Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Scalia and Thomas More

Justice Scalia's appearance at President Obama's Inauguration yesterday has been much remarked because of the Justice's hat. 

300px-Hans_Holbein,_the_Younger_-_Sir_Thomas_More_-_Google_Art_ProjectAs ConLawProf Kevin Walsh reports, the hat was a gift from the St. Thomas More Society of Richmond, commemorating Scalia's participation in a 2010 "Red Mass" and is a replica of More's hat as portrayed in his famous portrait by Hans Holbein the Younger, 1527 (pictured right).

While Thomas More was celebrated in the play "A Man for All Seasons," a much less flattering portrait of him emerges in Hilary Mantel's award winning historical novel Wolf Hall, in which More is seen as distinctly unlawyerly, ungenerous, and perhaps pathological, especially as contrasted with the novel's hero, Thomas Cromwell.

As the late Christopher Hitchens noted, the genius of Wolf Hall wasin going beyond the Holbein portraits that defined the era, and revisioning, for example, the More portrait: "Now scrutinize the face of More and notice the frigid, snobbish fanaticism that holds his dignity in place."  More, then, becomes a man who will not only burn books, but burn people.  Hitchens also quotes Mantel's scene of the interrogation of More, after More has fallen out of favor.  The character More says:

You say you have the majority. I say I have it. You say Parliament is behind you, and I say all the angels and saints are behind me, and all the company of the Christian dead, for as many generations as there have been since the church of Christ was founded, one body, undivided—”

RR
[image via]

 

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