Homepage Texts

The Judgement of Sir Thomas More

In the pleasant fields of Battersea, near the river side, on a spot which is now covered with houses, dwelt, three hundred and ten years ago, the blind widow, Annice Collie, and her orphan grandchild, Dorothy. These two were alone in the world, and yet they might scarcely be said to feel their loneliness; for they were all the world to each other.

Annice Collie had seen better days; for she was the daughter of a substantial yeoman, and her husband, Reuben Collie, had been a gardener in the service of good Queen Catherine, the first wife of King Henry the Eighth; and Annice had been a happy wife, a joyful mother, and a liberal housekeeper, having wherewithal to bestow on the wayfarer and stranger at their need. It was, however, the will of God that these blessings should be taken from her. The queen fell into adversity, and, being removed from her favourite palace at Greenwich, to give place to her newly exalted rival, Anne Boleyn, her faithful servants were all discharged; and, among them, Reuben Collie and his son, Arthur, were deprived of their situations in the royal gardens.

This misfortune, though heavy, appeared light, in comparison with the bitter reverses that had befallen their royal mistress: for the means of obtaining an honest livelihood were still in the power of the industrious little family; and beyond that their ambition extended not.

Reuben Collie, who had spent his youth in the Low Countries, had acquired a very considerable knowledge of the art of horticulture, an art at that time so little practised in England, that the salads and vegetables with which the tables of the great were supplied, were all brought, at a great expense, from Holland, and were, of course, never eaten in perfection. Reuben Collie, however, whose observations on the soil and climate had convinced him that these costly exotics might be raised in England, procured seeds, of various kinds, from a friend of his in the service of the Duke of Cleves, and was so fortunate as to rear a few plants of cabbages, savoys, brocoli, lettuces, artichokes, and cucumbers, to the unspeakable surprise of all the gardeners in London and its environs; and honest Reuben narrowly escaped being arraigned as a wizard, in consequence of their envy at the success of his experiment. He had hired, on a long lease, a cottage, with a small field adjoining, at a reasonable rent, of Master Bartholomew Barker, the rich tanner of Battersea; and this he and his son, Arthur, had, with great care and toil, converted into a garden and nursery ground, for rearing fruit trees, vegetables, costly flowers, and herbs of grace: and this spot, he flattered himself, would, one day, prove a mine of wealth to himself, and his son after him. That golden season never arrived; for Arthur, who had, during a leisure time, obtained work in a nobleman's garden at Chelsea, for the sake of bringing home a few additional groats, to assist in the maintenance of his wife, Margaret, and his little daughter, Dorothy, who lived with the old people, was unfortunately killed by the fall of an old wall, over which he was training a fig-tree.

The news of this terrible catastrophe was a deathblow to Reuben Collie. The afflicted mother and wife of Arthur struggled with their own grief to offer consolation to him; but it was in vain, for he never smiled again. He no longer took any interest in the garden, which had been before so great a source of pleasure to him: he suffered the weeds to grow up in his borders, and the brambles to take root in his bed. His flowers bloomed unheeded by him, and his fruit trees remained unpruned: even his darling exotics, the very pride of his heart, and the delight of his eyes, whose progress he had, heretofore, watched with an affection that almost savoured of idolatry, were neglected; and, resisting all the efforts which his wife and daughter-in-law could make to rouse him from this sinful state of despair, he fell into a languishing disorder, and died a few months after the calamity that had rendered him childless.

