Anne Manning.

The household of Sir Thos. More online

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At Table, Discourse flowed soe thicke
and faste that I mighte aim in vayn to
chronicle it — and why should I ? dwelling
as I doe at the Fountayn Head? Onlie
that I find Pleasure, alreadie, in glancing
over the foregoing Pages whensoever they
concern Father and 'Erasmus^ and wish
they were more faithfuUie recalled and
better writ. One Thing sticks by me, —
a funny Reply of Father s to a Man who
owed him Money and who put him off
with " Memento MorierisT " I bid you,"
retorted Father^ " Memento Mori Mris^ and


of Sir Thos. More 75

" I wish you woulde take as goode Care to
" provide for the one as I do for the other."

Linacre laughed much at this, and sayd,
— "That was real Wit ; a Spark struck
" at the Moment ; and with noe 111-
" nature in it, for I am sure your Debtor
" coulde not help laughing."

" Not he," quoth Erasmus. " More* s
" Drollerie is like that of a young Gentle-
" woman of his Name, which shines with-
" out burning," . . . and, oddlie enow,
he looked acrosse at me. I am sure he
meant Bess.

'July 1st.
^ATHER broughte home a
strange Guest to-daye, —
a converted Jew., with
grizzlie Beard, furred
Gown, and Eyes that
shone like Lamps lit in dark Cavernes.



The Household

He had beene to Benmarine and Tremegen^
to the Holie Okie and to Damascus, to
Urmia and Assyria, and I think alle over
the knowne World ; and tolde us manie
strange Tales, one hardlie knew how to
believe ; as, for Example, of a Sea-coast

Tribe, called the Balouches, who live on
Fish and build theire Dwellings of the
Bones. Alsoe, of a Race of his Countrie-
men beyond Euphrates who believe in


of Sir Thos. More 77

Christy but know nothing of the Pope ;

and of whom were the Magians that

followed the Star. This agreeth not with

our Legend. He averred that, though

soe far apart from theire Brethren, theire

Speech was the same, and even theire

Songs ; and he sang or chaunted one

which he sayd was common among the

Jews alle over the World, and had beene

soe ever since theire Citie was ruinated

and the People captivated, and yet it was

never sett down in Prick-song. Erasmus,

who knows little or nought of Hebrew,

listened to the Words with Curiositie,

and made him repeate them twice or

thrice : and though I know not the

Character, it seemed to me they sounded

thus: —

Adir Hu yivne bethcha beccaro,
El, Une ; El, b'ne ; El, b'ne ;
Bethcha beccaro.


78 The Household

Though Chrlstianish, he woulde not
eat Pig's Face; and sayd Swine's Flesh
was forbidden by the Hebrew Law for
its unwholesomenesse in hot Countries
and hot Weather, rather than by way
of arbitrarie Prohibition. Daisy took a
great DisHke to this Man, and woulde
not sit next him.

In the Hay-field alle the Evening.
Swathed Father in a Hay-rope, and made
him pay the Fine, which he pretended
to resist. Cecy was just about to cast
one round Erasmus^ when her Heart
failed and she ran away, colouring to
the Eyes. He sayd, he never saw such
pretty Shame. Father reclining on the
Hay, with his Head on my Lap and his
Eyes shut, Bess asked if he were asleep.
He made answer, " Yes, and dreaming."
I askt, "Of what?" "Of a far-off
" future Daye, Meg; when thou and I

" shall

of Sir Thos. More 79

" shall looke back on this Hour, and this
" Hay-field, and my Head on thy Lap."

