., appeared in Nutt's Tudor Library in 1890.
More's incomplete ‘History of Richard III,’ with the life of Edward V, is said by his nephew Rastell to have been completed in 1513 (English Workes). It first appeared in an incorrect version in Grafton's continuation of Hardyng's ‘Chronicle’ (1543), and was largely used in Hall's ‘Chronicle’(1548). It was first printed by Rastell from an authentic copy in More's ‘Workes’ in 1557, where the narrative ceased with the murder of the princes by Richard III. A Latin version appeared in the collected edition of More's Latin works in 1566. Between the English and Latin renderings are important differences, and the Latin seems to be the original, of which the English is a paraphrase. The tone is strongly Lancastrian, and often implies that the writer was a contemporary witness of some of the events described. This More could not have been, and the theory that Cardinal Morton wrote the work in Latin, which is inferior in style to More's authentic Latin prose, and that More supplied the English version, deserves careful consideration. Sir John Harington, according to his ‘Metamorphosis of Ajax’ (1596), heard that Morton was the author; while Sir George Buc [q. v.], in his ‘History of Richard III’ (1646), says that Morton wrote ‘a book in Latin against King Richard, which afterwards came into the hands of Mr. More, sometime his servant.… This book was lately in the hands of Mr. Roper of Eltham.’ Sir Henry Ellis (1777-1869) [q. v.] believed, with less reason, the English version to be by Morton and the Latin by More. The English work was edited by William Sheares, completing the reign of Richard III, mainly from Hall's text, in 1641. Mr. Singer reprinted it from Rastell's text in 1821, with a continuation from Grafton and Hall, and it was edited by Dr. Lumby in 1883 for the Pitt Press Series. It also appears in Kennett's ‘Complete History,’ 1706, fol. vol. i. (Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. i. 105, by Mr. James Gairdner).
More's English controversial works—all of which were published by his brother-in-law, John Rastell, or his nephew, William Rastell—began with ‘A dyaloge of Syr Thomas More, knt., one of the council of our sovereign lord the king, and chancellor of his duchy of Lancaster. Wherein be treatyd divers matters, as of the veneration and worshyp of Ymagys and relygues, prayyng to sayntys and goyng on pylgrymage, wyth many othere thyngys touchyng the pestylent sect of Luther and Tyndale, by the tone bygone in Saxony, and by the tother laboryd to be brought into England. Made in the year of our Lord 1528,’ London, 1529, 4to (by John Rastell), and again, 1530 (Lambeth Libr. and Brit. Mus.), and ‘newly oversene,’ 1531 (by William Rastell). In form it was a report of a conversation taking place in More's library at Chelsea, between More and a young man studying at a university, who was attracted by Lutheran doctrine as set forth by Tindal. The youth had been sent by a friend to More, to be drawn to the right path. It is in four books. The first two defend the theory and practice of Catholicism, the third denounces Tindal's translation of the New Testament as heretical, the fourth is a personal attack on Luther.
There followed ‘Supplycacyon of Soulys,’ London, by W. Rastell, n.d. fol. (1529? Lambeth Libr. and Brit. Mus.), a reply to the ‘Supplycacyon of the Beggars’ by Simon Fish [q. v.] The clergy had been represented by Fish as idle ‘thieves’ and responsible for the distress prevailing among the English labouring classes. The ‘souls of the dead in purgatory’ debate in More's treatise the law of mortmain, currency questions, the evil of a general confiscation of church property, and defend the doctrine of purgatory and prayers for the dead (cf. Foxe, iv. 664 sq.)
‘The Confutacyon of Tyndale's Answere’ [to More's ‘Dyaloge’], London, by Wyllyam Rastell, 1532, fol. (Brit. Mus.), contains three books of More's reply to Tindal's ‘Answere.’ Six more followed in ‘The second parte of the Confutacyon of Tyndal's Answere, in which is also confuted the Chyrche that Tyndale deuyseth and the Chyrche also that Frere Barus deuyseth,’ London, by W. Rastell, 1533, fol. (Brit. Mus.) In the last book More dealt with the writings of Robert Barnes [q. v.]