And now the two widows, Annice and Margaret Collie, had no one to work for them, or render them any comfort in their bereavement, save the little Dorothy; nevertheless, they did not abandon themselves to the fruitless indulgence of grief, as poor Reuben had done; but, the day after they had, with tearful eyes, assisted at his humble obsequies, they returned to their accustomed occupations, or, rather, they commenced a course of unwonted labour in the neglected garden, setting little Dorothy to weed the walks and borders, while they prepared the beds to receive crops, or transplanted the early seedlings from the frames. And Dorothy, though so young, was dutifully and industriously disposed, and a great comfort to them both: it was her especial business to gather the strawberries and currants, and to cull the flowers for posies, and carry them out to sell daily; nor was she afraid to venture, even to the great City of London, on such errands, though her only companion and guard was a beautiful Spainish dog, called Constant, which had been given to her, when quite a little puppy, by her royal mistress, good Queen Catherine, who was wont to bestow much notice on the child; and she, in her turn, fondly cherished the dog for the sake of her former benefactress. But Constant was, for his own sake, very deserving of her regard, not only for his extraordinary agacity and beauty, but for the faithful and courageous attachment which he manifested for her person, no one daring to attack or molest her while he was at her side. Constant was, moreover, very useful in carrying her basket of posies for her, while she was loaded on either arm with those which contained the fruit; and so they performed their daily peregrinations, with kindly words on the one part, and looks and gestures of mutely eloquent affection on the other. Very fond and faithful friends were this guileless pair; and they were soon so well known, and excited so much interest, in the environs of London, that they were treated and caressed at almost every gentleman's house on the road: and the little girl found no difficulty in disposing of her fruit and flowers, and was as happy as a cheerful performance of her duties could render her. But these pleasant days did not last; the small-pox broke out in the neighbourhood: Dorothy's mother was attacked with this fatal malady, and, after a few days' severe illness, died; and the very night after the melancholy and hurried funeral of her beloved daughter-in-law took place, Annice Collie was laid upon the bed of sickness with the same cruel disease, and Dorothy was roused from the indulgence of the intense sorrow into which she was plunged by the unexpected death of her last surviving parent, to exert all her energies for the succour of her aged and helpless grandmother. I know not how it was that I was enabled to watch, day and night, beside her bed, without sleep and almost without sustenance, would the weeping orphan say, whenever she referred to that sad period; but of this I am assured, that the Lord, who feedeth the young ravens when they cry unto him, had compassion upon us both, or I never could have been supported, at my tender years, through trials like those. In the multitude of sorrows that I had in my heart, His comforts refreshed my soul; and it was through His mercy that my dear grandmother recovered: but she never beheld the light of day again, the cruel disease had destroyed her sight. Yes, in addition to all her other afflictions, Annice Collie was now blind, a widow, childless, and destitute; yet was repining far from her; and, raising her sightless orbs to heaven, when she was informed by the sorrowful Dorothy of the extent of the calamity that had befallen her, in the loss of her daughter-in-law, she meekly said, with pious Eli, It is the Lord, and shall I complain or fret myself because he hath, in his wisdom, resumed that, which, in his bounty, he gave? Blessed be his holy name for all which he hath given, and for all that he hath taken away; though these eyes shall behold his glorious works no more, yet shall my lips continue to praise him who can bring light out of darkness.

But the illness of herself and her deceased daughter-in-law had consumed the little reserve that poor Annice had made for the payment of their rent; and their landlord, a hard and covetous man, who had, ever since the death of Reuben Collie, cast a greedy eye on the garden, which he and his son had made and planted with such labour and cost, called upon the poor widow on the quarter-day, and told her, with many harsh words, that, unless she resigned the lease of the garden to him, he would distrain her goods for the rent she owed him, and turn her and her grand-daughter into the street.

It is hard to resign the lease of the garden, which has not yet remunerated us for the sum my poor husband laid out upon it, just as it is becoming productive; but I am in your debt, Master Barker, so you must deal with me according to your conscience, said the blind widow; on which he took the garden into his own hands, and made a merit of leaving the two forlorn one in possession of the cottage.

And now Dorothy betook herself to spinning, for the maintenance of herself and her helpless relative; but it was not much that she could earn, in that way, after having been accustomed to active employment in the open air: and then, her grandmother fell sick again of a rheumatic fever, and Dorothy was compelled to sell first one piece of furniture and then another to purchase necessaries for her, till at length nothing was left but the bed on which poor Annice lay; and, when Dorothy looked round the desolated apartment that had formerly been so neat and comfortable, she was almost tempted to rejoice that her grandmother could not behold its present dreary aspect.

Winter again approached with more than ordinary severity: quarter-day came, and found the luckless pair unprovided with money to pay the rent; and their cruel landlord turned the blind widow and her orphan grandchild into the street: and, but for the benevolence of a poor laundress, who, out of pity, admitted them into her wretched hovel by the way-side, they would have had no shelter from the inclemency of the night that followed. Annice, helpless as an infant, sunk down upon the straw, whereon her compassionate neighbour had assisted in placing her, and, having feebly expressed her thanks, turned her face to the wall; for she could not bear that her son's orphan should see the tears which she vainly strove to repress; but she could not hide them from the anxious scrutiny of the weeping girl. Dorothy did not speak, but looked very earnestly on the pale cheek and sunken features of her venerable grandmother, while she appeared to hold communion with her own heart on some subject of very painful interest. At length she rose up with the air of one who has effected a mighty conquest, and exclaimed, Yes, dearest grandmother, it shall be done: the sacrifice shall be made!

What shall be done, my child? inquired Annice, in surprise: I have asked nothing of you.

Not indeed with your lips, dear parent of my departed father, said Dorothy; but your pallid cheek and tearful eyes have demanded a sacrifice of me, which, however dearly it cost me, shall be made I will sell Constant.

Sell Constant! echoed her grandmother Can you part with the gift of your royal mistress?

