Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

Commons, is evident from the fact, that the Scottish match was

a popular one, and had received the warmest approbation of the citizens of London, and of the nation generally: yet More, young as he was, and unknown in the field of politics, boldly ventured to stand forth against the demand, and, by his eloquence, and the force of his reasoning, strength. ened the courage of the Commons, and procured its rejection. This was indeed a bold step, surrounded as the young orator was by the servile minions of power. One of these, of the name of Tyler, hastened to inform the king that a beardless boy had frustrated his purpose, and Henry, incensed by such an opposition to his darling propensity, determined on seek. ing revenge. But in all the harsh measures to which this monarch had recourse, an accession to his purse was the more immediate object, and More was not possessed of wealth : he, therefore, was suffered to escape, but his father, the aged judge, proved a more tempting prey. On some groundless charge, Sir John More was arrested, committed to the Tower, and there confined till his liberty had been purchased by the payment of a hundred pounds, a sum equal to nearly a thousand in the present day. In the meantime, it was deemed prudent for the real offender to keep out of the way, and young More gave up his practice at the bar, and retired from all public offices, but not before an attempt was made to entrap him. Bishop Fox, meeting More shortly after the scene in the Commons, called him aside, and pretending great kindness, promised that if he would be guided by his advice, he might be soon restored to the king's favour. But it afterwards appeared, that the prelate's design was to inveigle him into a confession of his offence, that punishment might be inflicted on him under a semblance of justice. More had, however, the prudence, or the good fortune, to escape the snare. Whitford, the bishop's chaplain, was his intimate friend, and when consulted by More, he advised him

by no means to follow the counsels of the minister, “who," he added, “ would be too cunning a Fox for bim.” That this advice was wise, appears from a circumstance which occurred some years after. When Dudley and Empson were sacrificed to popular resentment, under Henry the Eighth, and were on their way to execution, the former saw More among the crowd, and thus addressed him: “Oh, Master More! God was your good friend that you did not ask the king's forgiveness, as many would have had you do; for if you had done so, perhaps you would have been in the like case with us now.

It is hardly necessary to add, that More did not return to the bishop. So apprehensive, indeed, was he of the king's resentment, that, not satisfied of the security of his retreat, he is stated to have meditated a voyage abroad,-an intention which was prevented hy the death of Henry the Seventh, which took place on the 22d of April, 1508.

It has been observed that, in the instance before us, More began his professional career with a greater display of integrity than is ever convenient to courts and ministers. More's conduct tbroughout life is a proof, that the “conveniency” here spoken of, bad no weight with him. On more than one occasion he evinced his conviction of the truth—“that the service of our country is not a mere chimerical obligation, but a real and solemn duty, and that a good man will exert all the means in his power to perform it."

We learn from More's grandson, that his retreat was not spent inactively—“he studied the French tongue at home, sometimes recreating his wearied spirits on the viol.” Here he also perfected himself in most of the liberal sciences, as music, arithmetic, geometry, and astronomy. He moreover grew to be a perfect historian ; "his chief help in all these labours being his happy memory, of which he thus modestly speaks: “I would I had as good wit, and as much learning, as I have memory, for that rarely faileth me.”

During the leisure which this retirement afforded him, More appears to have composed his “Life of Jobn Picus of Mirandola," and to have translated several of his epistles and other works. They are found inscribed as a new-year's gift “ Unto his entirely beloved sister in Christ, Joyence Leigh.” This dedicatory epistle is in More's best manner, a pleasing proof of his piety and affection. It will have a place in our Selections. He also composed, about this period, a little volume of epigrams, and other poetical pieces, which were much praised in their day, and will still be read by the classical scholar with pleasure. We have also some poetical pieces in English from his pen, among which, “A Merry Jest, how a Serjeant would learn to play a Friar," has been much spoken of, and is supposed to have suggested to the celebrated Cowper the idea of his popular tale of John Gilpin. (Vide Selections.)

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

MORE UNDER-SHERIFF OF LONDON-AMBASSADOR
TO FLANDERS-KNIGHTED AND ACCEPTS OFFIOE.

[ocr errors]

Accession of Henry VIII.-his youthful character and education

Marriage with Catharine-More quits his retreat, and is appointed Under-Sheriff of London-Is visited by Erasmus, and accepts the dedication of his “Praise of Folly" — Defends it against DorpiusMarries-Second time accompanies Tunstal on an embassy to Flan. ders-Acquaintance he forms there_Letter to Archbishop Warham -That prelate's character-The king desires to engage More in his service-He pleads a cause for the Pope-Is at last persuaded to accept office-Is made Master of the Requests-Receives the honour of knighthood, and is made a Privy Councillor.

The year 1508 witnessed the accession of Henry the Eighth. He was, as is well known, a second son. His elder brother, Arthur, at the age of fifteen, had married the Princess Catharine of Spain, daughter of the famous Ferdinand and Isabella.

The two young princes were brought up by their father under a system of wise and strict discipline ; it being his endeavour to guard them against the perilous temptations of a court, and to encourage them in all useful studies. Henry was destined, it is said, for the church,* and to this end he received the benefit of as learned an education as the age could bestow—the king contemplating his accession to the primacy of England, “ in order," says Herbert, “ to provide for him without charge to the crown, and leave a passage open to his ambition.”+

* Men laugh within themselves to see such tricks:
Babes in the cradle heirs to Bishopricks!

STORER's Rise and Fall of Wolsey, 1590.
+ A writer (Hume), who did not allow his matchless acuteness as a
metaphysician, to disturb the sense and prudence which are more

c

In the fond care, pious counsels, and exemplary virtues of his good mother, the Countess of Richmond, Henry also enjoyed a rare advantage, to which his future life unfortunately but ill corresponded. Erasmus has left us so pleasing a picture of the royal school-room, that there needs no apology for introducing it. « Thomas More,” says he,

who had paid me a visit when I was Lord Montjoy's guest, took me a walk to the next country seat. It was there the king's children were educated, with the exception of Arthur, who had then attained maturity." On entering the hall, we found the whole family assembled; and were surrounded, not only by the royal household, but by the servants of Montjoy also. In the middle of the circle stood Henry, then only nine years old, but even at that early age bearing in his countenance an expression of royalty, a look of high birth, and at the same time full of openness and courtesy. On the right stood the Princess Margaret, a girl of eleven years, afterwards married to James the Fourth of Scotland. On the left was Mary, a child of four years, engaged in play; while Edmund, an infant in arms, completed the group. More, with Arnold our companion, after paying his compliments to little Henry, presented to him some piece of his own writing. I forget what it was. As for me, I had not anticipated such a meeting, and having nothing of the kind with me, I could only promise that I would shortly show my respect to the prince by some similar offering.” İn some further remarks which Erasmus makes on this charming family picture, we find Henry requesting this celebrated scholar to correspond with him—a trait of character in which may be traced a germ of that learned vanity valuable qualities in an historian, has deplored the time wasted by the royal youth on the writings of St. Thomas of Acquinas: rightly, if the acquirement of applicable knowledge be the sole purpose of education ; but not so, certainly, if it rests on the supposition that any other study could have more strengthened and sharpened his reasoning powers.--SIR J. MACKINTOSH. --Hist. of Eng. vol. ii. 97.

« PredošláPokračovať »