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´╗┐Title: Sir Thomas More, or, Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society
Author: Southey, Robert, 1774-1843
Language: English
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*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Sir Thomas More, or, Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society" ***

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Transcribed from the 1887 Cassell and Company edition by David Price,
email: ccx074@pglaf.org





It was in 1824 that Robert Southey, then fifty years old, published "Sir
Thomas More, or Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society," a
book in two octavo volumes with plates illustrating lake scenery.  There
were later editions of the book in 1829, and in 1831, and there was an
edition in one volume in 1837, at the beginning of the reign of Queen

These dialogues with a meditative and patriotic ghost form separate
dissertations upon various questions that concern the progress of
society.  Omitting a few dissertations that have lost the interest they
had when the subjects they discussed were burning questions of the time,
this volume retains the whole machinery of Southey's book.  It gives
unabridged the Colloquies that deal with the main principles of social
life as Southey saw them in his latter days; and it includes, of course,
the pleasant Colloquy that presents to us Southey himself, happy in his
library, descanting on the course of time as illustrated by the bodies
and the souls of books.  As this volume does not reproduce all the
Colloquies arranged by Southey under the main title of "Sir Thomas More,"
it avoids use of the main title, and ventures only to describe itself as
"Colloquies on Society, by Robert Southey."

They are of great interest, for they present to us the form and character
of the conservative reaction in a mind that was in youth impatient for
reform.  In Southey, as in Wordsworth, the reaction followed on
experience of failure in the way taken by the revolutionists of France,
with whose aims for the regeneration of Europe they had been in warmest
accord.  Neither Wordsworth nor Southey ever lowered the ideal of a
higher life for man on earth.  Southey retains it in these Colloquies,
although he balances his own hope with the questionings of the ghost, and
if he does look for a crowning race, regards it, with Tennyson, as a

      "_far off_ divine event
   To which the whole Creation moves."

The conviction brought to men like Wordsworth and Southey by the failure
of the French Revolution to attain its aim in the sudden elevation of
society was not of vanity in the aim, but of vanity in any hope of its
immediate attainment by main force.  Southey makes More say to himself
upon this question (page 37), "I admit that such an improved condition of
society as you contemplate is possible, and that it ought always to be
kept in view; but the error of supposing it too near, of fancying that
there is a short road to it, is, of all the errors of these times, the
most pernicious, because it seduces the young and generous, and betrays
them imperceptibly into an alliance with whatever is flagitious and
detestable."  All strong reaction of mind tends towards excess in the
opposite direction.  Southey's detestation of the excesses of vile men
that brought shame upon a revolutionary movement to which some of the
purest hopes of earnest youth had given impulse, drove him, as it drove
Wordsworth, into dread of everything that sought with passionate energy
immediate change of evil into good.  But in his own way no man ever
strove more patiently than Southey to make evil good; and in his own home
and his own life he gave good reason to one to whom he was as a father,
and who knew his daily thoughts and deeds, to speak of him as "upon the
whole the best man I have ever known."

In the days when this book was written, Southey lived at Greta Hall, by
Keswick, and had gathered a large library about him.  He was Poet
Laureate.  He had a pension from the Civil List, worth less than 200
pounds a year, and he was living at peace upon a little income enlarged
by his yearly earnings as a writer.  In 1818 his whole private fortune
was 400 pounds in consols.  In 1821 he had added to that some savings,
and gave all to a ruined friend who had been good to him in former years.
Yet in those days he refused an offer of 2,000 pounds a year to come to
London and write for the _Times_.  He was happiest in his home by
Skiddaw, with his books about him and his wife about him.

Ten years after the publishing of these Colloquies, Southey's wife, who
had been, as Southey said, "for forty years the life of his life," had to
be placed in a lunatic asylum.  She returned to him to die, and then his
gentleness became still gentler as his own mind failed.  He died in 1843.
Three years before his death his friend Wordsworth visited him at
Keswick, and was not recognised.  But when Southey was told who it was,
"then," Wordsworth wrote, "his eyes flashed for a moment with their
former brightness, but he sank into the state in which I had found him,
patting with both his hands his books affectionately, like a child."

Sir Thomas More, whose ghost communicates with Robert Southey, was born
in 1478, and at the age of fifty-seven was beheaded for fidelity to
conscience, on the 6th of July, 1535.  He was, like Southey, a man of
purest character, and in 1516, when his age was thirty-eight, there was
published at Louvain his "Utopia," which sketched wittily an ideal
commonwealth that was based on practical and earnest thought upon what
constitutes a state, and in what direction to look for amendment of ills.
More also withdrew from his most advanced post of opinion.  When he wrote
"Utopia" he advocated absolute freedom of opinion in matters of religion;
in after years he believed it necessary to enforce conformity.  King
Henry VIII., stiff in his own opinions, had always believed that; and
because More would not say that he was of one mind with him in the matter
of the divorce of Katherine he sent him to the scaffold.

H. M.


   "_Posso aver certezza_, _e non paura_,
   _Che raccontando quel che m' e accaduto_,
   _Il ver diro_, _ne mi sara creduto_."

   "Orlando Innamorato," c. 5. st. 53.

It was during that melancholy November when the death of the Princess
Charlotte had diffused throughout Great Britain a more general sorrow
than had ever before been known in these kingdoms; I was sitting alone at
evening in my library, and my thoughts had wandered from the book before
me to the circumstances which made this national calamity be felt almost
like a private affliction.  While I was thus musing the post-woman
arrived.  My letters told me there was nothing exaggerated in the public
accounts of the impression which this sudden loss had produced; that
wherever you went you found the women of the family weeping, and that men
could scarcely speak of the event without tears; that in all the better
parts of the metropolis there was a sort of palsied feeling which seemed
to affect the whole current of active life; and that for several days
there prevailed in the streets a stillness like that of the Sabbath, but
without its repose.  I opened the newspaper; it was still bordered with
broad mourning lines, and was filled with details concerning the deceased
Princess.  Her coffin and the ceremonies at her funeral were described as
minutely as the order of her nuptials and her bridal dress had been, in
the same journal, scarce eighteen months before.  "Man," says Sir Thomas
Brown, "is a noble animal, splendid in ashes, and pompous in the grave;
solemnising nativities and deaths with equal lustre, nor omitting
ceremonies of bravery in the infamy of his nature."  These things led me
in spirit to the vault, and I thought of the memorable dead among whom
her mortal remains were now deposited.  Possessed with such imaginations
I leaned back upon the sofa and closed my eyes.

Ere long I was awakened from that conscious state of slumber in which the
stream of fancy floweth as it listeth by the entrance of an elderly
personage of grave and dignified appearance.  His countenance and manner
were remarkably benign, and announced a high degree of intellectual rank,
and he accosted me in a voice of uncommon sweetness, saying, "Montesinos,
a stranger from a distant country may intrude upon you without those
credentials which in other cases you have a right to require."  "From
America!" I replied, rising to salute him.  Some of the most gratifying
visits which I have ever received have been from that part of the world.
It gives me indeed more pleasure than I can express to welcome such
travellers as have sometimes found their way from New England to those
lakes and mountains; men who have not forgotten what they owe to their
ancient mother; whose principles, and talents, and attainments would
render them an ornament to any country, and might almost lead me to hope
that their republican constitution may be more permanent than all other
considerations would induce me either to suppose or wish.

"You judge of me," he made answer, "by my speech.  I am, however, English
by birth, and come now from a more distant country than America, wherein
I have long been naturalised."  Without explaining himself further, or
allowing me time to make the inquiry which would naturally have followed,
he asked me if I were not thinking of the Princess Charlotte when he
disturbed me.  "That," said I, "may easily be divined.  All persons whose
hearts are not filled with their own grief are thinking of her at this
time.  It had just occurred to me that on two former occasions when the
heir apparent of England was cut off in the prime of life the nation was
on the eve of a religious revolution in the first instance, and of a
political one in the second."

"Prince Arthur and Prince Henry," he replied.  "Do you notice this as
ominous, or merely as remarkable?"

"Merely as remarkable," was my answer.  "Yet there are certain moods of
mind in which we can scarcely help ascribing an ominous importance to any
remarkable coincidence wherein things of moment are concerned."

"Are you superstitious?" said he.  "Understand me as using the word for
want of a more appropriate one--not in its ordinary and contemptuous

I smiled at the question, and replied, "Many persons would apply the
epithet to me without qualifying it.  This, you know, is the age of
reason, and during the last hundred and fifty years men have been
reasoning themselves out of everything that they ought to believe and
feel.  Among a certain miserable class, who are more numerous than is
commonly supposed, he who believes in a First Cause and a future state is
regarded with contempt as a superstitionist.  The religious naturalist in
his turn despises the feebler mind of the Socinian; and the Socinian
looks with astonishment or pity at the weakness of those who, having by
conscientious inquiry satisfied themselves of the authenticity of the
Scriptures, are contented to believe what is written, and acknowledge
humility to be the foundation of wisdom as well as of virtue.  But for
myself, many, if not most of those even who agree with me in all
essential points, would be inclined to think me superstitious, because I
am not ashamed to avow my persuasion that there are more things in heaven
and earth than are dreamt of in their philosophy."

"You believe, then, in apparitions," said my visitor.

_Montesinos_.--Even so, sir.  That such things should be is probable _a
priori_; and I cannot refuse assent to the strong evidence that such
things are, nor to the common consent which has prevailed among all
people, everywhere, in all ages a belief indeed which is truly catholic,
in the widest acceptation of the word.  I am, by inquiry and conviction,
as well as by inclination and feeling, a Christian; life would be
intolerable to me if I were not so.  "But," says Saint Evremont, "the
most devout cannot always command their belief, nor the most impious
their incredulity."  I acknowledge with Sir Thomas Brown that, "as in
philosophy, so in divinity, there are sturdy doubts and boisterous
objections, wherewith the unhappiness of our knowledge too nearly
acquainteth us;" and I confess with him that these are to be conquered,
"not in a martial posture, but on our knees."  If then there are moments
wherein I, who have satisfied my reason, and possess a firm and assured
faith, feel that I have in this opinion a strong hold, I cannot but
perceive that they who have endeavoured to dispossess the people of their
old instinctive belief in such things have done little service to
individuals and much injury to the community.

_Stranger_.--Do you extend this to a belief in witchcraft?

_Montesinos_.--The common stories of witchcraft confute themselves, as
may be seen in all the trials for that offence.  Upon this subject I
would say with my old friend Charles Lamb--

   "I do not love to credit tales of magic!
   Heaven's music, which is order, seems unstrung.
   And this brave world
   (The mystery of God) unbeautified,
   Disordered, marred, where such strange things are acted."

The only inference which can be drawn from the confession of some of the
poor wretches who have suffered upon such charges is, that they had
attempted to commit the crime, and thereby incurred the guilt and
deserved the punishment.  Of this indeed there have been recent
instances; and in one atrocious case the criminal escaped because the
statute against the imaginary offence is obsolete, and there exists no
law which could reach the real one.

_Stranger_.--He who may wish to show with what absurd perversion the
forms and technicalities of law are applied to obstruct the purposes of
justice, which they were designed to further, may find excellent examples
in England.  But leaving this allow me to ask whether you think all the
stories which are related of an intercourse between men and beings of a
superior order, good or evil, are to be disbelieved like the vulgar tales
of witchcraft?

_Montesinos_.--If you happen, sir, to have read some of those ballads
which I threw off in the high spirits of youth you may judge what my
opinion then was of the grotesque demonology of the monks and middle ages
by the use there made of it.  But in the scale of existences there may be
as many orders above us as below.  We know there are creatures so minute
that without the aid of our glasses they could never have been
discovered; and this fact, if it were not notorious as well as certain,
would appear not less incredible to sceptical minds than that there
should be beings which are invisible to us because of their subtlety.
That there are such I am as little able to doubt as I am to affirm
anything concerning them; but if there are such, why not evil spirits, as
well as wicked men?  Many travellers who have been conversant with
savages have been fully persuaded that their jugglers actually possessed
some means of communication with the invisible world, and exercised a
supernatural power which they derived from it.  And not missionaries only
have believed this, and old travellers who lived in ages of credulity,
but more recent observers, such as Carver and Bruce, whose testimony is
of great weight, and who were neither ignorant, nor weak, nor credulous
men.  What I have read concerning ordeals also staggers me; and I am
sometimes inclined to think it more possible that when there has been
full faith on all sides these appeals to divine justice may have been
answered by Him who sees the secrets of all hearts than that modes of
trial should have prevailed so long and so generally, from some of which
no person could ever have escaped without an interposition of Providence.
Thus it has appeared to me in my calm and unbiassed judgment.  Yet I
confess I should want faith to make the trial.  May it not be, that by
such means in dark ages, and among blind nations, the purpose is effected
of preserving conscience and the belief of our immortality, without which
the life of our life would be extinct?  And with regard to the conjurers
of the African and American savages, would it be unreasonable to suppose
that, as the most elevated devotion brings us into fellowship with the
Holy Spirit, a correspondent degree of wickedness may effect a communion
with evil intelligences?  These are mere speculations which I advance for
as little as they are worth.  My serious belief amounts to this, that
preternatural impressions are sometimes communicated to us for wise
purposes: and that departed spirits are sometimes permitted to manifest

_Stranger_.--If a ghost, then, were disposed to pay you a visit, you
would be in a proper state of mind for receiving such a visitor?

_Montesinos_.--I should not credit my senses lightly; neither should I
obstinately distrust them, after I had put the reality of the appearance
to the proof, as far as that were possible.

_Stranger_.--Should you like to have an opportunity afforded you?

_Montesinos_.--Heaven forbid!  I have suffered so much in dreams from
conversing with those whom even in sleep I knew to be departed, that an
actual presence might perhaps be more than I could bear.

_Stranger_.--But if it were the spirit of one with whom you had no near
ties of relationship or love, how then would it affect you?

_Montesinos_.--That would of course be according to the circumstances on
both sides.  But I entreat you not to imagine that I am any way desirous
of enduring the experiment.

_Stranger_.--Suppose, for example, he were to present himself as I have
done; the purport of his coming friendly; the place and opportunity
suiting, as at present; the time also considerately chosen--after dinner;
and the spirit not more abrupt in his appearance nor more formidable in
aspect than the being who now addresses you?

_Montesinos_.--Why, sir, to so substantial a ghost, and of such
respectable appearance, I might, perhaps, have courage enough to say with

   "Thou com'st in such a questionable shape,
   That I will speak to thee!"

_Stranger_.--Then, sir, let me introduce myself in that character, now
that our conversation has conducted us so happily to the point.  I told
you truly that I was English by birth, but that I came from a more
distant country than America, and had long been naturalised there.  The
country whence I come is not the New World, but the other one: and I now
declare myself in sober earnest to be a ghost.

_Montesinos_.--A ghost!

_Stranger_.--A veritable ghost, and an honest one, who went out of the
world with so good a character that he will hardly escape canonisation if
ever you get a Roman Catholic king upon the throne.  And now what test do
you require?

_Montesinos_.--I can detect no smell of brimstone; and the candle burns
as it did before, without the slightest tinge of blue in its flame.  You
look, indeed, like a spirit of health, and I might be disposed to give
entire belief to that countenance, if it were not for the tongue that
belongs to it.  But you are a queer spirit, whether good or evil!

_Stranger_.--The headsman thought so, when he made a ghost of me almost
three hundred years ago.  I had a character through life of loving a
jest, and did not belie it at the last.  But I had also as general a
reputation for sincerity, and of that also conclusive proof was given at
the same time.  In serious truth, then, I am a disembodied spirit, and
the form in which I now manifest myself is subject to none of the
accidents of matter.  You are still incredulous!  Feel, then, and be

My incomprehensible guest extended his hand toward me as he spoke.  I
held forth mine to accept it, not, indeed, believing him, and yet not
altogether without some apprehensive emotion, as if I were about to
receive an electrical shock.  The effect was more startling than
electricity would have produced.  His hand had neither weight nor
substance; my fingers, when they would have closed upon it, found nothing
that they could grasp: it was intangible, though it had all the reality
of form.

"In the name of God," I exclaimed, "who are you, and wherefore are you

"Be not alarmed," he replied.  "Your reason, which has shown you the
possibility of such an appearance as you now witness, must have convinced
you also that it would never be permitted for an evil end.  Examine my
features well, and see if you do not recognise them.  Hans Holbein was
excellent at a likeness."

I had now for the first time in my life a distinct sense of that sort of
porcupinish motion over the whole scalp which is so frequently described
by the Latin poets.  It was considerably allayed by the benignity of his
countenance and the manner of his speech, and after looking him steadily
in the face I ventured to say, for the likeness had previously struck me,
"Is it Sir Thomas More?"

"The same," he made answer, and lifting up his chin, displayed a circle
round the neck brighter in colour than the ruby.  "The marks of
martyrdom," he continued, "are our insignia of honour.  Fisher and I have
the purple collar, as Friar Forrest and Cranmer have the robe of fire."

A mingled feeling of fear and veneration kept me silent, till I perceived
by his look that he expected and encouraged me to speak; and collecting
my spirits as well as I could, I asked him wherefore he had thought
proper to appear, and why to me rather than to any other person?

He replied, "We reap as we have sown.  Men bear with them from this world
into the intermediate state their habits of mind and stores of knowledge,
their dispositions and affections and desires; and these become a part of
our punishment, or of our reward, according to their kind.  Those
persons, therefore, in whom the virtue of patriotism has predominated
continue to regard with interest their native land, unless it be so
utterly sunk in degradation that the moral relationship between them is
dissolved.  Epaminondas can have no sympathy at this time with Thebes,
nor Cicero with Rome, nor Belisarius with the imperial city of the East.
But the worthies of England retain their affection for their noble
country, behold its advancement with joy, and when serious danger appears
to threaten the goodly structure of its institutions they feel as much
anxiety as is compatible with their state of beatitude."

_Montesinos_.--What, then, may doubt and anxiety consist with the
happiness of heaven?

_Sir Thomas More_.--Heaven and hell may be said to begin on your side the
grave.  In the intermediate state conscience anticipates with unerring
certainty the result of judgment.  We, therefore, who have done well can
have no fear for ourselves.  But inasmuch as the world has any hold upon
our affections we are liable to that anxiety which is inseparable from
terrestrial hopes.  And as parents who are in bliss regard still with
parental love the children whom they have left on earth, we, in like
manner, though with a feeling different in kind and inferior in degree,
look with apprehension upon the perils of our country.

         "_sub pectore forti_
   _Vivit adhuc patriae pietas_; _stimulatque sepultum_
   _Libertatis amor_: _pondus mortale necari_
   _Si potuit_, _veteres animo post funera vires_
   _Mansere_, _et prisci vivit non immemor aevi_."

They are the words of old Mantuan.

_Montesinos_.--I am to understand, then, that you cannot see into the
ways of futurity?

_Sir Thomas More_.--Enlarged as our faculties are, you must not suppose
that we partake of prescience.  For human actions are free, and we exist
in time.  The future is to us therefore as uncertain as to you; except
only that having a clearer and more comprehensive knowledge of the past,
we are enabled to reason better from causes to consequences, and by what
has been to judge of what is likely to be.  We have this advantage also,
that we are divested of all those passions which cloud the intellects and
warp the understandings of men.  You are thinking, I perceive, how much
you have to learn, and what you should first inquire of me.  But expect
no revelations!  Enough was revealed when man was assured of judgment
after death, and the means of salvation were afforded him.  I neither
come to discover secret things nor hidden treasures; but to discourse
with you concerning these portentous and monster-breeding times; for it
is your lot, as it was mine, to live during one of the grand climacterics
of the world.  And I come to you, rather than to any other person,
because you have been led to meditate upon the corresponding changes
whereby your age and mine are distinguished; and because, notwithstanding
many discrepancies and some dispathies between us (speaking of myself as
I was, and as you know me), there are certain points of sympathy and
resemblance which bring us into contact, and enable us at once to
understand each other.

_Montesinos_.--_Et in Utopia ego_.

_Sir Thomas More_.--You apprehend me.  We have both speculated in the
joys and freedom of our youth upon the possible improvement of society;
and both in like manner have lived to dread with reason the effects of
that restless spirit which, like the Titaness Mutability described by
your immortal master, insults heaven and disturbs the earth.  By
comparing the great operating causes in the age of the Reformation, and
in this age of revolutions, going back to the former age, looking at
things as I then beheld them, perceiving wherein I judged rightly, and
wherein I erred, and tracing the progress of those causes which are now
developing their whole tremendous power, you will derive instruction,
which you are a fit person to receive and communicate; for without being
solicitous concerning present effect, you are contented to cast your
bread upon the waters.  You are now acquainted with me and my intention.
To-morrow you will see me again; and I shall continue to visit you
occasionally as opportunity may serve.  Meantime say nothing of what has
passed--not even to your wife.  She might not like the thoughts of a
ghostly visitor: and the reputation of conversing with the dead might be
almost as inconvenient as that of dealing with the devil.  For the
present, then, farewell!  I will never startle you with too sudden an
apparition; but you may learn to behold my disappearance without alarm.

I was not able to behold it without emotion, although he had thus
prepared me; for the sentence was no sooner completed than he was gone.
Instead of rising from the chair he vanished from it.  I know not to what
the instantaneous disappearance can be likened.  Not to the dissolution
of a rainbow, because the colours of the rainbow fade gradually till they
are lost; not to the flash of cannon, or to lightning, for these things
are gone as so on as they are come, and it is known that the instant of
their appearance must be that of their departure; not to a bubble upon
the water, for you see it burst; not to the sudden extinction of a light,
for that is either succeeded by darkness or leaves a different hue upon
the surrounding objects.  In the same indivisible point of time when I
beheld the distinct, individual, and, to all sense of sight, substantial
form--the living, moving, reasonable image--in that self-same instant it
was gone, as if exemplifying the difference between to _be_ and _not_ to
_be_.  It was no dream, of this I was well assured; realities are never
mistaken for dreams, though dreams may be mistaken for realities.
Moreover I had long been accustomed in sleep to question my perceptions
with a wakeful faculty of reason, and to detect their fallacy.  But, as
well may be supposed, my thoughts that night, sleeping as well as waking,
were filled with this extraordinary interview; and when I arose the next
morning it was not till I had called to mind every circumstance of time
and place that I was convinced the apparition was real, and that I might
again expect it.


On the following evening when my spiritual visitor entered the room, that
volume of Dr. Wordsworth's ecclesiastical biography which contains his
life was lying on the table beside me.  "I perceive," said he, glancing
at the book, "you have been gathering all you can concerning me from my
good gossiping chronicler, who tells you that I loved milk and fruit and
eggs, preferred beef to young meats, and brown bread to white; was fond
of seeing strange birds and beasts, and kept an ape, a fox, a weasel, and
a ferret."

