Woodcut from the first-known edition of Erasmus' Precatio Dominica translated by Margaret Roper (1525). Printed with permission from the British Library.
As biographers, dramatists, historians, painters, and philosophers present her, Margaret Roper is preeminently her father's creature. Educated in the More household, this erudite woman is assumed to be a paragon of filial virtue, a characterization which has the potential to muffle individuality. Only a portion of her writing has survived. Lost are her Latin and Greek verses, her Latin speeches, her imitation of Quintilian, and her treatise The Four Laste Thynges, which More considered equal to his own. What remain are a scattering of letters and the primary text associated with her name, the translation of Erasmus's Precatio Dominica (1523) as A deuout treatise upon the Pater noster (1524), whose subject and mode appear to confirm the derivative nature of this daughter's accomplishment. With its hallmark doubling of meanings for adjectives, nouns and verbs, the treatise's claim that "he is nat a naturall and proper chylde whosoeuer do nat labour all that he can to folowe and be like his father in wytte and condicions" (Roper 108), a creative expansion of "non est autem germanus filius, qui pro sua virili non imitatur ingenium ac mores patris sui" (Erasmus 1221 B), encapsulates the prevailing view of this nineteen-year-old wife and mother, "the star product of More's domestic school" (King 207).
When writing to the eldest, best-known and, presumably, most gifted of his children, Thomas More regularly used superlatives to address "puella[e] iucundissima[e]," "Margareta charissima," "dulcissima filia" and "dulcissima nata" (Rogers 97, 134, 154). Eating a meal was "not so sweet" to More as talking to his "dearest child" (Stapleton 109), to whom he wrote from the Tower as "myne owne good doughter" and for whom he remained "your tender louynge father" (Rogers 509). In Erasmus's correspondence with Roper, whom he greeted as "optima Margareta," the humanist praised the letters of all the More sisters as "sensible, well-written, modest, forthright and friendly" (letter 1401, Basel, 25 December 1523). His Christmas gift to her in the year of the publication of Precatio Dominica was his commentary on Prudentius's hymns for Christmas and the Epiphany; the gift not only verifies his confidence in Margaret's Latin but also reveals Erasmus's "attitude presque paternelle" since he casts himself as "le pédagogue attentioné, soucieux de former une élève de choix" (Béné 473). The following year Erasmus used Margaret as "the probable model" (King 181) for Magdalia in the colloquy "The Abbot and the Learned Lady"; this interlocutor wastes no time chastizing the Abbot's fear of women's learning, deftly wielding a double-edged sword to reply to the claim that "a wise woman is twice foolish": That's commonly said, yes, but by fools. A woman truly wise is not wise in her own conceit. On the other hand, one who thinks herself wise when she knows nothing is indeed twice foolish. (Thompson 222)
Magdalia cannily engages her companion in the topic of clerical ignorance, part of her "veiled critique of the intellectual sloth afflicting men" (Jordan 60): "if you're not careful," she taunts, "the net result will be that we'll preside in the theological schools, preach in the churches, and wear your miters" (Thompson 223). When, in September 1529, Holbein unveiled for Erasmus his portrait of the More family, this scholarly friend wrote immediately to Margaret, "the glory of [her] British land" (decus Britanniae tuae), assuring her that he recognized everyone, but no one more than her (omnes agnoui, sed neminem magis quam te), whose lovelier spirit within shines through the exterior (per pulcherrimum domicilium relucentem animum multo pulchriorem) (Letter 2212, Freiburg, 6 September 1529). Thomas Stapleton, More's early biographer, devoted a whole chapter of Tres Thomae to More's eldest daughter, continuing the two strands of Margaret's reputation: her exceptionality ("she attained a degree of excellence that would scarcely be believed in a woman") and family likeness ("she resembled her father, as well in stature, appearance, and voice, as in mind and in general character") (Stapleton 103).
