Imagens das páginas

saw no cause to reckon himself in worse caso letter of Margaret Roper, apparently written in there than in his own house. On another occasion the winter of 1534-5, that his persecutors now he asked her how queen Anne did. “In faith, tried another expedient for vanquishing his confather,” said she, “never better.”—“Never better, stancy, by restraining him from church, and she Megg!" quoth he; « alas ! Megg, it pitieth me adds, “ from the company of my good mother and to remember into what misery, poor soul, she shall his poor children."* More, in his answer, expressshortly come.” * Various attempts continued es his wonted affection in very familiar, but in still to be made to cajole him ; partly, perhaps, most significant, language:—“If I were to declare with the hope that his intercourse with the beloved in writing how much pleasure your daughterly Margaret might have softened him. Cromwell loving letters gave me, a peck of coals would not told him that the king was still his good master, suffice to make the pens.” So confident was he and did not wish to press his conscience. The of his innocence, and so safe did he deem himself lords commissioners went twice to the Tower to on the side of law, that "he believed some new tender the oath to him. But neither he nor Fisher causeless suspicion, founded upon some secret would advance farther than their original declara- sinister information,” had risen up against him. tion of perfect willingness to maintain the settle- On the 2d or 3d of May, 1535, sir Thomas More ment of the crown, which, being a matter purely informed his dear daughter of a visit from Crompolitical, was within the undisputed competence well, attended by the attorney and solicitor geneof parliament. They refused to include in their ral, and certain civilians, at which Cromwell urged oath any other matter on account of scruples of to More the statute which made the king head of conscience, which they forbore to particularise, the church, and required an answer on that sublest they might thereby furnish their enemies with ject. More replied; “I am the king's true faitha pretext for representing their defence as a new ful subject, and daily bedesman : I say no harm, crime. As their real ground, which was, that it and do no harm ; and if this be not enough to would be insincere in them to declare upon oath, keep a man alive, in good faith I long not to live.” that they believed the king's marriage with Anne This ineffectual attempt was followed by another to be lawful, they might, by the statement of that visit from Cranmer, the chancellor, the duke of ground in defending themselves against a charge Suffolk, the earl of Wiltshire, and Cromwell, who, of misprision of treason, have incurred the penal- after much argument, tendered an oath, by which ties of high treason.

he was to promise to make answers to questions Two difficulties occurred in reconciling the de- which they might puts; and on his decisive refustruction of sir Thomas More with any form or sal, Cromwell gave him to understand that, agreecolour of law. The first of them consisted in the ably to the language at the former conference, circumstance that the naked act of refusing the

“his grace would follow the course of his lans oath was, even hy the late statute, punishable towards such as he should find obstinate.” Cranonly as a misprision ; and though concealment of mer, who too generally complied with evil countreason was never expressly declared to be only a sels, but nearly always laboured to prevent their misprison till the statute to that effect was passed execution, wrote a persuasive letter to Cromwell, under Philip and Maryt, chiefly perhaps occasion- earnestly praying the king to be content with More ed by the case of More, yet it seemed strange thus and Fisher's proffered engagement to maintain the to prosecute him for the refusal, as an act of trea- succession, which would render the whole nation son, after it had been positively made punishable unanimous on the practical part of that great subject. as a misprision by a general statute, and after a On the 6th of May, 1535, almost immediately special act of attainder for misprision had been pass

after the defeat of every attempt to practise on his ed against him. Both these enactments were, on

firmness, More was brought to trial at Westminthe supposition of the refusal being indictable for ster, and it will scarcely be doubted, that no such treason, absolutely useless, and such as tended to culprit stood at any European bar for a thousand make More believe that he was safe as long as he years. It is rather from caution than from necesremained silent. The second has been already sity that the ages of Roman domination are excluintimated, that he had yet said nothing which could ded from the comparison. It does not seem that be tortured into a semblance of those acts deroga


moral respect Socrates himself could claim tory from the king's marriage, which had been a superiority. It is lamentable that the records of made treason. To conquer this last difficulty, sir the proceedings against such a man should be Robert Rich the solicitor-general undertook the scanty. We do not certainly know the specific infamous task of betraying More into some decla

offence of which he was convicted. There does ration, which might be pretended to be treason- not seem, however, to be much doubt that the able, in a confidential conversation, and under pre

prosecution was under the act " for the establishtext of familiar friendship. What the success of

ment of the king's succession,” passed in the sesthis flagitious attempt was, the reader will see in

sion 1533-49. which made it high treason “to do the account of More's trial. It appears from a

any thing to the prejudice, slander, disturbance, or * Engl. Works, 1446.

| Id. 1447. * Roper, 72.

| More to Margaret Roper. Engl. Works, 1452. +1 & 2 Phil, and Mar, c. 10. s. 8.

