1440, was entitled by his descent to use an armorial bearing, a privilege guarded strictly and jealously as the badge of those who then began to be called gentry, who, though separated from the lords of parliament by political rights, yet formed with them in the order of society one body, corresponding to those called noble in the other countries of Europe. Though the political power of the barons was on the wane, the social position of the united body of nobility and gentry retained its dignity.* Sir John More was one of the justices of the court of King's Bench to the end of his long life; and, according to his son's account, well performed the peaceable duties of civil life, being gentle in his deportment, blameless, meek and merciful, an equitable judge, and an upright man.f Sir Thomas More received the first rudiments of his education at St. Anthony's school, in Threadneedle Street, under Nicholas Hart; for the daybreak of letters was now so bright, that the repu tation of schools was carefully noted, and schoolmasters began to be held in some part of the estimation which they merit. Here, however, his studies were confined to Latin; the cultivation of Greek, which contains the sources and models of Roman Literature, being yet far from having sunk to the level of the best among the schools. It was the custom of that age that young gentlemen should pass part of their boyhood in the house and service of their superiors, where they might profit by listening to the conversation of men of experience, and gradually acquire the manners of the world. It was not deemed derogatory from youths of rank; it was rather thought a beneficial expedient for inuring them to stern discipline and implicit obedience, that they should be trained, during this noviciate, in humble and even menial offices. A young gentleman thought himself no more lowered by serving as a page in the family of a great peer or prelate, than a Courtenay or a Howard considered it as a degradation to be the huntsman or the cupbearer of a Tudor.

More was fortunate in the character of his master. When his school studies were thought to be finished, about his fifteenth year, he was placed in the house of cardinal Morton, archbishop of Canterbury. This prelate, who was born in 1410, was originally an eminent civilian, canonist, and a practiser of note in the ecclesiastical courts. He was a Lancastrian, and the fidelity with which

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*"In sir T. More's epitaph, he describes himself as born of no noble family, but of an honest stock,' (or, in the words of the original, familiâ non celebri, sed honestâ natus,) a true translation, as we here take nobility and noble; for none under a baron, except he be of the privy council, doth challenge it; and in this sense he meant it; but as the Latin word nobilis is taken in other countries for gentrie, it was otherwise. Sir John More bare arms from his birth; and though we cannot tell who were his ancestors, they must needs be gentlemen."-Life of T. More, by T. More, his great grandson, pp. 3, 4.

Homo civilis, innocens, mitis, integer."-Sir Thomas More's Epitaph.

he adhered to Henry VI., till that unfortunate prince's death, recommended him to the confidence and patronage of Edward IV. He negotiated the marriage with the princes Elizabeth, which reconciled (with whatever confusion of titles) the pretensions of York and Lancaster, and raised Henry Tudor to the throne. By these services, and by his long experience in affairs, he continued to be prime minister till his death, which happened in 1500, at the advanced age of ninety.* Even at the time of More's entry into his household, the old cardinal, though then fourscore and five years, was pleased with the extraordinary promise of the sharp and lively boy; as aged persons sometimes, as it were, catch a glimpse of the pleasure of youth, by entering for a moment into its feelings. More broke into the rude dramas performed at the cardinal's Christmas festivities, to which he was too young to be invited, and often invented at the moment speeches for himself, "which made the lookers-on more sport than all the players beside." The cardinal, much delighting in his wit and towardness, would often say of him unto the nobles that divers times dined with him,-" This child here waiting at the table, whosoever shall live to see it, will prove a marvellous man." More, in his historical work, commemorates this early friend, not without a sidelong glance at the acts of a courtier. "He was a man of great natural wit, very well learned, honourable in behaviour, lacking in no wise to win favour." In "Utopia" he praises the cardinal more lavishly, and with no restraint from the severe justice of history. In Morton's house he was probably known to Colet, dean of St. Paul's, the founder of St. Paul's school, and one of the most eminent restorers of ancient literature in England; who was wont to say, that "there was but one wit in England, and that was young Thomas More."§

More went to Oxford in 1497, where he appears to have had apartments in St. Mary's Hall, but to have carried on his studies at Canterbury collegel, where Wolsey afterwards reared the magnificent edifice of Christchurch. At that university he founded a sort of civil war, waged between the partizans of Greek literature, who were then innovators in education, suspected of heresy, if not of infidelity, on the one hand; and on the other side the larger body, comprehending the aged, the powerful and the celebrated, who were content to be no wiser than their forefathers. The younger followers of the latter faction affected the ridiculous denomination of Trojans, and assumed the names of Priam, Hector, Paris, and

*Dod's Church History, i. 141. The Roman Catholics, now restored to their just rank in society, have no longer an excuse for not continuing this useful work.-Godwin's Catalogue of Bishops, 161. 277. edit. 1615.

