Imágenes de páginas


Nor long after the time of Lydgate, our attention
is called to a prose writer of eminence, the first
since the time of Chaucer and Wickliffe. This was
SIR JOHN FORTESCUE, Chief Justice of the King's
Bench under Henry VI., and a constant adherent of
the fortunes of that monarch. He flourished be-
tween the years 1430 and 1470. Besides several Latin
tracts, Chief Justice Fortescue wrote one in the
common language, entitled, The Difference between an
Absolute and Limited Monarchy, as it more particularly
regards the English Constitution, in which he draws a
striking, though perhaps exaggerated, contrast be-
tween the condition of the French under an arbi-
trary monarch, and that of his own countrymen,
who even then possessed considerable privileges as
subjects. The following extracts convey at once an
idea of the literary style, and of the manner of
thinking, of that age.

[English Courage.]

[Original spelling.—It is cowardise and lack of hartes and

corage, that kepith the Frenchmen from rysyng, and not po

vertye; which corage no Frenche man hath like to the English

man. It hath ben often seen in Englond that iij or iv thefes,

for povertie, hath sett upon vij or viij true men, and robbyd

them al. But it hath not ben seen in Fraunce, that vij or viij

thefes have ben hardy to robbe iij or iv true men. Wherfor

it is right seld that French men be hangyd for robberye, for that thay have no hertys to do so terry ble an acte. There be therfor mo men hangyd in Englond, in a yere, for robberye and manslaughter, than ther be hangid in Fraunce for such cause of crime in vij yers, &c.]


It is cowardice and lack of hearts and courage, that keepeth the Frenchmen from rising, and not poverty; which courage no French man hath like to the English man. It hath been often seen in England that three or four thieves, for poverty, hath set upon seven or eight true men, and robbed them all. it hath not been seen in France, that seven or eight thieves have been hardy to rob three or four true men. Wherefore it is right seld' that Frenchmen be hanged for robbery, for that they have no hearts to do so terrible an act. There be therefore mo men hanged in England, in a year, for robbery and manslaughter, than there be hanged in France for such cause of crime in seven years. There is no man hanged in Scotland in seven years together for robbery, and yet they be often times hanged for larceny, and stealing of goods in the absence of the owner thereof; but their hearts serve them not to take a man's goods while he is present and will defend it; which manner of taking is called robbery. But the English man be of another courage; for if he be poor, and see another man having riches which may be taken from him by might, he wol not spare to do so, but if that poor man be right true. Wherefore it is not poverty, but it is lack of heart and cowardice, that keepeth the French men from rising.

is to say, they that seen few things woll soon say their
advice. Forsooth those folks consideren little the
good of the realin, whereof the might most stondeth
And if they
upon archers, which be no rich men.
were made poorer than they be, they should not have
wherewith to buy them bows, arrows, jacks, or any
other armour of defence, whereby they might be able
to resist our enemies when they list to come upon us,
which they may do on every side, considering that we
be an island; and, as it is said before, we may not
have soon succours of any other realm. Wherefore
we should be a prey to all other enemies, but if we be
mighty of ourself, which might stondeth most upon
our poor archers; and therefore they needen not only
to have such habiliments as now is spoken of, but also
they needen to be much exercised in shooting, which
may not be done without right great expenses, as
every man expert therein knoweth right well. Where-
fore the making poor of the commons, which is the
making poor of our archers, should be the destruction
of the greatest might of our realm. Item, if poor men
may not lightly rise, as is the opinion of those men,
which for that cause would have the commons poor;
how then, if a mighty man made a rising, should he
be repressed, when all the commons be so poor, that
after such opinion they may not fight, and by that
maketh the king the commons to be every year mus-
reason not help the king with fighting? And why
tered, sithen it was good they had no harness, nor
were able to fight? Oh, how unwise is the opinion of
these men; for it may not be maintained by any
reason! Item, when any rising hath been made in
this land, before these days by commons, the poorest
men thereof hath been the greatest causers and doers
therein. And thrifty men have been loth thereto, for
dread of losing of their goods, yet often times they
have gone with them through menaces, or else the
same poor men would have taken their goods; wherein
it seemeth that poverty hath been the whole and chief
cause of all such rising. The poor man hath been
stirred thereto by occasion of his poverty for to get
good; and the rich men have gone with them because
they wold not be poor by losing of their goods. What
then would fall, if all the commons were poor?


