MORE, SIR THOMAS (1478-1535), English lord chan cellor, and author of Utopia, was born in Milk street in the City of London, on Feb. 7, 1478. He attended St. Anthony's School in Threadneedle street, at that time under Nicolas Holt, and at thirteen was early placed in the household of Cardinal Morton, archbishop of Canterbury. Young Thomas More obtained this privilege through the influence of his father, Sir Thomas, then a rising barrister and afterwards a justice of the court of king's bench. About 1492 young More was sent to Canterbury Hall, Oxford, afterwards absorbed in Christ Church, where he is said vaguely to have had Colet, Grocyn and Linacre for his tutors. All More himself says is that he had Linacre for his master in Greek. More's father, who intended his son to make law his career, feared the influence of the "new learning," and removed him from the university about and entered him at New Inn. In February 1496 More was admitted at Lincoln's inn. In his professional studies More early distinguished himself and was appointed reader-in-law in Furnival's inn; but he would not re linquish the studies which had attracted him in Oxford. Erasmus says that he tried his hand at "little comedies," and he studied Pico della Mirandola. Among his friends were Lily and Colet, the latter of whom became his confessor and exercised great influence over him. The balance of his faculties seemed to be restored by a revival of the antagonistic sentiment of humanism which he had imbibed from the Oxford circle of friends, and from Erasmus. More's acquaintance with Erasmus might have begun during Eras mus's first visit to England in 1497. Tradition has dramatized their first meeting into the story given by Cresacre More—that the two happened to sit opposite each other at the lord mayor's table, that they got into an argument during dinner, and that, in mutual astonishment at each other's wit and readiness, Erasmus exclaimed, "Aut tu es Morus, aut nullus," and the other replied, "Aut tu es Erasmus, aut diabolus !" The acquaintance rapidly ripened into warm attachment. This contact with the prince of letters revived in More the spirit of the "new learning," and he returned with ardour to the study of Greek. He acquired facility in the Greek language, from which he made and published some translations. His Latin style, though wanting the inimitable ease
of Erasmus, is yet in copiousness and propriety much above the ordinary Latin of the English scholars of his time.
At about this time More desired to give himself over to an ascetic life. He took a lodging near the Charterhouse, and sub jected himself to the discipline of a Carthusian monk. He wore a sharp shirt of hair next his skin, scourged himself every Friday and other fasting days, lay upon the bare ground with a log under his head, and allowed himself but four or five hours' sleep. This phase lasted for some four years 1499 to 1503. He then abandoned all idea of leaving the world, but to the end of his life he was scrupulous in the observance of his religious duties.
More sat in the parliament of 1504, when he contested Dudley's demand on behalf of the king for an "aid" in money on the marriage of Princess Margaret. 1VIore's speech is said to have moved the house to reduce the subsidy of three-fifteenths which the Government had demanded to £30,000. Henry VII. revenged himself upon More's father, who was sent to the Tower, and only released on payment of a fine of L 1 oo. Thomas More found it advisable to withdraw from public life for a time. During this period of retirement the old dilemma recurred. One while he devoted himself to the sciences, "perfecting himself in music, arithmetic, geometry and astronomy, learning the French tongue, and recreating his tired spirits on the viol," or translating Greek epigrams; another while resolved to take priest's orders.
But at this time he made acquaintance with the family of John Cult of New Hall, in Essex. The "honest and sweet con versation" of the three daughters attracted him, and though his inclination led him to prefer the second he married the eldest, Jane, in 1505, not liking to put the affront upon her of passing her over in favour of her younger sister. The newly-married pair settled in Bucklersbury, and lived a life of unbroken domestic felicity. At Bucklersbury he was visited by Erasmus, and on a second visit in 1508 the great scholar wrote the MorkeEncomium, dedicated to his friend and host. His wife died in 1511, and he married, within a month, Alice Middleton, a widow with one daughter. They moved to Crosby place, Bishopsgate.