with these opinions. A faction of the students denominated themselves Trojans, and had their Priam, Hector, Paris, &c., to denote their hostility of the Greeks. This pedantry had the good effect of awak. ening the zeal of More for his Grecian masters, and of inducing him to withstand the barbarism which would exclude the noblest productions of the human mind from the education of English youth. As this letter was well-timed and important in its results, we will give an outline of its contents, and the more will. ingly, as previous biographers bave barely alluded to it, though Fiddes, in his Life of Wolsey, calls attention thereto, as "containing much deserving of notice." It is headed as follows: “ Thomas More to the Rev. Fathers, Procurators, and other members of the Senate of Oxford.” After starting with an apology that one with so little pretensions to learning, (homuncio doctrind minus quàm mediocri,) should presume to address the venerable fathers of the national education, he thus continues with much good taste and feeling : " Though the idea of addressing your reverend body at first over-awed me, I was encouraged to make an effort, however humble, in the cause of learning, by the reflection that nothing but ignorance could discourage an honest endeavour. I could not persuade myself to be silent upon a point, where the interests of truth required me to speak. When in London, an account was brought me of the kind of conspiracy, formed in the bosom of my old Alma Mater against a favourite pursuit of mine and my friends.” He then goes on to describe the struggle between the two parties, the adherents to the old scholastic forms, and those who favoured the revival of Greek letters. After a good deal of private skirmishing, at length the parties broke out into open

The opponents of the new learning assumed the appellation of Trojans, and by way of derision called their adversaries Greeks. The latter gloried in the name, and, fired with the love of the language of Homer and Plato, arrayed themselves for the defence of their favourites. The leaders of each party took the names of the adverse heroes of the Iliad; nor was it a war of words only; blows were dealt in good earnest, and things were carried to such a pass as to threaten the well-being of this seat of the



“At first,” says More, “ I was disposed to treat this contest as a mere ebullition of youthful folly, but lately, while accompanying the king to Abingdon, news was brought me that things had proceeded to extremities. I was informed that one man had rendered himself particularly conspicuous; a person, wise in his own conceit, a jocular and gifted fellow in the conceit of bis own party, but a very madman in the opinion of all good and orderly people. So far did this man forget himself, so far forget his duty, the place, and the sacred season (which was Lent) as to attack the Greeks from the University pulpit; and not the Greek learning only, but all the liberal arts came in for their share of the abuse. What will be thought of our University abroad? What will be said when it is heard that the chair of truth was converted into a scene of Bacchanalian raving; that instead of the pious being edified by the maxims of the Gospel, the profane were diverted by the apish tricks of an insane babbler; one who could hardly smatter Latin, who in the liberal arts was a mere dolt, and who, as far as Greek was in question, knew not a single participle-ouds yeu. But the zeal of our declaimer did not stop here; he cried aloud that all who sought this Greek learning were heretics, that the readers thereof were devils incarnate, and the willing hearers were on the bighway to eternal perdition. Surely it were well for this man of such heated mind and excitable temperament, to be kept safely locked up for a season, and cooled down by a wholesome course of prayer and fasting.” More then launches into an eloquent eulogium of the Greek learning, as exemplified not only in the famous poets, bistorians, and orators of Greece, hut also in the celebrated Christian orators and expounders of the sacred oracles of the Greek church. " Would they restrict,” he exclaims, “that august queen of the skies, Theology, to the precincts of one narrow track of learning, and not allow her freely to expatiate in the ample fields of knowledge; to visit the cells not only of a Cyprian, a Jerome, an Augustine, an Ambrose, a Bede, but also the retreats of a Nazianzen, a Basil, a Chrysostom ?” He endeavours to awaken his parent university to a sense of what she owes to the cause of Greek learning, by touching on a tender point-the progress already making in these studies in the rival'University of Cambridge. He calls upon the good Warham, upon the Cardinal of York, literarum promotor, et ipse literatissimus," a promoter of learning, and himself devoted to letters, and lastly, upon the king, than whom no prince

* That Greek had made no great progress in the north of the island, we may infer from the following anecdote. When Sadler went on an embassy to the Scottish capital, he had caused his men to wear on their sleeves the Greek motto, ΜΟΝΩ ΑΝΑΚΤΙ ΔΟΥΛΕΥΩ-I serve the king only. Some of the clergy read this MONACHULUS-a sorry monk, and complained that this Protestant ambassador intended it as an insult to the body.

