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take care that affairs shall continue in their actual contrasted by Mr. More, his descendant, wi condition until the questions in dispute be deter arrear of a thousand in the time of that gentlemined. A considerable outcry against this neces man, who lived in the reign of Charles I. ; though sary, though invidious authority, was raised at the we have already seen that this difference may be commencement of More's chancellorship. He referred to other causes; and therefore that the silenced this clamour with his wonted prudence fact, if true, proves no more than his exemplary and meekness. Having caused one of the six diligence and merited reputation. clerks to make out a list of the injunctions issued The scrupulous and delicate integrity of More by himn, or pending before him, he invited all the (for so it must be called in speaking of that age) judges to dinner. He laid the list before them; was more clearly shown after his resignation, than and explained the circumstances of each case so it could have been during his continuance in ofsatisfactorily, that they all confessed that in the like fice. One Parnell complained of him for a decree case they would have done no less. Nay, he obtained by nis adversary Vaughan, whose wife offered to desist from the jurisdiction, if they had bribed the chancellor by a gilt cup. He surwould undertake to contain the law within the prised the counsel at first, by owning that he reboundaries of righteousness, which he thought ceived the cup as a new year's gift. Lord Wiltthey ought in conscience to do. The judges de shire, a zealous protestant, indecently, but premaclined to make the attempt; on which he observed turely, exulted. “Did I not tell you, my lords," privately to Roper, that he saw they trusted to said he," that you would find this matter true?"their influence for obtaining verdicts which would “But, my lords,” replied More, “hear the other shift the responsibility from them to the juries. part of my tale. After having drank to her of "Wherefore," said he, “I am constrained to abide wine with which my butler had filled the cup, and the adventure of their blame."
when she had pledged him, he restored it to her, Dauncey, one of his sons-in-law, alleged that and would listen to no refusal.” When Mrs. under Wolsey “even the door-keepers got great Croker, for whom he had made a decree against gains," and was so perverted by the venality there lord Arundel, came to him to request his acceptpractised that he expostulated with More for his ance of a pair of gloves, in which were contained churlish integrity. The chancellor said, that if 401. in angels, he told her, with a smile, that it " his father, whom he reverenced dearly, were on were ill manners to refuse a lady's present; but the one side, and the devil, whom he hated with though he should keep the gloves, he must return all his might, on the other, the devil should have the gold, which he enforced her to receive. Grehis right.” He is represented by his descendant, sham, a suitor, sent him a present of a gilt cup, of as softening bis answer by promising minor ad which the fashion pleased him. More accepted Fantages, such as priority of hearing, and recom it; but would not do so till Gresham received mendation of arbitration, where the case of a friend from him another cup of greater value, but of which was bad. The biographer, however, not being a the form and workmanship were less suitable to the lawyer, might have misunderstood the conversa chancellor. It would be an indignity to the memotion, which had to pass through more than one ry of such a man to quote these facts as proofs of generation before the tradition reached him; or his probity; but they may be mentioned as specithe words may have been a hasty effusion of good mens of the simple and unforced honesty of one nature, uttered only to qualify the roughness of his who rejected improper offers with all the ease and bonesty. to these pleasantry
, his head and heart would have recoilea PleHenry, in bestowing the great seal on More,
alike from breaches of equality which he would have felt to be altogether dishonest. When Heron, another of his sons-in-law, relied on the bad practices of the times, so far as to entreat a favourable judgment in a cause of his own, More, though the most affectionate of fathers, immediately undeceived him by an adverse decree. This act of common justice is made an object of panegyric by the biographer, as if it were then deemed an extraordinary instance of virtue; a deplorable symptom of that corrupt state of general opinion, which, half a century later, contributed to betray into igDominious vices the wisest of men, and the most illustrious of chancellors,-if the latter distinction be not rather due to the virtue of a More or a Somers.