Not willingly, believe me, said Dorothy, throwing her arms about the neck of her mute favourite, and bursting into a flood of tears; but how can I see you want bread? It is not long since that I was offered an angel of gold for him by a servant of the Duchess of Suffolk; and this I selfishly refused at that time, saying, I would rather starve than part with my dog. Alas, poor fellow! though I have shared my scanty pittance with him, since your illness he has suffered much for want of food: famine hath touched us all; and I have reason to reproach myself for having retained a creature I can no longer maintain.

The next morning she rose at an early hour, and, accompanied by her faithful Constant, took the road to Westminster, to inquire if the Duchess of Suffolk were still disposed to purchase him at the price she had named; but she returned, bathed in tears, and in great distress, having encountered two ruffians, in a lonely part of the road at Knightsbridge, one of whom claimed Constant as his property, violently seized upon him, and, in spite of her tears and remonstrances, carried him off, threatening her with very harsh usage if she attempted to follow.

Poor Dorothy! this appeared the severest trial that had yet befallen her: at any rate it was one of those drops of bitterness which make a brimful cup of misery overflow; and, regardless of the soothings or expostulations of her grandmother, she wept and sobbed all that night, refusing to be comforted. She rose the following morning with the melancholy conviction that no resource now remained but the wretched one of supplicating the alms of the charitably disposed in the streets and highways. Nothing but the imperative urgency of the case could have reconciled the meek and timid Dorothy to a mode of life so every way repugnant to her feelings. We wept when we saw my dear mother laid in the cold and silent grave; but now I rejoice that she was spared the grief of seeing this day, said the sorrowful orphan, when she commenced her unwonted vocation, and experienced the bitter taunts of the pampered menials of the great, the rude repulses of the unfeeling, or the grave rebukes of the stern, but well-meaning, moralists who, though they awarded their charity, accompanied their alms with reflections on the disreputable and lazy trade she had adopted. Some there were, indeed, who, touched with the sweetness and modesty of her manners and appearance, spake to the forlorn one kindly, relieved her present wants, and bade her call again; but the number of these was comparatively small: and the bread which she earned so hardly for herself and her aged relative was, literally speaking, steeped in her tears. While pursuing her miserable occupation, she sadly missed the company and caresses of the faithful Constant. He would have been kind and affectionate, she said, if all the world had frowned upon her. Her change of circumstances made no alteration in his regard; if she were in sickness or sorrow, and others chid or scorned her, he appeared to redouble his endearments ; and, while he was by her side, she did not feel so very lonely. So sweet it is to be assured of the love of one friend, however humble. Sometimes, too, she thought she should feel less sorrowful if she were assured that he had fallen into good hands.

Meantime days and weeks passed away, her clothes grew old and her shoes were worn out, and Dorothy, who was accustomed to appear so neat and nice in her attire, was reduced to the garb of the most abject misery; but, though barefoot and sorely pinched with cold and famine, she thought less of her own sufferings than of the privations to which her blind grandmother was exposed.

One evening, when the snow lay deep upon the ground, and Dorothy had been begging all day without receiving a single penny in alms, neither had she tasted a morsel of food since a very early hour in the morning, her strength failed her; and, overcome by cold, hunger, weariness, and sorrow, she sat down on a heap of frozen snow by the way-side, and wept bitterly. The river Thames was then frozen over; she had walked across it on the ice, and was now in the parish of Chelsea. She regretted that she had ventured so far from her home, for she was oppressed with fatigue; and, though she saw the trees and houses on the opposite shores of Battersea so near, she felt as if she could not reach them that night. A drowsy feeling, the fatal effects of cold and hunger combined, was stealing over her: she tried to rouse herself, for, she faintly whispered to herself, my poor grandmother will be so uneasy, if I do not return: but then, she thought, how pleasantly I could go to sleep here, and forget all my troubles! I am not cold now, only so very, very drowsy and, though aware that, if she did yield to these lethargic feelings, her sleep would be the sleep of death, she required some stimulus, more powerful than even that conviction, to dispel the soporific influence of the deadly cold which had seized her tender frame, like a withering blight, and benumbed her faculties. But at the very moment when the shores of Battersea, with their snow-clad trees and houses, were fading before her closing eyes, and she was sinking passively and almost pleasingly, into that slumber from which she would never have awaked, she was roused by a dog bounding suddenly upon her with a joyful cry, and licking her benumbed face and hands with the most passionate demonstrations of affection.

Ah, my dear, dear Constant! is it you? she exclaimed in an impulsive burst of delight at this unexpected rencontre. The icy bonds of the death-sleep that had enchained her were broken: she returned the eager caresses of the faithful animal with the rapture of one who is suddenly restored to a long-lost friend: and, starting from the ground with renewed strength and spirits, she exclaimed, I shall be able to reach home now I have found you, my pretty Constant, my own dear dog!