Singer's Roper, 4.

More, Hist. Rich. III.

More's Life of More, p. 25.

Wood's Ath. Oxon. Hearne's Roper,

Eneas, to denote their hostility to the Greeks. The puerile pedantry of these coxcombs had the good effect of awakening the zeal of More for his Grecian masters, and of inducing him to withstand the barbarism which would exclude the noblest productions of the human mind from the education of English youth. He expostulated with the university in a letter addressed to the whole body, reproaching them with the better example of Cambridge, where the gates were thrown open to the higher classics of Greece, as freely as to their Roman imitators.* The established clergy even then, though Luther had not yet alarmed them, strangers as they were to the new learning, affected to contemn that of which they were ignorant, and could not endure the prospect of a rising generation more learned than themselves. Their whole education was Latin, and their instruction was limited to Roman and canon law, to theology, and school philosophy. They dreaded the downfall of the authority of the vulgate from the study of Greek and Hebrew. But the course of things was irresistible. The scholastic system was now on the verge of general disregard, and the perusal of the greatest Roman writers turned all eyes towards the Grecian masters. What man of high capacity, and of ambition becoming his faculties, could read Cicero without a desire to comprehend Demosthenes and Plato? What youth desirous of excellence, but would rise from the study of the Georgics and the Eneid, with a wish to be acquainted with Hesiod and Apollonius, with Pindar, and above all with Homer? These studies were then pursued, not with the dull languor and cold formality with which the indolent, incapable, incurious majority of boys obey the proscribed rules of an old establishment, but with the enthusiastic admiration with which the superior few feel an earnest of their own higher powers, in the delight which arises in their minds at the contemplation of new beauty, and of excellence unimagined before.

More found several of the restorers of Grecian literature at Oxford, who had been the scholars of the exiled Greeks in Italy: Grocyn, the first professor of Greek in the university; Linacre, the accomplished founder of the college of physicians; and William Latimer, of whom we know little more than what we collect from the general testimony borne by his most eminent contemporaries to his learning and virtue. Grocyn, the first of the English restorers, was a late learner, being in the forty-eighth year of his age when he went, in 1488, to Italy, where the fountains o ancient learning were once more opened. After having studied under Politian, and learnt Greek from Chalcondylas, one of the lettered emigrants who educated the teachers of the western nations, he returned to Oxford, where he taught that language to More, to Linacre, and to Erasmus. Linacre followed

See this first Letter in the Appendix to the second volume of Jortin's Life of Erasmus.


the example of Grocyn in visiting Italy, and pro fiting by the instructions of Chalcondylas. Colet spent four years in the same country, and in the like studies. William Latimer repaired at a mature age to Padua, in quest of that knowledge which was not to be acquired at home. He was afterwards chosen to be tutor to Reginald Pole, the king's cousin; and Erasmus, by attributing to him "maidenly modesty," leaves in one word an agreeable impression of the character of a man chosen for his scholarship to be Linacre's col league in a projected translation of Aristotle, and solicited by the latter for aid in his edition of the New Testament.*

More, at that university, became known to a man far more extraordinary than any of these scholars. Erasmus was invited to England by lord Mountjoy, who had been his pupil at Paris, and continued to be his friend during life. He resided at Oxford during a great part of 1497; and having returned to Paris in 1498, spent the former portion of the same year at the university of Oxford, where he again had an opportunity of pouring his zeal for Greek study into the mind of More. Their friendship, though formed at an age of considerable disparity,--Erasmus being then thirty and More only seventeen,--lasted throughout the whole of their lives. Erasmus had acquired only the rudiments of Greek at the age most suited to the acquisition of languages, and was now completing his knowledge on that subject at a period of mature manhood, which he jestingly compares with the age at which the elder Cato commenced his Grecian studies.† Though Erasmus himself

seems to have been much excited towards Greek learning by the example of the English scholars, yet the cultivation of classical literature was then so small a part of the employment or amusement of life, that William Latimer, one of the most eminent of these scholars, to whom Erasmus applied for aid in his edition of the Greek Testament, declared that he had not read a page of Greek or Latin for nine years, that he had almost forgotten his ancient literature, and that Greek books were scarcely procurable in England. Sir John More, inflexibly adhering to the old education, and dreading that the allurements of literature might seduce his son from law, discouraged the pursuit of Greek, and at the same time reduced the allowance of Thomas to the level of the most frugal life; a parsimony for which the son was afterwards, though not then, thankful, as having

*For Latimer, Dod. i. 219. For Grocyn, Ib. 227. Colet and Linacre, all biographical compilations.

