they built their style upon the foundation of this colloquial dialect, with no rigorous observation of the good usage of the Roman language. Writings of business, of pleasantry, of familiar intercourse, could never have been composed in pure Latinity, which was still more inconsistent with new manners, institutions, and opinions, and with discoveries and inventions added to those which were transmitted by antiquity. Erasmus, who is the master and model of this system of composition, admirably shows how much had been gained by loosening the fetters of a dead speech, and acquiring in its stead the nature, ease, variety, and vivacity of a spoken and living tongue. The course of circumstances, however, determined that this language should not subsist, or at least flourish, for much more than a century. It was assailed on one side by the purely classical, whom Erasmus, in derision, calls “Ciceronians ;” and when it was sufficiently emasculated by dread of their censure, it was finally overwhelmed by the rise of a national literature in every European language.

More exemplified the abundance and flexibility of the Erasmian Latinity in Utopia, with which this short view of all his writings, except those of controversy, may be fitly concluded. The idea of the work was suggested by some of the dialogues of Plato, who speaks of vast territories, formerly cultivated and peopled, but afterwards, by some convulsion of nature, covered by the Atlantic Ocean. These Egyptian traditions, or legends, harmonized admirably with that discovery of a new continent by Columbus, which had roused the admiration of Europe about twenty years before the composition of Utopia. This was the name of an island feigned to have been discovered by a supposed companion of Amerigo Vespucci, who is made to tell the wondrous tale of its condition to More, at Antwerp, in 1514.

More, imitating the ancients, only as a philosopher, borrowed from Plato the conception of an imaginary commonwealth, of which he placed the seat in Utopia. All the names which he invented for men or places* were intimations of their being unreal, and were, perhaps, by treating with raillery his own notions, intended to silence gainsayers. The first book, which is preliminary, is naturally and ingeniously opened by a conversation, in

which Raphael Hythloday, the Utopian traveller, describes his visit to England; where, as much as in other countries, he found all proposals for improvement encountered by the remark, that “Such things pleased our ancestors, and it were well for us if we could but match them; as if it wers a great mischief that any should be found wiser than his ancestors."* "I met these proud, morose, and absurd judgments, particularly once when dining with cardinal Morton at London.” After describing that portion of More's boyhood in a manner which was sure to win his heart., Raphael proceeds to say, “ that there happened to be at table an English lawyer, who run out into high commendation of the severe execution of justice upon thieves, who were then hanged so fast that there were sometimes twenty hanging upon one gibbet ; and added, 'that he could not wonder enough how it came to pass that there were so many thieves left robbing in all places.?” Raphael answered, “that it was because the punishment of death was neither just in itself, nor good for the public; for as the severity was too great, so the remedy was not effectual.t You, as well as other nations, like bad schoolmasters, chastise their scholars because they have not the skill to teach them.” Raphael afterwards more specially ascribed the gangs of banditti who, after the suppression of Perkin Warbeck's Cornish revolt, infested England, to two causes; of which the first was the frequent disbanding of the idle and armed retainers of the nob who, when from necessity let loose from their masters, were too proud for industry, and had no resource but rapine; and the second was the conversion of much corn field into pasture for sheep, because the latter had become more profitable; by which base motives many landholders were tempted to expel their tenants and destroy the food of man. Raphael suggested the substitution of hard labour for death ; for which he quote ed the example of the Romans, and of an imaginary community in Persia. “The lawyer answered, that it could never be so settled in England, without endangering the whole nation by it:' he shook his head, and made some grimaces, and then held his peace, and all the company seemed to be of his mind. But the cardinal said, 'It is not easy to say whether this plan would succeed or not, since no trial has been made of it; but it might be tried on thieves con Jemned to death, and adopted if found to answer: and vagabonds might be treated in the same way.' When the cardinal had said this, they all fell to commend the motion, though they had despised it when it came from me. They more particularly commended that concerning the vagabonds, because it had been added by him.”

