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at no distant period, to be afflicted, he would not have composed a work so gay on subjects which unexpectedly proved so serious. More came to the aid of his friend. In an elegant and conciliating letter addressed to Dorpius, he justified the intention of Erasmus in composing the work; defended many passages and expressions to which Dorpius had objected, and extenuated the apparent culpability of others. Dorpius was appeased: the friendship between him and Erasmus was renewed, and when his old antagonist died, Erasmus celebrated his memory in an elegant and affectionate epitaph." It is somewhat remarkable that, at a later period, More, as we shall have occasion to see, felt himself called upon to employ the same kind of apology in defence of his Utopia, that had been used by his friend in defence of his Praise of Folly.
More accepted the dedication of the work, regard. ing it as a mere playful sally of that wit which was congenial to his nature, and little imagining that the work was of a character to promote, even distantly, any views hostile to the faith which he loved and the precepts which he practised; and later, we shall hear him deprecating an appeal to his writings and those of his friend, which, he says, were innocently intended by them, but abused by incendiaries to inflame the fury of the ignorant multitude.
Modern critics, however, have spoken unfavourably of this satire. "Nothing," observes Le Clerc, "can excuse Erasmus for having put into the mouth of Folly things which confound religious truth with idiotism, and honest men with knaves and madmen. No one can be a greater fool than he who sets up for fool-doctor in ordinary." "After the publication of this work," says Knight, "Erasmus was never after looked upon as a true friend of the church. In his Adages, he has made an apology to the public for the scandal given them in this satire."
Another of this scholar's valuable friends and
patrons was Lord Mountjoy. Erasmus had composed two declamations on matrimony, one in its praise, the other against it. His patron, Lord Mountjoy, said to him: "I like the first of your treatises so well, that I am determined to marry without loss of time." "But," said Erasmus, you have not read the second." "No," replied his lordship, "I am content to leave that to you."
But while More found leisure for these literary prolusions, he continued to pursue his legal studies with unremitting ardour, and rose to great eminence at the bar. His conduct was such as to entitle him to be held up as a model of scrupulous adherence to justice, amidst all the temptations of legal sophistry, and the more solid inducements of interest, and of that bribery, which, disguised under a more decent name, was so prevalent in those days. When any cause was offered to him, his first care was to ascertain whether justice was on the side on which he was retained. If he found it otherwise, he rejected the cause, whatever pecuniary inducement might be held out to him, and whatever opportunity it might afford for the display of his talents; assuring his client that he would not undertake what he knew to be wrong, for all the wealth in the world. With gratuitous kindness, he advocated the cause of the widow and orphan; while, regardless of interest, be always endeavoured, if possible, to bring contending parties to a private accommodation.
1512. More's first wife, as we have already stated, survived their union only about six years; and two years after her death, which brings us to our present period, he married Alice Middleton, a widow with one daughter. She was seven years older than himself, and neither handsome nor young-nec bella nec puella, as he says in a Latin jingle to his friend Erasmus. His object in making this choice, and the curious manner in which it was brought about, are thus stated by his great grandson. "He entered into
his second wedlock, that his wife might have care of his children, who were very young, and from whom he must of necessity be very often absent. She was of good years, of no great favour nor complexion, nor very rich; by disposition very near and worldly. I have heard it reported, that he wooed her for a friend of his, not once thinking to have her himself. But she wisely answering him, that he might speed, if he would speak in his own behalf,' he told his friend what she had said to him, and with his good liking married her, doing that which otherwise he would, perhaps, have never thought to do. And indeed, as I think, her favour would not have bewitched, or scarce even moved any man to love her. But yet she proved a kind a careful mother-in-law to his children, as he was always a most loving father unto them; and not only to his own, but to her daughter also; who afterwards married Mr. Alington, and was mother to Sir Giles Alington. He also brought up together with his own children, and as one of them, Margaret Giggs, afterwards wife to Dr. Clement, a famous physician. She also proved very famous for her many excellent endowments in learning, virtue, and wisdom." Speaking of this marriage, Erasmus says: "The woman More has married is a keen and watchful manager, and he lives with her on terms of as much respect and kindness, as if she had been young and fair." Such is the happy power of a loving disposition, which overflows on all within the range of its influence, be their deserts or attractions ever so slender. "No husband," continues Erasmus, "ever obtained so much obedience from a wife by authority and severe measures, as More won by gentleness and pleasantry. Though now of a certain age, and by no means of a yielding temper, he prevailed on her to take lessons on the lute and viol, which she daily practised over to him." Roper adds, in the simplicity of his heart, "that his father-in-law induced her to learn music, both of the voice and
viol, in order to draw off her mind from worldly things, to which she was too much addicted." In all probability, it was with a view to engage her to seek an agreeable distraction from that fretful anxiety about her domestic concerns, which was her ruling foible, and which would have proved a sad annoyance to a husband not possessed of More's philosophy. The truth is though, forsooth, the truth should not at all times be spoken-that Alice was unfortunately a scold. "The greatest fault she had," says her nephew Rastell, was that she would now and then show herself to be her mother's daughter, kit after kind it is but their nature, you know, to be a little talkative." Indeed, in her general conduct she showed herself altogether incapable of entering into the magnanimity of her husband's character. It is amusing to observe how adroitly More could parry off her reproaches, arresting the outbreaks of her illtemper by a joke, and smoothing down the roughness of her manner by a pun-for More was an inveterate punster; to that sin he must plead guilty, and he may well be pardoned, for it was his only one. The good dame was not, however, altogether unaware of her failing, and would sometimes make an effort to overcome herself. Why so merry, Alice ?" inquired the knight, on meeting her one day in a more than usually happy mood. "One may surely be merry," said his wife, "for I have been to shrift, and left my old shrewdness behind me in the confessional." "Ah!" rejoined the knight, shaking his head doubtingly, "but I fear it is only to open a new score."
1513. More's application to his legal duties was unremitting, and yet such was his activity of mind, that he found leisure at this period for historical composition, the fruit of which was afterwards given to the world in his History of King Richard the Third. More's grandson speaks warmly in praise of this work: "It is so well penned, that if our chronicles
of England were half so well set out, they would entice all Englishmen often to read them over." This eulogium is confirmed by the fact, that the work has been four times reprinted within the last century. For a more detailed account, the reader is referred to the Volume of Selections.
1515. The public life of More may be said to have commenced in the summer of this year, with a mission to Bruges, in which Tunstall, then Master of the Rolls, and afterwards Bishop of Durham, was his colleague. The biographers of More have assigned 1516 as the year of this embassy, but here again a reference to the city records has enabled Sir James Mackintosh to ascertain the precise date. The following is the entry: "Monday, 8th of May, 1515. It is agreed that Thomas More, gent., one of the undersheriffs of London, who shall go over as the King's ambassador into Flanders, shall employ his room and office by his sufficient deputy, until his coming home again." The object of this mission was to adjust certain questions relating to the commercial intercourse of England with the Netherlands.
We have now, for the first time, to mention the name of More in conjunction with that of one of the most remarkable men of this period. Wolsey, then lately invested with the purple, filled the first place in the royal favour. Nothing was done at court but by his advice and through his mediation. The reputation of More had already attracted Henry's attention, and he signified to the cardinal his desire to see that remarkable man attached to the court. On this occasion, at least, we find that the minister acted honestly, and endeavoured to accomplish the wishes of his master. He paid a visit to More, represented to him the importance of his services, and assured him that the royal bounty would recompense them liberally. More was not, however, to be prevailed upon, for the present at least, to exchange the independent station which his ability as a lawyer gave