Page images
PDF
EPUB

SIR THOMAS MORE.

7

by the year; so that now must we hereafter, if we like to live together, be contented to become contributors together. But by my best counsel, it shall not be best for us to fall to the lowest fare first; we will not, therefore, descend to Oxford fare, nor to the fare of New Inn; but we will begin with Lincoln's Inn diet, where many right worshipfuls, of good years, do live full well together; which, if we find not ourselves able to maintain the first year, then will we the next year go one step down to New Inn fare, wherewith many an honest man is well contented. If that exceed our ability too, then will we the next year after descend to Oxford fare, wliere many great, learned, and ancient fathers, be continually conversant; which if our power stretch not to maintain neither, then may we yet, with bags and willets, go a begging together, and hoping that for pity some good folks will give us their charity, at every man's door, sing Salve Regina, and so still keep company, and be merry together.”

Till now he had kept his children after they were married, but not being able to support so large a household, he dismissed them to their own homes, and discharged all his state servants, procuring, however, suitable places for them.--From this time he led a private life, passing his hours chiefly in study or devotion, not without some presages of that dark tempest which was gathering around him. Accordingly several aconsations were brought against him, particularly

[blocks in formation]

one for being concerned in the imposture of the holy maid of Kent; but his innocence being proved, his enemies were obliged to cease in their prosecution of him till the passing of the act of supremacy, in 1534, which he refused to take. On this he was committed to the custody of the abbot of Westminster, and next sent to the Tower, where great pains were taken to prevail upon him to comply, but all these failing, he was brought to trial in the King's Bench, and found guilty. The sentence was changed from hanging and quartering to beheading, which was executed July 5, 1548.

While he was in the Tower, Cromwell, then secretary of state, visited him once from the king, and told him that his majesty was his good and gracious lord, and intended not any more to trouble his conscience with any thing wherein he should bave cause of scruple. As soon as the secretary was gone, to express how much comforted he was by these words, he wrote with a coal, (for ink he was not allowed) these verses :

Ey flattering fortune, look thou never so fayre,
Or never so pleasantlie begin to smile ;
As tho' thou wouldest my ruine all repayre :
During my lyfe thou shalt not me beguile.
Trust shall I in God to entre in a while
His haven of heaven, sure and uniforme ;
Even after thy calme, loke I for a storme.

[ocr errors]

The filial piety of Sir Thomas More was remarkably exhibited in bis constant practice, after

ho

[ocr errors]

he was chancellor, of never passing through Westminster-hall to his seat in the chancery, without going into the court of King's bench, where his father was sitting, and asking the blessing of the oid judge on bis knees.

His integrity in his office was sufficiently proved by the reduced state of his circumstances when he resigned the seals ; but there are two or three anecdotes which will serve to illustrate this part of his character.

After his fall the earl of Wiitshire, the father of Anne Boleyne, preferred a complaint against him to the council for having taken a bribe from one Vaughan. Sir Thomas confessed that he had received the cup from the hands of Vaughan's wife, but immediately ordering his butler to fill it with wine, he drank to her, and when she had pledged him, says he, “as freely as your husband hath given this cup to me, even so freely give I the same to you again, to give to your husband for his new year's gift."

At another time one Gresham having a cause depending in chancery, sent Sir Thomas a fair gilt cup, the fashion of which pleased him so well, that he caused one of his own, of more value, to be delivered to the messenger for his master, nor would he receive it on any other condition.

Being presented by a lady with a pair of gloves, and forty pounds in angels in them, he said to her, “ Mistress, since it were against good manners to refuse your new year's gitt, I am content

[ocr errors]

to

1

to take your gloves ; but as for the lining, I utterly refuse it.

The following anecdote of More is given by lord Bacon, in his Essays.

“A person who had a suit in chancery sent him two silver flaggons, not doubting of the agreeableness of the present. On receiving them, More called one of his servants, and told him to fill those two vessels with the best wine in his cellar; and turning round to the servant who had presented them, tell your master,' replied the inflexible magistrate, that if he approves my wine, I beg he would not spare it.'

He paid particular attention to the cause of poor men, and in order to expedite them, he sat every afternoon in his own hall to hear suitors of this description ; but the frequency of his in. junctions to the courts below was complained of by the judges. This being communicated to the chancellor, he ordered a docket of all his injunctions, and the causes for them, to be made out, and then inviting all the judges to dine with him in the council chamber at Westminster, after dinner, he shewed them the docket, upon which, when the Judges allowed the injunctions to be reasonable, averring that they should have done the same in his place, he admonished them not to give occasion for so many injunctions by pursuing the letter of the law too rigorously, observing that it was their duty in all cases to interpret the penal laws in the most favourable sense, and promising

[ocr errors]

SIR THOMAS MORE.

11

that upon so doing he would grant no more injunctions. But they refusing this, he said, " Forasmuch as yourselves, my lords, drive me to that necessity for awarding out injunctions to relieve the people's injuries, you cannot hereafter any more justly blame me !" Talking afterwards, in private, to his son-in-law, Mr. Roper, on this subject, he said, “son, I perceive why they like not so to do; for they see that they may, by the verdict of a jury, cast off all quarrels from themselves, on those, which they do account their just defence, and therefore am I compelled to abide the adventure of all such reports !"

After this he made a very useful order to all the attornies of his court, that no subpænas should be granted unless the particulars of the matter were laid before him, with their hands to the bill; declaring that he would cancel the same if it did not contain a sufficient ground for complaintWhen one of his attornies, whose name was Tub, brought to him the subpæna of his client's cause, requesting his hand to it, Sir Thomas, upon the perusal, finding it to be a frivolous matter, in. stead of his name, wrote underneath it, This is the Tale of a Tub;" from whence, perhaps, came the proverbial saying which Swift made the ground work of one of his best satires.

So great was his diligence in the court of chancery, that though he found it full of causes, yet before he resigned the office, after determining one cause, and calling for the next, he was told

that

« PreviousContinue »