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'More' on More PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Sunday, 24 June 2007 07:15
What? You thought we were done? Silly goose.

There's so much More . . .

Consider the relationship of Margaret More, Thomas's eldest daughter, and her relationship with Erasmus, one of the Thomas' most celebrated friends.

You haven't?

Well, you should. It's very interesting as you'll see if you read this wonderful essay by Patricia Demers: Margaret Roper & Erasmus: the Relationship of Translator and Source.


"When writing to the eldest, best-known and, presumably, most gifted of his children, Thomas More regularly used superlatives to address "puella[e] iucundissima[e]," "Margareta charissima," "dulcissima filia" and "dulcissima nata" (Rogers 97, 134, 154).

Eating a meal was "not so sweet" to More as talking to his "dearest child" (Stapleton 109), to whom he wrote from the Tower as "myne owne good doughter" and for whom he remained "your tender louynge father" (Rogers 509). In Erasmus's correspondence with Roper, whom he greeted as "optima Margareta," the humanist praised the letters of all the More sisters as "sensible, well-written, modest, forthright and friendly" (letter 1401, Basel, 25 December 1523).

His Christmas gift to her in the year of the publication of Precatio Dominica was his commentary on Prudentius's hymns for Christmas and the Epiphany; the gift not only verifies his confidence in Margaret's Latin but also reveals Erasmus's "attitude presque paternelle" since he casts himself as "le pédagogue attentioné, soucieux de former une élève de choix" (Béné 473).

The following year Erasmus used Margaret as "the probable model" (King 181) for Magdalia in the colloquy "The Abbot and the Learned Lady"; this interlocutor wastes no time chastizing the Abbot's fear of women's learning, deftly wielding a double-edged sword to reply to the claim that "a wise woman is twice foolish": That's commonly said, yes, but by fools. A woman truly wise is not wise in her own conceit. On the other hand, one who thinks herself wise when she knows nothing is indeed twice foolish. (Thompson 222)

Magdalia cannily engages her companion in the topic of clerical ignorance, part of her "veiled critique of the intellectual sloth afflicting men" (Jordan 60): "if you're not careful," she taunts, "the net result will be that we'll preside in the theological schools, preach in the churches, and wear your miters" (Thompson 223).

When, in September 1529, Holbein unveiled for Erasmus his portrait of the More family, this scholarly friend wrote immediately to Margaret, "the glory of [her] British land" (decus Britanniae tuae), assuring her that he recognized everyone, but no one more than her (omnes agnoui, sed neminem magis quam te), whose lovelier spirit within shines through the exterior (per pulcherrimum domicilium relucentem animum multo pulchriorem) (Letter 2212, Freiburg, 6 September 1529).

Thomas Stapleton, More's early biographer, devoted a whole chapter of Tres Thomae to More's eldest daughter, continuing the two strands of Margaret's reputation: her exceptionality ("she attained a degree of excellence that would scarcely be believed in a woman") and family likeness ("she resembled her father, as well in stature, appearance, and voice, as in mind and in general character") (Stapleton 103).


Snip.

Only a portion of her writing has survived. Lost are her Latin and Greek verses, her Latin speeches, her imitation of Quintilian, and her treatise The Four Laste Thynges, which More considered equal to his own. What remain are a scattering of letters and the primary text associated with her name, the translation of Erasmus's Precatio Dominica (1523) as A deuout treatise upon the Pater noster (1524), whose subject and mode appear to confirm the derivative nature of this daughter's accomplishment."

This is the earliest woodblock from the frontpiece of Margaret's translation of Erasmus. Note that this remarkable woman is only 19 years old and already a wife and mother. (Margaret married William Roper at 15, not in her 20's as implied in A Man for All Seasons.)


 

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