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6. A Dialogue of Comfort in Tribulation

Note: This text is an almost exact copy of Chapter 6, "A Dialogue of Comfort in Tribulation", and the Conclusion from my English Ph.D. dissertation,

The pagination of the original thesis is given in {} brackets, e.g. {217}, but for convenience paragraph numbers have also been added. An extensive textual summary and a bibliography of A Dialogue of Comfort in Tribulation, both originally part of the Appendices to my thesis, are available in separate files (see below).

Any comments or queries can be sent to the author at

Romuald (Ronnie) Ian Lakowski

Table of Contents

6. A Dialogue of Comfort in Tribulation

Summary of A Dialogue of Comfort in Tribulation

Bibliography of A Dialogue of Comfort in Tribulation

Conclusion to Thesis

Return to Thesis Table of Contents

6. A Dialogue of Comfort in Tribulation

6.1 The Argument of This Chapter

1. {217} Despite the general recognition that the Dialogue of Comfort is a great spiritual masterpiece, many have felt that the work is disorganised and rambling, and lacking in any clear structure. E. E. Reynolds echoes the general view when he states that "any attempt to summarize the contents of the Dialogue of Comfort would not be helpful; it lacks a carefully developed argument that can be systematically set down."[1] In the same vein, G. R. Elton in reviewing the Yale Edition rather disparagingly remarks "Manley [one of the Yale editors] very nearly succeeds in imposing upon the Dialogue of Comfort the sort of thematic structure that its author rather signally failed to achieve."[2] Later in the same review, Elton goes on to suggest that the pretence of genuine argument between the two friends in the dialogue wears quite thin, and that Vincent, the young man in the dialogue seeking counsel, though "not quite reduced to the 'yea verily, Socrates' of More's Platonic model" too rarely interrupts "the flow of his uncle's discourse, and when he does get a longer speech of his own he tends to continue rather than oppose the older man's line of argument."[3]

2. Contrary to the views of E. E. Reynolds and G. R. Elton and many others, I contend that the Dialogue of Comfort has a very carefully developed (albeit extremely convoluted and labyrinthine) structure, that can be effectively summarized. To this end I have included in this chapter a summary of the argument of the dialogue which captures all the major twists and turns in the dialogue (not argument) between the two speakers, Vincent and Anthony, and clearly indicates that Vincent is not a straw man, that he makes a genuine contribution, through the objections he raises, to the unfolding of the dialogue.[4]

3. In the main part of this chapter I provide an interpretive reading of the three books of the dialogue that emphasizes the contributions that each speaker makes to the unfolding of the dialogue, and also points to the main divisions within the structure of the work. Though Anthony, the older man giving counsel in the dialogue, does most of the talking, the objections raised by Vincent are genuine ones, pace Elton. More the author, like the {218} Providence of Boethius's Consolation of Philosophy (one of More's models), foresees without predetermining the course of the argument. Anthony cannot proceed until he has effectively answered those objections. Elton is deceived: the Dialogue of Comfort is not a controversial work in the same vein as the Dialogue Concerning Heresies. The congenial tone of the dialogue, however, does not belie the fact that the anguish felt by Vincent at the prospect of the Turkish invasion is very real, and that Anthony is hard pressed to provide Vincent with the necessary good counsels that will offer Vincent comfort in his tribulation.

4. Part of the problem in dealing with the Dialogue of Comfort is the apparently chaotic and formless nature of More's dialogues. Manley himself admits that:

The dialogue form modifies the argument of the book and keeps it from being presented as logically and straightforwardly as it might have been in a regular treatise or discourse. The argument disappears at times into the deliberate garrulity of the dialogue. At other times it is carried forward by the conversation itself in a kind of crabwise progress through objection. (CW 12, lxxxviii)

Manley grants too much, however, to More's critics. Though some like Elton may be taken in by Anthony's garrulity, it would be textually and rhetorically naive to confuse the talkativeness of the old man in the dialogue with the mind of the author. Anthony is clearly meant in some ways to be an embodiment of the 'holy fool' or 'wise fool,' like Moria in The Praise of Folly and Hythloday in Utopia.[5] Louis Martz, Manley's co-editor, comes closest (in discussing More's 'art of improvisation') to the mark: "The whole movement... is characteristic of More's mode of apparently extemporaneous chattering which leads the audience by irony and indirection into the very heart of the issue" (CW 12, lxiii). Elsewhere, Martz argues that More's use of indirection and exploratory digression in his late works is very Augustinian.[6] Without in any way minimizing Martz's fundamental insight, I wish to point out that such a method of improvisational and exploratory digression is not incompatible with having a coherent outline of the whole work already planned in one's mind, before ever putting pen to paper. Underneath the apparently chaotic surface, the work is actually very carefully organised. There are no loose ends, at least none that I can {219} find---points are often made, as in real conversations, that are not pursued, but it is always clearly indicated that they are being dropped. In the best Horatian manner, More is never more artful in the Dialogue of Comfort than when he appears most artless.


6.2 Textual History

5. Thomas More wrote A Dialogue of Comfort in Tribulation in 1534/35, while he was in the Tower of London awaiting execution. The final period of More's life lasted from his imprisonment in the Tower of London in April 17, 1534 until his execution on July 6, 1535. The works that More produced in this period are collectively known as "The Tower Works," and are published in Volumes 12 to 14 of the Yale Edition. Besides the Dialogue of Comfort, during that short time More managed to compose the De Tristitia, a profound and moving meditation, written in Latin, on Christ's Agony in the Garden, of which the autograph manuscript survives,[7] the English Treatise on the Passion (partly written before More's imprisonment),[8] a short meditation on the Eucharist, A Treatise to Receive the Blessed Body, some prayers and meditations,[9] and More's "Prison Letters."[10] This was an extraordinary achievement for a man in More's circumstances, and at least in the case of the Dialogue of Comfort, he managed to produce an acknowledged literary and spiritual masterpiece, perhaps the finest of his English works.

6. After More's death the Dialogue of Comfort circulated in manuscript form. The most important surviving manuscripts are the Corpus Christi Manuscript, Bodleian Library, Ms. C.C.C. D.37; and British Library, Ms. Royal 17 D.XIV. There are at least two other sixteenth-century manuscripts in existence, which were overlooked by the editors of the recent Yale Edition: British Library, Harley 1634; and Glasgow University Library, Hunter V.2.19. A fifth manuscript was also recently acquired by Yale University Library.[11] The Dialogue of Comfort was first published in 1553 by Richard Tottel during the reign of Queen Mary. Four years later in 1557, it was included by William Rastell in his folio edition of More's English Works, and it was published again in Antwerp in 1573 by the English Recusant printer John Fowler. Fowler based his edition on the 1553 and 1557 editions, {220} together with some emendations of his own (cf. CW 12, xxii).

7. The first modern edition (based on the 1553 edition) was published by J. Warrington in the Everyman series, together with the Utopia, in 1910.[12] It was reissued with modernised spelling in 1951.[13] It was edited again in a slightly abridged and modernised form (omitting about twenty percent of the text) by Leland Miles in 1963.[14] In 1976, Louis L. Martz and Frank Manley published the first genuinely critical edition of the Dialogue of Comfort as Volume 12 of the Yale Edition of the Complete Works of St. Thomas More. The Yale edition was based on the Corpus Christi Manuscript, together with variant readings from British Library, Royal 17 D.XIV, and the 1553, 1557 and 1573 editions. Martz and Manley did not make use of the Harley or Glasgow University manuscripts; however, the variants in these manuscripts are not substantive enough to necessitate re-editing the text.[15]

8. It is necessary to describe the Corpus Christi manuscript briefly because of an important editorial decision made by the Yale editors. The Yale edition is the first modern edition to take seriously into account the manuscript evidence, all previous editions being based on the early printed editions. The Yale editors distinguish up to five different hands (CW 12, xxii--xxviii), of which the most important are the basic scribal hand A, described as "a secretarial hand of the first half of the sixteenth century" (CW 12, xix), and hand B, the chief correcting hand, dating from the middle of the sixteenth century, tentatively identified by the Yale editors as that of William Rastell (CW 12, xlvi--xlix).

9. In an extensive discussion of the two hands (CW 12, xxviii--xliii), the Yale editors argue for the priority of the A text over all other versions (including British Library, MS. Royal 17 D.XIV, and the early printed editions). This conclusion is not significantly altered by the new manuscript finds (see Figure 6.1 for Revised Stemma).[16]


Table of Sigla used in Yale Editions
X, Y


Holograph of More's Dialogue of Comfort
Hypothetical intermediate manuscripts
Corpus Christi Manuscript, Bodleian Library, Ms. C.C.C. D.37
Hand A in the Corpus Christi Manuscript
Hand B in the Corpus Christi Manuscript
British Library, Ms. Royal 17 D.XIV
British Library, Harley 1634 [not used]
Glasgow University Library, Hunter V.2.19 [not used]
Tottel's edition of A Dialogue of Comfort, London, 1553
Rastell's edition of A Dialogue of Comfort contained in the Folio edition of More's English Workes, London, 1557
John Fowler's edition of A Dialogue of Comfort, Antwerp, 1573

Figure 6.1. Revised Textual Stemma I for A Dialogue of Comfort


{220} The manuscript was extensively revised by hand B (Rastell), probably with an aim to publication.[17] Many of the corrections made by B are clearly editorial in nature (cf. CW 12, xxxvi); however, it became obvious to the Yale editors from the many parallels with the other surviving textual witnesses that B also had another manuscript available to him, possibly even More's {222} holograph.[18] The Yale editors were then faced with the difficult task of reconciling the claims of the two hands. They chose to be as conservative as possible in following the A text.[19] However, they also included the words and phrases added by B in the text, printed within half-brackets (cf. CW 12, clxv). (I have used triangular brackets in my quotations instead.)


6.3 Genre, Audience, Background, and Structure

10. The form of the work is that of a literary dialogue between two speakers, though, unlike Utopia and A Dialogue Concerning Heresies, there are no prefatory letters and no real introductory material either. The two speakers are an uncle named Anthony and a nephew named Vincent.[20] The Dialogue of Comfort is divided into three books. In the dialogue of Book I, Vincent visits his uncle to ask him to describe the nature of comfort in tribulation, the central theme of the work. The dialogues in Books II and III take place about a month later, supposedly on a single day, with only a break for dinner between Books II and III.

11. In the Dialogue of Comfort More presents us with the vision of a society on the verge of collapse. The fictional setting of the dialogue is in Hungary in the years 1527--1528, about seven to eight years before the actual time of writing, after the disastrous defeat of the Hungarian army by the Turks in 1526 at the Battle of Mohács, and before the final Turkish invasion of Hungary by Suleiman the Magnificent in 1529, which led to a permanent Turkish occupation (cf. CW 12, cxx--cxxxv). The fictional setting of the Dialogue of Comfort proves to be integral to the structure of the work. It would be too easy to read the work as a mere 'allegory' in the modern sense of the word. While undoubtedly there are clear parallels between Henry VIII and the 'Grand Turk', and between the fate of Hungary at the hands of the Turks and that of the Roman Catholic Church in England at the hands of Henry VIII, a careful reading of the work should suggest, as Manley points out, that the dialogue cannot be read on one level only.[21]

12. The Dialogue of Comfort works on several levels: sometimes the 'Grand Turk' is the literal historical figure of Suleiman the Magnificent, at other times he may represent a {223} veiled reference to Henry VIII, and at other times to the Devil himself.[22] In the same way without being a formal allegory, the 'Turkish invasion' also can either represent the literal historical event, or the chaos caused by the English Reformation and the ensuing persecution of English Catholics,[23] or, on a larger, more universal scale, all the forces of chaos, evil and destruction that threaten the Christian here in this life.[24]

13. There is clearly a very personal dimension to the work. One has a strong sense in reading through the Dialogue of Comfort of the author struggling to come to a final acceptance of his own death. His serenity at the time of his execution is well-known. What is not so well-known is how much it cost him personally to come to that point. Part of More's genius was his ability to universalize his own situation and see it sub specie aeternitatis. By doing so he was able to objectify his own position and stand apart from it, and become detached without giving in to resignation, though, in the course of the Dialogue of Comfort, More makes it clear that he was no stoic and that martyrdom did not come easily to him.

14. At the same time it is obvious that the Dialogue of Comfort was also meant to be a "Handbook for Christian Martyrs." Though the nominal setting of the Dialogue of Comfort was Hungary, it is clear that More was partly writing to strengthen and comfort his own family and those of his friends who were to remain faithful to the old religion and who in the process would likely suffer imprisonment and torture, exile or death at Henry VIII's hands. More did not offer any false comfort to them by trying to deny the horrors they might face, but rather tried to give them courage and strength to face these horrors.

15. However, the Dialogue of Comfort was clearly not concerned solely with the English situation either. More seems also to have been genuinely, deeply concerned about the tragic fall of Hungary, and the terrible vulnerability of a theologically divided Christendom to the incursions of the Turks.[25] "The Grand Turk" sometimes is clearly identified with the literal Ottoman Emperor, sometimes Henry VIII, and at other times with the Devil: in fact, the Grand Turk is a symbol of all the forces of chaos and destruction at work in the world, including tyrannical kings and rulers.[26] In the end, the Dialogue of Comfort deals not just {224} with contemporary religious conflicts, but more universally with the problem of suffering and of how the good or devout man should face this suffering.

16. The Dialogue of Comfort like many of More's other major works also represents a hybrid of several different literary genres. On the one hand it draws heavily on the classical consolatio tradition, of which the most famous example is Boethius's Consolation of Philosophy.[27] However, the work also has strong connections with the specifically Christian tradition of comfort that found expression in the many popular "books of comfort" that were produced in the later Middle Ages.[28] Unlike in the classical consolatio, including Boethius, reason is clearly subordinated to faith in More's Dialogue of Comfort which can perhaps be best described as a consolation of theology or of the theological virtues, rather than of philosophy (cf. CW 12, cxix). More seems to be quite unique in combining the classical tradition of consolatio with that of the Christian tradition of comfort. This is part of what gives the work its tremendous resonance.[29]

17. Frank Manley, in the introduction to the Yale Edition, on "The Argument of the Book" (CW 12, lxxxvi--cxvii), analyses the threefold division of the Dialogue of Comfort into three books in terms of the three Theological Virtues: Faith, Hope, and Charity. However, Manley's analysis does not go far enough. The Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation is a treatment not only of the theological virtues, but also of their polar psychological and spiritual opposites: doubt, fear, tribulation, despair, suicide, pride, pusillanimity (timidity), hate, persecution, and martyrdom. The work is an exploration of all the ways in which the tribulations of this life, culminating in persecution for the faith and Christian martyrdom, can undermine the workings of divine grace, and of the remedies provided by the theological virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity. Thus, paradoxically, More's "Book of Comfort" is in places a very dark book---it has as much to do with doubt and fear as with faith; as much with pride and despair and excessive scrupulosity as with hope; and as much with hatred, persecution and martyrdom as with love or charity.