"I am not one of those fastidious readers," I replied, "who quarrel with
a writer for telling them too much.  But these things were worth telling:
they show that you retained a youthful palate as well as a youthful
heart; and I like you the better both for your diet and your menagerie.
The old biographer, indeed, with the best intentions, has been far from
understanding the character which he desired to honour.  He seems,
however, to have been a faithful reporter, and has done as well as his
capacity permitted.  I observe that he gives you credit for 'a deep
foresight and judgment of the times,' and for speaking in a prophetic
spirit of the evils, which soon afterwards were 'full heavily felt.'"

"There could be little need for a spirit of prophecy," Sir Thomas made
answer, to "foresee troubles which were the sure effect of the causes
then in operation, and which were actually close at hand.  When the rain
is gathering from the south or west, and those flowers and herbs which
serve as natural hygrometers close their leaves, men have no occasion to
consult the stars for what the clouds and the earth are telling them.  You
were thinking of Prince Arthur when I introduced myself yesterday, as if
musing upon the great events which seem to have received their bias from
the apparent accident of his premature death."

_Montesinos_.--I had fallen into one of those idle reveries in which we
speculate upon what might have been.  Lord Bacon describes him as "very
studious, and learned beyond his years, and beyond the custom of great
princes."  As this indicates a calm and thoughtful mind, it seems to show
that he inherited the Tudor character.  His brother took after the
Plantagenets; but it was not of their nobler qualities that he partook.
He had the popular manners of his grandfather, Edward IV., and, like him,
was lustful, cruel, and unfeeling.

_Sir Thomas More_.--The blood of the Plantagenets, as your friends the
Spaniards would say, was a strong blood.  That temper of mind which (in
some of his predecessors) thought so little of fratricide might perhaps
have involved him in the guilt of a parricidal war, if his father had not
been fortunate enough to escape such an affliction by a timely death.  We
might otherwise be allowed to wish that the life of Henry VII. had been
prolonged to a good old age.  For if ever there was a prince who could so
have directed the Reformation as to have averted the evils wherewith that
tremendous event was accompanied, and yet to have secured its advantages,
he was the man.  Cool, wary, far-sighted, rapacious, politic, and
religious, or superstitious if you will (for his religion had its root
rather in fear than in hope), he was peculiarly adapted for such a crisis
both by his good and evil qualities.  For the sake of increasing his
treasures and his power, he would have promoted the Reformation; but his
cautious temper, his sagacity, and his fear of Divine justice would have
taught him where to stop.

_Montesinos_.--A generation of politic sovereigns succeeded to the race
of warlike ones, just in that age of society when policy became of more
importance in their station than military talents.  Ferdinand of Spain,
Joam II. whom the Portuguese called the perfect prince, Louis XI. and
Henry VII. were all of this class.  Their individual characters were
sufficiently distinct; but the circumstances of their situation stamped
them with a marked resemblance, and they were of a metal to take and
retain the strong, sharp impress of the age.

_Sir Thomas More_.--The age required such characters; and it is worthy of
notice how surely in the order of providence such men as are wanted are
raised up.  One generation of these princes sufficed.  In Spain, indeed,
there was an exception; for Ferdinand had two successors who pursued the
same course of conduct.  In the other kingdoms the character ceased with
the necessity for it.  Crimes enough were committed by succeeding
sovereigns, but they were no longer the acts of systematic and reflecting
policy.  This, too, is worthy of remark, that the sovereigns whom you
have named, and who scrupled at no means for securing themselves on the
throne, for enlarging their dominions and consolidating their power, were
each severally made to feel the vanity of human ambition, being punished
either in or by the children who were to reap the advantage of their
crimes.  "Verily there is a God that judgeth the earth!"

_Montesinos_.--An excellent friend of mine, one of the wisest, best, and
happiest men whom I have ever known, delights in this manner to trace the
moral order of Providence through the revolutions of the world; and in
his historical writings keeps it in view as the pole-star of his course.
I wish he were present, that he might have the satisfaction of hearing
his favourite opinion confirmed by one from the dead.

_Sir Thomas More_.--His opinion requires no other confirmation than what
he finds for it in observation and Scripture, and in his own calm
judgment.  I should differ little from that friend of yours concerning
the past; but his hopes for the future appear to me like early buds which
are in danger of March winds.  He believes the world to be in a rapid
state of sure improvement; and in the ferment which exists everywhere he
beholds only a purifying process; not considering that there is an
acetous as well as a vinous fermentation; and that in the one case the
liquor may be spilt, in the other it must be spoilt.

_Montesinos_.--Surely you would not rob us of our hopes for the human
race!  If I apprehended that your discourse tended to this end I should
suspect you, notwithstanding your appearance, and be ready to exclaim,
"Avaunt, tempter!"  For there is no opinion from which I should so hardly
be driven, and so reluctantly part, as the belief that the world will
continue to improve, even as it has hitherto continually been improving;
and that the progress of knowledge and the diffusion of Christianity will
bring about at last, when men become Christians in reality as well as in
name, something like that Utopian state of which philosophers have loved
to dream--like that millennium in which saints as well as enthusiasts
have trusted.

_Sir Thomas More_.--Do you hold that this consummation must of necessity
come to pass; or that it depends in any degree upon the course of
events--that is to say, upon human actions?  The former of these
propositions you would be as unwilling to admit as your friend Wesley, or
the old Welshman Pelagius himself.  The latter leaves you little other
foundation for your opinion than a desire, which, from its very
benevolence, is the more likely to be delusive.  You are in a dilemma.

_Montesinos_.--Not so, Sir Thomas.  Impossible as it may be for us to
reconcile the free will of man with the foreknowledge of God, I
nevertheless believe in both with the most full conviction.  When the
human mind plunges into time and space in its speculations, it adventures
beyond its sphere; no wonder, therefore, that its powers fail, and it is
lost.  But that my will is free, I know feelingly: it is proved to me by
my conscience.  And that God provideth all things I know by His own Word,
and by that instinct which He hath implanted in me to assure me of His
being.  My answer to your question, then, is this: I believe that the
happy consummation which I desire is appointed, and must come to pass;
but that when it is to come depends upon the obedience of man to the will
of God, that is, upon human actions.

_Sir Thomas More_.--You hold then that the human race will one day attain
the utmost degree of general virtue, and thereby general happiness, of
which humanity is capable.  Upon what do you found this belief?

_Montesinos_.--The opinion is stated more broadly than I should choose to
advance it.  But this is ever the manner of argumentative discourse: the
opponent endeavours to draw from you conclusions which you are not
prepared to defend, and which perhaps you have never before acknowledged
even to yourself.  I will put the proposition in a less disputable form.
A happier condition of society is possible than that in which any nation
is existing at this time, or has at any time existed.  The sum both of
moral and physical evil may be greatly diminished both by good laws, good
institutions, and good governments.  Moral evil cannot indeed be removed,
unless the nature of man were changed; and that renovation is only to be
effected in individuals, and in them only by the special grace of God.
Physical evil must always, to a certain degree, be inseparable from
mortality.  But both are so much within the reach of human institutions
that a state of society is conceivable almost as superior to that of
England in these days, as that itself is superior to the condition of the
tattooed Britons, or of the northern pirates from whom we are descended.
Surely this belief rests upon a reasonable foundation, and is supported
by that general improvement (always going on if it be regarded upon the
great scale) to which all history bears witness.

_Sir Thomas More_.--I dispute not this: but to render it a reasonable
ground of immediate hope, the predominance of good principles must be
supposed.  Do you believe that good or evil principles predominate at
this time?

_Montesinos_.--If I were to judge by that expression of popular opinion
which the press pretends to convey, I should reply without hesitation
that never in any other known age of the world have such pernicious
principles been so prevalent

   "_Qua terra patet_, _fera regnat Erinnys_;
   _In facinus jurasse putes_."

_Sir Thomas More_.--Is there not a danger that these principles may bear
down everything before them? and is not that danger obvious, palpable,
imminent?  Is there a considerate man who can look at the signs of the
times without apprehension, or a scoundrel connected with what is called
the public press, who does not speculate upon them, and join with the
anarchists as the strongest party?  Deceive not yourself by the
fallacious notion that truth is mightier than falsehood, and that good
must prevail over evil!  Good principles enable men to suffer, rather
than to act.  Think how the dog, fond and faithful creature as he is,
from being the most docile and obedient of all animals, is made the most
dangerous, if he becomes mad; so men acquire a frightful and not less
monstrous power when they are in a state of moral insanity, and break
loose from their social and religious obligations.  Remember too how
rapidly the plague of diseased opinions is communicated, and that if it
once gain head, it is as difficult to be stopped as a conflagration or a
flood.  The prevailing opinions of this age go to the destruction of
everything which has hitherto been held sacred.  They tend to arm the
poor against the rich; the many against the few: worse than this, for it
will also be a war of hope and enterprise against timidity, of youth
against age.

_Montesinos_.--Sir Ghost, you are almost as dreadful an alarmist as our
Cumberland cow, who is believed to have lately uttered this prophecy,
delivering it with oracular propriety in verse:

   "Two winters, a wet spring,
   A bloody summer, and no king."

_Sir Thomas More_.--That prophecy speaks the wishes of the man, whoever
he may have been, by whom it was invented: and you who talk of the
progress of knowledge, and the improvement of society, and upon that
improvement build your hope of its progressive melioration, you know that
even so gross and palpable an imposture as this is swallowed by many of
the vulgar, and contributes in its sphere to the mischief which it was
designed to promote.  I admit that such an improved condition of society
as you contemplate is possible, and hath ought always to be kept in view:
but the error of supposing it too near, of fancying that there is a short
road to it, is, of all the errors of these times, the most pernicious,
because it seduces the young and generous, and betrays them imperceptibly
into an alliance with whatever is flagitious and detestable.  The fact is
undeniable that the worst principles in religion, in morals, and in
politics, are at this time more prevalent than they ever were known to be
in any former age.  You need not be told in what manner revolutions in
opinion bring about the fate of empires; and upon this ground you ought
to regard the state of the world, both at home and abroad, with fear,
rather than with hope.

_Montesinos_.--When I have followed such speculations as may allowably be
indulged, respecting what is hidden in the darkness of time and of
eternity, I have sometimes thought that the moral and physical order of
the world may be so appointed as to coincide; and that the revolutions of
this planet may correspond with the condition of its inhabitants; so that
the convulsions and changes whereto it is destined should occur, when the
existing race of men had either become so corrupt as to be unworthy of
the place which they hold in the universe, or were so truly regenerate by
the will and word of God, as to be qualified for a higher station in it.
Our globe may have gone through many such revolutions.  We know the
history of the last; the measure of its wickedness was then filled up.
For the future we are taught to expect a happier consummation.

_Sir Thomas More_.--It is important that you should distinctly understand
the nature and extent of your expectations on that head.  Is it upon the
Apocalypse that you rest them?

_Montesinos_.--If you had not forbidden me to expect from this
intercourse any communication which might come with the authority of
revealed knowledge, I should ask in reply, whether that dark book is
indeed to be received for authentic Scripture?  My hopes are derived from
the prophets and the evangelists.  Believing in them with a calm and
settled faith, with that consent of the will and heart and understanding
which constitutes religious belief, and in them the clear annunciation of
that kingdom of God upon earth, for the coming of which Christ himself
has taught and commanded us to pray.

_Sir Thomas More_.--Remember that the Evangelists, in predicting that
kingdom, announce a dreadful advent!  And that, according to the received
opinion of the Church, wars, persecutions, and calamities of every kind,
the triumph of evil, and the coming of Antichrist are to be looked for,
before the promises made by the prophets shall be fulfilled.  Consider
this also, that the speedy fulfilment of those promises has been the
ruling fancy of the most dangerous of all madmen, from John of Leyden and
his frantic followers, down to the saints of Cromwell's army, Venner and
his Fifth-Monarchy men, the fanatics of the Cevennes, and the blockheads
of your own days, who beheld with complacency the crimes of the French
Revolutionists, and the progress of Bonaparte towards the subjugation of
Europe, as events tending to bring about the prophecies; and, under the
same besotted persuasion, are ready at this time to co-operate with the
miscreants who trade in blasphemy and treason!  But you who neither seek
to deceive others nor yourself, you who are neither insane nor insincere,
you surely do not expect that the millennium is to be brought about by
the triumph of what are called liberal opinions; nor by enabling the
whole of the lower classes to read the incentives to vice, impiety, and
rebellion which are prepared for them by an unlicensed press; nor by
Sunday schools, and religious tract societies; nor by the portentous
bibliolatry of the age!  And if you adhere to the letter of the
Scriptures, methinks the thought of that consummation for which you look,
might serve rather for consolation under the prospect of impending evils,
than for a hope upon which the mind can rest in security with a calm and
contented delight.

_Montesinos_.--To this I must reply, that the fulfilment of those
calamitous events predicted in the Gospels may safely be referred, as it
usually is, and by the best Biblical scholars, to the destruction of
Jerusalem.  Concerning the visions of the Apocalypse, sublime as they
are, I speak with less hesitation, and dismiss them from my thoughts, as
more congenial to the fanatics of whom you have spoken than to me.  And
for the coming of Antichrist, it is no longer a received opinion in these
days, whatever it may have been in yours.  Your reasoning applies to the
enthusiastic millenarians who discover the number of the beast, and
calculate the year when a vial is to be poured out, with as much
precision as the day and hour of an eclipse.  But it leaves my hope
unshaken and untouched.  I know that the world has improved; I see that
it is improving; and I believe that it will continue to improve in
natural and certain progress.  Good and evil principles are widely at
work: a crisis is evidently approaching; it may be dreadful, but I can
have no doubts concerning the result.  Black and ominous as the aspects
may appear, I regard them without dismay.  The common exclamation of the
poor and helpless, when they feel themselves oppressed, conveys to my
mind the sum of the surest and safest philosophy.  I say with them, "God
is above," and trust Him for the event.

_Sir Thomas More_.--God is above--but the devil is below.  Evil
principles are, in their nature, more active than good.  The harvest is
precarious, and must be prepared with labour, and cost, and care; weeds
spring up of themselves, and flourish and seed whatever may be the
season.  Disease, vice, folly, and madness are contagious; while health
and understanding are incommunicable, and wisdom and virtue hardly to be
communicated!  We have come, however, to some conclusion in our
discourse.  Your notion of the improvement of the world has appeared to
be a mere speculation, altogether inapplicable in practice; and as
dangerous to weak heads and heated imaginations as it is congenial to
benevolent hearts.  Perhaps that improvement is neither so general nor so
certain as you suppose.  Perhaps, even in this country there may be more
knowledge than there was in former times and less wisdom, more wealth and
less happiness, more display and less virtue.  This must be the subject
of future conversation.  I will only remind you now, that the French had
persuaded themselves this was the most enlightened age of the world, and
they the most enlightened people in it--the politest, the most amiable,
and the most humane of nations--and that a new era of philosophy,
philanthropy, and peace, was about to commence under their auspices, when
they were upon the eve of a revolution which, for its complicated
monstrosities, absurdities, and horrors, is more disgraceful to human
nature than any other series of events in history.  Chew the cud upon
this, and farewell


Inclination would lead me to hibernate during half the year in this
uncomfortable climate of Great Britain, where few men who have tasted the
enjoyments of a better would willingly take up their abode, if it were
not for the habits, and still more for the ties and duties which root us
to our native soil.  I envy the Turks for their sedentary constitutions,
which seem no more to require exercise than an oyster does or a toad in a
stone.  In this respect, I am by disposition as true a Turk as the Grand
Seignior himself; and approach much nearer to one in the habit of
inaction than any person of my acquaintance.  Willing however, as I
should be to believe, that anything which is habitually necessary for a
sound body, would be unerringly indicated by an habitual disposition for
it, and that if exercise were as needful as food for the preservation of
the animal economy, the desire of motion would recur not less regularly
than hunger and thirst, it is a theory which will not bear the test; and
this I know by experience.

On a grey sober day, therefore, and in a tone of mind quite accordant
with the season, I went out unwillingly to take the air, though if taking
physic would have answered the same purpose, the dose would have been
preferred as the shortest, and for that reason the least unpleasant
remedy.  Even on such occasions as this, it is desirable to propose to
oneself some object for the satisfaction of accomplishing it, and to set
out with the intention of reaching some fixed point, though it should be
nothing better than a mile-stone, or a directing post.  So I walked to
the Circle of Stones on the Penrith road, because there is a long hill
upon the way which would give the muscles some work to perform; and
because the sight of this rude monument which has stood during so many
centuries, and is likely, if left to itself, to outlast any edifice that
man could have erected, gives me always a feeling, which, however often
it may be repeated, loses nothing of its force.

The circle is of the rudest kind, consisting of single stones, unhewn and
chosen without any regard to shape or magnitude, being of all sizes, from
seven or eight feet in height, to three or four.  The circle, however, is
complete, and is thirty-three paces in diameter.  Concerning this, like
all similar monuments in Great Britain, the popular superstition
prevails, that no two persons can number the stones alike, and that no
person will ever find a second counting confirm the first.  My children
have often disappointed their natural inclination to believe this wonder,
by putting it to the test and disproving it.  The number of the stones
which compose the circle, is thirty-eight, and besides these there are
ten which form three sides of a little square within, on the eastern
side, three stones of the circle itself forming the fourth; this being
evidently the place where the Druids who presided had their station; or
where the more sacred and important part of the rites and ceremonies
(whatever they may have been) were performed.  All this is as perfect at
this day as when the Cambrian bards, according to the custom of their
ancient order, described by my old acquaintances, the living members of
the Chair of Glamorgan, met there for the last time,

   "On the green turf and under the blue sky,
   Their heads in reverence bare, and bare of foot."

The site also precisely accords with the description which Edward
Williams and William Owen give of the situation required for such meeting

      "--a high hill top,
   Nor bowered with trees, nor broken by the plough:
   Remote from human dwellings and the stir
   Of human life, and open to the breath
   And to the eye of Heaven."

The high hill is now enclosed and cultivated; and a clump of larches has
been planted within the circle, for the purpose of protecting an oak in
the centre, the owner of the field having wished to rear one there with a
commendable feeling, because that tree was held sacred by the Druids, and
therefore, he supposed, might be appropriately placed there.  The whole
plantation, however, has been so miserably storm-stricken that the poor
stunted trees are not even worth the trouble of cutting them down for
fuel, and so they continue to disfigure the spot.  In all other respects
this impressive monument of former times is carefully preserved; the soil
within the enclosure is not broken, a path from the road is left, and in
latter times a stepping-stile has been placed to accommodate Lakers with
an easier access than by striding over the gate beside it.

The spot itself is the most commanding which could be chosen in this part
of the country, without climbing a mountain.  Derwentwater and the Vale
of Keswick are not seen from it, only the mountains which enclose them on
the south and west.  Lattrigg and the huge side of Skiddaw are on the
north; to the east is the open country towards Penrith expanding from the
Vale of St. John's, and extending for many miles, with Mellfell in the
distance, where it rises alone like a huge tumulus on the right, and
Blencathra on the left, rent into deep ravines.  On the south-east is the
range of Helvellyn, from its termination at Wanthwaite Crags to its
loftiest summits, and to Dunmailraise.  The lower range of Nathdalefells
lies nearer, in a parallel line with Helvellyn; and the dale itself, with
its little streamlet, immediately below.  The heights above Leatheswater,
with the Borrowdale mountains, complete the panorama.

While I was musing upon the days of the Bards and Druids, and thinking
that Llywarc Hen himself had probably stood within this very circle at a
time when its history was known, and the rites for which it was erected
still in use, I saw a person approaching, and started a little at
perceiving that it was my new acquaintance from the world of spirits.  "I
am come," said he, "to join company with you in your walk: you may as
well converse with a ghost as stand dreaming of the dead.  I dare say you
have been wishing that these stones could speak and tell their tale, or
that some record were sculptured upon them, though it were as
unintelligible as the hieroglyphics, or as an Ogham inscription."

"My ghostly friend," I replied, "they tell me something to the purport of
our last discourse.  Here upon ground where the Druids have certainly
held their assemblies, and where not improbably, human sacrifices have
been offered up, you will find it difficult to maintain that the
improvement of the world has not been unequivocal, and very great."

_Sir Thomas More_.--Make the most of your vantage ground!  My position
is, that this improvement is not general; that while some parts of the
earth are progressive in civilisation, others have been retrograde; and
that even where improvement appears the greatest, it is partial.  For
example; with all the meliorations which have taken place in England
since these stones were set up (and you will not suppose that I who laid
down my life for a religious principle, would undervalue the most
important of all advantages), do you believe that they have extended to
all classes?  Look at the question well.  Consider your
fellow-countrymen, both in their physical and intellectual relations, and
tell me whether a large portion of the community are in a happier or more
hopeful condition at this time, than their forefathers were when Caesar
set foot upon the island?

_Montesinos_.--If it be your aim to prove that the savage state is
preferable to the social, I am perhaps the very last person upon whom any
arguments to that end could produce the slightest effect.  That notion
never for a moment deluded me: not even in the ignorance and
presumptuousness of youth, when first I perused Rousseau, and was
unwilling to feel that a writer whose passionate eloquence I felt and
admired so truly could be erroneous in any of his opinions.  But now, in
the evening of life, when I know upon what foundation my principles rest,
and when the direction of one peculiar course of study has made it
necessary for me to learn everything which books could teach concerning
savage life, the proposition appears to me one of the most untenable that
ever was advanced by a perverse or a paradoxical intellect.

_Sir Thomas More_.--I advanced no such paradox, and you have answered me
too hastily.  The Britons were not savages when the Romans invaded and
improved them.  They were already far advanced in the barbarous stage of
society, having the use of metals, domestic cattle, wheeled carriages,
and money, a settled government, and a regular priesthood, who were
connected with their fellow-Druids on the Continent, and who were not
ignorant of letters.  Understand me!  I admit that improvements of the
utmost value have been made, in the most important concerns: but I deny
that the melioration has been general; and insist, on the contrary, that
a considerable portion of the people are in a state, which, as relates to
their physical condition, is greatly worsened, and, as touching their
intellectual nature, is assuredly not improved.  Look, for example, at
the great mass of your populace in town and country--a tremendous
proportion of the whole community!  Are their bodily wants better, or
more easily supplied?  Are they subject to fewer calamities?  Are they
happier in childhood, youth, and manhood, and more comfortably or
carefully provided for in old age, than when the land was unenclosed, and
half covered with woods?  With regard to their moral and intellectual
capacity, you well know how little of the light of knowledge and of
revelation has reached them.  They are still in darkness, and in the
shadow of death!