§ 25 H. VIII. c. 22.


derogation of the lawful marriage” between Henry and Anne. Almost any act, done or declined, might be forced within the undefined limits of such vague terms. In this case the prosecutors probably represented his refusal to answer certain questions which, according to them, must have related to the marriage, his observations at his last examination, and especially his conversation with Rich, as overt acts of that treason, inasmuch as it must have been known by him that his conduct on these occasions tended to create a general doubt of the legitimacy of the marriage.

To the first alleged instance of his resistance to the king, which consisted in his original judgment against the marriage, he answered in a manner which rendered reply impossible, “ that it could never be treason or one of the king's advisers to give him honest advice.” On the like refusal respecting the king's headship of the church, he answered that“ no man could be punished for silence.” The attorney general said, that the prisoner's silence was “malicious.” More justly answered, that "he had a right to be silent where his language was likely to be injuriously misconstrued.” Respecting his letters to bishop Fisher, they were burnt, and no evidence was offered of their contents, which he solemnly declared to have no relation to the charges. And as to the last charge, that he had called the act of settlement " two-edged sword, which would destroy his soul if he complied with it, and his body if he refused," it was answered by hiin, that “he supposed the reason of his refusal to be equally good, whether the question led to an offence against his conscience, or to the necessity of criminating himself.”

Cromwell had before told him, that though he was suffering perpetual imprisonment for the misprision, the punishment did not release him from his allegiance, and he was amenable to the law for treason. Cromwell overlooked the essential circumstances, that the facts laid as treason were the same on which the attainder for misprision was founded. Even if that were not a strictly maintainable objection in technical law, it certainly showed the flagrant injustice of the whole proceeding.

The evidence, however, of any such strong circumstances attendant on the refusal as could raise it into an act of treason must have seemed defective; for the prosecutors were reduced to the necessity of examining Rich, one of their own number, to prove circumstances of which he could have had no knowledge, without the foulest treachery on his part. Rich said, that he had gone to More as a friend, and asked him, if an act of parliament had made Rich king, More would not acknowledge him. Sir Thomas said, “Yes, sir, that I would.”-“If they declared me pope, would you acknowledge me ?"__"In the first case, I have no doubt about iemporal governments; the parliament should make a law that God should not be God, would you then, Mr.Rich, say that God

should not be God ?"_"No," says Rich, “no parliament could make such a law." Rich went on to swear, that sir Thos. More added, “No more could the parliament make the king supreme head of the church.” More denied the latter part of Rich's evidence altogether; which is, indeed, inconsistent with the whole tenour of his language. More was then compelled to expose the profligacy of Rich's character. “I am,” he said, “ more sorry for your perjury, than for mine own peril. Neither 1, nor any man, ever took you to be a person of such credit as I could communicate with on such matters. We dwelt near in one parish, and you were always esteemed very light of your tongue, and not of any commendable fame. Can it be likely to your lordships that I should so unadvisedly overshoot myself, as to trust Mr. Rich with what I have concealed from the king, or any of his noble and grave counsellors ?»

The credit of Rich was so deeply wounded, that he was compelled to call sir Richard Southwell, and Mr. Palmer, who where present at the conversation, to prop his tottering evidence. They made a paltry excuse, by alleging that they were so occupied in removing More's books, that they did not listen to the words of this extraordinary conversation. The jury*, in spite of these circumstances, convicted sir Thomas More. Chancellor Audley, who was at the head of the commission, of which Spelman and Fitzherbert, eminent lawyers, were members, was about to pronounce judgment, when he was interrupted by sir Thomas More, who claimed the usual privilege of being heard to show that judgment should not be passed.

More urged, that he had so much ground for his scruples as at least to exempt his refusal from the imputation of disaffection, or of what the law deems to be malice. The chancellor asked him once more how his scruples could balance the weight of the parliament, people, and church of England ? a topic which had been used against him at every interv and conference since he was brought prisoner to Lambeth. The appeal to weight of authority influencing conscience was, however, singularly unfortunate. More answered, as he had always done, “Nine out of ten of Christians now in the world think with me. Nearly all the learned doctors and holy fathers who are already dead, agree with me: and therefore I think myself not bound to conform my conscience to the council of one realm, against the general consent of all Christendom.” Chief Justice Fitz. james concurred in the sufficiency of the indictment; which, after the verdict of the jury, was the only matter before the court.

