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CUSED OF MISPRISION OF TREASON-STATUTES OF SUCCESSION AND ALLEGIANCE - MORE REFUSES
THE OATH-COMMITTED TO THE TOWER.
The spirit in which More resigns his honours, and retires to Chelsea
-Anecdote- More describes his feelings to Erasmus-Composes a monumental Inscription for himself-New domestic arrangements His poverty-Offering made him by the Bishops-He is accused of bribery-Devotes his leisure to study, and composes his Apology and other works-Rise of Cranmer-He is made Archbishop of Canterbury-Pronounces the divorce-Marriage of Henry with Anne Boleyn-Coronation of Anne-More declines an invitation to the ceremony-Firmness of Queen Catharine to the last-Final separation of England from the communion of the Catholic Church-Elizabeth Barton, the nun of Kent-Her execution-Prosecution of Bishop Fisher-His letter to Crumwell on his inhuman treatment in the Tower—More is implicated together with Fisher-Writes on this subject to Crumwell and the King-He is accused of misprision of treason—Is examined before the commission-His firmness-Henry is made Head of the Church-Is at the zenith of power, civil and ecclesiastical-Its effect upon his character and conduct-Statutes of succession and allegiance-More refuses to take the oath-He is cited to appear before the commission at Lambeth-His account of his examination, in a letter to his daughter Margaret-Is placed in the custody of the Abbot of Westminster-Cranmer's argument and letter on qualifying the oath-The King disposed to adopt Cranmer's suggestion, but prevented by the influence of the Boleyn party-The oath tendered to More unqualified, and refused by him-His com. mittal to the Tower-Anecdotes.
MORE descended from his igh station with more joy and alacrity than others feel in entering upon the envied honours of office. The possession of these honours instead of corrupting, had but disciplined his heart;* by their removal, he felt his mind relieved from a weight that had oppressed it, and rejoiced at being able to breathe again in freedom. When his friends manifested their sorrow on his descent from grandeur, he smiled at their unnecessary solicitude, and made them ashamed of sacrificing a moment's cheerfulness at the view of an occurrence, wbich those acquainted with the uncertain tenure of worldly honours, should ever be prepared to encounter.
He gave a proof of this temper of his mind in the characteristic manner in which he announced his resignation to his lady. He had given up the seals on the preceding day, which was Saturday, and on the Sunday morning he accompanied his family to Chelsea church. During his chancellorship, one of More's attendants had been in the babit, after the church-service was over, of going to his lady's pew to inform her that my Lord had gone on before. On this occasion, Sir Thomas came to the pew himself, cap in hand, and making a low bow, said to her with perfect gravity -“ Madame, my Lord is gone !" Accustomed to his playful manner," for he used many jests unto her upon all occasions,” his lady imagined this to be one of his wonted jokes, and took
* “ There is no surer sign of a worthy and genuine spirit, than when honours amend a man: for their natural tendency is to corrupt."-Lord
I'll find my conquest in a safe retreat ;
Sir Robt, Howard.
little or no notice of it at the time. But when, on reaching home, he informed her seriously that he had resigned the seal, she flew into a passion outright. That she was worldly-minded, we have already had occasion to see, and the present moment would naturally call that feeling into action. “ Tilly vally!* what will you do,” quoth she, her temper rising, “ what will you do, that you list not to put yourself forward like other folks Will you sit still by the fire, and as children do, make goslings in the ashes with a stick? Would to God, that I were a man, and look ye then what I would do !" Why, Alice,"
quoth Sir Thomas, “ and what wouldst thou do ?” "What !” quoth she, “ why, marry! go forward with the best of them all. For, as my mother was wont to say-God rest her soul-it is ever better to rule than to be ruled. Therefore, by heavens, I warrant that I would not be so foolish as to be ruled, where I might rule.”- -“ By my troth, wife,” said Sir Thomas, “I know that to be a rule thou wert always fain to abide by.”-“ And so would any one,” rejoined Alice, “who has a particle of spirit.”