In ‘The Apologye of Syr Thomas More, Knyght, made by him Anno 1533 after he had geuen over the office of Lord Chancellour of Englande’ (by W. Rastell), 1533, 16mo (Brit. Mus.), More defended himself against attack on the grounds of undue length and excessive personal abuse in his controversial writing; he renews the attack on Tindal and Barnes and on the anonymous author of ‘The Pacifier of the Division between the Spirituality and the Temporality,’ and defends a rigorous treatment of heretics.
This 'was answered in an anonymous treatise entitled ‘Salem and Bizance,’ to which More retorted within a month in the ‘Debellacyon of Salem and Bizance’ (London, 1533, 8vo, by W. Rastell), another vindication of the severe punishment of heresy (Lambeth Libr. and Brit. Mus.) ‘A Letter impugnynge the erronyouse wrytyng of John Fryth against the blessed Sacrament of the Aultare,’ London, 1533, by W. Rastell, 12mo, was answered by John Frith [q.v.] and by R. Crowley in the same year. ‘The Answer to the first part of the poysoned Booke which a nameless Hereticke hath named "The Supper of the Lord, Anno 1533,"’ London, by W. Rastell, 1534, 8vo (Brit. Mus.), was mainly an exposition of the sixth chapter of the Gospel of St. John. A promised second book was never written. ‘The nameless Heretic’ was probably George Joye [q. v.], and not Tindal, as More assumes. Joye replied to More in ‘The Subuersion of More's False Foundacion,’ Emden, 1534.
When in the Tower, More wrote an ascetic treatise, chiefly for the comfort of his own family, ‘A Dyaloge of Comfort against Tribulation.’ He represented it as ‘made by an Hungarian in Latin, and translated out of Latin into French, and out of French into English.’ A manuscript is in the library of Corpus Christi College, Oxford (No. 37). It was first printed by Richard Tottel in 1553; and again by John Fowler at Antwerp in 1573, with a dedication to Jane Dormer, duchess of Feria [q. v.] It reappeared in the English Catholic Library in 1847.
William Rastell, More's nephew, to whom many of his manuscripts seem to have passed, collected most of his English writings in ‘The Workes of Sir Thomas More, Knyght, sometyme Lord Chancellour of England; wrytten by him in the Englysh tonge. Printed at London, at the costes of John Cawod, John Waly, and Richarde Tottel. Anno 1557,’ fol. 1458 pp. It is dedicated to Queen Mary by Rastell. The table of contents precedes an index by Thomas Paynell [q. v.] After his English poems come the ‘Pico,’ ‘Richard III,’ ‘The Dyaloge,’ and all his controversial publications. The previously unpublished material includes an unfinished Treatise ‘uppon these words of Holy Scripture, " Memorare novissima et in eternum non peccabis,"’ dated in 1522, and dealing with reflections on death, and several devotional works written by More in the Tower, viz. ‘Treatice to receaue the blessed Body of our Lorde, sacramentally and virtually both;’ ‘Upon the Passion’ (unfinished); ‘An Exposition of a Part of the Passion’ (translated by More's granddaughter, Mary Bassett, from the Latin); ‘Certein deuout and vertuouse Instruccions, Meditacions, and Prayers,’ and some letters written just before his death to his family and friends, including his pathetic correspondence with his daughter Margaret, which is calendared in ‘Letters and Papers of Henry VIII,’ 1534, vi. 429 sq. In the copy of the volume in the Grenville Library at the British Museum is an unpaged leaf after p. 1138—at the close of the ‘ Answer to the Supper ’—supplying More's apology ‘to the Christen reader’ for a few printer's blunders. Thirty-one apophthegms attributed to More appear in a collection of ‘Witty Apophthegms by King James, King Charles, the Marquis of Worcester, Francis Lord Bacon, and Sir Thomas Moore.’ London, 1658, 12mo (pp. 155-68). A selection from his English writings by Father Bridgett—‘The Wit and Wisdom of Sir Thomas More’—was published in 1891.
