Page images

chances of the day with a transparent simplicity and truth that raises even his chat into grandeur. His theme is always the actual world about him, and in his simple. lessons of loyalty, of industry, of pity for the poor, he touches upon almost every subject from the plough to the throne. No such preaching had been heard in England before his day, and with the growth of his fame grew the danger of persecution." Latimer was protected by Henry VIII., and his Lutheran sympathies allowed full sway down to 1540, when the reaction set in. He was then imprisoned and forced to resign his See of Worcester. Under Edward VI. he was, of course, a powerful influence, but on Mary's accession he was promptly sent to the Tower as an extreme Protestant. His rough jeers at the supposed miraculous images of the Virgin rendered him obnoxious to the Catholics. When charged with heresy at Oxford in October, 1555, Latimer firmly refused to recant and appealed to a general council. On October 16th he and his junior, Bishop Ridley, were handed over to the secular arm for execution in the ditch over against Balliol College, Oxford (nigh where the Martyrs' Memorial now stands).1

Another of the early masters of English prose, who deserves a place between Ascham and More, more, per

1 Separate sermons by Latimer were printed during his lifetime; twenty-seven were issued in 1562, 4to. Some of the best were selected by Leigh Richmond in his Fathers of the English Church, 1807, vol. ii.; they were issued in a more complete form by the Parker Society, 1844-5, 2 vols., edited by George Elwes Corrie. There is a strong and moving account of Latimer in Foxe's Book of Martyrs, and there are Lives by Gilpin (1755), and by Demaus, revised edition, 1881. The accounts of Latimer in Burnet's Reformation and Froude's History, Tulloch's Leaders of the Reformation, and in Blackwood, vol. lxix, should also be read. There is a modern Life in the Leaders of Religion Series, by R. M. and A. J. Carlyle, 1899.

haps, on account of his versatility than on any distinctive merit of style, is Sir Thomas Elyot (d. 1546), himself a diplomatist and the son of an eminent judge. As a scholar and a humanist he owed much to More, at whose house he was a frequent visitor. His most famous book was an ethical and educational treatise dedicated to Henry VIII. in 1531, and styled The Boke named the Governour. Full of borrowed wisdom as it was, it proved eminently adapted to the wants of the age, and passed through numerous editions. Its primary object was to discuss the education and training of those who might one day be called upon to fill leading positions in the commonwealth. To many readers, however, it must be admitted that the chief interest of The Governour,1 with all its merits, will always lie in the fact that it is the original authority for the delightful story of the righteous judge Gascoigne and the insubordinate Prince Hal. Elyot passed the story on to Hall, from whose chronicle Shakespeare derived it. Elyot borrows many other notable instances from the Bible, from the fathers, from classic antiquity, and from English history, both in The Governour and in his subsequent works, such as The Castle of Health. The Banquet of Sapience, 1534, The Image of Governance, 1540, and The Defense of Good Women, 1545. In 1538, with the aid of a loan of books from the king, he compiled a LatinEnglish dictionary called Bibliotheca, which far surpassed anything of the kind that had hitherto appeared in Eng

1 A very complete reissue of The Governour was edited by Henry Herbert Stephen Croft, from the first edition of 1531, in 2 vols., 1880. The edition contains a full Life and an elaborate glossary. For a very detailed examination of the credibility of the Prince Hal story, which Mr. Croft regards as originally a monastic legend, see vol. ii. 60-71. As a translator Elyot followed Barclay, Skelton, and N. Udall. The noted French Grammar of John Palsgrave first appeared in 1530.

land-the old Promptuarium Parvulorum, for instance, first printed by Pynson in 1499. This great lexicon was remodelled by Bishop Thomas Cooper, and published in 1550 under the title of Thesaurus.

