« AnteriorContinuar »
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 1 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."‡
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. "The 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 disposi tion of his mind; and as he died in a fixed and settled hope of immortality, he thought any unusual degree of sorrow and concern improper."* *Spectator, No. 349.
According to the barbarous practice of laws which vainly struggle to carry their cruelty beyond the grave, the head of sir Thomas More was placed on London bridge. His darling daughter, Margaret, had the courage to procure the head to be taken down, that she might exercise her affection by continuing to look on a head so dear. Carrying her love beyond the grave, she desired ́that it might be buried with her when she died, which was about nine years after the fate of her father. The remains of this precious relic are said to have been since observed in the burial place, sying on what had been her bosom. Her male descendants appear to have been soon extinct. Her descendants through females are probably numerous.* This admirable woman resembled her father in mind, in manner, in the features and expression of her countenance, and in her form and gait. Her learning was celebrated throughout Christendom: it is seldom that literature wears a more agreeable aspect than when it becomes a bond of union between such a father and such a daughter. His eldest son, John, married Anne Crisacre, the heiress of an estate at Barnborough, near Doncaster, still held by his posterity through females. The mansion of the Mores still subsists there. The last male descendant of sir Thomas More, was Thomas More, a jesuit, who was principal of the college of jesuits at Bruges, and died at Bath in 1795, having survived his famous order, and, according to the appearances of that time, his ancient religion; as if the family of More were one of the many ties which may be traced through the interval of two centuries and a half between the revolutions of religion and those of government.
The letters and narratives of Erasmus diffused the story of More's fate throughout Europe. Cardinal Pole bewailed it with elegance and feeling. It filled Italy, the most cultivated portion of Europe, with horror. Paulo Jovio called Henry a Phalaris, though we shall in vain look in the story of Phalaris, or of any other real or legendary tyrant, for a victim worthy of being compared to More. The English ministers throughout Europe were regarded with averted eyes as the agents of a monster. At Venice, Henry, after this deed, was deemed capable of any crimes. He was believed there to have murdered Catharine, and to be about to murder his daughter Mary. The catholic zeal of Spain, and the resentment of the Spanish people against the oppression of Catharine, quickened their sympathy with More, and aggravated their detestation of Henry. Mason, the envoy at Valladolid, thought every pure Latin phrase too weak for More, and describes him by a phrase as
* One of them, Mr. James Hinton Baverstock, inserted his noble pedigree from Margaret, in 1819, in a copy of More's English Works, at this moment before me.
† Hunter's South Yorkshire, pp. 574, 375. Ellis's Letters.
contrary to the rules of that language as "thrice greatest *" would be to the idiom of ours. When intelligence of his death was brought to the emperor Charles V., he sent for sir T. Elliot, the English embassador, and said to him, My lord embassador, we understand that the king your master has put his wise counsellor sir Thomas More to death." Elliot, abashed, made answer that he understood nothing thereof. "Well," said the emperor, "it is too true; and this we will say, that if we had been master of such a servant, we should rather have lost the best city in our dominions than have lost such a worthy counsellor." "Which matter," says Roper, in the concluding words of his beautiful narrative, was by sir T. Elliot told to myself, my wife, to Mr. Clement and his wife, and to Mr. Heywood and his wife."
Of all men nearly perfect, sir Thomas More had, perhaps, the clearest marks of individual character. His peculiarities, though distinguishing him from all others, were yet withheld from growing into moral faults. It is not enough to say of him that he was unaffected, that he was natural, that he was simple; so the larger part of truly great men have been. But there is something homespun in More which is common to him with scarcely any other, and which gives to all his faculties and qualities the appearance of being the native growth of the soil. The homeliness of his pleasantry purifies it from show. He walks on the scaffold clad only in his household goodness. The unrefined benignity with which he ruled his patriarchal dwelling at Chelsea enabled him to look on the axe without being disturbed by feeling hatred for the tyrant. This quality bound together his genius and learning, his eloquence and fame, with his homely and daily duties, bestowing a genuineness on all his good qualities, a dignity on the most ordinary offices of life, and an accessible familiarity on the virtues of a hero and a martyr, which silences every suspicion that his excellences were magnified.
He thus simply performed great acts, and uttered great thoughts, because they were familiar to his great soul. The charm of this inborn and homebred character seems as if it would have been taken off by polish. It is this household character which relieves our notion of him from vagueness, and divests perfection of that generality and coldness to which the attempt to paint a perfect man is so liable.
It will naturally, and very strongly, excite the regret of the good in every age, that the life of this best of men should have been in the power of him who was rarely surpassed in wickedness. But the execrable Henry was the means of drawing *Ter maximus ille Morus."-Ellis.
Instead of Heywood, perhaps we ought to read "Heron?" In that case the three daughters of sir Thomas More would be present. Mrs. Roper was the eldest, Mrs. Clement the second and Cecilia 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 men, 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 opinions, or of adopting their doctrines because we love and venerate their virtues.