Visual and figurative images of Margaret Roper associate her with learning. The woodcut prefacing the earliest surviving edition in 1525, a multi-purpose printer's block, does not purport to represent Margaret Roper, yet the ways it attempts to define and encase the female subject are worth noting. Within the interlocking, enfoliated tracery of the border, suggestive of a cloister, this veiled woman, shrouded in metres of cloth and almost surrounded by volumes, looks away from the open folio. This crude woodblock might prompt today's reader to reflect on the perspectival shifts and linguistic freedom with which Roper coloured her vernacular rendering of Latin. Holbein's finely detailed sketch of Margaret Roper, part of the commissioned family portrait at More's home at Chelsea, stresses the resemblance to her father and also - as much to capture the full though sideward glance as anything else - represents the subject looking away or up from the book in her hand. Books are a signature emblem for Roper. For a seventeenth-century Jesuit eulogist, Pierre Le Moyne, she was an exemplary woman of strength, a modern Maccabee (cf. 2 Maccabees 7). With her knowledge of Greek and Latin, prose and verse, philosophy and history, Le Moyne observes, Margaret was More's best work, his finest book: "cette Fille a esté le plus docte Livre & le plus poly, qui soit sorty de l'Esprit de Morus" (Maber 37).
In their speculations about Morean family dynamics, contemporary playwrights have imagined vastly different Margarets, an individual who is filial (for Robert Bolt) and disenchanted (for Paula Vogel). Although in his 1960 play, A Man for All Seasons, Robert Bolt takes many liberties in introducing Meg as an unmarried woman in her mid-twenties, "a beautiful girl of ardent moral fineness . . . [who] both suffers and shelters behind a reserved stillness" (Bolt xx), Bolt's Meg is brilliant and strong. By contrast, Paula Vogel's 1977 play, Meg, tries so hard to demythologize its central character that it trivializes her. Vogel's Meg is a cynic, describing herself as "Margaret the Masochist" (Vogel 6); surprisingly vapid and vain, she answers her own query about why her father decided to teach her Latin and Greek by explaining that "I am very likely the only woman in the world right now pouring [sic] over these words - there is no other woman. I am unique" (Vogel 25). This Meg is also detached, refusing to wait for her father on his journey from Westminster to the Tower and leaving her husband to fabricate the story of her public embrace of her father, "an action so stunning that it was immediately recorded in at least three anonymous accounts of More's last days" (Murphy 115). Reviewing her life, Vogel's Meg assesses her daughters as giggly gossips; in fact, Mary Roper Basset, the only woman whose work appeared in print during the reign of Mary Tudor, was an accomplished scholar, translating her grandfather's Treatise on the Passion from Latin to English, the first book of Eusebius's Ecclesiatical History from Greek to Latin, and the first five books of Eusebius into English (Reynolds 127).
Margaret Roper was a creative translator schooled in travelling back and forth between Latin and English. The practice of double translation, from English to Latin and then from Latin back to English, encouraged in More's home-based school, supplied the "early apprenticeship" (Weinberg 26) Margaret drew on most effectively in A deuout treatise. Her father's ardent belief in the need to educate girls and boys as, in the phrasing of his letter to the tutor William Gonell, "equally suited for the knowledge of learning by which reason is cultivated," not only established "More's leadership, in both practice and theory, about the liberal training of women" (Rogers 120-23) but also must have heartened and inspired Margaret when Erasmus's commentary came into her hands. She knew from experience that "the study of Latin was, to some extent, a Renaissance puberty rite - but only for boys and young men - " (McCutcheon 201) and that her rare privilege also conferred a responsibility to share and disseminate this catechetical teaching.
