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William Roper

Biographer of the Blessed Thomas More, b. 1496; d. Jan. 4, 1578

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* Published by Encyclopedia Press, 1913.


Roper, WILLIAM, biographer of the Blessed Thomas More, b. 1496; d. January 4, 1578. Both his father and mother belonged to distinguished legal families. He was educated at one of the English universities, and received his father's office of clerk of the pleas in the Court of King's Bench. He held this post till shortly before his death. When he was about twenty-three he seems to have been taken into Sir Thomas More's household, and he married Margaret, Sir Thomas's eldest daughter, in 1521. Erasmus who saw much of the More family describes him as a young man "who is wealthy, of excellent and modest character and not unacquainted with literature". He became fascinated, however, by the Lutheran doctrine of justification by faith, and professed his heresy so openly as to be summoned before Wolsey. Sir Thomas frequently reasoned with his son-in-law: "Meg", he said to his daughter, "I have borne a long time with thy husband; I have reasoned and argued with him in these points of religion, and still given to him my poor fatherly counsel, but I perceive none of all this able to call him home; and therefore, Meg, I will no longer dispute with him, but will clean give him over and get me to God and pray for him". To these prayers Roper attributed his return to the Faith; henceforth he was an ardent Catholic. He sat in four of Mary's parliaments, twice as member for Rochester and twice as member for Canterbury. His Catholicism got him into difficulties with the Government under Elizabeth and he was summoned before the Council in 1568; in the following year he was bound over to be of good behavior and to appear before the Council when summoned. He does not seem to have been troubled further. His reminiscences of Sir Thomas More were written in the time of Queen Mary nearly twenty years after the events with which they deal, but his relations with his father-in-law had been so close and the impressions he received in that delightful household so vivid, that these rather disjointed notes form a most attractive biography. Roper's "Life" was not printed till 1626, but it was used by the earlier biographers of More, and is the chief authority for his personal history.

F. F. URQUHART


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