The next writer of note was WILLIAM CAXTON, the celebrated printer; a man of plain understanding, but great enthusiasm in the cause of literature. While acting as an agent for English merchants in Holland, he made himself master of the art of printing, then recently introduced on the Continent; and, having translated a French book styled, The Recuyell of the Histories of Troye, he printed it at Ghent, in 1471, being the first book in the English language ever put to the press.* Afterwards he established a printing-office at Westminster, and in 1474, produced The Game of Chess, which was the first book printed in Britain. Caxton translated or wrote about sixty different books, all of which went through his own press before his death in 1491. As a specimen of his manner of writing, and of the literary language

What harm would come to England if the Commons of this age, a passage is here extracted, in modern

thereof were Poor.

Some men have said that it were good for the king that the commons of England were made poor, as be the commons of France. For then they would not rebel, as now they done often times, which the commons of France do not, nor may do; for they have no weapon, nor armour, nor good to buy it withall. To these manner of men may be said, with the philosopher, Ad parva respicientes, de facili enunciant; that

1 Seldom.

2 But if-unless.

*In a note to this publication, Caxton says-Forasmuch as age creepeth on me daily, and feebleth all the bodie, and also because I have promised divers gentlemen, and to my friends, to address to them, as hastily as I might, this said book, therefore I have practised and learned, at my great charge and dispence, to ordain this said book in print, after the manner and form as ye may here see, and is not written with pen and ink, as other books ben, to the end that all men may have them at once, for all the books of this story, named The Recule of the Historeys of Troyes, thus emprinted, as ye here see, were begun in one day, and also finished in one day.'

spelling, from the conclusion of his translation of he came at the last hour, he slept in our Lord; of The Golden Legend.

whom a friar saw the soul, in manner of a star, like to the moon in quantity, and the sun in clearness.


Prose history may be said to have taken its rise in the reigns of Henry VII. and VIII.; but its first examples are of a very homely character. ROBERT FABIAN and EDWARD Hall may be regarded as the first writers in this department of our national lite. rature. They aimed at no literary excellence, nor at any arrangement calculated to make their writings more useful. Their sole object was to narrate minutely, and as far as their opportunities allowed, faithfully, the events of the history of their country. Written in a dull and tedious manner, without any exercise of taste or judgment, with an absolute want of discrimination as to the comparative importance of facts, and no attempt to penetrate the motives of the actors, or to describe more than the external features of even the greatest of transactions, the Chronicles, as they are called, form masses of matter which only a modern reader of a peculiar taste, curiosity, or a writer in quest of materials, would now willingly peruse. Yet it must be admitted, that to their

minuteness and indiscrimination we are indebted for William Caxton.

the preservation of many curious facts and illustrations of manners, which would have otherwise been

lost. [Legend of St Francis.]

Fabian, who was an alderman and sheriff of LonFrancis, servant and friend of Almighty God, was don, and died in 1512, wrote a general chronicle of born in the city of Assyse, and was made a merchant English history, which he called The Concordance of unto the 25th year of his age, and wasted his time by Stories, and which has been several times printed, living vainly, whom our Lord corrected by the scourge the last time in 1811, under the care of Sir Henry of sickness, and suddenly changed him into another Ellis. It is particularly minute with regard to what man ; so that he began to shine by the spirit of pro- would probably appear the most important of all phecy. For on a time, he, with other men of Peruse, things to the worthy alderman, the succession of was taken prisoner, and were put in a cruel prison, officers of all kinds serving in the city of London ; where all the other wailed and sorrowed, and he only and amongst other events of the reign of Henry V., was glad and enjoyed. And when they had repreved the author does not omit to note that a new weatherhim thereof, he answered, “Know ye,' said he, that I cock was placed on the top of St Paul's steeple. am joyful: for I shall be worshipped as a saint Fabian repeats all the fabulous stories of early Engthroughout all the world. *

lish history, which had first been circulated by On a time as this holy man was in prayer, the devil Geoffrey of Monmouth. called him thrice by his own name. And when the holy man had answered him, he said, none in this