18. Alongside the tripartite structure, there is another parallel structure consisting of a {227} more or less traditional "book" of comfort and consolation, comprising all of Book I and the first twenty odd pages of Book II, which I will call Comfort A (see Figure 6.2 for a schematic analysis of the structure of Comfort A),[30]


Comfort A: The Book of Comfort

Book I
Preface 3/1--9/16 Introduction to Book I: Vincent comes to seek comfort from his uncle Anthony

Comfort in Tribulation (I:1--I:12)
Chapters 1--2 9/17--14/4 On the insufficiency of the comforts of ancient moral philosophy, and on the necessity of having the foundation of faith
Chapters 3--5 14/5--19/7 The first source of comfort in tribulation is the desire to be comforted by God
Chapter 6 19/8--23/8 The desire to have tribulation taken away is not always sufficient, since God sometimes wills for us to suffer tribulation
Chapters 7--10 23/10--35/6 Anthony then claims that every tribulation
1. either comes to us through our own fault
2. or is sent by God as punishment for past sins
3. or else is sent to increase our patience and our merit
Chapters 11--12 35/7--40/13 Tribulation leads not only to the purging of our sins, but also to the increase of our heavenly reward

On the Necessity of Tribulation (I:13--I:20)
Chapters 13--15 40/14--47/27 Anthony claims that those who never experience tribulation in this life never experience comfort either. Vincent objects:
1. the Church prays for the health of princes and prelates
2. if health and prosperity are wrong why take medicine
3. Solomon, Job, and Abraham were all prosperous
4. many rich men are good and many poor people are evil
Chapter 16 48/1--56/12 Anthony answers Vincent's objections: worldly pleasure is not always unpleasant to God, nor tribulation always wholesome, but tribulation can take many forms---troubles that grieve the mind as well as bodily pains. Even the prosperous can experience many tribulations
Chapters 17--18 56/13--63/23 God often sends tribulation to make us pray to him for help
Chapters 19--20 64/1--77/26 The prayers of those suffering tribulation are far more pleasing to God than the ones of those who are prosperous. Tribulation is a gracious gift from God
Book II
Preface 78/1--82/4 Introduction of Book II: Vincent returns again after a month
Chapters 1--2 78/1--82/4 It is sometimes permissible to seek worldly comfort in tribulation, for example telling 'merry tales' (many occur in Comfort B)
Chapters 3--4 86/15--90/26 There are three kinds of tribulation:
1. those a man willingly takes upon himself (e.g. penance)
2. those he willingly suffers (to be the subject of Comfort B)
3. those he is unable to avoid (already dealt with in Book I)
Chapters 5--9 91/1--102/3 After dealing briefly with the first kind of tribulation (penance), Anthony subdivides the second kind into two:
1. temptation in which the devil tries to trap us (Book II)
2. persecution in which the devil fights us openly (Book III)

Figure 6.2. Comfort A: The Book of Comfort


{227} followed by an extended meditation on Psalm 90 (91), especially verses five and six, that runs through the second two-thirds of the work from page 102 onwards to the end of Book III, which I will call Comfort B.[31] After a brief discussion of Psalm 90(91): 1--4 in Chapter 10, on page 105 in Book II, Chapter 11, Anthony goes on to quote verses 5 and 6 of the same Psalm:

Scuto circumdabit te veritas eius / non timebis a timore nocturno / a sagitta volante in die, a negocio perambulante in tenebris, ab incursu & demonio meridiano: The trouth of god shall compasse the about with a pavice [shield], thow shalt not be aferd of the nightes feare, nor of the arrow fleyng in the day, nor of the bysynes walkyng about in the darknesses / nor of the incursion or invacion of the devill in the mydde day. (CW 12, 105/17--23).

As Louis Martz points out, "the great central text from Psalm 90... runs like a refrain through the rest of Book II and on throughout Book III, forming the basis for a sustained set of considerations on the comfort to be found in "the truth of God".[32] Martz goes on to show how the four temptations of Psalm 90: 5--6 provide an architectural framework for the rest of the Dialogue of Comfort.[33] My own "model" of the structure of Comfort B (see Figure 6.3) is essentially a refinement of that provided by Martz and the somewhat complementary analysis of Martz's co-editor Frank Manley (cf. CW 12, xcv--cxvii), though I have not agreed in every detail with their divisions of the text.


Comfort B: The Meditation on Psalm 90(91): 5--6

Book II
Chapters 10--11 102/4--106/26 Introduction of Psalm 90, leading up to verses 5--6 (ch.11):
... non timebis a timore nocturno / a sagitta volante in die, a negocio perambulante in tenebris, ab incursu & demonio meridiano: ... thow shalt not be aferd of the nightes feare, nor of the arrow fleyng in the day, nor of the bysynes walkyng about in the darknesses / nor of the incursion or invacion of the devill in the mydde day (105/18--23).

1.Chapters 12--16a 107/1--157/2 The first temptation: "The night's fear"
---Of Pusillanimity (ch. 13--14) [Mother Maud's Tale (114/14--120/6)]
---Of Suicide (ch. 15--16) [Vincent and Anthony imagine how they would counsel the "spiritual man" of Cassian's Collations who contemplated suicide (129/2--157/2)]
2.Chapter 16b 157/2--166/7 The second temptation: "The arrow flying in the day"
---Of the temptations of pride and prosperity
3.Chapter 17 166/8--187/29 The third temptation: "The business walking in the darkness"
---Of the temptation to evil business or frantic activity in the pursuit of worldly riches, and on the proper use of wealth [They break for dinner (186/26--187/28)]

Book III
Preface and Chapter 1 188/1--199/24 Introduction to Book III: News of impending Turkish invasion of Hungary
4.Chapters 2--4 200/1--205/26 The fourth temptation: "The incursion of the noonday devil"
---The distinguishing mark of this temptation is persecution for the faith
---This persecution brings two kinds of tribulations:
1. Those that affect the body
2. Those that affect the soul (dismissed immediately)
---There are two kinds of harm the body can take:
1. The loss of outward things (3:5--3:16)
2. Harm to the body itself (3:17--3:27)

Chapters 5--16 206/1--244/21 1. The loss of outward things
---loss of worldly possessions, offices, positions of authority, and lands [Of the flattery of the great prelate in Germany (Wolsey?) (212/22--218/4)] [Vincent play-acts the role of a great lord who feared to lose his possessions (229/10--237/28)]

Chapters 17--22 244/22--288/17 2a. Harm to the body itself
---Of bodily pain, hard labour, loss of liberty and imprisonment, and death [On the topos of "The Prison of This Earth" (255/9--270/12)]
Chapters 23--27 288/18--320/28 2b. Harm to the body itself (Continued)
---On painful and shameful death, persecution and martyrdom

Figure 6.3. Comfort B: The Meditation on Psalm 90(91): 5--6


{227} As Martz and Manley point out (cf. CW 12, lxxiv--v, ci--civ) the first three temptations of Psalm 90 provide the framework for much of Book II: the first temptation, "the night's fear," the temptation of fear and despair, is dealt with in Chapters 12--16 (107--57), and the second and third temptations, "the arrow flying in the day" and "the business walking in the darkness", the temptations of pride and prosperity, and of the frantic pursuit of worldly goods and wealth respectively, in Chapters 16--17 (157--87), while the fourth temptation, "the noonday devil," persecution for the faith and {228} the threat of martyrdom, takes up all of Book III.


6.4 The Function of Psalm 90

19. Before turning to an analysis of the text of the Dialogue of Comfort, it is necessary briefly to discuss the main exegetical traditions surrounding Psalm 90 (91): 5--6, since this will be crucial for correctly understanding the structure of Comfort B.[34] There are two main traditions, one, found mainly among the Desert Fathers, which interprets the "noonday devil" of Psalm 90: 6 as the spirit of acedia or "accidie", and the second, originating with St. Augustine and St. Jerome, which interprets the daemon meridianum as the persecution of tyrants or the seductions of heretics.

20. The clearest statement of the first view is in Cassian's Institutes, Book 10, Chap. 1:[35]

Our sixth combat is with what the Greeks call acedia, which we may term weariness [taedium] or distress of heart [anxietatem cordis]. This is akin to dejection [tristitia],[36] and is especially trying to solitaries, and a dangerous and frequent foe to dwellers in the desert; and especially disturbing to a monk about the sixth hour [i.e. noon], like some fever which seizes him at stated times, bringing the burning heat of its attack on the sick man at usual and regular hours. Lastly, there are some of the elders who declare that this is the "midday demon" spoken of in the ninetieth Psalm.[37]

Cassian goes on to describe the effects of "accidie" in the next chapter: the monk afflicted by accidie becomes disgusted with his cell, and feels disdain and contempt for his monastic brothers. He becomes lazy and sluggish, and cannot bear to stay in his cell and read, but "often groans because he can do no good while he stays there, and complains and sighs because he can bear no spiritual fruit."[38] He imagines that life in other monasteries is better, and that he will never be well if he stays in that place, unless he leaves his cell:

Then the fifth or sixth hour [i.e. noon] brings him such bodily weariness and longing for food that he seems to himself worn out and wearied as if with a long journey, or some very heavy work,... Then besides this he looks about anxiously this way and that,... and often goes in and out of his cell, and frequently gazes up at the sun, as if it was too slow in setting, and so {229} a kind of unreasonable confusion of mind takes possession of him like some foul darkness, and makes him idle and useless for every spiritual work....[39]

The rest of Book 10 of the Institutes goes on to provide a detailed analysis of "The Spirit of Accidie" and its remedies.[40] Accidie "in its most complicated and most deadly form, a mixture of boredom, sorrow and despair"[41] clearly provides the inspiration, if not framework, for much of the discussion of the "First Temptation" in Book II, culminating in the "Counselling of the Spiritual Man of Cassian's Collations" (in Book II: 16).

21. This tradition of interpretation of Psalm 90 (91): 5--6, put forward by Cassian and other Desert Fathers, was in turn later taken up and modified and developed further by St. Bernard and others. St. Bernard commented on Psalm 90 (91) in a series of Lenten sermons, the In Psalmum XC, and in Sermon 33 of the Sermons on the Song of Songs.[42] While St. Bernard does at one point describe the attacks of the noonday devil in terms strikingly reminiscent of Cassian's description in the Institutes,[43] he also, unlike Cassian, stresses the element of fear or pusillanimity:

Our common experience tells us that it is fear which disturbs us at the beginning of our conversion, fear of that dismaying picture we form for ourselves of the strict life and unwanted austerities we are about to embrace. This is called a nocturnal fear.... Beginners on the way to God, therefore, must in particular watch and pray against this first temptation, or they will be suddenly overcome by pusillanimity of spirit as by a storm, and unfortunately recoil from the good work they have begun.[44]

St. Bernard's interpretation of the "night's fear" provided the basis for More's treatment of Pusillanimity in Book II, Chapters 13--14, while Cassian's discussion of "accidie" provided the basis for More's treatment of spiritual despair, and of the desire to commit suicide, in Book II, Chapters 15--16.

22. More's interpretation of the second and third temptations of Psalm 90 (91), in terms of the temptations of the "active life," namely temptations of pride and prosperity, and of the frantic desire to acquire wealth and material possessions, seems also to be derived rather {230} freely from St. Bernard and Nicholas of Lyra.[45] St. Bernard interprets the second temptation, "the arrow that flies by day", as vainglory:[46]

This arrow is none other than vain glory, which is why it does not attack the wavering [pusillanimes] and the careless. It is those who appear more fervent who must look out for themselves; they must be afraid on this score, and be extremely cautious never to leave the invincible shield of truth [cf. 90:4]... For, unless I am mistaken, a man cannot easily be misled by someone who praises him during his lifetime, and thus become top-lofty, if he carefully examines himself within in the light of truth, Surely if he thinks about his own condition, he will say to himself, 'How can you, who are but dust and ashes, be proud?' Surely, if he considers his own corruption, he must necessarily admit that there is no good in him.[47]

St. Bernard goes on to interpret the third temptation as hypocrisy and ambition: "the pestilence that stalks about in the darkness,... is hypocrisy. For this has its source in ambition, its dwelling in darkness."[48] In this temptation the tempter says: "He has spurned vain glory because it is vain. Maybe he will conceive a fondness for more solid food: honors, perhaps, or maybe riches."[49] St. Bernard goes on to show how because of this temptation "a foul corruption permeates the whole body of the Church":[50]

For they even pursue their nefarious quest and the business of darkness in running after positions of ecclesiastical dignity, and in this they are seeking not the salvation of souls, but the extravagance of riches.... Today people scrap shamelessly to get archbishoprics and archdeaconries in order to dissipate church revenues in wanton waste and vain pursuits.[51]

Those who, led on by this temptation, seek to become prelates in the Church, attain to these positions not "by way of merit, but through this agency that works in the darkness."[52] In Book II, Chapters 16--17 (CW 12, 157--87), More by and large follows St. Bernard, except that as a pious layman, he expands St. Bernard's description of the "Third Temptation" to include also the temptations of public office.

23. For his treatment of the "Fourth Temptation," More drew on the second tradition of the interpretation of Psalm 90 (91): 5--6, mentioned previously. The clearest statement of this second tradition is to be found in Cassiodorus's Expositio Psalmorum:[53] {231}

The terror of the night, then, is the cloudy persuasion of heretics. The arrow that flieth by day is open persecution by tyrants. The business in the dark is the debased study by which the mental eye of right believers is blinded. The noonday devil is the massive danger ignited by the heat of persecution, in which destruction is often feared and human weakness overcome....[54]

Cassiodorus was in turn conflating two earlier traditions of exegesis, going back to Augustine[55] and Jerome[56] respectively.