Your dog, hussey? interposed a serving-man, rudely separating the reunited friends, I'd have you know that this dog belongs to my Lady More, whose footman I have the honour to be.

Indeed, indeed, it is my dog that was stolen from me, on the Knightsbridge-road, by a hardhearted man, sobbed Dorothy; she was going to add, just such a one as yourself, but she stopped short.

And pray, my sweet mistress, may I ask how a beggar-wench, like yourself, came in possession of a dog of such a rare and costly breed ? demanded the man with a sneer.

He was given to me, when quite a puppy, by my sovereign lady, good Queen Catherine, who was ever gracious unto me, said she.

Ho! ho! ho! was she so? responded the man, bursting into an insulting laugh: a likely tale, forsooth! you look like a Queen's minion, my mistress, do you not? Well, well, it is not a small lie that will choke you! Good night, my fair courtier, 'tis too cold to stand parleying with you on the matter. So saying, he laid violent hands on Constant; and, in spite of his resistance and Dorothy's tears and passionate remonstrances, he tucked him under his arm, and trudged off.

Cold, hunger, weariness, and dejection, were alike forgotten by the bereaved mistress of Constant at the prospect of a second separation from this faithful friend, whose affecting remembrance of her, after so long an absence, had endeared him to her more than ever; and, without a moment's hesitation, she followed the servant as quickly as her naked and lacerated feet could carry her over the frozen snow, till he arrived at the gates of Sir Thomas More's mansion, which she essayed to enter with him.

Why, you saucy young jade! exclaimed he, thrusting her back: this is a pass of impudence beyond any thing I ever heard of! Don't you know that I am my Lady More's own footman, and Sir Thomas More, my Lady's husband, is Lord High Chancellor of England.

I pray you then to bring me to the speech of her ladyship, said Dorothy, for the higher she be, the more will it behove her to do me justice.

On this the serving-man, who was aware that his lady was a proud worldly woman, and by no means likely to resign her favourite dog to a beggar-girl, laughed immoderately. Some of his fellow servants who were standing by, joined in his mirth, while other were so cruel as to address many jeering remarks to Dorothy on her address and appearance, all which she heard patiently, and meekly replied, the fashion of her clothes was not of her choice, but her necessity, to which she prayed that none of those who reviled her might ever be exposed: and when none would undertake to bring her to the speech of Lady More, she seated herself on a stone at the gates of the court yard, to wait for the ppearance of some of the family, though she was exposed to the inclemency of the snow-storms, which beat on the uncovered head of the friendless orphan.

At length she heard the sound of wheels, and the servants came hastily to throw open the gates, crying, Room, room, for my Lord Chancellor's coach; and all the daughters of Sir Thomas More, with their husbands and children, came forth to welcome him, as was their custom; for that great and good man was very tenderly beloved by his family, to every member of which he was most fondly attached: yet, when he saw the half-naked child sitting so sorrowfully at his gate, he looked reproachfully upon them all, and said, How now, have ye all learned the parable of Lazarus and Dives to little purpose, that ye suffer this forlorn one to remain without the gates in such an evening that no Christian would turn a dog from the fire? Noble Sir, said Dorothy, making a lowly reverence to Sir Thomas, none of this good family wist of my distress, nor have I applied to them for an alms: the cause of my making bold to come hither was upon another matter, on which I beseech your worshipful Lordship to do me justice.

Well, my little maiden, it is cold deciding on causes here, said Sir Thomas: so thou shalt step into my kitchen with the servants; and, after thou art fed and warmed, I will hear thee on thy matter.

Now, though the words "fed and warmed," sounded pleasantly enough in the ears of the cold, half-famished child, yet her attachment to her dog prevailed over every other consideration, and she said Alack! noble sir, though I stand greatly in need of your hospitable charity, yet would it be more satisfaction to me if you would be pleased to hear me forthwith on the matter of my dog, which is detained from me by one of my Lady More's serving-men, under the false pretence that it belongeth to her ladyship.

Go to, thou saucy vagrant! hast thou the boldness to claim my favourite dog before my face? exclaimed a very sour-spoken and hard-favoured old gentlewoman, whom Dorothy had not before observed.

Craving your honourable ladyship's pardon, nay, replied Dorothy, curtseying, I do not claim your ladyship's dog, for that would be a sin; but I demand my own to be restored to me, in which I wrong no one, seeing he is mine own lawful property, which a false caitiff took violently from me three months agone.

That agreeth well with the time when your dog Sultan was presented to you, Mistress Alice, observed Sir Thomas, significantly.