II. Latin Works (other than the ‘Utopia’) 1. ‘Luciani Dialogi … compluria opuscula longe festinissimo ab Erasmo Roterodamo et Thoma Moro interpretibus optimis in Latinorum lingua traducta hac sequentur serie,’ Paris, ‘ex ædibus Ascensianis,’ 1506, fol. (Brit. Mus.) More translated four dialogues, the Cynicus,Menippus or Necromantia, Philopseudes, and ‘Pro tyrannicida;’ to the last More appended a ‘declamatio’ on the other side. These he dedicated to Thomas Ruthal, secretary to Henry VIII (afterwards bishop of Durham), with much praise of Lucian's wit and wisdom. Another edition appeared at Paris in 1514; a third at Venice (by Aldus) in 1516; a fourth at Basle by Froben in 1521, and a fifth at Leyden in 1528. An English verse rendering of the ‘Necromantia,’ published by John Rastell about 1520, may be by More, as well as the prose version of the ‘Philopseudes,’ appended to J. Wagstaffe's ‘Question of Witchcraft Debated,’ 1669. 2. ‘Epigrammata clarissimi disertissimique viri Thomæ Mori Britanni, pleraque e Græcis versa,’ Basle, March 1518—an excerpt from the Basle edition of the ‘Utopia;’ a separate edition. 1520, ‘ad emendatum exemplar ipsius autoris excusa.’ It is preceded by ‘Progymnasmata Thomæ Mori et Guilielmi Lilii sodalium,’ renderings of the Greek anthology. The epigrams were collected by Erasmus from scattered manuscripts, and were printed by Froben under the supervision of a scholar known as Beatus Rhenanus. The latter inscribed the volume to Bilibald Pirckheimer, a senator of Nuremberg, whose position in the councils of the emperor is compared to that of More at the English court. The Latin verses by More presented to Henry VIII on his marriage to Queen Catherine, which are printed in the volume, are preserved in a small illuminated manuscript in Brit. Mus. MS. Cotton Titus D. IV. More's ‘Epigrammata’ were republished in London in 1638, and forty are translated in Thomas Pecke's ‘Parnassi Puerperium’ (1659), pp. 135-48. 3. ‘Thomæ Mori Epistola ad Germanum Brixium: qui quum Morvs in Libellum eius quo contumeliosis Mendacjisincesserat Angliam lusisset aliquot epigrammata, ædidit adversus Morum libellum qui … suum infamat authorem,’ London, 1520, 4to (by R. Pynson), Brit. Mus. 4. ‘Eruditissimi viri G. Rossei opus … quo refellit … Lutheri calumnias, quibus … Angliæ … regem Henricum … octavum scurra turpissimus insectatur: excusum denuo … adjunctis indicibus opera … J. Carcellij,’ London, 1523, 4to. 5. ‘Epistola contra Pomeranum,’ Louvain, 1568, an attack on a German Lutheran, Johann Bugenhagen, written about 1526, and published by John Fowler, an English exile, from More's autograph, doubtless derived from his secretary, John Harris. 6. 'Thomæ Mori v.c. Dissertatio Epistolica de aliquot sui temporis Theologastrorum ineptijs deque correctione translationis vulgatæ N. Testamenti. Ad Martinum Dorpium Theologum Lovaniensem,’ Leyden, 1625, 12mo, preceded by Erasmus's letter to More dated Louvain, 1520. 7. ‘Epistola T. Mori ad Academiam Oxon. Cui adjecta sunt quædam poemata … in mortem … R. Cottoni et T. Alleni [by Richard James q. v.],’ Oxford, 1633, 4to.
The first collected edition of More's Latin works appeared at Basle in 1563, ‘apud Episcopum F.,’ as ‘Thomæ Mori … Lucubrationes ab innumeris mendis repurgatæ.’ This includes the ‘Utopia,’ all the Latin poems, and the renderings of Lucian, with the epistle to Dorpius (No. 6, supra). A fuller collection, prefaced by the Latin epitaph, and including the Latin version of ‘Richard III’ and the ‘Rossei opus,’ was issued at Louvain in 1565, and again in 1566 in folio (‘Omnia opera Latina quorum aliqua nunc primum in lucem prodeunt’). In 1689 at Frankfort-on-Maine and Leipzig appeared the completest collection, ‘Opera omnia quotquot reperiri potuerant ex Basileensi anni 1563, et Lovaniensi anni 1566, editionibus depromta.’ Stapleton's ‘Life of More’ forms the preface; an ‘expositio’ on the Passion, ‘Precatio ex Psalmis collecta,' and letters to Bonvisi and others are included. The first collected edition of Erasmus's ‘Epistolæ’ (London, 1642) supplies much of More's correspondence with Erasmus, while an appended and separately paged ‘Auctarium Epistolarum ex Thoma Moro’ (70 pp.) contains More's letter to Erasmus ‘de Brixio,’ the letter to Dorpius entitled there ‘Apologia pro Moria Erasmi,’ and letters to Giles (Ægidius), Brixius, and Bonvisi. Le Clerc's great collection of Erasmus's correspondence (Leyden, 1706) gives nineteen of More's letters to Erasmus and twenty-four of Erasmus's letters to More.