Her practice in interlingual translation no doubt familiarized her with the classical touchstones about the advice, in Horace's Ars Poetica, against word-for-word slavish translation (nec verbo verbum curabis reddere fidus interpres) (lines 133-34). A similar directive from Cicero's De Optimo Genere Oratorum, to convert not as a translator but as an orator (nec converti ut interpres, sed ut orator) by relying on the diction used by one's readers (verbis ad nostram consuetudinem aptis) (V. 14), had also likely been part of Margaret's formation. Such guidance would soon form the basis of Renaissance translation theory, as begun by Etienne Dolet in 1540 with La Maniere de Biene Tradvire D'Vne Langue en aultre. Yet in this early stage of translating into English, Margaret Roper was a novelty: the first non-royal woman translator to make her mark. Her Treatise joined her father's 1505 translation of some of Mirandola's minor works plus his biography, the 1504 translation by the Lady Margaret (Beaufort) Tudor, mother of Henry VII, of the fourth book of De Imitatione Christi and her posthumously published translation of Denis de Leeuwis' Speculum Aureum as The myrroure of Golde for the Synfull soule in 1522, and Tyndale's 1523 translation of Erasmus's Enchiridion militis Christiani.
The preface of Richard Hyrde obliquely identified the "gentylwoman / whiche translated this lytell boke" by her "vertuous conuersacion / lyuyng / and sadde demeanoure" and by her culturally approved diffidence, being "as lothe to haue prayse gyuyn her / as she is worthy to have it / and had leauer her prayse to reste in mennes hertes / than in their tonges / or rather in goodes estimacion and pleasure / than any mannes wordes or thought" (Roper 100-01, 103). There is no way of checking how Hyrde's depiction of Margaret, which accords so neatly with the patriarchal discursive order, tallies with her actual personality, nor of verifying if, perhaps, his "special accommodations for her gender" might constitute a deliberate verbal manoeuvre: "enabling women to be presented . . . as writers within a culture hostile to women's speech" (Lamb 10-11). The imaginative detail and care Roper lavished on this production, its expressive idiomatic range and independent control of syntax indicate that this young artist was as fully aware as Hyrde of the extraordinariness of her accomplishment. Roper adjusted, juxtaposed and re-aligned syntactic and morphological categories. In its "ability to manipulate and mold the receiving rather than the lending tongue" (Raffel 105), her work shows how "translation absorbed, shaped, oriented the necessary raw material" (Steiner 247).
The two close readings of Roper's translation, by John Archer Gee in 1937 and Rita Verbrugge in 1985, emphasize the natural rhythms and maturity of her achievement. Although he cites few examples, Gee argues for the "scholarship and art" of this "relatively unknown girl" by indicating how her translation "rarely follows the Latin ordering and structure" and how in the "felicitous freedom" of her diction "a Latin word [is] seldom expressed by its English derivative" (Gee 161, 165). Claiming that "the translation is as much Margaret's work as Precatio Dominica is Erasmus'," Verbrugge conducts a more detailed and substantiated examination of Roper's "simple, straightforward, and unpretentious" vocabulary, her "tendency to double or couple the adjectives or verbs," and her building of "parallel structures of her own" (Verbrugge 40). This essay undertakes a broader consideration of the ways Roper's translation achieves distinctiveness and independence.
In a discourse addressing an "assigned. . . way of praying" (105) (precandi formulam [1219 C]), it makes sense that the translator strives to clarify and crystallize the catechetical intent. Accordingly Roper enumerates the seven parts and titles them "peticions." She also adjusts sentence structure to underline didactic points. In the first petition, about the hallowing of the divine name, she expands and re-orders the source text to emphasize human duty in the face of divine magnitude.
for thy glorie as it is great / so neyther hauyng begynnyng nor endyng / but euer in itselfe florisshynge / can neyther encreace nor decreace / but it skylleth yet mankynde nat a lytell / that euery man it knowe and magnifye / for to knowe and confesse the onely very god. (106)
Tua quidem gloria ut immensa, / ita nec initium habens, nec finem habitura, semper / florens in sese, neque crescere potest, neque decrescere, / sed humani generis refert, ut illa cunctis innotescat. (1220 B)
The clearly paralleled participles and verbs affirm divine glory and prompt a human response, a response that does more than concern (refert) humankind ("it skylleth yet mankynde nat a lytell"), involves more than knowing (innotescat) this glory ("knowe and magnifye") and, by incorporating part of the next sentence, also entails knowledge and creed ("to knowe and confesse the onely very god").