[The Deposition of King Vortigern.] world is so great a sinner, but if he convert him, our Lord would pardon him; but who that sleeth himself (Vortigern had lost much of the affections of his with hard penance, shall never find mercy. And anon, people by marriage with Queen Rowena.] Over that, this holy man knew by revelation the fallacy and an heresy, called Arian's heresy, began then to spring deceit of the fiend, how he would have withdrawn him up in Britain. For the which, two holy bishops, fro to do well. And when the devil saw that he named Germanus and Lupus, as of Gaufryde is witmight not prevail against him, he tempted him by nessed, came into Britain to reform the king, and grievous temptation of the flesh. And when this holy all other that erred from the way of truth. servant of God felt that, he despoiled2 his cloaths, and Of this holy man, St Germain, Vincent Historial beat himself right hard with an hard cord, saying, saith, that upon an evening when the weather was

Thus, brother ass, it behoveth thee to remain and passing cold, and the snow fell very fast, he axed to be beaten.' And when the temptation departed lodging of the king of Britain, for him and his coinnot, he went out and plunged himself in the snow, all peers, which was denied. Then he, after sitting under naked, and made seven great balls of snow, and pur- à bush in the field, the king's herdman passed by, posed to have taken them into3 his body, and said, and seeing this bishop with his company sitting in This greatest is thy wife; and these four, two ben the weather, desired him to his house to take there thy daughters, and two thy sons; and the other twain, such poor lodging as he had. Whereof the bishop that one thy chambrere, and that other thy varlet or being glad and fain, yodel unto the house of the said yeman ; haste and clothe them: for they all die for herdman, the which received him with glad cheer. cold. And if thy business that thou hast about them, And for him and his company, willed his wife to kill grieve ye sore, then serve our Lord perfectly. And his only calf, and to dress it for his guest's supper; anon, the devil departed from him all confused ; and the which was also done. When the holy man had St Francis returned again unto his cell glorifying supped, he called to him his hostess, willing and deGod.

siring her, that she should diligently gather together He was enobled in his life by many miracles all the bones of the dead calf; and them so gathered, and the very death, which is to all men horrible and to wrap together within the skin of the said calf. And hateful, he admonished them to praise it. And also then it lay in the stall before the rack near unto the he warned and admonished death to come to him, and dame. Which done according to the commandment said Death, my sister, welcome be you.' And when of the holy man, shortly after the calf was restored 1 Reproved. 2 Took off. 3 Unto.


1 Went.

to life; and forthwith ate hay with the dam at the rack. At which marvel all the house was greatly astonished, and yielded thanking unto Almighty God, and to that holy bishop.

Upon the morrow, this holy bishop took with him the herdman, and yode unto the presence of the king, and axed of him in sharp wise, why that over-night he had denied to him lodging. Wherewith the king was so abashed, that he had no power to give unto the holy man answer. Then, St Germain said to him: I charge thee, in the name of the Lord God, that thou and thine depart from this palace, and resign it and the rule of thy land to him that is more worthy this room than thou art. The which all thing by power divine was observed and done; and the said herdman, by the holy bishop's authority, was set into the same dignity; of whom after descended all the kings of Britain.

[Jack Cade's Insurrection.]

the comons of Kent assemblyd them in grete multytude, and

[Original Spelling. And in the moneth of Juny this yere, chase to them a capitayne, and named hym Mortymer, and

cosyn to the Duke of Yorke; but of moste he was named

Jack Cade. This kepte the people wondrouslie togader, and made such ordenaunces amonge theym, that he brought a grete nombre of people of theym vnto the Blak Heth, where he deuysed a bylle of petycions to the kynge and his counsayll, &c.]

