The Last Letters of Thomas More

By DeMolen, Richard L. | The Catholic Historical Review, October 2002 | Go to article overview
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The Last Letters of Thomas More


DeMolen, Richard L., The Catholic Historical Review


The Last Letters of Thomas More. Edited and with an introduction by Alvaro De Silva. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. 2000. Pp. viii, 214. $20.00.) Alvaro De Silva, who teaches theology at Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in Merrimack, New Hampshire, has produced a collection of nineteen letters by Sir Thomas More and five letters to him or about him. The first five letters in this volume were written by More to Thomas Cromwell, royal adviser in ecclesiastical affairs, or to King Henry VIII before his arrest and imprisonment in the Tower of London (April, 1534). The other letters were retrieved from the Tower by William Rastell (d. 1565), a nephew of More, after the execution of his uncle.

The text of these letters is a modernized version of the definitive edition that was published by Elizabeth E Rogers, The Correspondence of Sir.Thomas More (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1947). Father De Silva provides the reader with helpful and insightful footnotes, commentary, glossary, and bibliography. His introduction is exceptionally perceptive and is anchored on three key concepts: conscience, comfort, and company. The index, however, is woefully inadequate. Under"Erasmus of Rotterdam,"for example, there are five references; but in point of fact there are numerous unidentified references to Erasmus in the text on pages 140, 144, 145, 148, 156, 162, 165, and 184. Moreover, there are no references to Anne of Cleves (p. 132), Elizabeth I (pp. 132 and 136), and Francis I (pp. 149 and 168), even though these figures appear in the text. St. Thomas More was imprisoned in London for fourteen months. During this period, he wrote two "Tower Works" and many letters-only some of which have survived. Most of these surviving letters were written to or received from members of More's family. Eight of the letters were written to his beloved eldest daughter, Margaret Roper, and two letters were written by Margaret to her father.

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