Elizabeth K.'s Reviews > A Daughter's Love: Thomas More and His Dearest Meg

A Daughter's Love by John Guy
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's review
Aug 01, 09

really liked it
bookshelves: 2009-new-reads
Read in July, 2009

This is a very readable biographical account in tandem of Sir Thomas More (author, scholar, statesman, martyr) and his eldest daughter, Margaret. While Thomas's story is very well known, the author shows that Meg herself was a philosopher and writer in her own right. There is plenty of primary source material to illustrate this; I am often reminded of Stephen Greenblatt's observation that it is astonishing to what extent this society valued contracts and writing things down in general.

Reading this today, it is sad and unfortunate that a first-class mind like Margaret's was prevented from fully participating in the intellectual world of her day ... but it's very in keeping with how we understand the culture of 16th century England. What seems absolutely unfathomable to me is how she married a guy who seemed like such a nasty little toad from the get-go, even with the realization that marriage at the time was viewed as more of a contact-based alliance system. Within this framework, she still seemed to get shafted, especially when compared to the more amenable matches her sisters and brother ended up with.

The climax of the story is Thomas's refusal to endorse the king's break with the Catholic church, and his subsequent imprisonment and beheading. During this time, it was Margaret who was his spiritual and intellectual companion, supporting him in his refusal to take the oath proclaiming Henry the head of the church in England. This book does a wonderful job of explaining the progression of events while at the same time presenting the emotional family story of the Mores. The account of his final days was especially harrowing. If my father was in the Tower, I'd cave in a minute, take the oath Dad! Take the oath, whatever! That is why no one in my family is ever going to achieve sainthood.
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