To maintain parallelism and focus attention Roper often simplifies. She reduces the description of the holy spirit which began, carried on and perfected human health (ad humani generis salutem haec omnia coepit, provexit, ac perfecit [1222 F]) to "that was bothe the begynner and ender of all this in them" (112). She retains the force of a string of verbs, reducing fastened on the cross (suffigmur in crucem) to "crucified" and being submerged in the sea (demergimur in mare) to "drowned," to stress the mysterious and not-always-martyrous emergence of spiritual strength:
si non includimur, excruciamur, / secamur, urimur, suffigimur in crucem, / demergimur in mare, aut decollamur: / tamen illustrabitur & in nobis vis ac splendor tui regni (1222 F)
albeit we be nat imprysoned nor turmented: though we be nat wounded nor brent / although we be nat crucified nor drowned: thoughe we be nat beheeded: yet nat withstandyng / the strength and clerenesse of thy realme: may shine and be noble in vs. (112)
On the whole Roper's expansions are apt and effective. The rendering of ut hac gravi perpetuaque colluctatione virtutem tuorum & exerceres & confirmares (1223 A) as "by continuall and greuous batayle / to exercise / confyrme / and make stedfaste the vertue and strengthe of thy people" (112) underscores the results of perpetual wrestling in the additional reference to steadfastness. On rare occasions her string of verbs does not capture the boldness of the original. The Erasmian warning against subverters within (intra Ecclesiae tuae moenia) whose aim is to dishonour and impair strength (dedecorant, ac robur labefactant [1223 B]) does not emerge as bluntly in Roper's treatment of adversaries who "abate / shame / and dishonest the glory of thy realme" (113).
Among Roper's most successful expansions are those which reinforce the scriptural foundations of Erasmus's commentary. In discussing the obedient children who attempt to fulfil the divine will (quae tua dictat voluntas [1224 A]), Roper enlarges the sense of "those thynges / whiche they knowe shall content thy mynde and pleasure" (115) to accent not just the dictate of the divine will but the informed consent of the dutiful creature. Erasmus's illustration of such obedience is the Gethsemane scene and Jesus's prayer that not his will but his Father's be done. Roper expands the lesson, ut jam pudeat quemvis hominem suam voluntas praeferre tuae (1224 B), with an additional subordinate clause that emphasizes the biblical example:
So that than nedes must man be ashamed / to preferre / and set forth his owne wyll / if Christ our maister / was content to cast his owne wyll awaye and subdue / it to thyne. (115)
When, in explaining the petition about daily bread, Erasmus alludes to the Johannine pericope (John 6: 35-58) of bread from heaven (sed filii spirituales a Patre Spirituum spiritualem illum ac coelestem panem flagitemus [1225 B]), Roper makes it clear that the reference involves mental and physical sustenance, as she translates the next use of panem to contrast the inadequate provisions of the philosophers and pharisees, "for verily / the breed and teachynge of the proude philosophers and pharises / coude nat suffice and content our mynde" (117). The directive to reconcile with one's brother before making an offering at the altar warrants some colourful expansion in Roper's translation; not only is the verb to hasten (propero) vivified as "hye us a pace to," but a concluding section is added to complete the sequence. Ita docuit Filius tuus, etiam ad altare relicto munere properandum ad fraternae pacis reconciliationem (1226 B) becomes "Therfore thy sonne gaue vs this in commaundment / that we shulde leaue our offring euyn at the auter / and hye us a pace to our brother / and labour to be in peace with hym / and than returne agayne and offre vp our rewarde" (120).
Roper's English achieves its directness and immediacy through many - often surprising - experiments. She shows a real ability to dramatize fairly static utterances. Although in his On Copia of Words and Ideas, a work designed to assist translators "in interpreting authors" and a work which Roper no doubt knew, Erasmus had warned against tautology as "repetition of the same word or expression" (Erasmus, Copia 17), he had resorted to this technique, along with effective parallelism, to exhibit the vehement response of those who judged God through his followers and thereby dismissed him repeatedly: Valeat ille Deus, qui tales habet cultores: valeat ille Dominus, qui tales habet servos: valeat ille Pater, qui tales habet filios: valeat ille Rex, qui talem habet populum (1221 D). Roper's translation uses no repetition, but catches the parallelism of mounting tension and frustration, the prophetic sense of misrule and disjointedness.
