« ElőzőTovább »
family, as a school-master. The first step to greatness in a scholar, is relation to a nobleman ; the best education for the court, is in the palace. Nature had made him capable, the school and university made him a scholar, but his noble employment made him a man. At Oxford, he read books; at my lord's he read men, and observed things. The two parsonages bestowed upon him by his patron, were not so valuable to him as the excellent principles instilled into him ; he being not more careful to instruct the young men, than their noble father to tutor him: his bounty made him rich, and his recommendation potent. Bishop Fox was secretary to King Henry VII., and Wolsey to Bishop Fox; the one was not a greater favourite of the king than the other, as one brought him a head capacious of all observations, and a spirit above all difficulties. Others managed the affairs of England, Wolsey understood its interests. His correspondence was active abroad; his observations close, deep, and un. remitting at home. He improved what he knew, and bought what he knew not. He could make any thing he read or heard his own, and could improve anything that was his own to the uttermost.
“ No sooner was he in with the Bishop of Winchester, than the Bishop was out with the Earl of Surrey; to whom he must have stooped, as he did to nature and art, had he not raised his servant equal to himself in the king's favour, and above Howard. By the canons he was forbid heirs of his body; by his prudence he was enjoined to make an heir of his favour, equally to support and comfort his old age, and maintain his interest. Children in point of policy, as in point of nature, are a blessing, and as arrows in the hand of the mighty; and happy is that old courtier, who hath his quiver full of them : he shall not be ashamed when he speaks with his enemies in the gate. The old man commends Wolsey to Henry VII., as one fit to serve a king and com
* Give me
mand others. Foreign employment is the statesman's first school; to France, therefore, is he sent, to poise his English gravity with the French debonnaire : a well-poised quickness is the excellent temper. From foreign employments under an old king, he came home to some domestic services under the young one: as quickly as he found the length of his foot, did he fit him with an easy shoe. The king followed his pleasures, and the minister enjoyed his power. The one pursued his sports, while youth, the other his business, while time served him. to-day, and take thou to-morrow,' is the language as well of the courtier as the Christian. The favourite took in the debates of the council and other state affairs in the bulk, by day; and the king had the quintessence of them extracted, and presented to him at night. All state business was disposed of by him, and most church preferments bestowed upon him : the bishoprics of Durham, Winchester, and York, were in his possession, and all other promotions in his gift. He was installed in the kingdom during King Henry's youth, and had the church in commendam. His great services, indeed, could not be man. aged, nor his greater power supported, without a great revenue; but his interest went far, and his money farther, and he could buy off expedients as readily as his greatness could command them. He had two rivals, the Duke of Buckingham and the Duke of Suffolk : the former he despised as rather beside, than against him; he being the king's companion in pleasure, and Wolsey his counsellor in policy; the duke great with young Henry, the bishop with the king. Buckingham he feared, as popular, and undermined, as proud: that tower must fall, whose foundation is hollow. Buckingham was high in birth, honour, and estate; Wolsey higher in prudence. The minister's malice did the brave duke much mischief, and his own folly more : vain glory ever lieth at an open guard, and gives much advantage
of play to her enemy: A king is jealous, and a weak nobleinan ambitious. In fine, he is attainted of treason (though rival to the king in his clothes, rather than his crown, in his vanities than his authority): but a cunning upstart will quickly blow off a young nobleman's cap and feather, and his head too, when it stands in the way. His power against Buckingham, was his shield against all others. One defence well managed, one adversary thoroughly suppressed, is a security at court, where two men seldom fall the same way.
“ Many envied the archbishop, the cardinal, the legate de latere, the Lord Chancellor: but all feared the favourite. Most were discontented, but none durst shake their beads, lest they should fall off as Buckingham's had done. He was too proud to be bribed, and too powerful to be overborne.