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 parish 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. 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 ot 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, 66 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 Wolsey 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 of a 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 The expression, however, implies that Wolsey was preparing to take orders.
enemies of the house of York, then lived in rural retirement. During the Christmas holidays in 1499, Wolsey attended his "three honourable scholars" to their father's house; when he so gained upon the marquis by his fascinating powers of conversation, and by the progress which his pupils had made under his care, that that nobleman presented him to the rectory of Lymington in Somersetshire, a benefice in the gift of his family. Wolsey was in the 29th year of his age when he obtained this his first church preferment, for which he immediately relinquished his school and other collegiate appointments. Before, however, he left the university, he had given proofs of the love of literature, enterprising magnificence, and patronage of art, which were the virtues of his character; and had given occasion for the suspicion of that disregard of any quality in means except their immediate efficacy, which was his predominant and fatal vice. He was elected bursar of his college in 1498, at which time Erasmus was at Oxford; and he zealously concurred with that eminent scholar and genius (whose venal praise and dispraise of Wolsey are alike disgraceful to literature) in encouraging the study of the Greek writers, or, as it was then called, the new learning. At the same time Wolsey had erected the tower of Magdalen College chapel, known by the name of Wolsey's Tower, admired for the chaste simplicity and elegance of its architecture. The building of this tower involved Wolsey in pecuniary embarrassments which affected his reputation : for he is affirmed to have fraudulently applied the college funds, over which his office of bursar gave him some control, to the erection of the edifice; and is even reported to have used violent means to supply himself from the college treasury with the necessary money. The same taste for building attended and embarrassed him in every stage of his career: for no sooner was he settled in his "cure" than he set about repairing and beautifying the church and parsonage house; and to this day Esher, Christ Church college Oxford, and Hampton Court remain monuments of his wealth, love of magnificence, and genius for architecture. Never, indeed, was there a clergyman to whom the designation in the epigram—" ut donem pastor et ædificem,"-would more happily apply.
Wolsey remained at the rectory of Lymington but two years, during which an incident, curious in many of its bearings, occurred, that is not unworthy of our notice. Wolsey, being of a "free and sociable temper" (we quote the Biographia Britannica), went with some of his neighbours to a fair in an adjacent town, where his reverence is said to have got so drunk* as to create some
*The ground for this assertion is not known, and should seem to have no earlier authority than sir John Harrington. Cavendish professes ignorance of the cause which, "Sir, by your leave, made the knight so bold to set the schoolmaster by the feet during pleasure." It may be remarked that Storer, in his me
disorders; for which he was punished by a sir Amyas Paulet, a neighbouring justice of the peace, with the "ignominious durance" of the public stocks of the town. This incident is interesting as illustrative of the manners of the times. The fact of a beneficed clergyman being thus held up to popular derision for an indecorum which many of his successors, even in the present day, might term an act of good fellowship, jars much with our notions of modern refinement. But it clearly shows the fruitfulness of the English soil for the seeds of the approaching Reformation; and proves that our catholic ancestors were not so priest-ridden, nor those priests so openly dissolute in their habits, as protestant zeal has repeatedly asserted. It is probable that Wolsey considered the affront to be aimed at the meanness of his birth; for, being of a temper less prone to resent injuries than contempt, he held it in angry recollection till fortune placed the offender within his power. Though prudence and magnanimity should have prevented his raking up the transaction from probable oblivion, Wolsey, on his becoming lord chancellor, sent for sir Amyas, and, sternly reprimanding him for his affront to the rector of Lymington, commanded him to remain within the bounds of the Temple during pleasure. The mode by which, after a confinement of five or six years, the unlucky justice at length mitigated the resentment of the vindictive minister is characteristic. He embellished the exterior of his residence, situate at the gate of the Middle Temple, with the arms, the hat, and other badges of distinction proper to Wolsey as a cardinal; and by this architectural offering to the haughty churchman's vanity obtained his liberty.
On leaving Lymington (the emoluments of the living of which he, however, did not resign for seven years after, having in the mean time obtained two papal dispensations for holding a plurality of benefices), Wolsey entered the service of Deane, archbishop of Canterbury, as domestic chaplain, and soon after that of sir John Nanfar, treasurer of Calais, in the same capacity. The circumstance of his being thus received into the household of the archbishop of Canterbury abundantly disproves an assertion of some of his biographers, that, overwhelmed with shame for the ill odour in which his dissolute conduct at his cure of Lymington caused him to be held, he fled from it suddenly on the death, in 1501, of his patron, the marquis of Dorset; and is, indeed, hardly reconcileable with the scandalous tradition of his inebriety which we have just noticed. Though nominally but chaplain, sir John Nanfar, owing to the infirmity of old age, soon committed to him the whole management of his office, in which Wolsey gave so much satisfaction, that on the knight's return to England, he recommended him with such earnestness to the
trical life of Wolsey, represents him as the injured party. "Wrong'd by a knight for no desert of mine." -See Singer's edition of Cavendish.
king, that Henry (VII.), ever willing to secure the services of men of practical ability, made him one of his chaplains.
