Sir Thomas More Essay, Research Paper
Sir Thomas More was born in London in 1478, and died on Tower Hill in 1535, along with Bishop John Fisher of Rochester. In 1935 he was canonized, along with Fisher, as a martyr for the Catholic faith. Feast Day, June 22.
Introductory Note [Harvard Classics]
The accompanying intimate account of the life of Sir Thomas More by his son-in-law, William Roper, renders a biographical sketch unnecessary.
While More was a young law student in Lincoln’s Inn, he is known to have delivered in the church of St. Lawrence a course of lectures on Saint Augustine’s “City of God”; and some have supposed that it was this that suggested to him the composition of the “Utopia.” The book itself was begun in Antwerp in 1515, when More was in Flanders engaged in negotiations on behalf of the English wool merchants, and results of his observations among the towns of the Low Countries are evident in some of the details of his imaginary state. The framework seems to have been suggested by an incident related in the narrative of the fourth voyage of Amerigo Vespucci, in whose company Raphael Hythloday is represented as having sailed.
In the elaborating of his model society, More drew on Plato’s “Republic” and on Saint Augustine for a number of important features. But the work as a whole is the outcome of the author’s own political thinking and observation; though it is not to be supposed that he believed in all the institutions and customs which he describes. In ordinary intercourse, More was fond of a jest, and many, we are told, found it hard to know when he spoke seriously. Much of this whimsical humor is implicit in the “Utopia”; and while it contains elements in which he had a firm belief, it is more than probable that much of it was in the highest degree tentative, and some of it consciously paradoxical.
In spite of this uncertainty as to More’s attitude, the influence of the book, both in imaginative literature and in social theory, has been considerable; and it is the ancestor of a long line of ideal commonwealths. Modern reformers are still finding in its pages suggestions for the society of the future.
The Life Of Sir Thomas More
In hoc signo vinces.
["In this sign, you will conquer"]
Forasmuch as Sir Thomas More, Knight sometime Lord Chancellor of England, a man of singular virtue and of a clear unspotted conscience, (as witnesseth Erasmus), more pure and white than the whitest snow, and of such an angelical wit, as England, he saith, never had the like before, nor never shall again, universally, as well in the laws of our Realm (a study in effect able to occupy the whole life of a man) as in all other sciences, right well studied, was in his days accounted a man worthy famous memory; I William Roper (though most unworthy) his son-in-law by marriage of his eldest daughter, knowing no one man that of him and of his doings understood so much as myself for that I was continually resident in his house by the space of sixteen years and more, thought it therefore my part to set forth such matters touching his life as I could at this present call to remembrance. Among which very many notable things not meet to have been forgotten, through negligence and long continuance of time, are slipped out of my mind. Yet to the intent the same shall not all utterly perish, I have at the desire of divers worshipful friends of mine, though very far from the grace and worthiness of them, nevertheless as far forth as my mean wit, memory and learning would serve me, declared so much thereof as in my poor judgment seemed worthy to be remembered.