" Nay, but what a stupid Dream, Mr.
" More^' says Mother. " Why, what
" woulde you dreame of, Mrs. Alice ? "
" Forsooth, if I dreamed at alle, when I
" was wide awake, it shoulde be of being
" Lord Chancellor at the leaste." " Well,
" Wife, I forgive thee for not saying at
" the most. Lord Chancellor, quotha !
" And you woulde be Dame Alice^ I trow,
" and ride in a Whirlecote, and keep a
" Spanish Jennet, and a Couple of Grey-
" hounds, and wear a Train before and
" behind, and carry a Jerfalcon on your
" Fist." " On my Wrist." " No, that's
" not such a pretty Word as t'other! Go
" to, go ! "

Straying from the others, to a remote
Corner of the Meadow, or ever I was
aware, I came close upon Gammer Giirney^


8o The Household

holding Somewhat with much Care.
" Give ye good den, Mistress Meg^' quoth
she, " I cannot abear to rob the Birds of
" theire Nests ; but I knows you and
" yours be kind to dumb Creatures, soe
" here's a Nest o' young Owzels for ye —
" and I can't call 'em dumb nowther, for
" they'll sing bravelie some o' these Days."
" How hast fared, of late, Gammer ? "
quoth I. " Why, well enow for such as
" I," she made Answer; "since I lost the
" Use o' my right Hand, I can nowther
" spin, nor nurse sick Folk, but I pulls
" Rushes, and that brings me a few Pence,
" and I be a good Herbalist ; onlie, be-
" cause I says one or two English Prayers,
" and hates the Priests, some Folks thinks
" me a Witch." " But why dost hate the
" Priests?" quoth I. "Never you mind,"
she gave Answer, " I've Reasons manic ;
" and for my English Prayers, they were

" taught

(9/Sir Thos. More 8i

" taught me by a Gentleman I nursed,
*' that's now a Saint in Heaven, along
" with poor 'Joan^

And soe she hobbled off, and I felt
kindlie towards her, I scarce knew why
— perhaps because she spake soe lovingly
of her dead Sister, and because of that
Sister's Name. My Mother's Name was

"July 2nd.

s^RASMVS is gone. His
last Saying to Father was,
"They will have you at
"Court yet;" and Father s
Answer, " When Plato s
" Year comes round."

To me he gave a Copy, how precious !
of his Testament. "You are an elegant
" Latinist, Margaret^'' he was pleased to
say, " but, if you woulde drink deeplie

F "of

82 The Household

" of the Well-springs of Wisdom, applie
" to Greek. The Latins have onlie
" shallow Rivulets ; the Greeks, copious
" Rivers, running over Sands of Gold.
" Read Plato ; he wrote on Marble, with
" a Diamond ; but above alle, read the
" New Testament. 'Tis the Key to the
" Kingdom of Heaven."

To Mr. Gunnel^ he said smiling, "Have
" a Care of thyself, dear Gonellus, and
" take a little Wine for thy Stomach's
" Sake. The Wages of most Scholars
" now-a-days, are weak Eyes, Ill-health,
" an empty Purse, and shorte Commons.
" I neede only bid thee beware of the
" two first."

To Bess^ " Farewell, Bessy ; thank you
" for mending my bad Latin. When I
" write to you, I will be sure to signe
" myselfe, ''Koterodamius.^ Farewell, sweete
" Cecil ; let me always continue your

" ' desired

of Sir Thos. More 83

" ' desired Amiable.' And you, 'Jacky^ —
" love your Book a little more."

" Jack's deare Mother, not content
" with her Girls," sayth Father, " was
" alwaies wishing for a Boy, and at last
" she had one that means to remain a
" Boy alle his Life."

" The Dutch Schoolmasters thoughte
" me dulle and heavie," sayth Erasmus,
" soe there is some Hope of yacky yet."
And soe, stepped into the Barge, which
we watched to Chelsea Reach. How dulle
the House has beene ever since ! Rupert
and William have had me into the Pavil-
lion to hear the Plot of a Miracle-play
they have alreadie begunne to talke over
for Christmasse, but it seemed to me down-
righte Rubbish. Father sleepes in Town
to-nighte, soe we shall be stupid enow.
Bessy hath undertaken to work Father a
Slipper for his tender Foot ; and is happie,



The Household

tracing for the Pattern our three Moor-
cocks and Cohs ; but I am idle and

If I had Paper, I woulde beginne
my projected Opus; but I dare not ask
Gunnel for anie more just yet ; nor have
anie Money to buy Some. I wish I had
a couple of Angels. I think I shall write
to Father for them to-morrow ; he alwaies
likes to heare from us if he is twenty-four
Hours absent, providing we conclude not
with " I have Nothing more to say."