He is said to have despatched the causes before him so speedily, that, on asking for the next, he was told that none remained; which is boastfully
hoped to dispose his chancellor to lend his authority to the projects of divorce and second marriage, which now agitated the king's mind, and were the main objects of his policy.* Arthur, the eldest son of Henry VII., had married Catharine, the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella, sovereigns of Castile and Aragon. As the young prince died very shortly after his nuptials, Henry obtained a dispensation from pope Julius II. to enable the princess to marry her brother-in-law, afterwards Henry VIII. That monarch solemnised his marriage with her after his accession, and lived sixteen years
in apparent harmony with her. Mary was the only child of this marriage who survived infancy; but in the year 1527 a concurrence of events
*" Thomas Morus, doctrina et probitate spectabilis vir, cancellarius in Wolsai locum constituitur. Neutiquam Regis causæ æquior.”—Thuani Hist, sui T'emporis, lib. ii. c. 16. edit. Lond. 1733. 1. 31.
arose, which tried and established the virtue of More, and revealed to the world the depravity of his master. Henry was touched by the charms of Anne Boleyn, a beautiful lady, in her twentysecond year, the daughter of sir Thomas Boleyn, earl of Wiltshire, who had lately returned from the court of France, where her youth had been spent. At the same moment it became the policy of Francis I. to loosen all the ties which joined the king of England to the emperor. When the bishop of Tarbes, his ambassador in England, found, on his arrival in London, the growing distate of Henry for his inoffensive and exemplary wife, he promoted the king's inclination towards divorce, and suggested a marriage with Margaret duchess of Alençon, the beautiful and graceful sister of Francis 1.*
At this period Henry for the first time professed to harbour conscientious doubts whether the dispensation of Julius II. could suspend the obligation of the divine prohibition pronounced against such a marriage in the Levitical law. The court of Rome did not dare to contend that the dispensation could reach the case if the prohibition were part of the universal law of God. Henry, on the other side, could not consistently question its validity, if he considered the precept as belonging to merely positive law. To this question, therefore, the dispute was confined, though both parties shrunk from an explicit and precise avowal of their main ground. The most reasonable solution that it was a local and temporary law, forming a part of the Hebrew code, might seem at first sight to destroy its authority altogether. But if either party had been candid, this prohibition, adopted by all Christendom, might be justified by that general usage, in a case where it was not remarkably at variance with reason or the public welfare. But such a doctrine would have lowered the ground of this papal authority too much to be acceptable to Rome, and yet, on the other hand, rested it on loo unexceptionable a foundation to suit the case of Henry. False allegations of facts in the preamble of the bull were alleged on the same side ; but they were inconclusive. The principal arguments in the king's favour
" Margarita Francisci soror, spectatæ formæ et venustatis fæmina, Carolo Alenconio duce marito paulo ante mortuo, vidua permanserat. Ea destinata uxor Henrico: missique Wolsaus et Bigerronum Præsul qui de dissolvendo matrimonio cum Gallo age
Ut caletum appulit Wolsæus mandatum a rege contrarium accipit, rescivitque per amicos Henricum non tam Galli adfinitatem quam insanum amorem quo Annam Bolenam prosequebatur, explere vele. Thuan, ubi suprà.
No trace of the latter part appears in the state papers just published.
| Leviticus, xv. 3. xx. 22. But see Deuteronomy, xxv.5. The latter text, which allows an exception in the case of a brother's wife being left childless, may be thought to strengthen the prohibition in all cases not excepted. It may seem applicable to the precise case of Henry. Bui the application, of that text is impossible ; for it contains an injunction, of which the breach is chastised by a disgraceful punishment.
were, that no precedents of such a dispensation seem to have been produced ; and that if the Levitical probibitions do not continue in force under the Gospel, there is no prohibition against incestuous marriages in the system of the New Testament. It was a disadvantage to the church of Rome in controversy, that being driven from the low ground by its supposed tendency to degrade the subject, and deterred from the high ground by the fear of the reproach of daring usurpation, the inevitable consequence was confusion and fluctuation respecting the first principles on which the question was to be determined.
