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lectures at St. Lawrence's church in the Old Jewry, on the work of St. Augustine, “ De Civitate Dei," that is, on the divine government of the moral world ; which must seem to readers who look at ancient times through modern habits, a very singular occupation for a young lawyer. But the clergy were the chief depositaries of knowledge, and were the sole canonists and civilians, as they had once been the only lawyers.* Religion, morals, and law, were then taught together without due distinction between them, to the injury and confusion of them all. To these lectures, we are told by the affectionate biographer, “there resorted doctor Grocyn, an excellent cunning man, and all the chief learned of the city of London.”| More, in his lectures, however, did not so much discuss “the points of divinity as the precepts of moral philosophy and history, wherewith these books are replenished.”! They, perhaps, however, embittered his polemical writings, and somwhat soured that naturally sweet temper, which was so deeply felt by his companions, that Erasmus scarcely ever concludes a letter to him without epithets more indicative of the most tender affection than of the calm feelings of friendship.
The tenderness of his nature combined with the instructions and habits of his education to predispose him to piety. As he lived in the neighbourhood of the great Carthusian monastery, called the Charterhouse, for some years, he manifested a predilection for monastic life, and is said to have practised some of those austerities and self-inflictions which prevail among the gloomier and more stern orders. A pure mind in that age often sought to extinguish some of the inferior impulses of human nature, instead of employing them for their appointed purpose,—that of animating the domestic affections, and sweetening the most important duties of life. He soon learnt, by self-examination, his unfitness for the priesthood, and relinquished his project of taking orders, in words which should have warned his church against the imposition of unnatural selfdenial on vast multitudes and successive generations of men.
The same affectionate disposition which had driven him towards the visions, and, strange as it may seem, to the austerities of the monks, now sought a more natural channel.
" He resorted to the house of one maister Colt, a gentleman of Essex, who had often invited him thither ; having three daughters, whose honest conversation and virtuous education provoked him there especially
* Nullus causidicus nisi clericus.
Š Suavissime More. Charissime More. Mellitissime More. II
-Founded in thee Relations dear and all the charities, &c. "Maluit maritns esse castus qnam sacerdos impurus.”—Erasm. Ep. Ulric, ab Hutton, 23 July, Opp. iii p. 475.
to set his affection. And albeit his mind most served him to the second daughter, for that he thought her the fairest and best favoured, yet when he considered that it would be both great grief, and some shame also, to the eldest, to see her younger sister preferred before her in marriage, he then of a certain pity framed his fancy toward her, and soon after married her, neverthemore discontinuing his study of the law at Lincoln's Inn."* His more remote descendant adds, that Mr. Colt “proffered unto him the choice of any of his daughters; and that More, out of a kind of compassion, settled his fancy on the eldest.”+ Erasmus gives a turn to More's marriage with Jane Colt, which is too ingenious to be probable : “He wedded a very young girl of respectable family, but who had hitherto lived in the country with her parents and sisters; and was so uneducated, that he could mould her to his own tastes and
He caused her to be instructed in letters; and she became a very skilful musician, which peculiarly pleased him.”[
The plain matter of fact seems to have been, that in an age when marriage chiefly depended upon a bargain between parents, on which sons were little consulted, and daughters not at all, More, emerging at twenty-one from the toil of acquiring Greek, and the voluntary self-torture of Carthusian mystics, was delighted at his first entry among pleasing young women, of whom the least attractive might, in these circumstances, have touched him; and that his slight preference for the second easily yielded to a good-natured reluctance to mortify the elder. Most young ladies in Essex, in the beginning of the sixteenth century, probably required some tuition to appear in London among scholars and courtiers, who were at that moment more mingled than it is now usual for them to be. It is impossible to ascertain the precise shade of feeling which the biographers intended to denote by the words “pity” and “compassion,” for the use of which they are charged with a want of gallantry or delicacy by modern writers ; although neither of these terms, when the context is at the same time read, seems unhappily employed to signify the natural refinement, which shrinks from humbling the harmless self-compla. cency of an innocent girl.