This was the step to fortune which Wolsey had long panted for, and which he failed not speedily to improve, as it afforded full scope for the display of all those natural and acquired advantages in which he is admitted to have excelled. We have said that he was eminently favoured by nature in dignity of person and manner: he was, moreover, celebrated according to Cavendish for "a special gift of natural eloquence, with a filed tongue to pronounce the same; so that he was able with the same to persuade and allure all men to his purpose;" or, as Shakspeare phrases it, he was exceeding wise, fair spoken, and persuading." But he possessed endowments still more rare and valuable. Besides his great fluency of diction and practical self-command, Wolscy had a quick and correct perception of character and of the secret springs of action, and a singular power of shaping his conduct and conversation according to circumstances. Hence his extraordinary influence over those in power with whom he came in contact, which seemed to partake of the nature of fascination, and which was not the less paramount and enduring that it was unostentatious, and seemed to but blindly follow where, in fact, it guided. With the gay, youthful, and prodigal Henry VIII., Wolsey was betimes the magnificent courtierthe frolicsome companion-the state Mentor, and the commentator on Thomas Aquinas-the grave minister, and the mirthful favourite; while with the wary and calculating founder of the Tudor dynasty he was remarkable for the laborious assiduity, business-regularity, and monotonous steadiness of his habits. Such power of self-control, combined with his splendid abilities and insinuating address, could not fail to recommend Wolsey to Henry and his ministers, particularly when it was observed (as we are informed by Cavendish) that, after celebrating mass before the king, "he spent not forth the day in vain idleness, but gave his attendance upon those whom he thought to bear most rule in the council, to be most in favour with the king."-chiefly upon Fox, bishop of Winchester, the most influential of Henry's ministers, and sir Thomas Lovell*, master of the wards, both of whom early appreciated and proclaimed the value of the chaplain's civil services. To these statesmen Wolsey was indebted for all that a man of his abilities and ambition required-an opportunity of evincing his zeal and address in the king's immediate service. The circumstances of the occasion on which he was thus employed, though
* Wolsey had not only the address and good qualities necessary to the acquisition of such friends, but also retained them to the last. The affection of bishop Fox is apparent in the last letter which he wrote to him; and sir Thomas Lovell's esteem was manifested at the close of his life: for he leaves him in his will "a standing cup of golde, and one hundred marks in golde."-Singer's Notes.
well known to the readers of history, are worthy of being quoted with some fulness, as they were always referred to by Wolsey himself as the incident which opened the way to his subsequent greatness.
Henry was at the time negotiating his intended marriage with Margaret, duchess dowager of Savoy, the emperor Maximilian's only daughter; and it was necessary to employ a person of great address to adjust with the emperor in person some delicate points connected with the marriage. Fox and Lovell joined in earnestly recommending Wolsey as the fittest person for the commission. "The king, giving ear unto them, and being a prince of excellent judgment and modesty, commanded them to bring his chaplain, whom they so much commended, before his grace's presence. At whose repair thither, to prove the wit of his chaplain, the king fell in communication with him, in matters of weight and gravity: and perceiving his wit to be very fine, thought him sufficient to be put in trust and authority with this embassy; and commanded him to prepare himself for this enterprise and journey, and for his depeche to repair to his grace, and his trusty counsellors aforesaid, of whom he should receive his commission and instructions; by means whereof," continues Cavendish, "he had then a due occasion to repair from time to time to the king's presence, who perceived him more and more to be a very wise man, and of a good entendement."
Wolsey, having thus satisfied the wary monarch of his competency, despatched his commission with a celerity which, notwithstanding the extraordinarily increased facilities of modern conveyance, may perhaps still be considered great, if not surprising. He left the king at Richmond at four o'clock on Sunday, went to Gravesend from London by water that evening in less than three hours, thence posted it to Dover, where he arrived next morning as the passage-boat was about to sail. By it he was conveyed over to Calais before noon, whence he got to Bruges, where Maximilian was staying, by Tuesday morning. Wolsey obtained an immediate audience of the emperor, and pressed that his return might be expedited. He received his answer late in the evening, started from Bruges next morning, and arrived in Richmond the same night. On Thursday morning he attended at court, and threw himself at the king's feet. Henry, supposing he had protracted his departure, was displeased at seeing him, and began to reprove him for the dilatory execution of his orders on which Wolsey, to the king's great surprise, presenting his letters of credence, replied, "If it may please your highness, I have already been with the emperor, and despatched your affairs, I trust to your grace's contentation."-" But on second thoughts," said the king, "I found that somewhat was omitted in your orders, and have sent a messenger after you with fuller instructions."-"Yes, forsooth, sire," quoth Wolsey, "I encountered him yesterday by the way; and, hav