Thomas More Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Thomas More, son of a British lawyer and judge, was born in London on February 7, 1478. He was provided the best educational opportunities from his earliest years, and at the age of thirteen he became a page to the archbishop of Canterbury, a post he held until he was sent to Oxford University in 1492. More received a liberal arts education based on study of the Latin and Greek classics, upon which he relied later in life in his mature writings as a Christian humanist. His father, intending his son for a legal career and suspicious of the teachings at the university, withdrew his son and sent him to London in 1494 to begin the study of law at the Inns of Court and at Lincoln’s Inn (1496).

Sometime later, probably in 1497, More became interested in the religious life, taking upon himself the discipline of the Carthusian order during the period 1499 to 1503. His intellect and personality promised him a bright future, and at age twenty-six, in 1504, he was elected to Parliament. There More aroused the anger of Henry VII and was forced to retire temporarily from public life. But he continued training his mind, devoting himself to the study of music, French, mathematics, and astronomy. Turning again to religion, he considered becoming a priest. Marriage to Jane Cult (or Colt) in 1505 ended his dilemma. The young couple settled in Bucklesbury, where they were twice visited by Desiderius Erasmus, who, as a fellow Christian humanist concerned with reforming the Church and society, dedicated his The Praise of Folly (1509) to More. Domestic life was broken by his wife’s death in 1511, but he remarried within a short time, taking as his wife a widow named Alice Middleton.

After the death of Henry VII in 1509, More resumed his public career and soon attracted the favorable attention of both Henry VIII and his chancellor Thomas Wolsey. In 1518...

(The entire section is 763 words.)