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extend their personal influence, and if we care to listen, speak to the very least of us. In Milton's words, books
preserve as in a phial the purest efficacy and extraction of that living intellect that bred them”.
The works of the Scottish poets may be studied by older students in the following editions, which contain very valuable introductions :James I.'s King's Quair, edited by Skeat (Scottish Text Society, 1884); Henryson's Poems, edited by Laing, 1865; Dunbar's Poems, edited by Small (Scottish Text Society, 1884; 1889); the works of Gavin Douglas, edited by Small, 1874; the works of David Lyndsay, edited by Laing, 1871. Useful selections from all the writers mentioned in this chapter will be found in Skeat's Specimens of English Literature (Clarendon Press).
THE PROSE WRITERS OF THE RENAISSANCE.
Of English prose there had so far been very little of note except Caxton's work in translation and Malory's English
Morte d'Arthur. About 1455 Reginald prose before
Pecock had written in English a tract
against the Lollards called the Repressor of Overmuch blaming of the Clergy. It may be regarded as our first theological work written in English. Sir John Fortescue, who died in 1485, wrote the Difference between Absolute and Limited Monarchy, with the object of showing the superiority of a constitutional over a despotic government.
1. Thomas More.
Sir Thomas More. Birth and educa. tion.
The effects of the new learning were strongly apparent in Thomas More. His career belongs more properly
to history, but his contributions to our literature are of sufficient importance to give him
a high place among English prose writers. Moreover, for two centuries his literary reputation on the Continent was considerable. More was born at London
in 1478, and after attending a good school near his father's house, at the age of thirteen entered the household of Morton, Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Chancellor, who thought so well of the boy's parts that about 1492 he sent him to Christ Church, Oxford. There More became acquainted with Grocyn, and with Linacre, under whom he studied Greek.
After a two years' residence at the university, More returned to London to study law, in which he speedily became proficient. About 1497 he was intro- His friendduced to Erasmus (1467-1536), the great Erasmus and Dutch scholar and reformer, and the two Holbein. became life-long friends. It was in More's house that Erasmus wrote his Praise of Folly, a satire in Latin on the follies of the age, and it was Erasmus who said of More, Whenever did Nature mould a character more gentle, endearing, and happy than Thomas More's?" More was a lover of literature and of the new learning, and cared deeply for art. Knowing this, Erasmus sent to him Holbein (1498–1554), the great German painter, who many times painted More's portrait, and who, prior to making his personal acquaintance, had illustrated the Utopia, More's great book.
More now began to interest himself in politics and public affairs. He entered Parliament, went on embassies, and in 1518 was appointed privy-councillor. His public He was much liked at court for his witty and private conversation and great learning, and enjoyed life. the king's regard and friendship. He accompanied Henry to the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520, and in 1521 was knighted. In 1529 More became Lord Chancellor, and was the first layman to hold that high office. He lived at Chelsea, then quite in the country, where he had built himself a house. His son, his son's wife, his daughters and their husbands, and his grandchildren dwelt with him. We gather from the letters of Erasmus a charming picture of More's domestic life. When he returned home of a day from performing the heavy business inseparable from his office, he would talk with his
wife, chatter with the children, and speak with the servants. Sometimes the king would come unexpectedly to dinner, and after the meal would walk up and down the garden with More, placing his arm familiarly round his neck. Erasmus calls More's house “ a school of genuine Christian feeling”, and remarks that “there is no one here, man or woman, who is not occupied with the belles lettres, or with profitable reading, although the first pre-eminent effort is directed to piety of conduct”. Holbein painted More and his family in a room, probably the dining-hall, of their house at Chelsea. The picture is lost, but the original sketch for it is in the museum at Basle. In the drawing large folio volumes lie on the floor, and almost all the persons hold books in their hands or on their laps.
When the question of divorcing Queen Katherine came to be discussed, More was unable to take the
king's view. Throughout his life he was a
warm supporter of the authority of the Pope, and as soon as he recognized that a breach with Rome was not to be avoided, he resigned his office and retired to his home at Chelsea. When he refused to take the oath acknowledging Anne Boleyn as Henry's lawful wife he was sent to the Tower, and in 1535 was beheaded for treason.