The chancellor then pronounced the savage sen

but suppose

* Sir T. Palmer, sir T. Bent, G. Lovell, esquire, Thomas Burbage, esquire, G. Chamber, gentleman, Edward Stockmore, William Brown, Jasper Leake, Thomas Bellington, John Parnell, Richard Bellamy, and G. Stoakes, gentlemen, were the jury.


tence which the law directed in cases of treason. More, having no longer any measures to keep, openly declared, that after seven years' study," he could find no colour for holding that a layman could be head of the church.” The com. missioners once more offered him a favourable audience for any matter which he had to propose. “More have I not to say, my lords, but that as St. Paul held the clothes of those who stoned Stephen to death, and as they are now both saints in heaven, and shall continue there friends for ever; so I verily trust, and shall therefore right heartily pray, that though your lordships have now here on earth been judges to my condemnation, we may, nevertheless, hereafter cheerfully meet in heaven, in everlasting salvation."*

Sir W. Kingston, “his very dear friend,” constable of the Tower, as, with tears running down his cheeks, he conducted his prisoner from Westminster, condoled with sir T. More, who endeavoured to assuage the sorrow of his friend by the consolations of religion. The same gentleman said afterwards to Roper,—“I was ashamed of myself when I found my heart so feeble, and his so strong."

Margaret Roper, his good angel, watched for his landing at the Tower wharf. “ After his blessing upon her knees reverently received, without care of herself, pressing in the midst of the throng, and the guards that were about him with halberts and bills, she hastily ran to him, and openly, in sight of them all, embraced and kissed him. He gave her again his fatherly blessing. After separation she, all ravished with the entire love of her dear father, suddenly turned back again, ran to him as before, took him about the neck, and divers times kissed him most lovingly,--a sight which made many of the beholders weep and mourn.”+

Thus tender was the heart of the admirable woman who had at the same time the greatness of soul to strengthen her father's fortitude, by disclaiming the advice for which he, having mistaken her meaning, had meekly rebuked her, to prefer life to right.

On the 14th of June, he was once more examined by four civilians in the Tower. “He was asked, first, whether he would obey the king as supreme head of the church of England on earth immediately under Christ ? to which he said, that he could make no answer. Secondly, whether he would consent to the king's marriage with queen Anne, and affirm the marriage with the lady Catharine to have been unlawful ? To which he answered that he did never speak nor meddle against the same; and, thirdly, whether he is not bound to answer the said question, and to recognize the headship as aforesaid ? To which he said, that he could make no answer.”

* Roper, p. 90. † Roper, p. 90.

| English Works, 1458. Printed, London, 1557; and Roper, p. 92.

It is evident that these interrogatories, into which some terms peculiarly objectionable to More were now for the first time inserted, were contrived for the sole purpose of reducing the illustrious victim to the option of uttering a lie or of suffering death. The conspirators against him might, perhaps, have a faint idea that they had at length broken his spirit. If he persisted, they hoped that he might be represented as bringing destruction on himself by his own obstinacy.

Such, however, was his calm and well-ordered mind, that he said and did nothing to provoke his fate. Had he given affirmative answers, he would have sworn falsely : he was the martyr of veracity. He perished only because he was sincere. On Monday, the 5th of July, 1535, he wrote a farewell letter to Margaret Roper, with his usual materials of coal. It contained blessings to all his children by name, with a kind remembrance even to one of Margaret's maids. Adverting to their last interview, on the quay, he says,—“I never liked your manner towards me better than when you kissed me last ; for I love when daughterly love and dear charity have no leisure to look to worldly courtesy.”

On Tuesday, the 6th of July (St. Thomas's eve,) 1535, sir Thomas Pope, “his singular good friend,” came to him early with a message from the king and council, to say that he should die before nine o'clock of the same morning. king's pleasure,” said Pope, “is that you shall not use many words.”—“I did purpose," answered More, “ to have spoken somewhat, but I will conform myself to the king's commandment, and I beseech you to obtain from him that my daughter Margaret may be present at my burial.”— “ The king is already content that your wife, children, and other friends shall be present thereat.” The lieutenant brought him to the scaffold, which was so weak that it was ready to fall, on which he said, merrily, “Master lieutenant, I pray you see me safe up, and for my coming down let me shift for myself.” When he laid his head on the block he desired the executioner to wait till he had removed his beard, for that had never offended his highness.