Finding that his lady was determined to have the last word, the facetious knight called his daughters, and asked them if they could espy any thing strange in their mother's appearance. Alice, imagining it was something wrong in the adjustment of her dress, turned herself about for the daughters to examine. “ Oh, it is not that,” said Sir Thomas, laughing ; “ don't you perceive that your mother's nose standeth somewhat awry?” This was too bad, and the of. fended dame shut herself up in her own room--the very thing that Sir Thomas wanted.
* Sir J. Mackintosh seems puzzled about this word. It was a common exclamation of this and Shakspeare's day, in whose plays it occurs more than once. From a collection of ancient poems, published with a translation, in 1600, it would appear to be of Cornish origin. One of the poems is a dialogue on the subject of Cain and Abel. In reply to a question, whether he was not sorry for having killed his brother, Cain replies:
Tily valy! nynges yadrage thymo whath.” Which is translated :
Tittle tattle ! nothing am I sorry for that.
It will, perhaps, be said, that trifles like these are scarcely worth recording in the life of so great a man. But it may be observed, that the characters of men are frequently best learnt from circumstances apparently trifling. Anecdotes like these are better calculated to show us More as he was, than the most elaborate descriptions. They also prove that his humour was natural to him, and wholly untinctured by singularity or affectation; and at the same time convince us, that riches, honours, and power had no charms for him, and that he could disencumber him. self of them with a jest upon bis lips.
In More's Latin works are two letters which he wrote to Erasmus, at this period. They contain some interesting passages respecting Sir Thomas, which are here translated.
“ The thing, my dear Desiderius, which I have most wished for from my very boyhood, and which I rejoice in your having always enjoyed, and myself occasionally-namely, that being free from public business, I might have some time to devote to God and myself ; and this by the goodness of Heaven and the favour of an indulgent prince, I have at last obtained. I have not, however, obtained it as I could have wished. For my desire was to have reached the last stage of existence in a state, which, though suitable to my years, might yet bave enabled me to enjoy the remainder of my days strong in health and unbroken by age, free from disease and with a mind undistracted by pain. It remaineth in the hand of God whether this wish of mine, unreasonable as perhaps it is, shall be accomplished. Meantime, a disorder of I know not what nature has attacked my breast, by which I suffer less in present pain, than in fear of the consequences. For when it had annoyed me for some months without abatement, the physicians whom I consulted, gave their opinion that its continuance was dangerous, and rendered the prospect of cure less probable: the only remedy must be the gradual effects of time, proper diet, and medicine. Finding that they were unable to fix a period for my recovery, or, indeed, to ensure me a erfect cure at all, I saw that I must either lay down my office, or discharge my duty in it little to my satisfaction. And since I could not discharge that duty without some hazard of my life, and by so doing should lose both life and office, I determined to lose one of them rather than both. Wherefore, that I might consult the public good, as well as my own welfare, 1 entreated his Highness, the Prince, that he would release me from the high office with which his great favour had honoured me, far above my hopes, my wishes, and my pretensions, sinking as I was under weight the same.
I pray Heaven to reward his Majesty for those favours towards me; that the remainder of life allotted me may not be spent in inglorious and slothful repose, but that, together with the disposition, strength of body may be given me, to employ it profitably. For, under bad health, I am not equal to any thing. It is not all the world that are like Erasmus, to whom Heaven would seem to have granted an exclusive privilege. For who but yourself could dare to promise what you accomplish ?
-you, who are not hindered by the inconveniences of growing age, and though afflicted by such maladies as youth and strength ordinarily sink before, yet do you not cease from year to year to instruct mankind by your excellent writings, as if age and ill-health could rob nothing from you."
It was during this interval that, with an eye calmly and steadily fixed on the prospect before him, he erected a monument for himself in the church of Chelsea, with an inscription recounting the most