And in the month of June this year (1450), the commons of Kent assembled them in great multitude, and chase to them a Captain, and named him Mortimer, and cousin to the Duke of York; but of most he was named Jack Cade. This kept the people wondrously together, and made such ordinances among them, that he brought a great number of people of them unto the Black Heath, where he devised a bill of petitions to the king and his council, and showed therein what injuries and oppressions the poor commons suffered by such as were about the king, a few persons in number, and all under colour to come to his above. The king's council, seeing this bill, disallowed it, and counselled the king, which by the 7th day of June had gathered to him a strong host of people, to go again' his rebels, and to give unto them battle. Then the king, after the said rebels had holden their field upon Black Heath seven days, made toward them. Whereof hearing, the Captain drew back with his people to a village called Sevenoaks, and there embattled.

Then it was agreed by the king's council, that Sir Humphrey Stafford, knight, with William his brother, and other certain gentlemen should follow the chase, and the king with his lords should return unto Greenwich, weening to them that the rebels were fled and gone. But, as before I have showed, when Sir Humphrey with his company drew near unto Sevenoaks, he was warned of the Captain, that there abode with his people. And when he had counselled with the other gentlemen, he, like a manful knight, set upon the rebels and fought with them long; but in the end the Captain slew him and his brother, with many other, and caused the rest to give back. All which season, the king's host lay still upon Black Heath, being among them sundry opinions; so that some and many favoured the Captain. But, finally, when word came of the overthrow of the Staffords, they said plainly and boldly, that, except the Lord Saye and other before rehearsed were committed to ward, they would take the Captain's party. For the appeasing of which rumour the Lord Saye was put into the Tower; but that other as then were not at hand. Then the king having knowledge of the scomfiture of his men and also of the rumour of his hosting people, removed

from Greenwich to London, and there with his host rested him a while.

And so soon as Jack Cade had thus overcome the Staffords, he anon apparelled him with the knight's apparel, and did on him his bryganders set with gilt nails, and his salet and gilt spurs; and after he had refreshed his people, he returned again to Black Heath, and there pight again his field, as heretofore he had done, and lay there from the 29th day of June, being St Peter's day, till the first day of July. In which season came unto him the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Duke of Buckingham, with whom they had long communication, and found him right discreet in his answers: how be it they could not cause him to lay down his people, and to submit him unto the king's grace.

In this while, the king and the queen, hearing of the increasing of his rebels, and also the lords fearing their own servants, lest they would take the Captain's party, removed from London to Killingworth, leaving the city without aid, except only the Lord Scales, which was left to keep the Tower, and with him a manly and warly man named Matthew Gowth. Then the Captain of Kent thus hoving2 at Blackheath, to the end to blind the more the people, and to bring him in fame that he kept good justice, beheaded there a petty Captain of his, named Paris, for so much as he had offended again' such ordinance as he had stablished in his host. And hearing that the king and all his lords were thus departed, drew him near unto the city, so that upon the first day of July he entered the burgh of Southwark, being then Wednesday, and lodged him there that night, for he might not be suffered to enter that city.

And upon the same day the commons of Essex, in great number, pight them a field upon the plain at Miles End. Upon the second day of the said month, the mayor called a common council at the Guildhall, for to purvey the withstanding of these rebels, and other matters, in which assembled were divers opinions, so that some thought good that the said rebels should be received into the city, and some otherwise; among the which, Robert Horne, stock-fishmonger, then being an alderman, spake sore again' them that would have them enter. For the which sayings, the commons were so amoved again' him, that they ceased not till they had him committed to ward.

And the same afternoon, about five of the clock, the Captain with his people entered by the bridge; and when he came upon the drawbridge, he hewed the ropes that drew the bridge in sunder with his sword, and so passed into the city, and made in sundry places thereof proclamations in the king's name, that no man, upon pain of death, should rob or take anything per force without paying therefor. By reason whereof he won many hearts of the commons of the city; but all was done to beguile the people, as after shall evidently appear. He rode through divers streets of the city, and as he came by London Stone, he strake it with his sword and said, 'Now is Mortimer lord of this city.' And when he had thus showed himself in divers places of the city, and showed his mind to the mayor for the ordering of his people, he returned into Southwark, and there abode as he before had done, his people coming and going at lawful hours when they would. Then upon the morn, being the third day of July and Friday, the said Captain entered again the city, and caused the Lord Saye to be fette3 from the Tower, and led into the Guildhall, where he was arraigned before the mayor and other of the king's justices. In which pastime he intended to have brought before the said justices the foresaid Robert Horne; but his wife and friends made to him such instant labour, that finally, for five hundred marks, he

