G W Bernard

‘Farewell, My Dear Child, & Pray For Me

A Daughter’s Love: Thomas and Margaret More

By

Fourth Estate 378pp £25 order from our bookshop

In the preface to a study of Thomas More published in 2000, John Guy roundly declared: ‘I no longer believe that a truly historical biography of Thomas More can be written.’ That was because ‘the sources are too problematic’. Many of the details of More’s life come to us from the lives written in the sixteenth century by William Roper (his son-in-law), Nicholas Harpsfield and Thomas Stapleton. They wrote long after More had been executed in 1535 for refusing to swear the oath of succession imposed by Henry VIII: an oath that would have committed him to accepting not just Henry’s divorce but also the break with Rome. And since they wrote to vindicate his stand, they cannot be treated as straightforwardly accurate sources. For that reason Guy arranged his earlier book by themes, each chapter title followed by a question mark (for example, ‘Heresy Hunter?’, ‘Politician?’, ‘Acquiescence or Resistance?’).

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • In 'Silenced Voices' reports the ongoing story of the human rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, who has been… ,
    • The mystery of Jack the Ripper's identity has long been agonised over. But what do we know about his victims?… ,
    • A piece of Literary Review history from way back in 1983: John Haffenden talks to the great Iris Murdoch. ,
    • Britain’s only travelling lit fest, the Garden Museum Literary Festival is heading to Houghton Hall, Norfolk, for a… ,
    • 'The 19th-century German sage is not my idea of a pleasant travel companion' goes hiking with Friedr… ,
    • If you want ideas about what to read next, sign up to our free email newsletter, and get book reviews, archive mate… ,
    • 'The heroic male nude could not, I think, be used today to signify civic pride and glory', as Michelangelo’s 'David… ,