From some part of the above extracts it is apparent that More, instead of having anticipated the economical doctrines of Adam Smith, as some modern writers have fancied, was thoroughly im

* Burnet's Trans. of Utopia, p. 13. † Ibid. book i.

[ocr errors]

* The following specimen of Utopian etymologies may amuse some readers :Utopia

OUTOTOS nowhere. Achorians


of no country. Ademians α-δημος of no people. Anyder (a river) a-udwe waterless. The invisible Amaurot (a city) a-pavpos dark. city is on the Hythloday

δαιω-υθλος a learner riv. waterless

of trifles, &c. Some are intentionally unmeaning, and others are taken from little known language in order to perplex pedants. Joseph Scaliger represents Utopia as a word not formed according to the analogy which regulates the formation of Greek words.-Epist. Ger. Tao. Voss. 340. Amstel. 1699.

are common.

[ocr errors]

bued with the prejudices of his contemporaries In Utopia, farm-houses were built over the whole against the inclosure of commons, and the exten- country, to which inhabitants were sent in rotation sion of pasture. It is, however, observable, that from the fitty-four cities. Every family had forty he is perfectly consistent with himself, and follows men and women, besides two slaves ; a master his principles through all their legitimate conse- and mistress preside over every family, and over quences, though they may end in doctrines of very thirty families a magistrate. Every year twenty startling sound. Considering separate property of the family return to town, being two years in as always productive of unequal distribution of the the country; so that all acquire some knowledge fruits of labour, and regarding that inequality of of agriculture, and the land is never left in the fortune as the source of bodily suffering to those hands of persons quite unacquainted with country who labour, and of mental depravation to those labours. When they want any thing in the counwho are not compelled to toil for subsistence, Hy- try which it doth not produce, they fetch it from the thloday is made to say, that “as long as there is city without carrying any thing in exchange. The any property, and while money is the standard of magistrates take care to see it given to them. The all other things, he cannot expect that a nation people of the towns carry their commodities to the can be governed either justly or happily."* More market place, where they are taken away by those himself objects to Hythloday: “It seems to me who need them. The chief business of the magis that men cannot live conveniently where all things trates is to take care that no man may live idle,

How can there be any plenty and that every one should labour in his trade for where every man will excuse himself from labour.

six hours of every twenty-four: a portion of time, ing? for, as the hope of gain doth not excite him, which, according to Hythloday, was sufficient for 80 the confidence that he has in other men's in

an abundant supply of all the necessaries and dustry may make him slothful. And if people moderate accommodations of the community, and come to be pinched with want, and yet cannot which is not inadequate where all labour, and none dispose of any thing as their own, what can follow apply extreme labour to the production of superbut perpetual sedition and bloodshed ; especially fluities to gratify a few, where there are no idle when the reverence and authority due to magis- priests or idle rich men, and where women of all trates fall to the ground: for I cannot imagine sorts perform their light allotment of labour. To how they can be kept up among those that are in women all domestic offices which did not degrade all things equal to one another.” These remarks

or displease were assigned. Unhappily, however, do in reality contain the germs of unanswerable the iniquitous and unrighteous expedient was deobjections to all those projects of a community of

vised, of releasing the better order of females from goods, which suppose the moral character of the offensive and noisome occupations, by throwing majority of mankind to continue, at the moment

them upon slaves. Their citizens were forbidden of their adoption, such as it has been heretofore in

to be butchers, “because they think that pity and the most favoarable instances. If, indeed, it be good-nature, which are among the best of those afproposed only on the supposition, that by the in- fections that are born within us, are much impaired by Auence of laws, or by the agency of any other the butchering of animals." A striking represencause, mankind in general are rendered more ho- tation, indeed, of the depraving effects of cruelty nest, more benevolent, more disinterested than they

to animals, but abused for the iniquitous and cruel have hitherto been, it is evident that they will, in purpose of training inferiors to barbarous habits, the same proportion, approach to a practice more

in order to preserve for their masters the exclusive near the principle of an equality and a community benefit of a discipline of humanity. Slaves, too, of all advantages. The hints of an answer to were employed in hunting, which was deemed Plato, thrown out by More, are so decisive that it too frivolous and barbarous an amusement for is not easy to see how he left this speck on his ro- citizens. They look upon hunting as one of mance, unless we may be allowed to suspect that

the basest parts of a butcher's business, for they the speculation was in part suggested as a conve- account it more decent to kill beasts for the suste nient cover for that biting satire on the sordid and

nance of mankind, than to take pleasure in seeing rapacious government of Henry VII. which occu.

