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.