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THE LITERATURE OF ENGLAND.--No. VI.
SIR THOMAS MORE, KNT.
Sir THOMAS MORE, Lord Chancellor of England, the great friend and admirer of Erasmus, was esteemed one of the greatest prodigies of wit and learning that this country ever produced.He was born in London in 1480; and being the only son of Sir John More, one of the Judges of the King's Bench, great pains were taken in his education. He gave very early proofs of an uncommon genius. He devoted his attention to the study of the law, and when called to the bar, became conspicuous by the eloquence of his pleadings, and was retained in almost every cause of impor
At the age of twenty-one, he made a distinguished figure as a Member of the House of Commons, in opposition to the Court when opposition was more dangerous than it has been in later times. Upon the accession of Henry VIII., he was appointed Treasurer of the Excheqner; and in the year 1516, being sent on an embassy to Flanders, found leisure to write, in the Latin language, his Utopia,” which he dedicated to a gentleman at Antwerp. This work made him known, and obtained for him an acquaintance with several learned men abroad. He was also author of several other works, which were chiefly controversial, and have been long since forgotten. His English works were published collectively by order of Queen Mary in 1557 :-and of his Latin works, editions were given at Basil in 1567. His “ Utopia," translated by Bishop Burnet, has frequently been printed in an English dress.
Henry VIII. became intimately acquainted with Sir Thomas More, and conferred with him on all the topics of literature and philosophy, with which he wished to be generally acquainted without the labour of study. The king likewise amused himself with the wit and humour of More's relaxed conversation; and often required his attendance at his private suppers with the queen, for the purpose of “ making them merry." Sir Thomas was no doubt much fattered by this extraordinary mark of distinction, but he found that it encroached too much upon his leisure and domestic comforts, and therefore became grave in the presence of his sovereign, that he might have the liberty of being merry at home".
• We cannot refrain from quoting the following account of More in the period of his prosperity. Erasmus says,
* More has built near London, upon the Thames, a commodious house, neither mean, nor the object of envy. There he converses affably with his family; his wife, his son and daughter-in-law, his three grand-daughters, and their husbands, with eleven great grand-children. There is no man living so affectionate to his children, and he loves his old wife as well as if she were a young maid. Such is tbe excellence of his temper, that with whatever happens which could not be prevented, he is as well pleased as if it could not have been better. His house may be likened to Plato's academy, or rather may be called a school or university of the Christian religion ; for there is no one in it who does not read or study the liberal sciences : piety and virtue are the care of all; neither quarrels nor intemperate words are heard ; none are seen idle. His household discipline is not maintained by harsh and lofty language,
At last he brought down upon himself all the vengeance of the haughty and over-bearing monarch, by opposing his divorce from Catherine of Arragon. This, however, not giving fair opportunity for open violence, several other accusations were brought against him, but without success, until the Act of Supremacy was passed in 1534, when the oath enjoined by that act being tendered to him about a month after, he refused to take it, and was committed prisoner to the Tower of London. After he had lain fifteen months in prison, he was arraigned, tried, and found guilty of denying the king's supremacy, and condemned to be hanged, drawn, and quartered, and his head to be stuck on a pole upon London Bridge. But this sentence, on account of the high office he had borne, was, all but the last particular, changed by the king into beheading, which was executed on Tower Hill on the 5th of July, 1535.
The following lines were written by Sir Thomas More, to express the comfort which he received on the occasion of the king's secretary having visited him in the Tower, and assured him that “ his majesty minded not any matter wherein he should have cause of scruple from henceforth to trouble his conscience.” “ Two short balletes which Sir Thomas More made for hys pastime while he was a prisoner
in the Towre of London.
LEWYS, THE LOST LOUER.
“ Ey flatering fortune, loke thou neuer so fayre,
Or neuer so plesantly begin to smile,
During my life thou shalt me not beguile.
Trust shall I God, to entre in a while
DAVY THE DYCER.
“ Long was I, Lady Lucke, your serving man,
And now haue I lost agayne all that I gat,
And in my mynde remember this and that,
Ye may not blame me, though I beshrewe your cat.