He has been censured by some for such levities at the moment of death. These are censorious cavils, which would not be worthy of an allusion if they had not occasioned some sentences of as noble reflection, and beautiful composition, as the English language contains. “ 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 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 unusual degree of sorrow and concern inproper."* * Spectator, No. 349.




According to the barbarous practice of laws contrary to the rules of that language as “thrice which vainly struggle to carry their cruelty beyond greatest *" would be to the idiom of ours. When the grave, the head of sir Thomas More was intelligence of his death was brought to the emplaced on London bridge. His darling daughter, peror Charles V., he sent for sir T. Elliot, the Margaret, had the courage to procure the head to English embassador, and said to him, “ My be taken down, that she might exercise her affec- lord embassador, we understand that the king tion by continuing to look on a head so dear. your master has put his wise counsellor sir Thomas Carrying her love beyond the grave, she desired More to death.” Elliot, abashed, made answer that it might be buried with her when she died, that he understood nothing thereof.

“ Well,” which was about nine years after the fate of her said the emperor, “it is too true ; and this we father. The remains of this precious relic are will say, that if we had been master of such a said to have been since observed in the burial place, servant, we should rather have lost the best city uying on what had been her bosom. Her male in our dominions than have lost such a worthy descendants appear to have been soon extinct. counsellor.” “ Which matter," says Roper, in the Her descendants through females are probably concluding words of his beautiful narrative,

This admirable woman resembled by sir T. Elliot told to myself, my wife, to Mr. her father in mind, in manner, in the features and Clement and his wife, and to Mr. Heywood and expression of her countenance, and in her form his wife.” I and gait. Her learning was celebrated through- Of all men nearly perfect, sir Thomas More had, out Christendom: it is seldom that literature wears perhaps, the clearest marks of individual character. a more agreeable aspect than when it becomes a His peculiarities, though distinguishing him from bond of union between such a father and such a all others, were yet withheld from growing into daughter. His eldest son, John, married Anne moral faults. It is not enough to say of him that Crisacre, the heiress of an estate at Barnborough, he was unaffected, that he was natural, that he near Doncaster, still held by his posterity through was simple; so the larger part of truly great men females. The mansion of the Mores still subsists have been. But there is something homespun in there. The last male descendant of sir Thomas More which is common to him with scarcely any More, was Thomas More, a jesuit, who was other, and which gives to all his faculties and principal of the college of jesuits at Bruges, and qualities the appearance of being the native growth died at Bath in 1795, having survived his famous of the soil. The homeliness of his pleasantry puorder, and, according to the appearances of that rifies it from show. He walks on the scaffold clad time, his ancient religion ; as if the family of More only in his household goodness. The unrefined were one of the many ties which may be traced benignity with which he ruled his patriarchal dwelthrough the interval of two centuries and a half ling at Chelsea enabled him to look on the axe between the revolutions of religion and those of without being disturbed by feeling hatred for the government.

tyrant. This quality bound together his genius The letters and narratives of Erasmus diffused and learning, his eloquence and fame, with his the story of More's fate throughout Europe. Car- homely and daily duties, bestowing a genuineness dinal Pole bewailed it with elegance and feeling. on all his good qualities, a dignity on the most It filled Italy, the most cultivated portion of Europe, ordinary offices of life, and an accessible familiwith horror. Paulo Jovio called Henry a Phalaris, arity on the virtues of a hero and a martyr, which though we shall in vain look in the story of Pha- silences every suspicion that his excellences were laris, or of any other real or legendary tyrant, for magnified. a victim worthy of being compared to More. The He thus simply performed great acts, and English ministers throughout Europe were regard- uttered great thoughts, because they were familiar ed with averted eyes as the agents of a monster. to his great soul. The charm of this inborn and At Venice, Henry, after this deed, was deemed homebred character seems as if it would have been capable of any crimes. He was believed there to taken off by polish. It is this household character have murdered Catharine, and to be about to

which relieves our notion of him from vagueness, murder his daughter Mary. The catholic zeal and divests perfection of that generality and coldof Spain, and the resentment of the Spanish people ness to which the attempt to paint a perfect man against the oppression of Catharine, quickened

is so liable. their sympathy with More, and aggravated their It will naturally, and very strongly, excite the detestation of Henry Mason, the envoy at regret of the good in every age, that the life of this Valladolid, thought every pure Latin phrase too best of men should have been in the power of him weak for More, and describes him by a phrase as who was rarely surpassed in wickedness. But

the execrable Henry was the means of drawing * One of them, Mr. James Hinton Baverstock, * « Ter maximus ille Morus."--Ellis. inserted his noble pedigree from Margaret, in 1819, | Instead of Heywood, perhaps we ought to read in a copy of More's English Works, at this moment " Xeron ?In that case the three daughters of sir before me.

