De tristitia tedio pavore et oratione Christi ante captionem eius: the last work by St. Thomas More


  • Frank Mitjans


Summary: I. Biographical Introduction and some of the writings of St. Thomas More. II. The autograph manuscript of the De tristitia tedio pavore et oratione Christi ante captionem eius. III. Composition. IV. The background of More’s last work. 1. Context of More’s writings within his own life, vocation, and sources available to him at the time. 2. The continental context. 3. Erasmus’s Disputatiuncula de taedio, pavore, tristicia Iesu. V. De tristitia tedio pavore et oratione Christi ante captionem eius immediate sources, title, content and commentary. 1. The title of the book. 2. Content and commentary.

This study is an “analytic” introduction to De tristitia tedio pavore et oratione christi ante captionem eius, the last work of St. Thomas More, studying the autograph manuscript folio by folio. The discovery of the manuscript in 1963 highlighted the need to clarify the text and title of the translation and of the Latin versions of that work known until then. From then on that work of More has been called De Trititia Christi, but further clarification in this paper suggests keeping the original full title given by More; though, of course, as is common practice, the title may for convenience be abbreviated to its first words, De tristitia. For the intended readership the study includes the context of such a work within the vocation, studies, and literary production of More as a humanist and in defence of orthodoxy. A description of such context, however, cannot be other than “synthetic”: it involves necessarily the opinions of the author of the article. Obviously, the context of the last work of a writer is his whole life until then, and in the case of St. Thomas More, the context of De tristitia was not just his life until then, but up to his expected martyrdom and beyond.