a weak, harmless, and fearful hare torn in pieces by pies a considerable portion of Hythloday's first a strong, fierce, and cruel dog." An excess discourse. It may also be supposed that More,

population was remedied by planting colonies ; not anxious to save visionary reformers from a few

defect, by the recall of the necessary number of light blows in an attack aimed at corrupt and ty

former colonists ; irregularities of distribution, by rannical statesmen, thinks it suitable to his imagi- transferring the superfluous members of one townnary personage, and conducive to the liveliness of ship to supply the vacancies in another. They did his fiction, to represent the traveller in Utopia as

not enslave their prisoners, nor the children of their touched by one of the most alluring and delusive

own slaves. They are criminals condemned to of political chimeras.

slavery as a punishment ; which would be no in* Utopia, 57. Happening to write where I have

justice in itself, if they had not purchased persons no access to the original, I use Burnet's Translation.

80 condemned in other countries, which was in Thore can be no doubt of Burnet's learning or fidelity. effect a premium on unjust convictions. In those

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


maladies where there is no hope of cure or alle- for mercy, I can have no other notion of all the viation, it was customary for the Utopian priests other governments that I see or know, but that to advise the patient voluntarily to shorten his use- they are a conspiracy of the richer sort, who, on less and burthensome life by opium or some equally pretence of managing the public, do only pursue easy means. In cases of suicide, without permis- their private ends." The true notion of Utopia is, sion of the priests and the senate, the party is ex- however, that it intimates a variety of doctrines, cluded from the honours of a decent funeral. They and exhibits a multiplicity of projects, which the allow divorce in adultery, and incorrigible perverse- writer regards with almost every possible degree ness. Slavery is the general punishment of the of approbation and shade of assent; from the highest crime. They have few laws, and no law- frontiers of serious and entire belief, through grayers. “ Utopus, the founder of the state, made a dations of descending plausibility, where the law that every man might be of what religion he lowest are scarcely more than the exercises of pleased, and might endeavour to draw others to it ingenuity, and to which some wild paradoxes are by force of argument and by amicable and modest appended, either as a vehicle, or as an easy means ways; but those who used reproaches or violence (if necessary) of disavowing the serious intention in their attempts were to be condemned to banish- of the whole of this Platonic fiction. ment or slavery.”

It must be owned, that though one class of The following passage

80 remarkable, and More's successors were more susceptible of judihas hitherto been so little considered in the history cious admiration of the beauties of Plato and of toleration, that I shall insert it at length :- Cicero than his less perfectly formed taste could “ This law was made by Utopus, not only for be, and though another division of them had acpreserving the public peace, which, he said, suf- quired a knowledge of the words of the Greek fered much by daily contentions and irreconcileable language, and perception of their force and disheat in these matters, but because he thought the tinctions, for the attainment of which More came interest of religion itself required it. As for those too early into the world, yet none would have been who so far depart from the dignity of human nature so heartily welcomed by the masters of the Lyceum as to think that our souls died with our bodies, or and the Academy, as qualified to take a part in that the world was governed by chance without the discussion of those grave and lofty themes a wise and over-ruling Providence, the Utopians which were freely agitated in these early nurseries never raise them to honours or offices, nor employ

of human reason. them in any public trust, but despise them as men About the time of More's first journey to the of base and sordid minds; yet they do not punish continent, in the summer of 1514, not long after such men, because they lay it down as a ground,

which Utopia was composed, may be placed the that a man cannot make himself believe any thing happiest period of his life. He acquired an inhe pleases : nor do they drive any to dissemble come equivalent to four or five thousand pounds their thoughts ; so that men are not tempted to sterling of our present money, by his own indelie or disguise their opinions among them, which, pendent industry and well-earned character. He being a sort of fraud, is abhorred by the Utopians.”