_Montesinos_.--I perceive your drift: and perceive also that when we
understand each other there is likely to be little difference between us.
And I beseech you, do not suppose that I am disputing for the sake of
disputation; with that pernicious habit I was never infected, and I have
seen too many mournful proofs of its perilous consequences.  Towards any
person it is injudicious and offensive; towards you it would be
irreverent.  Your position is undeniable.  Were society to be stationary
at its present point, the bulk of the people would, on the whole, have
lost rather than gained by the alterations which have taken place during
the last thousand years.  Yet this must be remembered, that in common
with all ranks they are exempted from those dreadful visitations of war,
pestilence, and famine by which these kingdoms were so frequently
afflicted of old.

The countenance of my companion changed upon this, to an expression of
judicial severity which struck me with awe.  "Exempted from these
visitations!" he exclaimed; "mortal man! creature of a day, what art
thou, that thou shouldst presume upon any such exemption!  Is it from a
trust in your own deserts, or a reliance upon the forbearance and long-
suffering of the Almighty, that this vain confidence arises?"

I was silent.

"My friend," he resumed, in a milder tone, but with a melancholy manner,
"your own individual health and happiness are scarcely more precarious
than this fancied security.  By the mercy of God, twice during the short
space of your life, England has been spared from the horrors of invasion,
which might with ease have been effected during the American war, when
the enemy's fleet swept the Channel, and insulted your very ports, and
which was more than once seriously intended during the late long contest.
The invaders would indeed have found their graves in that soil which they
came to subdue: but before they could have been overcome, the atrocious
threat of Buonaparte's general might have been in great part realised,
that though he could not answer for effecting the conquest of England, he
would engage to destroy its prosperity for a century to come.  You have
been spared from that chastisement.  You have escaped also from the
imminent danger of peace with a military tyrant, which would inevitably
have led to invasion, when he should have been ready to undertake and
accomplish that great object of his ambition, and you must have been
least prepared and least able to resist him.  But if the seeds of civil
war should at this time be quickening among you--if your soil is
everywhere sown with the dragon's teeth, and the fatal crop be at this
hour ready to spring up--the impending evil will be a hundredfold more
terrible than those which have been averted; and you will have cause to
perceive and acknowledge, that the wrath has been suspended only that it
may fall the heavier!"

"May God avert this also!" I exclaimed.

"As for famine," he pursued, "that curse will always follow in the train
of war: and even now the public tranquillity of England is fearfully
dependent upon the seasons.  And touching pestilence, you fancy
yourselves secure, because the plague has not appeared among you for the
last hundred and fifty years: a portion of time, which long as it may
seem when compared with the brief term of mortal existence, is as nothing
in the physical history of the globe.  The importation of that scourge is
as possible now as it was in former times: and were it once imported, do
you suppose it would rage with less violence among the crowded population
of your metropolis, than it did before the fire, or that it would not
reach parts of the country which were never infected in any former
visitation?  On the contrary, its ravages would be more general and more
tremendous, for it would inevitably be carried everywhere.  Your
provincial cities have doubled and trebled in size; and in London itself,
great part of the population is as much crowded now as it was then, and
the space which is covered with houses is increased at least fourfold.
What if the sweating-sickness, emphatically called the English disease,
were to show itself again?  Can any cause be assigned why it is not as
likely to break out in the nineteenth century as in the fifteenth?  What
if your manufactures, according to the ominous opinion which your
greatest physiologist has expressed, were to generate for you new
physical plagues, as they have already produced a moral pestilence
unknown to all preceding ages?  What if the small-pox, which you vainly
believed to be subdued, should have assumed a new and more formidable
character; and (as there seems no trifling grounds for apprehending)
instead of being protected by vaccination from its danger, you should
ascertain that inoculation itself affords no certain security?
Visitations of this kind are in the order of nature and of providence.
Physically considered, the likelihood of their recurrence becomes every
year more probable than the last; and looking to the moral government of
the world, was there ever a time when the sins of this kingdom called
more cryingly for chastisement?"

_Montesinos_.--[Greek text]!

_Sir Thomas More_.--I denounce no judgments.  But I am reminding you that
there is as much cause for the prayer in your Litany against plague,
pestilence, and famine, as for that which entreats God to deliver you all
from sedition, privy conspiracy, and rebellion; from all false doctrine,
heresy, and schism.  In this, as in all things, it behoves the Christian
to live in a humble and grateful sense of his continual dependence upon
the Almighty: not to rest in a presumptuous confidence upon the improved
state of human knowledge, or the altered course of natural visitations.

_Montesinos_.--Oh, how wholesome it is to receive instruction with a
willing and a humble mind!  In attending to your discourse I feel myself
in the healthy state of a pupil, when without one hostile or contrarient
prepossession, he listens to a teacher in whom he has entire confidence.
And I feel also how much better it is that the authority of elder and
wiser intellects should pass even for more than it is worth, than that it
should be undervalued as in these days, and set at nought.  When any
person boasts that he is--

   "_Nullias addictus jurare in verba magistri_,"

the reason of that boast may easily be perceived; it is because he
thinks, like Jupiter, that it would be disparaging his own all-wiseness
to swear by anything but himself.  But wisdom will as little enter into a
proud or a conceited mind as into a malicious one.  In this sense also it
may be said, that he who humbleth himself shall be exalted.

_Sir Thomas More_.--It is not implicit assent that I require, but
reasonable conviction after calm and sufficient consideration.  David was
permitted to choose between the three severest dispensations of God's
displeasure, and he made choice of pestilence as the least dreadful.
Ought a reflecting and religious man to be surprised, if some such
punishment were dispensed to this country, not less in mercy than in
judgment, as the means of averting a more terrible and abiding scourge?
An endemic malady, as destructive as the plague, has naturalised itself
among your American brethren, and in Spain.  You have hitherto escaped
it, speaking with reference to secondary causes, merely because it has
not yet been imported.  But any season may bring it to your own shores;
or at any hour it may appear among you homebred.

_Montesinos_.--We should have little reason, then, to boast of our
improvements in the science of medicine; for our practitioners at
Gibraltar found themselves as unable to stop its progress, or mitigate
its symptoms, as the most ignorant empirics in the peninsula.

_Sir Thomas More_.--You were at one time near enough that pestilence to
feel as if you were within its reach?

_Montesinos_.--It was in 1800, the year when it first appeared in
Andalusia.  That summer I fell in at Cintra with a young German, on the
way from his own country to his brothers at Cadiz, where they were
established as merchants.  Many days had not elapsed after his arrival in
that city when a ship which was consigned to their firm brought with it
the infection; and the first news which reached us of our poor
acquaintance was that the yellow fever had broken out in his brother's
house, and that he, they, and the greater part of the household, were
dead.  There was every reason to fear that the pestilence would extend
into Portugal, both governments being, as usual, slow in providing any
measures of precaution, and those measures being nugatory when taken.  I
was at Faro in the ensuing spring, at the house of Mr. Lempriere, the
British Consul.  Inquiring of him upon the subject, the old man lifted up
his hands, and replied in a passionate manner, which I shall never
forget, "Oh, sir, we escaped by the mercy of God; only by the mercy of
God!"  The governor of Algarve, even when the danger was known and
acknowledged, would not venture to prohibit the communication with Spain
till he received orders from Lisbon; and then the prohibition was so
enforced as to be useless.  The crew of a boat from the infected province
were seized and marched through the country to Tavira: they were then
sent to perform quarantine upon a little insulated ground, and the guards
who were set over them, lived with them, and were regularly relieved.
When such were the precautionary measures, well indeed might it be said,
that Portugal escaped only by the mercy of God!  I have often reflected
upon the little effect which this imminent danger appeared to produce
upon those persons with whom I associated.  The young, with that hilarity
which belongs to thoughtless youth, used to converse about the places
whither they should retire, and the course of life and expedients to
which they should be driven in case it were necessary for them to fly
from Lisbon.  A few elder and more considerate persons said little upon
the subject, but that little denoted a deep sense of the danger, and more
anxiety than they thought proper to express.  The great majority seemed
to be altogether unconcerned; neither their business nor their amusements
were interrupted; they feasted, they danced, they met at the card-table
as usual; and the plague (for so it was called at that time, before its
nature was clearly understood) was as regular a topic of conversation as
the news brought by the last packet.

_Sir Thomas More_.--And what was your own state of mind?

_Montesinos_.--Very much what it has long been with regard to the moral
pestilence of this unhappy age, and the condition of this country more
especially.  I saw the danger in its whole extent and relied on the mercy
of God.

_Sir Thomas More_.--In all cases that is the surest reliance: but when
human means are available, it becomes a Mahommedan rather than a
Christian to rely upon Providence or fate alone, and make no effort for
its own preservation.  Individuals never fall into this error among you,
drink as deeply as they may of fatalism; that narcotic will sometimes
paralyse the moral sense, but it leaves the faculty of worldly prudence
unimpaired.  Far otherwise is it with your government: for such are the
notions of liberty in England, that evils of every kind--physical, moral,
and political, are allowed their free range.  As relates to infectious
diseases, for example, this kingdom is now in a less civilised state than
it was in my days, three centuries ago, when the leper was separated from
general society; and when, although the science of medicine was at once
barbarous and fantastical, the existence of pesthouses showed at least
some approaches towards a medical police.

_Montesinos_.--They order these things better in Utopia.

_Sir Thomas More_.--In this, as well as in some other points upon which
we shall touch hereafter, the difference between you and the Utopians is
as great as between the existing generation and the race by whom yonder
circle was set up.  With regard to diseases and remedies in general, the
real state of the case may be consolatory, but it is not comfortable.
Great and certain progress has been made in chirurgery; and if the
improvements in the other branch of medical science have not been so
certain and so great, it is because the physician works in the dark, and
has to deal with what is hidden and mysterious.  But the evils for which
these sciences are the palliatives have increased in a proportion that
heavily overweighs the benefit of improved therapeutics.  For as the
intercourse between nations has become greater, the evils of one have
been communicated to another.  Pigs, Spanish dollars, and Norway rats,
are not the only commodities and incommodities which have performed the
circumnavigation, and are to be found wherever European ships have
touched.  Diseases also find their way from one part of the inhabited
globe to another, wherever it is possible for them to exist.  The most
formidable endemic or contagious maladies in your nosology are not
indigenous; and as far as regards health therefore, the ancient Britons,
with no other remedies than their fields and woods afforded them, and no
other medical practitioners than their deceitful priests, were in a
better condition than their descendants, with all the instruction which
is derived from Sydenham and Heberden, and Hunter, and with all the
powers which chemistry has put into their hands.

_Montesinos_.--You have well said that there is nothing comfortable in
this view of the case: but what is there consolatory in it?

_Sir Thomas More_.--The consolation is upon your principle of expectant
hope.  Whenever improved morals, wiser habits, more practical religion,
and more efficient institutions shall have diminished the moral and
material causes of disease, a thoroughly scientific practice, the result
of long experience and accumulated observations, will then exist, to
remedy all that is within the power of human art, and to alleviate what
is irremediable.  To existing individuals this consolation is something
like the satisfaction you might feel in learning that a fine estate was
entailed upon your family at the expiration of a lease of ninety-nine
years from the present time.  But I had forgotten to whom I am talking.  A
poet always looks onward to some such distant inheritance.  His hopes are
usually _in nubibus_, and his expectations in the _paulo post futurum_

_Montesinos_.--His state is the more gracious then because his enjoyment
is always to come.  It is however a real satisfaction to me that there is
some sunshine in your prospect.

_Sir Thomas More_.--More in mine than in yours, because I command a wider
horizon: but I see also the storms which are blackening, and may close
over the sky.  Our discourse began concerning that portion of the
community who form the base of the pyramid; we have unawares taken a more
general view, but it has not led us out of the way.  Returning to the
most numerous class of society, it is apparent that in the particular
point of which we have been conversing, their condition is greatly
worsened: they remain liable to the same indigenous diseases as their
forefathers, and are exposed moreover to all which have been imported.
Nor will the estimate of their condition be improved upon farther
inquiry.  They are worse fed than when they were hunters, fishers, and
herdsmen; their clothing and habitations are little better, and, in
comparison with those of the higher classes, immeasurably worse.  Except
in the immediate vicinity of the collieries, they suffer more from cold
than when the woods and turbaries were open.  They are less religious
than in the days of the Romish faith; and if we consider them in relation
to their immediate superiors, we shall find reason to confess that the
independence which has been gained since the total decay of the feudal
system, has been dearly purchased by the loss of kindly feelings and
ennobling attachments.  They are less contented, and in no respect more
happy--that look implies hesitation of judgment, and an unwillingness to
be convinced.  Consider the point; go to your books and your thoughts;
and when next we meet, you will feel little inclination to dispute the
irrefragable statement.


The last conversation had left a weight upon me, which was not lessened
when I contemplated the question in solitude.  I called to mind the
melancholy view which Young has taken of the world in his unhappy poem:

   "A part how small of the terraqueous globe
   Is tenanted by man! the rest a waste,
   Rocks, deserts, frozen seas and burning sands,
   Wild haunts of monsters, poisons, stings, and death.
   Such is earth's melancholy map!  But, far
   More sad, this earth is a true map of man."

Sad as this representation is, I could not but acknowledge that the moral
and intellectual view is not more consolatory than the poet felt it to
be; and it was a less sorrowful consideration to think how large a
portion of the habitable earth is possessed by savages, or by nations
whom inhuman despotisms and monstrous superstitions have degraded in some
respects below the savage state, than to observe how small a part of what
is called the civilised world is truly civilised; and in the most
civilised parts to how small a portion of the inhabitants the real
blessings of civilisation are confined.  In this mood how heartily should
I have accorded with Owen of Lanark if I could have agreed with that
happiest and most beneficent and most practical of all enthusiasts as
well concerning the remedy as the disease!

"Well, Montesinos," said the spirit, when he visited me next, "have you
recollected or found any solid arguments for maintaining that the
labouring classes, who form the great bulk of the population, are in a
happier condition, physical, moral, or intellectual, in these times, than
they were in mine?"

_Montesinos_.--Perhaps, Sir Thomas, their condition was better precisely
during your age than it ever has been either before or since.  The feudal
system had well-nigh lost all its inhuman parts, and the worse inhumanity
of the commercial system had not yet shown itself.

_Sir Thomas More_.--It was, indeed, a most important age in English
history, and, till the Reformation so fearfully disturbed it, in many
respects a happy and an enviable one.  But the process was then beginning
which is not yet completed.  As the feudal system relaxed and tended to
dissolution the condition of the multitude was changed.  Let us trace it
from earlier times!  In what state do you suppose the people of this
island to have been when they were invaded by the Romans?

_Montesinos_.--Something worse than the Greeks of the Homeric age:
something better than the Sandwich or Tonga islanders when they were
visited by Captain Cook.  Inferior to the former in arts, in polity, and,
above all, in their domestic institutions; superior to the latter as
having the use of cattle and being under a superstition in which, amid
many abominations, some patriarchal truths were preserved.  Less
fortunate in physical circumstances than either, because of the climate.

_Sir Thomas More_.--A viler state of morals than their polyandrian system
must have produced can scarcely be imagined; and the ferocity of their
manners, little as is otherwise known of them, is sufficiently shown by
their scythed war-chariots, and the fact that in the open country the
path from one town to another was by a covered way.  But in what
condition were the labouring classes?

_Montesinos_.--In slavery, I suppose.  When the Romans first attacked the
island it was believed at Rome that slaves were the only booty which
Britain could afford; and slaves, no doubt, must have been the staple
commodity for which its ports were visited.  Different tribes had at
different times established themselves here by conquest, and wherever
settlements are thus made slavery is the natural consequence.  It was a
part of the Roman economy; and when the Saxons carved out their kingdoms
with the sword, the slaves, and their masters too, if any survived,
became the property of the new lords of the land, like the cattle who
pastured upon it.  It is not likely even that the Saxons should have
brought artificers of any kind with them, smiths perhaps alone excepted.
Trades of every description must have been practised by the slaves whom
they found.  The same sort of transfer ensued upon the Norman conquest.
After that event there could have been no fresh supply of domestic
slaves, unless they were imported from Ireland, as well as carried
thither for sale.  That trade did not continue long.  Emancipation was
promoted by the clergy, and slavery was exchanged for vassalage, which in
like manner gradually disappeared as the condition of the people

_Sir Thomas More_.--You are hurrying too fast to that conclusion.
Hitherto more has been lost than gained in morals by the transition; and
you will not maintain that anything which is morally injurious can be
politically advantageous.  Vassalage I know is a word which bears no
favourable acceptation in this liberal age; and slavery is in worse
repute.  But we must remember that slavery implies a very different state
in different ages of the world, and in different stages of society.

_Montesinos_.--In many parts of the East, and of the Mohammedan world, as
in the patriarchal times, it is scarcely an evil.  Among savages it is as
little so.  In a luxurious state more vices are called into action, the
condition of the slave depends more upon the temper of the owner, and the
evil then predominates.  But slavery is nowhere so bad as in commercial
colonies, where the desire of gain hardens the heart--the basest
appetites have free scope there; and the worst passions are under little
restraint from law, less from religion, and none from public opinion.

_Sir Thomas More_.--You have omitted in this enumeration that kind of
slavery which existed in England.

_Montesinos_.--The slavery of the feudal ages may perhaps be classed
midway between the best description of that state and the worst.  I
suppose it to have been less humane than it generally is in Turkey, less
severe than it generally was in Rome and Greece.  In too many respects
the slaves were at the mercy of their lords.  They might be put in irons
and punished with stripes; they were sometimes branded; and there is
proof that it has been the custom to yoke them in teams like cattle.

_Sir Thomas More_.--Are you, then, Montesinos, so much the dupe of words
as to account among their grievances a mere practice of convenience?

_Montesinos_.--The reproof was merited.  But I was about to say that
there is no reason to think their treatment was generally rigorous.  We
do not hear of any such office among them as that of the Roman _Lorarii_,
whose office appears by the dramatists to have been no sinecure.  And it
is certain that they possessed in the laws, in the religion, and probably
in the manners of the country, a greater degree of protection than
existed to alleviate the lot of the Grecian and Roman slaves.

_Sir Thomas More_.--The practical difference between the condition of the
feudal slave, and of the labouring husbandman who succeeded to the
business of his station, was mainly this, that the former had neither the
feeling nor the insecurity of independence.  He served one master as long
as he lived; and being at all times sure of the same sufficient
subsistence, if he belonged to the estate like the cattle, and was
accounted with them as part of the live stock, he resembled them also in
the exemption which he enjoyed from all cares concerning his own
maintenance and that of his family.  The feudal slaves, indeed, were
subject to none of those vicissitudes which brought so many of the
proudest and most powerful barons to a disastrous end.  They had nothing
to lose, and they had liberty to hope for; frequently as the reward of
their own faithful services, and not seldom from the piety or kindness of
their lords.  This was a steady hope depending so little upon contingency
that it excited no disquietude or restlessness.  They were therefore in
general satisfied with the lot to which they were born, as the
Greenlander is with his climate, the Bedouin with his deserts, and the
Hottentot and the Calmuck with their filthy and odious customs; and going
on in their regular and unvaried course of duty generation after
generation, they were content.

_Montesinos_.--"Fish, fish, are you in your duty?" said the young lady in
the Arabian tales, who came out of the kitchen wall clad in flowered
satin, and with a rod in her hand.  The fish lifted up their heads and
replied, "Yes, yes; if you reckon, we reckon; if you pay your debts we
pay ours; if you fly we overcome, and are content."  The fish who were
thus content, and in their duty, had been gutted, and were in the frying-
pan.  I do not seek, however, to escape from the force of your argument
by catching at the words.  On the other hand, I am sure it is not your
intention to represent slavery otherwise than as an evil, under any

_Sir Thomas More_.--That which is a great evil in itself become
relatively a good when it prevents or removes a greater evil; for
instance, loss of a limb when life is preserved by the sacrifice, or the
acute pain of a remedy by which a chronic disease is cured.  Such was
slavery in its origin: a commutation for death, gladly accepted as mercy
under the arm of a conqueror in battle, or as the mitigation of a
judicial sentence.  But it led immediately to nefarious abuses; and the
earliest records which tell us of its existence show us also that men
were kidnapped for sale.  With the principles of Christianity, the
principles of religious philosophy--the only true policy, to which
mankind must come at last, by which alone all the remediable ills of
humanity are to be remedied, and for which you are taught to pray when
you entreat that your Father's kingdom may come--with those principles
slavery is inconsistent, and therefore not to be tolerated, even in

_Montesinos_.--Yet its fitness, as a commutation for other punishments,
is admitted by Michaelis (though he decides against it) to be one of the
most difficult questions connected with the existing state of society.
And in the age of the Revolution, one of the sturdiest Scotch republicans
proposed the reestablishment of slavery, as the best or only means for
correcting the vices and removing the miseries of the poor.

_Sir Thomas More_.--The proposal of such a remedy must be admitted as
full proof of the malignity of the disease.  And in further excuse of
Andrew Fletcher, it should be remembered that he belonged to a country
where many of the feudal virtues (as well as most of the feudal vices)
were at that time in full vigour.  But let us return to our historical
view of the subject.  In feudal servitude there was no motive for
cruelty, scarcely any for oppression.  There were no needy slave-owners,
as there are in commercial colonies; and though slaves might sometimes
suffer from a wicked, or even a passionate master, there is no reason to
believe that they were habitually over-tasked, or subjected to systematic
ill-treatment; for that, indeed, can only arise from avarice, and avarice
is not the vice of feudal times.  Still, however, slavery is intolerable
upon Christian principles; and to the influence of those principles it
yielded here in England.  It had ceased, so as even to be forgotten in my
youth; and villenage was advancing fast towards its natural extinction.
The courts decided that a tenant having a lease could not be a villein
during its term, for if his labour were at the command of another how
could he undertake to pay rent?  Landholders had thus to choose between
rent and villenage, and scarcely wanted the Field of the Cloth of Gold at
Ardres to show them which they stood most in need of.  And as villenage
disappeared, free labourers of various descriptions multiplied; of whom
the more industrious and fortunate rose in society, and became tradesmen
and merchants; the unlucky and the reprobate became vagabonds.

_Montesinos_.--The latter class appears to have been far more numerous in
your age than in mine.

