« ElőzőTovább »
epistle in verse addressed by him to his children, probably in one of his journeys to the court at Woodstock. As it has never been alluded to by any of More's biographers, I shall present the reader with a copy, accompanied by an attempt at translation. (See the Selections.)
Such was More's establishment at Chelsea. hours of subsequent trial, and amidst the bitterness of separation, which must have fallen with tenfold weight on a family who had never quitted their patriarchal roof, Margaret found a melancholy pleasure in recurring to the happier hours spent in this family circle : "What," she afterwards wrote, "do you think, my most dear father, doth comfort us at Chelsea in your absence? surely the remembrance of your manner of life passed here amongst us, your holy conversation, your wholesome counsels, your examples of virtue." Who can suspect an eulogy like
More maintained an active correspondence with several friends on the Continent, in the Latin language, which was then the exclusive medium of communication. But with no one did he correspond more regularly, and unbosom his mind more freely, than to Erasmus; and this scholar's letters in reply are filled with epithets indicative of the overflowing of a heart fully impressed with the benignity and kindliness of the man he is addressing" Suavissime Moro"-" Charissime Moro"-"Mellitissime Moro."
On his friend's return to the Continent, More received, as a present from him, his portrait, painted by the celebrated Holbein, which was sent by the painter's own hand, accompanied by a letter of introduction. More took the first opportunity of making the king acquainted with the painter's merits, and he did it in his usual odd way of contriving things. He caused Holbein to bring the choicest of his works, and dispose them in his great hall to the best ad
vantage, and in order to take the king by surprise, he invited him to an entertainment. The plan succeeded; Henry, struck with the beauty of the pictures, eagerly inquired if the artist were still living, and, if so, whether his services were to be obtained for love or money. Holbein was within hearing, and was led by the hand to the royal presence. The consequence was not only the patronage of the king, but the fullest employment from all the nobility and men of wealth and eminence, as the various galleries in England still testify. Among other works, he signalized his skill in a painting of More and his family, a copy of which Sir Thomas sent to Erasmus, in return for the compliment he had paid him. In a letter to Margaret Roper, this great scholar acknowledges in the most enthusiastic terms the reception of this picture.
"I want words," says he, "to express to you my delight on contemplating the picture of your family which Holbein has so happily executed. If I were present with the originals, I could not have a more accurate idea of them. I see you all before me, but no one more strikingly than yourself, in whose features shine those mental accomplishments, those domestic virtues, which have rendered you the ornament of your country and of your age!"
As this picture is considered to be a faithful representation of a domestic scene in More's family, the reader will not be displeased to have a more particular description of it. It is divided into two groups. In the foreground of the first are More's two daughters, Margaret and Cecily, kneeling, with their mother-inlaw, Alice, in the same position. In the centre of the second group sit More and his father. John More, the son, and Harris, his favourite servant, are standing the last in the group. Behind More and his father stands Ann Cresacre, in her 15th year, to whom young More is supposed to be newly espoused. Elizabeth, More's second daughter, and Margaret Giggs,
pointing to an open book, stand foremost in the second group. A violin hung against the wainscot, near Sir Thomas, would seem to indicate his taste for music.
This painting is still preserved with religious care at Nostel Priory, in Yorkshire, the seat of Charles Winn, Esq, who is in direct descent from Cresacre More. The Reverend Frognall Dibdin, in his amusing Northern Tour, (1838,) thus speaks of this ancient mansion and painting. "Nostel Priory is a large and noble stone mansion, with a grand flight of steps. We entered the lower apartments. Two large wooden seats or sofas, of the age of Elizabeth or James, showed the owner to have an eye of taste in matters of ancient furniture. Mr. Winn made his appearance, and in a trice I was introduced to my dear old acquaintance, Sir Thomas More. I might be said, for a little moment, to have silently worshipped the picture. Its entirety and freshness surpassed all expectation. The owner seemed to be secretly enjoying my abstraction. He well might; for a more surprising and interesting production I had never before gazed upon. England has nothing more precious than this picture, as she has no character more perfect than HE who occupies the principal place in it. I wondered as I beheld; and even yet, after all the pictorial glories seen by me at Hamilton Palace, I revert in fancy to this picture, as the most valuable of its kind in the kingdom. What characters, what anecdotes belong to this matchless performance. Five thousand guineas have, I understand, been refused for it."
The copy which More sent to Erasmus, is in the Town-hall at Basle, where it is preserved with great
It will not surprise the reader, who is acquainted with the usages of those times, to find in Sir Thomas's establishment, a person who was called The Fool. King Henry kept such a personage about him to
amuse his leisure, who ranks as no unimportant personage in the gossiping history of that period. Will Somers figured on many a memorable occasion, and in Ellis's "Letters " may be seen a portrait of him in the same painting with his royal master. It was not even thought to detract from the gravity of a prelate of the church to keep such a character about him; and the following anecdote of Wolsey in his disgrace, will show what importance he attached to his Fool, who in the midst of his destitution and distress, was still found attending upon his person, and exhibiting proofs of attachment that might have
Minions of splendour shrinking from distress.
After rendering up all his immense wealth and estates to the king, Wolsey quitted London for his country house at Esher. As he rode along in deep dejection, a horseman was seen galloping after his party, who proved to be Sir John Norris, one of the king's chamberlains. On coming up, the knight presented him with a ring, which he declared the king had taken from his own finger, bidding him deliver it to his Grace, as a token that he should be of good cheer, for that he was even now as much as ever in his Majesty's favour. This sudden news entirely overcame the Cardinal, and leaping from his mule with almost youthful speed, he fell upon his knees, pulled off his cap, and returned thanks to Heaven for such joyful intelligence. When Sir John was about to take leave, he again thanked him, declaring, that if he were lord of a kingdom, the half of it could scarce be reward enough for his happy tidings. "But good Master Norris," added he, "consider that I have nothing left but the clothes on my back; therefore I entreat thee accept this small reward at my hands," presenting him with a gold chain, at which hung a cross of the same metal, containing a piece of the Holy Cross. "As for my sovereign,"
he continued, "I love him better than myself, and have faithfully served him according to the best of my poor wits; and now, sorry I am that I have no worthy token to send him; but stay, here is Patch, my Fool, that rides beside me; I beseech thee, take him to court, and give him to his majesty-I assure you, for any nobleman's pleasure, he's worth a thousand pounds."* The fool, however, of whom this was spoken, was seized with a paroxysm of affection on being ordered to leave his old master, and loudly declared that he would not stir from the spot; but he was conveyed away by six stout yeomen, and delivered to the king, who received him gladly.
The name of More's fool was Harry Patterson, and he seems to have been a simple-hearted inoffensive creature. Margaret Roper relates of him, that, meeting her one day, he asked where Sir Thomas was, and hearing he was still in the Tower, on account of his refusal to take the oath, he waxed even angry with his master, and said: "Why? what aileth him that he will not swear? Wherefore should he stick to swear-I have sworn the oath myself!"
Sometimes these characters were permitted to indulge in liberties, which another state of society would consider insupportable. Witness the following instance :
King Henry dined at Windsor, at Cardinal Wolsey's, in the chapel-yard, at the time when he was building that admirable work, his tomb. At the gate stood a number of poor people, to be served with alms, when dinner was done; and, as Will Somers, the Jester, passed by, they saluted him, taking him for a worthy personage, which pleased him. In he comes; and finding the king at dinner, and the Car
* His remark to Henry, the first time he visited the Cardinal after receiving the title of Defender of the Faith, is upon record: " Prithee, good Hal, is it not enough for you and me to defend ourselves, and leave the Faith to defend itself?"