Thomas More was one of our most insightful political thinkers.
If book reviews are villages and books are towns, then The Essential Works of Thomas More is a mighty metropolis long in the making. In one sense, it is no surprise that a single volume of Thomas More’s works has not been published until now. King Henry VIII beheaded his old friend and lord chancellor—“merry master More”—when More refused to accept Henry as the self-declared head of both church and state. This suddenly made Europe’s most celebrated poet-philosopher-statesman a complicated fellow to publish. Then there was the Sturm und Drang of the Reformation, which, as More foresaw, tore Christendom apart with war and enmity between its princes. There was no longer the same freedom, funding, or desire in the academy to collect and properly publish More’s many works of poetry, history, political philosophy, theology, polemic, correspondence, and prayer.
Nevertheless, and despite much controversy, More has grown in reputation and renown over the centuries. In the lifetime after his death, one Anglican bishop of London saw fit to preach that More ought “to be honored” as an example for all leaders—“for his zeal,” though not “for his religion.” This was at a service in Saint Paul’s Cathedral before Parliament and various ministers serving Henry VIII’s daughter, Queen Elizabeth. Elizabethan playwrights, among them
Subscribe now for unlimited access.
The most intelligent and engaging periodical in America for less than $2 per month.