_Sir Thomas More_.--Waiving for the present the question whether they
really were so, they appear to have been so partly in consequence of the
desperate wars between the houses of York and Lancaster, partly because
of the great change in society which succeeded to that contest.  During
those wars both parties exerted themselves to bring into the field all
the force they could muster.  Villeins in great numbers were then
emancipated, when they were embodied in arms; and great numbers
emancipated themselves, flying to London and other cities for protection
from the immediate evils of war, or taking advantage of the frequent
changes of property, and the precarious tenure by which it was held, to
exchange their own servile condition for a station of freedom with all
its hopes and chances.  This took place to a great extent, and the
probabilities of success were greatly in their favour; for whatever may
have been practised in earlier and ruder times, in that age they
certainly were not branded like cattle, according to the usage of your
sugar islands.

_Montesinos_.--A planter, who notwithstanding this curious specimen of
his taste and sensibility, was a man of humane studies and humane
feelings, describes the refined and elegant manner in which the operation
is performed, by way of mitigating the indignation which such a usage
ought to excite.  He assures us that the stamp is not a branding iron,
but a silver instrument; and that it is heated not in the fire, but over
the flame of spirits of wine.

_Sir Thomas More_.--Excellent planter! worthy to have been flogged at a
gilt whipping-post with a scourge of gold thread!  The practice of
marking slaves had fallen into disuse; probably it was only used at first
with captives, or with those who were newly-purchased from a distant
country, never with those born upon the soil.  And there was no means of
raising a hue and cry after a runaway slave so effectually as is done by
your colonial gazettes, the only productions of the British colonial

_Montesinos_.--Include, I pray you, in the former part of your censure
the journals of the United States, the land of democracy and equal

_Sir Thomas More_.--How much more honourable was the tendency of our
laws, and of national feeling in those days, which you perhaps as well as
your trans-Atlantic brethren have been accustomed to think barbarous,
when compared with this your own age of reason and liberality!  The
master who killed his slave was as liable to punishment as if he had
killed a freeman.  Instead of impeding enfranchisement, the laws, as well
as the public feeling, encouraged it.  If a villein who had fled from his
lord remained a year and a day unclaimed upon the King's demesne lands,
or in any privileged town, he became free.  All doubtful cases were
decided _in favorem libertatis_.  Even the established maxim in law,
_partus sequitur ventrem_, was set aside in favour of liberty; the child
of a neif was free if the father were a freeman, or if it were
illegitimate, in which case it was settled that the free condition of the
father should always be presumed.

_Montesinos_.--Such a principle must surely have tended to increase the
illegitimate population.

_Sir Thomas More_.--That inference is drawn from the morals of your own
age, and the pernicious effect of your poor laws as they are now
thoroughly understood and deliberately acted upon by a race who are
thinking always of their imaginary rights, and never of their duties.  You
forget the efficacy of ecclesiastical discipline; and that the old Church
was more vigilant, and therefore more efficient than that which rose upon
its ruins.  And you suppose that personal liberty was more valued by
persons in a state of servitude than was actually the case.  For if in
earlier ages emancipation was an act of piety and benevolence,
afterwards, when the great crisis of society came on, it proceeded more
frequently from avarice than from any worthier motive; and the slave who
was set free sometimes found himself much in the situation of a household
dog that is turned into the streets.

_Montesinos_.--Are you alluding to the progress of inclosures, which from
the accession of the Tudors to the age of the Stuarts were complained of
as the great and crying evil of the times?

_Sir Thomas More_.--That process originated as soon as rents began to be
of more importance than personal services, and money more convenient to
the landlords than payments in kind.

_Montesinos_.--And this I suppose began to be the case under Edward III.
The splendour of his court, and the foreign wars in which he was engaged,
must have made money more necessary to the knights and nobles than it had
ever been before, except during the Crusades.

_Sir Thomas More_.--The wars of York and Lancaster retarded the process;
but immediately after the termination of that fierce struggle it was
accelerated by the rapid growth of commerce, and by the great influx of
wealth from the new found world.  Under a settled and strong and vigilant
government men became of less value as vassals and retainers, because the
boldest barons no longer dared contemplate the possibility of trying
their strength against the crown, or attempting to disturb the
succession.  Four-legged animals therefore were wanted for slaughter more
than two-legged ones; and moreover, sheep could be shorn, whereas the art
of fleecing the tenantry was in its infancy, and could not always be
practised with the same certain success.  A trading spirit thus gradually
superseded the rude but kindlier principle of the feudal system: profit
and loss became the rule of conduct; in came calculation, and out went

_Montesinos_.--I remember your description (for indeed who can forget
it?) how sheep, more destructive than the Dragon of Wantley in those
days, began to devour men and fields and houses.  The same process is at
this day going on in the Highlands, though under different circumstances;
some which palliate the evil, and some which aggravate the injustice.

_Sir Thomas More_.--The real nature of the evil was misunderstood by my
contemporaries, and for some generations afterward.  A decrease of
population was the effect complained of, whereas the greater grievance
was that a different and worse population was produced.

_Montesinos_.--I comprehend you.  The same effect followed which has been
caused in these days by the extinction of small farms.

_Sir Thomas More_.--The same in kind, but greater in degree; or at least
if not greater, or so general in extent, it was more directly felt.  When
that ruinous fashion prevailed in your age there were many resources for
the class of people who were thus thrown out of their natural and proper
place in the social system.  Your fleets and armies at that time required
as many hands as could be supplied; and women and children were consumed
with proportionate rapidity by your manufactures.

Moreover, there was the wholesome drain of emigration open

   "_Facta est immensi copia mundi_."

But under the Tudors there existed no such means for disposing of the
ejected population, and except the few who could obtain places as
domestic servants, or employment as labourers and handicraftsmen
(classes, it must be remembered, for all which the employ was diminished
by the very ejectment in question), they who were turned adrift soon
found themselves houseless and hopeless, and were reduced to prey upon
that society which had so unwisely as well as inhumanly discarded them.

_Montesinos_.--Thus it is that men collectively as well as individually
create for themselves so large a part of the evils they endure.

_Sir Thomas More_.--Enforce upon your contemporaries that truth which is
as important in politics as in ethics, and you will not have lived in
vain!  Scatter that seed upon the waters, and doubt not of the harvest!
Vindicate always the system of nature, in other and sounder words, the
ways of God, while you point out with all faithfulness

         "what ills
   Remediable and yet unremedied
      Afflict man's wretched race,"

and the approbation of your own heart will be sufficient reward on earth.

_Montesinos_.--The will has not been wanting.

_Sir Thomas More_.--There are cases in which the will carries with it the
power; and this is of them.  No man was ever yet deeply convinced of any
momentous truth without feeling in himself the power as well as the
desire of communicating it.

_Montesinos_.--True, Sir Thomas; but the perilous abuse of that feeling
by enthusiasts and fanatics leads to an error in the opposite extreme.

We sacrifice too much to prudence; and, in fear of incurring the danger
or the reproach of enthusiasm, too often we stifle the holiest impulses
of the understanding and the heart.

         "Our doubts are traitors,
   And make us lose the good we oft might win,
   By fearing to attempt."

--But I pray you, resume your discourse.  The monasteries were probably
the chief palliatives of this great evil while they existed.

_Sir Thomas More_.--Their power of palliating it was not great, for the
expenditure of those establishments kept a just pace with their revenues.
They accumulated no treasures, and never were any incomes more
beneficially employed.  The great abbeys vied with each other in
architectural magnificence, in this more especially, but likewise in
every branch of liberal expenditure, giving employment to great numbers,
which was better than giving unearned food.  They provided, as it became
them, for the old and helpless also.  That they prevented the necessity
of raising rates for the poor by the copious alms which they distributed,
and by indiscriminately feeding the indigent, has been inferred, because
those rates became necessary immediately after the suppression of the
religious houses.  But this is one of those hasty inferences which have
no other foundation than a mere coincidence of time in the supposed cause
and effect.

_Montesinos_.--For which you have furnished a proverbial illustration in
your excellent story of Tenterden Steeple and Goodwin Sands.

_Sir Thomas More_.--That illustration would have been buried in the dust
if it had not been repeated by Hugh Latimer at St. Paul's Cross.  It was
the only thing in my writings by which he profited.  If he had learnt
more from them he might have died in his bed, with less satisfaction to
himself and less honour from posterity.  We went different ways, but we
came to the same end, and met where we had little expectation of meeting.
I must do him the justice to say that when he forwarded the work of
destruction it was with the hope and intention of employing the materials
in a better edifice; and that no man opposed the sacrilegious temper of
the age more bravely.  The monasteries, in the dissolution of which he
rejoiced as much as he regretted the infamous disposal of their spoils,
delayed the growth of pauperism, by the corrodies with which they were
charged; the effect of these reservations on the part of the founders and
benefactors being, that a comfortable and respectable support was
provided for those who grew old in the service of their respective
families; and there existed no great family, and perhaps no wealthy one,
which had not entitled itself thus to dispose of some of its aged
dependants.  And the extent of the depopulating system was limited while
those houses endured: because though some of the great abbots were not
less rapacious than the lay lords, and more criminal, the heads in
general could not be led, like the nobles, into a prodigal expenditure,
the burthen of which fell always upon the tenants; and rents in kind were
to them more convenient than in money, their whole economy being founded
upon that system, and adapted to it.

_Montesinos_.--Both facts and arguments were indeed strongly on your side
when you wrote against the supplication of beggars; but the form in which
you embodied them gave the adversary an advantage, for it was connected
with one of the greatest abuses and absurdities of the Romish Church.

_Sir Thomas More_.--Montesinos, I allow you to call it an abuse; but if
you think any of the abuses of that church were in their origin so
unreasonable as to deserve the appellation of absurdities, you must have
studied its history with less consideration and a less equitable spirit
than I have given you credit for.  Both Master Fish and I had each our
prejudices and errors.  We were both sincere; Master Fish would
undoubtedly have gone to the stake in defence of his opinions as
cheerfully as I laid down my neck upon the block; like his namesake in
the tale which you have quoted, he too when in Nix's frying-pan would
have said he was in his duty, and content.  But withal he cannot be
called an honest man, unless in that sort of liberal signification by
which, in these days, good words are so detorted from their original and
genuine meaning as to express precisely the reverse of what was formerly
intended by them.  More gross exaggerations and more rascally
mis-statements could hardly be made by one of your own thorough-paced
revolutionists than those upon which the whole argument of his
supplication is built.

_Montesinos_.--If he had fallen into your hands you would have made a
stock-fish of him.

_Sir Thomas More_.--Perhaps so.  I had not then I learnt that laying men
by the heels is not the best way of curing them of an error in the head.
But the King protected him.  Henry had too much sagacity not to perceive
the consequences which such a book was likely to produce, and he said,
after perusing it, "If a man should pull down an old stone wall, and
begin at the bottom, the upper part thereof might chance to fall upon his
head."  But he saw also that it tended to serve his immediate purpose.

_Montesinos_.--I marvel that good old John Fox, upright, downright man as
he was, should have inserted in his "Acts and Monuments" a libel like
this, which contains no arguments except such as were adapted to
ignorance, cupidity, and malice.

_Sir Thomas More_.--Old John Fox ought to have known that, however
advantageous the dissolution of the monastic houses might be to the views
of the Reformers, it was every way injurious to the labouring classes.  As
far as they were concerned, the transfer of property was always to worse
hands.  The tenantry were deprived of their best landlords, artificers of
their best employers, the poor and miserable of their best and surest
friends.  There would have been no insurrections in behalf of the old
religion if the zeal of the peasantry had not been inflamed by a sore
feeling of the injury which they suffered in the change.  A great
increase of the vagabond population was the direct and immediate
consequence.  They who were ejected from their tenements or deprived of
their accustomed employment were turned loose upon society; and the
greater number, of course and of necessity, ran wild.

_Montesinos_.--Wild, indeed!  The old chroniclers give a dreadful picture
of their numbers and of their wickedness, which called forth and deserved
the utmost severity of the law.  They lived like savages in the woods and
wastes, committing the most atrocious actions, stealing children, and
burning, breaking, or otherwise disfiguring their limbs for the purpose
of exciting compassion, and obtaining alms by this most flagitious of all
imaginable crimes.  Surely we have nothing so bad as this.

_Sir Thomas More_.--The crime of stealing children for such purposes is
rendered exceedingly difficult by the ease and rapidity with which a hue
and cry can now be raised throughout the land, and the eagerness and
detestation with which the criminal would be pursued; still, however, it
is sometimes practised.  In other respects the professional beggars of
the nineteenth century are not a whit better than their predecessors of
the sixteenth; and your gipsies and travelling potters, who, gipsy-like,
pitch their tents upon the common, or by the wayside, retain with as much
fidelity the manners and morals of the old vagabonds as they do the
_cant_, or pedlar's French, which this class of people are said to have
invented in the age whereof we are now speaking.

_Montesinos_.--But the number of our vagabonds has greatly diminished.  In
your Henry's reign it is affirmed that no fewer than 72,000 criminals
were hanged; you have yourself described them as strung up by scores upon
a gibbet all over the country.  Even in the golden days of good Queen
Bess the executions were from three to four hundred annually.  A large
allowance must be made for the increased humanity of the nation, and the
humaner temper with which the laws are administered: but the new crimes
which increased wealth and a system of credit on one hand, and increased
ingenuity, and new means of mischief on the part of the depredators have
produced, must also be taken into the account.  And the result will show
a diminution in the number of those who prey upon society either by open
war or secret wiles.

_Sir Thomas More_.--Add your paupers to the list, and you will then have
added to it not less than an eighth of your whole population.  But
looking at the depredators alone, perhaps it will be found that the evil
is at this time more widely extended, more intimately connected with the
constitution of society, like a chronic and organic disease, and
therefore more difficult of cure.  Like other vermin they are numerous in
proportion as they find shelter; and for this species of noxious beast
large towns and manufacturing districts afford better cover than the
forest or the waste.  The fault lies in your institutions, which in the
time of the Saxons were better adapted to maintain security and order
than they are now.  No man in those days could prey upon society unless
he were at war with it as an outlaw, a proclaimed and open enemy.  Rude
as the laws were, the purposes of law had not then been perverted: it had
not been made a craft; it served to deter men from committing crimes, or
to punish them for the commission; never to shield notorious,
acknowledged, impudent guilt from condign punishment.  And in the fabric
of society, imperfect as it was, the outline and rudiments of what it
ought to be were distinctly marked in some main parts, where they are now
well-nigh utterly effaced.  Every person had his place.  There was a
system of superintendence everywhere, civil as well as religious.  They
who were born in villenage were born to an inheritance of labour, but not
of inevitable depravity and wretchedness.  If one class were regarded in
some respects as cattle they were at least taken care of; they were
trained, fed, sheltered and protected; and there was an eye upon them
when they strayed.  None were wild, unless they ran wild wilfully, and in
defiance of control.  None were beneath the notice of the priest, nor
placed out of the possible reach of his instruction and his care.  But
how large a part of your population are like the dogs at Lisbon and
Constantinople, unowned, unbroken to any useful purpose, subsisting by
chance or by prey, living in filth, mischief, and wretchedness, a
nuisance to the community while they live, and dying miserably at last!
This evil had its beginning in my days; it is now approaching fast to its


I had retired to my library as usual after dinner, and while I was
wishing for the appearance of my ghostly visitor he became visible.
"Behold me to your wish!" said he.  "Thank you," I replied, "for those
precious words."

_Sir Thomas More_.--Wherefore precious?

_Montesinos_.--Because they show that spirits who are in bliss perceive
our thoughts;--that that communion with the departed for which the heart
yearns in its moods of intensest feeling is in reality attained when it
is desired.

_Sir Thomas More_.--You deduce a large inference from scanty premises.  As
if it were not easy to know without any super-human intuition that you
would wish for the arrival of one whose company you like, at a time when
you were expecting it.

_Montesinos_.--And is this all?

_Sir Thomas More_.--All that the words necessarily imply.  For the rest,
_crede quod habeas et habes_, according to the scurvy tale which makes my
friend Erasmus a horse-stealer, and fathers Latin rhymes upon him.  But
let us take up the thread of our discourse, or, as we used to say in old
times, "begin it again and mend it, for it is neither mass nor matins."

_Montesinos_.--You were saying that the evil of a vagrant and brutalised
population began in your days, and is approaching to its consummation at
this time.

_Sir Thomas More_.--The decay of the feudal system produced it.  When
armies were no longer raised upon that system soldiers were disbanded at
the end of a war, as they are now: that is to say, they were turned
adrift to fare as they could--to work if they could find employment;
otherwise to beg, starve, live upon the alms of their neighbours, or prey
upon a wider community in a manner more congenial to the habits and
temper of their old vocation.  In consequence of the gains which were to
be obtained by inclosures and sheep-farming, families were unhoused and
driven loose upon the country.  These persons, and they who were
emancipated from villenage, or who had in a more summary manner
emancipated themselves, multiplied in poverty and wretchedness.  Lastly,
owing to the fashion for large households of retainers, great numbers of
men were trained up in an idle and dissolute way of life, liable at any
time to be cast off when age or accident invalided them, or when the
master of the family died; and then if not ashamed to beg, too lewd to
work, and ready for any kind of mischief.  Owing to these co-operating
causes, a huge population of outcasts was produced, numerous enough
seriously to infest society, yet not so large as to threaten its

_Montesinos_.--A derangement of the existing system produced them then;
they are a constituent part of the system now.  With you they were, as
you have called them, outcasts: with us, to borrow an illustration from
foreign institutions, they have become a caste.  But during two centuries
the evil appears to have decreased.  Why was this?

_Sir Thomas More_.--Because it was perceived to be an evil, and could
never at any time be mistaken for a healthful symptom.  And because
circumstances tended to suspend its progress.  The habits of these
unhappy persons being at first wholly predatory, the laws proclaimed a
sort of crusade against them, and great and inhuman riddance was made by
the executioner.  Foreign service opened a drain in the succeeding
reigns: many also were drawn off by the spirit of maritime adventure,
preferring the high seas to the high way, as a safer course of
plundering.  Then came an age of civil war, with its large demand for
human life.  Meanwhile as the old arrangements of society crumbled and
decayed new ones were formed.  The ancient fabric was repaired in some
parts and modernised in others.  And from the time of the Restoration the
people supposed their institutions to be stable because after long and
violent convulsions they found themselves at rest, and the transition
which was then going on was slow, silent, and unperceived.  The process
of converting slaves and villeins into servants and free peasantry had
ended; that of raising a manufacturing populace and converting peasantry
into poor was but begun; and it proceeded slowly for a full hundred

_Montesinos_.--Those hundred years were the happiest which England has
ever known.

_Sir Thomas More_.--Perhaps so: [Greek text].

_Montesinos_.--With the exception of the efforts which were made for
restoring the exiled family of the Stuarts they were years of quiet
uniform prosperity and advancement.  The morals of the country recovered
from the contagion which Charles II. imported from France, and for which
Puritanism had prepared the people.  Visitations of pestilence were
suspended.  Sectarians enjoyed full toleration, and were contented.  The
Church proved itself worthy of the victory which it had obtained.  The
Constitution, after one great but short struggle, was well balanced and
defined; and if the progress of art, science, and literature was not
brilliant, it was steady, and the way for a brighter career was prepared.

_Sir Thomas More_.--The way was prepared meantime for evil as well as for
good.  You were retrograde in sound policy, sound philosophy and sound
learning.  Our business at present is wholly with the first.  Because
your policy, defective as it was at the best, had been retrograde,
discoveries in physics, and advances in mechanical science which would
have produced nothing but good in Utopia, became as injurious to the weal
of the nation as they were instrumental to its wealth.  But such had your
system imperceptibly become, and such were your statesmen, that the
wealth of nations was considered as the sole measure of their prosperity.

_Montesinos_.--In feudal ages the object of those monarchs who had any
determinate object in view was either to extend their dominions by
conquest from their neighbours, or to increase their authority at home by
breaking the power of a turbulent nobility.  In commercial ages the great
and sole object of government, when not engaged in war, was to augment
its revenues, for the purpose of supporting the charges which former wars
had induced, or which the apprehension of fresh ones rendered necessary.
And thus it has been, that of the two main ends of government, which are
the security of the subjects and the improvement of the nation, the
latter has never been seriously attempted, scarcely indeed taken into
consideration; and the former imperfectly attained.

_Sir Thomas More_.--Fail not, however, I entreat you, to bear in mind
that this has not been the fault of your rulers at any time.  It has been
their misfortune--an original sin in the constitution of the society
wherein they were born.  Circumstances which they did not make and could
not control have impelled them onward in ways which neither for
themselves nor the nation were ways of pleasantness and peace.

_Montesinos_.--There is one beautiful exception--Edward VI.

   "That blessed Prince whose saintly name might move
   The understanding heart to tears of reverent love."

He would have struck into the right course.

_Sir Thomas More_.--You have a Catholic feeling concerning saints,
Montesinos, though you look for them in the Protestant calendar.  Edward
deserves to be remembered with that feeling.  But had his life been
prolonged to the full age of man it would not have been in his power to
remedy the evil which had been done in his father's reign and during his
own minority.  To have effected that would have required a strength and
obduracy of character incompatible with his meek and innocent nature.  In
intellect and attainments he kept pace with his age, a more stirring and
intellectual one than any which had gone before it: but in the wisdom of
the heart he was far beyond that age, or indeed any that has succeeded
it.  It cannot be said of him as of Henry of Windsor, that he was fitter
for a cloister than a throne, but he was fitter for a heavenly crown than
a terrestrial one.  This country was not worthy of him!--scarcely this

_Montesinos_.--There is a homely verse common in village churchyards, the
truth of which has been felt by many a heart, as some consolation in its
keenest afflictions:--

   "God calls them first whom He loves best."

But surely no prince ever more sedulously employed himself to learn his
office.  His views in some respects were not in accord with the more
enlarged principles of trade, which experience has taught us.  But on the
other hand he judged rightly what "the medicines were by which the sores
of the commonwealth might be healed."  His prescriptions are as
applicable now as they were then, and in most points as needful: they
were "good education, good example, good laws, and the just execution of
those laws: punishing the vagabond and idle, encouraging the good,
ordering well the customers, and engendering friendship in all parts of
the commonwealth."  In these, and more especially in the first of these,
he hoped and purposed to have "shown his device."  But it was not
permitted.  Nevertheless, he has his reward.  It has been more wittily
than charitably said that Hell is paved with good intentions: they have
their place in Heaven also.  Evil thoughts and desires are justly
accounted to us for sin; assuredly therefore the sincere goodwill will be
accounted for the deed, when means and opportunity have been wanting to
bring it to effect.  There are feelings and purposes as well as

   --whose very sweetness yieldeth proof
   That they were born for immortality."