By his first wife, Jane, eldest daughter of John Colte of Newhall, More left three daughters, Margaret, Elizabeth, and Cecilia, and a son, John (1510-1547), the youngest child. His second wife, Mrs. Alice Middleton, by whom he had no children, survived him, and received an annuity of 20l. for life on 16 March 1536 (Pat. Rot.} Of the son More is reported to have said that his wife had prayed so long for a boy that now she had one who would be a boy as long as he lived. Wood says that he was ‘little better than an idiot’ (cf. Roper, Life, ed. Hearne). But his father praised his elegance and wit as a correspondent in Latin; and just before his death he wrote ‘His towardly carriage towards me pleased me very much.’ Erasmus styles him a youth of great hopes, and dedicated ‘Aristotle’ to him in 1531 (Epist. 1059), while Grynæus paid him a like compliment in his edition of ‘Plato’ (Basle, 1534), when he credited him with the highest accomplishment. On his father's death he was committed to the Tower and was condemned for refusing the oath of supremacy, but was set free, and probably retired to Yorkshire. He had married in 1529 Ann (1511-1577), the wealthy heiress of Edward Cresacre of Barnborough, Yorkshire. A book of hours, now belonging to Baron August Edward von Druffel of Münster, Westphalia, supplies notes in his autograph of the births of his children (Notes and Queries, 8th ser. ii. 121-2). After his death in 1547 his widow received from Queen Mary a re-grant of his grandfather's confiscated property at North Mimms; she afterwards married (13 June 1559) a Yorkshire neighbour, George West, nephew of Sir William West, but he died in June 1572, when she conveyed her property to her son, Thomas More (1531-1606). He had married in 1553 Mary Scrope, daughter of John Scrope of Hambledon, Buckinghamshire, and niece of Henry, lord Scrope of Bolton. Thomas's will was proved in 1606. He seems to have been an ardent although concealed catholic. Of his three brothers, two, Edward [q. v.] and one also named Thomas (b. 1538), left children; but the latter's sons fell into poverty and have not been traced. Of the elder Thomas's thirteen children—eight daughters and five sons—the eldest, John, who figures in the Cockthorpe picture, died young. The second, Thomas (1565-1625), took orders in the English College at Rome, was chaplain to Magdalene, lady Montacute (d. 1608), and laboured later at Rome and in Spain in behalf of the English catholic clergy (Dodd, Church History; Wood, Athenæ). To his fourth brother, Cresacre, Thomas the priest resigned the property both at Barnborough and North Mimms.
Cresacre More (1572-1649) resided at More-Place or Gobions, in the parish of North Mimms, Hertfordshire. He remained a layman, although a fervent catholic, and at Gobions he wrote his ‘Life of Sir Thomas More,’ dedicated to Queen Henrietta Maria, without date or place, probably printed at Louvain in 1631, 4to; it was long erroneously assigned to his brother Thomas, who died in 1625. It was reprinted in 1726, and again in 1828, with preface and notes by the Rev. Joseph Hunter. More died on 26 March 1649. He married a daughter of Thomas Gage, and a descendant of Sir John Gage [q. v.] ; she died on 15 July 1618. Cresacre had a son Thomas (d. 1660), and two daughters, Helen and Bridget.