The marriage proved so happy, that nothing was to be regretted in it but the shortness of the union, in consequence of the early death of Jane Colt, who left a son and three daughters; of whom Margaret, the eldest, inherited the features, the form, and the genius of her father, and requited his fond partiality by a daughterly love, which endured to the end.
In no long time § after the death of Jane Colt, * Roper, p. 6. Singer's edition. † More, p. 30.
Epist. ad Ulric. ab Hutton, ut suprà. "In a few months,” says Erasmus, in his letter to Hutton : within two or three years, according to his great grandson. More's Life of More, p. 32
he married Alice Middleton, a widow, seven years sure to liberal studies and profitable reading, alolder than himself, and neither handsome nor though piety was their first care. No wrangling, young; rather for the care of his family, and the no angry word, was heard in it; no one was idle
: management of his house, than as a companion and every one did his duty with alacrity, and not witha friend. He treated her, and indeed most fe- out a temperate cheerfulness."* Erasmus had not males except his daughter Margaret, as better the sensibility of his friend : he was more prone to qualified to relish a jest, than to take a part in smile than to sigh at the concerns of men ; but he more serious conversation ; and in their presence was touched by the remembrance of these domesgave an unbounded scope to his natural inclina- tic solemnities in the household of his friends. He tion towards pleasantry. He even indulged him- manifests an agreeable emotion at the recollecself in a Latin jingle on her want of youth and tion of these scenes in daily life, which tended to beauty, “nec bella nec puella.” * " She was of hallow the natural authority of parents ; to besgood years, of no good favour or complexion, not tow a sort of dignity on humble occupations ; to very rich, and by disposition near and worldly. It raise menial offices to the rank of virtues ; to was reported that he wooed her for a friend of his ; spread peace and cultivate kindness among those but she answering that he might speed if he spoke who had shared, and were soon again to share, for himself, he married her with the consent of his the same modest rites, in gently breathing around friend, yielding to her that which perhaps he never them a spirit of meek equality, which rather humwould have done of his own accord. Indeed, her bled the pride of the great than disquieted the favour could not have bewitched, or scarce moved, spirits of the lowly. More himself justly speaks any man to love her; but yet she proved a kind and of the hourly interchange of the smaller acts of bareful mother-in-law to his children.” Erasmus, kindness which flow from the charities of domeswho was often an inmate in the family, speaks of tic life, as having a claim on his time as strong as her as “a keen and watchful manager, with whom the occupations which seemed to others so much More lived on terms of as much respect and more serious and important. “While,” says he, kindness as if she had been fair and young." “in pleading, in hearing, in deciding causes or Such is the happy power of a loving disposition, composing differences, in waiting on some men which overflows on companions, though their at- about business, and on others out of respect, the tractions or deserts should be slender. “No hus- greatest part of the day is spent on other men's band,” continues Erasmus, “ever gained so much affairs, the remainder of it must be given to my obedience from a wife by authority and severity, family at home; so that I can reserve no part of as More won by gentleness and pleasantry. it to myself, that is, to study. I must talk with my Though verging on old age, and not of a yielding wife, and chat with my children, and I have sometemper, he prevailed on her to take lessons on the what to say to my servants ; for all these things lute, the cithara, the viol, the monochord, and the I reckon as a part of my business, except a man flute, which she daily practised to him. With will resolve to be a stranger at home ; and with the same gentleness he ruled his whole family, so whomsoever either nature, chance, or choice, has that it was without broils or quarrels. He com- engaged a man in any commerce, he must enposed all differences, and never parted with any deavour to make himself as acceptable to those one on terms of unkindness. The house was about him as he can.”