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SIR THOMAS MORE.
ONE of the greatest men, in all respects, in that age, which has been denominated, with equal propriety, the Age of the Reformation, and that of the revival of Letters, was Sir Thomas More, the friend of Erasmus, and the victim of a sanguinary tyrant's caprice and cruelty.
He was the only son of Sir John More, knight, one of the judges of the court of King's Bench, and was born in Milk-street, London, in 1480. While a boy he was admitted into the house of Cardinal Morton, archbishop of Canterbury ; for it was a wise custom of that age to place the sons of noblemen and gentlemen of the first respectability in the families of bishops and other great persons, where they might acquire not only a knowledge of all useful learning, but profit by the advice and example of their patrons. This custom seems to have been adopted from the Ro
mans, as we learn from Cicero that he was bred up in this manner in the house, and under the eye of Scævola, by whose discourses he improved in prudence and knowledge.
Young More rendered himself so acceptable to the Cardinal, who was a very wise and good man, that he sent him to Canterbury college, in Oxford, about the year 1497. There he attended the lectures of Lynacreand Grocinus upon the Latin and Greek languages ; in both which he gave some excellent specimens of his masterly skill at the age of eighteen. He also composed several verses upon the vanity of life, with which his father was so pleased, that he caused them to be finely written, ornamented, and set up in his house.
At this time he was a student of the law iu New Inn, which at that time was a nursery for the Chancery. Having spent some time there, he removed to Lincoln's Inn, and prosecuted his studies with such vigour of application, as soon to become an utter barrister. At the age of twenty-one, he was a burgess in parliament, and distinguished himself remarkably in 1503, upon the motion for granting a subsidy on the marriage of Henry the Seventh's danghter, Margaret, to the king of Scotland. This was opposed by Mr. More, as an exorbitant demand, and his reasoning was so strong that the motion was rejected. The king was so exasperated at being opposed by a beardless boy, that he sent the father to the
Tower, and did not release him till he had forced him to pay a fine of one hundred pounds. At the close of this reign, we find Mr. More reading a public lecture upon St. Augustine's treatise de civitate Dei in the church of St. Lawrence Jewry, which he performed with great applause. He was appointed law-reader at Furnival's Iun, which place he held above three years, and afterwards took lodgings near the Charter-house, (Chartreuse) where he adopted all the rigid exercises of that gloomy order, but without engaging in any vow. After spending four years in these austerities, he married Jane, daughter of John Colt, of New Hall, in Essex, and entered upon the proper line of his profession at his chambers in Lincoln's Inn. In 1508 he was appointed Judge of the Sheriff's court, in London, which court at that time exercised a judicial power of no ordinary importance.
His professional reputation was now so great, that there was hardly any cause of moment tried at the bar in which he was not retained. He still, however, cultivated his talents for polite literature, and in the hurry of business wrote his celebrated book, entitled
Utopia.” He also maintained a correspondence with Erasmus, and other learned men.
About 1516 he went to Flanders in the suite of Cuthbert Tonstal, bishop of Durham, and Dr. Kright, who were the commissioners for renewing the treaty of alliance between Henry VIII. and the emperor Charles V. then only
archduke of Austria. His address in this business recommended him to the king, who offered him, through Cardinal Wolsey, a pension, which he declined for the following reasons, as he says himself:-“When I returned from the embassy to Flanders, the king would have given me a yearly pension, which surely, if one would respect honour and profit, was not to be little esteemed. Yet have I hitherto refused it, and I think shall refuse it still, because I should be forced to forsake my present means, which I have already in the city, and I esteem it more than a better; or else I must keep it with some dislike to the citizens, between whom and his highness, if there should happen any controversy (as sometimes it doth chance) about their privileges, they might suspect me as not sincere and trusty unto them, in respect I am obliged to the king with an annual stipend."
A few years after the king obliged him to accept the place of master of requests; and about the same time he was knighted, and sworn of the privy council. In 1520 he was made treasurer of the exchequer, and soon after he bought a house on the bank of the Thames at Chelsea, where he settled his family, having married a second wife. Sir Thomas was much attached to a domestic life, but the charms of his conversation were such, thatthe king wou ld hardly suffer him to be away from him ; to extricate himself from which attendance, he had recourse to an artifice
which is thus related by a biographer:-“When the king had performed his devotions on holy days, he used to send for Sir Thomas into his closet, and there confer with him about astronomy, geometry, divinity, and other parts of learning, and also upon private affairs. He would also frequently in the night take him up to the top of the house to view the motions of the planets ; and because Sir Thomas was of a very pleasant disposition, the king and queen at supper time used to send for him to make them merry. Sir Thomas, perceiving by this fondness, that he could not, once in a month, get leave to go home to his wife and children, and that he could not be abroad from court two days together, without being sent for, he began somewhat to dissemble his nature, and so by little and little to disuse himself from his accustomed mirth, that he was sent for no more from that time so ordinarily, at such seasons."
Jn 1526 he was made chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, and in the following year was sent on an embassy with Wolsey to the court of France. In 1529 he again went to that country in the same capacity with Cuthbert Tonstal. The next year he received the great seal, being the first layman who ever held that dignity. This appointment was the more remarkable, as Sir Thomas had made no scruple of expressing bis sentiments against the divorce of the king from his wife Catherine of Arragon. He entered upon BS