"July dfth.
HAVE writ my Letter to
Father. I almoste wish,
now, that I had not sent it.
Rupert and Will still
full of theire Moralitie,
which reallie has some Fun in it. To


Of Sir Thos. More 85

ridicule the Extravagance of those who,
as the Saying is, carry theire Farms and
Fields on theire Backs, William proposes
to come in, all verdant, with a reall Model
of a Farm on his Back, and a Windmill
on his Head.

July sth.
OW sweete, how gracious
an Answer from Father !
'John Harris has broughte
me with it the two
Angels ; less prized than
this Epistle.

July loth.
JXTEENTH Birthdaye.
Father away, which made
it sadde. Mother gave me
a payr of blue Hosen with
Silk Clocks; Mr. Gunnel,
an ivorie-handled Stylus ; Bess, a Bodkin


86 The Household

for my Hair ; Daisy ^ a Book-mark ; Mercy ^
a Saffron Cake ; yack, a Basket ; and
Cecil, a Nosegay. William's Present was
fayrest of alle, but I am hurte with him
and myselfe ; for he offered it soe queerlie
and tagged it with such ... I refused
it, and there's an End. 'Twas unman-
nerhe and unkinde of me, and I've cried
aboute it since.

Father alwaies gives us a Birthdaye
Treat ; soe, contrived that Mother shoulde
take us to see my Lord Cardinal of Tork
goe to Westminster in State. We had a
merrie Water-partie ; got goode Places
and saw the Show ; Crosse-bearers, Pillar-
bearers, Ushers and alle. Himselfe in
crimson engrayned Sattin, and Tippet
of Sables, with an Orange in his Hand
helde to 's Nose, as though the common
Ayr were too vile to breathe. What a
pompous Priest it is ! The Archbishop


of Sir Thos. More 87

mighte well say, " That Man is drunk
" with too much Prosperitie."

Betweene Dinner and Supper, we had
a fine Skirmish in the Straits of Ther-
mopylae. Mr. Gunnel headed the Persians,

and Will was Leo?iidas, with a swashing
Buckler, and a Helmet a Yard high ; but
Mr. Gunnel gave him such a Rap on the
Crest that it went over the Wall ; soe
then William thought there was Nothing


88 The Household

left for him but to die. Howbeit, as
he had beene layd low sooner than he
had reckoned on, he prolonged his last
Agonies a goode deal, and gave one of
the Persians a tremendous Kick just as
they were aboute to rifle his Pouch.
They therefore thoughte there must be
Somewhat in it they shoulde like to see ;
soe, helde him down in spite of his
hitting righte and lefte, and pulled there-
from, among sundrie lesser Matters, a
carnation Knot of mine. Poor Varlet, I
wish he would not be so stupid.

After Supper, Mother proposed a Con-
cert; and we were alle singing a Rounde,
when, looking up, I saw Father standing
in the Door-way, with such a happy
Smile on his Face! He was close behind
Rupert and Daisy, who were singing from
the same Book, and advertised them of
his Coming by gentlie knocking theire


of Sir Thos. More


Heads together ; but I had the firste
Kiss, even before Mother^ because of my

'July I \th.
^T turns out that Father s
Lateness Yester-even was
caused by Press of Busi-
nesse ; a forayn Mission
having beene proposed to
him, which he resisted as long as he
could, but was at length reluctantlie
induced to accept. Lengthe of his Stay
uncertayn, which casts a Gloom on alle;
but there is soe much to doe as to leave
little Time to think, and Father is busiest
of alle ; yet hath founde Leisure to concert
with Mother for us a Journey into the
Country, which will occupy some of the
Weeks of his Absence. I am fulle of care-