Sir Thomas More, a son of a justice of the King's Bench, was born in Milk Street, London, on February 7th, 1478, and as a boy was sent as a page to the household of Archbishop Morton, by whom he was sent to Oxford. Morton, it is said, often remarked to his guests upon the genius which he perceived to be latent in the youthful page. He began his legal career under brilliant auspices, and his prospects were greatly improved by the accession of Henry VIII. He was made Master of Requests in 1514; was appointed successively Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Speaker of the House of Commons; was sent on diplomatic errands to France and Germany, and in 1529, on the fall of Wolsey, against his own wish, was made Lord Chancellor. Both as a man and as a lawyer More was strongly conservative by temperament. He was very bitter in his denunciation of advanced religious opinions, especially those of what he called the pestilential sect of Tyndal and Luther, and had little sympathy for stubborn heretics. He naturally witnessed with grave disapproval the course of events which were eventually to turn the Defensor Fidei into the head of a schismatic Church. In May, 1532, he sought and obtained permission to resign the chancellorship. He retired to his house at Chelsea, and devoted himself to his family and their studies. When, however, in April, 1533, he was called upon to subscribe upon oath to the Act of Succession, involving his acquiescence in the King's headship of the Church and the royal divorce, he steadfastly refused to sacrifice his conscience to Henry VIII., and after a year's harsh imprisonment in the Tower was beheaded on Tower Hill on July 6th, 1535. John Fisher, himself an impressive preacher and

author of two short treatises of genuine beauty, A Spiritual Consolation and The Ways of Perfect Religion, suffered a like death for a similar cause a fortnight earlier. It was not safe, wrote one scholar to another, to relate how much feeling was moved throughout the whole kingdom by the death of such good men.

Utopia seems to have owed its immediate origin to an embassy in which More was engaged in 1515, when he was sent by Henry VIII. in company with Cuthbert Tunstall, afterwards Bishop of Durham, to confer with the ambassador of Charles V. on the question of a renewal of alliance. And "since our business did admit of it (says More) I went to Antwerp," where among the many who visited the distinguished Englishman was one whom he describes as more acceptable to himself than any other. This was Peter Giles (Ægidius), a man of great humour and good rank in his town, with whom More contracted a close friendship. It was at Antwerp about November, and probably after many conversations with his new acquaintance, that More wrote the second book of Utopia; the first was written later after his return to London early in 1516. In October, 1517, More wrote to Erasmus to say how glad he was that Ægidius likes his Nusquama (Utopia). Erasmus wrote next month to say that the MS. of Nusquama was in great request and was about to be placed in the printer's hands. It was accordingly printed at Thierry Martin's Press at Louvain in December, 1516, with the title Libellus vere aureus nec minus salutaris quam festivus de optimo reip. statu de que nova Insula Utopia. The volume has no pagination. First comes the picture chart of the island of Utopia; then the Utopian alphabet, in which A to L are represented by circles or curves, M by a triangle, and N to Y by rectangles or portions of rectangles, dashes being used with them for the sake of further diversity; then a short "meter" of Utopian written by

Anemolius, poet laureate-verificatory details worthy of a Defoe or a Swift. The book was received by a chorus of praise. More could only hope that it was all sincere. Erasmus caused all his friends to read it, and wrote to More that a burgomaster at Antwerp was so delighted with the new Res publica that he had it all by heart; he suggested that the author might become the ruler of the Utopian people. More wrote with delightful humour deprecating the high honour, but adding that should it please Heaven to exalt him to this high dignity, while too high to think of common acquaintances he will still keep a warm corner in his heart for Erasmus and Tunstall.1

The polity of Utopia was a confederation of free citystates. There were forty-four of these cities in the island, all large (holding at least six thousand families) and well built, and all formed and governed upon one uniform plan. Each had twenty miles of soil round it and assigned to it, and each sent up three of its wisest senators once a year to the chief city Amaurote (shadowy) to consult about the common concerns. The country outside the towns was devoted to agriculture, and was covered with farmhouses

1 Curiously enough no English version of Utopia was published in the lifetime of the writer. The earliest in point of time is that which appeared in 1551 under the title of A fruteful and pleasaunt worke of the best state in a publique weale and of the new yle called Utopia: written in Latine by Syr Thomas More, knyght, and translated into Englyshe by Ralphe Robynson, Citizen and Goldsmythe of London. Printed by Abraham Vele. A revised edition appeared in 1556, and a third in 1597. All these were in black-letter. Robinson's translation, which, if ofttimes redundant, is still almost always idiomatic and picturesque (recalling in many phrases the Book of Common Prayer of the same date) has been reprinted by T. F. Dibdin, 1808, by Prof. Arber in 1869, also at Morris's Kelmscott Press, 1893, and at the Clarendon Press in 1895. The Latin of More has also been Englished by Bishop Burnet, 1684, by Arthur Cayley in 1808, and others.

« PreviousContinue »