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September 15, 1813. B It cannot be far from the truth to assert, that one of
the most virtuous and brilliant characters in English History is SIR THOMAS MORE, the magnanimous Chancellor of King Henry VIII. His Life has often been written lately, as well as formerly; and the public attention has been more especially revived, (if such a word be applicable to that which was never extinguished), by Mr. Dibdin's beautiful reprint of the “Utopia,” in 1808. I cannot hope, particularly in the short limits of this paper, to add any thing new to the subject. But in an hasty survey of the original Memoirs of this great man, I am not satisfied as to the identity of one of the authors. Though bibliography is not the prime object of The Sylvan Wanderer, I shall not utterly exclude from its pages inquiries which may illustrate it. In the shades of retirement, a pursuit so quiet and innocent may be advantageously indulged.
I shall transcribe the title-pages from the volumes Know lying before me.
I. “ Guilielmi Roperi Vita D. Thomæ Mori Equitis Aurati, lingua Anglicana contexta. Accedunt 3 Mori Epistola de Scholasticis quibusdam Trojanos
sese appellantibus ; Academic Oxoniensis Epistolæ et Orationes aliquam-multæ ; Anonymi Chronicon Godstoviunum; et Fenestrarum depictarum Ecclesiæ Parochialis de Fairford in Agro Glocestriensi Explicatio. · E codicibus vetustis descripsit ediditque Tho.
Hearnius, A.M. Oxoniensis, qui et notas subjecit. B Oxon. Veneunt apud Editorem, 1716.” 8vo. Only 148 copies were printed.
II. “The Life and Death of Sir Thomas More, Knt. Lord High Chancellor of England, in the Reign of King Henry the Eighth. Written by William Rooper, Esq. Prothonotary of the King's Bench. To which are added from Sir Thomas's English Works some Letters of his, &c. referred to in the Account of his Life. London, printed for Thomas Page and
William Mount on Tower Hill; John Osborn and 13 Thomas Longman in Paternoster Row, 1729.” 8vo.
This was edited by that very learned antiquary, the
III. “The Life of Sir Thomas More, Kt. Lord
son of John More, by Anne daughter and heir of K Edward Cressacre; only son of Sir Thomas, Lord Chancellor.
Now as the Biographer tells us himself, that he was “the youngest and meanest of all his family; the youngest of thirteen children, and the youngest and meanest of five sons," and as he speaks of his own “children," how could he be the same Thomas, of whom Anthony Wood speaks, a in whose epitaph it is said, that he took orders at Rome, and in fratrem natu minorem amplum transcripsit patrimonium; and afterwards died at Rome, April 11, 1625?
Yet this last person is also called “ Magni illius Thomæ Mori, Angliæ Cancellarii et Martyris, pronepoti atque hæredi.”
Before me lies that bulky folio volume, entitled, “ The Workes of Sir Thomas More, Knyght, sometyme Lorde Chancellour of England; wrytten by him in the Englysh tonge. Printed at London, at the costes and charges of Cawood, John Waly, und Richarde Tottell. Anno 1557." This, Dibdin pro
nounces to be “one of the rarest books of English 5 Literature," and Lewis, long before, speaks of it as very scarce.
As · The Life of Sir Thomas,' by his great grand-
from its close the following praises of the illustrious
* Ath. i. 40.
Extracts from More's Life.
"Of all Protestants, John Rivius speaketh most passionately of King- Henry's cruel fact, and Sir Thomas's piety, in these words, lib. 2. de Conscientia: 'He that is in a Prince's Court, ought freely, if he be asked his judgment, rather to tell his mind plainly, what is most behoveful for his Prince's good, than to speak placentia, tickling his ears with flattery; neither ought he to praise things which are not praise-worthy, nor to dispraise matters that are not worthy of high commendations; yea, although he be in danger of getting no favour by persuading it, but rather punishment and disgrace for gainsaying men's appetites.' Then bringing Papinianus (that great lawyer) for a lively example thereof, who chose rather to die, than to justify the Emperor Caracalla's killing of his own brother, against his own conscience; he addeth: 'Such a man was lately in our memory, that singular and excellent for learning and piety; yea, the only ornament and glory of his country, Thomas More; who, because he would not agree to, nor approve by his consent, against his own conscience, the new marriage of the King of England, who would needs be divorced from his first wife, and marry another, he was first cast into prison, one that had singularly well deserved of the King himself, and of England; and when he constantly continued in his opinion, which he truly thought to be most just, most lawful and godly, emboldened to defend it by a sincere conscience, he was put to death by that wicked parricide, that most hateful and cruel tyrant; a cruelty not heard of before in this our age. Oh! ingratitude and singular impiety of the king's, who could endure first to macerate with a tedious and loathsome imprisonment, such a sincere and holy good man; one that had been so careful of his glory, so studious of his country's profit; he that had persuaded him always to all justice and honesty, dissuaded him from all contraries, and not convinced of any crime, nor found in any fault, he slew him (Oh! miserable wickedness) not only being innocent, but him that had deserved high rewards, and his most faithful and trusty Chancellor. Are these thy rewards, O Kins;? Is this the thanks thou returnest him for all his truMv
service and good will unto thee? Doth this man reap this commodity for his most faithful acts and employments? But, Oh! More, thou art now happy, and enjoyest eternal felicity; who wouldst leese thy head rather than approve any thing against thine own conscience, who more esteemest righteousness, justice, and piety, than life itself; and whilst thou art deprived of this mortal life, thou passest to the true and immortal happiness of heaven; whilst thou art taken away from men, thou art raised up amongst the numbers of holy Saints and Angels of bliss.' b
“ Last of all, I will recount what the good Emperor Charles the Fifth said unto Sir Thomas Elliot, then the King's Embassador in his Court, after he had heard of Bishop Fisher and Sir Thomas More's martyrdoms; on a time he spoke of it to Sir Thomas Elliot, who seemed to excuse the matter, by making some doubt of the report, to whom the Emperor replied: “It is too true; but if we had had two such lights in all our kingdoms, as these men were, we could rather have chosen to have lost two of the best and strongest towns in all our empire, than suffer ourselves to be deprived of them, much less to endure to have them wrongfully taken from us.'
“ And though none of these should have written any thing thereof, yet the matter itself speaketh abundantly that the cause was most unjust, the manner thereof most infamous, and Sir THOMAS More's patience most admirable, his piety, his learning, his virtues incomparable: famous was he for his noble martyrdom; infamous King Henry for his most unjust condemnation. These things do aggravate King Henry's fault: First, that he killed him by a law, wherein he never offended, either by word or deed, and by that which concerned not temporal policy, but religion only; not rebellious against the King, but fearful to offend his own conscience; which though he refused to approve, yet did he never reprove it, or any other man for taking it. Secondly, that he put to death so rare a man, so beloved of all, so virtuous, so wise, so courteous, and witty; which might be motives sufficient even to pardon a guilty offender. Thirdly, for beheading a man that had done him so much
This, and the foregoing passage are quoted from Rivius, by Dr. Stapleton, in bis “ Life of Sir Thomas More," cap. 21. p. 367, 368.