What a god is he that hath suche maner of worshippers. / Fye on suche a mayster that hath so vnrewly seruauntes: / Out vpon such a father / whose children be so leude: / Banished be suche a kyng / that hath suche maner of people and subiectes. (109)
She is as capable of shrinking as of expanding the source. In contrast to Erasmus's catalogue of beasts and food to whom unbelievers offer worship, boves, arietes, simias, porrum, caepe (bullocks, rams, monkeys, leek, onion [1220 d]), Roper listens more to the De Copia advice about metonymy (chapter xxii) to make the best-known sacrifices stand in for all the rest and reduces the list to "some also to oxen some to bulles /and such other lyke" (107). Colour is a hallmark of her style; it resides in onomatopoeic coinages such as "the bublisshyng of ryuers" (109) for fontium scatebrae (1221 E), illustrative, though now archaic, words such as "ouerhippe" for praetergrediamur (go beyond) in her version of neque in re divinae voluntatis tuae praescriptum praetergrediamur (1224 E) as "that in nothyng we ouerhippe or be agaynst that/ whiche thy godly and divine wyll hath apoynted vs" (116), and precise elongations of sensory and emotional details as in enlarging neque placet (1225 A) to "thou vtterly dispysest" (117), quae carnalis est (1225 A) to "that sauereth all carnally" (117), and es pereuntibus fame (1225 B) to "what tyme we were lyke to haue perisshed for hungre" (117).
The advice in the De Copia about observing "how a particular age has achieved variety in the use of words" as opposed to wasting "time with synonyms" which are "not far from babbling" (Erasmus 24-5) must have had a special place in Roper's thoughts as she embellished certain phrases to reflect Reformation realities. It is very possible that the texts, book-burnings, and ecclesiastical inspections of the campaign "to stem the steady stream of Lutheran literature" (Verbrugge 36-7) in the early 1520s were flashing through her mind when she expanded Audi vota concordiae. Non enim convenit, ut fratres, quos tua bonitas aequavit in honore gratuito, ambitione, contentione, odio, livore inter sese dissideant (1219 D) to
Here nowe the desyres of vntye and concorde / for it is nat fytting ne agreable / that bretherne whom thy goodnesse hath put in equall honoure / shulde disagre or varry among themselfe / by ambicious desyre of worldely promocion / by contencious debate / hatered or enuy. (106)
Although her emphatic abhorrence of violence conveys a standard de contemptu mundi position, especially evident in the contrast of "the realme of this worlde . . . holde up by garrisons of men / by hostes and armour . . . and defended by fierse cruelnesse" with the victory of Jesus which "by mekenesse venquesshed cruelnesse" (111), Roper not only fulfils but overgoes the letter of the source text's vehemence about the Jews. Her father's increasingly vocal role as "a staunch persecutor of heresy and an undeviating apologist for Catholic orthodoxy" (Greenblatt 53) may have affected her colouring of the original; Erasmus's words themselves reveal "a form of religious anti-Semitism, rather than racial, . . . shared by many contemporary humanists" (De Molen 94). Roper characterizes Jewish practice "in their sinagoges and resorte of people" (in synagogis) as incessant "dispitefull and abominable bacbytinge" (107) (abominandis probris [1220 D]). She heightens the meaning of "dash against" in impingunt to "they caste eke in our tethe / as a thyng of great dishonestie / the most glorious name of thy chyldren" (107) (Nobis probri loco impingunt gloriosum cognomen Filii tui [1220 D]). The hoped-for conversion of the Jews means a completely unproblematized resignation, "whan the iewes also shall bryng and submyt the selfe to the spirituall and gostely lernyng of the gospell" 9113) (Judaeis etiam in regnum Evangelicum sese aggregantibus [1223 B]).