_Sir Thomas More_.--Those great legislative measures whereby the
character of a nation is changed and stamped are more practicable in a
barbarous age than in one so far advanced as that of the Tudors; under a
despotic government, than under a free one; and among an ignorant, rather
than inquiring people.  Obedience is then either yielded to a power which
is too strong to be resisted, or willingly given to the acknowledged
superiority of some commanding mind, carrying with it, as in such ages it
does, an appearance of divinity.  Our incomparable Alfred was a prince in
many respects favourably circumstanced for accomplishing a great work
like this, if his victory over the Danes had been so complete as to have
secured the country against any further evils from that tremendous enemy.
And had England remained free from the scourge of their invasion under
his successors, it is more than likely that his institutions would at
this day have been the groundwork of your polity.

_Montesinos_.--If you allude to that part of the Saxon law which required
that all the people should be placed under _borh_, I must observe that
even those writers who regard the name of Alfred with the greatest
reverence always condemn this part of his system of government.

_Sir Thomas More_.--It is a question of degree.  The just medium between
too much superintendence and too little: the mystery whereby the free
will of the subject is preserved, while it is directed by the fore
purpose of the State (which is the secret of true polity), is yet to be
found out.  But this is certain, that whatever be the origin of
government, its duties are patriarchal, that is to say, parental:
superintendence is one of those duties, and is capable of being exercised
to any extent by delegation and sub-delegation.

_Montesinos_.--The Madras system, my excellent friend Dr. Bell would
exclaim if he were here.  That which, as he says, gives in a school to
the master, the hundred eyes of Argus, and the hundred hands of Briareus,
might in a state give omnipresence to law, and omnipotence to order.  This
is indeed the fair ideal of a commonwealth.

_Sir Thomas More_.--And it was this at which Alfred aimed.  His means
were violent, because the age was barbarous.  Experience would have shown
wherein they required amendment, and as manners improved the laws would
have been softened with them.  But they disappeared altogether during the
years of internal warfare and turbulence which ensued.  The feudal order
which was established with the Norman conquest, or at least methodised
after it, was in this part of its scheme less complete: still it had the
same bearing.  When that also went to decay, municipal police did not
supply its place.  Church discipline then fell into disuse; clerical
influence was lost; and the consequence now is, that in a country where
one part of the community enjoys the highest advantages of civilisation
with which any people upon this globe have ever in any age been favoured,
there is among the lower classes a mass of ignorance, vice, and
wretchedness, which no generous heart can contemplate without grief, and
which, when the other signs of the times are considered, may reasonably
excite alarm for the fabric of society that rests upon such a base.  It
resembles the tower in your own vision, its beautiful summit elevated
above all other buildings, the foundations placed upon the sand, and


   "Rising so high, and built so insecure,
   Ill may such perishable work endure!"

You will not, I hope, come to that conclusion!  You will not, I hope, say
with the evil prophet--

   "The fabric of her power is undermined;
      The Earthquake underneath it will have way,
   And all that glorious structure, as the wind
      Scatters a summer cloud, be swept away!"

_Sir Thomas More_.--Look at the populace of London, and ask yourself what
security there is that the same blind fury which broke out in your
childhood against the Roman Catholics may not be excited against the
government, in one of those opportunities which accident is perpetually
offering to the desperate villains whom your laws serve rather to protect
than to punish!

_Montesinos_.--It is an observation of Mercier's, that despotism loves
large cities.  The remark was made with reference to Paris only a little
while before the French Revolution!  But even if he had looked no farther
than the history of his own country and of that very metropolis, he might
have found sufficient proof that insubordination and anarchy like them
quite as well.

_Sir Thomas More_.--London is the heart of your commercial system, but it
is also the hot-bed of corruption.  It is at once the centre of wealth
and the sink of misery; the seat of intellect and empire: and yet a
wilderness wherein they, who live like wild beasts upon their
fellow-creatures, find prey and cover.  Other wild beasts have long since
been extirpated: even in the wilds of Scotland, and of barbarous, or
worse than barbarous Ireland, the wolf is no longer to be found; a degree
of civilisation this to which no other country has attained.  Man, and
man alone, is permitted to run wild.  You plough your fields and harrow
them; you have your scarifiers to make the ground clean; and if after all
this weeds should spring up, the careful cultivator roots them out by
hand.  But ignorance and misery and vice are allowed to grow, and
blossom, and seed, not on the waste alone, but in the very garden and
pleasure-ground of society and civilisation.  Old Thomas Tusser's coarse
remedy is the only one which legislators have yet thought of applying.

_Montesinos_.--What remedy is that?

_Sir Thomas More_.--'Twas the husbandman's practice in his days and mine:

   "Where plots full of nettles annoyeth the eye,
   Sow hempseed among them, and nettles will die."

_Montesinos_.--The use of hemp indeed has not been spared.  But with so
little avail has it been used, or rather to such ill effect, that every
public execution, instead of deterring villains from guilt, serves only
to afford them opportunity for it.  Perhaps the very risk of the gallows
operates upon many a man among the inducements to commit the crime
whereto he is tempted; for with your true gamester the excitement seems
to be in proportion to the value of the stake.  Yet I hold as little with
the humanity-mongers, who deny the necessity and lawfulness of inflicting
capital punishment in any case, as with the shallow moralists, who
exclaim against vindictive justice, when punishment would cease to be
just, if it were not vindictive.

_Sir Thomas More_.--And yet the inefficacious punishment of guilt is less
to be deplored and less to be condemned than the total omission of all
means for preventing it.  Many thousands in your metropolis rise every
morning without knowing how they are to subsist during the day, or many
of them where they are to lay their heads at night.  All men, even the
vicious themselves, know that wickedness leads to misery; but many, even
among the good and the wise, have yet to learn that misery is almost as
often the cause of wickedness.

_Montesinos_.--There are many who know this, but believe that it is not
in the power of human institutions to prevent this misery.  They see the
effect, but regard the causes as inseparable from the condition of human

_Sir Thomas More_.--As surely as God is good, so surely there is no such
thing as necessary evil.  For by the religious mind sickness and pain and
death are not to be accounted evils.  Moral evils are of your own making,
and undoubtedly the greater part of them may be prevented; though it is
only in Paraguay (the most imperfect of Utopias) that any attempt at
prevention has been carried into effect.  Deformities of mind, as of
body, will sometimes occur.  Some voluntary castaways there will always
be, whom no fostering kindness and no parental care can preserve from
self-destruction; but if any are lost for want of care and culture, there
is a sin of omission in the society to which they belong.

_Montesinos_.--The practicability of forming such a system of prevention
may easily be allowed, where, as in Paraguay, institutions are
fore-planned, and not, as everywhere in Europe, the slow and varying
growth of circumstances.  But to introduce it into an old society, _hic
labor_, _hoc opus est_!  The Augean stable might have been kept clean by
ordinary labour, if from the first the filth had been removed every day;
when it had accumulated for years, it became a task for Hercules to
cleanse it.  Alas, the age of heroes and demigods is over!

_Sir Thomas More_.--There lies your error!  As no general will ever
defeat an enemy whom he believes to be invincible, so no difficulty can
be overcome by those who fancy themselves unable to overcome it.
Statesmen in this point are, like physicians, afraid, lest their own
reputation should suffer, to try new remedies in cases where the old
routine of practice is known and proved to be ineffectual.  Ask yourself
whether the wretched creatures of whom we are discoursing are not
abandoned to their fate without the highest attempt to rescue them from
it?  The utmost which your laws profess is, that under their
administration no human being shall perish for want: this is all!  To
effect this you draw from the wealthy, the industrious, and the frugal, a
revenue exceeding tenfold the whole expenses of government under Charles
I., and yet even with this enormous expenditure upon the poor it is not
effected.  I say nothing of those who perish for want of sufficient food
and necessary comforts, the victims of slow suffering and obscure
disease; nor of those who, having crept to some brick-kiln at night, in
hope of preserving life by its warmth, are found there dead in the
morning.  Not a winter passes in which some poor wretch does not actually
die of cold and hunger in the streets of London!  With all your public
and private eleemosynary establishments, with your eight million of poor-
rates, with your numerous benevolent associations, and with a spirit of
charity in individuals which keeps pace with the wealth of the richest
nation in the world, these things happen, to the disgrace of the age and
country, and to the opprobrium of humanity, for want of police and order!
You are silent!

_Montesinos_.--Some shocking examples occurred to me.  The one of a poor
Savoyard boy with his monkey starved to death in St. James's Park.  The
other, which is, if that be possible, a still more disgraceful case, is
recorded incidentally in Rees's Cyclopaedia under the word "monster."  It
is only in a huge overgrown city that such cases could possibly occur.

_Sir Thomas More_.--The extent of a metropolis ought to produce no such
consequences.  Whatever be the size of a bee-hive or an ant-hill, the
same perfect order is observed in it.

_Montesinos_.--That is because bees and ants act under the guidance of
unerring instinct.

_Sir Thomas More_.--As if instinct were a superior faculty to reason!  But
the statesman, as well as the sluggard, may be told to "go to the ant and
the bee, consider their ways and be wise!"  It is for reason to observe
and profit by the examples which instinct affords it.

_Montesinos_.--A country modelled upon Apiarian laws would be a strange
Utopia! the bowstring would be used there as unmercifully as it is in the
seraglio, to say nothing of the summary mode of bringing down the
population to the means of subsistence.  But this is straying from the
subject.  The consequences of defective order are indeed frightful,
whether we regard the physical or the moral evils which are produced.

_Sir Thomas More_.--And not less frightful when the political evils are
contemplated.  To the dangers of an oppressive and iniquitous order,
such, for example, as exists where negro slavery is established, you are
fully awake in England; but to those of defective order among yourselves,
though they are precisely of the same nature, you are blind.  And yet you
have spirits among you who are labouring day and night to stir up a
_bellum servile_, an insurrection like that of Wat Tyler, of the
Jacquerie, and of the peasants in Germany.  There is no provocation for
this, as there was in all those dreadful convulsions of society: but
there are misery and ignorance and desperate wickedness to work upon,
which the want of order has produced.  Think for a moment what London,
nay, what the whole kingdom would be, were your Catilines to succeed in
exciting as general an insurrection as that which was raised by one
madman in your own childhood!  Imagine the infatuated and infuriated
wretches, whom not Spitalfields, St. Giles's, and Pimlico alone, but all
the lanes and alleys and cellars of the metropolis would pour out--a
frightful population, whose multitudes, when gathered together, might
almost exceed belief!  The streets of London would appear to teem with
them, like the land of Egypt with its plague of frogs: and the lava
floods from a volcano would be less destructive than the hordes whom your
great cities and manufacturing districts would vomit forth!

_Montesinos_.--Such an insane rebellion would speedily be crushed.

_Sir Thomas More_.--Perhaps so.  But three days were enough for the Fire
of London.  And be assured this would not pass away without leaving in
your records a memorial as durable and more dreadful.

_Montesinos_.--Is such an event to be apprehended?

_Sir Thomas More_.--Its possibility at least ought always to be borne in
mind.  The French Revolution appeared much less possible when the
Assembly of Notables was convoked; and the people of France were much
less prepared for the career of horrors into which they were presently


I was in my library, making room upon the shelves for some books which
had just arrived from New England, removing to a less conspicuous station
others which were of less value and in worse dress, when Sir Thomas
entered.  You are employed, said he, to your heart's content.  Why,
Montesinos, with these books, and the delight you take in their constant
society, what have you to covet or desire?

_Montesinos_.--Nothing, except more books.

_Sir Thomas More_.--

   "_Crescit_, _indulgens sibi_, _dirus hydrops_."

_Montesinos_.--Nay, nay, my ghostly monitor, this at least is no diseased
desire.  If I covet more, it is for the want I feel and the use which I
should make of them.  "Libraries," says my good old friend George Dyer, a
man as learned as he is benevolent, "libraries are the wardrobes of
literature, whence men, properly informed, might bring forth something
for ornament, much for curiosity, and more for use."  These books of
mine, as you well know, are not drawn up here for display, however much
the pride of the eye may be gratified in beholding them, they are on
actual service.  Whenever they may be dispersed, there is not one among
them that will ever be more comfortably lodged, or more highly prized by
its possessor; and generations may pass away before some of them will
again find a reader.  It is well that we do not moralise too much upon
such subjects.

   "For foresight is a melancholy gift,
   Which bares the bald, and speeds the all-too-swift."

   H. T.

But the dispersion of a library, whether in retrospect or in
anticipation, is always to me a melancholy thing.

_Sir Thomas More_.--How many such dispersions must have taken place to
have made it possible that these books should thus be brought together
here among the Cumberland mountains.

_Montesinos_.--Many, indeed; and in many instances most disastrous ones.
Not a few of these volumes have been cast up from the wreck of the family
or convent libraries during the late Revolution.  Yonder "Acta Sanctorum"
belonged to the Capuchins, at Ghent.  This book of St. Bridget's
Revelations, in which not only all the initial letters are illuminated,
but every capital throughout the volume was coloured, came from the
Carmelite Nunnery at Bruges.  That copy of Alain Chartier, from the
Jesuits' College at Louvain; that _Imago Primi Saeculi Societatis_, from
their college at Ruremond.  Here are books from Colbert's library, here
others from the Lamoignon one.  And here are two volumes of a work, not
more rare than valuable for its contents, divorced, unhappily, and it is
to be feared for ever, from the one which should stand between them; they
were printed in a convent at Manila, and brought from thence when that
city was taken by Sir William Draper; they have given me, perhaps, as
many pleasurable hours (passed in acquiring information which I could not
otherwise have obtained), as Sir William spent years of anxiety and
vexation in vainly soliciting the reward of his conquest.

About a score of the more out-of-the-way works in my possession belonged
to some unknown person, who seems carefully to have gleaned the
bookstalls a little before and after the year 1790.  He marked them with
certain ciphers, always at the end of the volume.  They are in various
languages, and I never found his mark in any book that was not worth
buying, or that I should not have bought without that indication to
induce me.  All were in ragged condition, and having been dispersed, upon
the owner's death probably, as of no value, to the stalls they had
returned; and there I found this portion of them just before my old
haunts as a book-hunter in the metropolis were disforested, to make room
for the improvements between Westminster and Oxford Road.  I have
endeavoured without success to discover the name of their former
possessor.  He must have been a remarkable man, and the whole of his
collection, judging of it by that part which has come into my hands, must
have been singularly curious.  A book is the more valuable to me when I
know to whom it has belonged, and through what "scenes and changes" it
has passed.

_Sir Thomas More_.--You would have its history recorded in the fly-leaf
as carefully as the pedigree of a racehorse is preserved.

_Montesinos_.--I confess that I have much of that feeling in which the
superstition concerning relics has originated, and I am sorry when I see
the name of a former owner obliterated in a book, or the plate of his
arms defaced.  Poor memorials though they be, yet they are something
saved for a while from oblivion, and I should be almost as unwilling to
destroy them as to efface the _Hic jacet_ of a tombstone.  There may be
sometimes a pleasure in recognising them, sometimes a salutary sadness.

Yonder Chronicle of King D. Manoel, by Damiam de Goes, and yonder
"General History of Spain," by Esteban de Garibay, are signed by their
respective authors.  The minds of these laborious and useful scholars are
in their works, but you are brought into a more personal relation with
them when you see the page upon which you know that their eyes have
rested, and the very characters which their hands have traced.  This copy
of Casaubon's Epistles was sent to me from Florence by Walter Landor.  He
had perused it carefully, and to that perusal we are indebted for one of
the most pleasing of his Conversations; these letters had carried him in
spirit to the age of their writer, and shown James I. to him in the light
wherein James was regarded by contemporary scholars, and under the
impression thus produced Landor has written of him in his happiest mood,
calmly, philosophically, feelingly, and with no more of favourable
leaning than justice will always manifest when justice is in good humour
and in charity with all men.  The book came from the palace library at
Milan, how or when abstracted I know not, but this beautiful dialogue
would never have been written had it remained there in its place upon the
shelf, for the worms to finish the work which they had begun.  Isaac
Casaubon must be in your society, Sir Thomas, for where Erasmus is you
will be, and there also Casaubon will have his place among the wise and
the good.  Tell him, I pray you, that due honour has in these days been
rendered to his name by one who as a scholar is qualified to appreciate
his merits, and whose writings will be more durable than monuments of
brass or marble.

_Sir Thomas More_.--Is there no message to him from Walter Landor's

_Montesinos_.--Say to him, since you encourage me to such boldness, that
his letters could scarcely have been perused with deeper interest by the
persons to whom they were addressed than they have been by one, at the
foot of Skiddaw, who is never more contentedly employed than when
learning from the living minds of other ages, one who would gladly have
this expression of respect and gratitude conveyed to him, and who trusts
that when his course is finished here he shall see him face to face.

Here is a book with which Lauderdale amused himself, when Cromwell kept
him prisoner in Windsor Castle.  He has recorded his state of mind during
that imprisonment by inscribing in it, with his name, and the dates of
time and place, the Latin word _Durate_, and the Greek [Greek text].  Here
is a memorial of a different kind inscribed in this "Rule of Penance of
St. Francis, as it in ordered for religious women."  "I beseech my deare
mother humbly to accept of this exposition of our holy rule, the better
to conceive what your poor child ought to be, who daly beges your
blessing.  Constantia Francisco."  And here in the Apophthegmata,
collected by Conrad Lycosthenes, and published after drastic expurgation
by the Jesuits as a commonplace book, some Portuguese has entered a
hearty vow that he would never part with the book, nor lend it to any
one.  Very different was the disposition of my poor old Lisbon
acquaintance, the Abbe, who, after the old humaner form, wrote in all his
books (and he had a rare collection) _Ex libris Francisci Garnier_, _et

_Sir Thomas More_.--How peaceably they stand together--Papists and
Protestants side by side.

_Montesinos_.--Their very dust reposes not more quietly in the cemetery.
Ancient and modern, Jew and Gentile, Mahommedan and Crusader, French and
English, Spaniards and Portuguese, Dutch and Brazilians, fighting their
own battles, silently now, upon the same shelf: Fernam Lopez and Pedro de
Ayala; John de Laet and Barlaeus, with the historians of Joam Fernandes
Vieira; Foxe's Martyrs and the Three Conversions of Father Parsons;
Cranmer and Stephen Gardiner; Dominican and Franciscan; Jesuit and
Philosophe (equally misnamed); Churchmen and Sectarians; Round-heads and

   "Here are God's conduits, grave divines; and here
   Is Nature's secretary, the philosopher:
   And wily statesmen, which teach how to tie
   The sinews of a city's mystic body;
   Here gathering chroniclers; and by them stand
   Giddy fantastic poets of each land."--DONNE.

Here I possess these gathered treasures of time, the harvest of so many
generations, laid up in my garners: and when I go to the window there is
the lake, and the circle of the mountains, and the illimitable sky.

_Sir Thomas More_.--

   "_Felicemque voco pariter studiique locique_!"


   "--_meritoque probas artesque locumque_."

The simile of the bees,

   "_Sic vos non vobis mellificatis apes_,"

has often been applied to men who have made literature their profession;
and they among them to whom worldly wealth and worldly honours are
objects of ambition, may have reason enough to acknowledge its
applicability.  But it will bear a happier application and with equal
fitness: for, for whom is the purest honey hoarded that the bees of this
world elaborate, if it be not for the man of letters?  The exploits of
the kings and heroes of old, serve now to fill story-books for his
amusement and instruction.  It was to delight his leisure and call forth
his admiration that Homer sung and Alexander conquered.  It is to gratify
his curiosity that adventurers have traversed deserts and savage
countries, and navigators have explored the seas from pole to pole.  The
revolutions of the planet which he inhabits are but matters for his
speculation; and the deluges and conflagrations which it has undergone,
problems to exercise his philosophy, or fancy.  He is the inheritor of
whatever has been discovered by persevering labour, or created by
inventive genius.  The wise of all ages have heaped up a treasure for
him, which rust doth not corrupt, and which thieves cannot break through
and steal.  I must leave out the moth, for even in this climate care is
required against its ravages.

_Sir Thomas More_.--Yet, Montesinos, how often does the worm-eaten volume
outlast the reputation of the worm-eaten author!

_Montesinos_.--Of the living one also; for many there are of whom it may
be said, in the words of Vida, that--

   _Saepe suis superant monumentis_; _illaudatique_
   _Extremum ante diem faetus flevere caducos_,
   _Viventesque suae viderunt funera famae_."

Some literary reputations die in the birth; a few are nibbled to death by
critics, but they are weakly ones that perish thus, such only as must
otherwise soon have come to a natural death.  Somewhat more numerous are
those which are overfed with praise, and die of the surfeit.  Brisk
reputations, indeed, are like bottled twopenny, or pop "they sparkle, are
exhaled, and fly"--not to heaven, but to the Limbo.  To live among books,
is in this respect like living among the tombs; you have in them speaking
remembrancers of mortality.  "Behold this also is vanity!"

_Sir Thomas More_.--Has it proved to you "vexation of spirit" also?

_Montesinos_.--Oh, no! for never can any man's life have been passed more
in accord with his own inclinations, nor more answerably to his own
desires.  Excepting that peace which, through God's infinite mercy, is
derived from a higher source, it is to literature, humanly speaking, that
I am beholden, not only for the means of subsistence, but for every
blessing which I enjoy; health of mind and activity of mind, contentment,
cheerfulness, continual employment, and therewith continual pleasure.
_Sua vissima vita indies_, _sentire se fieri meliorem_; and this as Bacon
has said, and Clarendon repeated, is the benefit that a studious man
enjoys in retirement.  To the studies which I have faithfully pursued I
am indebted for friends with whom, hereafter, it will be deemed an honour
to have lived in friendship; and as for the enemies which they have
procured to me in sufficient numbers, happily I am not of the
thin-skinned race: they might as well fire small-shot at a rhinoceros, as
direct their attacks upon me.  _In omnibus requiem quaesivi_, said Thomas
a Kempis, _sed non inveni nisi in angulis et libellis_.  I too have found
repose where he did, in books and retirement, but it was there alone I
sought it: to these my nature, under the direction of a merciful
Providence, led me betimes, and the world can offer nothing which should
tempt me from them.