had leisure for the cultivation of literature, for corA beautiful and conclusive reason, which, when it

respondence with his friend Erasmus, for keeping was used for the first time, as it probably was in

up an intercourse with European men of letters, Utopia, must have been drawn from so deep a

who had already placed him in their first class, sense of the value of sincerity as of itself to prove

and for the composition of works, from which, that he who thus employed it was sincere. “These unaware of the rapid changes which were to enunbelievers are not allowed to argue before the sue, he probably promised himself more fame, or common people ; but they are suffered and even at least more popularity, than they have procured encouraged to dispute in private with their priests

for him. His affections and his temper continued and other grave men, being confident that they to ensure the happiness of his home, even when will be cured of these mad opinions by having rea- his son with a wife, three daughters with their son laid before them.”

husbands, and a proportionable number of grand. It may be doubted whether some extravagances

children, dwelt under his patriarchal roof. in other parts of Utopia were not introduced to

At the same period the general progress of Eucover such passages as the above, by enabling the ropean literature, the cheerful prospects of imwriter to call the whole a mere sport of wit, and proved education and diffused knowledge, had fillthus exempt him from the perilous responsibility

ed the mind of More and Erasmus with delight. of having maintained such doctrines seriously. In The expectation of an age of pacific improvement other cases he seems' diffidently to propose opi- seems to have prevailed among studious men in nions to which he was in some measure inclined, the twenty years which elapsed between the mibut in the course of his statement to have heated gration of classical learning across the Alps, and himself into an indignation against the vices and the rise of the religious dissensions stirred up by the corruptions of Europe, which vents itself in elo- preaching of Luther. “I foresee,” says More's quent invectives not unworthy of Gulliver. He colleague on his Flemish mission, “that our posmakes Hythloday at last declare,—" As I hope terity will rival the ancients in every sort of study:

[ocr errors]

and if they be not ungrateful, they will pay the arising from some dissimilarity of original characgreatest thanks to those who have revived these ter. The tender heart of More clung more strong. studies. Go on, and deserve well of posterity, ly to the religion of his youth. Erasmus moro who will never suffer the name of Erasmus to pe- apprehended disturbance of his tastes and purrish."* Erasmus himself, two years after, express-, suits, and betrays in some of his writings a temes the same hopes, which, with unwonted cour- per, which might have led him to doubt whether tesey, he chooses to found on the literary character the glimmering of probability, to which More is of the conversation in the palace of Henry VIII : limited, be equivalent to the evils attendant on the -" The world is recovering the use of its senses,

search. like one awakened from the deepest sleep; and The public life of More began in the summer yet there are some who cling to their old igno- of 1514*, with a mission to Bruges, in which Tunrance with their hands and feet, and will not suf- stall, then master of the rolls, and afterwards bishfer themselves to be torn from it.”+ To Wolsey op of Durham, was his colleague, of which the he speaks in still more sanguine language, mixed object was to settle some particulars relating to with the like personal compliment :-"I see ano- the commercial intercourse of England with the ther golden age arising, if other rulers be animat- Netherlands. He was consoled for a detention, ed by your spirit. Nor will posterity be ungrate- unexpectedly long, by the company of Tunstall, ful. This new felicity, obtained for the world by whom he describes as one not only fraught with you, will be commemorated in immortal monu- all learning, and severe in his life and morals, but ments by Grecian and Roman eloquence.”I inferior to no man as a delightful companion. Though the judgment of posterity in favour of On this mission he became acquainted with sevekings and cardinals is thus confidently foretold, ral of the friends of Erasmus in Flanders, where the writers do not the less betray their hope of a he evidently saw a progress in the accommodabetter age, which will bestow the highest honours tions and ornaments of life, to which he had been on the promoters of knowledge. A better age hitherto a stranger. With Peter Giles of Antwas, in truth, to come ; but the time and circum- werp, to whom he intrusted the publication of stances of its appearance did not correspond to Utopia by a prefatory dedication, he continued to their sanguine hopes. An age of iron was to pre- be closely connected during the lives of both. In cede, in which the turbulence of reformation and the year 1515, he was sent again to the Netherthe obstinacy of establishment were to meet in lands on the like mission. The intricate relations long and bloody contest.