More's literary work consists of poems in Latin and English; of controversial prose writings in English; of
the History of Richard III. and Edward V. in English, and of the Utopia in Latin. He
had no real poetic power, and was scarcely a great controversial writer; thus his fame rests on the two last-mentioned works.
The History of Richard III. was written in 1513, but it was not printed or published in its author's life
time. It appeared in an incorrect version in tory of Rich. 1543, and in a more correct form in More's
collected works in 1557. It is generally supposed that he obtained his material from Morton's personal knowledge of the period. The chief literary interest of the book resides in the fact that it was the first piece
His contributions to literature.
The “ His
of historical writing in English since the cessation of the Chronicle in 1154, and the first history that deserves to be ranked as literature.
But More owes his literary fame to the Utopia, a delightful description of an ideal state. From the earliest times down to our own day, men The have taken delight in devising and describing “ Utopia”. ideal states, the state not as it is, but as it ought to be. Plato's Republic is the first important book of the kind, and to the study of the work of the Greek philosopher More owed much. Cicero, the great Roman orator, wrote De republica (concerning the state), and in early Christian times we have St. Augustine's City of God. The Utopia was the first work of the sort by an Englishman, and it was followed later by Bacon's New Atlantis (1627), Harrington's Oceana (1656), and Mandeville's Fable of the Bees (1723).
The title, Utopia, means nowhere (Gr. ou, not, and topos, a place), and has given a word to the English language; we are in the habit of calling unpractical schemes for the improvement of the conditions under which we live, utopian. In the first part, written in 1516, More relates that at Antwerp he met Raphael Hythloday, a fictitious personage, who in the course of his travels had visited the island of Utopia. More demanded of Raphael an account of that perfectly governed state, and in the course of the preliminary conversation, asked him if he had ever been in England. Raphael replied in the affirmative, and More took the opportunity of putting into Raphael's mouth a description of the defects and evils in the social institutions of England. Here, as indeed all through the book, More's opinions are much in advance of his age. Raphael expresses surprise that thieves should be hanged, a practice only abolished at the beginning of the present century. He says:
This way of punishing thieves was neither just in itself nor good for the public; for as the severity was too great, so the remedy was not effectual; simple theft not being so great a crime that it ought to cost a man his life; no punishment, how severe soever, being able to
restrain those from robbing who can find out no other way of livelihood . . . it would be much better to make such good provisions by which every man might be put in a method how to live, and so be preserved from the fatal necessity of stealing and of dying for it.
It is only in our own time that a few thinkers are of More's opinion that every man should have the chance, as far as food, clothing, education, and work go, of a fair start in life. He comments on the idleness of the nobility, on luxury and the heavy taxation. Raphael declares that the only remedy is to have all property in common, as is the case with the Utopians.
The second part, written in 1515, contains the account of the manners and customs of the Utopians.
They elected their king as well as his council or parliament, and as it was thought that he had enough to do to rule his own land properly, he was not permitted to rule over other lands in addition. The ruler was elected for life, but could be deposed if he showed any tendency to tyranny. The magistrates and priests were also elected by the people; every family had a vote, and the votes were taken by ballot. War was hateful to the Utopians. All property belonged to the state, so that all the people were equally well off. The house doors were never locked; anyone might enter who wished to do so, for nothing was a man's own. Education was not confined to one class; everybody in Utopia could read and write, and the women had the same advantages as the men. “They were taught learning in their own native tongue", and also studied eagerly the Greek books that Raphael had brought with him. The people dwelt alternately in the town and the country, so that they might know both ways of life; and all, both men and women, learned a trade. No one was idle, yet no one worked more than six hours a day. Their leisure was spent in reading, in listening to lectures or music, or in playing sensible games. The chief town was called Amaurot. Every house had a garden; slaughter-houses and hospitals were outside the city. In the latter the sick were so well cared for that when any one