"Delibavimus et olim has literas sed summis duntaxat labris, at nuper paulo altius ingressi, videmus id quod sæpe numero apud gravissimos auctores legimus. Latinam eruditionem extra Græcismum mancam esse et dimidiatam. Apud nos enim rivuli vix quidam sunt, et lacunulæ lutulenta, apud illos fontes purissimi et flumina aurum volventia."Erasm. Epist. 75. Op. iii. p. 63. Lug. Bat. 1703.

Guliel, Latimer Epist. Erasmo. Erasm. Op. iii. p. 293.


taught him good husbandry, and preserved him from dissipation.

At the university, or soon after leaving it, young More composed the greater part of his English verses; which are not such as, from their intrinsic merit, in a more advanced state of our language and literature, would be deserving of particular attention. But as the poems of a contemporary of Skelton, they may merit more consideration. Our language was still neglected, or confined chiefly to the vulgar uses of life. Its force, its compass, and its capacity of harmony, were untried for though Chaucer had shone brightly for a season, the century which followed was dark and wintry. No master genius had impregnated the nation with poetical sensibility. In these inauspicious circumstances, the composition of poems, especially if they manifest a sense of harmony, and some adaptation of the sound to the subject, indicates a delight in poetry, and a proneness to that beautiful art, which in such an age is a more than ordinary token of a capacity for it. The experience of all ages, however it may be accounted for, shows that the mind, when melted into tenderness, or exalted by the contemplation of grandeur, vents its feelings in language suited to a state of excitement, and delights in distinguishing its diction from common speech by some species of measure and modulation, which combines the gratification of the ear with that of the fancy and the heart. The secret connection between a poetical ear and a poetical soul is touched by the most sublime of poets, who consoled himself in his blindness, by the remembrance of those who, under the like calamity,

- Feed on thoughts that voluntary move Harmonious numbers.

We may be excused for throwing a glance over the compositions of a writer, who is represented a century after his death, by Ben Johnson, as one of the models of English literature. More's poem or the death of Elizabeth, the wife of Henry VII., and his merry jest how a serjeant would play the friar, may be considered as fair samples of his pensive and sportive vein. The superiority of the latter shows his natural disposition to pleasantry. There is a sort of dancing mirth in the metre, which seems to warrant the observation above hazarded, that in a rude period the structure of verse may be regarded as some presumption of a genius for poetry. In a refined age, indeed, all the circumstances are different. The frame of metrical composition is known to all the world. It may be taught by rule, and acquired mechanically. The greatest facility of versification may exist without a spark of genius. Even then, however, the secrets of the art of versification are chiefly revealed to a chosen few by their poetical sensibility; so that sufficient remains of the original tie still continue to attest the primitive union. It is remarkable, that the most poetical of his poems is written in Latin. It is a poem addressed

to a lady, with whom he had been in love when he was sixteen years old, and she fourteen; it turns chiefly on the pleasing reflection that his affectionate remembrance restored to her the beauty, of which twenty-five years seemed to others to have robbed her.*

When More had completed his time at Oxford, he applied himself to the law, which was to be the occupation of his life. He first studied at New Inn, and afterwards at Lincoln's Inn. The societies of lawyers having purchased some inns, or noblemen's residences, in London, were hence called inns of court. It was not then a metaphor to call them an university: they had professors of law; they conferred the characters of barrister and serjeant, analogous to the degrees of bachelor, master, and doctor, bestowed by universities; and every man, before he became a barrister, was subjected to examination, and obliged to defend a thesis. More was appointed reader at Furnival's Inn, where he delivered lectures for three years. The English law had then grown into a science, formed by a process of generaliation from usages and decisions, with less help from the Roman law than the jurisprudence of any other country, though not with that total independence of it which English lawyers in former times considered as a subject of boast: it was rather formed as the law of Rome itself had been formed, than adopted from that noble system. When More began to lecture on English law, it was by no means in a disorderly and neglected state. The ecclesiastical lawyers, whose arguments and determinations were its earliest materials, were well prepared, by the logic and philosophy of their masters the schoolmen, for those exact and even subtle distinctions which the precision of the rules of jurisprudence eminently required. In the reigns of the Lancastrian princes, Littleton had reduced the law to an elementary treatise, distinguished by a clear method and an elegant conciseness. Fortescue had at that time compared the governments of England and France with the eye of a philosophical observer. Brooke and Fitzherbert had compiled digests of the law, which they called (it might be thought, from their size, ironically) Abridgments. The latter composed a treatise, still very curious, on writs; that is, on those commands (formally from the king) which constitute essential parts of every legal proceeding. Other writings on jurisprudence occupied the printing presses of London in the earliest stage of their existence. More delivered

*"Gratulatur quod cam repererit incolumem quam olim ferme puer amaverat."-Mori Poemata.

It does not seem reconcileable with dates, that this lady could have been the younger sister of Jane Colt. Vide infrà.

Inn was successively applied, like the French word hotel, first to the town mansion of a great man, and afterwards to a house where all mankind were entertained for money.

