Thomas Wilson (1524-1581)


About The Thomas Wilson   Page

During the 1560's and 70's, Thomas Wilson served Queen Elizabeth I as a diplomat, judge, secretary, and councillor. A student of the great Cambridge humanist John Cheke, a friend of Roger Ascham, and a client of the Earl of Leicester, Wilson favored moderately humanist intellectual reforms and strongly Protestant national policies. He wrote the first English book on logic (The Rule of Reason, 1551) and the most influential Tudor work on rhetoric (The Art of Rhetoric -- originally spelled The Arte of Rhetorique -- 1553). He published the first English translation of Demosthenes's orations (1570), and he wrote a sternly Ciceronian Discourse on Usury (published posthumously in 1582). From the early 1560's until his death, Wilson was constantly associated with St. Katherine's Hospital at the Tower of London, serving as master of the hospital, residing at the tower for prolonged periods in the 1570's while preparing for treason trials. There he died and was buried.

A careful prose stylist and thoughtful political analyst, Thomas Wilson was intellectually less bold than his friend Roger Ascham and politically less extreme than his co-secretary Francis Walsingham. His works, however, have enduring interest as solid accomplishments in the English humanist tradition, and several, especially The Art of Rhetoric, have been edited and reissued in the 20th century.

This page intends to help students and readers to gain an appreciation and awareness of   Thomas Wilson's work by offering them relatively accessible (i.e., in HTML format) and comparatively readable (i.e., abridged and modernized) versions of Wilson's works, especially The Art of Rhetoric.

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Nicholas Sharp
School of World Studies
Virginia Commonwealth University.
last updated: June, 2010
Disclaimer: This page does not represent an official position of Virginia Commonwealth University