1 Pitched.


8 Fetched.

was set at his liberty. Then the Lord Saye, being as Then upon the 5th day of July, the Captain being before is said, at Guildhall, desired that he might be in Southwark, caused a man to be beheaded, for cause judged by his peers.. Whereof hearing, the Captain of displeasure to him done, as the fame went ; and so sent a company of his unto the hall, the which per he kept him in Southwark all that day ; how be it he force took him from his officers, and so brought him might have entered the city if he had wold. unto the standard in Cheap, where, orl he were half And when night was coming, the mayor and citizens, shriven, they strake off his head ; and that done, with Matthew Gowth, like to their former appointpight it upon a long pole, and so bare it about with ment, kept the passage of the bridge, being Sunday, them.

and defended the Kentishmen, which made great In this time and season had the Captain caused a force to re-enter the city. Then the Captain, seeing gentleman to be taken, named William Crowmer, this bickering begun, yode to harness, and called which before had been sheriff of Kent, and used, as his people about him, and set so fiercely upon the they said, some extortions. For which cause, or for citizens, that he drave them back from the stulpes he had favoured the Lord Saye, by reason that he had in Southwark, or bridge foot, unto the drawbridge. married his daughter, he was hurried to Miles End, Then the Kentishmen set fire upon the drawbridge. In and there, in the Captain's presence, beheaded. And defending whereof many a man was drowned and the same time was there also beheaded another man, slain, among the which, of men of name was John called Baillie, the cause of whose death was this, as I Sutton, alderman, Matthew Gowth, gentleman, and have heard some men report. This Baillie was of the Heysand, citizen. And thus continued this familiar and old acquaintance of Jack Cade, where- skirmish all night, till 9 of the clock upon the morn; fore, so soon as he espied him coming to him-ward, he so that sometime the citizens had the better, and thus cast in his mind that he would discover his living and soon the Kentishmen were upon the better side ; but old manners, and show off his vile kin and lineage. ever they kept them upon the bridge, so that the Wherefore, knowing that the said Baillie used to bear citizens passed never much the bulwark at the bridge scrows,2 and prophesy about him, showing to his com- foot, nor the Kentishmen much farther than the drawpany that he was an enchanter and of ill disposition, bridge. Thus continuing this cruel fight, to the de and that they should well know by such books as he struction of much people on both sides ; lastly, after bare upon him, and bade them search, and if they the Kentishmen were put to the worse, a trewl was found not as he said, that then they should put him agreed for certain hours ; during the which trew, the to death, which all was done according to his com- Archbishop of Canterbury, then chancellor of England, mandment.

sent a general pardon to the Captain for himself, and When they had thus beheaded these two men, they another for his people : by reason whereof he and his took the head of Crowmer and pight it upon a pole, company departed the same night out of Southwark, and so entered again the city with the heads of the and so returned every man to his own. Lords Saye and of Crowmer; and as they passed the But it was not long after that the Captain with his streets, joined the poles together, and caused either company was thus departed, that proclamations were dead mouth to kiss other diverse and many times. made in divers places of Kent, of Sussex, and Sow

And the Captain the self-same day went unto the therey, that who might take the foresaid Jack Cade, house of Philip Malpas, draper and alderman, and either alive or dead, should have a thousand mark for robbed and spoiled his house, and took thence a great his travail. After which proclamation thus published, substance; but he was before warned, and thereby a gentleman of Kent, named Alexander Iden, awaited conveyed much of his money and plate, or else he had so his time, that he took him in a garden in Sussex, been undone. At which spoiling were present many where in the taking of him the said Jack was slain : poor men of the city, which at such times been ever and so being dead, was brought into Southwark the ready in all places to do harm, when such riots been day of the month of Septeniber, and then left in the done.