T^he Household

fulle Thoughts and Forebodings, being
naturallie of too anxious a Disposition.
Oh, let me caste alle my Cares on
another ! Fecisti nos ad te^ Domine; et
inquietum est cor nostrum^ donee requiescat
in te.


of Sir Thos. More 91

May 2jth^ 1523.
lis soe manle Months agone
since that I made an Entry
in my Libellus^ as that my
Motto, ''Nulla Dies sine
" hinea^' hath somewhat
of Sarcasm in it. How manie Things
doe I beginne and leave unfinisht ! and
yet, less from Caprice than Lack of
Strength ; like him of whom the Scrip-
ture was writ, — " This Man beganne to
" build and was not able to finish." My
Opus^ for instance ; the which my Father s
prolonged Absence in the Autumn, and
my Winter Visitt to Aunt Nan and Aunt
Fan gave me such Leisure to carrie
forward. But alack ! Leisure was less
to seeke than Learninge ; and when I
came back to mine olde Taskes, Leisure


92 The Household

was awanting too ; and then, by reason
of my sleeping in a separate Chamber,
I was enabled to steale Hours from the
earlie Morn and Hours from the Night,
and, like unto Solomon's virtuous Woman,
my Candle went not out. But 'twas not
to Purpose that I worked, like the virtu-
ous Woman, for I was following a Jack-
o-Lantern ; having forsooke the straight
Path laid downe by 'Erasmus for a foolish
Path of mine owne ; and soe I toyled,
and blundered, and puzzled, and was
mazed ; and then came on that Payn
in my Head. Father sayd, " What makes
" Meg soe pale ? " and I sayd not : and,
at the last, I tolde Mother there was
somewhat throbbing and twisting in the
Back of mine Head, like unto a little
Worm that woulde not die; and she made
Answer, " Ah, a Maggot," and soe by
her Scoff I was shamed. Then I gave


of Sir Thos. More 93

over mine Opus^ but the Payn did not
yet goe ; soe then I was longing for
the deare Pleasure, and fondlie turning
over the Leaves, and w^ondering woulde
Father be surprised and pleased w^ith it
some Daye, when Father himself came
in or ever I was aware. He sayth,
" What hast thou, Meg^ " I faltered and
woulde sett it aside. He sayth, " Nay,
" let me see ; " and soe takes it from
me ; and after the firste Glance throws
himself into a Seat, his Back to me,
and firste runs it hastilie through, then
beginnes with Methode and such Silence
and Gravitie as that I trembled at his
Side, and felt what it must be to stand
a Prisoner at the Bar, and he the Judge.
Sometimes I thought he must be pleased,
at others not : at lengthe, alle my fond
Hopes were ended by his crying, " This
" will never doe. Poor Wretch, hath this

" then

94 T^he Household

" then beene thy Toyl ? How couldst
" find Time for soe much Labour ? for
" here hath beene Trouble enow and to
" spare. Thou must have stolen it, sweet
" Meg^ from the Night, and prevented
" the Morning Watch. Most dear'st !
" thy Father s owne loved Child ; " and
soe, caressing me till I gave over my
Shame and Disappointment.

" I neede not to tell thee, Meg^^ Father
sayth, " of the unprofitable Labour of
' Sisyphus, nor of drawing Water in a
' Sieve. There are some Things, most
' deare one, that a Woman, if she trieth,
' may doe as well as a Man ; and some
' she cannot, and some she had better
' not. Now, I tell thee firmlie, since
' the firste Payn is the leaste sharpe, that,
' despite the Spiritt and Genius herein
' shewn, I am avised 'tis Work thou
' canst not and Work thou hadst better

" not

of Sir Thos. More 95

" not doe. But judge for thyselfe ; if
" thou wilt persist, thou shalt have Leisure
" and Quiet, and a Chamber in my new
" Building, and alle the Help my Gallery
" of Books may afford. But thy Father
" says. Forbear."

