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Bench, a man courteous, gentle, blameless, mild, merciful, just, and upright, in years aged, but in body hale and active above his years, having his life prolonged, and now seeing his son Chancellor of England, thinking himself now to have lived long enough on earth, gladly departed to his God. The son, after his death (to whom compared when alive he was called the young man, and seemed so to himself), missing his departed father, seeing four children of his own, and of their offspring eleven, began in his own conceit to wax old.
“ And this opinion of his was increased by a certain infirmity of his chest, and a bad state of health succeeding, and he, therefore, sated with mortal affairs, and weary of worldly business, giving up his promotions, obtained by the incomparable goodness of his gracious Prince, a thing which from a child he had always desired, that in his latter days he might be at liberty, so that little by little withdrawing himself from the cares and business of this life, he might constantly remember the immortality of the life to come. And he hath caused this tomb to be made for himself, having brought hither the remains of his first wife, that it might every day admonish him of death that hourly creepeth on him. Good reader, I beseech thee, that thy pious prayers may attend him while living and follow him when dead, that this tomb may not have been made in vain, and that he may not fear the approach of death, but that he may willingly for Christ's sake, undergo it, that death to him may not be altogether death, but the gate of everlasting life.
“ Here lieth Jane, the well-beloved wife of Sir Thomas More, who hath appointed this tomb for Alice, my wife, and
for me also, the one being coupled with me in matrimony in my youth, brought me forth three daughters and one son; the other hath been so good to my children (which is a rare praise with step-mothers) as scarce any could be better to her own.
“The one did so live with me, and the other now SO liveth, that it is doubtful whether this or the other were dearer unto me. Oh, how well could we three have lived together in matrimony, if fortune and religion would have suffered it, but I beseech our Lord that this tomb and heaven may unite us together. So death shall give us that which life denied us."
The blank space in the epitaph after the word murderers [-] is understood by some to have been intended to be filled up with the word heretics. It is commonly represented as having been really engraved and afterwards effaced, but the surface of the marble is quite smooth and shows no marks of erasure.
That he was the sworn foe to heresy no one in his senses would attempt to deny, but the pen was his only weapon, or how was it that while he was Chancellor, Erasmus writes, no one was executed for heresy. This is said not to be strictly correct, but it is quite certain More did his best to soften the severity of the laws, and that if any suffered the capital punishment ordered by them, the number of such was very small.
He wrote this epitaph soon after his retirement from public life, and chiefly that the report circulated by his enemies, that he had been compelled to retire, might by this means be publicly refuted.
“ His mansion was granted to Sir William Paulet, being taken from Lady More after the execution of Sir Thomas. It stood at the north end of Beaufort Row, and fragments of the wall, doors, and windows were, when Faulkner wrote in 1829, still to be seen adjoining the burying ground belonging to the Moravian Society. The King's Road divided the Park from the Gardens. This Park seenis to have belonged to More's house, as well as a large extent of pleasure ground, and turning towards the river, ran a little way down the west side of them.
“Till within some forty years the ground remained in a state that might have enabled one to ascertain the exact site of the house, but various buildings have since shut it out from search, and nought remains but the name of Beaufort Row, to tell how it was once honoured."*
* Faulkner's History of Chelsea.
This volume would indeed be incomplete without an account of the works of the great man whose life we have here presented to the reader.
His first literary essay is supposed to have been the fragment which goes under his name, as “ The History of Edward 5th and Richard 3rd,” though some have ascribed it to Cardinal Morton, who probably furnished the materials for it to his precocious page, having been intimately mixed up with the transactions which it narrates. It has the merit of being the earliest historical composition in the English language ; and, with all its defects, a long while elapsed before there was much improvement upon it, this being a department of literature in which England did not at that time excel.
But the composition to which he attached no importance, which as a jeu d'esprit occupied a few of his idle hours when he retired from the bar, and before he was deeply immersed in the business of office, and which he was with great difficulty prevailed upon to publish, would of itself have made his name immortal. Since the time of Plato, there had been no composition given to the world, which, for imagination, for philosophical discrimination, for a familiarity with the principles of government, for a knowledge of the springs of human action, for a keen observation of men and manners, and for facility of expression, could be compared to the "Utopia.” Although the word invented by More has been introduced into the language, to describe what is supposed to be impracticable and visionary,—the work (with some extravagance and absurdities, introduced perhaps with the covert object of softening the offence which might have been given by his satire upon the abuses of his age and country) abounds with lessons of practical wisdom. *
Of his Latin works may be named his Epigrams, partly translated from the Greek, and in part his own composition. His Dialogues were written when he was Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and whilst a prisoner in the Tower; with other religious treatises, he composed his Answer to John Frith, and his Treatise on the Passion of Our Lord. That he was no poor poet may be gathered from the following elegy on Elizabeth of York :
“Yet was I lately promised otherwise,
year yet lasteth, and lo! here I lie.
* Lord Campbell.