King's Bench for that night. And upon the morrow Then toward night he returned into Southwark, and the dead corpse was drawn through the high streets of upon the morn re-entered the city, and dined that day the city unto Newgate, and there headed and quarat a place in St Margaret Patyn parish, called Gherstis tered, whose head was then sent to London Bridge, House ; and when he had dined, like an uncurteous and his four quarters were sent to four sundry towns guest, robbed him, as the day before he had Malpas. of Kent. For which two robberies, albeit that the porailand needy And this done, the king sent his commissions into people drew unto him, and were partners of that ill, Kent, and rode after himself

, and caused enquiry to the honest and thrifty commoners cast in their minds be made of this riot in Canterbury ; wherefore the the sequel of this matter, and feared lest they should same eight men were judged and put to death ; and in be dealt with in like manner, by means whereof he other good towns of Kent and Sussex, divers other lost the people's favour and hearts. For it was to be were put in execution for the same riot. thought, if he had not executed that robbery, he might have gone fair and brought his purpose to good effect,

Hall, who was a lawyer and a judge in the sheriff's if he had intended well; but it is to deem and pre- court of London, and died at an advanced age in suppose that the intent of him was not good, where - 1547, compiled a copious chronicle of English his. fore it might not come to any good conclusion. Then tory during the reigns of the houses of Lancaster the mayor and aldermen, with assistance of the wor- and York, and those of Henry VII. and Henry VIII., shipful commoners, seeing this misdemeanour of the which was first printed by Grafton in 1548, under Captain, in safeguarding of themself and of the city, the title of The Union of the two Noble and IUustre took their counsels, how they might drive the Captain Families of Lancastre and Yorke, with all the Actes done and his adherents from the city, wherein their fear in both the tymes of the Princes both of the one linage and was the more, for so much as the king and his lords the other, &c. Hall is very minute in his notices of with their powers were far from them. But yet in the fashions of the time : altogether, his work is of a avoiding of apparent peril, they condescended that superior character to that of Fabian, as might perthey would withstand his any more entry into the haps be expected from his better education and condicity. For the performance whereof, the mayor sent tion in life. Considered as the only compilations of unto the Lord Scales and Matthew Gowth, then having English history at the command of the wits of Elizathe Tower in guiding, and had of them assent to per- beth's reign, and as furnishing the foundations of form the same.

many scenes and even whole plays by one of the 2 Scrolls of paper.

1 Truce.



1 Ere.





most illustrious of these, the Chronicles have a value theless, the Lord Hastings, which from the death of in our eyes beyond that which properly belongs to King Edward kept Shore’s wife, his heart somewhat them. In the following extract, the matter of a re- grudged to have her whom he loved so highly acmarkable scene in Richard III. is found, and it is cused, and that as he knew well untruly; thereworthy of notice, how well the prose narratiou reads fore he answered and said, ' Certainly, my Lord, beside the poetical one.

if they have so done, they be worthy of heinous

punishment. What! quoth the Protector, 'thou [Scene in the Council-Room of the Protector Gloucester.) thee, they have done it, and that will I make good

servest me, I ween, with if and with and; I tell The Lord Protector caused a council to be set at on thy body, traitor !' And therewith, as in a great the Tower, on Friday the thirteen day of June, anger, he clapped his fist on the board a great rap, where there was much communing for the honourable at which token given, one cried treason without the solemnity of the coronation, of the which the time chamber, and therewith a door clapped, and in came appointed approached so near, that the pageants were rushing men in harness, as many as the chamber could a making day and night at Westminster, and victual hold. And anon the Protector said to the Lord killed, which afterward was cast away.