| fated to the peculiar felicity that those who dwelt His occupations now necessarily employed a in it were always raised to a higher fortune ; and large portion of his time. His professional practhat no spot ever fell on the good name of its hap- tice became so considerable, that about the accespy inhabitants.” The course of More's domestic sion, of Henry VIII., in 1509, with his legal life is minutely described by eye-witnesses. “His office in the city of London, it produced 4001. a custom was daily (besides his private prayers year, probably equivalent to an annual income of with his children) to say the seven psalms, the 50001. in the present day. Though it be not easy litany, and the suffrages following; so was his to determine the exact period of the occurrences of guise with his wife, children, and household, his life, from his establishment in London to his nightly before he went to bed, to go to his chapel, acceptance of political office, the beginning of and there on his knees ordinarily to say certain Henry VIII.'s reign may be considered as the psalms and collects with them.”† “ With him time of his highest eminence at the bar. About says Erasmus, "you might imagine yourself in this time a ship belonging to the pope, or claimed the academy of Plato. But I should do injustice by his holiness on behalf of some of his subjects, to his house by comparing it to the academy of 'happened to come to Southampton, where she Plato, where numbers, and geometrical figures, was seized as a forfeiture to the king; probably and sometimes moral virtues, were the subjects as what is called a droit of the crown, or a droit of discussion ; it would be more just to call it a of the admiralty, though in what circumstances or school and exercise of the Christian religion. All on what grounds we know not. The papal its inhabitants, male or female, applied their lei
* Erasm. Epist. 426. Opp. iii. 1810. * Erasm. Epist. ad Hutt.
| Dedication of Utopia to Peter Giles, Burnet's | Roper, p. 25. Singer's edition.
minister made suit to the king that the case might From communications obtained for me from the be argued for the pope by learned counsel in a records of the city, I am enabled to ascertain some public place, and in presence of the minister him- particulars of the nature of More's appointment, self, who was a distinguished civilian. None was which have occasioned a difference of opinion, found so well qualified to be of counsel for the He was under-sheriff of London; for, on the 8tk ambassador as More, who could report in Latin of May, 1514, it was agreed by the common counto that minister all the reasonings of the counsel cil, “that Thomas More, gentleman, one of tho on both sides. More accordingly stated all their under-sheriffs of London, should occupy his office arguments to his client, and argued so learnedly and chamber by a sufficient deputy, during his abon the pope's side, that he succeeded in obtaining sence as the king's ambassador in Flanders.” It an order for the restitution of the vessel detained; appears from several entries in the same records, and appears by his probity and ability to have from 1496 to 1502 inclusive, that the under-sheriff* reached the summit of his forensic reputation.* was annually elected, or rather confirmed; for the There was no case of consequence in controversy practice was not to remove him without his own before any court of law, in which he was not of application or some serious fault. For six years of counsel for one of the parties.
Henry's reign, Edward Dudley was one of the It has been already intimated, that about the under-sheriffs ; a circumstance which renders the same time he was appointed to a judicial office in superior importance of the office at that time prothe city of London, which is described by his son- bable. Thomas Marowe, the author of works on in-law as one of the under-sheriffs of the city. law esteemed in his time, though not published, These officers are now annually appointed, and appears in the above records as under-sheriff. exercise no judicial powers. Roper, who was for It is apparent, that either as a considerable many years an officer of the court of King's source of his income, or as an honourable token of Bench, gives the name of the office correctly; but public confidence, this office was valued by More; does not describe its nature and importance so since he informs Erasmus in 1516, that he had detruly as Erasmus, who tells his correspondent that clined a handsome pension offered to him by the More passed several years in the city of London, king on his return from Flanders: that he believed where he was born, as a judge in civil causes. he should always decline it; because either it “This office, though not laborious, for the court would oblige him to resign his office in the city, sits only on the forenoon of every Thursday, is which he preferred to a better, or if he retained it, accounted very honourable. No judge of that in case of a controversy of the city with the king court ever went through more causes; none decid- for their privileges, he might be deemed by his ed them more uprightly; often remitting the fees fellow-citizens to be disabled by dependence on to which he was entitled from the suitors. His the crown from sincerely and faithfully maintaindeportment in this capacity endeared him extreme- ing their rights.f This last reasoning is also inly to his fellow-citizens.”ł He was judge of the teresting, as the first intimation of the necessity of sheriff's court, which, being the county court for a city law-officer being independent on the crown, London and Middlesex, was, at that time, a sta- and of the legal resistance of the corporation of tion of honour and advantage. For the county
London to a Tudor king. It paved the way for courts in general, and indeed all the ancient sub- those happier times in which the great city had ordinate jurisdictions of the common law, had the honour to number the Holts and the Denmans not yet been superseded by that concentration among her legal advisers. of authority in the hands of the superior courts at He is the first person in our history distinguishWestminister, which contributed to the purity and ed by the faculty of public speaking, and remarkdignity of the judicial character, as well as to a able for the successful employment of it in parliaperfect uniformity and a constant improvement of ment against a lavish grant of money to the the administration of law; a great commendation, crown. The circumstances of a fact thus doubly it is true, but to which we cannot add that it served memorable are related by his son-in-law as folin the same degree to promote a speedy and cheap lows:
:-“In the latter time of king Henry VII. he redress of the wrongs suffered by those suitors to was made a burgess of the parliament, wherein whom cost and delay are most grievous. More's was demanded by the king about three fifteenths office, in that state of jurisdiction, might therefore for the marriage of his eldest daughter, that then have possessed the importance which his contem- should be the Scottish queen. At the last debaporaries ascribed to it; although the denomination ting whereof he made such arguments and reaof it would not make such an impression on mo- sons there against, that the king's demands were dern ears.
thereby clean overthrown; so that one of the
king's privy chamber, named maister Tyler, being * Roper, p. 9. † Erasm. Ep. ad Ulric. Hutt.
* The Latin term for under-sheriff in the entries is I“ In urbe suâ pro shyrevo dixit." These are the subvicecomes ; but the_leave of absence during the words of an inscription intended by More himself on Flemish mission is in English. his family monument, and sent to Erasmus, 15th June, | Thomas Morus Erasmo. 1516. Ep. 227. Erasmi 1532.-Erasm. Opp. iii. 1441.
Opp. iii. 220.
present thereat, brought word to the king out of whose consulship was only about ninety years the parliament house, that a beardless boy had prior to the consulship of Cicero himself. That disappointed all his purpose. Whereupon the celebrated Roman had, indeed, made an animated king, conceiving great indignation towards him, speech in the eighty-fifth year of his age, which could not be satisfied until he had some way re- was the last of his life. A hundred and fifty of venged it. And forasmuch as he, nothing having, his speeches were extant in the time of Cicero. could nothing lose, his grace devised a causeless “But,” says the latter, “what living or lately quarrel against his father; keeping him in the deceased orator has read them? Who knows Tower till he had made him to pay 1001. fine," them at all ?" (probably on a charge of having infringed some Sir Thomas More's answer, as speaker of the obsolete penal law). “ Shortly after, it fortuned house of commons, to Wolsey, of which more that sir T. More, coming in a suit to Dr. Fox, will be said presently, is admirable for its prompbishop of Winchester, one of the king's privy titude, quickness, seasonableness, and caution, council, the bishop called him aside, and, pretend- combined with dignity and spirit. It unites preing great favour towards him, promised that if he sence of mind and adaptation to the person and would be ruled by him he would not fail into the circumstances, with address and management king's favour again to restore him; meaning, as seldom surpassed. If the tone be more submisit was afterwards conjectured, to cause him there- sive than suits modern ears, it is yet remarkable by to confess his offences against the king, where- for that ingenious refinement which for an instant by his highness might, with the better colour, have shows a glimpse of the sword generally hidden occasion to revenge his displeasure against him. under robes of state. “His eloquent tongue,” But when he came from the bishop he fell into says Erasmus, “ so well seconds his fertile invencommunication with one maister Whitforde, his tion, that no one speaks better when suddenly familiar friend, then chaplain to that bishop, and called forth. His attention never languishes; his showed him what the bishop had said, praying for mind is always before his words ; his
memory his advice. Whitforde prayed him by the passion has all its stock so turned into ready money, that, of God not to follow the counsel ; for my lord, to without hesitation or delay, it gives out whatever serve the king's turn, will not stick to agree to his the time and the case may require. His acuteown father's death. So sir Thomas More return- ness in dispute is unrivalled, and he often pered to the bishop no more; and had not the king plexes the most renowned theologians when he died soon after, he was determined to have gone enters their province.”* Though much of this over sea.”*
That the advice of Whitford was encomium may be applicable rather to private conwise, appeared from a circumstance which occur- versation than to public debate; and though red nearly ten years after, which exhibits a new his presence of mind may refer most to promptifeature in the character of the king and of his bish- tude of repartee, and comparatively little to that ops. When Dudley was sacrificed to popular re- readiness of reply, of which his experience must sentment, under Henry VIII., and when he was have been limited; it is still obvious that the on his way to execution, he met sir Thomas, great critic has ascribed to his friend the higher to whom he said, “Oh More, More! God was part of those mental qualities, which, when justly your good friend, that you did not ask the king balanced and perfectly trained, constitute a great forgiveness, as manie would have had you do; for orator. if you had done so, perhaps you should have been As if it had been the lot of More to open all in the like case with us now."|
the paths through the wilds of our old English It was natural that the restorer of political elo- speech, he is to be considered as our earliest prose quence, which had slumbered for a long series of writer, and as the first Englishman who wrote the ages, should also be the earliest of the parlia- history of his country in its present language. mentary champions of liberty. But it is lament- The historical fragment commands belief by simable that we have so little information respecting plicity, and by abstinence from too confident affir sir Thomas More's oratory, which alone could mation. It betrays some negligence about minute have armed him for the noble conflict. He may particulars, which is not displeasing as a symptom be said to hold the same station among us, which of the absence of eagerness to enforce a narrative. is assigned by Cicero, in his dialogue on the cele- The composition has an ease and a rotundity, brated orators, of Rome, s to Cato the censor, which gratify the ear without awakening the sus
picion of art, of which there was no model in any * Roper, p. 7. There seems to be some forgetful
preceding writer of English prose. ness of dates in the latter part of this passage, which In comparing the prose of More with the mohas been copied by succeeding writers. Margaret,
dern style, we must distinguish the words from the it is well known, was married in 1503. The debate was not, therefore, later than that year. But Henry
composition. A very small part of his vocabulary VII, lived till 1509.
has been superannuated. The number of terms † More's Life of More, p. 38.
which require any explanation is inconsiderable; I. Postquam pugnatum est apud Actium, magna illa ingenia cessere. --Tacitus. Brutus, sive de Claris Oratoribus.
* Erasm. Epist, ad Ulric, ab Hutton.