24. For St. Jerome the noon-day devil is the teaching of heretics, philosophers, and Jews. The two sermons that St. Jerome preached on Psalm 90 (91) (Homilies 20 and 68) closely parallel one another. In the first temptation (Homily 20) the devil lurks in the darkness and shoots at the guileless and the innocent who are his secret target. "You shall not fear the terror of the night" means that "even though you are in the terror of the dark night, nevertheless, you will not be afraid because you are armed with the shield of truth."[57] The second, third and fourth temptations are interpreted (Homily 68):

Nor the arrow that flies by day?... is the teaching of the heretics that flies hither and thither throughout the day---throughout all God's law---in their anxious search to gather testimony against us that they may rob us of all truth by their interpretation. Not the pestilence that roams in the darkness. He did not say stands, but roams, for the heretics are never constant in their convictions, but are forever changing their opinions, shifting back and forth. Nor the devastating plague at noon.... No less than the saints, who have a midday light where they pasture their flocks and give them rest, the devil, transformed into an angel of light, has his servants disguised as false ministers of justice.... Some inexperienced and credulous men think that there is a real midday demon that has more power to attack men at that time; we, however, shall interpret the noonday devils as the heresiarchs who, while simulating angels of light, preach dogmas of darkness.[58]

St. Jerome's interpretation of Psalm 90 (91) provides evidence for reading the attempts of the "Great Turk" in Book III of the Dialogue of Comfort to force Christians to renounce their faith as an allegory of the English Reformation under Henry VIII. However, St. Jerome's interpretation is implicit rather than explicit in Book III of the Dialogue of Comfort. The main source for More's exegesis of the "Fourth Temptation" of Psalm 90 (91): 5--6 in {232} Book III is to be found in St. Augustine's Expositions on the Book of Psalms: "The demon that is in the noon-day, represents the heat of furious persecution."[59] St. Augustine then recalls the earlier persecution of Christians. At first the emperors and kings of the world thought they could destroy the name of Christ by simple execution; the emperor's decree: "'Whoever professes himself a Christian, let him be beheaded;' was as the arrow that flieth by day. The devil that is in the noonday was not yet abroad, burning with a terrible persecution, and afflicting with great heat even the strong."[60] However, when the emperor saw so many hastening to martyrdom, and the number of fresh converts increasing in proportion to the martyrs:

The sun then began to blaze, and to glow with a terrible heat. Their first edict had been, Whoever shall confess himself a Christian, let him be smitten. Their second edict was, Whoever shall have confessed himself a Christian, let him be tortured, and tortured even until he deny himself a Christian.... Many therefore who denied not [under the first edict], failed amid the tortures; for they were tortured until they denied. But to those who persevered in professing Christ, what could the sword do, by killing the body at one stroke, and sending the soul to God? This was the result of protracted tortures also: yet who could be found able to resist such cruel and continued torments? Many failed: those, I believe, who presumed upon themselves, who dwelt not under the defence of the Most High, and under the shadow of the God of Heaven [cf. 90:1]; who said not to the Lord, "Thou art my lifter up:" [v.2] who trusted not beneath the shadow of his wings [v.4], but reposed much confidence in their own strength. They are thrown down by God, to show them that it is He that protects them, He overrules their temptations, He allows so much only to befall them, as each person can sustain.[61]

St. Augustine's interpretation of the noonday devil as "symbolizing the stormiest period of persecution experienced by the early Church,"[62] clearly provides the foundation of Book III of More's Dialogue of Comfort. However, More reverses the psychological movement of St. Augustine's sermon: More's analysis of the daemon meridianum in Book III begins with the loss of outward goods, and persecution for the faith, and moves progressively to its inner psychological and spiritual culmination at the end of Book III in the joys of Christian martyrdom. A detailed account of the structure of Book III, the subdivisions of the "Fourth {233} Temptation" (see Figure 6.3), is reserved for the appropriate sections of the "Analysis of the Text" which follows.


6.5 Analysis of the Text

6.5.1 Introduction to Book I (I:Preface)

25. The opening of the dialogue, like so many of More's other works, is very carefully structured. Unlike several earlier works, there are no prefatory letters, only the brief title. The two speakers are not introduced in any formal way, except by the alternation of the names in the text. The opening is almost casual, certainly muted and low-key. There is no real introduction. We hear Vincent, the nephew, speaking immediately:

Who wold haue went / O my good vnckle / afore a few yeres passed, that such as in this countrey wold visit their frendes lying in desease & siknes, shuld come (as I do now) to seke & fetch comfort of them / or in gevyng comfort to them, vse the wey that I may well vse to you / For albeit that the prestes and freres be wont to call vppon sik men to remember deth / yet we worldly frendes for feare of discomfortyng them, haue euer had a gise in hungarye / to lyft vp their hartes and put them in hope of lyfe / But now my good vnckle the world is here waxen such / & so gret perilles appere here to fall at hand that me thynketh the gretest comfort that a man can haue, ys when he may see that he shall sone be gone. And we that are lykely long to lyve here in wrechidnes, haue nede of some comfortable councell agaynst trybulacion / to be gevyn vs by such as you be good vnckle, that haue so long lyvid vertuously, & are so lernyd in the law of god, as very few be better in this countrey here.... (CW 12, 3/9--23)

26. Anthony replies with the conventional Christian answer that Vincent must look for comfort from God and not from him. The young man is not so easily put off by his uncle, and comments that Anthony's words "make me now fele & perceve, what a mysse of much comfort we shall haue, when ye be gone" (5/17--18). Anthony for his part still seems to be reluctant to reply to Vincent's request for comfort, and suggests that God himself will give him comfort. This time Vincent begs his uncle more urgently for words of good counsel and comfort:

And sith that I now se the lyklyhod, that when ye be gone, we shalbe sore {234} destytute of any such other lyke / Therfor thynketh me / that god of dewtie byndeth me to sew <to> you now good vnckle, in this short tyme that we haue you, that yt may like you agaynst these grete stormes of tribulacions / with which both I & all myne are sore beten alredy / And now vppon the comyng of this cruell Turke, fere to fall in ferre mo / I may lern of you such plentie of good councell & comfort, that I may with the same layd vp in remembrauns, gouerne and staye the ship of ower kyndred, & kepe yt a flote from perill of spirituall drounnyng. (CW 12, 6/5--14)

Vincent next describes in gruesome detail the cruelties and atrocities committed by the Turks, during the invasion of Hungary in 1526. After mentioning some of the past victories of the Turks, Anthony mentions that there is something worse even than the evils committed by the Turks, namely the pains of Hell. However, Anthony is so moved by Vincent's words, that he finally agrees to Vincent's request.


6.5.2 Comfort in Tribulation (I:1--I:12)

27. Anthony first defines tribulation as "some kynd of grefe eyther payne of the body or hevynes of <the> mynd" (10/6--7). He then briefly alludes to the classical tradition of consolation derived from ancient moral philosophy, only to point out its inadequacy without faith. Faith is the necessary foundation without which comfort is impossible. Vincent then asks Anthony to proceed further in describing the nature of spiritual comfort. Anthony then defines the first kind of comfort as the desire and longing to be comforted by God. God both can and will give man comfort. Vincent interjects:

But <by> this I se wel / that woo may they be, which in tribulacion lak that mynd, & that desierith not to be comfortid by god / but are eyther of slouth or impacyence discumfortles / or of foly seke for their cheef ease & cumfort eny where elles. (CW 12, 17/8--11)

Anthony replies that the very tribulation itself that God sends serves ordinarily as a means for man's amendment.

28. Vincent thinks his uncle's counsel is very good, but asks if the desire to have the tribulation taken away is not also a desire for God's comfort. Anthony responds that "A {235} man may many tymes well & without synne, desier of god the tribulacion to be taken from hym / but neyther may we desier <that> in euery case" (19/26--28). Anthony next describes various kinds of tribulations:

trybulacions are / ye wot well / of many sundrye kyndes / some by losse of goodes or possessions, & some by the siknes of oure selfe / & some by the losse of frendes / or by some other payne put vnto our bodies / some by the drede of the losyng of those thynges that we fayne wold save / vnder which feare fall all the same thynges that we haue spoken before.... (CW 12, 19/29--20/5)

We may pray for relief from hunger, sickness and bodily hurt, but we may not pray for the taking away of every kind of tribulation. When it comes time for a man to die and depart to God, he should show himself content to do so. If it is God's will for us to suffer, then we must pray that God will send us the spiritual comfort to bear it gladly, or the strength to suffer it patiently. Anthony then claims that:

euery tribulacion which any tyme falleth vnto vs / ys eyther sent to be medicinable yf men will so take yt / or may become medicynable yf men will so make it / or is better than medicynable but yf we will forsake yt. (CW 12, 23/22--25)

Vincent, however, is a bit puzzled. Anthony now tries to clarify his earlier position by stating that every tribulation comes either, first, because of our own sinful deeds, or else, secondly, is sent by God to man as a punishment for past sins or to preserve us from falling into sin, or, thirdly, to prove our patience or increase our merit.

29. Vincent finds Anthony's arguments somewhat dark and obscure, and asks for further clarification. In the first case, Anthony explains, many make a virtue of necessity and turn to God in their tribulations. In the second, the tribulation is medicinable for our past sins, if accepted in the right spirit, or as a preservative against sins to come. Vincent asks about the third kind of tribulation and raises the following objection:

yet can I not see by what reson a man may in this world, where the {236} tribulacion is suffrid, take any more comfort therin, then in any of the tother twayne that are sent a man for his syn / sith he can not <here> know, whether yt be sent hym for synnes before commyttid or sinne that els shuld fall, or for increase of merite & reward after to come.... (CW 12, 30/23--28)

Anthony acknowledges Vincent's objection, but points out that some men can justly claim, as Job did, that they did not deserve the sufferings they endured. Their sufferings were clearly meant to test their patience. Anthony includes in the third group any man who falls into tribulation for the sake of justice, or in defence of religion. Their sufferings are better than medicinable since they lead to salvation.


6.5.3 On the Necessity of Tribulation (I:13--I:20)

30. Anthony then suggests paradoxically the need for tribulation, if we are to find comfort:

Cosyn it were to long worke to peruse euery comfort that a man may well take in tribulacion / for as many comfortes ye wot well may a man take therof, as there be good comodities therin / and that be there <surely> so many, that it woldbe very long to reherse & treat of them / But me semeth we can not lightly better perceve what profit & comoditie & therby what comfort they may take of it that haue yt, than yf we well consider what harm the lak ys, & therby what discumfort the lak therof shuld be to them that neuer haue yt.... (CW 12, 40/22--41/3)

Anthony declares that man cannot have continual prosperity both in this world and in the next. Vincent objects that many preachers promise their hearers that they can experience continual happiness in this world and the next. Anthony replies that they do it either for gain or out of fear. Vincent further objects, first, that the Church in its various collects and other liturgical prayers prays for princes and prelates that God grant them perpetual health and prosperity; secondly, that if prosperity is indeed so perilous, we should not then pray for continual health and prosperity; thirdly, some of the Old Testament patriarchs, such as Solomon, Job, and Abraham enjoyed prosperity; fourthly, that there are many good men who are rich and many of the poor who are as evil as they are wretched. Anthony then {237} clarifies his earlier statement:

Eyther I said not Cosyn, orels ment I not to say, that for an vndoutid rule / worldly pleasure were alwey displesaunt to god / or tribulacion euermore holsome to euery man. For well wote I that our lord giveth in this world, vnto euery sort of folke eyther sort of fortune. (CW 12, 48/4--8)

God gives both good fortune and sorrow. There are some who in prosperity cannot creep forward to God, but who run quickly to him in tribulation. Anthony defines tribulation as everything which troubles or grieves a man, either in body or in mind. Significantly, he does not minimize the pain of mental anguish:

And surely Cosyn the prik that very sore priketh the mynd / as far almost passeth in payne the grefe that payneth the body / as doth a thorn that stikketh in the hart, passe and excede in payne the thorn that is thrust in the hele. (CW 12, 50/21--24)

He argues that, if one includes mental anguish, then there are more kinds of tribulation than had been previously thought, and that "sith euery kynd of tribulacion is an interupcion of welth / prosperitie which is but of welth another name, may be discontynued by mo wayes than you wold before haue went" (51/1--3).

31. The fourth objection is dismissed out of hand by Anthony. Anthony then replies to the first and third of the previously raised objections, that to pray for perpetual health is childish, and that it is equivalent to praying that one never experiences any temptations or trials in this life; and, that Solomon, Job, and Abraham all experienced tribulations of one kind or another, and therefore did not experience continual prosperity. Vincent insists, however, that the second objection still stands. Anthony replies that the same God who teaches us that tribulation is profitable also teaches us to pray for relief, and that God even sometimes sends tribulation to make us pray to him for help.

32. Vincent accepts Anthony's arguments, but returns to the fourth previously raised objection, and reformulates it: that if both tribulation and prosperity are neither good nor {238} bad in themselves why put a greater value on tribulation than on prosperity? He points out that:

a welthy man well at ease, may pray to god quietly & meryly with alacrite & grete quietnes of mynd / where as he that lieth gronyng in his grefe, can not endure to pray nor thynk almost vppon nothyng but vppon his payne. (CW 12, 65/3--6)

Anthony replies to Vincent's objections by insisting that the two forms of prayer do not have equal merit:

For in tribulacion which commeth you wot well in many sondry kyndes / any man that is not a dull best or a desperat wretch, callith vppon god, not houerly [lightly] but right hartely, & settith his hart <full> hole vppon his request / so sore he longeth for ease & helpe of his hevynes. (CW 12, 65/17--21)

He gives the example of the martyrs who made no long prayers aloud: "but one ynch of such a prayour so prayd in that payne, was worth an hole ell & more evyn of their own prayours prayd at some other tyme" (66/6--8). The greatest of Christ's own prayers were those he made "in his grete agony & payne of his bitter passion" (67/2--3).

33. Anthony then denies that the man in prosperity experiences true comfort, which derives from "the consolacion of good hope, that men take in their hart / of some good growing toward them" (68/13--14), and not the pleasures of the body. Anthony concludes that we should consider:

tribulacion as a graciouse gyfte of god: A gyfte that he specially gaue his speciall frendes / the thyng that in scripture is highly commendid & praysid / A thyng wherof the contrary long contynued is perilous / A thyng which but yf god send <it,> men haue nede by penaunce to put vppon them selfe and seke it / A thyng that helpith to purge our synnes passid / A thyng that preserueth vs fro sinne that els wold come / A thyng that causeth vs set les by the world, A thyng that excitith vs to draw more toward god, A thyng that much mynysheth our paynes in purgatory, A thyng that mych encreseth our fynall reward in hevyn, The thyng by which our saviour entrid his own kyngdome / The thyng with which all his apostelles folowid hym thether, The thyng which our saviour exortith all men to / The thyng without which (he sayth) we be not his dicyples, The {239} thyng without which no man can get to hevyn. (CW 12, 75/11--24)

After Anthony's comfortable peroration, Vincent apologizes for disturbing him with his importunate objections. They agree to meet again. Vincent then prays for Anthony that God send him comfort, and Anthony in turn replies by praying for "the same good for you, & for all our other frendes that haue nede of comfort" (77/19--20). With this note of consolation Book I closes, and Vincent goes off to relay Anthony's words of comfort to their relatives and friends.


