Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

would be termed “menial offices.” By means of this voluntary humiliation, he became known to the great, he found opportunities for acquiring useful information, and was prepared, in those miniature courts, for future eminence in the palace and at the council board.*

The choice made by More's father of a guardian for his son, was a wise and fortunate one. Cardinal Morton was a man of learning, and one of Henry's must able ministers; and his personal virtues secured him a degree of respect and love, which More, in after life, allowed no opportunity to pass without gratefully recording. Thus, in his celebrated “Utopia," we find him dwelling with delight on the Cardinal's excellent qualities; and sketching his picture from grateful recollection. “This reverend prelate,

was not less venerable for his wisdom and virtues, than for the high character which he bore. He was of a middle stature, not broken with age. His look inspired reverence rather than fear. He was gentle in communication, and yet earnest and sage. He would try the force of those that came as suitors to him, by assuming a sharp and inquisitive tone, the better to draw forth their spirit and character, in order to judge of their fitness for affairs. In speech he was firm, eloquent, and pitby. In the law he had profound knowledge; in wit he was incomparable, and in memory prodigious. These qualities, which in him were by nature singular, he had improved by study and experience. The king put much trust in his counsels, and the public weal also, in a

says he,

* In a paper written, at a somewhat later period, by the Earl of Arundel, entitled "Instructions for you, my son William, how to behave yourself at Norwich," the Ear) thus charges him: “ You shall in all things reverence, honour, and obey my Lord Bishop of Norwich. as you would do any of your parents: esteeming whatever he shall tell or command you, as if your grandmother of Arundel, your mother, or myself should say it. In all things esteem yourself as my Lord's page; a breeding which youths of my house, far superior to you, were accus. tomed unto; for my grandfather of Norfolk, and his brother our good uncle of Northampton, were both bred as pages with Bishops "

« He

manner, leaned upon him. From his youth he had been practised in affairs; and having experienced many reverses of fortune, he had with great cost acquired a vast stock of wisdom; which is not soon lost, when it is purchased so dearly.'

Nor was Morton less attached to his ward. much delighted in his wit and towardness," and would point him out to the attention of the noble guests who were dining with him.-“This child here, waiting at table,” would he say, “ whoever shall live to see it, will prove a marvellous man.”

We have seen More characterising his father as a “pleasant man;" and he inherited from him the lively and mirthful disposition which distinguished him through life. While in the cardinal's service, we find him signalising himself in the different theatrical entertainments which took place during the holidays; not as an actor, according to our notions of an actor's part, but as a kind of competitor in these contests of extemporary wit and drollery, which formed the delight of that age. Roper thus describes the circumstance: “Though he was young of years, yet would he sometimes at Christmas suddenly step in among the players, and never studying for the matter, make a part of his own there presently, among them, which made the lookers-on more sport than all the players beside.” Thus early did he give proof that humour was a natural ingredient in his composition.

1497.“ His worthy patron seeing " that his ward could not profit so much in his house as he desired, where there were many distracticing of public affairs," and wisely judging that so promising a young man ought to enjoy every advantage his country had to offer, sent him to Oxford, where he was entered a member of Christ Church, then known by the name of Canterbury College. He had then just entered on bis seventeenth year. He remained two years in the University, and “profited exceedingly,” says Roper, “in rhetoric, logic, and philosophy; proving what wonders wit and diligence can accomplish, when united, as they seldom are, in one principal student. At this period, the celebrated Erasmus visited Oxford, and from this epoch dates the intimacy between these remarkable men, which lasted for life. It was here also he became acquainted with Wolsey, who was at that time bursar of Magdalen College, and with Dean Colet, whose friendship he afterwards so diligently cultivated.

The time in which More entered the university, was propitious for the formation of a classical taste; for Oxford had then the advantage of possessing two men, eminent above any of the age for their knowledge of the Greek and Latin tongues. The scholars of whom we speak were Grocyn and Linacre; and, in attending their lectures, More found the treasures of ancient learning, thus thrown open to him, a source of new delight. To use his grandson's phrase, “his whole soul was set upon bis books.”