Thomas More would be present. Mrs. Roper was † Hunter's South Yorkshire, pp. 574, 375.

the eldest, Mrs. Clement the second and Cecilia | Ellis's Letters.

Heron the youngest.

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, the most fatal errors. All


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 nar. row 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 which we may justly deem mischievous. It is a pregnant proof, that we should beware of hating men for their opinio or of adopting their doctrines because we love and venerate their virtues.

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

THOMAS CARDINAL Wolsey, the celebrated prime minister and favourite of Henry VIII., was born at Ipswich, in Suffolk, in 1471. According to Cavendish, his gentleman usher and biographer, he was an honest poor man's son,” under which vagueness of expression it is supposed an attempt is made to conceal the fact of his father having been a butcher.* That his father was a man at least of moderate wealth, is evident from his will, in which, among other legacies, he bequeaths “ all his land and tenements” in the

of St. Nicholas, and his “free and bond lands” in St. Stoke, to his widow ; and, indeed, may be inferred from the circumstance of his son's entering the university of Oxford at a very early age. Wolsey was eminently favoured by nature in grace and beauty of person. Hence Shakspeare happily says of him, that he " was fashion. ed to much honour from the cradle.” Of those incidents and circumstances of his early domestic life, which might throw light on the formation of his character, we unfortunately possess no information. Cavendish merely tells us, that from his childhood he was “very apt to learning ;” and he himself used, in the very zenith of his fortune, to

* There being no direct testimony to the fact of Wolsey's father having been a butcher, a foolish controversy has been waged concerning its probability That he was a man of humble origin, -" an honest poor man,” as Cavendish designates him,-is admitted on all 'nands ; and it matters little what may have been his vocation, so far as the natal pretensions of his son to power and distinction are concerned. In the text we have assumed him to have been a butcher, because such was the belief of his contemporaries. He is distinctly alluded to as the butcher's dog in the satirical poem, erroneously ascribed, according to Mr. Singer (edition of Cavendish's Life,) to Skelton ; and by that dyslogistic epithet, Hall tells us, the populace usually characterised 'him. Luther calls him a butcher's son in his Colloquies ; and Polydore Vergil also speaks of his father as a butcher. That his father died in easy circumstances, as stated in the text, is evident from his will, which the reader will find copied in the Appendix to Mr. Singer's excellent edition of Cavendish.

appeal, with laudable vanity, to his university appellation of the boy bachelor, as the best proof of his early devotion to literature.

He was entered, most probably with a view to the church as a means of livelihood, the church being then the great ladder of ambition to men of lowly birth, of Magdalen College, Oxford, where he became a bachelor of arts at fifteen years of age, an occurrence which, as he himself told Cavendish,

was a rare thing, and seldom seen.” He was also, at a very early age, elected fellow of Magdalen; and having been subsequently admitted to orders,* was appointed master of the preparatory school of his college. It is no less creditable to the head than to the heart of Wol. sey that he was, from the commencement to the end of his career, imbued with a deep sense of the importance of the office of instructor of youth ; and that in his school he displayed that perseverance, self-control, and unremitting vigilance, so essential to the business of education, and, it may be added, so indispensable to a penniless votary of ambition. During his residence at Magdalen College, he enjoyed the society of Erasmus, and, it is said, also of sir T. More.

An accident-as it turned out a fortunate oneprevented Wolsey from probably slumbering out his days in the cloisters of his alma mater. It happened that there were among his pupils three sons of Grey, marquis of Dorset (a collateral ancestor of Lady Jane Grey), who, owing to Henry's distrustfulness of the more ancient and wealthy nobility, even though they had been

* At the date of his father's will, 31st of September, 1496, Wolsey was 25 years of age ; and as it should seem was not yet in orders. "I wyll that if Thomas my son be a prest within a yer next after my decesse, than I wyll that he syng for me and my friends, be the space yer,

and he for to have for his salary X more, and, if the seyed Thomas my son be not a prest than I wyll that another honest prest syng for me.” The expression, however, implies that Wolsey was preparing to take orders.

of a

« AnteriorContinuar »