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soul-stirring thoughts and heroic deeds, turns not without repugnance
No character could be better fitted, than that of Sir Thomas
Thomas More, the only son of Sir John More, was born in London in 1480, in the 20th year of the reign of Edward the 4th. He received the first rudiments of his education in the school of St. Anthony, of which Nicholas Hall was master, under whom,' to use More's own expression, he rather greedily devoured than leisurely chewed' his grammar rules. We next find him "an inmate in the house and attached to the retinue of Cardinal Morton, one of Henry the seventh's most favored and valuable ministers.' In those days, says our author, a young gentleman did not think it beneath his dignity to serve a kind of regular apprenticeship to some noble master; to wait at his table, to carry his train, and perform a hundred little duties, which, in our more refined age, would be termed «menial offices.' 'By means of this voluntary humiliation he became known to the great, he found opportunities for acquiring useful information, and was prepared, in those miniature courts, for future eminence in the palace and at the council board.' From the house of Cardinal Morton, young More was transferred to Oxford College. Here he remained two years, and 'profited exceedingly,' says Roper, 'in rhetoric, logic and philosophy; proving
what wonders wit and diligence can accomplish, when united, as they seldom are, in one principal student.' At Oxford, More formed an intimacy with Erasmus, one of the most profound and distinguished scholars of his age, with whom he ever afterwards kept up a correspondence. From his early youth, to the extreme of life, he was ever a sincere and devoted Catholic, often subjecting himself to great austerites and privations in accordance with the dictates of a creed which he thoroughly believed and unceasingly maintained. Soon after leaving the university, he entered upon the study of the law, in which he made very rapid and thorough advances. In 1507, More was married at the age of 27. In the choice of a wife, he displayed (singular as the observation may appear) a remarkable degree of benevolence, and which, with all our deference for Sir Thomas More, we should hardly be willing to approve or to follow,
;-nor can we, with a clear conscience, recoinmend his course to the imitation of young men in the same predicament. We give the account as by our author :
“ In the number of his friends was Mr. John Colte, of Newhall, in Essex. He was a gentleman of good family, who had three daughters, whose personal accomplishments, and “honest conversation,” attracted the attention of More, who was now in his twenty-seventh year. It appears that inclination directed him to the second of these young ladies," and yet,” says Roper, “ when he considered, within himself, that this would be a grief, and a kind of underrating to the eldest, to see her younger sister preferred before her, he, out of compassion, settled his fancy upon the eldest, and soon after married her, with all her friends' good liking.”
The year subsequent to his marriage, More was elected to a seat in the House of Commons, in which station he performed his duty with great ability and fidelity. While a member of that body, he rendered himself obnoxious to the king, by his resistance to some of the exorbitant demands of an avaricious monarch, and in consequence, was compelled to retire to private life, which, perhaps, was of no disadvantage, as it enabled him to perfect himself in those studies, upon which he had so lately entered, and also to produce some light compositions, which exhibit the vivacity and humor of which he was so abundantly possessed. The next year witnessed the accession, to the throne of England, of that monster of humanity, Henry the eighth, and, shortly after, More procured the appointment of under sheriff of London. Of his conduct in this office, our author remarks:
“ No one, who ever filled this situation, went through more causes than More; no one decided them more uprightly, often remitting the fees to which he was entitled from the suitors. His deportment, in this capacity, endeared him extremely to his fellow citizens."
His first wife died about six years after his marriage, and More had now another opportunity to show his benevolence, of which he was not slow to profit. The name of his second wife was Alice Middleton, a
widow, with one daughter. As his manner of choosing his wives is somewhat unique, we shall make no apology for introducing the description of his second and final selection, in our author's language.
“He entered into this second wedlock, that his wife might hav care of his children, who were very young, and from whom he must, of necessity, be very often absent. She was of good years, of no great favor nor complexion, nor very rich; by disposition, very near and worldly. I have heard it reported, that he wooed her for a friend of his, not once thinking to have her himself. But she wisely answering him, that he might speed, if he would speak in his own behalf, he told his friend what she had said to him, and with his good liking married her, doing that, which otherwise he would, perhaps, have never thought to do. And indeed, as I think, her favor would not have bewitched, or scarce never moved any man to love her.”
But our limits will not permit us to follow this gond and remarkable man through all the events of his ever varying life,—a life passed among occurrences as extraordinary in their nature, as any age has ever witnessed, or, perhaps, ever will again. Not long after the accession of Henry, he was sent as ambassador to Flanders, and, on his return, received, as a token of royal favor, the order of knighthood. We soon find him actively engaged in the service of the king in quelling a popular tumult in London. Next we hear of him as treasurer of the exchequer, subsequently as speaker of the House of Commons, and, finally as lord high chancellor of England. Soon after his resignation of the latter office, he was accused of treason, and by command of the king, lodged in the tower, whence only he was taken to be led to the place of execution.
Of his private life it has been said, that, “as a son, a husband, a father, a master, and a friend, no character can be contemplated with greater delight,-no conduct imitated with more certain advantage. The same writer, in speaking of his public life, remarks, that "it exhibited a combination of virtues and vicissitudes rarely presented in the history of our race;" and of his conduct on the scaffold, it is truly observed, that "he proved by example, that there is nothing to excite dismay, nothing to call forth pity in the death of the innocent, and fell a blessed martyr in the cause of integrity; a memorable instance of the ascendancy which the human mind may acquire over every antagonist with which it is destined to combat."