To pursue this subject through the long negotiations and discussions which it occasioned during six years, would be to lead us far from the life of sir Thomas More, even if the writer of these pages had not very recently attempted a summary account of them.* Suffice.it here to say, that Clement VII. (Medici), though originally inclined to favour the suit † of Henry, according to the usual policy of the Roman court, which sought plausible pretexts for facilitating the divorce of kings, whose matrimonial connections might be represented as involving the quiet of nations; an allegation whica was often enough true to be always specious. The sack of Rome and the captivity of the pontiff left Clement full of fear of the emperor's power and displeasure; it is even said that Charles V., who had discovered the secret designs of the English court, had extorted from the pope, before his release, a promise that no attempt would be made to dishonour an Austrian princess by acceding to the divorce. The pope, unwilling to provoke Henry, his powerful and generous protector, instructed Campeggio to attempt, first, a reconciliation between the king and queen ; secondly, it that failed, to endeavour to persuade her that she ought to acquiesce in her husband's desires, by entering into a cloister ; a proposition which seems to show a readiness in the Roman court to wave their theological difficulties; and, thirdly, if neither of these attempts were successful, to spin out the negotiation to the greatest length, in order to profit by the favourable incidents which time might bring forth. The impatience of the king and the honest indignation of the queen defeated these arts of Italian policy. The resistance of Anne Boleyn to the irregular gratification of the king's desires, without the belief of which it is impossible to conceive the motives for his perseverance in the pursuit of an unequal marriage, opposed another impediment to the counsels and contrivances of Clement, which must have surprised and perplexed a Florentine pontiff. All these proceedings terminated in the sentence of nullity in the case of Henry's marriage with Catherine, pronounced by Cranmer, the espousal of Anne
* History of England, ii.
† Pallavicino, lib. i. c. 15. edit. de. Milan, 1745, v. 1. p. 251.
| Id. ibid, from MS. Correspondence.
Boleyn by the king, and the rejection of the papal jurisdiction by the kingdom, which still, however, adhered to the doctrines of the Roman catholic church.
The situation of More during a great part of these memorable events was embarrassing. The great offices to which he was raised by the king, the personal favour hitherto constantly shown to him, and the natural tendency of his gentle and quiet disposition, combined to disincline him to resistance against the wishes of his friendly master. On the other hand, his growing dread and horror of heresy, with its train of disorders ; his belief that universal anarchy would be the inevitable result of religious dissension, and the operation of seven years' controversy for the Catholic church, in heating his mind on all subjects involving the extent of her authority, made him recoil from designs which were visibly tending towards disunion with the Roman pontiff, the centre of Catholic union, and the supreme magistrate of the ecclesiastical commonwealth. Though his opinions relating to the papal authority were of a mo. derate and liberal nature, he at least respected it as an ancient and venerable control on licentious opinions, of which the prevailing heresies attested the value and the necessity.
Though he might have been better pleased with another determination by the supreme pontiff, it did not follow that he should contribute to weaken the holy see, assailed as it was on every side, by taking an active part in resistance to the final decision of a lawful authority. Obedience to the supreme head of the church in a case which ultimately related only to discipline, appeared pecularly incumbent on all professed catholics. But however sincere the zeal of More for the catholic religion and his support of the legitimate supremacy of the Roman see undoubtedly were, he was surely influenced at the same time by the humane feelings of his just and generous nature, which engaged his heart to espouse the cause of a blameless and wronged princess, driven from the throne and the bed of a tyrannical husband. Though he reasoned the case as a divine and a canonist, he must have felt it as a man. That honest fceling must have glowed beneath the subtleties and formalities of doubtful and sometimes frivolous disputations. It was probably often the chief cause of conduct for which other reasons might be sincerely alleged.