Tilley-valley! tilley-valley! ejaculated Lady More in a pet; that is ever the way in which you cross me, Sir Thomas, making out withal as though I were a receiver of stolen goods.

Nay, patience, my lady; I went not so far as to decide the cause before I had heard both sides of the question, which it is my purpose to do without farther delay, returned Sir Thomas, smiling: so follow me into court, both plaintiff and defendant, and I will give judgment between the parties before I sup; and, with a merry air, he led the way into the servants' hall, where, placing himself in the housekeeper's chair, and putting on his cap, he said, Beggar versus my Lady, open the pleadings, and speak boldly.

But poor Dorothy, instead of speaking, hungdown her head, and burst into tears.

How! speechless! said Sir Thomas: then must the court appoint counsel for the plaintiff. Daughter Margaret, do you closet the plaintiff, hear her case, and plead for her.

Then Mistress Margaret Roper, Sir Thomas's eldest daughter, with a benevolent smile, took the abashed, trembling girl aside; and, having, with soothing words, drawn the particulars of her melancholy story from her, she advanced to the front of Sir Thomas's chair, leading the weeping orphan by the hand, and attempted to humour the scene by opening her client's case in a witty imitation of legal terms, after the manner of a grave law-sergeant; but, as she proceeded to detail the circumstances under which the dog was lost, recognised, and again taken from the friendless orphan, she, by imperceptible degrees, changed her style to the simply pathetic terms in which the child had related the tale to her, the unadorned language of truth and feeling, which never fails to come home to every bosom. All present, save my Lady More, who preserved a very aigre and impenetrable demeanour, were dissolved in tears: as for the poor plaintiff, she covered her face with a part of her tattered garments, and sobbed aloud; and the counsel herself was compelled to pause for a moment to overcome her own emotion, ere she could conclude her eloquent appeal on her client's behalf.

Thou hast pleaded well, my good Meg, said Sir Thomas, smiling through his tears on his best beloved daughter; but now must we hear the defendant's reply, for the plaintiff ever appeareth in the right till after the defendant hath spoken: so now, my Lady, what hast thou to say to this matter?

My Lady hath to repeat what she hath too often said before, that Sir Thomas More's jests are ever out of place, replied my Lady in a huff.

Nay, marry, good Mistress Alice, an thou have naught better to the purpose to respond, I must fain to give judgment for the plaintiff in this case.

Tilley-valley, Sir Thomas! thou art enough to provoke a saint with thy eternal quips and gibes, replied her ladyship: I tell you the dog is my property, and was presented to me by an honourable gentleman one Master Rich, whom you, Sir Thomas, know well; and he said he bought him of a dealer in such gear.

Which dealer probably stole him from my client, said Mistress Margaret Roper.

Nay, but, daughter Margaret, how knowest thou that Sultan was ever this wench's property? retorted Lady More, sharply.

Well answered, defendant, said Sir Thomas: we must call a witness whose evidence must decide the matter. Son Roper, bring the dog Sultan, alias Constant, into court.

The eyes of Dorothy brightened at the sight of her old companion; and Sir Thomas More, taking him into his hands, said, Here am I placed in as great a strait as ever was King Solomon, in respect to the memorable case in which he was called upon to decide whose was the living child, which both mothers claimed, and to whom pertained the dead child, which neither would acknowledge. This maiden saith, the dog which I hold is hers, and was violently taken from her three months agone: my lady replies, "Nay, but he is mine, and was presented to me by an honourable man," (one of the King's Counsellors forsooth). Now, in this matter, the dog is wiser than my Lord Chancellor, for he knoweth unto whom he of right pertaineth; and, therefore, upon his witness must the decision of this controversy depend. So now, my Lady, you stand at the upper end of the hall, as befits your quality, and you, my little maiden, go to the lower; and each of you call the dog by the name which you have been wont to do : and to whichsover of you twain he goeth, that person I adjudge to be his rightful owner.

Oh, my Lord, I ask no other test! exclaimed Dorothy joyfully.

Sultan! Sultan! come to thy mistress, my pretty Sultan! said my Lady, in her most blandishing tone, accompanying her words with such actions of enticement as she judged most likely to win him over to her: but he paid not the slightest heed to the summons. Dorothy simply pronounced the word "Constant!" and the dog, bounding from between the hands of Sir Thomas More, who had lightly held him till both claimants had spoken, leaped upon her, and overwhelmed her with his passionate caresses.

It is a clear case, said Sir Thomas: the dog hath acknowledged his mistress, and his witness is incontrovertible. Constant, thou art worthy of thy name.

Hark ye, wench! said my Lady More, whose desire of retaining the object of dispute had increased with the prospect of losing him, I will give thee a good price for thy dog, if thou art disposed to sell him.

