ROPER, Margaret More

Margaret More Roper, the "ornament of Britain," enjoyed contemporary re­nown as a classical scholar and a woman of letters. The eldest daughter of Sir Thomas More* and Jane Colt, Margaret, along with her sisters Elizabeth and Cecily, her brother John, and others attached to the More household, received a first-rate humanist education. The students' classical education included Latin and Greek, astronomy, medicine, philosophy, theology, rhetoric, grammar, and logic. More employed numerous tutors, including John Clement, the Greek scholar and physician, and Nicholas Kratzer, the astronomer, both of whom served at the Tudor court of Henry VIII.* By the time Juan Luis Vives* pub­lished his On the Instruction of a Christian Woman, in which he praised the learning of More's daughters, the girls were already accomplished scholars. Their fame continued to grow, until finally King Henry VIII of England invited them to dispute before him.
The works Margaret wrote that have not survived included epistles and ora­tions in Latin, a treatise on the Four Last Things (c. 1522), and a translation of Eusebius from Greek to Latin. She is also credited with having written poetry. Margaret Roper's most important surviving work is her English translation of Desiderius Erasmus's* Precatio dominica in septemportiones distributa (1523). Her translation, with its sensitive rendering of Latin meanings into English, provides evidence of a high level of scholarly achievement. Richard Hyrde's important groundbreaking argument in defense of the education of women, which prefaces Margaret's published translation, A Devout Treatise upon the Pater Noster (1526), holds a prominent place in the history of women's studies.
Margaret's connections with Erasmus and his humanist network were prob­ably firmly established by 1524. Referring to Margaret as the "ornament of Britain," Erasmus dedicated one of his works to her in 1523, upon the birth of her child. Erasmus also accepted and used in his edition of St. Cyprian's work Margaret's emendation of a corrupt passage. Margaret's ability to emend the corrupt passage demonstrates how fully developed her critical scholarship was. Margaret More married her husband, William Roper, on 2 July 1521. The Roper's household, along with More's, was arguably the most literate in Tudor England.
Along with her translation of Erasmus's treatise, some of Margaret Roper's letters have survived. The letters Margaret sent to her father while he was in the Tower of London were written in English, further indicating her mastery of English as well as Latin. One extraordinary letter, on which Margaret and her father probably collaborated while he was lodged in the Tower—the Alington letter—is a Platonic dialogue in which More analyzes his "case of conscience." A devoted daughter, Margaret preserved the head of her beloved father after his execution in 1535. Family members continued to protect the head until its final interment in the Roper family vault in St. Dunstan's, Canterbury.
In addition to continuing her own studies after her marriage, Margaret Roper provided her children with a humanist education. One of her daughters, Mary Bassett (fl. 1553-58), proved to be especially gifted. Basset translated one of Sir Thomas More's incomplete works, De tristitia Christi, from Latin to English, a translation that later appeared in the published 1557 edition of More's works.
E. McCutcheon, "Margaret More Roper," in Women Writers of the Renaissance and Reformation, ed. K. M. Wilson, 1987.
E. E. Reynolds, Margaret Roper: Eldest Daughter ofSt. Thomas More, 1960.
Debbie Barrett-Graves

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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