In steering his course through the intrigues and passions of the court, it is very observable that More most warily retired from every opposition but that which conscience absolutely required: he shunned unnecessary disobedience as much as unconscientious compliance. If he had been influenced solely by prudential considerations, he could not have more cautiously shunned every needless opposition ; but in that case he would not have gone so far. He displayed, at the time of which we now speak, that very peculiar excellence of
his character, which, as it showed his submission to be the fruit of sense of duty, gave dignity to that which in others is apt to seem and to be slavish.
The anxieties of More increased with the apa proach towards the execution of the king's pro. jects of divorce and second marriage. Some anecdotes of this period are preserved by the affec tionate and descriptive pen of Margaret Roper's husband, which, as he evidently reports in the chancellor's language, it would be unpardonable to relate in any other words than those of the venerable man himself. Roper, indeed, like another Plutarch, consults the unrestrained freedom of his story by a disregard of dates, which, however agreeable to a general reader, is some times unsatisfactory to a searcher after accuracy. Yet his office in a court of law, where there is the strongest inducement to ascertain truth, and the largest experience of the means most effectual for that purpose, might have taught him the extreme importance of time as well as place in estimating the bearing and weight of testimony.
“ On a time walking with me along the Thames' side at Chelsea, he said unto me, 'Now would to our Lord, son Roper, upon condition that three things were well established in Christ endom, I were put into a sack, and were presently cast into the Thames.'—What great things be those, sir ?' quoth I, 'that should move you so to wish.'—In faith, son, they be these,' said he. • The first is, that whereas the most part of Christian princes be at mortal war, they were all at universal peace. The second, that where the church of Christ is at present sore afflicted with many errors and heresies, it were well settled in perfect uniformity of religion. The third, that as the matter of the king's marriage is now come in question, it were, to the glory of God and quietness of all parties, brought to a good conclusion.'" *
On another occasion T, " before the matrimony was brought in question, when I, in talk with sir Thomas More (of a certain joy), commended unto him the happy estate of this realm, that had so catholic a prince, so grave and sound a nobility, and so loving, obedient subjects, agreeing in one faith.
“Truth it is, indeed, son Roper; and yet I pray God, as high as we sit upon the mountains, treading heretics under our feet like ants, live not the day that we gladly would wish to be at league and composition with them, to let them have their churches, so that they would be contented to let us have ours quietly. I answered, ' By my troth, it is very desperately spoken. He, perceiving me to be in a fume, said merrily,Well, well, son
* The description of the period appears to suit the year 1529, before the peace of Cambray and the recall of the legate Campeggio.
† Probably in the beginning of 1527, after the pro. motion of More to be chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster.
Roper, it shall not be so.' Whom,” concludes a chancellor must be required, he made suit to Roper, “in sixteen years and more, being in his “his singular dear friend,” the duke of Norfolk, to house, conversant with him, I never could perceive
procure his discharge from this office. The duke, him as much as once in a fume.”
often solicited by More, then obtained, by imporDoubtless he was somewhat disquieted by the tunate suit, a clear discharge for the chancellor. reflection, that some of those who now appealed | When he repaired to the king, to resign the great to the freedom of his youthful philosophy against seal into his majesty's hands, Henry received him himself would speedily begin to abuse such doc with thanks and praise for his worthy service, and trines by turning them against the peace which he assured him, that in any suit that should either loved,—that some of the spoilers of Rome might concern his honour or appertain unto his profit, the exhibit the like scenes of rapine and blood in the king would show himself a good and gracious city which was his birth-place and his dwelling master to his faithful servant. The king directed place. Yet, even then, the placid mien, which had
Norfolk, when he installed his successor, to de. stood the test of every petty annoyance for sixteen clare publicly, that his majesty had with pain years, was unruffled by alarms for the impending yielded to the prayers of sir Thomas More, by the fate of his country and of his religion.