Helen, born at Lowe Luton, Essex, on 25 March 1606, resolving to take the veil, changed her name to Gertrude More (1606-1633), and with eight other ladies crossed in 1623 to Douay, proceeding thence to Cambray, where she spent the rest of her life as a nun ‘of the holy order of S. Bennet and English congregation of our Ladies of Comfort in Cambray.’ She died on 18 Aug. 1633. In 1658 appeared ‘The Spiritual Exercises of the Most Virtuous and Religious D. Gertrude More,’ Paris, collected and arranged from her manuscripts by her confessor, Father Baker; these were published in another form, London, 1873, 32mo, by Father Henry Collins. The latter also published a ‘Life of Dame Gertrude More,’ London, 1877, 12mo, professing to be from ancient manuscripts, concerning which, however, no information is vouchsafed. Gertrude's sister Bridget was prioress of the English Benedictine nuns at Paris, and died on 11 Oct. 1692, aged 83.
Cresacre's son Thomas, who married a daughter of Sir Basil Brooke, was a royalist, and lost much of his property. His son Basil sold Gobions, and lived at Barnborough till his death in 1702. Basil's son, Christopher Cresacre More, had a daughter, Mary, wife of Charles Waterton, esq., of Walton (grandmother of Charles Waterton [q. v.] the naturalist), and a son, Thomas (d. 1739), who married Catherine, daughter of Peter Giffard of White Ladies, and was father of the last descendant of the chancellor in the male line,
Thomas More (1722-1795), a Jesuit from 1766, and a provincial of the order from 1769 till the suppression of the society in 1773. He died at Bath 20 May 1795, and was buried in St. Joseph's catholic chapel at Bristol, where there is a monument with a long Latin inscription in the entrance to the sacristy (Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. xii. 109, 199). One of the Jesuit's sisters, Mary Augustina More (d. 1807), became in 1761 prioress of the English priory of canonesses of St.Augustine at Bruges, where she claimed to preserve as a sacred relic her martyred ancestor's hat; but in 1794 the French revolution compelled her and her nuns to retire to England. They found an asylum at Hengrave Hall, Suffolk, the seat of Sir Thomas Gage, till 1802, when they repurchased the convent at Bruges and returned to it. Bridget, another of the Jesuit's sisters, married, first, Peter Metcalfe (d. 1757?), and her son, Thomas Peter Metcalfe, was father of Thomas Peter Metcalfe (1794-1838), who assumed the surname of More and died unmarried, while his sister, Maria Teresa, married Charles Eyston, esq. (d. 1857), of East Hendred, and left issue (cf., for full pedigree of descendants of the chancellor's son John, Foley, Records of Jesuits, xii. 702 sq.)
Of More's daughters, the eldest, Margaret Roper (1505-1544)—the ‘Meg’ of her father's correspondence—was remarkable for her learning, which her father proudly encouraged and Erasmus and Reginald Pole commended. She was of a charmingly sympathetic disposition, gentle and affectionate in all domestic relations. She is said to have ‘disputed of phylosophy’ before Henry VIII (Collier, English Dramatic Poetry, i. 113), and was reckoned the equal in culture of Anne Cooke, Bacon's mother, and of her friend Mrs. Margaret Clements [q. v.] (Coke, Debate, 1550; Collier, Bibl. Cat. i. 447). She married William Roper of Eltham and Canterbury, prothonotary in the court of Canterbury, when about twenty. Her husband's accounts of her interviews with her father when in the Tower are among the most pathetic passages in biography, and she is commemorated in Tennyson's ‘Dream of Fair Women’ as the woman ‘who clasp'd in her last trance her murdered father's head.’ Dying in 1544, she was buried at Chelsea, leaving many children. Her last male descendant, Edward, died unmarried at Almanza in 1708, and his sister Elizabeth was wife of Charles Henshaw, of whose daughters Susanna married Sir Rowland Winn of Nostell; Elizabeth was wife of Sir Edward Dering; and Catherine was wife of Sir William Strickland.
More's second daughter, Elizabeth, married William Daunce, son of Sir John Daunce, apparently about 1535 (cf. Pat. Rot. 12 June, 27 Henry VIII), and the third daughter, Cecilia, was wife of Giles Heron, and lived at Shacklewell, a hamlet of Hackney; she seems to have had a son Thomas (Notes and Queries, 7th ser. ii. 35).