Familiar as she evidently is with the whole array of Erasmian suggestions for embellishing, amplifying and enumerating detail, the advice Roper follows the most concerns the method of amplification by which "we do not state a thing simply, but set it forth to be viewed as though portrayed in color on a tablet, so that it may seem that we have painted, not narrated, and that the reader has seen, not read" (Erasmus 47). Her extensions and adjustments of the Latin show a constant striving to be clear and graphic. To emphasize the almost angelic radiance of believers, she adjusts the meaning of reluceat (shine back) to create a compelling picture of divine glory reflected equally at human and angelic levels. Reluceat & in moribus nostris, non minus quam in Angelis caeterisque rebus abs te conditis, tui nominis gloria (1221 F) becomes "that the light and glory of thy name / maye no lesse appere and shyne in our maners and lyuenge / than it shyneth in thy Angels / and in all thynge that thou has created and made" (109-110). The elongations always reveal how quickly Roper's moral intelligence tracks the consequences of wayward attitudes; rerum fluxarum (1224 B) appears as "frayle and vanysshyng thynges" (115) and mancipia peccati (1227 C) as "thrall and bonde to synne" (123). She does not shy away from stern indictments or grisly details to make the contrast between Christ and Satan as visual and immediate as possible. Unlike the "naturally good and gentyll" (natura bonus ac beneficus) Lord, the devil is a "currysshe and vngentyll . . . mayster" (123) (immiti Domino [1228 A]); Jesus's pastoral intervention, "thou curest and makest hole the sicke and scabbe shepe" (123), an arresting but not "repulsive" (Verbrugge 42) translation of morbidam sanas (1228 A), is an entirely justified reclamation of possible casualties through the wounds inflicted by the devil, who was compared to "a rauenous lyon / lyeng in wayte / sekynge and huntyng about / whom he maye deuoure" (123). However, as well as hitting home the grimness, Roper deliberately softens many of the negative constructions in Erasmus's Latin. She sidesteps the straightforward declaration that unless the Father gives the bread it will not be salutary, conveyed directly through the negatives of nec salutaris est, nisi tu Pater quotidie dederis (1225 C), by obscuring the negative implications in the somewhat cumbersome "yet but if thou father doest gyue it / it is nat holsome nor anythyng auayleth" (118). She silences a whole clause dealing with mortal offences to lay greater stress on the amendment of fatherly correction; "if any thyng we offende the" (120) mitigates the sinning propensity of Erasmus's supposition si quid offendimus, sicut offendimus frequenter in multis(1226 C). As if to emphasize human compliance with divine "gentylnesse" and "wysedome," Roper alters the literal meaning of "we do not protest against" for non recusamus (1227 B) to "wherfore we be content to put to what soeuer ieopardy it pleaseth the" (122).
The work of this unknown girl, who was also a remarkably shrewd, self-possessed scholar, is poised on the brink of individual creative expression. Although in the sixteenth-century female-gendered activity of translating, a woman translator was "less vulnerable to the accusation of circulating her words inappropriately" because "they were not, strictly speaking, her words at all" (Lamb 12), Roper's translation is not enslaved to the source language nor does it caper irresponsibly in the target language. The respect accorded the source seems due as much to its subject and intent as to its authorship.
