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The Life of Thomas More

3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  545 ratings  ·  63 reviews
Peter Ackroyd's The Life of Thomas More is a masterful reconstruction of the life and imagination of one of the most remarkable figures of history. Thomas More (1478-1535) was a renowned statesman; the author of a political fantasy thatgave a name to a literary genre and a worldview (Utopia); and, most famously, a Catholic martyr and saint.

Born into the professional classe
ebook, 480 pages
Published June 27th 2012 by Anchor (first published December 12th 1991)
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I've never really like Thomas More. He always seemed a bit hard headed, stubborn, bordering on cruel. At least, in what I've read about him and seen in the movies. It is to Ackroyd's credit that he makes More human. I don't like him, but I respect him.

Ackroyd goes a long way into taking a closer look at More's marriage. He makes Alice More into more than a shrew. Ackroyd also place More in time and place. He looks at the influence of society and religion. He is careful too keep away from the ide
Informative and easy to read. Ackroyd keeps the original spelling of Renaissance times, which is a little irritating, but that aside, I totally got wrapped up in his recounting of More's rise in the court of the English government, and subsequent fall from grace through King Henry's split with the church. Plenty of nuggets of which I was unaware (among the many words More introduced into the vernacular: paradox, and fact), and plenty of lines culled from More's correspondence used in various dra ...more
Akroyd writes with an irresistible scholarly starchiness. It's hard for me to like More, though I love reading about his times. He was a medieval, hierarchically inclined stick-in-the-mud at the time that this world view was about to be shattered. It's hard for us in modern times to even imagine a world that had the kind of (oppressive) cohesion of his youthful years. He stuck with the mothership of the 1000-year-old franchise. Unfortunately, his boss had left the building. He was obviously kill ...more
Long and tedious in some ways but very interesting. Adult reading. I liked how he was so opposed to materialism that he gave his daughter a necklace of peas rather than pearls to teach her a lesson. Watch the movie "A Man for All Seasons."
Jun 15, 2007 Julie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: biography
This is one of the best biographies I have come across full of detail, it sheds a great deal of light on this man who was known best of all as Chancellor of England to Henry VIII. suitable for students and general readers alike.
The book is good. Bit verbose, and I was surprised at its abrupt ending -- with his execution, rather than discussing further the fall-out his death had on the family and their estates, as well as the rescue of his head by Margaret (More) Roper, but in general it's very well researched and gives an interesting portrait of the man who was born a sinner, and is now a saint.