6.5.4 The Beginning of Book II (II:Preface--II:9)

34. Book II takes place about a month after the events of Book I. Vincent returns again to visit Anthony and half-jokingly apologizes for tiring him out at their first meeting:

yet after my departyng from you, remembring how long we taried together, and that we were all that while in talkyng / And all the labour yours in talkyng so long together without interpawsyng betwene / & that of mater studiouse & displesaunt, all of desease & siknes & other payne & tribulacion: I was in good fayth very sory & not a litell wroth with my selfe for myn <own> ouer sight, that I had so litell considerid your payne.... (CW 12, 78/10--16)

Anthony good-humoredly accepts Vincent's apology:

Nay nay good Cosyn / to talke mych / except some other payne let me / ys to me litell griefe / A fond old man is often so full of wordes as a woman. It is you wot well / as some poetes paynt vs / all the lust of an old foles lyfe / to sit well & warm with a cupp & a rostid crabb & dryvill & drinke & talke. (CW 12, 78/22--26)

He goes on to reassure Vincent that their previous conversation was a great comfort to him, and to assert that the main focus of their previous discussion had been not tribulation itself, but the comfort that can be found in tribulation. Vincent tells Anthony that he has reported to their mutual friends the counsels that Anthony had imparted to him at their previous meeting. Vincent in turn asks Anthony to remember his own comfort, and to be ready to dismiss him when he (Anthony) wishes to leave. Anthony apologizes for speaking so much {240} at the last meeting:

Forsoth Cosyn many wordes yf a man were very weke / spokyn (as you said right now) without interpawsyng, wold peradventure at length somwhat wery hym / And therfor wished I the last tyme after you were gone / when I felt my selfe (to sey the trowth) evyn a litell wery / that I had not so told you styll a long tale alone / but that we had more often enterchaungid wordes / & partid the talke betwene vs, with <ofter> enterparlyng vppon your part / in such maner as lernid men vse betwene the persons / whom they devise disputyng in their faynid diologes. (CW 12, 79/18--26)

He promises that he will now let Vincent do more of the talking. Vincent, however, in turn apologizes for having spoken as much as he did, and for having asked so many awkward questions. Vincent starts off by defending the desire sometimes to seek worldly comfort in tribulation, and gives as an example the telling of 'merry tales,' which refresh the mind again after it has become tired from too much study. Anthony feels uncomfortable about the telling of merry tales, but recognises his own weakness for them:

And of trouth Cosyn / as you know very well my selfe am of nature evyn halfe a giglot [wanton] & more / I wold I cold as easly mend my faute as I well know yt / But scant can I refrayne yt as old a fole as I am / how beit so parciall will I not be to my fawte as to prayse it. (CW 12, 83/3--7)

As it turns out Books II and III of the Dialogue of Comfort are full of 'merry tales,' many of them animal fables, which do indeed serve the function of refreshing the reader without distracting him too seriously from the course of the argument.[63]

35. Anthony returns to the main theme of the previous discussion by reiterating that we must find our chief comfort in God, but that honest mirth also has its place. He accepts the necessity of using merry tales as a concession to the weakness of human nature. However, he advises, that these kinds of recreation be as short and be used as seldom as possible. Most people, however, do not need any encouragement to tell idle tales. Our affection for Heaven is so cold that when the preacher speaks of the pains of Hell, his audience prick up their ears, but when he preaches of the joys of Heaven they all wander away.

36. {241} He continues by subdividing tribulations into three different kinds: firstly, those a man willingly takes upon himself, such as acts of penance; secondly, those he willingly suffers; and, thirdly, those he is unable to avoid, such as sickness, imprisonment, loss of goods or friends, or unavoidable bodily harm. Anthony postpones the third kind until later---to be dealt with in Book III. He briefly dismisses the first kind. In this kind of tribulation a man needs no comfort since he has freely taken it upon himself, and will experience comfort in the very act of tribulation. The second kind of tribulation will become the matter of the rest of Book II. However, before turning to this second kind of tribulation, Vincent brings forward a couple of objections concerning the first kind. There are some who remain bold in their sins until the end of their lives, trusting to be saved by deathbed repentance. Anthony replies that they risk being rejected by God in the end. And their place in Heaven will be lower than if they did penance. Vincent raises the further objection that the Lutherans in Germany dismiss fasting and penance as superstitious practises. Anthony in turn defends these practises as justified by scripture and the tradition of the Church.

37. Vincent now asks Anthony to deal with the second kind of tribulation. Anthony then proceeds to subdivide this kind of tribulation into two: the first being temptation and the second such forms of persecution as a man is reluctant to endure but does so to avoid giving displeasure to God. These two kinds are interrelated: in temptation the Devil persecutes us indirectly, and in persecution the Devil tempts us openly.

38. Anthony argues paradoxically that it is a great comfort for every man to be tested by temptation, since, if he wrestles with it, it will become the matter of his salvation. Another great source of comfort is that God has promised us in many places in scripture to strengthen and sustain those who endure temptation. {242}


6.5.5 Psalm 90 and the First Temptation (II:10--II:16)

39. Anthony goes on in Book II, Chapter 10, to quote from the opening verses of Psalm 90 (91) as an example of God's promises: "Qui habitat in adiutorio altissimi, in protectione dei celi comorabitur: who so dwellith in the help of the hiest god, he shall abide in the proteccion or defence of the god of hevyn" (102/26--103/2). Psalm 90 will provide a framework for much of what follows in the Dialogue of Comfort. After briefly commenting on Psalm 90, Verse 4 (CW 12, 103--104), Anthony goes on in the following chapter, in a passage already cited, to quote verses 5 and 6:

Scuto circumdabit te veritas eius / non timebis a timore nocturno / a sagitta volante in die, a negocio perambulante in tenebris, ab incursu & demonio meridiano: The trouth of god shall compasse the about with a pavice [shield], thow shalt not be aferd of the nightes feare, nor of the arrow fleyng in the day, nor of the bysynes walkyng about in the darknesses / nor of the incursion or invacion of the devill in the mydde day. (CW 12, 105/17--23).

This quotation becomes a sort of leitmotif, or recurring theme, running through the rest of the Book. The structure of the 'Book of Comfort' that More the author has been writing until this point is abandoned in favour of, or perhaps more accurately not abandoned but rather subsumed into an extended meditation on Psalm 90: 5--6. The four temptations of Psalm 90 then provide the framework for the rest of Book II and all of Book III. Anthony then goes on to explicate the text of the Psalm:

here sayth he [the psalmist] farther that the trouth of god shall compase the with a pavice / that is to wit that as god hath faythfully promisid to protect & defend those that faythfully will dwell in the trust of his help / so will he truly perform yt / And the that such one art, will the trouth of his promise defend, not with a litell round buckeler that scant can couer the hed, but with a long large pavice... (CW 12, 106/3--9)

He makes it clear that this "pavice" or shield is Christ himself.

40. Anthony turns next to a consideration of the first temptation of Psalm 90, the night's fear, which he interprets as consisting of those temptations of the devil, which tempt good {243} men to impatience and anger---the sufferings of Job are a clear example of this kind of temptation. This temptation is called the night's fear for two reasons: the tribulation is often dark and unknown, and the dangers of the temptation, like the terrors of the night itself, are often greatly exaggerated. One form this temptation can take is pusillanimity (faintheartedness); another is an overscrupulous conscience. To illustrate this fear Anthony tells one of More's most famous 'merry tales'---the Tale of Mother Maud---about an ass with an overscrupulous conscience and a wolf whose conscience was too accommodating.[64]

41. Anthony then asserts that one of the most serious forms that the temptation of the night's fear or pusillanimity takes is the desire to kill oneself. Vincent replies that those who are tempted to kill themselves can never escape the temptation. To which Anthony responds:

many a good man & woman hath some tyme / ye diuers yeres one after other continually be temptid therto / & yet haue by grace & good counsayle well and vertuously withstand yt, & bene in conclucion clerely deliuerid of hit / & there tribulacion nothyng knowen abrode & therfor nothyng talkyd of. (CW 12, 122/23--123/2)

Vincent is obviously troubled by the problem of suicide, which becomes one of the major themes of Book II.[65] He is not satisfied with Anthony's claim that the desire to kill oneself is an expression of pusillanimity, and goes on to interject that the desire to kill oneself may be an expression of great courage and boldness, and not fear as Anthony had previously claimed. Anthony does not deny that some are driven by anger or pride to kill themselves, but claims that they do not need comfort. Vincent is puzzled by this claim.

42. After this, Anthony tells a merry tale in which a carpenter's wife taunts her husband into chopping her head off. He concludes that "this temptacion in procuring her own deth" was "no tribulacion at all, as far as euer men could perceve / for it liked her well to thynke theron, & she evyn longid therfor" (126/24--27), and goes on to state that she needed to be counselled, not comforted. After telling another merry tale in the same vein, Anthony again {244} concludes: "this kynd of temptacion to a mans own destruccion which requireth counsayle / & is out of tribulacion / was out of our mater that is to treate of comfort in tribulacion" (129/3--5).

43. Vincent and Anthony then discuss (in Chapter 16) the case, taken from Cassian's Collations Book II:5, of a monk who thought it was God's will to kill himself. Cassian's description is as follows:

Remember the old man Hero who was cast down from the heights to the lowest depths because of a diabolical illusion. I remember how he remained fifty years in this desert, keeping to the rigors of abstinence with a severity that was outstanding, loving the secrecy of the solitary life with a fervor marvelously greater than that of any one else dwelling here. After such toil how and why could he have been fooled by the deceiver?... Surely the reason for it was that he had too little of the virtue of discernment and that he preferred to be guided by his own ideas rather than to bow to the advice and conferences of his brethern and to the rules laid down by our predecessors.... This presumptuousness led to his being fooled. He showed the utmost veneration for the angel of Satan, welcoming him as if he were actually an angel of light. Yielding totally to his bondage he threw himself headlong into a well.... He was pulled out half-dead by his brothers, who had to struggle very hard at it. He would die two days later. Worse, he was to cling firmly to his illusion, and the very experience of dying could not persuade him that he had been the sport of devilish skill. Those who pitied him his leaving had the greatest difficulty in obtaining the agreement of abbot Paphnutius that... he should not be classed among the suicides and, hence, be deemed unworthy of the remembrance and prayers offered for the dead.[66]

This chapter represents, as far as I know, together with More's own earlier brief account of suicide in Utopia,[67] the first serious treatment of suicide in English literature, and possibly one of the first such treatments in Western literature since classical antiquity. Unfortunately, it is beyond the scope of this present study to deal with it. However, I will point to one important feature---much of Chapter 16 (CW 12, 129--57) consists of a "dialogue-within-a-dialogue" in which Anthony and Vincent imagine themselves 'counselling' the spiritual man of Cassian's Collations, and consider the different kinds of good advice, comfort and counsel that could be given under the circumstances.[68] {245}


6.5.6 The Second and Third Temptations of Psalm 90 (II:16--II:17)

44. After Anthony ends his lengthy discussion of suicide, Vincent expresses concern that he has kept him from his dinner. Anthony reassures him that he had already dined before Vincent came. Anthony then goes on (CW 12, 157--66) to interpret the second temptation of Psalm 90, "the arrow flying in the day," as:

the arrow of pride, with which the devill temptith a man / not in the night / that is to wit in tribulacion & aduersite / for that tyme is to dyscomfortable & to fearefull for pride / but in the day that is to wit in prosperite / for that time is full of lightsome lust & corage. (CW 12, 157/20--24)

Anthony then suggests that the temptation to pride in prosperity is a source of tribulation for many good men. This temptation takes the forms of ambitious glory, arrogance, contempt for the poor, oppression and extortion. Many good men in positions of authority are troubled by these temptations. Anthony advises that such men should stay in their offices if possible but should also seek the help of a good confessor. Vincent responds that he likes Anthony's counsels well, and thinks they are very profitable to those in prosperity.

45. Anthony then turns (CW 12, 166--87) to the third temptation of Psalm 90, "the business walking in the darkness":

And now will I touch one word or twayn of the third temptacion (wherof the prophet speketh in these wordes) A negocio perambulante in tenebris: from the besines walkyng in the darknes / & than will we call for our dener levyng the last temptacion that is to wit / Ab incursu & demonio meridiano / from the incursion & the devill of the midd day / till after none / & than shall we therwith god willyng make an end of all this mater. (CW 12, 165/24--30)

Anthony interprets the Negotium of Psalm 90: 6 as a devil that tempts men to much evil business or frantic activity in pursuit of worldly goods and pleasures. The great sin here is the inordinate desire for and attachment to riches. Vincent objects that he cannot see how any rich man can be saved, unless he gives all his riches to the poor. Anthony argues that {246} Christ did not condemn riches as such, but rather inordinate attachment to worldly possessions. We must be ready to renounce all for Christ's sake. The rich man has his place---he can give alms to beggars and serve as an employer to the poor.[69] He should also use his riches to care for his family and his own servants, if they are old or sick. After Anthony has concluded dealing with the third temptation, dinner is brought in. They say grace and then sit down to dinner, and Anthony tells Vincent that he needs to sleep for a while after dinner. Vincent says that he has an errand to run, and will return when it is done.


6.5.7 The Beginning of Book III (III:Preface--III:1)

46. Book III opens on a sombre note with Vincent apologizing for having tarried too long:

by reason that I was lettid with one that shewid me a lettre datid at Constantinople / by which lettre it apperith that the greate Turke preparith a mervelouse mighty army / And iet whether he will therwith / that can there yet no man tell.... (CW 12, 188/7--11)

Up till now the fictional setting of the Dialogue in Hungary has only occasionally been exploited, but from now on it becomes crucial. We are suddenly and forcefully reminded of the extreme danger facing both Anthony and Vincent---the virtual certainty of a Turkish invasion and of the persecution and suffering that is bound to follow. The first two books naturally have been leading up to this all along, but the reader has been very cleverly beguiled and distracted by the merry tales and banter of much of Book II. All this only reinforces the horror that confronts us in Book III. In a way that parallels the divisions in Utopia, the first two books of the Dialogue of Comfort prepare us and provide a framework for 'the spectre of the abyss,' that More unfolds for us in Book III.

47. When he hears the news, Anthony does not try to offer Vincent any words of false comfort. Vincent is naturally very upset at the imminent prospect of the Turkish invasion. Anthony suggests that the Turk will use cunning, coming with the pretence of giving aid to {247} support one Hungarian faction against another. Vincent starts desperately clutching at straws: "Yet say they vncle that he vseth not to force any man to forsake his fayth" (189/28--29). Anthony reminds Vincent that the Grand Turk

maketh a solempne othe among the ceremonyes of the fest in which he first taketh vppon hym his aucthorite / that he shall in all that he possible may, minysh the fayth of Christ, & dilate the fayth of Mahumet.... (CW 12, 190/3--6)

and goes on to describe the various horrors that the Grand Turk inflicts on Christian populations---that he subjects them to heavy taxes, takes away their lands and their children, and carries many of them off into slavery. Vincent expresses the fear that many Christians will renounce their faith after the Turkish invasion. Anthony offers Vincent no crumbs of false comfort. The Turkish invasion is a punishment for the evils of Christian society, and it is necessary now before it happens to prepare for the worst. It is the duty of every faithful Christian to confess his faith even at the risk of being persecuted.