_Sir Thomas More_.--If wisdom were to be found in the multitude of books,
what a progress must this nation have made in it since my head was cut
off!  A man in my days might offer to dispute _de omni scibile_, and in
accepting the challenge I, as a young man, was not guilty of any
extraordinary presumption, for all which books could teach was, at that
time, within the compass of a diligent and ardent student.  Even then we
had difficulties to contend with which were unknown to the ancients.  The
curse of Babel fell lightly upon them.  The Greeks despised other nations
too much to think of acquiring their languages for the love of knowledge,
and the Romans contented themselves with learning only the Greek.  But
tongues which, in my lifetime, were hardly formed, have since been
refined and cultivated, and are become fertile in authors; and others,
the very names of which were then unknown in Europe, have been discovered
and mastered by European scholars, and have been found rich in
literature.  The circle of knowledge has thus widened in every
generation; and you cannot now touch the circumference of what might
formerly have been clasped.

_Montesinos_.--We are fortunate, methinks, who live in an age when books
are accessible and numerous, and yet not so multiplied, as to render a
competent, not to say thorough, acquaintance with any one branch of
literature, impossible.  He has it yet in his power to know much, who can
be contented to remain in ignorance of more, and to say with Scaliger,
_non sum ex illis gloriosulis qui nihil ignorant_.

_Sir Thomas More_.--If one of the most learned men whom the world has
ever seen felt it becoming in him to say this two centuries ago, how
infinitely smaller in these days must the share of learning which the
most indefatigable student can hope to attain, be in proportion to what
he must wish to learn!  The sciences are simplified as they are improved;
old rubbish and demolished fabrics serve there to make a foundation for
new scaffolding, and more enduring superstructures; and every discoverer
in physics bequeaths to those who follow him greater advantages than he
possessed at the commencement of his labours.  The reverse of this is
felt in all the higher branches of literature.  You have to acquire what
the learned of the last age acquired, and in addition to it, what they
themselves have added to the stock of learning.  Thus the task is greater
in every succeeding generation, and in a very few more it must become
manifestly impossible.

_Montesinos_.  Pope Ganganelli is said to have expressed a whimsical
opinion that all the books in the world might be reduced to six thousand
volumes in folio--by epitomising, expurgating, and destroying whatever
the chosen and plenipotential committee of literature should in their
wisdom think proper to condemn.  It is some consolation to know that no
Pope, or Nero, or Bonaparte, however great their power, can ever think
such a scheme sufficiently within the bounds of possibility for them to
dream of attempting it; otherwise the will would not be wanting.  The
evil which you anticipate is already perceptible in its effects.  Well
would it be if men were as moderate in their desire of wealth, as those
who enter the ranks of literature, and lay claim to distinction there,
are in their desire of knowledge!  A slender capital suffices to begin
with, upon the strength of which they claim credit, and obtain it as
readily as their fellow adventurers in trade.  If they succeed in setting
up a present reputation, their ambition extends no further.  The very
vanity which finds its present food produces in them a practical contempt
for any fame beyond what they can live to enjoy; and this sense of its
insignificance to themselves is what better minds hardly attain, even in
their saddest wisdom, till this world darkens upon them, and they feel
that they are on the confines of eternity.  But every age has had its
sciolists, and will continue to have them; and in every age literature
has also had, and will continue to have its sincere and devoted
followers, few in number, but enough to trim the everlasting lamp.  It is
when sciolists meddle with State affairs that they become the pests of a
nation; and this evil, for the reason which you have assigned, is more
likely to increase than to be diminished.  In your days all extant
history lay within compassable bounds: it is a fearful thing to consider
now what length of time would be required to make studious man as
conversant with the history of Europe since those days, as he ought to
be, if he would be properly qualified for holding a place in the councils
of a kingdom.  Men who take the course of public life will not, nor can
they be expected to, wait for this.  Youth and ardour, and ambition and
impatience, are here in accord with worldly prudence; if they would reach
the goal for which they start, they must begin the career betimes; and
such among them as may be conscious that their stock of knowledge is less
than it ought to be for such a profession, would not hesitate on that
account to take an active part in public affairs, because they have a
more comfortable consciousness that they are quite as well informed as
the contemporaries, with whom they shall have to act, or to contend.  The
_quantulum_ at which Oxenstern admired would be a large allowance now.
For any such person to suspect himself of deficiency would, in this age
of pretension, be a hopeful symptom; but should he endeavour to supply
it, he is like a mail-coach traveller, who is to be conveyed over
macadamised roads at the rate of nine miles an hour, including stoppages,
and must therefore take at his minuted meals whatever food is readiest.
He must get information for immediate use, and with the smallest cost of
time; and therefore it is sought in abstracts and epitomes, which afford
meagre food to the intellect, though they take away the uneasy sense of
inanition.  _Tout abrege sur un bon livre est un sot abrege_, says
Montaigne; and of all abridgments there are none by which a reader is
liable, and so likely, to be deceived as by epitomised histories.

_Sir Thomas More_.--Call to mind, I pray you, my foliophagous friend,
what was the extent of Michael Montaigne's library; and that if you had
passed a winter in his chateau you must, with that appetite of yours,
have but yourself upon short allowance there.  Historical knowledge is
not the first thing needful for a statesman, nor the second.  And yet do
not hastily conclude that I am about to disparage its importance.  A
sailor might as well put to sea without chart or compass as a minister
venture to steer the ship of the State without it.  For as "the strong
and strange varieties" in human nature are repeated in every age, so "the
thing which hath been, it is that which shall be.  Is there anything
whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old
time which was before us."


   "For things forepast are precedents to us,
   Whereby we may things present now, discuss,"

as the old poet said who brought together a tragical collection of
precedents in the mirror of magistrates.  This is what Lord Brooke calls

      "the second light of government
   Which stories yield, and no time can disseason:"

"the common standard of man's reason," he holds to be the first light
which the founders of a new state, or the governors of an old one, ought
to follow.

_Sir Thomas More_.--Rightly, for though the most sagacious author that
ever deduced maxims of policy from the experience of former ages has said
that the misgovernment of States, and the evils consequent thereon, have
arisen more from the neglect of that experience--that is, from historical
ignorance--than from any other cause, the sum and substance of historical
knowledge for practical purposes consists in certain general principles;
and he who understands those principles, and has a due sense of their
importance, has always, in the darkest circumstances, a star in sight by
which he may direct his course surely.

_Montesinos_.--The British ministers who began and conducted the first
war against revolutionary France, were once reminded, in a memorable
speech, that if they had known, or knowing had borne in mind, three
maxims of Machiavelli, they would not have committed the errors which
cost this country so dearly.  They would not have relied upon bringing
the war to a successful end by aid of a party among the French: they
would not have confided in the reports of emigrants; and they would not
have supposed that because the French finances were in confusion, France
was therefore incapable of carrying on war with vigour and ability; men
and not money being the sinews of war, as Machiavelli had taught, and the
revolutionary rulers and Buonaparte after them had learnt.  Each of these
errors they committed, though all were marked upon the chart!

_Sir Thomas More_.--Such maxims are like beacons on a dangerous shore,
not the less necessary, because the seaman may sometimes be deceived by
false lights, and sometimes mistaken in his distances; but the
possibility of being so misled will be borne in mind by the cautious.
Machiavelli is always sagacious, but the tree of knowledge of which he
had gathered grew not in Paradise; it had a bitter root, and the fruit
savours thereof, even to deadliness.  He believed men to be so malignant
by nature that they always act malevolently from choice, and never well
except by compulsion, a devilish doctrine, to be accounted for rather
than excused by the circumstances of his age and country.  For he lived
in a land where intellect was highly cultivated, and morals thoroughly
corrupted, the Papal Church having by its doctrines, its practices, and
its example, made one part of the Italians heathenism and superstitious,
the other impious, and both wicked.

The rule of policy as well as of private morals is to be found in the
Gospel; and a religious sense of duty towards God and man is the first
thing needful in a statesman: herein he has an unerring guide when
knowledge fails him, and experience affords no light.  This, with a clear
head and a single heart, will carry him through all difficulties; and the
just confidence which, having these, he will then have in himself, will
obtain for him the confidence of the nation.  In every nation, indeed,
which is conscious of its strength, the minister who takes the highest
tone will invariably be the most popular; let him uphold, even haughtily,
the character of his country, and the heart and voice of the people will
be with him.  But haughtiness implies always something that is hollow:
the tone of a wise minister will be firm but calm.  He will neither
truckle to his enemies in the vain hope of conciliating them by a
specious candour, which they at the same time flatter and despise; nor
will he stand aloof from his friends, lest he should be accused of
regarding them with partiality; and thus while he secures the attachment
of the one he will command the respect of the other.  He will not, like
the Lacedemonians, think any measures honourable which accord with his
inclinations, and just if they promote his views; but in all cases he
will do that which is lawful and right, holding this for a certain truth,
that in politics the straight path is the sure one!  Such a minister will
hope for the best, and expect the best; by acting openly, steadily, and
bravely, he will act always for the best: and so acting, be the issue
what it may, he will never dishonour himself or his country, nor fall
under the "sharp judgment" of which they that are in "high places" are in

_Montesinos_.--I am pleased to hear you include hopefulness among the
needful qualifications.

_Sir Thomas More_.--It was a Jewish maxim that the spirit of prophecy
rests only upon eminent, happy, and cheerful men.

_Montesinos_.--A wise woman, by which I do not mean in vulgar parlance
one who pretends to prophecy, has a maxim to the same effect: _Toma este
aviso_, she says, _guardate de aquel que no tiene esperanza de bien_!
take care of him who hath no hope of good!

_Sir Thomas More_.--"Of whole heart cometh hope," says old Piers Plowman.
And these maxims are warranted by philosophy, divine and human; by human
wisdom, because he who hopes little will attempt little--fear is "a
betrayal of the succours which reason offereth," and in difficult times,
_pericula magna non nisi periculis depelli solent_; by religion, because
the ways of providence are not so changed under the dispensation of Grace
from what they were under the old law but that he who means well, and
acts well, and is not wanting to himself, may rightfully look for a
blessing upon the course which he pursues.  The upright individual may
rest his heal in peace upon this hope; the upright minister who conducts
the affairs of a nation may trust in it; for as national sins bring after
them in sure consequence their merited punishment, so national virtue,
which is national wisdom, obtains in like manner its temporal and visible

Blessings and curses are before you, and which are to be your portion
depends upon the direction of public opinion.  The march of intellect is
proceeding at quick time; and if its progress be not accompanied by a
corresponding improvement in morals and religion, the faster it proceeds,
with the more violence will you be hurried down the road to ruin.

One of the first effects of printing was to make proud men look upon
learning as disgraced by being thus brought within reach of the common
people.  Till that time learning, such as it was, had been confined to
courts and convents, the low birth of the clergy being overlooked because
they were privileged by their order.  But when laymen in humble life were
enabled to procure books the pride of aristocracy took an absurd course,
insomuch that at one time it was deemed derogatory for a nobleman if he
could read or write.  Even scholars themselves complained that the
reputation of learning, and the respect due to it, and its rewards were
lowered when it was thrown open to all men; and it was seriously proposed
to prohibit the printing of any book that could be afforded for sale
below the price of three _soldi_.  This base and invidious feeling was
perhaps never so directly avowed in other countries as in Italy, the land
where literature was first restored; and yet in this more liberal island
ignorance was for some generations considered to be a mark of
distinction, by which a man of gentle birth chose, not unfrequently, to
make it apparent that he was no more obliged to live by the toil of his
brain, than by the sweat of his brow.  The same changes in society which
rendered it no longer possible for this class of men to pass their lives
in idleness have completely put an end to this barbarous pride.  It is as
obsolete as the fashion of long finger-nails, which in some parts of the
East are still the distinctive mark of those who labour not with their
hands.  All classes are now brought within the reach of your current
literature, that literature which, like a moral atmosphere, is as it were
the medium of intellectual life, and on the quality of which, according
as it may be salubrious or noxious, the health of the public mind
depends.  There is, if not a general desire for knowledge, a general
appearance of such a desire.  Authors of all kinds have increased and are
increasing among you.  Romancers--

_Montesinos_.--Some of whom attempt things which had hitherto been
unattempted yet in prose or rhyme, because among all the extravagant
intellects with which the world has teemed none were ever before so
utterly extravagant as to choose for themselves themes of such revolting

_Sir Thomas More_.--Poets--


   "Tanti Rome non ha preti, o dottori

_Sir Thomas More_.--Critics--

_Montesinos_.--More numerous yet; for this is a corps in which many who
are destined for better things engage, till they are ashamed of the
service; and a much greater number who endeavour to distinguish
themselves in higher walks of literature, and fail, take shelter in it;
as they cannot attain reputation themselves they endeavour to prevent
others from being more successful, and find in the gratification of envy
some recompense for disappointed vanity.

_Sir Thomas More_.--Philosophers--

_Montesinos_.--True and false; the philosophers and the philosophists;
some of the former so full, that it would require, as the rabbis say of a
certain pedigree in the Book of Chronicles, four hundred camel loads of
commentaries to expound the difficulties in their text; others so empty,
that nothing can approximate so nearly to the notion of an infinitesimal
quantity as their meaning.

_Sir Thomas More_.--With this multiplication of books, which in its
proportionate increase marvellously exceeds that of your growing
population, are you a wiser, a more intellectual, or more imaginative
people than when, as in my days, the man of learning, while he sat at his
desk, had his whole library within arm's-length?

_Montesinos_.--If we are not wiser, it must be because the means of
knowledge, which are now both abundant and accessible, are either
neglected or misused.

The sciences are not here to be considered: in these our progress has
been so great, that seeing the moral and religious improvement of the
nation has in no degree kept pace with it, you have reasonably questioned
whether we have not advanced in certain branches, farther and faster than
is conducive to, or perhaps consistent with, the general good.  But there
can be no question that great advancement has been made in many
departments of literature conducive to innocent recreation (which would
be alone no trifling good, even were it not, as it is, itself conducive
to health both of body and of mind), to sound knowledge, and to moral and
political improvement.  There are now few portions of the habitable earth
which have not been explored, and with a zeal and perseverance which had
slept from the first age of maritime discovery till it was revived under
George III. in consequence of this revival, and the awakened spirit of
curiosity and enterprise, every year adds to our ample store of books
relating to the manners of other nations, and the condition of men in
states and stages of society different to our own.  And of such books we
cannot have too many; the idlest reader may find amusement in them of a
more satisfactory kind than he can gather from the novel of the day or
the criticism of the day; and there are few among them so entirely
worthless that the most studious man may not derive from them some
information for which he ought to be thankful.  Some memorable instances
we have had in this generation of the absurdities and errors, sometimes
affecting seriously the public service and the national character, which
have arisen from the want of such knowledge as by means of such books is
now generally diffused.  Skates and warming-pans will not again be sent
out as ventures to Brazil.  The Board of Admiralty will never again
attempt to ruin an enemy's port by sinking a stone-ship, to the great
amusement of that enemy, in a tide harbour.  Nor will a cabinet minister
think it sufficient excuse for himself and his colleagues, to confess
that they were no better informed than other people, and had everything
to learn concerning the interior of a country into which they had sent an

_Sir Thomas More_.--This is but a prospective benefit; and of a humble
kind, if it extend no further than to save you from any future exposure
of an ignorance which might deserve to be called disgraceful.  We
profited more by our knowledge of other countries in the age when

   "Hops and turkeys, carp and beer,
   Came into England all in one year."

_Montesinos_.--And yet in that age you profited slowly by the commodities
which the eastern and western parts of the world afforded.  Gold, pearls,
and spices were your first imports.  For the honour of science and of
humanity, medicinal plants were soon sought for.  But two centuries
elapsed before tea and potatoes--the most valuable products of the East
and West--which have contributed far more to the general good than all
their spices and gems and precious metals--came into common use; nor have
they yet been generally adopted on the Continent, while tobacco found its
way to Europe a hundred years earlier; and its filthy abuse, though here
happily less than in former times, prevails everywhere.

_Sir Thomas More_.--_Pro pudor_!  There is a snuff-box on the
mantelpiece--and thou revilest tobacco!

_Montesinos_.--Distinguish, I pray you, gentle ghost!  I condemn the
abuse of tobacco as filthy, implying in those words that it has its
allowable and proper use.  To smoke, is, in certain circumstances, a
wholesome practice; it may be regarded with a moral complacency as the
poor man's luxury, and with liking by any one who follows a lighted pipe
in the open air.  But whatever may be pleaded for its soothing and
intellectualising effects, the odour within doors of a defunct pipe is
such an abomination, that I join in anathematising it with James, the
best-natured of kings, and Joshua Sylvester, the most voluble of poets.

_Sir Thomas More_.--Thou hast written verses praise of snuff!

_Montesinos_.--And if thy nose, sir Spirit, were anything more than the
ghost of an olfactor, I would offer it a propitiatory pinch, that you
might the more feelingly understand the merit of the said verses, and
admire them accordingly.  But I am no more to be deemed a snuff-taker
because I carry a snuff-box when travelling, and keep one at hand for
occasional use, than I am to be reckoned a casuist or a pupil of the
Jesuits because the "Moral Philosophy" of Escobar and the "Spiritual
Exercises" of St. Ignatius Loyola are on my shelves.  Thank Heaven, I
bear about with me no habits which I cannot lay aside as easily as my

The age is past in which travellers could add much to the improvement,
the comfort, or the embellishment of this country by imparting anything
which they have newly observed in foreign parts.  We have happily more to
communicate now than to receive.  Yet when I tell you that since the
commencement of the present century there have been every year, upon an
average, more than a hundred and fifty plants which were previously
unknown here introduced into the nurseries and market-gardens about
London, you will acknowledge that in this branch at least, a constant
desire is shown of enriching ourselves with the produce of other hands.

_Sir Thomas More_.--Philosophers of old travelled to observe the manners
of men and study their institutions.  I know not whether they found more
pleasure in the study, or derived more advantages from it, than the
adventurers reap who, in these latter times, have crossed the seas and
exposed themselves to dangers of every kind, for the purpose of extending
the catalogue of plants.

_Montesinos_.--Of all travels, those of the mere botanist are the least

_Sir Thomas More_.--To any but botanists--but for them alone they are
written.  Do not depreciate any pursuit which leads men to contemplate
the works of their Creator!  The Linnean traveller who, when you look
over the pages of his journal, seems to you a mere botanist, has in his
pursuit, as you have in yours, an object that occupies his time, and
fills his mind, and satisfies his heart.  It is as innocent as yours, and
as disinterested--perhaps more so, because it is not so ambitious.  Nor
is the pleasure which he partakes in investigating the structure of a
plant less pure, or less worthy, than what you derive from perusing the
noblest productions of human genius.  You look at me as if you thought
this reprehension were undeserved!

_Montesinos_.--The eye, then, Sir Thomas, is proditorious, and I will not
gainsay its honest testimony: yet would I rather endeavour to profit by
the reprehension than seek to show that it was uncalled for.  If I know
myself I am never prone to undervalue either the advantages or
acquirements which I do not possess.  That knowledge is said to be of all
others the most difficult; whether it be the most useful the Greeks
themselves differ, for if one of their wise men left the words [Greek
text] as his maxim to posterity, a poet, who perhaps may have been not
less deserving of the title, has controverted it, and told us that for
the uses of the world it is more advantageous for us to understand the
character of others than to know ourselves.

_Sir Thomas More_.--Here lies the truth; he who best understands himself
is least likely to be deceived in others; you judge of others by
yourselves, and therefore measure them by an erroneous standard whenever
your autometry is false.  This is one reason why the empty critic is
usually contumelious and flippant, the competent one as generally
equitable and humane.

_Montesinos_.--This justice I would render to the Linnean school, that it
produced our first devoted travellers; the race to which they succeeded
employed themselves chiefly in visiting museums and cataloguing pictures,
and now and then copying inscriptions; even in their books notices are
found for which they who follow them may be thankful; and facts are
sometimes, as if by accident, preserved, for useful application.  They
went abroad to accomplish or to amuse themselves--to improve their time,
or to get rid of it; the botanists travelled for the sake of their
favourite science, and many of them, in the prime of life, fell victims
to their ardour in the unwholesome climates to which they were led.
Latterly we have seen this ardour united with the highest genius, the
most comprehensive knowledge, and the rarest qualities of perseverance,
prudence, and enduring patience.  This generation will not leave behind
it two names more entitled to the admiration of after ages than
Burckhardt and Humboldt.  The former purchased this pre-eminence at the
cost of his life; the latter lives, and long may he live to enjoy it.

_Sir Thomas More_.--This very important branch of literature can scarcely
be said to have existed in my time; the press was then too much occupied
in preserving such precious remains of antiquity as could be rescued from
destruction, and in matters which inflamed the minds of men, as indeed
they concerned their dearest and most momentous interests.  Moreover
reviving literature took the natural course of imitation, and the
ancients had left nothing in this kind to be imitated.  Nothing therefore
appeared in it, except the first inestimable relations of the discoveries
in the East and West, and these belong rather to the department of
history.  As travels we had only the chance notices which occurred in the
Latin correspondence of learned men when their letters found their way to
the public.

_Montesinos_.--Precious remains these are, but all too few.  The first
travellers whose journals or memoirs have been preserved were
ambassadors; then came the adventurer of whom you speak; and it is
remarkable that two centuries afterwards we should find men of the same
stamp among the buccaneers, who recorded in like manner with faithful
dilligence whatever they had opportunity of observing in their wild and
nefarious course of life.

_Sir Thomas More_.--You may deduce from thence two conclusions,
apparently contrarient, yet both warranted by the fact which you have
noticed.  It may be presumed that men who, while engaged in such an
occupation, could thus meritoriously employ their leisure, were rather
compelled by disastrous circumstances to such a course than engaged in it
by inclination: that it was their misfortune rather than their fault if
they were not the benefactors and ornaments of society, instead of being
its outlaws; and that under a wise and parental government such persons
never would be lost.  This is a charitable consideration, nor will I
attempt to impugn it; the other may seem less so, but is of more
practical importance.  For these examples are proof, if proof were
needed, that intellectual attainments and habits are no security for good
conduct unless they are supported by religious principles; without
religion the highest endowments of intellect can only render the
possessor more dangerous if he be ill disposed, if well disposed only
more unhappy.

The conquerors, as they called themselves, were followed by missionaries.

_Montesinos_.--Our knowledge of the remoter parts of the world, during
the first part of the seventeenth century, must chiefly be obtained from
their recitals.  And there is no difficulty in separating what may be
believed from their fables, because their falsehoods being systematically
devised and circulated in pursuance of what they regarded as part of
their professional duty, they told truth when they had no motive for
deceiving the reader.  Let any person compare the relations of our
Protestant missionaries with those of the Jesuits, Dominicans,
Franciscans, or any other Romish order, and the difference which he
cannot fail to perceive between the plain truth of the one and the
audacious and elaborate mendacity of the other may lead him to a just
inference concerning the two churches.