“A letter written with a cole by Sir Thomas More to hys doughter, Maistres Margaret Roper, within a whyle after he was prisoner in the Towre:
“ Myne owne good doughter, our Lord be thanked. I am in good helthe of bodye, and in good quiete of mynde : and of worldly thynges I no more desyer, than I haue. I beseech him make you all mery, in the hope of heauen. And such thynges, as I somewhat longed to talk with you all, concerning the world to come: our Lord put them in your myndes, as I trust he dothe, and better to, by hys holy Spirite : who blesse you
but by kindness and courtesy: every one performs his duty with alacrity, nor is sober
“ When More some time had Chancellor been,
and preserue you all. Written with a cole by your tender louing father, who in his pore prayers forgetteth none of you all, nor your babes, nor your nurses, nor your good husbandes, nor your good husbandes' shrewde wyues, nor your father's shrewde wyf neither. And thus fare ye hartely well, for lacke of paper.
“ THOMAS MORE, Knt.”
“A ruful lamentacion (written by Master Thomas More in hys youth) of the deth of Quene Elizabeth, mother to King Henry the Eight, wife to King Henry the Seventh, and eldest daughter to King Edward the Fourth, which Quene Elizabeth dyed in childbed, in February, in the yere of our Lord, 1503, and in the 18 yere of the raigne of King Henry the Seventh :
“ O ye that put your trust and confidence
In worldly joy and frayle prosperite,
Remember deth, and look here uppon me.
Ensaumple I thynke there may no better be.
Was not my mother Quene, my father Kyng?
Had I not plenty of euery pleasaunt thyng ?
Mercifull God, this is a straunge reckenyng :
If wyt myght haue me saued, I needed not fere ;
But, 0 good God! what vayleth all this gere?
When deth is come thy mighty messengere,
This year to liue in welth and delice,
O false astrology and deuynatrice,
Of Goddes secretes makyng thyself so wise.
Thy single pleasure doubled is with payne,
In sondry wyse, and recken there agayne
The joy that I haue had, and I dare sayne
Goodly Rychmonde, sone art thou gone from me,
Myne owne dere Lord, now shall I never see.
Almighty God, vouchsafe to graunt that ye
The faithful loue that dyd us both combyne,
Into your hands here I cleane resyne,
Erst wer you father, and now must ye supply
God wotte full oft it greued hath my mynde,
Now am I gone, and haue left you behynde.
O mortall folke, that we be very blynde.
Comfort your sonne, and be ye of good chere;
Farewell my doughter Katharine, late the fere
To Prince Arthur, myne own chyld so dere,
Our Lord encrease your honour and estate :
God make you vertuous, wyse, and fortunate.
Adew, swete hart, my little doughter Kate,
Farewell my well-beloved sisters three,
Lo here the end of worldly vanitee.
Now well are ye that earthly folly flee,
Adeu my faithful seruauntes euerych one,
See in this world; wherefore to thee alone
Immortal God, verely three and one,
Shew to thy seruant, for lo now here I ly." Sir Thomas More's “ History of Richard the Third,” may be considered the most interesting portion of his prose writings; and for this reason, we have selected our specimens from that work. This history appears, from the title affixed, to have been written about the year 1513, when More was one of the Under Sheriffs of London; but was first printed in Grafton's Continuation of the Metrical Chronicle of John Hardynge, in 1543 : it was again printed in the Chronicles of Grafton, Hall, and Holingshed, and professes to have been “ conferred and corrected by his own copy."
THE DESCRIPCION OF RICHARDE THE THIRDE.
