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was, he said, “God's wounds, is he so stout that he will receive the hat; why then he shall wear it on his shoulders, for by our lady, I'll not leave him a head to set it on." And the tyrant was aş good as his word.
To return to More, the judgment which he had formed of his master was perfectly correct, as the event shewed ; for whatever may be thought of the scruples of Sir Thomas with respect to the acknowledgment of the king's supremacy in matters ecclesiastical, no doubt can be entertained of the inhumanity of Henry in causing such a man to be put to death, for a mere matter of conscience.
His wit and humour he retained to the last, for when he came to the Tower, the porter, according to custom, demanding his upper garment, “Mr. Porter,” said he, “here it is, and taking off his cap, gave it to him, adding, “I am sorry it is no better for thee.” “ No, Sir,” said the porter, “I must have your gown,” which demand was immediately complied with. As soon as he was placed in his apartment, he called on John
Wood, the servant appointed to attend him, and • who could neither write nor read, and swore him
before the lieutenant, that if he shou d hear or see him at any time speak or write any thing, against the king, the council, or the state of the realm, he should communicate it to the lieutenant, that he might reveal the same to the council.
When notice was brought to him of his fate
by bis old friend Sir Thomas Pope, he sent back his " thanks to the king for the favour, declaring that he would pray for his majesty therefore, both here and in the next world, and with the same confident assurance of his future bliss." And when Sir Thomas Pope at parting could not refrain from tears, More desired him to be comforted, saying that he trusted they should one day meet and be merry together in heaven.”
After his condemnation, he was visited by a courtier, whose discourse being nothing else than to urge him to change his mind, Şir Thomas, wearied with his importunity, answered that he had changed it. The courtier immediately hastened to inform the king, who sent him back to know in what respect his mind was changed'; on which Sir Thomas told him that “whereas he had intended to be shaved that he might appear before the people as he had been wont; he was now fully resolved that his beard should have the same fate as his head :" which answer on founded the courtier, and made the king angry .
This story serves to illustrate the remarkable speech which he made on the scaffold, when carefully putting his beard over the block, and being asked why he did it, our hero pleasantly answered that “his beard had committed no treason, though his head might.” When he came to the foot of the scaffold, and some person
offered him his arm to lean upon, he said, “I will take
your assistance now, but in coming down I must shift for myself.”
Some writers having bestowed some censures upon Sir Thomas, for indulging his natural vein of humour in his last moments, particularly Sheffield, Duke of Buckingham, who calls him
“ A dying heroe, miserably witty,"
that excellent 'man, Mr. Addison, undertook his defence as follows: “ His death was of a piece with his life ; there was nothing in it new, forced, or affected. He saw nothing in death to put him from his ordinary humour, and as he died under a fixed and settled hope of immortality, he thought any unusual degree of sorrow and concern improper on such an occasion, as had nothing in it which could deject or terrify him”: and Mr. Addison concludes with the following just observation that“ what was philosophy in this extraordinary man would be frenzy in any one who did not resemble his, as well in the chearfulness of his temper, as in the sanctity of his life and manners.
That he possessed the most tender feelings, as well as great fortitude and pleasantry in the most trying moments, the following affecting narrative of the last interview between him and his favourite daughter Mrs. Roper, will abundantly prove.
Spectator, No. 349, vol. v.
After sentence was passed upon Sir Thomas, as he was going back to the Tower, she rushed through the guards and crowds of people, and came pressing towards him ; at such a sight, courageous as he was, he could hardly bear up under the surprize his passionate affection for her raised in him, for she fell upon his neck, and held him fast in the most endearing embraces, but could not speak one word to him, great griefs haying that stupifying quality of making the most eloqnent dumb. The guards, altho'justly reputed an unrelenting crew, were much moved at this sight, and were therefore more willing to give Sir Thomas leave to speak to her, which he did in these few words : “my dear Margaret, bear with patience, and do not any longer grieve for me. It is the will of God, and therefore must be submitted to ;" and then gave her a parting kiss. — But after she was withdrawn ten or or a dozen feet off, she comes running to him again, falls upon his neck, but grief again stopt her mouth. Her father looked wistfully upon her, but said nothing, the tears trickling down his cheeks, a language too well understood by his distressed daughter, though he bore all this without the least change of countenance : but just when he was to take his final leave of her, he begged her. prayers" to God for him, and took his farewel of her. The officers and soldiers, as rocky as they were, melted at this sight : and no wonder, when
even the very beasts are under the power of natural affections, and often shew them. *
After Sir Thomas was beheaded, Mrs. Roper took care for the burial of his body in the chapel of St. Peter's, ad vincula, within the Tower: and afterwards she procured it to be removed to the chancel of the church at Chelsea. His head having remained about fourteen days on London bridge, was then cast into the Thames, but this heroic woman, who had her father's spirit, and a considerable portion of his learning and genius, pur. chased it of some watermen, and when summoned before the council, she gloried in what she had done, and said that, “ her father's head should not be food for fishes.” She died in 1544, aged 36, and was buried in St. Dunstan's church, in Canterbury, according to her desire, with her father's head, in a leaden box, on the coffin.
Besides her, Sir Thomas had two other daughters, and a son named after his grandfather John. His wife had long desired a boy, and at last she brought Sir Thomas this son, who proved little better than an idiot, on which he told her “ she had prayed so long for a boy, that now she had one who would prove a boy as long as he lived.”.
As a literary character, Sir Thomas is now principally known by his “ Utopia,” a philosophical romance, written first in latin, and afterwards translated by himself into English, It is
* Knight's Life of Erasmus,