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Seventeenth Century

Eighteenth Century


Works of Sir Thomas More

Holbein's sketch of Thomas More

Sir Thomas More's Letter to his Children.


[Sir Thomas More, though spending great lengths of time away from home at court, took a keen interest in his children's education. He wrote to them frequently, and his letters were prized by them].

Thomas More to his dearest children, and to Margaret Giggs, whom he numbers amongst his own,—

      The Bristol merchant brought me your letters the day after he left you, with which I was extremely delighted. Nothing can come from your workshop, however rude or unfinished, that will not give me more pleasure than the most accurate thing that another can write. So much does my affection for you recommend whatever you write to me. Indeed, without any recommendation, your letters are capable of pleasing by their own merits, their wit and pure Latinity. There was not one of your letters that did not please me extremely; but, to confess ingenuously what I feel, the letter of my son John pleased me best, both because it was longer than the others, and because he seems to have given to it more labour and study. For he not only put out his matter prettily and composed in fairly polished language, but he plays with me both pleasantly and cleverly, and turns my jokes on myself wittily enough. And this he does not only merrily, but with due moderation, showing that he does not forget that he is joking with his father and that he is cautious not to give offence at the same time that he is eager to give delight.

Now I expect from each of you a letter almost every day. I will not admit excuses—John makes none—such as want of time, sudden departure of the letter-carrier, or, want of something to write about. No one hinders you from writing, but, on the contrary, all are urging you to do it. And that you may not keep the letter-carrier waiting, why not anticipate his coming, and have your letters written and sealed, ready for anyone to take? How can a subject be wanting when you write to me, since I am glad to hear of your studies or of your games, and you will please me most if, when there is nothing to write about, you write about that nothing at great length. Nothing can be easier for you, since you are girls, loquacious by nature, who have always a world to say about nothing at all. One thing, however, I admonish you, whether you write serious matters or the merest trifles, it is my wish that you write everything diligently and thoughtfully. It will be no harm, if you first write the whole in English, for then you will have much less trouble in turning it into Latin; not having to look for the matter, your mind will be intent only on the language. That, however, I leave to your own choice, whereas I strictly enjoin that whatever you have composed you carefully examine before writing it out clean; and in this examination, first scrutinise the whole sentence and then every part of it. Thus, if any solecisms have escaped you, you will easily detect them. Correct these, write out the whole letter again, and even then examine it once more, for sometimes, in rewriting, faults slip in again that one had expunged. By this diligence your little trifles will become serious matters; for while there is nothing so neat and witty that will not be made insipid by silly and inconsiderate loquacity, so also there is nothing in itself so insipid, that you cannot season with grace and wit if you give a little thought to it. Farewell, my dear children.

From the Court, the 3rd September.

        Bridgett, T. E. Life and Writings of Sir Thomas More.
        London: Burns & Oates, 1892. 133-134.

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Created by Anniina Jokinen on June 9, 2009. Last updated on December 11, 2018.


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King Edward VI
Queen Mary I
Queen Elizabeth I
Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond

Renaissance English Writers
Bishop John Fisher
William Tyndale
Sir Thomas More
John Heywood
Thomas Sackville
Nicholas Udall
John Skelton
Sir Thomas Wyatt
Henry Howard
Hugh Latimer
Thomas Cranmer
Roger Ascham
Sir Thomas Hoby
John Foxe
George Gascoigne
John Lyly
Thomas Nashe
Sir Philip Sidney
Edmund Spenser
Richard Hooker
Robert Southwell
Robert Greene
George Peele
Thomas Kyd
Edward de Vere
Christopher Marlowe
Anthony Munday
Sir Walter Ralegh
Thomas Hariot
Thomas Campion
Mary Sidney Herbert
Sir John Davies
Samuel Daniel
Michael Drayton
Fulke Greville
Emilia Lanyer
William Shakespeare

Persons of Interest
Cardinal Thomas Wolsey
Archbishop Thomas Cranmer
Thomas Cromwell
John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester
Cardinal Lorenzo Campeggio
Cardinal Reginald Pole
Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester
William Tyndale
Pico della Mirandola
Desiderius Erasmus
Christopher Saint-German
Thomas Linacre
William Grocyn
Hugh Latimer
Elizabeth Barton, the Nun of Kent
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Historical Events
Field of the Cloth of Gold, 1520
Pilgrimage of Grace, 1536
The Babington Plot, 1586
The Spanish Armada, 1588

Oath of Supremacy
The Act of Supremacy, 1534
The First Act of Succession, 1534
The Third Act of Succession, 1544
The Ten Articles, 1536
The Six Articles, 1539
The Second Statute of Repeal, 1555

Images of London:
London in the time of Henry VII. MS. Roy. 16 F. ii.
London, 1510, earliest view in print
Map of England from Saxton's Descriptio Angliae, 1579
Location Map of Elizabethan London
Plan of the Bankside, Southwark, in Shakespeare's time
Detail of Norden's Map of the Bankside, 1593
Bull and Bear Baiting Rings from the Agas Map (1569-1590, pub. 1631)
Sketch of the Swan Theatre, c. 1596
Westminster in the Seventeenth Century, by Hollar
Visscher's Panoramic View of London, 1616. COLOR

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