“ But England was too narrow a theatre for this great spirit, and he aspires to Rome: and having been these many years Pope of this other world, would have been of that beyond the waters. This leap was great from York to Rome, and his rise for the leap as good; Charles V. was his client, and his master's servant; the cardinals were his pensioners : and when they failed (as he is no fox, whose den hath but one hole, and he no statesman, who, when one way is stopped, cuts not out another,) he falls off from the German Emperor to the French King, with whom, if he would not carry his own design, he would hinder the emperor's—and revenge is an advancement. So great was be, that his influence ba lanced Europe, overawed emperors, threatened kings, and was fatal to queens: if he cannot be Pope of Rome, he will show he is as good as King of England. Finding that the king wanted a meet yokefellow, and a lawful heir male to his crown; and observing Queen Catherine's age above her husband's, and her gravity above her age, being more pious than pleasant, a better woman than wife, and a better wife for any prince, than for King Henry; upon some scruple, intimated by the Spaniard some years before, which others bad forgot, but the cardinal kept laid up, he promotes a divorce between the king and queen. Nor was this all; knowing that King Henry would not have the woman to his mind, till he had a Pope of his own choosing, he would help him to a young wife, but he must raise him to a new power; Wolsey must be Pope, or King Henry could not be divorced. And to make all sure, no sooner was he parted from a daughter of Spain, than he was to be joined to a Princess of France, whose nuptial ring was to wed King Henry to her, and King Francis to himself.
“ Missing of power, he meditates honour; and instead of lavishing his infinite treasure upon airy expectations, he bestoweth it in real monuments, which make his memory as renowned, as was his life. That statesman lives to little purpose, whose actions are as short as his life, and whose exploits are of no longer duration than the age in which he lives.
“ While the king bore the sword of state, the car. dinal wielded it over all the land, in his quality of legate; by virtue whereof he visited all churches and religious houses, even the Friars' observants them. selves, notwithstanding the stoutness and stubbornness with which they first opposed him. Papal and royal power met in him, being Chancellor of the land, and keeping so many bishoprics in commendam, that his yearly income is said to have equalled that of the crown. He gave the first blow to religious houses, by making one great college out of forty small monasteries. Besides sending him on many splendid embassies, the king gave him many estates and magnificent palaces ; fitting his humour with pleasant habitations and soothing his ambition with power and authority.
« But his sovereign broke with him at last about the divorce, being vexed with so many delays and prorogations between two popes, Clement that was, and Wolsey that would be. Yet he rather eased him of his burthens, than deprived him of his preferments; continuing him Bishop of York and Durham, after dismissing him from the Chancellorship. Here he lived rather like a prince than a priest, providing as magnificently for his installation, as a king should for his coronation. This unreasonable ambition was improved by his enemy's malice, and the king's jealousy to his ruin. In the midst of his solemnities he is arrested by the king's order, whose wrath was the messenger of death : and on his way to London, being distracted between hope and fear, he died at Leicester, breathing out his soul in words to this purpose: 'Had I served the God of heaven, as faithfully as I have my master on earth, he would not thus have forsaken me in my old age.' Too sudden prosperity in the beginning, undoeth us in the end ; while we expect the same flow of fortune, we remit our care, and perish by our neglect. Ambition reaches too high, and loses its proper support-humility; for the broader the base, the higher and stronger the pyramid. Ego et rex meus was good grammar for Wolsey the schoolmaster, but not for the cardinal and the statesman. Wolsey is famous for two things that he never spoke a word too mucb, and but one too little.”—Lloyd's Worthies,
p. 46, 1650.
· At the period of More's history to which we have arrived, Wolsey had reached the highest pinnacle of power and glory to which a subject could aspire, and infinitely beyond that to which any subject in England bad before attained. He was Archbishop of York, Bishop of Durham, Abbot of St. Alban's, Car. dinal Legate a latere for life, Lord Chancellor of England, Prime Minister, Lord Keeper of the privy purse to the king, and Grand Almoner to the queen. And yet there was a still higher honour to which he