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liberty, we are at a loss to comprehend how out ancestors could have so long entertained the odious custom of villanage; or even that the slaves submitted, without actual rebellion. It is grateful, however, to reflect, that general humanity effected that which was neither enforced nor recommended by the government.
Sir Thomas Smith, who flourished in the latter reign, mentions, in his Treatise on the Eng. Iish Republick, that villans in gross, or in other words absolute slaves, were very limited in their number at all times; and those which were annexed to particular estates were almost all emancipated. Rymer informs us, that Henry VIII. presented two of his slaves and their families with their liberty, in 1514. Whether the motives he assigned for so doing were sincerely stated, may admit of a doubt, when we consider the major part of his public and private acts.
Humour is certainly a strong trait in the English character. Unfortunately, however, this part of my labours must be in a great degree deficient. In the early ages, a thousand sallies of whim and pleasantry were enjoyed for the moment, and then irrecoverably lost ; as it does not appear that many of our antient authors have thought proper to preserve the wit they must have witnessed.
Hoddesdon leads us to suppose, in his life of Sir Thomas More, that a witty observation, or a good joke, was not disliked in the reign of Edward
the Fourth, even in the presence of a cardinal archbishop. Before More was sent to Oxford for his education, his friends placed him under the protection of Morton, archbishop of Canterbury and Lord High Chancellor ; who often observed to the nobles at his table, that the youth then waiting would make a marvellous man; which opinion he formed from the wit and jests of the boy, who would, “ in the Christmas time, sud
enly sometimes step in among the players, and, never studying for the matter, make a part of his own there presently amongst them; which was so witty and full of jests, that he alone made the lookers-on more sport than all the players beside.”
This disposition to innocent mirth attracted the small portion of human kindness inherent in the bosom of his master, Henry VIII. who sometimes visited him at Chelsea ; where he was once observed walking with More, embracing his neck with his arm. Roper, the son-in-law of More, delighted at this instance of kindness, congratulated him on the subject. “Son Roper,” replied the chancellor, “ I may tell thee, I have no cause to be proud of it; for if my head would win him a castle in France, it would not fail to go off.”
This inflexible and worthy chancellor of a worthless monarch, derived infinite honour from the very strong contrast his conduct afforded to that of a tyrant whose will was his only law, and
whose acts were one uninterrupted chain of wickedness. Mr. Dauney, one of his sons-in-law, once observed to him, in a playful way, that his family were far less indebted to him than were the very door-keepers of his predecessor Wolsey; as he had provided for them during his chancellorship, in common with others better entitled to his favours. Dauney continued saying, that us he had married his daughter, and faithfully waited on his pleasure, he deserved some reward; particularly as he, as chancellor, was so easy of access, nothing could be procured by way of bribe for introductions : all which might be extremely commendable in him, but was far from being profitable to himself.
“ You say well, son,” said Sir Thomas : “I like well that you are of conscience so scrupulous; but
ways be there, son, that I may
both do yourself good, and pleasure your friends also. For sometime may I by my word stand your
friend in stead ; and sometimes may I by my letter help him. Or if he have a cause depending before me, at your request, I may hear him before another. Or if his cause be not all the best, yet may I move the parties to fall to some reasonable end by arbitrament. Howbeit, son, this one thing I assure thee on my faith, that if the parties will at my hands call for justice, then all were it my father (whom I love dearly) stood on the one side, and the devil (whom I hate ex
tremely) stood on the other, his cause being good, the devil should have right.”,
One of his subsequent decisions gave a positive proof that he merely asserted the truth in the above speech. Mr. Heron, who married one of his daughters, was a party in a cause brought before Sir Thomas, which had few recommendations. An arbitration was proposed, and rejected by Heron ; who presumed on the favour of the chancellor. He, in conclusion,” says my authority, “ made a flat decree against him."
The following conversation, between the exchancellor and his lady, occurred in the Tower of London, where he had long been confined. The reader will please to observe it was dame More's first visit to her consort in his affliction. " What the good year, Master More,” said she, “I marvel that
you, that have been always taken for so wise a man, will now so play the fool as to lie here in this close filthy prison, and be content thus to be shut up among mice and rats; and too when you might be abroad at your liberty, and with the favour and good will both of the king and his council, if ye would but do as all the bishops and best learned of the realm have done; and seeing you have at Chelsea a right fair house, your library, your garden, your orchard, and all other necessaries so handsome about you ; where you might, in the company of me your wife, your children, and household, be merry: I muse
- How say you,
what a G-'s name you mean here still thus fondly to tarry."
After he had awhile quietly heard her, with a very cheerful countenance, he said unto her, “Good Mrs. Alice, tell me one thing." " What is that?” said she. “ Is not this house as nigh Heaven as mine own?" To whom she (as not liking these words) answered, after her manner, “ Tillee vallie, Tillee vallie.” Mrs. Alice,” said he; “is it not so?" “ Bon Deus, Bon Deus, man, will this gear never be left?" said she. “ Well then, Mrs. Alice, if it be so, it well; but, for my part,
see no great cause why I should much joy in my gay house, or of any thing belonging thereunto, when if I should but seven years be buried under ground, and then arise and come thither again, I should not fail to find some therein that would bid me get out of doors, and tell me it were none of mine. What cause have I then to like such a house, as would so soon forget his master? Again, tell me, Mrs. Alice, how long do you think we may live and
“ Some twenty years,” said she. Truly,” said Sir Thomas, “ if you had said some thousand years, it had been somewhat; and yet he were a very bad merchant, that would put himself in danger to lose eternity for a thousand years: how much the rather, if we are not sure to enjoy it one day to an end !”