Sir Thomas Elyot

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Elyot, Sir Thomas (c.1490–1546). Humanist, administrator, and political theorist. Elyot, whose family were Wiltshire lawyer-landowners, was educated at Oxford and the Middle Temple. Clerk to the justices of assize (1511–26) and to Henry VIII's council (c.1523–30), he retired in 1530 to Carlton, near Cambridge, being knighted in the same year and made ambassador to Charles V in 1531–2. In the 1520s Elyot frequented the humanist circles of Richard Pace and Thomas More. Though remaining a suspect catholic, he benefited materially from the dissolution of the monasteries. A portrait drawing of him by Holbein (c.1532) is at Windsor castle. Elyot's Book Named the Governor (1531) advocated a monarchical ‘public weal’ for England and described the education, on Italian humanist lines, necessary to prepare Englishmen to help the king rule it. His use of English for his Governor and more than a dozen other works was intended to show how the vernacular, improved by Latin and Greek example, could encourage wise conduct.

J. B. Trapp

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ELYOT, (Sir) Thomas [1499?–1546]. English statesman and scholar. In such works as The boke named The gouernour (1531), he held that though RHETORIC made LATIN and GREEK style more eloquent, the structure of English made meaning clearer. Elyot sought to increase English vocabulary by borrowing from Latin, Greek, and FRENCH, in order to correct ‘the insufficiencie of our owne langage’. When introducing new words, he often used them in explanatory pairs: education or bringing up of children; explicating or unfolding. See BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER.

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Sir Thomas Elyot (ĕl´yət, ĕl´ēət), c.1490–1546, English author. He wrote the earliest Latin-English dictionary (1538) and is remembered especially for his sensible and well-written treatise on the education of statesmen, The Book Named the Governour (1531).