removal of such a magistrate.* Henry used every means of procuring an opinion At the time of his resignation he asserted, and favourable to his wishes from his chancellor, who circumstances, without reference to his character, excused himself as unmeet for such matters, hav demonstrate the truth of his assertion, that his ing never professed the study of divinity. But the whole income, independent of grants from the king " sorely” pressed him *, and never ceased
crown, did not amount to more than 501. yearly. urging him until he had promised to give his This was not more than an eighth part of his consent, at least, to examine the question, con gains at the bar and his judicial salary from the city junctly with his friend Tunstall and other learned of London taken together,--so great was the prodivines. After the examination, More, with his portion in which his fortune had declined during wonted ingenuity and gentleness, conveyed the eighteen years of employment in offices of such result to his master. “To be plain with your trust, advantage, and honour.f In this situation grace, neither your bishops, wise and virtuous the clergy voted, as a testimonial of their gratithough they be, nor myself, nor any other of your tude to him, the sum of 50001. pounds, which was council, by reason of your manifold benefits be a hundred times the amount of his income ; and, stowed on us, are meet counsellors for your grace according to the rate of interest at that time, would herein. If you mind to understand the truth, have yielded him 500l. a year, being ten times the consult St. Jerome, St. Augustin, and other holy yearly sum which he could then call his own. But doctors of the Greek and Latin churches, who will good and honourable as he knew their messengers not be inclined to deceive you by respect of their to be, of whom Tunstall was one, he declared that own worldly commodity, or by fear of your prince he would rather cast his money into the sea than ly displeasure.” | Though the king did not like take it : not speaking from a boastful pride, most what “was disagreeable to his desires, yet the foreign from his nature, but shrinking with a sort language of More was so wisely tempered, that of instinctive delicacy from the touch of money, for the present he took it in good part, and often even before he considered how much the accept times had conferences with the chancellor there ance of the gift might impair his usefulness. on.” The native meekness of More was probably His resources were of a nobler nature. The more effectual than all the arts by which cour simplicity of his tastes and the moderation of his tiers ingratiate themselves, or insinuate unpalata indulgences rendered retrenchment a task so easy ble counsel.
to himself, as to be scarcely perceptible in his perShortly after, the king again moved him to sonal habits. His fool or jester, then a necessary weigh and consider the great matter. The chan part of a great man's establishment, he gave to the cellor fell down on his knees, and reminding Hen lord mayor for the time being. His first care was ry of his own words on delivering the great seal, to provide for his attendants, by placing his gentlewhich were,—"First look upon God, and after
men and yeomen with peers and prelates, and his God upon me,” added, that nothing had ever so eight watermen in the service of his successor sir pained him as that he was not able to serve his T. Audley, to whom he gave his great barge, one grace in that matter, without a breach of that ori
of the most indispensable appendages of his office ginal injunction which he had received on the ac in an age when carriages were unknown. His ceptance of his office. The king said he was con
sorrows were for separation from those whom tent to accept his service otherwise, and would he loved. He called together his children and continue his favour ; never with that matter mo grandchildren, who had hitherto lived in peace -lesting his conscience afterwards. But when the and love under his patriarchal roof, and, lamenting progress towards the marriage was so far advanced that he saw how soon the active co-operation of
*" Honorifice jussit rex de me testatum reddere quod ægre ad preces meas me demiserit." - Mori
Ep. ad Erasm. * Roper, p. 32. | Id. 48. I Id. † Apology, c. X. English Works, p. 867.