6.5.8 The Fourth Temptation (III:2--III:4)

48. Anthony now returns to the fourth temptation of Psalm 90, "the incursion of the noonday devil," which he says is entirely applicable to their present situation:

The fourth temptacion Cosyn that the prophet speketh of in the fore remembrid psalme, Qui habitat in adiutorio altissimi &c ys playne open persecucion / which is touchid in these wordes / Ab incursu et demonio meridiano / And of all his temptacions this is the most perilouse, the most bittre sharpe, & the most rigorouse... (CW 12, 200/5--9)

The distinguishing mark of this temptation of persecution for the faith is that the devil "suffreth hym selfe so playnely be percevid by his fierce maliciouse persecucion agaynst the faythfull christiens for hatrid of christes trew catholike fayth" (200/19--21). In all other temptations: "he stelith on like a fox / but in this Turkes persecucion for the fayth, he runnyth on roryng with assawt lyke a rampyng lyon" (200/31--201/2). This form of {248} temptation is the most perilous because the devil uses both "his allectiue [allurement] of quyete & rest by deliueraunce from deth & payne" and "the terrour & infliccion of intollerable payne and turment" (201/8--11), as a means to persuade the Christian to give up his faith. Vincent replies to his uncle:

The more perilouse vncle that this temptacion is / as in dede of all temptacions the most perilouse it is: the more nede haue they that stand in perell therof, to be before with substanciall advise & good counsayle well armyd agaynst it / that we may with the comfort & consolacion therof, the bettre bere that tribulacion whan yt commeth, & the bettre withstand the temptacion. (CW 12, 201/32--202/5)

Anthony responds: "that of this tribulacion somewhat you be more ferd than I / and of trouth somewhat more excusable it is in you than it were in me, myn age considerid / and the sorow that I haue suffrid al redy" (202/9--11). Vincent does not deny that he is afraid, but expresses concern for their relatives as well. Anthony also expresses concern for their fate.

49. The framework for most of the rest of Book III is laid out in Chapter 3 (203--205). Anthony begins with the Aristotelian dictum that man is made of both body and soul,[70] and that "all the harm that any man may take / it must nedes be in one of these two" (203/7--8). Anthony declares that he will not rehearse any of the harms that may come to the soul except for the case that "by some inordinate love & affeccion that the soule bere to the bodye / she consent to slyde fro the fayth, & therby doth her harm her selfe" (203/12--14). (This possible harm that may come to the soul is postponed to the end of Book III in the discussion of Christian Martyrdom in Chapters 23--27.) Anthony asks Vincent to list the various forms of harm that can come to the body, starting with "outward thynges." Vincent mentions the loss of "mony / plate / & other moveable substaunce / than offices, authorite, & fynally all the landes of his enheritaunce for euer / that hymselfe & his heires perpetually might elles enioy" (203/23--26). These, together with the loss of a good name (not mentioned {249} in the above list), become the matter for Chapters 5--16 (206--44). Vincent declares that the loss of these leads to neediness, poverty, and the shame of begging, which causes much grief to good men. As for the body itself "Now for the bodye very few wordes shall serue vs / For therin I se none other harme but losse of libertie / labour / imprisonament, paynfull and shamfull deth" (204/8--10). This last list of tribulations---interpreted as deportation into captivity and slavery, imprisonment, and being put to a painful and violent death---become the matter of the latter part of Book III, from Chapters 17--22 (244--88). The last of these, a shameful and painful death, becomes subsumed into a treatment of being put to death in the coming persecution for the faith, and of the glories of Christian Martyrdom (288--320), with which Book III finally ends. There is thus, in the course of Book III, a clear psychological and spiritual movement from the "outward" to the "inward," a progressive stripping away of all attachments, until the faithful Christian is finally stripped of life itself---and yet the ending of the book is a joyful and even glorious one, one of the most magnificent "purple passages" in all of More's works.


6.5.9 The Loss of Outward Things (III:5--III:16)

50. Anthony begins his account of the harms that can come to the body by arguing that the benefits of worldly possessions have been greatly exaggerated. Often the worst men, such as the Great Turk and his nobles, have the greatest possessions. It is foolish to put our trust in our money or our possessions, when they can so easily be taken away from us by others. Lands and estates offer no more security, since they frequently change hands. Nor is the possession of a good name necessarily a great benefit to us. Often a man is flattered to his face only to be ridiculed behind his back. The possession of great offices and positions of authority likewise brings little benefit. The harm we take at the hands of our superiors often outweighs the benefits we receive from those under us. We cannot keep any of our possessions for very long: in the end we all must die. If we have sought these possessions for {250} worldly reasons, then they will do harm to the soul---puffing a man up with pride and leading him to oppress the innocent.

51. Vincent agrees with Anthony but points out that most men who desire offices and positions of authority pretend that they do so in order to do some good with them. Anthony declares that the Turkish persecution will act like a touchstone separating "faynid" believers who are ready to forsake their faith to keep their goods from "trew myndid" ones, who "shall lese their goodes that will not leve their fayth" (226/26). Vincent expresses his fear that "we shall find few of such as haue much to lese / that shall fynd in their hartes so sodenly to forsake their good" (228/18--19). At this point Anthony asks Vincent to play-act the role of one of these rich men:

And I pray you Cosyn take his person vppon you / & in this case answere for hym / what lettith [hinders] you wold I aske... what lettith I say therfor your lordship that you be not gladly content without any deliberacion at all / in this kynd of persecucion / rather than to leve your fayth / to let go all that euer you haue at ones. (CW 12, 229/2--9)

What follows is another dialogue-within-a-dialogue similar to the one in Book II, Chapter 16. Vincent agrees to accept the role of the "Great Lord," and replies that what prevents him are the many benefits he derives from his possessions. He also thinks that he can outwardly profess belief in the Turk's faith, and still inwardly believe in Christ. Anthony replies "Nay nay my lord / Christ hath not so greate nede of your Lordshippe, as rather than to lese your service, he wold fall at such covenauntes with you / to take your service at halfes, to serve hym & his enymy both" (230/2--5). Such measures will not work with the Great Turk either, since he will force the Christian in the end to renounce Christ completely. Anthony asks Vincent-the-Great-Lord how he knows he will keep his wealth. The Great Turk could very easily deprive him of his wealth even if he does convert, and even if the Great Turk lets him keep his wealth, God himself can deprive the Great Lord of his wealth. Vincent replies "God is graciouse / & though that men offend hym, yet he suffreth them many tymes to live in {251} prosperite long after" (235/29--30). Anthony denies this: how can anyone possess their wealth for long when life itself is short. Though God is patient, he eventually punishes evil doers. God will deprive the Great Lord of his wealth when he least expects it, and will cast the Great Lord's soul into Hell for rejecting his faith. Vincent agrees with Anthony and declares that he will stop play-acting the role of the Great Lord, that he wishes "in this mater to play their part no lenger / but I pray god give me the grace to play the contrary parte in dede" (237/24--25).


6.5.10 Bodily Pain, Captivity and Imprisonment (III:17--III:22)

52. After finishing their discussion of the "outward" harms that can come to the Christian, Anthony and Vincent turn to the harms that can come to the body itself. Vincent begins by stating that even, if the Turks were to deprive him of all his possessions, he would not forsake his faith in Christ. However, he expresses fear at the prospect of physical suffering: "But surely good vncle, whan I bethynke me ferther on the greefe & the payne that may tourne vnto my flesh: here fynd I the feare that forceth myne hart to tremble" (245/13--15). Anthony reminds Vincent that Christ himself expressed fear at his own sufferings in his Passion. Anthony urges Vincent to meditate on Christ's sufferings. Christ's Passion will then inspire him with strength to face his own sufferings. Vincent finds himself greatly comforted by Anthony's words. Anthony then turns to consider the various forms of physical suffering that the Turks will inflict (repeating the list of tribulations already given in Chapter 3):

Let vs examyne the weyght & the substaunce of those bodely paynes as the sorest part of this persecucion which you rehersid before / which were yf I remember you right / tharldome [slavery] / imprisonment / paynfull & shamfull deth / and first let vs (as reason is) begyn with the tharldome / for that was as I remember the first. (CW 12, 250/16--20)

Vincent replies: "me thinketh vncle that captyuite is a mervelouse hevy thing namely whan {252} they shall (as they most comonly do) cary vs far from home into a staunge vncouth lande" (250/22--25). Anthony reminds Vincent that God is present everywhere:

I am very sure, that whether so euer men convey me / god is no more verely here than he shalbe there /[71] yf I get (as I may yf I will) the grace to set my hole hart vppon hym / & long for nothyng but hym / yt can than make me no greate mater to my mynd / whether they cary me hense or leve me here.... (CW 12, 251/7--12)

Anthony goes on to argue that the pains of captivity seem worse "because we take our formare liberty / for more a great dele than in dede yt was" (252/4--5). He continues by defining captivity as "the violent restraynt of a man, beyng so subdued vnder the domynyon rule & power of an other / that he must do what the tother lyst to commaund hym, & may not do at his libertie such thinges as he lyst hym selfe" (252/7--10). He points out that our liberty is restrained by human laws, and that furthermore every man is under bondage to sin. Since Christ himself took the form of a 'slave' when he became man, we should not be ashamed to be slaves for his sake.

53. Anthony then goes on to define imprisonment as "the retaynyng of a mans persoune, within the circute of a certen space narower or larger as shalbe lymyted vnto hym, restraynyng his libertie fro the further goyng into any other place" (257/21--23). Anthony asks Vincent the seemingly nonsensical question whether he knows of any man "that is at this day owt of prison" (258/16). Vincent replies: "What one man vncle / mary I know almost none other / for surely prisoner am I none acquentid with / that I remember" (258/18--19). More now introduces through the mouth of Anthony the theme of the world as prison that he had earlier on developed in The Four Last Things,[72] a theme that goes back to Plato's Allegory of the Cave in the Republic and Boethius's Consolation of Philosophy:

But now sith you can name me none of them that are in prison / I pray you name some one of all them, that you be as you say / better acquentid with / men I meane that are out of prison / for I know me thinketh as few of them as you know of the tother... (CW 12, 259/9--12) {253}

Vincent interjects: "That were vncle a straunge case / for euery man is vncle out of prison, that may go where he will / though he be the porest begger in the Towne" (259/14--16). Anthony responds with the astonishing assertion that even "the great Turke by whome we so feare to be put in prison [is] in prison all redy hymselfe" (259/25--26), because he may not go where he will. He goes on to argue that neither a king nor a beggar is free to go everywhere they wish (i.e., there are always some places they cannot go to):

but that yf they wold walke in some place / neyther of them both shuld be suffrid but men wold withstand them / & say them nay / therfor yf imprisonment be (as you graunt yt is) a lak of libertie to go where we lyst / I can not se but as I say, the beggar & the prince whom you reken both at libertie, be by your own reason <restraynyd> in prison both. (CW 12, 260/12--17)

Vincent refuses to accept Anthony's argument and replies:

But they may go at the lest wise to euery place that they nede, or that is commodiouse for them / & therfor they do not will to go but where they may go / And therfor be they at libertie to go where they will. (CW 12, 260/29--261/3)

54. Vincent goes on to reject his uncle's arguments, and replies that the claim that "euery man is in prison all redye / be but sophisticall fantasies" (262/16--17). Anthony replies:

Well fare thyne hart good Cosyn Vincent / There was in good fayth no word that you spake syns we talkyd of these matters, that halfe so well liked me as this that you speke now / For yf you had assentid in wordes / & in your mynd departyd vnperswadid / than yf the thing be trew that I say / yet had you lost the frute / & yf it be peradventure false & my selfe decevid therin / than while I shuld wene that yt liked you to / you shuld haue confyrmyd me in my folye / for in good fayth Cosyn such an old fole am I, that this thing, in the perswadyng wherof vnto you I had went I had quyt me well / & whan I haue all done apperith to your mynd but a tryfle / & a sophisticall fantasye / my selfe haue so many yeres taken for so very substanciall trewth.... (CW 12, 262/20--263/1)

Anthony invites Vincent to stand his ground firmly: "And hardely spet well on your handes & take good hold, & give yt not ouer agaynst your own mynd" (263/6--7). They return once more to the argument and Vincent challenges his uncle: "By my trowth vncle / these thinges {254} wold I fayne se well provid" (263/27).

55. With a masterly stroke, Anthony brings forward the case of a man who is attainted for treason and condemned to death but who in the time between his attainder and his execution is free to have the use of his lands, and is given free access to his family and friends, but with this one condition that when he is summoned, he must be ready to go to his execution. Vincent replies that for all the favours shown him, that the attainted man is still a prisoner. Anthony then goes on to develop the image of God as divine judge and executioner:

euery man is here (though he be the greest [greatest] kyng vppon earth) set here by the ordenaunce of god in a place (be it neuer so large) a place I say yet (and you say the same) out of which no man can escape / but that therein ys euery man put vnder sure & safe kepyng to be redely fet [fetched] forth whan god callith for hym, & that than he shall surely dye / And is not than Cosyn by your own grauntyng before, every man a <very> prisoner / whan he is put in a place to be kept to be brote forth / when he wold not, & hym selfe wot [knows] not whyther. (CW 12, 267/12--20)

Vincent finally accepts the force of his uncle's argument that "euery man is in this world a very prisoner" (270/17--18).