If I could change one thing, it would be to update the spelling in the direct quotes from Erasmus and Thomas More's correspond
I thought on first reading this biography some years ago that it was less gripping that it could have been, given the stature of the man that it is about, but I find on re-reading the book that my first assessment was wrong. What I had found tedious then is what I would now call atmospheric and impressively detailed. Peter Ackroyd knows sixteenth-century London inside and out. One of the virtues of this biography is that it places Thomas More in his proper context, as a man who all his adult lif ...more
Daniela Major
A great byography for those who are in the beginning of trying to understand this immense and complex character. Ackroyd makes no personal judgements even though one can see some flicks here or there. This is, however, easily supressed by his sound suppositions and opinions. The book is not exactly a character study but rather a way of really trying to understand the life of Thomas More and in what way some events of his life led to his own way of thinking. Ackroyd doesnt look at More from a 21 ...more
One of the best biographies and simply put best books I have ever read. Ackroyd makes More's England come to life. One smells the smells, hears the sounds, and tastes the tastes of More's London. Ackroyd has an incredible sympathy for his subject and writes a gripping book. It reads like a novel. My one complaint, and it is minor, is that Ackroyd does not translate the Olde English into the contemporary English and this can make some of the quotations quite difficult to understand. On my second ...more
A meticulously researched and well-written portrait of Thomas More. Ackroyd has a gift for making his subject come alive, and teasing out the nuances of the primary source material in a subtle and insightful way. There's nothing in here that's really new or startling—unsurprising, perhaps, given how well-studied More has been in the centuries since his death—but Ackroyd presents it in such a way as to give one of the most lucid and complete biographies of the man that we possess.
Aside from Ackroy claiming to a fidelity to the milieu of More by quoting him in the obscure spellings of the sixteenth century, there are vast praries of emotional space between the author and his subject. I am left a bit puzzled. Ackroyd goes to sufficient lengths to remove the aura of hagiography from More, but doesn't construct a viable counter-thesis either. There is simply the written record. Odd.
As Teigan said to me many years ago when I was reading this "hmm ... Thomas More: fun guy". Ackroyd brings the time and place absolutely alive. His detail about London life at that time makes you feel you're there at such an important juncture in English history. Very very good.
This historical account started out with much conjecture and little fact because not much was known of Thomas More's youth. As the book progressed, however, it gained in interest. The theme of the central role the ideas of law and order played in More's life was well supported. Of most interest was the chapter comparing and contrasting him with his theological opponent Martin Luther. By the time his arrest is introduced, the reader has a deep respect and admiration for him even if he doesn't sha ...more
I read this book mostly because it happened to be in the house, and I couldn't find anything else that I wanted to read before another trip to the library. Also, reading something that wouldn't have otherwise been on my radar and from which I could learn some history was sufficient reason to pick up said book. Ackroyd's scholarship is very solid, albeit a bit dry, and I learned quite a bit, not just about More but about the time period. Nevertheless, pious late medieval Catholics are decidedly n ...more
I had been looking forward to this but I found it hard going. There was a lot of analysis of medieval thought. I'd have had a lot more of an engagement with More had he not sent others to the stake. There are some gems in his writing though such as 'to tourne a plum into a doggys torde in a boyes mouthe'. He introduced into English words and phrases such as fact, shuffle, anticipate, meeting, not to see the wood for the trees and to make the best of something. There was a lot of Chauceresque sca ...more
L Greyfort
This is a very careful, detailed, scholarly portrayal of More's life. This is probably appropriate, because of the nature of More's life.

But, no, this ain't an easy, light, quick read.

I appreciated the detailed description of More's early education, and training for his career as a lawyer. It helped me understand the idea of rhetoric and it's application to his work.

The discussion of his writing and connection with Erasmus helped me understand the early 16th century ideas of "humanism" and "re
Aug 30, 2012 Bryan rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Christians, historians, and anyone who believes in Truth
Powerful, hopeful, and enlightening: the story of Sir Thomas More is one that everyone should hear.

Thomas More was a remarkable sixteenth-century lawyer who, out of his faith to the Catholic church, refused to swear an oath of spiritual obedience to King Henry the Eighth after the later took it upon himself to seize power from the Catholic Church and form The Church of England.

