Twayne's English Author Series No. 247
More than any other single figure, Thomas More demonstrates in his life and his writings the unique character of the great age of change in which he lived; his life and his works have an integrality rare in history. Yet, to most students, More is known in only the most fragmentary way: for some he is the author of the Utopia; others know he was executed for opposing Henry VIII's divorce; sometimes now he is recognized as the hero of Robert Bolt's popular play, A Man for All Seasons. Similarly historians have often viewed More's diverse accomplishments in segments and thus found him paradoxical. He has been depicted as a man who wrote a radical book of reform and then became rigidly conservative, who advocated political and religious freedom but persecuted reformers for their beliefs, who wrote brilliantly and wisely but was unable, or unwilling, to save himself from King Henry's petulant wrath. It is all too easy to explain More's behavior in terms of age and see in him that familiar metamorphosis which turns the optimistic liberality of youth into the frightened conservatism of middle age. The appeal of such an interpretation is that it relieves us of the burden of trying to understand the complexity of More's personality, the ironic orientation that permeated his profoundly religious view of life, and the vast changes occurring in the world in which he lived.
The purpose of this book is to survey More's writing and show the extent to which it demonstrates his intellectual and spiritual development.