Sell my dear, beautiful, faithful Constant! Oh, never, never! exclaimed Dorothy, throwing her arms about her newly recovered favourite, and kissing him with the fondest affection.

I will give thee a golden angel, and a new suit of clothes to boot, for him, which, I should think, a beggar-girl were mad to refuse, pursued Lady More.

Nay, nay, my Lady, never tempt me with your gold, said Dorothy; or my duty to my poor blind grandmother will compel me to close with your offer, though it should break my heart withal.

Nay, child, an' thou hast a blind old grandmother, whom thou lovest so well, I will add a warm blanket, and a linsey-woolsey gown for her wear, unto the price I have already named, said the persevering Lady More: speak, shall I have him? pursued she, pressing the bargain home.

Dorothy averted her head, to conceal the large tears that rolled down her pale cheeks, as she sobbed out, Ye-es, my Lady.

Dear child, said Sir Thomas, thou hast made a noble sacrifice to thy duty: 'tis pity that thou hast taken up so bad a trade as begging, for thou art worthy of better things.

It is for my poor blind grandmother, said the weeping Dorothy: I have no other means of getting bread for her.

I will find thee a better employment, said Sir Thomas, kindly: thou shalt be my daughter Hoper's waiting-maid, if thou canst resolve to quit the wandering life of a beggar, and settle to an honest service.

How joyfully would I embrace your offer, noble Sir, if I could do so without being separated from my aged grandmother, who has no one in the world but me, replied Dorothy, looking up between smiles and tears.

Nay, God forbid that I should put asunder those whom nature hath so fondly united in the holy bands of love and duty, said Sir Thomas More, wiping away a tear: my house is large enough to hold ye both; and while I have a roof to call mine own, it shall contain a corner for the blind and aged widow and the destitute orphan: that so, when the fashion of this world passeth away, they may witness for me before Him, with whom there is no respect of persons, and who judgeth every man according to his works.

Historical Summary

Sir Thomas More was the only son of Sir John More, a judge of the king's bench, and was born in Milk Street, London, 1480. At a very early period of his life he gave such indications of the talents for which he was conspicuous, that Cardinal MortonThis excellent prelate has already been introduced to the juvenile reader, in a preceding tale, under the name of Dr. Morton, Bishop of Ely., Archbishop of Canterbury, in whose household he was placed, prophetically remarked, "This child, here waiting at table, whosoever shall live to see it, will prove a marvellous man!" The young reader must note from this anecdote the peculiar manners of those days. Sir Thomas More was then a judge's son, and yet he was servitor at the cardinal's table. In ancient times, the tyro, either in arms or learning, let his birth or rank in life be what it might, during his noviciate, ever waited on his elders, and supposed betters in learning or wisdom; and even at the present day in schools and establishments of monastic institution, as Eton, Winchester, or Westminster, some faint traces may still be discovered of this antique system, which has now degenerated into the capricious and irregular system of fagging.

Sir Thomas More greatly distinguished himself at Oxford, after which he entered the inns of court, which were then, whatever they may be now, the finishing schools of moral worth and high attainment for the young nobles and gentry of England, whether their intention was to devote themselves to a legal profession, or to arms, or the senate. Young More's destination was to the former, for we find him called to the bar, when a student at Lincoln's Inn, and he followed his profession with the greatest success. In 1502, he became a member of parliament, and distinguished himself in such a manner, in opposing a grant for the marriage of Henry the Seventh's daughter to the King of Scotland, James the Fourth, that the king was told, a beardless boy had prevented its being passed ; in revenge for which, Henry the Seventh had the meanness to send young More's father, the judge, to the Tower, for some pretended offence, from whence he was not set at liberty till he was heavily fined. When Henry the Eighth ascended the throne, the fame of young More's abilities and eloquence having reached his ears, his majesty persuaded him to enter his service, and immediately gave him the situation of master of requests, soon after knighted him, and made him a member of his privy council. His wit and universal talents so effectually gained the favour of his sovereign, that he treated him with extraordinary condescension and familiarity, of which many stories are told. In 1518, Sir Thomas became treasurer of the exchequer, and five years afterwards was chosen speaker of the house of commons ; having filled several other high offices with invariable credit and success, Henry selected him, in 1529, to be the successor of Cardinal Wolsey, as Lord Chancellor, being the first layman that had ever filled that exalted office.