that he could not as he was wont, and as he glad these matters within a while be not confirmed with ly would, bear out the whole charges of them all oaths !” He accordingly answered his friends himself
, continue living together as they were the bishops well :-“ Take heed, my lords : by wont, he prayed them to give him their counsel on procuring your lordships to be present at the corothis trying occasion. When he saw them silent, nation, they will next ask you to preach for the and unwilling to risk an opinion, he gave them his, setting forth thereof; and finally to write books to seasoned with his natural gaiety, and containing all the world in defence thereof." some strokes illustrative of the state of society at This warning letter was not likely to be ac that time. _“I have been brought up,” quoth he, ceptable to Henry. An opportunity presented it"at Oxford, at an inn of Chancery, at Lincoln's self for trying another, in which it is very probaInn, and also in the king's court, from the lowest ble that he, in the first instance, limited his plan degree to the highest, and yet I have at present to menace, which he thought would be sufficient left me little above 1001. a year” (including the to subdue the obstinacy of More, whom a man of king's grants); "so that now if we like to live to violent nature might believe to be fearful, because gether we must be content to be contributaries he was peaceful. Elizabeth Barton, called the together ; but we must not fall to the lowest fare holy maid of Kent, who had been, for a considerafirst :-we will begin with Lincoln's Inn diet, ble number of years, afilicted by convulsive mala. where many right worshipful and of good years dies, felt her morbid susceptibility so excited by do live full well; which, if we find not ourselves the Henry's profane defiance of the catholic church, first year able to maintain, then will we the next and his cruel desertion of Catharine, his faithful year go one step to New Inn fare: if that year ex wife, that her pious and humane feelings led her ceed our ability, we will the next year descend to to represent, and probably to believe herself to be Oxford fare, where many grave, learned, and an visited by a divine revelation of those punishments cient fathers are continually conversant. If our which the king was about to draw down on himability stretch not to maintain either, then may we self and on the kingdom. In the universal opiyet with bags and wallets go a begging together,
nion of the sixteenth century, such interpositions and hoping for charity at every man's door, to sing
were considered as still occurring. The neighSalve regina ; and so still keep company and be
bours and visiters of the unfortunate young womerry together."*
man believed her ravings to be prophecies, and On the Sunday following his resignation, he the contortions of her body to be those of a frame stood at the door of his wife's pew in the church, heaving and struggling under the awful agitations where one of his dismissed gentlemen had been of divine inspiration, and confirmed that convicused to stand, and making a low obeisance to tion of a mission from God, for which she was Alice as she entered, said to her with perfect gra predisposed by her own pious benevolence, comvity,—“Madam, my lord is gone.” He who for bined with the general error of the age. Both seventeen years had not raised his voice in displea
Fisher and More appear not to have altogether sure, would not be expected to sacrifice the grati
disbelieved her pretensions. More expressly defication of his innocent merriment to the heaviest clared, that he durst not and would not be bold in blows of fortune. Nor did he at fit times fail to judging her miracles.* In the beginning of her prepare bis beloved children for those more cruel prophecies, he had been commanded by the king strokes which he began to foresee. Discoursing
to enquire into her case ; and he made a report to with them, he enlarged on the happiness of suf Henry, who agreed with More in considering the fering, for the love of God, the loss of goods, of
whole of her miraculous pretensions as frivolous, liberty, of lands, of life. He would further say and deserving no farther regard. But in 1532, unto them, that if he might perceive his wife and several monks † su magnified her performances to children would encourage him to die in a good
him that he was prevailed on to see her; but recause, it should so comfort him, that for very joy
fused to hear her speak about the king, saying to it would make him run merrily to death.
her, in general terms, that he had no desire to pry It must be owned that Henry felt the weight of
into the concerns of others. Pursuant, as it is this great man's opinion, and tried every possible said, to a sentence by or in the Star Chamber, she means to obtain at least the appearance of his stood in the pillory at Paul's Cross, acknowledgspontaneous approbation. After the marriage | ing herself to be guilty of the imposture of claimwith queen Anne, the king commanded Tunstall ing inspiration, and saying that she was tempted and other prelates to desire his attendance at the to this fraud by the instigation of the devil. Concoronation at Westminster. They wrote a letter
sidering the circumstances of the case, and the to persuade him to comply, and accompanied it
character of the parties, it is far more probable that with the needful present of 201. to buy a court
the ministers should have obtained a false confes. dress. Such overtures he had foreseen ; for he sion from her hopes of saving her life, than that a said some time before to Roper, when he first heard simple woman should have contrived and carried of that marriage, “God grant, son Roper, that
* More's letter to Cromwell, probably written in
the end of 1532. *Roper, pp. 51, 52.
† Of whom some were afterwards executed.