Doctor and Student by St. Germain. Diversité des Courtes, printed by Rastal in 1534. &c. &c.

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.¶

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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 manners. 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 older than himself, and neither handsome nor young; rather for the care of his family, and the management of his house, than as a companion and a friend. He treated her, and indeed most females except his daughter Margaret, as better qualified to relish a jest, than to take a part in more serious conversation; and in their presence gave an unbounded scope to his natural inclination towards pleasantry. He even indulged himself in a Latin jingle on her want of youth and beauty, "nec bella nec puella." "She was of good years, of no good favour or complexion, not very rich, and by disposition near and worldly. It was reported that he wooed her for a friend of his ; but she answering that he might speed if he spoke for himself, he married her with the consent of his friend, yielding to her that which perhaps he never would have done of his own accord. Indeed, her favour could not have bewitched, or scarce moved, any man to love her; but yet she proved a kind and careful mother-in-law to his children." Erasmus, who was often an inmate in the family, speaks of her as "a keen and watchful manager, with whom More lived on terms of as much respect and kindness as if she had been fair and young." Such is the happy power of a loving disposition, which overflows on companions, though their attractions or deserts should be slender. "No husband," continues Erasmus, "ever gain so much obedience from a wife by authority and severity, as More won by gentleness and pleasantry. Though verging on old age, and not of a yielding temper, he prevailed on her to take lessons on the lute, the cithara, the viol, the monochord, and the flute, which she daily practised to him. With the same gentleness he ruled his whole family, so that it was without broils or quarrels. He composed all differences, and never parted with any one on terms of unkindness. The house was fated to the peculiar felicity that those who dwelt in it were always raised to a higher fortune; and that no spot ever fell on the good name of its happy inhabitants." The course of More's domestic life is minutely described by eye-witnesses. "His custom was daily (besides his private prayers with his children) to say the seven psalms, the litany, and the suffrages following; so was his guise with his wife, children, and household, nightly before he went to bed, to go to his chapel, and there on his knees ordinarily to say certain psalms and collects with them."† "With him says Erasmus, "you might imagine yourself in the academy of Plato. But I should do injustice to his house by comparing it to the academy of Plato, where numbers, and geometrical figures, and sometimes moral virtues, were the subjects of discussion; it would be more just to call it a school and exercise of the Christian religion. All its inhabitants, male or female, applied their lei

* Erasm. Epist. ad Hutt.

↑ Roper, p. 25. Singer's edition.

sure to liberal studies and profitable reading, although piety was their first care. No wrangling, no angry word, was heard in it; no one was idle. every one did his duty with alacrity, and not without a temperate cheerfulness."* Erasmus had not the sensibility of his friend: he was more prone to smile than to sigh at the concerns of men ; but he was touched by the remembrance of these domestic solemnities in the household of his friends. He manifests an agreeable emotion at the recollection of these scenes in daily life, which tended to hallow the natural authority of parents; to bestow a sort of dignity on humble occupations; to raise menial offices to the rank of virtues; to spread peace and cultivate kindness among those who had shared, and were soon again to share, the same modest rites, in gently breathing around them a spirit of meek equality, which rather hum❤ bled the pride of the great than disquieted the spirits of the lowly. More himself justly speaks of the hourly interchange of the smaller acts of kindness which flow from the charities of domestic life, as having a claim on his time as strong as the occupations which seemed to others so much more serious and important. "While," says he, "in pleading, in hearing, in deciding causes or composing differences, in waiting on some men about business, and on others out of respect, the greatest part of the day is spent on other men's affairs, the remainder of it must be given to my family at home; so that I can reserve no part of it to myself, that is, to study. I must talk with my wife, and chat with my children, and I have somewhat to say to my servants; for all these things I reckon as a part of my business, except a man will resolve to be a stranger at home; and with whomsoever either nature, chance, or choice, has engaged a man in any commerce, he must endeavour to make himself as acceptable to those about him as he can."t

His occupations now necessarily employed a large portion of his time. His professional practice became so considerable, that about the accession, of Henry VIII., in 1509, with his legal office in the city of London, it produced 4001. a year, probably equivalent to an annual income of 5000l. in the present day. Though it be not easy to determine the exact period of the occurrences of his life, from his establishment in London to his acceptance of political office, the beginning of Henry VIII's reign may be considered as the time of his highest eminence at the bar. About this time a ship belonging to the pope, or claimed by his holiness on behalf of some of his subjects, happened to come to Southampton, where she was seized as a forfeiture to the king; probably as what is called a droit of the crown, or a droit of the admiralty, though in what circumstances or on what grounds we know not. The papal

Erasm. Epist. 426. Opp. ir 1810.

Dedication of Utopia to Peter Giles, Burnet's translation, 1684.

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