After executing that high charge with singular zeal and impartiality, he resigned it in May, 1532, because he would not countenance the destruction of a church to which he was a most faithful and devoted servant. His retirement was not attended with the security, either to his person or his conscience, which might have Wen anticipated; for, having been uniformly opposed to Henry’s divorce from Catherine of Arragon, he rendered himself obnoxious both to his master and the new queen and by refusing to attend Anne Boleyn's coronation, his doom was sealed. A crisis was at hand from which no honest man of the Catholic religion could escape. In 1534, the Act of Supremacy appeared, and Sir Thomas More, sincerely attached to the faith of his ancestors, refused to swerve from it. He was imprisoned, arraigned of high treason, and on the most scandalous testimony, pronounced guilty. The usual penalty of being hanged, drawn, and quartered, was commuted into simple decapitation, a boon which Sir Thomas More acknowledged by one of those lively sallies for which he was as celebrated as for his graver talents:

"God forbid," said he, "the king should use any more such mercy to any of my friends, and God bless my posterity from such pardons."

He was beheaded at Tower Hill, on Tuesday, the 6th of July, 1535, being then in his fifty-fifth year, and suffered, not only with fortitude, but with cheerfulness.

Sir Thomas More, amidst all the cares of state, spared time to devote to the superintendence of the education of his children, and he was amply rewarded, since his three daughters were the pride of their sex and their country for their high attainments and many virtues; even his step-daughter, likewise much beloved by him, manifested great excellence of character, and shewed a tender regard for him in his misfortunes. His great-grandson, Cresacre More, wrote the life of his noble progenitor, which is one of the most beautiful biographies ever penned. "It happened," says Cresacre More, "on a time, that a beggar woman's dog, which she had lost, was presented for a jewel to my Lady More, and she kept it some seven-night very carefully; but at last the beggar had notice where her dog was, and presently she came to complain to Sir Thomas, that his lady withheld her dog from her; presently my lady was sent for, and the dog brought with her: which Sir Thomas taking in his hands, caused his wife, because she was the worthier person, to stand at the upper end of the hall, and the beggar at the lower end, and saying that he sat there to do justice, he bade each of them to call the dog, which when they did, the dog went presently to the beggar, forsaking the lady.When he saw this, he bade my lady be contented, for the dog was none of hers ; yet she, repining at the sentence of my lord chancellor, agreed with the beggar, and gave her a piece of gold which would well have bought three dogs, and so all parties were agreed, every one smiling to see his manner of inquiring out the truth."

Let all disunited families study with care this beautiful sketch of a household of love, as given by an eye witness, Sir Thomas's friend, thegreat Erasmus; "More hath built near London, upon the Thames' side, to wit, at Chelsea, a commodious house, neither mean nor subject to envy, and yet magnificent enough; there he converseth affably with his family, his wife, his son, and daughter-in-law, his three daughters and their husbands, with eleven grandchildren. There is not any man so loving to his children as he, and he loveth his old wife, as well as if she were a young maid; and such is the excellency of his temper, that whatsover happeneth that could not be helped, he loveth it as though nothing could have happened more happily. You would say, there were in that place Plato's academy; but I do the house injury in comparing it to Plato's academy, wherein there was only disputations of members, or geometrical figures, and sometimes of moral virtues. I should rather call his house a school of the Christian religion; their special care is piety and virtue ; there is no quarelling, or intemperate words heard ; none seen idle; which household discipline that worthy gentleman doth not govern by proud and lofty words, but with all kind and courteous benevolence. Every body performeth, yet is there always alacrity, neither is sober mirth anything wanting. He suffereth none of his servants either to be idle or to give themselves to games, but some of them he allotted to look to the garden, assigning to every one his separate plot; some again he set to sing, some to play on the organs; he suffereth none of them touch cards or dice. He used, before bed time, to call them together, and say certain prayers with them." This life of domestic felicity was suddenly destroyed by the decree of a tyrant; and the mandate which consigned the most accomplished individual in the English dominion to the scaffold, carried desolation to all who depended on him, gave his lands to a stranger, and his

"Once fair spreading family dissolved."

Amidst this most estimable and distinguished family, none shone with greater lustre than Margaret, the eldest daughter and most beloved pupil of Sir Thomas More. She resembled him in person more nearly than the rest of his children, and in the depth and acuteness of her understanding. She was the dispenser of her father's secret charities, and to her alone he entrusted the knowledge of the severe religious austerities to which he subjected himself. A most affecting scene took place between the father and daughter on his return from the Tower after his condemnation, which it would be a want of judgment to describe in any other words than those of her husband's, Mr. Roper, a most accomplished gentleman, worthy of being the son-in-law of Sir Thomas More:

"When Sir Thomas came from Westminster to the Tower ward again, his daughter, my wife, desirous to see her father, whom she thought she should never see in this world after, and also to have his final blessing, gave attendance about the Tower wharf, where she knew he would pass by before he could enter the Tower. There tarrying his coming, as soon as she saw him, after his blessing upon her knees reverently received, she hasting towards him, without consideration or care of herself, pressing in amongst the midst of the throng and company of the guard, that with halberds and bills went round about him, hastily ran to him, who, well liking her most natural and dear daughterly affection towards him, gave her his fatherly blessing, and many goodly words of comfort besides. From whom when she turned to depart she, not satisfied with the former sight of her dear father, and like one that had forgotten herself, being all transported with the entire love of her dear father, having neither heed to himself nor the press of people and multitude that were there about him, suddenly turned back again, ran to him as before, took him about the neck, and divers times kissed him most lovingly, and at last, with a full and heavy heart, was fain to depart from him; the beholding whereof was to many of them that were present thereat so lamentable, that it made them, for very sorrow thereof, to weep and mourn."

