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prominent incidents of his life.* He thus speaks of it in one of his letters to Erasmus : “Certain praters had begun to give it out here, that though I dissembled my sentiments, I in reality gave up my office unwillingly. I am determined to represent the matter as it really was, and, for that purpose, I have set about my monument, for which I have been composing an epitaph, in which I will confute these insinuations—for, if one can do so, it is surely myself. In pronouncing upon my late conduct, though they could not tax me with falsehood, they did not acquit me of a certain degree of arrogance. I choose this method, to prevent these misrepresentations from gaining credit; assuredly, not on my own account, for I little heed what men say, so God but approve. But since I had written some books in our mother tongue, in favour of certain disputed tenets of ours, I conceived that it behoved me to defend the inte. grity of my character. And that you may know how arrogantly I have written, I enclose you the said epitaph, in which you will see how little disposed I am to compliment these men. I have now waited a due time for suffrages on my official conduct, but, as yet, no one has stepped forward to challenge my integrity. I must have been very innocent, or very much upon my guard ; and if my adversaries will not give me credit for the one, they must for the other.t The king himself has declared his sentiments on the subject oftentimes in private, and twice in public. For when my successor took his seat, his Majesty commanded the Duke of Norfolk, HighTreasurer of England, to bear honourable testimony of me, even more than my modesty will allow me to repeat, and to say that he most unwillingly accepted the resignation that I tendered him, and only after repeated entreaties. And not content with this, he caused the same thing to be repeated in his presence, a considerable time afterwards in the speech made by my successor in the Commons.”
* This monument, which still remains entire and undefaced, is situated on the south side of the chancel. For the inscription see Appendix No. 2, to the present volume.
+ To an Athenian, who, in praising a public functionary, had said, that every one either applauded him or left him without censure, a philosopher replied: How seldom, then, must he have done his duty !"
Settled quietly down in the retreat of his beloved Chelsea, he seems to have breathed once again. Hear him pour out his heart to a friend : “ These great fortunes lift a man up high, and set him above the show; but oftentimes like a fierce and skittish horse, they will cast their master. The golden mediocrity, the mean estate, is the thing to be desired, which shall bear us up, as it were, in hands more easily; which shall obey us, and not we it. I, therefore, abiding firmly in this opinion, set greater store by my little house, my study, the pleasure of my books, my family, and the rest and the peace of my mind, than by all your king's palaces, all your common business, all your glory, all the advantages that we hawk after, all the favour of the court. I look for other fruit of my study: that I may bring forth the children that I travail on, that I may give out some books of mine own, to the common profit, which may somewhat favour, if not of cunning [knowledge), at the leastwise of wit and diligence!! It is painful to reflect that More's dream of happiness was to be of short duration, and these literary projects of his a mere Utopian vision.
It cannot but seem strange, that the king should permit a favourite minister of his to retire with nothing but barren expressions of esteem, and not have the generosity to make some provision for the supply of his wants. And yet that such was the fact, we learn from Sir Thomas's son-in-law, as well as from circumstances which we shall have to detail.
“ As his grace,” says Roper, “courteously received the seal from his hands, with thanks and praise for his worthy service in that office, so it pleased his highness further to say to him, that, for the service be had before done him, he should, in any suit he might hereafter have unto him, which should either concern bis honour,—for that word it pleased his highness to use unto him, or which should regard his interests, find bis highness a good and gracious lord unto him." Roper adds, and he speaks as one interested in the result, “ how true the words proved, let others be judges, when the king not only did not bestow upon him the value of one penny, but afterwards took from him and his posterity all that ever had been either given by him, left him by his father, or purchased by himself.”
More would appear to have been born in the same age with Wolsey, in order to exhibit a striking contrast to his conduct on almost all occasions. When we read of the cardinal's immense wealth on his retiring from the chancellorsbip and the splendid establishment which he kept up, and then look at More in his honourable poverty, he rises proportionably in our estimation. We quote the words of his son-in-law : “ I am well assured that all the land he ever purchased before he was lord chancellor, was not above the value of twenty marks* by the year, and, after his debts were paid, he had not, to my knowledge, (his chain of office excepted), left him in gold and silver the worth of one hundred pounds." Surely, observes Cresacre, it is a rare thing to be said, that one of the king's council, who had gone through many offices for nearly twenty years, should not be able to purchase one hundred pounds in land, when now-a-days, a private attorney, by his own practice, will leave his children five hundred pounds, or more of land in inheritanoe. He attributes the fact of Sir Thomas's admirable contempt of worldly in-, terests to the bounteous hand which was ever open
* The mark was a silver coin of the value of 135. 4d.
so liberally to the poor, to his own kinsfolk, his family, and his friends, as well as to that spirit of the old hospitality which Sir Thomas loved to cherish, and also to his liberality to the church.
The bishops were not ignorant of the fact, that, notwithstanding the favour of the king, More was a poor man, and they came to a determination which it is delightful to record. They, together with the leading men of the clergy, agreed in one of their convocations, to recompense him with a sum of money raised among them, supposed to have been to the amount of about five thousand pounds, a splendid offering in those days. The bishops of Bath, Durham, and Exeter, (Drs. Clarke, Tunstall, and Hus. say), waited upon him in consequence, and tendered him the sum in question in the name of the convo. cation; they said that “they had weighed with themselves what pains and travail he had taken in writing many learned books in defence of the Catholic faith, against the errors secretly disseminated abroad in the realm ; that it was to their pastoral charge the care of these interests principally appertained, and yet that there had not been a single clergyman who had matched his writings either in the extent of the volumes, the soundness of the argument, or in the happy result produced. That, therefore, they held themselves bound to consider him for the pains he had taken, and the zeal he had shown to discharge them in God's quarrel; that they were well aware they could requite him according to his merits—that must be left to the goodness of God: and yet taking into consideration that his estate was not equal to his worth, they had been deputed by the whole convocation, to beg his acceptance of this sum, as a small testimony of their sense of the obligations they owed him, and which they hoped he would accept according to the spirit in which it was presented." This, says More’s grandson, was a beautiful deed in respect to the prelates who made the offering, but little knew they Sir Thomas's magnificent disposition. He offered them his grateful acknowledgments, but refused the present. “ It is no small comfort to me (said he) that men so wise and learned accept so well of my simple doings. But I never purposed to receive any reward, save from the hands of God alone : from Him, the giver of all good gifts, came the means that I have used to defend his cause, and to Him alone are the thanks to be ascribed. I give my most humble and hearty thanks to your lordships, for your so bountiful and so friendly consideration ; but I must beg you to hold me excused from receiving anything at your hands.” And when, continues his grandson, “ they still pressed it upon him with so great importunity, that few could have supposed he would have had the resolution to persist in the refusal, they could not, for all that, prevail any whit upon him. They then varied their mode of assault, and besought him that, at least, he would not deny their bestowing it upon his wife and children." $ Not so, my lords,” said the knight, “not so; ye shall not steal a march upon me thus. I had rather see it cast into the Thames, than that either I or any of mine should have thereof the worth of a single penny. For although your offer, my lords, be indeed very friendly and honourable, yet I set so much by my pleasure and so little by my profit, that I would not, in good faith, for a much greater sum than yours, have lost the value of so many nights' sleep as was spent upon the same. And yet, for all that, I could well wish, that, ' upon condition all heresies were suppressed, all my works were burned, and my labour utterly lost."