Page images

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 hi: , 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.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

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 canie 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 having that stupifying quality of making the most eloqiient dumb. The guards, altho’justly reputed an unrelenting crew, were much moved at this sight, and were therefore more willing to give Sir Thoinas 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 It is the will of God, and therefore must be submitted to ;" and then gave her a parting kiss.But after she was withdrawn ten or or a dozen feet off, she comes running to him again, falls upon his neck, but grief again stopt her mouth.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 wistfuliy 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, inelted at this sight : and no wonder, when even the very beasts are under the power of natural affections, and often shew them. *


'c 3

After Sir Thomas was beheaded, Mrs. Roper took eare 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, purchased 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, Şir Thomas is now priucipally 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,


the description of the manners and polity of a supposed country in America, and the account given by öne Hythlodicus, who sailed in a voyage of discovery with Americus Vesputius. The fiction was so well supported, that many learned men were pleased with the description of the climate and manners of the people, and Budæus, in particular, expressed kis zealous desire that missionaries should be sent thither to convert the in: habitants to Christianity.

It is remarkable enough that though the author afterwards manifested so much fervid zeal against heretics, yet in this book he unequivocally expresses his opinion in favour of a liberal toleration. It has been since well translated into modern english by bishop Burnet.

Besides this book, which stamps Sir Thomas as an original genius, he wrote the “ History of Richard the Third,” whom he describes as having been deformed, and in this particular he has been implicitly followed by succeeding historians.

Sir Thomas displayed great animation in the service of the church of Rome, and wrote several tracts against Luther and the reformers in general. These polemical effusions shew more virulence than argument; and though there can be no doubt of the author's sincerity, since he gave the strongest proofs possible of it, yet his bigotry and superstition appear to great disadvantage in the foul and indecent language which he pours upon his antagonists. In a letter to Erasmus, he

scrupled not to say, that he so far hated that sort of men called heretics, that unless they repented, (or in other words implicitly submitted to the usurpation of the pope, and the corruptions of the church of Rome) he would be as troublesome to them as he could !"

But notwithstanding these shades in his character, every impartial person will see cause to admire Sir Thomas More as a man of unquestionable integrity, of a firm and unshaken mind; an upright magistrate, amiable in his domestic relations, and of undoubted piety, though mistaken in his religious opinions,

« PreviousContinue »