appear only in silk, a rare article of luxury at that period, Warham alone had the spirit to disobey; he would use so rich an ornament only in the vestments employed in the church service. We learn this from Erasmus.

1516. The able manner in which our negociator had managed the business entrusted to him, and which, as we learn from his own words, was an affair of no small importance, would not tend to diminish the anxiety of the king to engage him in a closer attendance upon his person. Henry loved wit and learning, and therefore could not be indifferent to the accomplishments of a man whose talents he had al, ready put to the test, But he found it almost as difficult to win him over to his service now, as he afterwards did to bind him to his will in a matter of con. science. Indeed, there is no trait in the character of this extraordinary man more decidedly marked, than a degree of independence amounting to little less than obstinacy. Original in his views and habits, he disliked all influence and restraint, and mingled with the great without imbibing in the smallest degree the spirit of a courtier. These feelings are embodied in his Utopia, many passages of which might be adduced as intended in a pleasant, but not very courtier-like way, to insinuate his opinion of the service to which he was solicited to devote himself. The hero of the piece is made to say: "Now, I live after my own mind and pleasure, which I think very few of these great statesmen and peers of the realm can say.-In losing my own quiet, I should in no way further the common good: for, in the first place, most princes have more delight in warlike matters and feats of chivalry, (the knowledge of which I neither possess, nor desire to possess,) than in the good arts of peace: and employ more pains about enlarging their dominions, whether by good or evil means, than about ruling well and peaceably those they already possess. -Should I boldly rise up in the council, and déclare

that the community ought to choose their king for their own sake, and not for his, to the intent that, through his labour and study, they might all live wealthy and happy, safe from wrong and injury: that, therefore, the king should take more care for the wellbeing of his people, than for his own; even as the duty and office of a shepherd is, in his very quality of shepherd, to feed his sheep rather than himself:-I say, were I to declare all this, should I not, think ye, have deaf hearers ?" Considering the bold views, religious and political, promulgated in this work, whether regarding them as More's own opinions, or as merely assumed by way of colouring to his romance, Henry must be allowed to have shown some liberality and fearlessness in his increased desire to retain him in his counsels, and draw him nearer to his person. Happily for the king, but unfortunately for More, an incident occurred which forced him into the distinction he had so studiously avoided. A valuable ship belonging to the Pope, coming into Southampton, had been seized as a prize by the English cruizers. The legate appealed to the king, that his Holiness might have counsel assigned him, learned in the laws of the land, to defend his cause; and, as his Majesty was him. self a great civilian, it was requested that the cause might be tried publicly, and in his presence. More had the honour of being chosen as the ablest lawyer of his time, to be counsel for the Pope, and to report proceedings in Latin to the legate. A hearing of the cause was appointed before Wolsey, as Lord Chancellor, and the judges in the Star-chamber. Our advocate pleaded the cause with so much learning and success, that not only was the vessel restored to the Pope, but, to use the words of Roper, "himself, for his upright and commendable demeanour in the cause, was so greatly applauded by all the hearers, that, for no entreaty, would the king from henceforth be induced any longer to forbear his service."

*Utopia, Ralph Robinson's translation. (1590).

1517. There being at this time no better place vacant, Henry created More master of the requests, and a month after conferred on him the honour of knighthood, and made him a privy-councillor. Weston, treasurer of the exchequer, dying some time afterwards, the king, without any solicitation, gave that place also to the man whose good-will he was so anxious to conciliate. We are now, therefore, to behold SIR Thomas More in a very different situation from that in which we have heretofore viewed him.

We find him taken from his practice as a lawyer, and from the condition of a private gentleman, to become an officer of state, and to be recognized as a favourite of the king-taken it may be truly said, for he certainly acted in the present instance, rather in obedience to the king than to gratify any passion of his own for power and grandeur. His simplicity of heart would naturally incline him to disrelish the courts of princes and their intrigues, and it is possible that he may have already surmised from Henry's character, the probable inconstancy of his favour. Under every advancement we shall find that he still preserved the plainness and integrity which distinguished him in private life. A superior station served but to call forth superior talents; and in the end it displayed his superiority of character under the severest of human trials.

But, previously to accompanying him to the new scene of his glory and of his trials, we may be permitted to cast "one lingering look behind" upon the busy school-room, and the other domestic economies of his residence in Chelsea: for they still look fresh in the descriptions left us by his contemporaries.

We have no hesitation in considering the five or six years that have just elapsed as the happiest period of More's life. While rising rapidly in his profession and filling an honourable and lucrative situation, he still found leisure for his literary pursuits, and produced works on which, independently of their value

in a moral point of view, has been conferred the distinctive honour of having advanced and polished his mother tongue. The warmth of his affections, the kindness of his heart, and the playfulness of his manner, continued to ensure the happiness of his home, even when his son with a wife, three daughters with their husbands, and a proportionable number of grandchildren, dwelt under his patriarchal roof.

It appears that, somewhere about this period, Sir Thomas was sent to investigate the cause of a great local inconvenience, the growth of the Goodwin Sands on the coast of Kent, and the consequent stoppage of Sandwich Haven. An amusing anecdote connected with this visit shall be given in the quaint but graphic language of old Latimer.

"Master More was once sent in commission into Kent, to help to pry out, if it might be, what was the cause of the Goodwin Sands, and the shelves that stopped up Sandwich Haven. Thither cometh Master More, and calleth the county about him, such as were thought to be men of experience, and men that could of likelihood best certify him of that matter, concerning the stopping of Sandwich Haven. Among others, came in before him, an old man with a white head, and one that was thought to be little less than an hundred years old. When Master More saw this aged man, he thought it expedient to hear him say his mind in this matter; for, being so old a man, it was likely that he knew most of any man, in that presence and company. So Master More called this aged man unto him, and said: 'Father,' quoth he, 'tell me, if ye can, what is the cause of this great arising here of the sands and shelves about this haven, the which stop it up, that no ships can arrive here? Ye are the oldest man that I can espy in all this company; so that if any man can tell the cause of it, ye of likelihood can say most of it; or at leastwise more than any man here assembled.' forsooth, good master,' quoth this old man, 'for I am



well nigh an hundred years old, and no man here in this company is any thing near unto my age. I have marked this matter as well as some others.' 'Well, then,' quoth Master More, how say you of this?' 'Forsooth, Sir,' quoth he, I am an old man; the oldest in all the company, and I wot how this haven waxed naught. For I knew it good; I knew it when it was a fair fish-pool.' 'Well, then, tell me,' continued Master More, 'what hath so hurt it, my good father?' 'Well,' said he, I remember the time right well, when great ships passed up yonder without difficulty, and now, marry! right small vessels have much work to come up at diverse tides.' 'Well,' still continued Master More, and what is the reason, father, that the haven is so decayed?' Then some of the old men present laid the fault to the Goodwin Sands. And what,' said the old father, starting up, 'what was the cause of the Goodwin Sands? I am an old man, and I can tell you. Tenderden Steeple is the cause of the Goodwin Sands.' 'How so, father?' cried Master More, and all present. 'Nay, by'r lady, masters,' quoth he, 'I cannot tell you why. But I remember when there was no steeple at all there; and before the steeple was built, there was no manner of speaking of any flats or sands that stopped up the haven; and I knew it a good haven till that steeple was built; and therefore Tenderden Steeple is the cause of the Goodwin Sands, and of the decaying of Sandwich Haven.'"

« ElőzőTovább »