of traffic between the two countries had given rise When the storm seemed ready to break out, to a succession of disputes, in which the determiErasmus thought it his duty to incur the obloquy nation of one case generally produced new suits. which always attends mediatorial counsels. “You As More had in the year 1510f been elected subb know the character of the Germans, who are sheriff of London, he obtained leave of absence more easily led than driven. Great danger may from the mayor and aldermen of that city, "on arise, if the native ferocity of that people be exas- occasion of both these missions, to go upon the perated by untimely severities. We sec the per- king's ambasset to Flanders.ş tinacy of Bohemia and the neighbouring provinces. In the beginning of 1516 he was made a privyA bloody policy has been tried without success.

councillor; and from that time may be dated the Other remedics must be employed. The hatred final surrender of his own tastes for domestic life, of Rome is fixed in the minds of many nations, and his predilections for studious leisure, to the chiefly from the rumours believed of the disso- flattering importunities of Henry VIII. "He had lute manners of that city, and from the immorali- resolved,” says Erasmus, “ to be content with his ties of the representatives of the supreme pontiff private station ; but having gone on more than abroad."

one mission abroad, the king, not discouraged by The uncharitableness, the turbulence, the ha- the unusual refusal of a pension, did not rest till tred, the bloodshed, which followed the preaching he had drawn More into the palace. For why of Luther, closed the bright visions of the two il- should I not say drawn,' since no man ever la lustrious friends, who agreed in an ardent love of boured with more industry for admission to a court, peace, though not without a difference in the than More to avoid it? The king would scarcely shades and modifications of their pacific temper, ever suffer the philosopher to quit him. For if se

rious affairs were to be considered, who could * Tonstal. Erasm. 14th of Sept. 1517.

give more prudent counsel ? or if the king's

Erasm. Opp. iii. p. 267.

mind was to be relaxed by cheerful conversation, f Tonstal. Erasm. 37. Erasm. Henric. Guilde. ford, 15th of May, 1519.

* Erasm. Petro Algidio. Lond. 7th of May, 1514. | Ib. 322. Thomas Card. Erasm. Rot. 18th of Opp. iii. 135. Records of the Common Council of May. 1518.

London. $ Tonstal. Erasm. 590. Pentinger. Cologne, 9th † Morus Erasmo, 30th April, 1516. of November, 1520. To this theory neither of the

leperoom of Richard parties about to contend could have assented; but it Brooke, appointed recorder, perhaps the author of is not on that account the less likely to be in a great the well-known Abridgment of the Law. measure true.

§ City Records, May 1514, and May 1515.

familiarly entertained, as I had never seen him to do to any one before, except cardinal Wolsey. 'I thank our Lord, son,' said he, 'I find his grace my very good lord indeed, and I believe he doth as singularly favour me as any other subject within this realm: howbeit, son Roper, I may tell thee, I have no cause to be proud thereof; for if my head would win him a castle in France, when there was war between us, should not fail to go.'"*

Utopia, composed in 1516, was printed incorrectly, perhaps clandestinely, at Paris. Erasmus's friend and printer, Froben, brought out an exact edition at Basle in 1518, which was retarded by the expectation of a preface from Buddè or Buddæus, the restorer of Greek learning in France, and probably the most critical scholar in that province of literature on the north of the Alps. It was received with loud applause by the scholars of France and Germany. Erasmus confidently observed to an intimate friend, that the second book having been written before. the first, had occasioned some disorder and inequality of style; but he particularly praised its novelty and originality, and its keen satire on the vices and absurdities of Europe.