Soe, what coulde I say, but " My
" Father shall never speak to me in vayn."

Then he gathered the Papers up and
sayd, " Then I shall take Temptation out
" of your Way;" and pressing 'em to his
Heart as he did soe, sayth, " They are as
" deare to me as they can be to you ; "
and soe left me, looking out as though I
noted (but I noted not) the cleare-shining
Thames. 'Twas Twilighte, and I stoode
there I know not how long, alone and
lonely ; with Tears coming, I knew not
why, into mine Eyes. There was a
Weight in the Ayr, as of coming Thunder ;
the Screaming, ever and anon, of 'Juno


96 The Household

and Argus, inclined me to Mellancholie,
as it alwaies does : and at length I be-
ganne to note the Moon rising, and the
deepening Clearnesse of the Water, and
the lazy Motion of the Barges, and the
Flashes of Light whene'er the Rowers
dipt theire Oars. And then I beganne to
attend to the Cries and different Sounds
from acrosse the Water, and the Tolling
of a distant Bell ; and I felle back on
mine olde heart-sighinge, " Fecisti nos ad
" te, Domine; et inquietum est cor nostrum,
" donee requiescat in teT

Or ever the Week was gone, my Father
had contrived for me another Journey to
New Hall, to abide with the Lay Nuns,
as he calleth them. Aunt Nan and Aunt
Fan, whom my Step-mother loveth not,
but whom I love and whom Father loveth.
Indeede, 'tis sayd in Fssex that at first he
inclined to Aunt Nan rather than to my


of Sir Thos. More 97

Mother; but that, perceiving my Mother
affected his Companie and Aunt Nan
affected it not, he diverted his hesitating
Affections unto her and took her to wife.
Howbeit, Aunt Nan loveth him dearlie
as a Sister ought : indeed, she loveth alle,
except, methinketh, herself, to w^hom,
alone, she is rigid and severe. How holie
are my Aunts' Lives ! Cloistered Nuns
could not be more pure, and could scarce
be as usefulle. Though wise, they can
be gay ; though noe longer young, they
love the Young. And theire Reward is,
the Young love them ; and I am fuUe
sure in this World they seek noe better.

Returned to Chelsea^ I spake much in
Prayse of mine Aunts, and of single Life.
On a certayn Evening, we Maids were
sett at our Needles and Samplers on the
Pavilion Steps; and, as Follie will out,
*gan talk of what we would fayn have to

G our

98 The Household

our Lots, shoulde a good Fairie starte up
and grant cache a Wish. Daisy was for
a Countess's Degree, with Hawks and
Hounds. Bess was for founding a Col-
lege, Mercy a Hospital, and she spake soe
experimentallie of its Conditions that I
was fayn to goe Partners with her in the
same. Cecy commenced, " Supposing I
" were married ; if once that I were mar-
" ried" — on which, Father^ who had come
up unperceived, burst out laughing and
sayth, " Well, Dame Cecily^ and what
"State would you keep?" Howbeit, as
he and I afterwards paced together, juxta
Fluvium, he did say, " Mercy hath well
" propounded the Conditions of an Hos-
" pital or Alms-house for aged and sick
" Folk, and 'tis a Fantasie of mine to sett
" even such an one afoot, and give you
" the Conduct of the same."

From this careless Speech, dropped as


of Sir Thos. More 99

'twere by the Way, hath sprung mine
House of Refuge ! and oh, what Pleasure
have I derived from it ! How good is
my Father! how the Poor bless him!
and how kind is he, through them, to
me ! Laying his Hand kindly on my
Shoulder, this Morning, he sayd, "iVf

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Online LibraryAnne ManningThe household of Sir Thos. More → online text (page 5 of 11)