The morning before he suffered, Sir Thomas wrote to his dear daughter the following letter, with a piece of charcoal, in the blank leaf of one of his works. Besides its intrinsic excellence, the allusions it contains to the persons composing his once happy family circle, make it deeply interesting:

"Our Lord bless you, good dauhgter, and your good husband, and your little boy, and all yours, and all my children, and all my good children, and all oar friends. Recommend me, when ye may, to my good daughter Cecily Mrs. Heron, his third daughter., whom I beseech the Lord to comfort; and I send her my blessing, and to all her children, and pray her to pray for me. I send her a handkerchief, and God comfort my good son, her husband. My good daughter Dauncey A beloved servant in the family, who married another faithful retainer of Sir Thomas's, his secretary, John Harris. It is a redeeming trait in human nature that so many persons should have been affectionate and true in the trying hour of adversity. hath the picture in parchment, that you delivered me from my lady Coniers; her name is on the back. Shew her that I heartily pray her, that you may send it in my name to her again, for a token from me, to pray for me. I like special well Dorothy Collie His second daughter, Elizabeth.: I pray you be good to her. I would wot whether this be she that you wrote me of; if not, yet I pray you be good to the other as you may, in her affliction, and to my daughter Joan Alleyn too A servant of Mrs. Roper's, his god-daughter. Give her, I pray you, some kind answer, for she sued hither to me this day to pray you to be good to her. I cumber you, good Margaret, much; but I should be sorry if it should be any longer than to-morrow, for it is St. Thomas's eve, and the utas of St. Peter, and therefore tomorrow long I to go to God. It were a day meet and convenient for me. I never liked your manners towards me better than when you kissed me last, for I love when daughterly love and dear charily hath no leisure to stay for worldly courtesy In this beautiful sentence he alludes to their last interview on Tower Wharf.. Farewell, my dear child, and pray for me, and I shall for you and all your friends, that we may merrily meet in Heaven. I thank you for your great cost. I send now to my good daughter Clement The wife of Dr Clement, his ward and relative, and be loved as a daughter., her algorisme stone, and I send her and my godson, and all her children, God's blessing and mine. I pray you, at time convenient, commend me to my good son John More. I liked well his natural fashion He likewise met his father on Tower Wharf. Our Lord bless him and his wife, my loving daughter, to whom I pray him to be good, as he hath great cause; and if that the land of mine come into his hand, he brake not my will concerning his sister Dauncey; and our Lord bless Thomas and Austin (his sons), and all that they have."

It was one of the last requests of Sir Thomas More to Henry the Eighth, that his daughter Margaret might attend his funeral. In defiance of the danger which attended the act, she bought the head of her honoured parent, when it was about to be thrown into the Thames; and when brought before the privy council, and harshly questioned concerning this act, and why she did it, she replied boldly, "That it might not become food for fishes." She died at the early age of thirty-six; and by her own desire she was buried with her father's head on her bosom.

A fine family picture of all these interesting personages, by Holbein, is still in existence, likewise engravings from it. In this picture is introduced the portrait of the beggar-girl's dog, on which the accompanying tale is founded.

Alice Lady More, although not a pleasant mannered or sweet tempered woman, must have possessed some good qualities, as she was an excellent stepmother to Sir Thomas's motherless children, as we learn from some verses of his, translated from the Latin, in which he wrote them, by Archdeacon Wrangham. They were meant for an epitaph on his first and second wives.

Within this tomb Jane, wife of More, reclines; This, More for Alice and himself designs. The first, dear object of my youthful vow. Gave me three daughters and a son to know: The next,—ah, virtue in a step-dame rare,— Nursed my sweet infants with a mother's care. With both my years so happily have pass'd, Which most my love I know not—first or last.

The worthies of Sir Thomas More's family are not yet enumerated. Mrs. Roper's daughter, Mrs. Bazett, was one of the most accomplished and pious ladies of her time, and translated from the Latin her grandfather's "Exposition of our Saviour's Passion," in a style so like his own, that for some time many believed it to be his composition. England still possesses descendants from this most illustrious branch of a noble family.