Her text, a commentary on what is likely the most famous prayer, is itself a meditation. The extensions and adaptations of Roper's version identify her as a forerunner of the whole contingent of sixteenth-century pious women who dedicated themselves to "taking care of souls" (Beilin 81). Although she voices a pre-Reformation doctrine, her scripturalism is every bit as precise and her enthusiasm for preaching and teaching as refined and developed as in the later English collections of prayers that "were important steps in the establishment of a feminine literary presence" (Beilin 75). Despite changes in allegiance and creedal formulation, Roper's sentiments prepare the way for subsequent generations of women. The rich assortment of writing by women compiled by Thomas Bentley in the Second Lampe of Virginitie of his Monument of Matrones (1582) corroborates the perseverance of Roper's work. She would echo wholeheartedly the "exhortation" of Lady Jane Dudley "the night before she suffered," a prayer which the imprisoned and condemned Lady Jane wrote at the end of her Greek New Testament and sent to her sister: "It will teach you to live and learne you to die. It shall win you more than you should have gained by the possessions of your wofull fathers land" (Bentley 101). Roper would also endorse the logic of the creaturely petition in Elizabeth Tyrwhit's prayer about "our frailtie and miserie"; its contrastive picture of human weakness would be very well known to Roper:
What shall I saie to God? Thou art most good, and I euill; / thou holie, and I miserable; thou art light, and I am blind; / thou art the blessed one, and I am carefull and full of sorowe. My Lord, thou art the Physician, and I am the miserable patient; I am nothing but uanitie and corrupt, / as euery liuing man is. What shall I say O Creator but this, / that I am thy creature, and shall I perish? (Bentley 113)
Another collection with which Roper would agree, The Praiers made by the right Honourable Ladie Frances Aburgauennie, and committed at the houre of hir death, to the right Worshipfull Ladie Marie Fane (hir onlie daughter) as a Iewell of health for the soule, and a perfect path to Paradise, contains many literary forms Roper did not attempt, such as "a Praier deciphering in Alphabet forme" the name of Lady Abergavenny's daughter and a closing acrostic. Yet Abergavenny's recorded prayer against "euill imaginations," requesting "a cleere conscience, shamefast eies, innocent hands, and a tongue to tell the truth" (Bentley 173) transmits the same pristine resolve seen throughout Roper's translation. The fervour of the catechism showing "the maner how to examine . . . young persons," in Dorcas Martin's translation from the French of An instruction for Christians, conteining a fruitfull and godlie exercise, as well in wholsome and fruitfull praiers, pinpoints the issue at the heart of Roper's earlier undertaking. When the Mother asks the Child to "rehearse . . . in the common language . . . the forme that he hath given us," the Child not only recites the Our Father but explains its name:
To declare the love that he beareth towards us in Jesus Christ, to the end that in full assurance and boldnesse we may come to him onlie, and not to be afraid of him, no more than a child is of his father. (Bentley 236)
The intense filial bond between Margaret More Roper and her father accounts for her scholarship, her friendship with Erasmus and, in a practical way, our recognition of her as a translator. But this daughter for all seasons is not simply a conveyor (translatus meaning "carried across") from Latin to English. In its elements of self-conscious discourse, her authorial voice does not shy away from teaching, from commentary on its own functioning and primary message. Her additions and embellishments, along with decisions to elide and collapse phrases, show how warmly she responded to the rhetorical exercise of preaching. Expounding on, colouring and extending the Erasmian source, her translation supplies a truly polyphonic response.
1) Among the remnants are one letter to Erasmus, two to her father in the Tower and one letter of disputed authorship, the Alington letter, an account of a conversation with her imprisoned father written to her stepsister, Alice Alington. On the matter of Margaret's writing the Alington letter, Walter M. Gordon favours neither side over the other, pointing to the facts that "there is no winning argument in this dialogue" and that "the two people are left divided, if not in common sympathy, at least in desire and understanding"; see "Tragic Perspectives in Thomas More's Dialogue with Margaret in the Tower," Cithara 17 (1978): 4. Elaine Beilin opts for Roper's authorship as "more than likely"; see Redeeming Eve; Women Writers of the English Renaissance (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987), 25. Nancy E. Wright uses Foucauldian theory to illustrate how "Margaret's words function as a homosocial bond between Thomas More and Henry VIII"; see "The Name and the Signature of the Author of Margaret Roper's Letter to Alice Alington," in Creative Imagination; New Essays on Renaissance Literature in Honor of Thomas M. Greene, ed. David Quint, et al. (Binghamton: Medieval and Renaissance Texts & Studies, 1992), 257.
Beilin, Elaine. Redeeming Eve: Women Writers of the English Renaissance. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987.
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