and in that respect the stability of the language is is a grave appeal to their prudence, as well as an remarkable. He is, indeed, in his words, more affecting address from a father and a king to their
English than the great writers of a century after public feelings. The surmises thrown out by . him, who loaded their native tongue with expres- Richard against the Widvilles are short, dark, and
sions of Greek or Latin derivation. Cicero, speak- well adapted to awaken suspicion and alarm. The ing of old Cato, seems almost to describe More. insinuations against the queen, and the threats of “His style is rather antiquated; he has some danger to the lords themselves from leaving the words displeasing to our ears, but which were then person of the duke of York in the hands of that in familiar use. Change those terms, which he princess, in Richard's speech to the privy council, could not, you will then prefer no speaker to Cato."* before the archbishop of York was sent to West
But in the combination and arrangement of minster to demand the surrender of the boy, are words, in ordinary phraseology and common habits admirable specimens of the address and art of of composition, he differs more widely from the crafty ambition. Generally speaking, the speeches style prevalent among us for nearly two centuries. have little of the vague common-place of rhetoriHis diction seems a continued experiment to dis- cians and declaimers. They are calculated for the cover the forms into which the language naturally very persons to whom they were spoken, and fitted
In that attempt he has frequently failed. for all their peculiarities of interest and temper. Fortunate accident, or more varied experiment in Time is not wasted in parade. In the case, inaftertimes, led to the adoption of other combina- deed, of the dispute between the archbishop and tions, which could scarcely have succeeded, if they the queen, about taking the duke of York out of had not been more consonant to the spirit of the his mother's care, in sanctuary at Westminster, language, and more agreeable to the ear and the there is more ingenious argument than the scene feelings of the people. The structure of his sen
and the mind rejects logical refinements, tences is frequently not that which the English of which the use, on such an occasion, is quite irlanguage has finally adopted. The language of reconcileable to dramatic verisimilitude. The duke his countrymen has decided, without appeal, of Buckingham alleged in council, that sanctuary against the composition of the father of English could be claimed only against danger ; and that prose.
the royal infant had neither wisdom to desire sancThe speeches contained in his fragment, like tuary, nor the malicious intention in his acts withmany of those in the ancient historians, were pro- out which he could not require it. To this nota-, bably as real as he could render them in substance; ble paradox, which amounted to an affirmation but brightened by ornament, and improved in com- that no certainly innocent person could ever claim position. It could, indeed, scarcely be otherwise; protection from a sanctuary, when it was carried for the history was written in 15131, and the death to the queen, she answered readily, that if she of Edward IV., with which it opens, occurred in could be in sanctuary, it followed that her child, 1483; and cardinal Morton, who became prime who was her ward, was included in her protection, minister two years after that event, appears to
as much as her servants were, without contradichave taken young More into his household about tion, allowed to be. the year 1493. There is little scope, in so short a The Latin epigrams of More, a small volume time, for much falsification, by tradition, of the which it required two years to carry through the arguments and topics really employed.
press at Basil, are mostly translations from the The speeches have the merit of being accommo- Anthologia, which were rather made known to dated to the circumstances, and of disposing those Europe by the fame of the writer, than calculated to whom they were addressed to promote the ob- to increase it. They contain, however, some deject of the speaker. Strange as it may seem, this cisive proofs that he always entertained the opi . rare merit renders it probable that More had been nions respecting the dependence of all government taught, by the practice of speaking in contests on the consent of the people, to which he professed where objects the most important are the prize of his adherence almost in his dying moments. Latin the victor, that eloquence is the art of persuasion;
versification was not in that early period successand that the end of the orator is not the display of fully attempted in any transalpine country. The his talents, but dominion over the minds of his rules of prosody, or at least the laws of metrical hearers. The dying speech, in which Edward composition, were not yet sufficiently studied for exhorts the two parties of his friends to harmony, such attempts. His Latinity was of the same
school with that of his friend Erasmus; which * Brutus, c. 68.
was, indeed, common to the first generation of | Holinshed, ii. 360. Holinshed called More's
scholars after the revival of classical study. Findwork“ unfinished." That it was meant to extend to the death of Richard III. seems probable from the
ing Latin a sort of general language employed by following sentence :-"But, forasmuch as this duke's men of letters in their conversation and correspon(the duke of Gloucester) demeanour ministereth in dence, they continued the use of it in the mixed effect all the whole matter whereof this book shall entreat, it is therefore convenient to show you, as we
and corrupted state to which such an application farther go, what manner of man this was that could
had necessarily reduced it: they began, indeed, find in his heart such mischief to conceive."--[b. 361. to purify it from some grosser corruptions; but