_Sir Thomas More_.--Their fables were designed, by exciting admiration,
to call forth money for the support of missions, which, notwithstanding
such false pretences, were piously undertaken and heroically pursued.
They scrupled therefore as little at interlarding their chronicles and
annual letters with such miracles, as poets at the use of machinery in
their verses.  Think not that I am excusing them; but thus it was that
they justified their system of imposition to themselves, and this part of
it must not be condemned as if it proceeded from an evil intention.

_Montesinos_.--Yet, Sir Thomas, the best of those missionaries are not
more to be admired for their exemplary virtue, and pitied for the
superstition which debased their faith, than others of their respective
orders are to be abominated for the deliberate wickedness with which, in
pursuance of the same system, they imposed the most blasphemous and
atrocious legends upon the credulous, and persecuted with fire and sword
those who opposed their deceitful villainy.  One reason wherefore so few
travels were written in the age of which we are speaking is, that no
Englishman, unless he were a Papist, could venture into Italy, or any
other country where the Romish religion was established in full power,
without the danger of being seized by the Inquisition!

Other dangers, by sea and by land, from corsairs and banditti, including
too the chances of war and of pestilence, were so great in that age, that
it was not unusual for men when they set out upon their travels to put
out a sum upon their own lives, which if they died upon the journey was
to be the underwriter's gain, but to be repaid if they returned, within
such increase as might cover their intervening expenses.  The chances
against them seem to have been considered as nearly three to one.  But
danger, within a certain degree, is more likely to provoke adventurers
than to deter them.

_Sir Thomas More_.--There thou hast uttered a comprehensive truth.  No
legislator has yet so graduated his scale of punishment as to ascertain
that degree which shall neither encourage hope nor excite the audacity of
desperate guilt.  It is certain that there are states of mind in which
the consciousness that he is about to play for life or death stimulates a
gamester to the throw.  This will apply to most of those crimes which are
committed for cupidity, and not attended with violence.

_Montesinos_.--Well then may these hazards have acted as incentives where
there was the desire of honour, the spirit of generous enterprise, or
even the love of notoriety.  By the first of these motives Pietro della
Valle (the most romantic in his adventures of all true travellers) was
led abroad, the latter spring set in motion my comical countryman, Tom
Coriat, who by the engraver's help has represented himself at one time in
full dress, making a leg to a courtesan at Venice, and at another
dropping from his rags the all-too lively proofs of prolific poverty.

Perhaps literature has never been so directly benefited by the spirit of
trade as it was in the seventeenth century, when European jewellers found
their most liberal customers in the courts of the East.  Some of the best
travels which we possess, as well as the best materials for Persian and
Indian history, have been left us by persons engaged in that trade.  From
that time travelling became less dangerous and more frequent in every
generation, except during the late years when Englishmen were excluded
from the Continent by the military tyrant whom (with God's blessing on a
rightful cause) we have beaten from his imperial throne.  And now it is
more customary for females in the middle rank of life to visit Italy than
it was for them in your days to move twenty miles from home.

_Sir Thomas More_.--Is this a salutary or an injurious fashion?

_Montesinos_.--According to the subject, and to the old school maxim
_quicquid recipitur_, _recipitur in modum recipientis_.  The wise come
back wiser, the well-informed with richer stores of knowledge, the empty
and the vain return as they went, and there are some who bring home
foreign vanities and vices in addition to their own.

_Sir Thomas More_.--And what has been imported by such travellers for the
good of their country?

_Montesinos_.--Coffee in the seventeenth century, inoculation in that
which followed; since which we have had now and then a new dance and a
new game at cards, curry and mullagatawny soup from the East Indies,
turtle from the West, and that earthly nectar to which the East
contributes its arrack, and the West its limes and its rum.  In the
language of men it is called Punch; I know not what may be its name in
the Olympian speech.  But tell not the Englishmen of George the Second's
age, lest they should be troubled for the degeneracy of their
grandchildren, that the punchbowl is now become a relic of antiquity, and
their beloved beverage almost as obsolete as metheglin, hippocras, chary,
or morat!

_Sir Thomas More_.--It is well for thee that thou art not a young beagle
instead of a grey-headed bookman, or that rambling vein of thine would
often bring thee under the lash of the whipper-in!  Off thou art and away
in pursuit of the smallest game that rises before thee.

_Montesinos_.--Good Ghost, there was once a wise Lord Chancellor, who in
a dialogue upon weighty matters thought it not unbecoming to amuse
himself with discursive merriment concerning St. Appollonia and St.

_Sir Thomas More_.--Good Flesh and Blood, that was a nipping reply!  And
happy man is his dole who retains in grave years, and even to grey hairs,
enough of green youth's redundant spirits for such excursiveness!  He who
never relaxes into sportiveness is a wearisome companion, but beware of
him who jests at everything!  Such men disparage by some ludicrous
association all objects which are presented to their thoughts, and
thereby render themselves incapable of any emotion which can either
elevate or soften them, they bring upon their moral being an influence
more withering than the blast of the desert.  A countenance, if it be
wrinkled either with smiles or with frowns, is to be shunned; the furrows
which the latter leave show that the soil is sour, those of the former
are symptomatic of a hollow heart.

None of your travellers have reached Utopia, and brought from thence a
fuller account of its institutions?

_Montesinos_.--There was one, methinks, who must have had it in view when
he walked over the world to discover the source of moral motion.  He was
afflicted with a tympany of mind produced by metaphysics, which was at
that time a common complaint, though attended in him with unusual
symptoms, but his heart was healthy and strong, and might in former ages
have enabled him to acquire a distinguished place among the saints of the
Thebais or the philosophers of Greece.

But although we have now no travellers employed in seeking undiscoverable
countries, and although Eldorado, the city of the Cesares, and the
Sabbatical River, are expunged even from the maps of credulity and
imagination, Welshmen have gone in search of Madoc's descendants, and
scarcely a year passes without adding to the melancholy list of those who
have perished in exploring the interior of Africa.

_Sir Thomas More_.--Whenever there shall exist a civilised and Christian
negro state Providence will open that country to civilisation and
Christianity, meantime to risk strength and enterprise and science
against climate is contending against the course of nature.  Have these
travellers yet obtained for you the secret of the Psylli?

_Montesinos_.--We have learnt from savages the mode of preparing their
deadliest poisons.  The more useful knowledge by which they render the
human body proof against the most venomous serpents has not been sought
with equal diligence; there are, however, scattered notices which may
perhaps afford some clue to the discovery.  The writings of travellers
are not more rich in materials for the poet and the historian than they
are in useful notices, deposited there like seeds which lie deep in the
earth till some chance brings them within reach of air, and then they
germinate.  These are fields in which something may always be found by
the gleaner, and therefore those general collections in which the works
are curtailed would be to be reprobated, even if epitomisers did not seem
to possess a certain instinct of generic doltishness which leads them
curiously to omit whatever ought especially to be preserved.

_Sir Thomas More_.--If ever there come a time, Montesinos, when
beneficence shall be as intelligent, and wisdom as active, as the spirit
of trade, you will then draw from foreign countries other things beside
those which now pay duties at the custom-house, or are cultivated in
nurseries for the conservatories of the wealthy.  Not that I regard with
dissatisfaction these latter importations of luxury, however far they may
be brought, or at whatever cost; for of all mere pleasures those of a
garden are the most salutary, and approach nearest to a moral enjoyment.
But you will then (should that time come) seek and find in the laws,
usages and experience of other nations palliatives for some of those
evils and diseases which have hitherto been inseparable from society and
human nature, and remedies, perhaps, for others.

_Montesinos_.--Happy the travellers who shall be found instrumental to
such good!  One advantage belongs to authors of this description; because
they contribute to the instruction of the learned, their reputation
suffers no diminution by the course of time: age rather enhances their
value.  In this respect they resemble historians, to whom, indeed, their
labours are in a great degree subsidiary.

_Sir Thomas More_.--They have an advantage over them, my friend, in this,
that rarely can they leave evil works behind them, which either from a
mischievous persuasion, or a malignant purpose, may heap condemnation
upon their own souls as long as such works survive them.  Even if they
should manifest pernicious opinions and a wicked will, the venom is in a
great degree sheathed by the vehicle in which it is administered.  And
this is something; for let me tell thee, thou consumer of goose quills,
that of all the Devil's laboratories there is none in which more poison
is concocted for mankind than in the inkstand!

_Montesinos_.--"My withers are unwrung!"

_Sir Thomas More_.--Be thankful, therefore, in life, as thou wilt in

A principle of compensation may be observed in literary pursuits as in
other things.  Reputations that never flame continue to glimmer for
centuries after those which blaze highest have gone out.  And what is of
more moment, the humblest occupations are morally the safest.
Rhadamanthus never puts on his black cap to pronounce sentence upon a
dictionary-maker or the compiler of a county history.

_Montesinos_.  I am to understand, then, that in the archangel's balance
a little book may sink the scale toward the pit; while all the tomes of
Thomas Hearne and good old John Nichols will be weighed among their good

_Sir Thomas More_.--Sport as thou wilt in allusions to allegory and
fable; but bear always in thy most serious mind this truth, that men hold
under an awful responsibility the talents with which they are entrusted.
Kings have not so serious an account to render as they who exercise an
intellectual influence over the minds of men!

_Montesinos_.--If evil works, so long as they continue to produce evil,
heap up condemnation upon the authors, it is well for some of the
wickedest writers that their works do not survive them.

_Sir Thomas More_.--Such men, my friend, even by the most perishable of
their wicked works, lay up sufficient condemnation for themselves.  The
maxim that _malitia supplet aetatem_ is rightfully admitted in human
laws: should there not then, by parity of justice, be cases where, when
the secrets of the heart are seen, the intention shall be regarded rather
than the act?

The greatest portion of your literature, at any given time, is ephemeral;
indeed, it has ever been so since the discovery of printing; and this
portion it is which is most influential, consequently that by which most
good or mischief is done.

_Montesinos_.--Ephemeral it truly may be called; it is now looked for by
the public as regularly as their food; and, like food, it affects the
recipient surely and permanently, even when its effect is slow, according
as it is wholesome or noxious.  But how great is the difference between
the current literature of this and of any former time!

_Sir Thomas More_.--From that complacent tone it may be presumed that you
see in it proof both of moral and intellectual improvement.  Montesinos,
I must disturb that comfortable opinion, and call upon you to examine how
much of this refinement which passes for improvement is superficial.  True
it is that controversy is carried on with more decency than it was by
Martin Lutherand a certain Lord Chancellor, to whom you just now alluded;
but if more courtesy is to be found in polemical writers, who are less
sincere than either the one or the other, there is as much acerbity of
feeling and as much bitterness of heart.  You have a class of miscreants
which had no existence in those days--the panders of the press, who live
by administering to the vilest passions of the people, and encouraging
their most dangerous errors, practising upon their ignorance, and
inculcating whatever is most pernicious in principle and most dangerous
to society.  This is their golden age; for though such men would in any
age have taken to some villainy or other, never could they have found a
course at once so gainful and so safe.  Long impunity has taught them to
despise the laws which they defy, and the institutions which they are
labouring to subvert; any further responsibility enters not into their
creed, if that may be called a creed, in which all the articles are
negative.  I? we turn from politics to what should be humaner literature,
and look at the self-constituted censors of whatever has passed the
press, there also we shall find that they who are the most incompetent
assume the most authority, and that the public favour such pretensions;
for in quackery of every kind, whether medical, political, critical, or
hypocritical, _quo quis impudentior eo doctior habetur_.

_Montesinos_.--The pleasure which men take in acting maliciously is
properly called by Barrow a _rascally_ delight.  But this is no new form
of malice.  "_Avant nous_," says the sagacious but iron-hearted
Montluc--"_avant nous ces envies ont regne_, _et regneront encore apres
nous_, _si Dieu ne nous voulait tous refondre_."  Its worst effect is
that which Ben Jonson remarked: "The gentle reader," says he, "rests
happy to hear the worthiest works misrepresented, the clearest actions
obscured, the innocentest life traduced; and in such a licence of lying,
a field so fruitful of slanders, how can there be matter wanting to his
laughter?  Hence comes the epidemical infection: for how can they escape
the contagion of the writings whom the virulency of the calumnies hath
not staved off from reading?"

There is another mischief, arising out of ephemeral literature, which was
noticed by the same great author.  "Wheresoever manners and fashions are
corrupted," says he, "language is.  It imitates the public riot.  The
excess of feasts and apparel are the notes of a sick state; and the
wantonness of language of a sick mind."  This was the observation of a
man well versed in the history of the ancients and in their literature.
The evil prevailed in his time to a considerable degree; but it was not
permanent, because it proceeded rather from the affectation of a few
individuals than from any general cause: the great poets were free from
it; and our prose writers then, and till the end of that century, were
preserved, by their sound studies and logical habits of mind, from any of
those faults into which men fall who write loosely because they think
loosely.  The pedantry of one class and the colloquial vulgarity of
another had their day; the faults of each were strongly contrasted, and
better writers kept the mean between them.  More lasting effect was
produced by translators, who in later times have corrupted our idiom as
much as, in early ones, they enriched our vocabulary; and to this injury
the Scotch have greatly contributed; for composing in a language which is
not their mother tongue, they necessarily acquired an artificial and
formal style, which, not so much through the merit of a few as owing to
the perseverance of others, who for half a century seated themselves on
the bench of criticism, has almost superseded the vernacular English of
Addison and Swift.  Our journals, indeed, have been the great corrupters
of our style, and continue to be so, and not for this reason only.  Men
who write in newspapers, and magazines, and reviews, write for present
effect; in most cases this is as much their natural and proper aim as it
would be in public speaking; but when it is so they consider, like public
speakers, not so much what is accurate or just, either in matter or
manner, as what will be acceptable to those whom they address.  Writing
also under the excitement of emulation and rivalry, they seek, by all the
artifices and efforts of an ambitious style, to dazzle their readers; and
they are wise in their generation, experience having shown that common
minds are taken by glittering faults, both in prose and verse, as larks
are with looking-glasses.

In this school it is that most writers are now trained; and after such
training anything like an easy and natural movement is as little to be
looked for in their compositions as in the step of a dancing master.  To
the vices of style which are thus generated there must be added the
inaccuracies inevitably arising from haste, when a certain quantity of
matter is to be supplied for a daily or weekly publication which allows
of no delay--the slovenliness that confidence, as well as fatigue and
inattention, will produce--and the barbarisms, which are the effect of
ignorance, or that smattering of knowledge which serves only to render
ignorance presumptuous.  These are the causes of corruption in our
current style; and when these are considered there would be ground for
apprehending that the best writings of the last century might become as
obsolete as yours in the like process of time, if we had not in our
Liturgy and our Bible a standard from which it will not be possible
wholly to depart.

_Sir Thomas More_.--Will the Liturgy and the Bible keep the language at
that standard in the colonies, where little or no use is made of the one,
and not much, it may be feared, of the other?

_Montesinos_.--A sort of hybrid speech, a _Lingua Anglica_, more debased,
perhaps, than the _Lingua Franca_ of the Levant, or the Portuguese of
Malabar, is likely enough to grow up among the South Sea Islands; like
the mixture of Spanish with some of the native languages in South
America, or the mingle-mangle which the negroes have made with French and
English, and probably with other European tongues in the colonies of
their respective states.  The spirit of mercantile adventure may produce
in this part of the new world a process analogous to what took place
throughout Europe on the breaking up of the Western Empire; and in the
next millennium these derivatives may become so many cultivated tongues,
having each its literature.  These will be like varieties in a flower-
garden, which the florist raises from seed; but in the colonies, as in
our orchards, the graft takes with it, and will preserve, the true
characteristics of the stock.

_Sir Thomas More_.--But the same causes of deterioration will be at work
there also.

_Montesinos_.--Not nearly in the same degree, nor to an equal extent.  Now
and then a word with the American impress comes over to us which has not
been struck in the mint of analogy.  But the Americans are more likely to
be infected by the corruption of our written language than we are to have
it debased by any importations of this kind from them.

_Sir Thomas More_.--There is a more important consideration belonging to
this subject.  The cause which you have noticed as the principal one of
this corruption must have a farther and more mischievous effect.  For it
is not in the vices of an ambitious style that these ephemeral writers,
who live upon the breath of popular applause, will rest.  Great and
lasting reputations, both in ancient and modern times, have been raised
notwithstanding that defect, when the ambition from which it proceeded
was of a worthy kind, and was sustained by great powers and adequate
acquirements.  But this ambition, which looks beyond the morrow, has no
place in the writers of a day.  Present effect is their end and aim; and
too many of them, especially the ablest, who have wanted only moral worth
to make them capable of better things, are persons who can "desire no
other mercy from after ages than silence and oblivion."  Even with the
better part of the public that author will always obtain the most
favourable reception, who keeps most upon a level with them in
intellectuals, and puts them to the least trouble of thinking.  He who
addresses himself with the whole endeavours of a powerful mind to the
understanding faculty may find fit readers; but they will be few.  He who
labours for posterity in the fields of research, must look to posterity
for his reward.  Nay, even they whose business is with the feelings and
the fancy, catch most fish when they angle in shallow waters.  Is it not
so, Piscator?

_Montesinos_.--In such honest anglers, Sir Thomas, I should look for as
many virtues, as good old happy Izaak Walton found in his brethren of the
rod and line.  Nor will you, I think, disparage them; for you were of the
Rhymers' Company, and at a time when things appear to us in their true
colours and proportion (if ever while we are yet in the body), you
remembered your verses with more satisfaction than your controversial
writings, even though you had no misgivings concerning the part which you
had chosen.

_Sir Thomas More_.--My verses, friend, had none of the _athanasia_ in
their composition.  Though they have not yet perished, they cannot be
said to have a living existence; even you, I suspect, have sought for
them rather because of our personal acquaintance than for any other
motive.  Had I been only a poet, those poems, such as they were, would
have preserved my name; but being remembered for other grounds, better
and worse, the name which I have left has been one cause why they have
passed into oblivion, sooner than their perishable nature would have
carried them thither.  If in the latter part of my mortal existence I had
misgivings concerning any of my writings, they were of the single one,
which is still a living work, and which will continue so to be.  I feared
that speculative opinions, which had been intended for the possible but
remote benefit of mankind, might, by unhappy circumstances, be rendered
instrumental to great and immediate evil; an apprehension, however, which
was altogether free from self-reproach.

But my verses will continue to exist in their mummy state, long after the
worms shall have consumed many of those poetical reputations which are at
this time in the cherry-cheeked bloom of health and youth.  Old poets
will always retain their value for antiquaries and philologists, modern
ones are far too numerous ever to acquire an accidental usefulness of
this kind, even if the language were to undergo greater changes than any
circumstances are likely to produce.  There will now be more poets in
every generation than in that which preceded it; they will increase
faster than your population; and as their number increases, so must the
proportion of those who will be remembered necessarily diminish.  Tell
the Fitz-Muses this!  It is a consideration, Sir Poet, which may serve as
a refrigerant for their ardour.  Those of the tribe who may flourish
hereafter (as the flourishing phrase is) in any particular age, will be
little more remembered in the next than the Lord Mayors and Sheriffs who
were their contemporaries.

_Montesinos_.--Father in verse, if you had not put off flesh and blood so
long, you would not imagine that this consideration will diminish their
number.  I am sure it would not have affected me forty years ago, had I
seen this truth then as clearly as I perceive and feel it now.  Though it
were manifest to all men that not one poet in an age, in a century, a
millennium, could establish his claim to be for ever known, every
aspirant would persuade himself that he is the happy person for whom the
inheritance of fame is reserved.  And when the dream of immortality is
dispersed, motives enough remain for reasonable ambition.

It is related of some good man (I forget who), that upon his death-bed he
recommended his son to employ himself in cultivating a garden, and in
composing verses, thinking these to be at once the happiest and the most
harmless of all pursuits.  Poetry may be, and too often has been,
wickedly perverted to evil purposes; what indeed is there that may not,
when religion itself is not safe from such abuses! but the good which it
does inestimably exceeds the evil.  It is no trifling good to provide
means of innocent and intellectual enjoyment for so many thousands in a
state like ours; an enjoyment, heightened, as in every instance it is
within some little circle, by personal considerations, raising it to a
degree which may deserve to be called happiness.  It is no trifling good
to win the ear of children with verses which foster in them the seeds of
humanity and tenderness and piety, awaken their fancy, and exercise
pleasurably and wholesomely their imaginative and meditative powers.  It
is no trifling benefit to provide a ready mirror for the young, in which
they may see their own best feelings reflected, and wherein "whatsoever
things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are
pure, whatsoever things are lovely," are presented to them in the most
attractive form.  It is no trifling benefit to send abroad strains which
may assist in preparing the heart for its trials, and in supporting it
under them.  But there is a greater good than this, a farther benefit.
Although it is in verse that the most consummate skill in composition is
to be looked for, and all the artifice of language displayed, yet it is
in verse only that we throw off the yoke of the world, and are as it were
privileged to utter our deepest and holiest feelings.  Poetry in this
respect may be called the salt of the earth; we express in it, and
receive in it, sentiments for which, were it not for this permitted
medium, the usages of the world would neither allow utterance nor
acceptance.  And who can tell in our heart-chilling and heart-hardening
society, how much more selfish, how much more debased, how much worse we
should have been, in all moral and intellectual respects, had it not been
for the unnoticed and unsuspected influence of this preservative?  Even
much of that poetry, which is in its composition worthless, or absolutely
bad, contributes to this good.

_Sir Thomas More_.--Such poetry, then, according to your view, is to be
regarded with indulgence.

_Montesinos_.--Thank Heaven, Sir Thomas, I am no farther critical than
every author must necessarily be who makes a careful study of his own
art.  To understand the principles of criticism is one thing; to be what
is called critical, is another; the first is like being versed in
jurisprudence, the other like being litigious.  Even those poets who
contribute to the mere amusement of their readers, while that amusement
is harmless, are to be regarded with complacency, if not respect.  They
are the butterflies of literature, who during the short season of their
summer, enliven the garden and the field.  It were pity to touch them
even with a tender hand, lest we should brush the down from their wings.

_Sir Thomas More_.--These are they of whom I spake as angling in shallow
waters.  You will not regard with the same complacency those who trouble
the stream; still less those who poison it.


   "_Vesanum tetigisse timent_, _fugiuntque poetam_
   _Qui sapiunt_; _agitant pueri_, _incautique sequuntur_."