56. Anthony then goes on to further develop the image of God as "chiefe gaylour ouer this whole brode prison / the world" (271/21--22). Vincent, however, objects "that poynt most I nedes deny / for I neyther see hym [God] ley any man in the stokkes, or strike fetters on his legges / or so much as shete hym vpp in a chamber eyther" (274/8--11). Anthony responds that unlike other jailers, God uses invisible means to punish man, including disease and sickness, and after enumerating various examples, he concludes: "yf we consider yt well / we shall fynd this generall prison of this whole earth, a place in which the prisoners be as sore handlid as they be in the tother [prisons]" (275/8--11). Anthony goes on to cite the example of Christ as prisoner: {255}

Fynally Cosyn to finish this piece with, our saviour was hym selfe taken prisoner for our sake, & prisoner was he caried, & prisoner was he kept / & prisoner was he brought forth before Annas, & prisoner from Annas caried vnto Cayphas / <than prisoner was he> caried from Cayphas vnto Pilate / & prisoner was he sent from Pilate to kyng herode / prisoner from herode vnto Pilate agayne / & so kept as prisoner to thend of his passhion / The tyme of his ymprisonment I graunt well was not long / but as for hard handlyng (which our hartes most aborre) he had as mich in that short while / as many men among them all in mich lenger tyme.... (CW 12, 279/26--280/5)


6.5.11 Persecution and Martyrdom (III:23--III:27)

57. Vincent now expresses his deepest anxiety and fear that the Turkish invasion, and the subsequent persecution against the Christian faith, will cause many to renounce their faith out of fear, rather than suffer a shameful death at the hands of the Turks. Anthony responds: "how can that deth be shamfull, that is gloryouse / or how can that be but gloriouse to dye for the fayth of christ, yf we dye both for the fayth & in the fayth ioynid with hope & charite" (288/24--26). He goes on to affirm that any man who suffers for the faith of Christ, however vile and shameful it seems in the eyes of a few worldly wretches, is "approvid for very preciouse & honourable, in the sight of god / & of all the gloriouse company of hevyn" (290/5--7). The act of suffering for Christ's faith:

that we worldly wrechid folys wene [think] were vilany & shame, the blessid apostles rekenid for greate glory / for they when they were with despite & shame scourgid, & there apon commaundid to speke no more of the name of christ / went ther way fro the councell ioyfull & glad, that god had vouchsafed to do them the worship [honour], to suffer shamfull despite for the name of Ihesu.... (CW 12, 290/26--291/3)

Even Christ himself "was not so prowde to disdayne for our sakes, the most vylanouse & most shamfull deth after the worldly compt [reckoning] that then was vsid in the world" (291/22--24). Anthony concludes that since Christ said that the servant is not above his master, and since he himself endured "so many kyndes of paynfull shame / very prowd beastes may we well thynke our selfe / yf we disdayne to do as our master did" (292/4--6). {256}

58. Vincent objects that shame is one thing that can be mastered, but no one can master pain in the same way. Anthony replies that while no one can deny the reality of pain, reason combined with faith and the grace of God will make it easier for a man to bear a painful death here on earth for the sake of achieving everlasting life in Heaven. Vincent responds that though he can find no counter-arguments, nonetheless, he thinks that if the Turks once set upon the Hungarians, they will be so fearful, that many will abandon their faith. Anthony replies that God will give us grace to strengthen us in the midst of persecution. Vincent objects that every man is naturally afraid of pain. Anthony reminds him that the pains of Hell are greater than anything we can endure here. He also points out to Vincent that a natural death from sickness and disease is often more painful and more prolonged than a violent one. He who forsakes the faith of Christ out of fear of a violent death may not only suffer a natural death that is a thousand times more painful, but will also be condemned to everlasting pain in Hell. Anyone who considers this will not be afraid to endure the most terrible sufferings the Turks can inflict rather than be cast into the pains of Hell. Vincent agrees that if we often think of these pains of Hell, that point alone will be enough to make many a martyr in Hungary. Anthony goes on to talk of the joys of Heaven and the Passion of Christ:

Forsoth Cosyn yf we were such as we shuld be, I wold scant for very shame, in exortacion to the kepyng of Christes fayth speke of the paynes of hell / I wold rather put vs in mynd of the Ioyes of heven / the pleasure wherof we shuld be more glad to gete / than we shuld be to flye & escape all the paynes in hell.... (CW 12, 305/5--9)

We should have such a fervent longing for the joys of Heaven: "that we may for attaynyng to them, vtterly set at nought all fleshly delight, all worldly pleasures / all erthly losses, all bodely tourment and payne" (307/1--3). Anthony recommends that we should keep in our minds by reading, in our ears by hearing, in our mouths by speaking, and in our hearts by meditation and thinking: "Those ioyfull wordes of holy scripture / by which we lerne how {257} wonderfull howge & greate those spirituall hevenly Ioyes are" (308/12--14). Anthony then paraphrases the words of St. Paul (1 Cor. 2:9):

For sewerly for this state of this world, the Ioyes of hevyn are by mans mowth vnspekeable / to mans eares not audible / to mens hartes vncogitable / so farforth excell they all that euer men haue hard of / all that euer men can speke of / and all that ever any man can by naturall possibilitie thinke on.... (CW 12, 309/4--8)

After describing the joys of Heaven, Anthony moves on to the theme of identification with the suffering Christ: "Now to this greate glory, can there no man come hedlesse. Our hed is Christ / & therfor to hym must we be Ioynid / & as membres of his must we folow hym / yf we will come thither" (311/15--17). Christ is our guide and we must walk in the same path in which Christ walked. Anthony cites the words of Christ to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:26):

knew you not that Christ must suffre passion, & by that way entre into his kyngdome? Who can for very shame desire to entre into the kyngdom of Christ with ease, whan hym selfe entrid not into his own without payne. (CW 12, 311/24--28)

59. Anthony then suggests to Vincent that he meditate on Christ's passion: "So say I now / for paynefull deth also, that yf we could & wold with dew compassion, conceyve in our myndes a right Imagynacion & remembraunce of Christes byttre paynefull passion" (312/10--13), that this would makes us "not onely content, but also glad & desierouse to suffre deth for his sake / that so mervelously lovyngly lettid not to sustayne so farre passyng paynfull deth for <ours>" (313/5--7). Anthony returns once more to the imagery of Psalm 90:

And therfor Cosyn, let vs well consider these thynges, & let vs haue sure hope in the helpe of god / & than I dowt not, but that we shalbe sure, that as the prophet sayth, the truth of his promise shall so compace vs with a pavise, that of this incursion of this mydday devill / this Turkes persecucion / we shall neuer nede to fere / for eyther yf we trust in god well, & prepare vs therfor / the Turke shall neuer medle with vs / or els yf {258} he do, harm shall he none do vs / but in stede of harme inestimable good.... (CW 12, 315/30--316/8)

Anthony describes the various ways that God strengthens his holy martyrs and points out that the Turks are only instruments of the devil: "The Turkes are but his tourmentours, for hymselfe doth the dede" (317/16--17). He goes on to quote the words of St. Paul (Eph. 6:12):

Our wrestlyng is not agaynst flesh & bloud &c. Thus may we see that in such persecucions, it is the mydday devill hym selfe that maketh such incursion vppon vs, by the men that are his ministers to make vs fall for feare / For till we fall, he can neuer hurt vs. (CW 12, 317/24--27)

If the devill threatens us "let vs tell hym that our capten Christ is with vs, & that we shall fight with his strength that hath vainquyshid hym al redy" (318/16--17). When we feel ready to faint, we should remember Christ's strength. In our fear we should remember Christ's bitter agony: "& than nede we neuer to dowt / but that eyther he shall kepe vs from the paynfull deth / or shall not fayle so to strength vs in yt, that he shall ioyously bryng vs to hevyn by yt" (318/29--32). Anthony ends his long meditation on the Passion of Christ by reaffirming once more the joys of Heaven:

For surely myn own good Cosyn, remembre that yf yt were possible for me and you alone, to suffre as mych trowble as the whole world doth together / all that were not worthy of yt selfe, to bryng vs to the ioy which we hope to haue euerlastyngly / And therfor I pray you let the consideracion of that Ioy, put all worldly trowble out of your hart... (CW 12, 319/25--320/1)

Anthony finally comes to the end of his long discourse: "And evyn thus will I good Cosyn with these wordes, make a sodayne end of myn whole tale, & bid you fare well / For now begynne I to fele my selfe somewhat werye" (320/2--4). Vincent thanks his uncle for all his labours and promises to write down an account of Anthony's "good counsayle." The work ends with a prayer by Anthony for its readers:

And in the meane tyme, I besech our lord to breth of his holy spirite into the readers brest, which inwardly may tech hym in hart, without whome {259} litle availeth all that all the mowthes of the world were able to tech in mens eares / And thus good Cosyn fare well, till god bryng vs together agayne, eyther here or in hevyn / Amen.(CW 12, 320/23--28)

The ending is indeed very sudden in a way that is very characteristic of More---a trait that sometimes makes it difficult to tell whether some of More's works, e.g. De tristitia, are complete or not. However, there is no question here of the work lacking a resolution.


6.6 Conclusion

60. The Dialogue of Comfort has been considered by many modern readers to be More's greatest English work. It certainly seems to be one of the most complex and elusive of his writings. The back and forth movement of the dialogue is an integral part of the argument. As with so many of More's other works, the Dialogue of Comfort in Tribulation is richly polysemic and polyphonic. The voices that engage us in dialogue or confront us dialectically in More's dialogues call for active engagement on the part of the reader. We are invited, even sometimes manipulated, cajoled and bullied into making a personal response.

61. Vincent comes to Anthony at the beginning of the dialogue, because, naturally, he is afraid of what the Turks will do if they invade. It falls to the part of Anthony to try to comfort and strengthen him. Anthony does this, paradoxically, by exploring the nature of tribulation, and in particular the kind of tribulation that Vincent is likely to face, and by leading Vincent through a careful examination of all the suffering and distress that he is likely to experience when the Turks invade. As a result, Vincent grows greatly in stature in the course of the work, especially in Book III, though Anthony has the last word. In this spiritual masterpiece, More confronts each one of us with the question of how we are to bear up under suffering. There are many who seem virtuous or good but who, when put to the test, completely crumble. There are many forms of apostacy, many forms of betrayal.

62. The work has a surprisingly powerful impact on an emotional as well as an intellectual level. This is not dry, academic philosophy that More is writing. If the Dialogue of Comfort is often irritating and disturbing, or upsetting in places, though this may seem paradoxical in a work of 'comfort,' the effect, as in More's other great works, is quite deliberate. The {260} comfort that More, the author, offers the reader is hard won. More makes the careful and attentive reader look into his own heart first and confronts him with the 'Abyss,' before offering him any comfort. The comfort paradoxically comes through facing the 'inner darkness,' the terrors that fly by night of Psalm 90, as well as the dangers of external persecution, the 'noon-day devil.' The psychological and spiritual movement of the dialogue is thus quite clear. {261}


Conclusion to Thesis

63. {268} In every age there have been certain individuals, like Thomas More, who have stood out because they made some special, even unique contribution to the development of human culture. In doing so they embodied all that was best in the culture and values of the society of their time. When we pick up their writings, we find ourselves entering into dialogue not only with an individual author, but also with a whole society. However, such a dialogue only becomes possible if we respect the otherness of the individual author. This is especially the case when we have to deal with an author like Thomas More who was a man of many masks, of many roles, of many personae. And yet, paradoxically, behind these many masks 'More the Man' remains tremendously slippery and elusive, and difficult to pin down. In this study I have been very careful to avoid falling into the 'biographical fallacy' by making crude and simplistic onesided comments, either of a hagiographical or a debunking nature, about the character of the author. Such judgements always to my mind reflect a rather one-dimensional view both of the man and of his age. In this study I have not been concerned with the enormous literature on More's biography or on his famous martyrdom. My concern has rather been with trying to understand Thomas More's principal literary works rather than dealing directly with the man himself.

64. The work of the literary scholar or historian is a job of reconstruction. The past always comes down to us in fragmentary form. Many of the most important of these fragments take the form of literary texts. But even where the literary text comes down to us more or less intact, as when in the ideal case we have the author's autograph manuscript, it comes down to us almost always shorn of its literary, historical, and cultural contexts. The first task, naturally, should be to edit the texts themselves. Though scholarly editors must have some awareness of the original historical and cultural context in order to carry out their work at all, inevitably the main focus of their scholarly endeavours must be on establishing {269} the text itself. Only when the critical text has more or less stabilized and modern scholars have come to some kind of collective agreement that the modern critical edition represents the best possible reconstruction of the literary archetype from which all surviving manuscripts and/or printed editions are descended, can we then go on with any reliability to the next step of trying to 'interpret' the text, and to reconstruct its original literary and cultural context. More scholarship has suffered seriously in the past precisely because of the lack of modern critical editions. So much nonsense has been written about More, especially the Utopia, precisely because so many critics, for example G. R. Elton, have not bothered to read More's texts carefully enough.

65. Thanks to the monumental labours of the editors of The Yale Edition of the Complete Works of St. Thomas More this situation has finally begun to change. However, since the work of preparing critical editions of major authors, such as the Yale Edition of More's works, usually spans the lives of at least one generation of scholarly editors and sometimes two, almost inevitably the burden of reconstructing the literary context falls on the shoulders of a new, younger generation of scholars. Theirs is the job of mining the rich mother lode that has been laid bare by the tunneling or excavating of their scholarly predecessors in the field. And while theirs may seem to be an enviable situation, their work is not necessarily any easier than that of the textual editors since the past, like the unconscious, never yields up its treasures easily.

66. The first job of the literary scholar or historian, after the actual editing of the text, must be to reconstruct as far as possible the original context of the literary work, and the 'meaning' it had for its contemporary readers. But before we can even do this it is necessary to effectively analyse the contents and structure, genres and literary forms of the works in question. One must learn to crawl before one walks, and one must learn to walk before one runs. First, it is necessary to read the texts carefully and critically, and only then can one {270} begin to interpret the 'meaning' and significance they had for their contemporary readers. And only when one has done an adequate job of reconstructing the original historical and cultural context, can one meaningfully talk about the supposed relevance or irrelevance for modern readers. In this thesis, I have been concerned primarily with the first stage, with learning to read the texts carefully and critically. In each case I have provided a description of basic the structure of the work, together with an analysis of the text.

67. In my chapter on the History of Richard III, I have shown that, despite first appearances to the contrary, the work has a very clear and definite structure that can be broken down into eight or nine major sections (including the 'Continuation' of the English version). In my analysis of the text, I focussed mainly on the passages of direct and indirect speech to show how they contributed to the literary artistry of the work as a whole, and I also showed how the major rhetorical and dialectical movements between the various speakers and audiences, and between the various pairs of protagonists and antagonists, anticipate the dialectical movements of the three later, formal literary dialogues under consideration, where, however, the rhetorical and dialectical exchange is sustained in each case throughout by a single pair of speakers, instead of by a succession of such pairs.

68. In my chapter on Utopia, after outlining the multi-layered structure of the work following Hexter (parerga, 'Dialogue of Counsel,' 'Discourse on Utopia,' peroration), I focussed on the 'Dialogue of Counsel' in Book I and the concluding peroration of Book II, showing how they provide a contextual frame for the 'Discourse on Utopia' in Book II. I also discussed in some detail the 'Cardinal Morton Episode,' the dialogue-within-a-dialogue within the 'Dialogue of Counsel.' In my analysis of the text of Book I of Utopia, I distinguished four 'Mores': 'Persona More,' the speaker in the dialogue of Book I, 'Narrator More,' the voice that speaks at the beginning of Book I, 'Author More,' the semi-fictional voice of the prefatory letter to Giles (and the subject of discussion in the rest of the parerga), {271} and 'More,' the author of the work, Sir Thomas More. After briefly discussing the significance of the prefatory letters, I analysed the structure of Book I, and elucidated the function of the 'Dialogue of Counsel,' paying especially close attention to the opening of Book I (and the conclusion of Book II), and showing how the rapid movement from one level of narrative or discourse to another, causes special problems in interpreting Book I of Utopia.