[The earliest life of More, The Life Arraignement and Death of that Mirrour of all true Honour and Vertue, Syr Thomas More, was first published at Paris, 1626, with a dedication to the Countess of Banbury. It is by William Roper, More's son-in-law, and was reprinted by Hearne in 1716. An edition from a better manuscript was issued by the Rev. John Lewis in 1729; other reissues of Lewis's editions are dated 1731, 1765 (Dublin), and 1817, carefully edited by the Rev. S. W. Singer. It is full of attractive anecdote, and is the original source of all information respecting More's personal history. Manuscript copies are in Harl. MSS. 6166, 6254, 6362, and 7030. In 1556 Ellis Hey wood wrote Il Moro (Florence), dedicated to Cardinal Pole, a fanciful account of More's relations with his learned guests at Chelsea. In 1588 appeared at Antwerp Stapleton's Tres Thomæ (i.e. St. Thomas, Thomas à Beckett, and More). Stapleton interweaves the narrative of Roper with passages from More's correspondence and notices of him in contemporary works. Contemporary English translations exist in manuscript in the Bodleian and Lambeth Libraries; it was reissued at Cologne in 1612, and again in 1689, both in the collected edition of the Latin works, and in a separate volume at Gratz. A life written in Queen Mary's reign by Nicholas Harpsfield is in Harleian MS. 6253, and another, written in 1599, with a preface signed ‘B. R.,’ appears in Wordsworth's Ecclesiastical Biog. ii. 143-85. More's great-grandson, Cresacre More (noticed above), a strong catholic, first published, probably in Paris, a new life, largely dependent on Stapleton and Roper, but adding many details, about 1631. This was reissued in 1726, and by the Rev. Joseph Hunter in 1828. Hunter first showed that Cresacre, and not his brother Thomas, was the author. J. Hoddesdon's Tho. Mori Vita et Exitus, or the History of Sir Thomas More, London, 1652, 12mo, is a mere compilation. An Italian life by Dominico Regi, first published at Milan in 1675, was reissued at Bologna in 1681. Thomas Morus aus den Quellen bearbeitet, by Dr. T. G. Rudhart, Nuremberg, 1829, is of value. Sir James Mackintosh's useful Life (1830) in Lardner's Cabinet Cyclopædia was separately reissued in 1844. But by far the best modern life, although unsatisfactory in its treatment of More's attitude to Lutherans, is by Father T. E. Bridgett, Life of Blessed Thomas More, 1891. More's Controversial Tracts, and the replies to them by Tindal, Frith, and Joye, give many biographic hints; while the Erasmi Epistolæ—especially that to Ulrich von Hutten, 23 July 1519, No. 447—are invaluable; cf.Le Clerc's edition (Leyden, 1706). Nisard's Renaissance et Réforme, Paris, 1855, contains an admirable essay on More. Philomorus, a brief Examination of the Latin Poems of Sir Thomas More, by John Howard Marsden [q. v.], 1842, 2nd edit. 1878, gives a gossipy account of More without quoting any authorities. Other sources are: Foss's Judges of Engl. v. 203; Lord Campbell's Chancellors; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, i. 79 seq.; Cooper's Athenæ Cantabr. i. 54; Henry VIII's Letters and Papers, with the Calendars of the Venetian and Spanish State Papers; Seebohm's Oxford Reformers; Lupton's Colet; Faulkner's Chelsea, 1829, i. 92-126; Clutterbuck's Hertfordshire, i. 449 sqq.; Woltmann's Life of Holbein (1874); Strype's Works; Burnet's Reformation; Ellis's Original Letters; Brewer's Henry VIII ; Friedmann's Anne Boleyn; Chauncey's Martyrs. Dibdin's edition of the Utopia, 1808, and Professor Arber's, 1869, both supply many useful bibliographical details; cf. also Lowndes's Bibl. Man. ed. Bohn, Maitland's Books at Lambeth, and Brit. Mus. Cat. Mr. William Morris's preface to his reprint of the Utopia is suggestive. Miss Anne Manning's Household of Sir Thomas More (1851) is a fanciful but attractive sketch. A play on More's career, written about 1590, was edited by Dyce for the Shakespeare Society in 1844 from Harl. MS. 7368, and a tragedy by James Hurdis [q. v.] was issued in 1792. In Southey's Sir Thomas More, or Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society, 1829, More's ghost is introduced as a sympathetic interlocutor in a discussion on the evils of modern progress.]