We have not spoken of the writings of Sir Thomas More, because we could scarcely do them justice, in the compass of a notice like this. It would, indeed, be supererogation in us to praise them. Familiar as they are to the reading public, words of recommendation would be perfectly futile.
We have spoken of the work before us, in regard only to the life of Sir Thomas More. It is not valuable solely on this account: it contains much historical matter of importance, relating to the times of Henry VIII. We have in its pages a faithful portraiture of the charVOL. I.-NO. I.
acter and pursuits, the rise and fall of the famous Cardinal Woolsey, whose life alone, affords a great and profound moral lesson. In its pages, too, we can read the touching history of the unfortunate Queen Catharine, whose wrongs and sufferings awaken the sympathy of every feeling heart. In conclusion, we would recommend this work to all who wish to feast themselves upon something truly refreshing,—to all who love a good story pleasingly told,—to all, in fine, who desire to read an interesting account of by-gone times.
3. — The Life and Land of Burns, by ALLAN CUNNINGHAM, with Con
tributions, by THOMAS CAMPBELL, Esq. J. & H. G. Langley, No. 57 Chatham-street, New-York.
The critical essay attached to the above work, by Carlisle, is one of the finest efforts of the gifted author. Through it we have an insight into the very soul of the poet, and from the page his transcendent genius, and rare poetic character, are reflected, as from a clear mirror.
The biographical sketch by Cunningham is felicitous in its style and has all the graces of truth to recommend it. The whole is conceived in a very poetic spirit, and while reading it, we feel as if conversing with an old and valued friend. There is much in the character of the joyous Scotchman to love and admire, and, charmed as we are with his poetry, we cannot but wish to know intimately the poet himself. He seemed but as a passing meteor to his contemporaries, but, with the lapse of time, his genius assumes a brighter and more enduring lustre. How unfortunate in his life, a life of toil, disappointment, poverty and desertion, and yet, in some respects, how fortunate ! for he loved and was beloved, he sought fame and obtained it; his very residence has become classic ground, a resort for the lovers of the true and the beautiful; and the banks of the Tweed, the Doon and the Ayr have been rendered as immortal by his verse as Xanthus, Scamander and Simoïs. His genius is considered as an expression of national character, and revered by Scotchmen as such. Wherever the English language is spoken, his beautiful songs, whether of love or war, of exquisite sensibility or touching pathos, have wreathed for “the inspired bard” a never-dying chaplet of renown. Admiring then, as we do, the poet, we could not feel other than the highest gratification in reading a life of him so accordant with our feelings, and so interesting and excellent in itself.
“ The land of Burns,” illustrates still further the peculiar traits of our poet, and the circumstances which led to the composition of some of his best productions, and gives the reader an insight into Scottish scenery, life, and manners. In conclusion, we would commend the entire work as one well calculated to convey a just and favorable impression of the life and genius of this illustrious poet.
4. — Pantology; or a Systematic Survey of Human Knowledge, by
RoSWELL PARK, A. M., Professor of Natural Philosophy and
This is a large octavo volume, of nearly 600 pages, printed in good style, and containing twelve plates, illustrative of the various subjects treated of. The design of the work is, to afford some insight into every species of knowledge; and its aim seems to be, to make the information as efficient and thorough as could be expected, within the compass of such a work. The style is chaste and elegant, and, although concise, it is, notwithstanding, lucid, and, on the whole, pleasing. Some affectation there certainly is, in the substitution of new and difficult terms for those in common use; and we can hardly coincide with the author, when he says, the work is made “ so simple, that it may be of general and practical application.” The general reader may well open his eyes, ears, and mouth at that simplicity which calls Natural Philosophy, Acrophysics, Natural History, Idiophysics,—and Medical Science, Androphysics. If these terms are essential and necessary, they will, surely, have the effect of bringing the reader to the conviction of the truth and justice of our author's views, as expressed in the subjoined extract:
The value of the Greek and Latin languages is, we apprehend, often underrated. As sources of our own tongue, and of all the modern languages of southern Europe, they deserve the attention of all thorough scholars; aside from the rich treasures of history, poetry and philosophy which they embody. With regard to the order of the higher branches of study, we have high authority for advising, that the languages should be studied before mathematics and physics ; and that these subjects should be studied before mental, moral and political philosophy.”
This is not only sound doctrine, but it is a most praiseworthy consistency, the absence of which, in our author, would scarcely have been excusable ; for we might as well be ignorant of our mother tongue, as of Greek and Latin, if we design reading the “Pantology.” Without their aid, we should be in as bad condition as the miner without tools, or the engineer without his level. With their assistance, the most common mind can discover nothing in this work difficult to be understood, but it will find a most valuable mass of information, an inexhaustible reservoir of knowledge. In it, the origin of the different sciences, and of the various species of composition, is fully and clearly explained, as also, are the doctrines of the most ancient and modern schools of philosophy. All the various sects, in their turn, receive a portion of the author's atten