69. In my two chapters on the Dialogue Concerning Heresies, the longest of the four works under consideration, I have shown that the work can be divided into two major parts: Books I and II (Heresies A), and Books III and IV (Heresies B). The focus of Heresies A is on defending the whole system of traditional Catholic beliefs surrounding the relationship between saints, miracles, images, and pilgrimages (Heresies A1), and also on reiterating the orthodox Catholic teaching that the Oral Tradition of the Church is as necessary as and as much a part of divine revelation as the written Scriptures (Heresies A2); while the focus of Heresies B is to show that the revolutionary changes advocated by the early English Protestants. In my discussion of Heresies B, I have especially singled out More's criticism of Tyndale's translation of the New Testament in Book III:8--16, and his analysis of the Lutheran doctrines of Predestination and Justification in the "Examination of the Lutheran Preacher" in Book IV:10--12. I have further shown how the first half of the Dialogue Concerning Heresies, Books I and II (Heresies A), has a structure that is in many ways analogous to the first part, the parerga and Book I, of Utopia: how the elaborate introduction (Preface--Book I:2) shows striking parallels to the elaborate parerga of the Utopia, and how the "chiasmic" four-part structure of Books I and II, where Heresies A1 (Book I:3--17 and Book II:8--12), provides a container or envelope for Heresies A2 (Books 1:18--2:7), is also analogous to the way in which the 'Dialogue of Counsel' frames the dialogue-within-a-dialogue of the 'Cardinal Morton Episode' in Book I of Utopia.

70. In my chapter on the Dialogue of Comfort, I have shown that, alongside the three book {272} structure, there is another parallel structure consisting of a more or less traditional "book" of comfort and consolation (Comfort A: Book I:1--II:8), followed by an extended meditation on the four temptations of Psalm 90 (91): 5--6 (Comfort B: Books II: 9--III: 27). Following Martz and Manley, I showed how the four temptations of Psalm 90: 5--6 provide an architectural framework for Comfort B: how the first three temptations of Psalm 90: 5--6 ("the night's fear," "the arrow flying in the day" and "the business walking in the darkness") provide the framework for much of Book II; while the fourth temptation, "the noonday devil," persecution for the faith and the threat of martyrdom, takes up all of Book III. I have further shown that the comfort that More, the author, offers the reader is hard won, that More makes the careful and attentive reader look into his own heart first and confronts him with the 'Abyss,' before offering him any comfort, and that this comfort paradoxically is achieved through facing the 'inner darkness,' the terrors that fly by night of Psalm 90, as well as the dangers of external persecution, the 'noon-day devil.'

71. Lastly, I have made an important contribution to More scholarship in the form of the Topical Analytical Bibliography in the Appendix, which not only shows the sometimes giant gaps in past scholarship, but also points the way (through the careful and considered choice of bibliographical topics) to areas of scholarship that need further research, and will also, I hope, in the future provide a valuable tool for scholars in the field.



[1] The Field is Won: The Life and Death of Saint Thomas More (London: Burns & Oates, 1968), 349 (quoted in The Complete Works of St. Thomas More, Vol. 12: A Dialogue of Comfort, ed. L. L. Martz and F. Manley (hereafter CW 12) (New Haven: Yale UP, 1976), lxxxvii).

[2] G. R. Elton, EHR 93 (1978): 399--400, rpt. in Tudor and Stuart Studies, Volume 3: Papers and Reviews 1973--1981 (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1983), 454.

[3] Ibid., 402 (Tudor and Stuart Studies, 3:457). Elton does, however, admit that "Vincent and Anthony, especially the latter, are well realized individuals provided with personal histories of participation in wars, court acquaintances... and so forth" ibid., 403--04 (459--60).

[4] The only summary is by L. Miles in A Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation, ed. L. Miles (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1965), 243--251. Miles's summary is too brief and fails to bring out the contributions of the individual speakers. In the Yale Edition, Frank Manley provides a detailed analysis (but not outline) of "The Argument of the Book," CW 12, lxxxvi--cxvii.

[5] See N. C. Yee, "Thomas More's Moriae Encomium: The Perfect Fool in A Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation," Moreana 101/102 (1990): 65--74.

[6] L. L. Martz, "More as Author: The Virtues of Digression," Moreana 62 (1979): 105--19; rev. vers. as "The Order of the Heart," Thomas More: The Search for the Inner Man (New Haven: Yale UP, 1990), 29--51, 106--07.

[7] See The Complete Works of St. Thomas More, Vol. 14: De Tristitia Christi, 2 vols. (hereafter CW 14) (New Haven: Yale UP, 1976).

[8] See The Complete Works of St. Thomas More, Vol. 13: Treatise upon the Passion, Treatise on the Blessed Body, Instructions and Prayers, ed. G. E. Haupt (hereafter CW 13) (New Haven: Yale UP, 1976), xxxvii--xliiii, and St. Thomas More: Selected Letters, ed. E. F. Rogers, Selected Works of St. Thomas More (New Haven: Yale UP, 1961), #48, pp. 185--88.

[9] The English Treatise on the Passion, A Treatise to Receive the Blessed Body, and More's prayers and meditations are all edited in CW 13.

[10] See Rogers, #200--218, pp. 501--565.

[11] For a description of the manuscripts, see CW 12, xix--xxi; and R. Hanna III., "Two New Texts of More's Dialogue of Comfort," Moreana 74 (1982): 5--11. In a personal communication during the Milton Conference held at UBC in August 1991, Louis Martz mentioned, if I have my facts right, that Yale University Library recently acquired a new manuscript of the Dialogue of Comfort that had been found in a private collection in England.

[12] J. Warrington, ed., More's Utopia and A Dialogue of Comfort, Everyman's Library 461 (London: Dent, 1910; rev. ed. with modernized spelling, 1951).

[13] For other modernized spelling editions see the items by P. E. Hallett, F. Manley, and M. Stevens in the section The Dialogue of Comfort: Modernizations and Translations in the Bibliographical Appendix.

[14] The hardcover edition contains an extensive forty page bibliography and a hundred page introduction. The paperback edition of the same year omits most of the introduction and bibliography. {262}

[15] See Hanna, "Two New Texts of More's Dialogue of Comfort," 9.

[16] Figure 6.1 is based on the first possible stemma (Stemma I) suggested by the Yale editors (CW 12, lv), and on the revised stemma given in Hanna, "Two New Texts of More's Dialogue of Comfort," 9. The 'Table of Sigla' is reproduced from CW 12, clxvii, with some modifications and omissions.

[17] "CC looks like a manuscript edited for the purpose of publication" (CW 12, xxxvii). The Yale editors actually go on to argue that the Corpus Christi Manuscript was indeed used as a copytext by William Rastell for the 1557 Folio edition. They suggest that Rastell started using the 1553 edition to set the text of 1557, but switched to the CC Manuscript for Books II and III: "The result is that 1557 represents a conflation of 1553 and CC" (CW 12, lv).

[18] "... he appears to have compared the A text with another manuscript in order to be sure that all of More's authentic words are given" (CW 12, xliii).

[19] "The basic principle has been to follow the readings of A even when the corrections of B provide a more grammatical, more polished, or more immediately comprehensible version" (CW 12, clxiv--clxv).

[20] For the relative ages of Anthony and Vincent, see M. Manzalaoui, "'Syria' in the Dialogue of Comfort," Moreana 8 (1965): 21--27, esp. 25--27. Manzalaoui estimates, from internal evidence in the Dialogue of Comfort, that Anthony is over eighty-one and that Vincent is about twenty. It is interesting to note that More's father, Sir John More (born c.1451), was about the same age as Anthony when he died in 1530, and that More's son, also named John More (born c. 1509), would have been only a little older than Vincent at the time More was writing the Dialogue of Comfort. (Manzalaoui points out that Thomas More was intermediate in age between Anthony and Vincent, but does not make the connection with More's own family.) Compare also G. Marc'hadour's discussion of William Roper (More's son-in-law) as a prototype for the Messenger in the Dialogue Concerning Heresies, and of the prominence of More's own father in the same dialogue, in CW 6, 481--94.

[21] See Manley's seminal discussion of the multiple "audiences" in CW 12, cxx--clxiv.

[22] See CW 12, cxx--cxxxv, and R. J. Schoeck, "Thomas More's Dialogue of Comfort and the Problem of the Real Grand Turk," English Miscellany 20 (1969): 23--37. See also L. Miles, "Allegory: Henry VIII and the Grand Turk," A Dialogue of Comfort, xlii--xliv (xxii--xxiii in Paperback Edition). ([26])

[23] Later English Recusant Catholics would look back to More and Fisher as obvious models in their own struggles: for example, the Jesuit martyr St. Robert Southwell's Epistle of Comfort was obviously modelled on More's Dialogue of Comfort.

[24] See CW 12, cxxxi--cxxxv. At one point More even equates Protestant and Turk, heretic and infidel: "there ys no born Turke so cruell to christen folke, as is the false christen that falleth fro the fayth" (CW 12, 7/8--9).

[25] See CW 12, cxxviii--cxxix, and Thomas More's Prayer Book: A Facsimile Reproduction of the Annotated Pages, ed. L. L. Martz, and R. S. Sylvester, The Elizabethan Club Series 4 (New Haven: Yale UP for the Elizabethan Club, 1969), xxxiv--xxxvi, 114, 197, where opposite Psalm 68: 7--21 More wrote: "in tribulacione dicendum fidelibus a Hu[n]garis inualescentibus turcis et multis hungarorum in turcarum perfidiam desciscentibus (to be said in [time of] tribulation by the faithful among the Hungarians when the Turks grow strong and many Hungarians fall away into the false faith of the Turks)." See also Psalms 16:8 (pp. 44, 191), 79:4 (pp. 134, 199), 82:2 and 84:2 (pp. 138, 140, 200), and 93:2 (pp. 153, 201). {263}

[26] See n.22. For an example of More's use of multiple levels of interpretation, see the annotation opposite Psalm 84:2 in Thomas More's Prayer Book, xxxiv--xxxvi, 140, 200: "post uictoriam uel aduersus turcas, uel aduersus demones, in tentatione uel actio graciarum post ablatam pestem aut ablatam siccitatem aut pluuiam (after victory, either against the Turks, or against the demons in temptation; or a thanksgiving after the plague, or drought, or a spell of rainy weather have been taken away)."

[27] See CW 12, cxvii--cxx, and L. Miles, "Boethius and Thomas More's Dialogue of Comfort," ELN 3 (1965/66): 97--101. L. Miles also gives an extensive treatment of More's Classical, Biblical and Patristic sources in the introduction to the hardcover edition of A Dialogue of Comfort: "Sources, Themes, and Traditions," lxvi--xcviii. See also T. Finan, "Some More Comforts: More and the Consolatory Tradition," Irish Theological Quarterly 45 (1978): 205--16.

[28] See CW 12, cxix, and D. Gray, "Books of Comfort," Medieval English Religious Literature: Essays in Honour of G. H. Russell, ed. G. Kratzman and J. Simpson (Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell and Brewer, 1986), 209--21.

[29] For the related genre of the ars moriendi, which found its finest expression in the next century in Jeremy Taylor's Holy Living and Holy Dying, see N. L. Beaty, The Craft of Dying: A Study in the Literary Tradition of the Ars moriendi in England, Yale Studies in English 175 (New Haven: Yale UP, 1970).

[30] For analysis of the structure of Comfort A, see F. Manley, CW 12, lxxxix--ci, and N. C. Yee, "Thomas More: in Defence of Tribulation," Moreana 74 (1982): 13--26.

[31] For the function of Psalm 90 (91), see L. L. Martz, "The Design of More's Dialogue of Comfort," Moreana 15/16 (1967): 331--46 (rpt. with changes in CW 12, lxv--lxxix), rev. vers. in Thomas More: The Search for the Inner Man, 64--82; J. Kuhn, "The Function of Psalm 90 in Thomas More's A Dialogue of Comfort," Moreana 22 (1969): 61--67; J. H. Sims, "Psalm 90 and the Pattern of Temptation in A Dialogue of Comfort and Paradise Regained: From 'Solicitations' to 'Furiose Force,'" Moreana 74 (1982): 27--37.

[32] CW 12, lxxiv (rpt. in Thomas More: The Search for the Inner Man, 76).

[33] Ibid., lxxiv--lxxv (rpt. in Thomas More: The Search for the Inner Man, 77--79).

[34] See R. Arbesmann, "The Daemonium Meridianum and Greek and Latin Patristic Exegesis," Traditio 14 (1958): 17--31; R. Caillois, "Les démons de midi," Revue d'Histoire des Religions 115 (1937): 142--73 + 116 (1937): 54--83, 143--86, esp. 116: 156--72; and P. de Labriolle, "Le démon du midi," Bulletin du Cange 9 (1934): 46--54; Aldous Huxley, "Accidie," On the Margin: Notes and Essays (London: Chatto & Windus, 1923, rpt. 1948), 18--25. ([58])

[35] For an edition (and French translation), see Jean Cassien: Institutions cénobitiques, ed. J.-C. Guy, Sources Chrétiennes 109 (Paris, Les Éditions du Cerf, 1965). (An earlier edition in Migne, Patrologia Latina, Vol. 49.) There is an English translation in A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 11: Sulpitius Severus, Vincent of Lerins, John Cassian, ed. P. Schaff, and H. Wace (1888?; rpt. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1955).

[36] This definition of acedia also anticipates suggestively the tristitia, taedium, and pauor (=anxietas) of the title of More's last major work De tristitia, tedio, pauore et oratione christi ante captionem eius. {264}

[37] "Sextum nobis certamen est, quod Graeci acedían uocant, quam nos taedium siue anxietatem cordis possumus nuncupare. Adfinis haec tristitiae ac solitariis magis experta et in heremo commorantibus infestior hostis ac frequens, maxime circa horam sextam monachum inquietans, ut quaedam febris ingruens tempore praestituto ardentissimos aestus accessionum suarum solitis ac statutis horis animae inferens aegrotanti. Denique nonnulli senum hunc esse pronuntiant meridianum daemonem, qui in psalmo nonagensimo nuncupatur." Sources Chrétiennes, 109: 384. (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 11: 266.)

[38] "Nihilque se proficere tanto tempore in eadem commorantem crebrius ingemescit nec habere se fructum aliquem spiritalem,..." Sources Chrétiennes, 109: 386. (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 11: 267.)

[39] "Dein lassitudinem corporis cibique esuriem quinta sextaque hora tantam suscitat, ut uelut longo itinere grauissimoque labore confectus sibimet lassusque uideatur,... Tum praeterea huc illucque anxius circumspectat... saepiusque egreditur et ingreditur cellam ac solem uelut ad occasum tardius properantem crebrius intuetur, et ita quadam inrationabili mentis confusione uelut taetra subpletur caligine omnique actu spiritali redditur otiosus ac uacuus...." Sources Chrétiennes, 109: 386. (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 11: 267.)

[40] Sources Chrétiennes, 109: 384ff. (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 11: 266--75.) Cassian also refers to Psalm 90 (91): 5--6 in the Collations or Conferences, Book 7, Chapter 30. The theme of Book 7 of the Collations, "On Inconstancy of Mind, and Spiritual Wickedness," is also relevant to More's exegesis of Psalm 90 (91) in Book II of the Dialogue of Comfort. For an edition (and French translation) of the Collations, see Jean Cassien: Conférences, ed. D. Pichery, Sources Chrétiennes, 42, 54, 64 (Paris: Les Éditions du Cerf, 1955--59). (An earlier edition in Migne, Patrologia Latina, Vol. 49.) There is an English translation in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 11.

[41] Aldous Huxley, "Accidie," 22; cf. R. Caillois, "Les démons de midi," 116: 169--71, and P. de Labriolle, "Le démon du midi," 50--53.

[42] St. Bernard's commentary on Psalm 90, the Sermones in quadragesima de psalmo 'Qui habitat,' [or In Psalmum XC], can be found in Sancti Bernardi Opera (Rome: Editiones Cisterciones, 1957--1978), IV: 383--492, ed. J. Leclercq, C. H. Talbot, and H. M. Rochais. (An earlier edition in Migne, Patrologia Latina, Vol. 183, cols. 185--254.) There is an English translation in Bernard of Clairvaux: Sermons on Conversion. On Conversion, A Sermon to Clerics and Lenton Sermons on the Psalm 'He Who Dwells,' trans., M.-B. Saïd, Cisterian Fathers Series, 25 (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 1981), 81--260, esp. 143--50. Verses 5--6 are dealt with in Sermon 6 (PL 183: 197--200). St. Bernard also commented on Psalm 90 (91): 5--6 in Sermon 33: 8--16 of the Sermons on the Song of Songs, edited in Sancti Bernardi Opera, Vol. 1 (and Migne, PL 183, cols. 785--1198). There is an English translation of Sermon 33 in The Works of Bernard of Clairvaux, Volume III: On the Song of Songs II, trans., K. Walsh, intro., J. Leclercq, Cisterian Fathers Series, 7 (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 1976), 144--59.

[43] See On the Song of Songs, 33: 9--10; PL 183, 955--56. (Cistercian Fathers, 7: 152--54.)

[44] "Itaque primordia nostrae conversionis, juxta communis quidem experientiae rationem, primus exagitat timor, quem intrantibus statim horror vitae ingerit arctioris, et insuetae austeritas disciplinae. Atque is timor nocturnus dicitur... Vigilandum proinde et orandum primo intrantibus contra hanc primam tentationem, ne subito praeoccupati a pusillanimitate spiritus et tempestate, a bono coepto, quod absit resiliant." On the Song of Songs, 33: 11; PL 183, 957. (Cistercian Fathers, 7: 154--55.)

[45] See CW 12, 398, note to 157/17--26, and 400, note to 166/18--167/8. See also F. Manley's comment "More follows Bernard, for example, in interpreting all the temptations itemized in Ps. 90 except the last, where he switches to Augustine" CW 12, cxlvii, n.2. {265}

[46] See On the Song of Songs, 33: 12 (PL 183, 957; Cistercian Fathers, 7: 155); and On Psalm 90, 6:3 (PL 183, 198; Cistercian Fathers, 25: 145).

[47] "Nimirum sagitta haec vana gloria est: non est unde haec impugnet pusillanimes et remissos. Qui ferventiores esse videntur, ipsi paveant, ipsi sibi caveant in hac parte: nihilominus adhuc solliciti non deserere scutum inexpugnabile veritatis... Difficile prorsus, ni fallor, homo verbis laudantium hominem, in vita sua abduci poterit altum sapere, si se intus ad lucem veritatis sollicita consideratione disentiat. Nonne enim si propriam cogitat conditionem, dicturus est sibi: Quid superbis, terra et cinis? (Ecclus, x, 9.) Nonne si propriam consideret corruptionem, fateatur necesse est quoniam non est in eo bonum?" On Psalm 90, 6:3; PL 183, 198. (Cistercian Fathers, 25: 145).

[48] "a negotio perambulante in tenebris, quod est hypocrisis. Etenim ista de ambitione descendit, et in tenebris habitatio ejus" On the Song of Songs, 33: 12; PL 183, 957. (Cistercian Fathers, 7: 155.)

[49] "Contempsit vanam gloriam, ait, quoniam vana est: forte solidius aliquid affectaret, forte honores, forte divitias." On Psalm 90, 6:4; PL 183, 198. (Cistercian Fathers, 25: 146).

[50] "Serpit hodie putida tabes per omne corpus Ecclesiae...." On the Song of Songs, 33: 15; PL 183, 958--59. (Cistercian Fathers, 7: 157.)

[51] "Ipsa quoque ecclesiasticae dignitatis officia in turpem quaestum et tenebrarum negotium transiere: nec in his salus animarum, sed luxus quaeritur divitiarum... Pro episcopatibus et archidiaconatibus impudenter hodie decertatur, ut ecclesiarum redditus in superfluitatis et vanitatis usus dissipentur." On Psalm 90, 6:7; PL 183, 200. (Cistercian Fathers, 25: 149). See also the parallel description of ecclesiastical profligacy in On the Song of Songs, 33: 15. (PL 183, 959; Cistercian Fathers, 7: 158.)

[52] "Nec enim haec merito cedunt, sed negotio illi, quod perambulat in tenebris." On the Song of Songs, 33: 15; PL 183, 959. (Cistercian Fathers, 7: 158.)

[53] Cassiodorus's commentary on Psalm 90 (91) is edited in Magni Aurelii Cassiodori: Expositio Psalmorum, LXXI--CL, Corpus Christianorum, 98 (Turnhout: Brepols, 1958), 829--35. (An earlier edition in Migne, Patrologia Latina, Vol. 70, cols. 650--55.) There is an English translation in Cassiodorus: Explanation of the Psalms. Vol. II: Psalms 51--100, ed. P. G. Walsh, Ancient Christian Writers, 52 (New York: Paulist Press, 1991), 379--87.

[54] "Timor itaque nocturnus est haereticorum tenebrosa suasio. Sagitta uolans per diem manifesta persecutio tyrannorum. Negotium in tenebris, cum prauo studio perquiritur, unde bene credentium cordis oculus obcaecatur. Daemonium meridianum est immane periculum feruore persecutionis accensum, ubi ruina plerumque metuitur, quando infirmitas humana superatur." Corpus Christianorum, 98: 31--32 [PL 70, 652]. (Ancient Christian Writers, 52: 382.)

[55] St. Augustine's two homilies on Psalm 90 (91) are edited in Sancti Aurelii Augustini: Enarrationes in Psalmos LI--C, Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina, 39 (Turnhout: Brepols, 1956), 1254--78, esp. 1258--61. (An earlier edition in Migne, Patrologia Latina, Vol. 37, cols. 1149?--70.) There is an incomplete English translation in A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8: Saint Augustin: Expositions on the Book of Psalms, ed. P. Schaff (1888?; rpt. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1956), 446--52, esp. 447--48. {266}

[56] St. Jerome's two homilies on Psalm 90 (91) are edited in S. Hieronymi Presbyteri Opera. Pars II: Opera Homiletica, Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina 78 (Turnhout: Brepols, 1958), 127--133, 420--24. (An earlier edition in Migne, Patrologia Latina, Vol. 26.) The first (Homily #20) is translated in The Homilies of Saint Jerome. Volume 1 (1--59 On The Psalms), trans., M. L. Ewald, The Fathers of The Church, 48 (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America P, 1964), 156--63; and the second (Homily #68) in The Homilies of Saint Jerome. Volume 2 (Homilies 60--96), trans., M. L. Ewald, The Fathers of The Church, 52 (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America P, 1965), 82--87.

[57] "Non timebis a timore nocturno. Quod dicit, hoc est: Licet in terrore fueris, quae nox est, tamen non timebis, quia habes scutum ueritatis." Corpus Christianorum, 78: 129/63--66. (Fathers of the Church, 48: 158.)

[58] "A sagitta uolante per diem?... Doctrina haereticorum est: quae quasi per diem, hoc est, legem Dei huc illucque uolitat, dum aduersus nos sollicite inquisita congerunt testimonia, quae interpretationibus suis a ueritate deprauant. Et a negotio perambulante in tenebris. Non dixit, stante, sed perambulante: quia haeretici numquam in sententiis stabiles sunt, sed semper mutantur atque perambulant. Ab incursu et daemonio meridiano.... Ergo quomodo sancti habent meridiem et lucem ubi pascant et recubent, ita et diabolus transfiguratus in angelum lucis habet ministros suos transfiguratos, uelut ministros iustitiae.... Simplices autem putant esse quendam daemonem meridianum, qui meridie magis homines possit incurrere. Nos autem haereticorum principes interpretabimur daemones meridianos, qui simulantes angelos lucis, dogmata predicant tenebrarum." Corpus Christianorum, 78: 421--422/51--59, 61--64, 68--72. (Fathers of the Church, 52: 84--85.) For a discussion of the parallel treatment of these verses in Homily #20, see Arbesmann, "The Daemonium Meridianum," 24--27 (cf. n.34).

[59] "Vt intellegatis psalmum, quia daemonium meridianum propter aestum uehementis persecutionis positum est." Corpus Christianorum, 39: 1260/17--19. (Nicene Fathers, 11: 448.) For a discussion of St. Augustine's treatment of the "noonday devil" in Psalm 90, see Arbesmann, "The Daemonium Meridianum," 20--23.

[60] "Ergo, quicumque se confessus fuerit christianum, feriatur; quomodo sagitta uolans per diem fuit. Nondum erat daemonium meridianum, flagrans uehementi persecutione, et faciens magnos aestus etiam fortibus." Corpus Christianorum, 39: 1260/37--40. (Nicene Fathers, 11: 448.)

[61] "Coepit feruere sol, coepit feruere aestus. Audite enim quid iusserint; quomodo antea iusserant: Quicumque confessus se fuerit christianum, feriatur, iusserunt postea: Quicumque confessus se fuerit christianum, torqueatur, et tamdiu torqueatur, donec neget se esse christianum.... Multi ergo non negantes, in tormentis deficiebant; tamdiu enim torquebantur, donec negarent. Perseuerantibus autem in non negando Christum, quid facturus erat gladius, uno ictu occidendo corpus, animam ad Deum mittendo? Hoc faciebant et diuturna tormenta; sed quis tandem inueniretur qui duraret aduersus tantos et tam longos cruciatus? Multi defecerunt; et, credo, illi defecerunt qui de se praesumserunt, qui non habitabant in adiutorio Altissimi, et in protectione Dei caeli qui non dixerunt Domino; Susceptor meus es; qui non sub umbra alarum eius sperauerunt, sed uiribus suis multum dederunt. Deiecti sunt a Deo, ut ostenderet illis quia ipse protegit, ipse temperat tentationes, ipse tantum uenire permittit, quantum potest ferre cui uenit." Corpus Christianorum, 39: 1261/46--50, 56--69. (Nicene Fathers, 11: 448.)

[62] Arbesmann, "The Daemonium Meridianum," 23.

[63] See the section on Humour and Wit in the Bibliographical Appendix for studies of More's use of "merry tales."

[64] For the context of this animal fable, see L. L. Martz, "The Art of Improvisation," CW 12, lx--lxv; rev. vers. in Thomas More: The Search for the Inner Man, 57--64. {267}

[65] See W. M. Gordon, "Suicide in Thomas More's Dialogue of Comfort," American Benedictine Review 29 (1978): 358--70; and P. D. Green, "Suicide, Martyrdom, and Thomas More," SRen 19 (1972): 135--55. ([67])

[66] "senem videlicet Heronem ante paucos admodum dies illusione diabolica a summis ad ima dejectum, quem quinquaginta annis in hac eremo commoratum, singulari districtione rigorem continentiae tenuisse meminimus, et solitudinis secreta ultra omnes hic commorantes miro fervore sectatum. Hic igitur, quo pacto, quave ratione post tantos labores ab insidiatore delusus,...? Nonne quia minus discretionis virtute possessa, suis definitionibus regi, quam consiliis vel collationibus fratrum, atque institutis majorum, maluit obedire?... Qua praesumptione deceptus, angelum Satanae velut angelum lucis cum summa veneratione suscipiens, ejusque praeceptis prono obediens famulatu, semetipsum in puteum,... De quo, ingenti fratrum labore cum pene jam exsanguis fuisset extractus, vitam die tertia finiturus, quod his deterius est, ita in deceptionis suae obstinatione permansit, ut ei ne experimento quidem mortis suae potuerit persuaderi, quod fuisset daemonum calliditate delusus.... ab his qui ejus compatiebantur exitio, vix a presbytero abbate Paphnutio potuit obtineri, ut non inter biothanatos reputatus, etiam memoria et oblatione pausantium judicaretur indignus." PL 49, 529--31. (John Cassian: Conferences, trans. C. Luibheid, intro. O. Chadwick (New York: Paulist Press, 1985), 64--65.) See also CW 12, 387, note to 129/9--25.

[67] See CW 4, 186/5--22. Besides the articles noted in n.65, see also S. El-Gabalawy, "The Ars Moriendi in More's Utopia," Mosaic 11:4 (1978): 115--26; C. E. Maxcey, "Justice and Order: Martin Luther and Thomas More on the Death Penalty and Retribution," Moreana 79/80 (1983): 17--33; A. B. Samaan, "Death and the Death-Penalty in More's Utopia and Some Utopian Novels." Moreana 90 (1986): 5--15.

[68] Analogous in structure to the 'Cardinal Morton Episode' in Book I of Utopia, and to the 'Examination of the Lutheran Preacher,' in Book IV, Chapter 11 of the Dialogue Concerning Heresies.

[69] This passage (CW 12, 179/30--180/28) was cited by H. W. Donner, Introduction to Utopia (London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 1945), 66, as "a most emphatic contradiction of the very principle of communism." Paul Turner (who quotes Donner) denies this in Utopia (London: Harmondsworth, 1965), 150--51, and goes on to argue that More never repudiated the communism of Utopia, and that Anthony and Vincent are treating poverty here as a moral and religious problem. I am not convinced by Turner's argument. The Island of Utopia was a 'thought experiment.' More would never have thought of taking it as a program for action. However, all throughout his life (both in his writings and in his personal life) More stressed the responsibility of the rich to care for the poor, especially through giving alms.

[70] For Aristotle's views as reinterpreted by Aquinas, see CW 6, 745--46.

[71] Cf. Utopia, "Vndique ad superos tantundem esse uiae [From all places it is the same distance to heaven]" (CW 4, 50/12).

[72] EW 1557, sig. fg2v. See also E. McCutcheon, "'This Prison of the Yerth': The Topos of Immurement in the Writings of St. Thomas More," Cithara 25:1 (1985): 37--46; an earlier version in Thomas-Morus-Jahrbuch 1984/85, ed. H. Boventer (Düsseldorf: Triltsch, 1985), 127--32.

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