What was most interesting is that More brilliantly refused to give the reason 'why' he would not take the oath of spiri
Exceptional biography. Ackroyd brilliantly places More at the nexus of Humanism and Renaissance thinking as it struggled from the cloak of Medieval beliefs and argument. We see More as the. "Man for all Seasons" in an historical and socio-cultural milieu roiled by the cracks in monolithic Catholicism and the rise of the imperial king. A sublime rhetorician, deeply and eventually zealously religious he was a man who did not suffer fools, was marvelously ironic and imbued with great conscience and ...more
Mid 4. Ackroyd has produced the definitive account of this great thinker and man of principle, born in 1478. The author reveals, amazingly that More and Beckett, both martyred and canonised, were born twenty yards from each other. Son of a lawyer serving the capital's guilds of merchants, it should be no surprise that More followed in his father's steps studying law, under the patronage of John Morton, Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Chancellor. Morton would be a great role-model for the young ...more
A.k. Frailey
Peter Ackroyd's book, The Life of Thomas More, was one of the best biographies I have ever read. It was clear, detailed, unbiased, and full of information I never knew about the saint, the times, and the major players in that epoch in history. I was very impressed with Mr. Ackroyd's grasp of the specific skills in which Thomas More was fluent. I learned a lot from this book, but I never felt talked down to - rather spoken to as someone who could slip into the country and century as easily as Tho ...more
James Clark
A little pandantic. Still easily readable due to Peter Ackroyd's style and manner. I found myself hung up at times and had to take a breather from the book, making it a slightly difficult read. I think less detail would have been better because I kept coming up with a "let's get on with it" feeling. A considerable amount of detail and time was taken on More's education and training. I would like to have seen less detail and a swifter delivery into the Tudor context. I probably will have to go ba ...more
Peter Jakobsen
Highly readable and balanced life (and death) of the contentious and many faceted ‘man for all seasons’ (as some take the use by Erasmus of the phrase 'omnium horarum'). Beatified but no saint, an intolerant believer and a survivor who sacrificed himself on principle, he remains an enigma and a controversial one. This book comes close to doing justice to all sides and all sides of the man and none can better that.
Nancy Behrendt
Excellent view of what we can reasonably know about Thomas More, a man born in the 15th century. Fortunately he was a prolific writer and was a friend of writers. We know of his childhood, education, capers, perverse sense of humor, past-times, jobs, friends, wives, children, sons-in-laws, etc. I found it refreshing to see that he was a devout man, yet he "down to earth" to the very end.
A good biography if you know something about Thomas More already. I think a reader might miss some of the traditional climaxes about his imprisonment, trial, and death because the author just reproduces the transcript of his treason trial. There's not much about Richard Rich at all in the book, and I assume that this is because the focus is on More himself and his personality and less upon Reformation and his death. Nonetheless, it would be nice to hear this author discuss More's relationship wi ...more
When I was younger and first into Tudor-era history, I remember finding Thomas More very sympathetic and principled. After reading this book, I come away feeling like while there was a matter of principle involved (Henry VIII not having the right to set himself above the Catholic Church), it was more More's lawyerly reliance on law and legal principle that did him in. I also find less sympathy for More this time around- a man willing to send others to burn can't expect much sympathy when the mac ...more
I suppose it is the biography of More to read, although I've never really looked around to see what else is out there. The two things that really stuck out for me were Ackroyd's depiction of England and how devoutly Catholic it was at the time (stupidly, very stupidly, the thought hadn't really occurred to me before), and also how far ahead More was in how he raised his daughter. The more I look at this period in Europe, and particularly at women, Margaret was almost totally one of a kind. There ...more
Fr. Kyle
I love reading about the lives of saints. Usually, they are written by believers and are more like hagiographies. Ackroyd is an historian. He showed the world of Thomas More. He would make his own editorial comments, but on the whole, it was a fascinating, although, at times, slow read. He prose, which for most of the book has a historical quality to it, changes once More enters prison and everything comes alive. I must say I wish he had wirtten the whole book in the style, because I would have ...more
Czarny Pies
Nov 05, 2014 Czarny Pies rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who enjoyed Robert Bolt's Man for All Seasons
Shelves: european-history
This is a great book about a great Londoner written by a great lover of London Peter Ackroyd. As a biography of a Londoner who got involved on the wrong side of a London court intrigue, this is a fabulous book.

As a study of one of the greatest writers of the Renaissance and one of the last major political theoreticians to write in Latin rather than his own vernacular, this book comes up grievously short.

Read it for what is worth. For what it sets to do, it is truly wonderful.
Frank Kelly
One of the best biographies of Thomas More I have yet to read. Ackroyd paints a colorful and richly detailed historical panorama of More and his times, revealing the man who was to become a great saint and martyr -- and I particularly was delighted to learn just how enormous More's sense of humor was. I guess it goes to show most of the greatest saints understood the inanity of life and simply laughed it and sought to make the most of life while serving others. But ot be clear, this is not a rel ...more
April Hochstrasser
I respect Thomas More immensely because he stood up for what he believed in and had integrity to the end. He is the only Londoner ever given England's highest honors and awarded sainthood, (posthumously). This book helped me to discover the reasons for what he did. He would not sanction the marriage of Henry VIII to Anne Boelyn and was put to death because of it. All others around him were renouncing the Catholic position but he stood up for his until the end. Kind of a boring style as biographi ...more
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Peter Ackroyd CBE is an English novelist and biographer with a particular interest in the history and culture of London.

Peter Ackroyd's mother worked in the personnel department of an engineering firm, his father having left the family home when Ackroyd was a baby. He was reading newspapers by the age of 5 and, at 9, wrote a play about Guy Fawkes. Reputedly, he first realized he was gay at the age
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