So important was the office of under-sheriff then held to be, that More did not resign it till the 23d of July, 1519†, though he had in the intermediate time served the public in stations of trust and honour. In 1521 he was knighted, and raised to the office of treasurer of the exchequer‡, a station in some respects the same with that of chancellor of the exchequer, who at present is on his appointment to be designated by the additional name of under-treasurer of the exchequer. It is a minute, but somewhat remarkable, stroke in the picture of manners, that the honour of knighthood should be spoken of by Erasmus, if not as of superior dignity to so important an office, at least as observably adding to its consequence.

From 1517 to 1522, More was employed at various times at Bruges, in missions like his first to the Flemish government, or at Calais in watching and conciliating Francis I., with whom Henry


Roper, 21, 22. Compare this insight into Henry's character with a declaration of an opposite nature, though borrowed also from castles and towns, made by Charles V. when he heard of More's mur• der.

where could there be a more facetious companion ?"*

Roper, who was an eye-witness of these circumstances, relates them with an agreeable simplicity. "So from time to time was he by the king advanced, continuing in his singular favour and trusty service for twenty years. A good part thereof used the king, upon holidays, when he had done his own devotion, to send for him; and there, sometimes in matters of astronomy, geometry, divinity, and such other faculties, and sometimes on his worldly affairs, to converse with him. And other whiles in the night would he have him put into the leads, there to consider with him the diversities, courses, motions, and operations of the stars and planets. And because he was of a pleasant disposition, it pleased the king and queen, after the council had supped at the time of their own (i. e. the royal) supper, to call for him to be merry with them." What Roper adds could not have been discovered by a less near observer, and would scarcely be credited upon less authority: "When them he perceived so much in his talk to delight, that he could not once in a month get leave to go home to his wife and children (whose company he most desired), he, much misliking this restraint on his liberty, began thereupon somewhat to dissemble his nature, and so by little and little from his former mirth to disuse himself, that he was of them from thenceforth, at such seasons, no more so ordinarily sent for." To his retirement at Chelsea, however, the king followed him. "He used of a particular love to come of a sudden to Chelsea, and leaning on his shoulder, to talk with him of secret counsel in his garden, yea, and to dine with him upon no inviting." The taste for More's conversation, and the eagerness for his company thus displayed, would be creditable to the king, if his behaviour in after time had not converted them into the strongest proofs of utter depravity. Even in Henry's favour there was somewhat tyrannical, and his very friendship was dictatorial and self-willed. It was reserved for Henry afterwards to exhibit the singular, and perhaps solitary, example of a man who was softened by no recollection of a communion of counsels, of studies, of amusements, of social pleasures, and who did not consider that the remembrance of intimate friendship with such a man as More bound him to the observance of common humanity, or even of bare justice. In the moments of Henry's partiality, the sagacity of More was not so utterly blinded by his good-nature, that he did not in some degree penetrate into the true character of caresses from a beast of prey. "When I saw the king walking with him for an hour, holding his armı about his neck, I rejoiced, and said to sir Thomas, how happy he was whom the king had so

*Erasm. Hutt. 23d of July, 1519. Opp. iii. p. 628. † Roper 12.

More's Life of Sir T. More, p. 49.

City Records.

Est quod Moro gratuleris, name Rex illum nec ambientem nec flagitantem munere magnifico honestavit addito salario nequaquam penitendo, est enim principi suo a thesauris. Nec hoc contentus, equitis aurati dignitatem adjecit.-Erasm. Budd. 1521. Opp.

iii. 378.

"Then died master Weston, treasurer of the exchequer, whose office the king of his own accord, without any asking, freely gave unto sir Thomas More."Roper, 13.

The minute verbal coincidences which often occur between Erasmus and Roper, cannot be explained otherwise than by the probable supposition, that copies or originals of the correspondence between More and Erasmus were preserved by Roper after the death of the former.

« VorigeDoorgaan »