« ElőzőTovább »
SIR THOMAS MORE,
HIS LIFE AND TIMES.
1480-1508. ÆTAT. 28.
MORE'S YOUTH-EDUCATION-STUDY OF THE LAW
Ancestry of More-Anecdotes of his infancy-Early Education in Lon. don-Received into the family of Cardinal Morton-His early talents and wit-Studies at Oxford-Return to London, and application to the Law-Inclination for a Religious Life-Dean Colet-Places himself under his direction-Marries-Is elected to Parliament-Instances of his early Patriotism-Death of Henry VII.
THAT examples of past ages move us more than those of our own time, may, probably, be in part ascribed to the reverence we feel for antiquity, and to the mysterious veneration which hangs around the memory of the illustrious dead. Objects that are viewed through the medium of a softening distance, lose many of those blemishes and inequalities, which approximation allows us to discover. There are some characters, however, which have borne with them to the tomb so few of the failings of our nature, that they have no need of this illusion of antiquity to invest them with an interest not their own. In this number may be ranked the subject of our Memoir.
Thomas, the only son of Sir John More, was born at his father's residence in Milk Street, London, in 1480, in the 20th year of the reign of Edward the Fourth, and five years previous to the accession of Henry the Seventh.
Of the public life of his father, we have few particulars up to the time of his appearing as one of the judges of the King's Bench. He is thus described by his affectionate son: "A man courteous and pleasant in his manners, harmless, gentle, full of compassion, just, and incorrupt. He was old indeed in years, but young and hale in bodily strength. After living to see his son Chancellor of England, and thinking he had tarried long enough on earth, he passed willingly to heaven."*
The maiden name of his mother was Handcombe, daughter of Sir Thomas Handcombe of Holywell, in Bedfordshire. The age of portents was not yet gone by; and Dr. Clement, a famous physician of the time, and afterwards the intimate friend of the subject of our memoir, reports of her, that, on the night after the marriage, she saw, in a dream, engraven on her wedding ring, the number and characters of her children; the face of one shining with superior brightness. Another presage of the child's future eminence, related by his nurse, is, that one day as she was riding with him in her arms over a piece of water, the horse slipped by accident into a deep and dangerous hole. To save her infant charge, she threw him over a hedge into a field, and having afterwards, with much difficulty, extricated herself from her perilous situation, she found him, to her no
* Camden, in his Remains, relates a saying of Sir John, which may not prepossess the fair sex in his favour. He compared a man choosing a wife," to one who dipped his hand into a bag containing twenty snakes and one single eel-it was twenty to one that he caught the eel!" After this our fair readers will be surprised to hear, that the worthy old gentleman had the resolution to take three dips himself; and it will be satisfactory to know that he had the good fortune each time to avoid the serpents; which we are willing to believe existed only in his active imagination.
small surprise, not only unhurt, but sweetly smiling in her face.*
More received the first rudiments of his education in the school of St. Anthony, in Threadneedle Street, belonging to a hospital of the same name, which had been in high reputation since the time of Henry VI. and a learned man, named Nicholas Holt, was his master, under whom, to use More's own expression, he "rather greedily devoured than leisurely chewed" his grammar rules, and surpassed all his schoolfellows in understanding and diligent application.
By the interest of his father, More afterwards became an inmate in the house, and attached to the retinue of Cardinal Morton, one of Henry the Seventh's most favoured and valuable ministers. those days, when not wealth and power only, but knowledge, elegance, and nearly all the refinements of life, were monopolized by a few favoured individuals, there was but little hope of advancement for the aspiring youth of lowly, or indeed of middle rank, but what arose from the expectation of finding a powerful and generous patron. Nor was it resorted to merely with a view to worldly honours; laymen of taste and learning were compelled to avail themselves of this species of patronage, if they wished to enjoy the advantage of the best conversation, and acquire the elegant accomplishments of the times. Persons of respectable condition were, therefore, anxious to offer their sons' services as the price of advantages otherwise unattainable. Like the squire attending the knight-errant of an older period, a young gentleman did not think it beneath his dignity to serve a kind of regular apprenticeship to some noble master; to wait at his table, to carry his train, and perform a hundred little duties, which in our more refined age
In the dedication of Hoddeston's "History of Sir Thomas More,' (1650), is the following quaint allusion to this circumstance: "Sir, I have dealt with him as his nurse did-thrown him over the hedge into your arms, lest his memory should perish in the waters of Lethe,"