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Thomas Elyot

Updated on December 1, 2016

Sir Thomas Elyot (1490-1546), was an English diplomat and scholar, who propagated various Renaissance ideas in his native language. The son of Sir Richard Elyot, judge of common pleas, he accompanied his father as clerk of assize on the western circuit in 1511. Cardinal Wolsey appointed him clerk to the privy council in 1523. Elyot was knighted in 1530, and the following year he published The Boke Named the Governour, the first treatise on the subject of education written and printed in English. Its avowed purpose was "to instruct men in such virtues as shall be expedient for them, which shall have authority in a weal public."

During 1531-1532, Elyot visited the Low Countries as ambassador to secure the consent of Emperor Charles V to the divorce of Catherine of Aragon by Henry VIII and to procure, if possible, the arrest of the reformer William Tyn-dale. His efforts yielded little success.

Elyot wrote a treatise on medicine called The Castel of Helth (1534), which was scorned by the doctors but avidly read by the people. Among his numerous translations was Isocrates' Doctrine of Princes (1534). He was also the author of the first complete Latin-English dictionary (1538). His other works include Pasquil the Playne (1533); Of the Knowledge Which Maketh a Wise Man (1533); The Bankette of Sapience (1539); The Image of Governance (1540); The Defence of Good Women (1545); and A Preservative agaynste Deth (1545). Elyot died in Carleton, Cambridgeshire, on March 26, 1546.


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