THE LIFE OF THOMAS MORE by Peter Ackroyd

THE LIFE OF THOMAS MORE

KIRKUS REVIEW

A vividly evocative portrait of the lawyer and statesman who was “the King’s good servant, but God’s first,” from award- winning biographer and novelist Ackroyd (Blake, 1996; T.S. Eliot, 1984; etc.) Thomas More was born in 1479 in Milk Street, in what is now the center of London’s financial district, to Agnes and John More, a tradesman-turned-lawyer. Thomas would be one of the great intellects of his time, and Ackroyd gives particular attention to young More’s rare and prolonged education: his apprenticeship at the court of the learned Archbishop and Chancellor John Morton of Canterbury, his grounding in the liberal arts at Oxford University, and his legal education at New Inn and Lincoln’s Inn. More’s upbringing and education, Ackroyd shows, left their permanent imprint upon him: His extensive training in dialectical logic served him well at the bar and on the bench, his time with Archbishop Morton made him familiar with the world of prelates and statecraft, and his Latin and literary training fitted him for his career as a humanist. Ackroyd vibrantly evokes the devout London in which More lived, where even successful lawyers meditated on life’s transience and participated in endless rounds of prayer and ritual. He also gives an intimate picture of More’s affectionate relations with his family and tells the familiar story of More’s rise to favor in the court of Henry VIII, his friendship with Erasmus, his tenure as lord chancellor, and his fall from grace as the crisis of the king’s divorce of Catherine of Aragon worsened. Ultimately, More’s constancy to his church outweighed his obeisance to the king: Ackroyd gives what amounts to a transcript of the trial in which More refused to endorse Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn, and narrates his imprisonment in the Tower of London and execution in 1535. A limpidly written and superbly wrought portrait of a complex hero who was truly, as his friend Erasmus stated, “omnium horarum homo”—a “man for all seasons.” (8 pages color, 8 pages black-and-white illustrations) (Book-of-the-Month Club/Quality Paperback Book Club/ History Book Club selection)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-385-47709-0
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: Talese/Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1998




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