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Thomas lent him a favourite horse to convey him to the coast, but, instead of returning the horse, he took him to Holland, and in return, sent More the following epigram :
Quod mihi dixisti
Crede quod edas, & edis;
This was a witty, though not perhaps a very honest satire upon the zeal of Sir Thomas for the most absurd dogma of the Romish church, transsubstantiation.
It certainly is very extraordinary that a man, who had all the humour, without the coarseness of Rabelais, should at the same time possess so abject a spirit of superstition, as to swallow the most preposterous corruptions of Popery, and inflict upon himself the ridiculous penance of wearing constantly a hair shirt. To this austerity he added a very extraordinary discipline on Fridays, and other fasting days. Besides fasting,
Besides fasting, watching, and allowing himself only four or five hours for sleep, he lay either upon the bare ground, or on a bench, with a log of wood under his head for a pillow.
To this strange spirit of superstition, gloomy nd severe in the extreme of monkish mortifi. cation, was added a playfulness of wit, ap
proaching sometimes to levity, if not actual buffoonery. The witticisms of Sir Thonias, indeeds sometimes broke forth even when he was engaged in serious things.
It was his custom, when lord chancellor, to attend Che!sea church on high holidays, sitting in the choir, and wearing a surplice. This he did the day after he had resigned the great seal, and because it had been a custom, when mass was over, for one of his gentlemen to go to his lady's pew, and say that “my lord was gone before ;" he came now himself, and making her a low bow, said “ Madam, my lord is gone.” She, thinking it to be no more ihan his usual huniour, took no notice of it; but in the way home, to her great mortification, he unriddled the jest, by telling her what had happened the day before.
When he was sitting as a justice at the sessions, in the city, one of his brother judges was very severe upon prosecutors, who had been so careless of their purses as to suffer them to be cut, or in modern terms, to have their pockets picked. It was then usual for persons to wear their purses fastened to their girdles. Sir Thomas, with a view of practically reproving his brother magistrate, promised a notorious thief his pardon if he would contrive to cut the judge's purse as he sat on the bench. This was dexterously done by the fellow as he was in the act of communicating a message or information to the judge, who soon afterwards
missed his purse, and had the laugh of the bench properly against him.
He had a great contempt for pedants and pretended scholars, and when he was at Bruges he exposed a person of this description in a curious
This arrogant fellow had, according to the custom of that time put up a challenge on the college gates, stating that he would answer any question that could be propounded to him : on which Sir Thomas put up this question, which would have puzzled the profoundest disciples of Geber-'An aceria capta in withernamia sint irreplegibilia ?' i. e.' whether cattle taken in withernam, (which is an old law writ to make reprisals, on one who has wrongfully distrained another man's cattle) be irrepleviable ?' It need hardly be added, that the boaster declined the contest, and was laughed at.
On one occasion bis wit and inflexible integrity were pointed in a successful manner against that haughty minister Cardinal Wolsey ; and the circumstance is an illastrious memorial of the patriotism of this excellent man. In 1523 Sir Thomas was speaker of the house of commons, and had the courage to oppose an oppressive subsidy demanded by the prime minister. The cardinal was so exasperated that he said to Sir Thomas, in the gallery at Whiteball, “ would to God you had been at Rome, Mr. More, when I made you speaker.” To which he replied, “Your eminence not offended, so would I too, for then I should
have seen the place I long have desired to visit." At the time when he was in the plenitude of royal favour, he had a discerning judgment of the capricious character of his master : for one day the king came suddenly to Sir Thomas's house at Chelsea, and dining with him, walked after dinner in the garden near an hour with his arm about Sir Thomas's neck. On his majesty's departure, Mr. Roper observed how happy he was in the extraordinary familiarity of the king, * I thank our Lord, son,” answered Sir Thomas, “ that I find his grace my very good lord indeed, and I believe he doth as singularly favour me as any subject within this realm ; howbeit son Roper, I must tell thee I have no cause to be proud thereof, for if my head would win him a castle in France, it would not fail to go off.”
Henry himself had no small portion of facetiousness mixed with his bad qualities of oppression and cruelty. Two instances of this shall here suffice.
Having lost himself one day as he was hunting in Windsor forest, he at last reached the abbey of Reading, where being in disguise, he passed as one of the king's guards : and as such was invited to dine with the abbot. A sirloin of beef was the principal dish, on which the king fared heartily. The abbot observing the strength of his appetite, said, “well fare thy heart, and here in a cup of sack I remember the health of his grace your master. I would give a hundred pounds on the