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Thesis (M.A.)—University of Nebraska—Lincoln, 1965. Department of English.


Copyright 1965, the author. Used by permission.


The author of this thesis attempts to suggest a point of view from which one may comprehend the significance and unity of the letters of advice by Burghley, Ralegh, and Sidney. Secondarily, the author endeavors to show that this point of view resolves some of the critical confusion which surrounds the letters. Though the point of view derived from this study may have wider applications; however, it is primarily to illuminates these particular letters.

The distinction between the public life and the private life has been central to this investigation because a complex code of behavior appears to rest upon this distinction. Philosopher Elyot believed that the public figure should devotedly serve the central government in the interests of the common good. In fact, public service for the common good was defined both as a moral and a religious duty—one served God through public actions for the common good.

The moral and religious code which Elyot stipulates for the public figure is based upon the four cardinal virtues of justice, prudence, temperance, and fortitude. Of these virtues, prudence is most important. Prudential behavior must be practical and must be directed toward the common good to be done so properly. The letters of this study may be read against this background of prudential advice and public service. Prudence is the connection drawn between the letters.

Advisor: Robert E. Knoll