More applied with diligence to add the Greek language to his other classical stores ; for, at that period, it was a rare attainment; and we shall find in the sequel, that be continued to be a warm friend to the cultivation of that noble language.

At this age, his father wisely withheld from him all supplies of money, but such as were absolutely necessary for his college wants, exacting from him a most rigorous account of his expenses. More felt this a severe privation; yet he was obliged afterwards honestly to acknowledge, that this restraint was, perhaps, the means of saving him from the dissipation and vices he saw around him. Lloyd laconically remarks, that “the college kept him strict, and his father short." * Such discipline was severe; but More afterwards thanked God, “that, at least, it had

* Lloyd's Worthies, c. 16.

con

allowed him neither the leisure northe means to be vicious."

1499. This year More quitted the university, and returning to London, took up his residence in New Inn,* to study law. “ Here,” says Roper, “he very well prospered for his time," and was soon after admitted a member of Lincoln's Inn.

Amidst the bustle and distractions of the capital, and surrounded on every side by examples of idleness, gaming, intemperance, and every vice, More felt the necessity of redoubled watchfulness over himself, wherein, to use his own language, sisteth the true wisdom of a Christian man; striving lest the handmaid Sense should grow too insolent over her mistress Reason," and having learned the true signification of those words of Christ : “He that hateth his life in this world, keepeth it for life everlasting.” Under this conviction he added penance to penance. Temptation assailed him; the conflict was long and severe; he had recourse to much fasting and watching. He seldom allowed himself more than four or five hours for sleep; his bed was a hard bench, or the ground, with a log for his pillow. To these austerities, he also added "a discipline every Friday and high fasting day, thinking that such cheer was the best he could bestow upon his rebellious body.” Not content with this, “he used aftertimes to wear a sharp hair-shirt next his skin, which he never left off wholly; no, not even when he was Lord Chancellor of England : which my grandmother," continues Roper, “ on a time, in the heat of summer espying, laughed at, not being much sensible of such kind of spiritual exercise ; having been carried away in her youth by the vanities of the world, and not knowing of what spirit' such men are, as are led by an especial grace to the practice of such austerities."

* 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 are entertained for money.-SIR J. MACKINTOSH.

1500. In this year, as we find from bis grandson, that More touk up his residence near the Charter House, living for four years among the Carthusians, and daily frequenting their spiritual exercises, but without any vow.

There are writers who have affected surprise, that a man of his activity of mind, and natural turn for the humorous, should have been able to endure the solitude of a cloister; as if there were not a time for all things, and as if the above qualities were in any way incompatible with rational piety, and man's duty towards his Maker. “He had an earnest mind also to become a Franciscan friar, that he might serve God in a state of perfection; but finding that, at that time, religious orders in England had somewhat degenerated from their ancient strict. ness, and fervour of spirit, he altered bis mind. He had also, after that, together with Lilly, a faithful companion of his, a purpose to become a priest : but God had allotted him for another estate ; not to live solitary, but that he might be a pattern to married men, how they should carefully bring up their children, how dearly they should love their wives; and how, while they employed their endeavours wholly for the good of their country, they should at the same time faithfully follow the virtues of religious men, as piety, charity, humility, obedience, and chastity.''

1863. The death of Elizabeth, queen to Henry VII., and mother of Henry VIII., which happened this year, afforded More an occasion for the exercise of his poetical talent. The following lines from the “ Rueful Lamentation,” are not deficient in vigour. The illustrious deceased is supposed to utter the sentiments.

Oh ye ! that put your trust and confidence

In worldly joy and frail prosperity ;,
That so live here, as ye should never hence,

Remember death, and look here upon me ;
Methinks ensample cannot better be:
Yourself well wot, that in this realm was I
Your Queen but late-and, lo, now here I le!

« PredošláPokračovať »