Hastings, 'I arrest thee, traitor !! What! me! my These lords thus sitting, communing of this matter, Lord,' quoth he. Yea, the traitor,' quoth the Prothe Protector came in among them, about nine of the tector. And one let fly at the Lord Stanley, which clock, saluting them courteously, excusing himself that shrunk at the stroke, and fell under the table, or else he had been from them so long, saying merrily that his head had been cleft to the teeth ; for as shortly he had been a sleeper that day. And after a little as he shrunk, yet ran the blood about his ears. Then talking with him, he said to the Bishop of Ely, “My was the Archbishop of York, and Doctor Morton, Lord, you have very good strawberries in your garden Bishop of Ely, and the Lord Stanley taken, and divers at Ilolborn ; I require you let us have a mess of them.' others which were bestowed in divers chambers, save 'Gladly, my Lord,' quoth he ; ‘I would I had some the Lord Hastings, whom the Protector commanded better thing, as ready to your pleasure as that ;' and to speed and shrive him apace. “For, by Saint Poule,' with that in all haste he sent his servant for a dish quoth he, I will not dine till I see thy head offi' of strawberries. The Protector set the lords fast in | It booted him not to ask why, but heavily he took a communing, and thereupon prayed them to spare him priest at a venture, and made a short shrist, for a a little ; and so he departed, and came again between longer would not be suffered, the Protector made so ten and eleven of the clock in to the chamber, all much haste to his dinner, which might not go to it changed, with a sour angry countenance, knitting the till this murder were done, for saving of his ungrabrows, frowning and fretting, and gnawing on his cious oath. So was he brought forth into the green, lips ; and so set him down in his place. All the lords beside the chapel within the Tower, and his head laid were dismayed, and sore marvelled of this manner down on a log of timber, that lay there for building and sudden change, and what thing should him ail. of the chapel, and there tyrannously stricken off, and When he had sitten a while, thus he began : What after his body and head were interred at Windsor, by were they worthy to have, that compass and imagine his master, King Edward the Fourth ; whose souls the destruction of me, being so near of blood to the Jesu pardon. Amen. king, and protector of this his royal realm ? At which question, all the lords sat sore astonished, musing much by whom the question should be meant, of which every man knew himself clear. Then the Lord Hastings, as he that, for the fami

Passing over Fortescue, the first prose-writer who liarity that was between them, thought he might be mingled just and striking thought with his language, boldest with him, answered and said, that they were

and was entitled to the appellation a man of worthy to be punished as heinous traitors, whatsoever genius, was unquestionably the celebrated chancellor they were ; and all the other affirmed the same. “That of Henry VIII., Sir Thomas More (1480-1535). is,' quoth he, “yonder sorceress, my brother's wife, Born the son of a judge of the King's Bench, and and other with her; meaning the queen. Many of educated at Oxford, More entered life with all exthe lords were sore abashed which favoured her ; but ternal advantages, and soon reached a distinguished the Lord Hastings was better content in his mind, situation in the law and in state employments. that it was moved by her than by any other that he He was appointed Lord Chancellor in 1529, being lored better ; albeit his heart grudged that he was

the first layman who ever held the office. At all not afore made of counsel of this matter, as well as periods of his life, he was a zealous professor of the he was of the taking of her kindred, and of their put- Catholic faith, insomuch that he was at one time ting to death, which were by his assent before devised with difficulty restrained from becoming a monk. to be beheaded at Pomfret, this self same day ; in the When Henry wished to divorce Catherine, he was which he was not ware, that it was by other devised opposed by the conscientious More, who accordingly that he himself should the same day be beheaded at incurred his displeasure, and perished on the scaffold. London. “Then," said the Protector, in what wise The cheerful, or rather mirthful, disposition of the that sorceress and other of her counsel, as Shore's wife, learned chancellor forsook him not at the last, and with her affinity, have by their sorcery and witchcraft he jested even when about to lay his head upon the thus wasted my body! and therewith plucked up block. The character of More was most benignant, his doublet sleeve to his elbow, on his left arm, where as the letter to his wife, who was ill-tempered, he showed a very withered arm, and small, as it was written after the burning of some of his property, never other. And thereupon every man's mind mis- expressively shows, at the same time that it is a gave them, well perceiving that this matter was but good specimen of his English prose. The domestic a quarrel ; for well they wist that the queen was circle at his house in Chelsea, where the profoundly both too wise to go about any such folly, and also, if learned statesman at once paid reverence to his she would, yet would she of all folk make Shore’s wife parents and sported with his children, has been least of her counsel, whom of all women she most made the subject of an interesting picture by the hated, as that concubine whom the king, her husband, great artist of that age, Holbein. most loved.

The literary productions of More are partly in Also, there was no man there, but knew that his Latin and partly in English: he adopted the former arm was ever such, sith the day of his birth. Never-| language probably from taste, the latter for the pur


[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »