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where a crown of martyrdom was placed upon him, which can never fade nor decay.
Old Camden, with all his prejudices, is forced to acknowledge, that “ More's behaviour in this last act, was not unbecoming the primitive age of the Christian church.” Speaking of his serenity in these trying moments, another writer beautifully observes ; “How cheerfully did he undress himself for his spiritual repose !
Suffering virtue,” says Father Southwell, “ is like the precious Arabian gum, more fragrant when crushed and consumed !”
More has been censured by some for levity in these awful moments. It is a censorious cavil, which would be worthy of little notice had it not occasioned some sentences of as noble reflection, and beautiful composition, as the English language can boast. “ The innocent mirth, which had been so conspicuous in his life, did not forsake him to the last. . His death was of a piece with his life; there was nothing in it new, forced, or affected. He did not look upon the severing of his head from his body as a circumstance which ought to produce any change in the disposition of his mind; and as he died in a fixed and settled hope of immortality, he thought any un. usual degree of sorrow and concern improper.” (Spectator, No. 349.)
According to the barbarous practice of laws which vainly struggle to carry their cruelty beyond the grave, the head of Sir Thomas More was placed on London-bridge. His darling daughter, Margaret,
* A poet of that period has the following lines on this subject, which are simple and pathetic:
Quod capiti quondam Ciceronis rostra fuere,
Hoc est pons capiti, More diserte, tuo:
" Doctior et melior nullus in orbe fuit !"
had the courage to procure the head to be taken down, that she might exercise her affection by continuing to look on a head so dear. Carrying her love beyond the grave, she desired that it might be buried with her when she died, which was about nine years after the fate of her father. The remains of this precious relic are said to have been since observed in the burial place, lying on what had been her bosom.
We learn from Cresacre, that More's headless body was, by order, interred in St. Peter's Chapel within the Tower, “near to the body of the holy martyr, Bishop Fisher, who being put to death just a fortnight before, had small respect done him all this while.” Hall says he was interred in the same grave with his friend and fellow-sufferer,* who, like More, had appointed himself a tomb in his life-time, which his body never occupied.
We quote with pleasure the eloquent eulogy pronounced on Sir Thomas by the learned and liberal Mackintosh.
“Of all men nearly perfect, Sir Thomas More had, perhaps, the clearest marks of individual character. His peculiarities, though distinguishing him from all others, were yet withheld from growing into moral faults. It is not enough to say of him that he was unaffected, that he was natural, that he was simple; so the larger part of truly great men have been. But there is something homespun in More, which is common to him with scarcely any other,
* There is a rare engraving of a double portrait of More and Fisher, with the following inscription :
Anglia vos quondam, communis patria, junxit,
Sed magis innexuit religionis amor ;
Unaque nex binis, unaque causa necis.
and which gives to all his faculties and qualities the appearance of being the native growth of the soil. The homeliness of bis pleasantry purifies it from show. He walks on the scaffold clad only in his household goodness. The unrefined benignity with which be ruled his patriarchal dwelling at Chelsea, enabled bim to look on the axe without being disturbed by any feeling of hatred for the tyrant. This quality bound together his genius and learning, his eloquence and fame, with his homely and daily duties, bestowing a genuineness on all his good qualities, a dignity on the most ordinary offices of life, and an accessible familiarity on the virtues of the hero and the martyr, which silences every suspicion that his excellences were magnified.
“He thus simply performed great acts, and uttered great thoughts, because they were familar to his great soul. The charm of this inborn and homebred character seems as if it would have been taken off by polish. It is this household character which relieves our notion of him from vagueness, and divests perfection of that generality and coldness, to which the attempt to paint a perfect man is so liable.
“ It will naturally, and very strongly, excite the regret of the good in every age, that the life of this best of men should have been in the power of him who was rarely surpassed in wickedness. But the execrable Henry was the means of drawing forth the magnanimity, the fortitude, and the meekness of More. Had Henry been a just and merciful monarch, we should not have known the degree of excellence to which human nature is capable of ascending. Catholics ought to see in More, that mildness and candour are the true ornaments of all modes of faith. Protestants ought to be taught humility and charity from this instance of the wisest and best of men falling into, what they deem, fatal
All men, in the fierce contests of contending factions, should, from such an example, learn the wisdom to fear lest, in their most hated antagonist, they may strike down a Sir Thomas More; for assuredly virtue is not so narrow as to be confined to any party; and we have in the case of More, a signal example, that the nearest approach to perfect excellence does not exempt men from mistakes.
“ It is a pregnant proof that we should beware of hating men for their opinions, or of adopting their doctrines, merely because we love and venerate their virtues."
OPINIONS RESPECTING MORE.
Erasmus and Cardinal Pole on More's death-Impressions produced
abroad by Henry's cruelty-Sentiments of Charles V. and Francis I. on that subject-Crumwell's instructions to the English ambassador in Paris--Flattery of Henry's courtiers-Conduct of the King when More's execution is announced to him-His treatment of More's family-Margaret Roper-Queen Catharine, More's attachment to her to the last-More's character-His piety-His humour-His singularity in dress-Description of his person--His tastes Tribute to his memory
We have ample testimony remaining to us, that the sacrifice of More made an impression far beyond the limits of his own country, and of a deeper stamp than it has often been in the power of an individual to leave, who, like More, had been conspicuous, chiefly by his virtue in civil life. When Erasmus learned the sad tidings of the fate of his earliest and most constant friend, he could not suppress
his emotion : “ More is dead!" cried he; * More, whose breast was purer than snow, and whose genius was excellent beyond all of his nation. His goodness has so engraven him in men's hearts, that alí lament his death, as if it were that of a father or a brother. I have seen tears flow from eyes that never saw him - from men who never received the slightest benefit from him-yea, while I am penning these lines, tears gush from my own eyes against my will.” He terminates this burst of feeling with a little phrase of touching pathos : “ In Moro mihi videor extinctus." -I seem to have died with More.