Page images

Erasmus fays again of this excellent man fpon after his execution:

"All men, even those who diflike him for "differing from them in religion, must lament "the death of Sir Thomas More; so great was M his courtesy to all, so great his affability, so

sweet his disposition. Many persons favour "only their own countrymen: Frenchmen '" favour a Frenchman; Scotchmen favour a "Scotchman; but More's general benevolence ." hath imprinted his memory so deep in al "men's hearts, that they bewail his death as "that qf their own father or brother. I myself ¥ have seen many persons weep for Mqre's ** death, who had never seen him, nor yet re"ceived any kindness from him. Nay, as I ." write, tears flow from my eyes, whether I "will or not. How many persons has that axe "wounded, which severed More's head from "his body ("


f Therefore," adds Erasmus, "when ray *1 friends have congratulated me that I had a

friend like More placed in so eminent a station, f* I was used to say that I would never congra." tulate him upon his increase of dignity till he t* himself told me that I might."

[blocks in formation]

Sir Thomas More used to say of ungrateful persons, that they wrote good turns done to them in the dust, but engraved injuries upon marble. Of the folly of those who were overanxious for the dignities of the world, he observed, "As a criminal who is about to be "led to execution would be accounted foolisti, "if he mould engrave his coat of arms upon "the gate of the prison; even so are they vain, "who endeavour with great industry to erect ** monuments of their dignity in the prison of m this world."

"The King, Henry the Eighth," fays Mr. More, in the Life of his Grandfather, " used of « a particular love to come on a suddain to "Chelsey, where Sir Thomas More lived, and "leaning upon his moulder, to talke with him ** of secrett counsel in his garden, yea, and "to dine with him upon no inviting."

"It happened one day," fays Mr. Aubrey, in his Manuscript Lives, " that a mad Tom of "Bedlam came up to Sir Thomas More as he "was contemplating, according to his custom, ** on the leads of the gate-house of his palace at ** Chelfea, and had a mind to have thrown him ** from the battlements, crying out, Leap, Tom, "leap. The Chancellor was in his gown, and


besides, ancient and unable to struggle with ** such a strong fellow. My Lord had a little "dog with him. Now, (said he,) let us first ** throw the dog downe, and fee what sport that "will be: so the dog was thrown over. Is not ** this fine sport (said his Lordship)? Let us "fetch him up and try it again. As the mad** man was going down, my Lord fastened the "door, and called for help."

When Sir Thomas was Lord Chancellor, he constantly fat at mass in the chancel of Chelsea church, while his Lady fat in a pew; and because the pew stood out of sight, his Gentleman Usher ever after service opened it, and said to Lady More, "Madam, my Lord is gone." On the Sunday after the Chancellor's place was taken from him, (of which he had not apprized his wife,) the family went to church as usual; when, after the service, Sir Thomas himself came to his wife's pew, and said, ** Madam, my Lord is gone," to her great astonishment and indignation.

More's spirit and innocent mirth did not for"sake him in his last moments. As he was going up the scaffold to be beheaded, he found the stairs of it so weak and crazy, that it was nearly ready to fall: he turned about to the Lieutenant of the Tower and said, " Pray, Master LieuH 2 "tenant, "tenant, see me safe up -, and for my coming "down, I can shift for myself." When he had finished his prayers, he turned to the executioner and said, on observing him look sad and dejected, " Pluck up thy spirits, Man, and be not "afraid to do thine office; my neck is very "short, therefore take care you do not strike "awry, for your credit's fake." Then laying his head upon the block, he desired the executioner to stay till he had put his beard aside, ** for that," said he, " has never committed ** treason." Mr. Addison well observes, " that what was only philosophy in Sir Thomas "More, would be phrenzy in one who does not "resemble him in the cheerfulness of his temper, ** and in the sanctity of his life and manners."

The Duke of Norfolk advised Sir Thomas, previous to his trial, to make his submission to his unprincipled and obdurate Sovereign. "By "the mass, Sir Thomas," said he, " it is peri"lous striving with Princes; therefore I could "wish you as a friend to incline to the King's "pleasure; for, by God's body, Indignatioprin"cipis mors eft." "Is that all, my Lord f" re? plied Sir Thomas: " In good faith, then, there ** is no more difference between your Grace and "me, than that I shall die to-day and your Grace M t9-morrow. If therefore the anger of a Prince

** causeth. "causeth but temporal death, we have greater "cause to fear the eternal death which the King M of Heaven can condemn us unto, if we sticke "not to displease him by pleasing an earthly "King/'

"When the news of More's death was brought "to the King," fays Stapleton, " he was play"ing at tables; Anne Boleyn was looking on. M The King cast his eyes upon her, and said, "Thou art the cause of this man's death! and "presently leaving his play, he retired to his "chamber, and fell into a deep melancholy."

It is wonderful what mischievous effects superstition and prejudice produce upon the wisest heads and the best hearts':—One Frith had written against the corporal presence; and on his not retracting, after More had answered him, he caused him to be burned1 .

"James Bainton," fays Burnet, " a Gentle"man of the Temple, was taken to the Lord "Chancellor's house, where much pains was ** taken^to persuade him to discover those who "favoured the new opinions. But, fair means "not prevailing, More had him whipped in his "presence, and after that sent to the Tower,

where he looked on, and saw him put to the "rack. He was burned in Smithfield; and H3 "with

« PreviousContinue »