“ Richard, the third sonne, of whom we nowe entreate, was in witte and courage equall with either of them, in bodye and prowesse farre under them bothe, little of stature, ill fetured of limmes, croke backed, his left shoulder much higher than his right, hard favored of visage, and suche as in states called warlye, in other menne otherwise, he was malicious, wrathfull, enuious, and from afore his birth, euer frowarde. It is for trouth reported, that the Duches his mother had so much adoe in her trauaile that shee coulde not bee deliuered of hym uncutte: and that hee came into the worlde with the feete forwarde, as menne bee borne outwarde, and (as the fame runneth) also not untothed, whither menne of hatred reporte aboue the trouthe, or elles that nature chaunged her course in hys beginninge, whiche in the course of his lyfe many thinges unnaturallye committed. None euill captaine was hee in the warre, as to which his disposicion was more metely then for peace. Sundrye victories hadde hee, and sometimes ouerthrowes, but neuer indefaulte as for his own parsonne, either of hardinesse or polytike order, free was hee called of dyspence, and somewhat aboue hys power liberall ; with large giftes hee get him unstedfaste frendeshippe, for which hee was fain to pil and spoyle in other places, and get him stedfaste hatred. Hee was close and secrete, a deepe dissimuler, lowlye of counteynaunce, arrogant of heart, outwardly coumpinable where he inwardely hated, not letting to kisse whome he thoughte to kill : dispitious and cruell, not for euill will alway, but after for ambicion, and either for the suretie or encrease of his estate. Frende and foo was muche what indifferent; where his aduantage grew, he spared no man's deathe, whose life withstoode bis purpose.
He slewe with his owne handes King Henry the Sixt, being prisoner in the Tower, as menne constantly saye, and that without commaundmente or knoweledge of the King, whiche woulde undoubtedly yf he had entended that thinge, haue appointed that boocherly office to some other then his owne borne brother.
“ Somme wise menne also weene, that his drifte couertly conuayde, lacked not in helping forth his brother of Clarence to his death : whiche hee resisted openly, howbeit somwhat (as menne demed) more faintly then he that wer hartely minded to his welth. And they that thus deme, think that he long time in King Edwarde's life, forethought to be king, in case that the king, his brother, (whose life hee looked that euill dyete shoulde shorten) should happen to decease (as in dede he did) while his children wer yonge. And thei deme, that for thys intente he was gladde of his brother's death the Duke of Clarence, whose life must nedes haue hindered hym so entendynge, whither the same Duke of Clarence hadde kept him true to his nephew, the yonge kinge, or enterprised to be King himselfe. But of al this pointe is there no certaintie, and whoso diuineth uppon coniectures, may as wel shote to farre as to short. Howbeit this haue I by credible informacion learned, that the selfe nighte in which Kynge Edwarde died, one Mystlebrooke long ere mornynge, came in great haste to the house of one Pottyer, dwellying in Reddecrosse Strete Without, Crepulgate : and when he was with hastye rapping quickly letten in, hee shewed unto Pottyer that Kynge Edwarde was departed. By my trouthe manne, quod Pottier, then wyll my mayster, the Duke of Gloucester, be Kynge. What cause hee hadde soo to thynke, hard it is to say; whyther hee being toward him, anye thinge knewe that hee suche thynge purposed, or otherwyse had anye inkelynge thereof, for he was not likelye to speake it of noughte."
We shall close this article with the description of Jane Shore. The whole relation of this story is extremely interesting and pathetic; and though it seems evident that he has been mistaken in one or two points relating to her, which Lord Orford has corrected, no piece of English prose writing of the same period, or even in a much later, will bear comparison with it for pathos and beauty of style :
THE DESCRYPCION OF SHORE's wife. “ This woman was born in London, worshipfully frended, honestly brought up, and very well marryed, sauing somewhat to sone, her husbande an honest citizen, yonge and goodly, and of good substance. But forasmuche as they were coupled ere she wer well ripe, she not very feruently loved for whom she neuer longed. Which was happely the thinge, that the more easily made her encline unto the King's appetite when he required her. Howbeit the respect of his royaltie, the hope of gay apparel, ease, plesure, and other wanton welth, was hable soone to perse a softe tender hearte. But when the King had abused her, anon her husband (as he was an honest man, and one that could his good, not presuming to touch a Kinge's concubine) left her vp to him al togither. When the King died, the Lord Chamberlen toke her. Which in the Kinge's daies, albeit he was sore ennamored vpon her; yet he forbare her either for reuerence, or for a certain frendly faithfulnes. Proper she was and faire : nothing in her body that you wold haue changed, but if you would haue wished her somewhat higher. Thus say thei that knew-her in her youthe. Albeit some that now se her, (for yet she liueth) deme her neuer to have been wel visaged. Whose iugement semeth me somewhat like, as though men should gesse the bewty of one longe before departed, by her scalpe taken out of the charnel house : for now is she old, lene, withered, and dried up, nothing left but ryvilde