+ The compliment here paid to the Cardinal is fully merited. Independently of the colleges which he founded, there are other more convincing proofs of the active interest he took in the cause of educa. tion. An admirable letter of his, addressed “To the Masters of Ipswich School," contains a syllabus of a course of studies drawn up with great skill and professional minuteness. We give an extract, remarking that the air of royalty in its tone is characteristic. “ We imagine nobody can be ignorant of the care, study, and industry, with which we have directed our labours, not for our own private interest, but for that of our country, and of all our citizens, whom we have very much at heart; and in which particular we shall deem ourselves to have been most amply repaid, if, by any Divine blessing, we shall improve the minds of the people. But as it would be imperfect to erect a school, however magnificent, unless attended by learned masters, we have chosen approved teachers, under whose tuition British youth may imbibe both morals and letters; well knowing, that the hopes of the country arise from their minds being formed aright." Wolsey personally superintended the instruction of his godson, the Earl of Richmond, Henry's natural son; as also the domestic education of the Princess Mary. Well had it been for his fame, and for his future peace of mind, had he continued thus to employ his talents, instead of wasting them on those mad schemes of ambition, which proved his ruin in the end !

“ You

living has shown more erudition and a more cultivated mind. He concludes by earnestly exhorting the authorities of the university to exert their influence for the putting down of a faction so detrimental to the interests of learning, and so calculated to excite contempt and derision from without. are well aware,” he adds,“ how beneficial this exercise of your zeal will prove to the cause of letters, and how grateful to our illustrious prince, and to the Right Reverend Fatbers I have already named. And if, last and least, it might be permitted me to name myself, who have thus been induced to address you from the deep and heart-felt love that I bear to yourselves and to the cause of letters, I can only say, that you would bind me to you by a tenfold obligation, and that, in return, to all and each of

you I proffer my good offices in any manner that you can render them available. That God may prosper this your renowned university, and render it daily more Hourishing in every virtue and every polite accomplishment of arts and letters, is the prayer of

“ THOMAS MORE, KNIGHT.* Abingdon, 4th April."

About this period, Sir Thomas received a letter from good Bisbop Fisher, in which we find the follow. ing recommendation, in which certain predilections for Oxford would appear to be glanced at. “I pray you that our Cambridge men may have some hope in you to be favoured by the king's majesty, that our scholars may be incited to learning by the countenance of so worthy a prince. We have few friends in the court to recommend our cause to his majesty, and among these we account you the chief, who always favoured us greatly, even when you were in a less honourable place. But being now raised to the honour of knighthood, and in such great favour with our prince, at which we greatly rejoice and sincerely congratulate your happiness, show what you can now do to serve us.

* To judge from the following circumstance, this letter was a favourite of More's; Stapleton informs us that he gave it as an exercise to be translated into English by his class, and afterwards into Latin

again a valuable exercise by the way. With respect to the dispute in ques. tion, we learn from Érasmus, that the king was induced to interpose in this affair, and, to use his phrase, which is not flattering to the combatants, "silence was imposed on the rabble,"

Be pleased kindly to receive the bearer of this, who is both a good scholar in divinity and a preacher effective among the people. He hath great hope in your favour, and, as far as my recom. mendation can help him, I entreat you to forward him to your power.” More, in his reply, thus expresses himself on this subject.

Right Reverend Father :-The priest of whom you write to me, might, I doubt not, be in possibility of a bishopric, had he some worthier writer than myself to speak for him to the king. As it is, I imagine I have so far prevailed, that his majesty will be no hindrance at least to the same. If I have any favour with the king, which truly is but little, yet, such as it is, I will use it to the uttermost in the service of your Fatherhood and your scholars, to whom I yield perpetual thanks for their warm affection towards me, which has been often testified in their loving letters. When any of them visit London, my house shall be open to them as though it were their own. Farewell, worthy and most courteous prelate, and continue to love me as you have done."

1520. Our knight continued daily to advance in the royal favour. He this year obtained a further promotion, being raised to the dignity of Treasurer of the Exchequer, a station in some respects the same with that of our Chancellor of the Exchequer, who, at present, is on his appointment to be designated by the additional name of Under-treasurer of the Exchequer.

During this year, Francis I. solicited an interview with Henry, and the neighbourhood of the town of Ardres was selected for the place of meeting.

« ElőzőTovább »