_Sir Thomas More_.--This brings us again to the point at which you
bolted.  The desire of producing present effect, the craving for
immediate reputation, have led to another vice, analogous to and
connected with that of the vicious style, which the same causes are
producing, but of worse consequences.  The corruption extends from the
manner to the matter; and they who brew for the press, like some of those
who brew for the publicans, care not, if the potion has but its desired
strength, how deleterious may be the ingredients which they use.  Horrors
at which the innocent heart quails, and the healthy stomachs heaves in
loathing, are among the least hurtful of their stimulants.

_Montesinos_.--This too, Sir Thomas, is no new evil.  An appetite for
horrors is one of the diseased cravings of the human mind; and in old
times the tragedies which most abounded in them, were for that reason the
most popular.  The dramatists of our best age, great Ben and greater
Shakespeare excepted, were guilty of a farther sin, with which the
writers whom you censure are also to be reproached; they excited their
auditors by the representation of monstrous crimes--crimes out of the
course of nature.  Such fables might lawfully be brought upon the Grecian
stage, because the belief of the people divested them of their odious and
dangerous character; there they were well known stories, regarded with a
religious persuasion of their truth; and the personages, being
represented as under the overruling influence of dreadful destiny, were
regarded therefore with solemn commiseration, not as voluntary and guilty
agents.  There is nothing of this to palliate or excuse the production of
such stories in later times; the choice, and, in a still greater degree,
the invention of any such, implies in the author, not merely a want of
judgment, but a defect in moral feeling.  Here, however, the dramatists
of that age stopped.  They desired to excite in their audience the
pleasure of horror, and this was an abuse of the poet's art: but they
never aimed at disturbing their moral perceptions, at presenting
wickedness in an attractive form, exciting sympathy with guilt, and
admiration for villainy, thereby confounding the distinctions between
right and wrong.  This has been done in our days; and it has accorded so
well with the tendency of other things, that the moral drift of a book is
no longer regarded, and the severest censure which can be passed upon it
is to say that it is in bad taste; such is the phrase--and the phrase is
not confined to books alone.  Anything may be written, said, or done, in
bad feeling and with a wicked intent; and the public are so tolerant of
these, that he who should express a displeasure on that score would be
censured for bad taste himself!

_Sir Thomas More_.--And yet you talked of the improvement of the age, and
of the current literature as exceeding in worth that of any former time

_Montesinos_.--The portion of it which shall reach to future times will
justify me; for we have living minds who have done their duty to their
own age and to posterity.

_Sir Thomas More_.--Has the age in return done its duty to them?

_Montesinos_.--They complain not of the age, but they complain of an
anomalous injustice in the laws.  They complain that authors are deprived
of a perpetual property in the produce of their own labours, when all
other persons enjoy it as an indefeasible and acknowledged right.  And
they ask upon what principle, with what equity, or under what pretence of
public good they are subjected to this injurious enactment?  Is it
because their labour is so light, the endowments which are required for
it so common, the attainments so cheaply and easily acquired, and the
present remuneration in all cases so adequate, so ample, and so certain?

The act whereby authors are deprived of that property in their own works
which, upon every principle of reason, natural justice, and common law,
they ought to enjoy, is so curiously injurious in its operation, that it
bears with most hardship upon the best works.  For books of great
immediate popularity have their run and come to a dead stop: the hardship
is upon those which win their way slowly and difficultly, but keep the
field at last.  And it will not appear surprising that this should
generally have been the case with books of the highest merit, if we
consider what obstacles to the success of a work may be opposed by the
circumstances and obscurity of the author, when he presents himself as a
candidate for fame, by the humour or the fashion of the times; the taste
of the public, more likely to be erroneous than right at any time; and
the incompetence, or personal malevolence of some unprincipled critic,
who may take upon himself to guide the public opinion, and who if he
feels in his own heart that the fame of the man whom he hates is
invulnerable, lays in wait for that reason the more vigilantly to wound
him in his fortunes.  In such cases, when the copyright as by the
existing law departs from the author's family at his death, or at the end
of twenty-eight years from the first publication of every work, (if he
dies before the expiration of that term,) his representatives are
deprived of their property just as it would begin to prove a valuable

The last descendants of Milton died in poverty.  The descendants of
Shakespeare are living in poverty, and in the lowest condition of life.
Is this just to these individuals?  Is it grateful to the memory of those
who are the pride and boast of their country?  Is it honourable, or
becoming to us as a nation, holding--the better part of us assuredly, and
the majority affecting to hold--the names of Shakespeare and Milton in

To have placed the descendants of Shakespeare and Milton in
respectability and comfort--in that sphere of life where, with a full
provision for our natural wants and social enjoyments, free scope is
given to the growth of our intellectual and immortal part, simple justice
was all that was required, only that they should have possessed the
perpetual copyright of their ancestors' works, only that they should not
have been deprived of their proper inheritance.

The decision which time pronounces upon the reputation of authors, and
upon the permanent rank which they are to hold in the estimation of
posterity, is unerring and final.  Restore to them that perpetuity in the
property of their works, of which the law has deprived them, and the
reward of literary labour will ultimately be in just proportion to its

However slight may be the hope of obtaining any speedy redress, there is
some satisfaction in earnestly protesting against this injustice.  And
believing as I do, that if society continues to improve, no injustice
will long be permitted to continue after it has been fairly exposed, and
is clearly apprehended, I cannot but believe that a time must come when
the rights of literature will be acknowledged and its wrongs redressed;
and that those authors hereafter who shall deserve well of posterity,
will have no cause to reproach themselves for having sacrificed the
interests of their children when they disregarded the pursuit of fortune
for themselves.


_Montesinos_.--Here Sir Thomas is the opinion which I have attempted to
maintain concerning the progress and tendency of society, placed in a
proper position, and inexpugnably entrenched here according to the rules
of art, by the ablest of all moral engineers.

_Sir Thomas More_.--Who may this political Achilles be whom you have
called in to your assistance?

_Montesinos_.--Whom Fortune rather has sent to my aid, for my reading has
never been in such authors.  I have endeavoured always to drink from the
spring-head, but never ventured out to fish in deep waters.  Thor,
himself, when he had hooked the Great Serpent, was unable to draw him up
from the abyss.

_Sir Thomas More_.--The waters in which you have now been angling have
been shallow enough, if the pamphlet in your hand is, as it appears to
be, a magazine.

_Montesinos_.--"_Ego sum is_," said Scaliger, "_qui ab omnibus discere
volo_; _neque tam malum librum esse puto_, _ex quo non aliquem fructum
colligere possum_."  I think myself repaid, in a monkish legend, for
examining a mass of inane fiction, if I discover a single passage which
elucidates the real history or manners of its age.  In old poets of the
third and fourth order we are contented with a little ore, and a great
deal of dross.  And so in publications of this kind, prejudicial as they
are to taste and public feeling, and the public before deeply injurious
to the real interests of literature, something may sometimes be found to
compensate for the trash and tinsel and insolent flippancy, which are now
become the staple commodities of such journals.  This number contains
Kant's idea of a Universal History on a Cosmo-Political plan; and that
Kant is as profound a philosopher as his disciples have proclaimed him to
be, this little treatise would fully convince me, if I had not already
believed it, in reliance upon one of the very few men who are capable of
forming a judgment upon such a writer.

The sum of his argument is this: that as deaths, births, and marriages,
and the oscillations of the weather, irregular as they seem to be in
themselves, are nevertheless reduceable upon the great scale to certain
rules; so there may be discovered in the course of human history a steady
and continuous, though slow development of certain great predispositions
in human nature, and that although men neither act under the law of
instinct, like brute animals, nor under the law of a preconcerted plan,
like rational cosmopolites, the great current of human actions flows in a
regular stream of tendency toward this development; individuals and
nations, while pursuing their own peculiar and often contradictory
purposes, following the guidance of a great natural purpose, and thus
promoting a process which, even if they perceived it, they would little
regard.  What that process is he states in the following series of

1st.  All tendencies of any creature, to which it is predisposed by
nature, are destined in the end to develop themselves perfectly and
agreeably to their final purpose.

2nd.  In man, as the sole rational creature upon earth, those tendencies
which have the use of his reason for their object are destined to obtain
their perfect development in the species only, and not in the individual.

3rd.  It is the will of nature that man should owe to himself alone
everything which transcends the mere mechanic constitution of his animal
existence, and that he should be susceptible of no other happiness or
perfection than what he has created for himself, instinct apart, through
his own reason.

4th.  The means which nature employs to bring about the development of
all the tendencies she has laid in man, is the antagonism of those
tendencies in the social state, no farther, however, than to that point
at which this antagonism becomes the cause of social arrangements founded
in law.

5th.  The highest problem for the human species, to the solution of which
it is irresistibly urged by natural impulses, is the establishment of a
universal civil society, founded on the empire of political justice.

6th.  This problem is, at the same time, the most difficult of all, and
the one which is latest solved by man.

7th.  The problem of the establishment of a perfect constitution of
society depends upon the problem of a system of international relations,
adjusted to law, and apart from this latter problem cannot be solved.

8th.  The history of the human race, as a whole, may be regarded as the
unravelling of a hidden plan of nature for accomplishing a perfect state
of civil constitution for society in its internal relations (and as the
condition of that, by the last proposition, in its external relations
also), as the sole state of society in which the tendencies of human
nature can be all and fully developed.

_Sir Thomas More_.--This is indeed a master of the sentences, upon whose
text it may be profitable to dwell.  Let us look to his propositions.
From the first this conclusion must follow, that as nature has given men
all his faculties for use, any system of society in which the moral and
intellectual powers of any portion of the people are left undeveloped for
want of cultivation, or receive a perverse direction, is plainly opposed
to the system of nature, in other words, to the will of God.  Is there
any government upon earth that will bear this test?

_Montesinos_.--I should rather ask of you, will there ever be one?

_Sir Thomas More_.--Not till there be a system of government conducted in
strict conformity to the precepts of the Gospel.


   "Offer these truths to Power, will she obey?
   It prunes her pomp, perchance ploughs up the root."


Yet, in conformity to those principles alone, it is that subjects can
find their perfect welfare, and States their full security.  Christianity
may be long in obtaining the victory over the powers of this world, but
when that consummation shall have taken place the converse of his second
proposition will hold good, for the species having obtained its perfect
development, the condition of society must then be such that individuals
will obtain it also as a necessary consequence.

_Sir Thomas More_.--Here you and your philosopher part company.  For he
asserts that man is left to deduce from his own unassisted reason
everything which relates not to his mere material nature.

_Montesinos_.--There, indeed, I must diverge from him, and what in his
language is called the hidden plan of nature, in mine will be the
revealed will of God.

_Sir Thomas More_.--The will is revealed; but the plan is hidden.  Let
man dutifully obey that will, and the perfection of society and of human
nature will be the result of such obedience; but upon obedience they
depend.  Blessings and curses are set before you--for nations as for
individuals--yea, for the human race.

Flatter not yourself with delusive expectations!  The end may be
according to your hope--whether it will be so (which God grant!) is as
inscrutable for angels as for men.  But to descry that great struggles
are yet to come is within reach of human foresight--that great
tribulations must needs accompany them--and that these may be--you know
not how near at hand!

Throughout what is called the Christian world there will be a contest
between Impiety and Religion; the former everywhere is gathering
strength, and wherever it breaks loose the foundations of human society
will be shaken.  Do not suppose that you are safe from this danger
because you are blest with a pure creed, a reformed ritual, and a
tolerant Church!  Even here the standard of impiety has been set up; and
the drummers who beat the march of intellect through your streets, lanes,
and market-places, are enlisted under it.

The struggle between Popery and Protestanism is renewed.  And let no man
deceive himself by a vain reliance upon the increased knowledge, or
improved humanity of the times!  Wickedness is ever the same; and you
never were in so much danger from moral weakness.

Co-existent with these struggles is that between the feudal system of
society as variously modified throughout Europe, and the levelling
principle of democracy.  That principle is actively and indefatigably at
work in these kingdoms, allying itself as occasion may serve with Popery
or with Dissent, with atheism or with fanaticism, with profligacy or with
hypocrisy, ready confederates, each having its own sinister views, but
all acting to one straightforward end.  Your rulers meantime seem to be
trying that experiment with the British Constitution which Mithridates is
said to have tried upon his own; they suffer poison to be administered in
daily doses, as if they expected that by such a course the public mind
would at length be rendered poison-proof!

The first of these struggles will affect all Christendom; the third may
once again shake the monarchies of Europe.  The second will be felt
widely; but nowhere with more violence than in Ireland, that unhappy
country, wherein your government, after the most impolitic measures into
which weakness was ever deluded, or pusillanimity intimidated, seems to
have abdicated its functions, contenting itself with the semblance of an
authority which it has wanted either wisdom or courage to exert.

There is a fourth danger, the growth of your manufacturing system; and
this is peculiarly your own.  You have a great and increasing population,
exposed at all times by the fluctuations of trade to suffer the severest
privations in the midst of a rich and luxurious society, under little or
no restraint from religious principle, and if not absolutely disaffected
to the institutions of the country, certainly not attached to them: a
class of men aware of their numbers and of their strength; experienced in
all the details of combination; improvident when they are in the receipt
of good wages, yet feeling themselves injured when those wages, during
some failure of demand, are so lowered as no longer to afford the means
of comfortable subsistence; and directing against the government and the
laws of the country their resentment and indignation for the evils which
have been brought upon them by competition and the spirit of rivalry in
trade.  They have among them intelligent heads and daring minds; and you
have already seen how perilously they may be wrought upon by seditious
journalists and seditious orators in a time of distress.

On what do you rely for security against these dangers?  On public
opinion?  You might as well calculate upon the constancy of wind and
weather in this uncertain climate.  On the progress of knowledge? it is
such knowledge as serves only to facilitate the course of delusion.  On
the laws? the law which should be like a sword in a strong hand, is weak
as a bulrush if it be feebly administered in time of danger.  On the
people? they are divided.  On the Parliament? every faction will be fully
and formidably represented there.  On the government? it suffers itself
to be insulted and defied at home, and abroad it has shown itself
incapable of maintaining the relations of peace and amity with its
allies, so far has it been divested of power by the usurpation of the
press.  It is at peace with Spain, and it is at peace with Turkey; and
although no government was ever more desirous of acting with good faith,
its subjects are openly assisting the Greeks with men and money against
the one, and the Spanish Americans against the other.  Athens, in the
most turbulent times of its democracy, was not more effectually
domineered over by its demagogues than you are by the press--a press
which is not only without restraint, but without responsibility; and in
the management of which those men will always have most power who have
least probity, and have most completely divested themselves of all sense
of honour and all regard for truth.

The root of all your evils is in the sinfulness of the nation.  The
principle of duty is weakened among you; that of moral obligation is
loosened; that of religious obedience is destroyed.  Look at the
worldliness of all classes--the greediness of the rich, the misery of the
poor, and the appalling depravity which is spreading among the lower
classes through town and country; a depravity which proceeds unchecked
because of the total want of discipline, and for which there is no other
corrective than what may be supplied by fanaticism, which is itself an

If there be nothing exaggerated in this representation, you must
acknowledge that though the human race, considered upon the great scale,
should be proceeding toward the perfectibility for which it may be
designed, the present aspects in these kingdoms are nevertheless rather
for evil than for good.  Sum you up now upon the hopeful side.

_Montesinos_.--First, then.  I rest in a humble but firm reliance upon
that Providence which sometimes in its mercy educes from the errors of
men a happier issue than could ever have been attained by their
wisdom;--that Providence which has delivered this nation from so many and
such imminent dangers heretofore.

Looking, then, to human causes, there is hope to be derived from the
humanising effects of Literature, which has now first begun to act upon
all ranks.  Good principles are indeed used as the stalking-horse under
cover of which pernicious designs may be advanced; but the better seeds
are thus disseminated and fructify after the ill design has failed.

The cruelties of the old criminal law have been abrogated.  Debtors are
no longer indiscriminately punished by indefinite imprisonment.  The
iniquity of the slave trade has been acknowledged, and put an end to, so
far as the power of this country extends; and although slavery is still
tolerated, and must be so for awhile, measures have been taken for
alleviating it while it continues, and preparing the way for its gradual
and safe removal.  These are good works of the government.  And when I
look upon the conduct of that government in all its foreign relations,
though there may be some things to disapprove, and some sins of omission
to regret, it has been, on the whole, so disinterested, so magnanimous,
so just, that this reflection gives me a reasonable and a religious
ground of hope.  And the reliance is strengthened when I call to mind
that missionaries from Great Britain are at this hour employed in
spreading the glad tidings of the Gospel far and wide among heathen

Descending from these wider views to the details of society, there, too,
I perceive ground, if not for confidence, at least for hope.  There is a
general desire throughout the higher ranks for bettering the condition of
the poor, a subject to which the government also has directed its patient
attention: minute inquiries have been made into their existing state, and
the increase of pauperism and of crimes.  In no other country have the
wounds of the commonwealth been so carefully probed.  By means of
colonisation, of an improved parochial order and of a more efficient
police, the further increase of these evils may be prevented; while, by
education, by providing means of religious instruction for all by savings
banks, and perhaps by the establishment of Owenite communities among
themselves, the labouring classes will have their comforts enlarged, and
their well-being secured, if they are not wanting to themselves in
prudence and good conduct.  A beginning has been made--an impulse given:
it may be hoped--almost, I will say, it may be expected--that in a few
generations this whole class will be placed within the reach of moral and
intellectual gratifications, whereby they may be rendered healthier,
happier, better in all respects, an improvement which will be not more
beneficial to them as individuals, than to the whole body of the

The diffusion of literature, though it has rendered the acquirement of
general knowledge impossible, and tends inevitably to diminish the number
of sound scholars, while it increases the multitude of sciolists, carries
with it a beneficial influence to the lower classes.  Our booksellers
already perceive that it is their interest to provide cheap publications
for a wide public, instead of looking to the rich alone as their
customers.  There is reason to expect that, in proportion as this is
done--in proportion as the common people are supplied with wholesome
entertainment (and wholesome it is, if it be only harmless) they will be
less liable to be acted upon by fanaticism and sedition.

You have not exaggerated the influence of the newspaper press, nor the
profligacy of some of those persons, by whom this unrestrained and
irresponsible power is exercised.  Nevertheless it has done, and is
doing, great and essential good.  The greatest evils in society proceed
from the abuse of power; and this, though abundantly manifested in the
newspapers themselves, they prevent in other quarters.  No man engaged in
public life could venture now upon such transactions as no one, in their
station half a century ago, would have been ashamed of.  There is an end
of that scandalous jobbing which at that time existed in every department
of the State, and in every branch of the public service; and a check is
imposed upon any scandalous and unfit promotion, civil or ecclesiastical.
By whatever persons the government may be administered, they are now well
aware that they must do nothing which will not bear daylight and strict
investigation.  The magistrates also are closely observed by this self-
constituted censorship; and the inferior officers cannot escape exposure
for any perversion of justice, or undue exercise of authority.  Public
nuisances are abated by the same means, and public grievances which the
Legislature might else overlook, are forced upon its attention.  Thus, in
ordinary times, the utility of this branch of the press is so great that
one of the worst evils to be apprehended from the abuse of its power at
all times, and the wicked purposes to which it is directed in dangerous
ones, is the ultimate loss of a liberty, which is essential to the public
good, but which when it passes into licentiousness, and effects the
overthrow of a State, perishes in the ruin it has brought on.

In the fine arts, as well as in literature, a levelling principle is
going on, fatal, perhaps, to excellence, but favourable to mediocrity.
Such facilities are afforded to imitative talent, that whatever is
imitable will be imitated.  Genius will often be suppressed by this, and
when it exerts itself, will find it far more difficult to obtain notice
than in former times.  There is the evil here that ingenious persons are
seduced into a profession which is already crowded with unfortunate
adventurers; but, on the other hand, there is a great increase of
individual and domestic enjoyment.  Accomplishments which were almost
exclusively professional in the last age, are now to be found in every
family within a certain rank of life.  Wherever there is a disposition
for the art of design, it is cultivated, and in consequence of the
general proficiency in this most useful of the fine arts, travellers
represent to our view the manners and scenery of the countries which they
visit, as well by the pencil as the pen.  By means of two fortunate
discoveries in the art of engraving, these graphic representations are
brought within the reach of whole classes who were formerly precluded by
the expense of such things from these sources of gratification and
instruction.  Artists and engravers of great name are now, like authors
and booksellers, induced to employ themselves for this lower and wider
sphere of purchasers.  In all this I see the cause as well as the effect
of a progressive refinement, which must be beneficial in many ways.  This
very diffusion of cheap books and cheap prints may, in its natural
consequences, operate rather to diminish than to increase the number of
adventurers in literature and in the arts.  For though at first it will
create employment for greater numbers, yet in another generation
imitative talent will become so common, that neither parents nor
possessors will mistake it for an indication of extraordinary genius, and
many will thus be saved from a ruinous delusion.  More pictures will be
painted but fewer exhibited, more poetry written but less published, and
in both arts talents which might else have been carried to an overstocked
and unprofitable market, will be cultivated for their own sakes, and for
the gratification of private circles, becoming thus a source of sure
enjoyment and indirectly of moral good.  Scientific pursuits will, in
like manner, be extended, and pursuits which partake of science, and
afford pleasures within the reach of humble life.

Here, then, is good in progress which will hold on its course, and the
growth of which will only be suspended, not destroyed, during any of
those political convulsions which may too probably be apprehended--too
probably, I say, because when you call upon me to consider the sinfulness
of this nation, my heart fails.  There can be no health, no soundness in
the state, till government shall regard the moral improvement of the
people as its first great duty.  The same remedy is required for the rich
and for the poor.  Religion ought to be so blended with the whole course
of instruction, that its doctrines and precepts should indeed "drop as
the rain, and distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb,
and as the showers upon the grass"--the young plants would then imbibe
it, and the heart and intellect assimilate it with their growth.  We are,
in a great degree, what our institutions make us.  Gracious God were
those institutions adapted to Thy will and word--were we but broken in
from childhood to Thy easy yoke--were we but carefully instructed to
believe and obey--in that obedience and belief we should surely find our
temporal welfare and our eternal happiness!

Here, indeed, I tremble at the prospect!  Could I look beyond the clouds
and the darkness which close upon it, I should then think that there may
come a time when that scheme for a perpetual peace among the states of
Christendom which Henri IV. formed, and which has been so ably digested
by the Abbe St. Pierre, will no longer be regarded as the speculation of
a visionary.  The Holy Alliance, imperfect and unstable as it is, is in
itself a recognition of the principle.  At this day it would be
practicable, if one part of Europe were as well prepared for it as the
other; but this cannot be, till good shall have triumphed over evil in
the struggles which are brooding, or shall have obtained such a
predominance as to allay the conflict of opinions before it breaks into
open war.

God in his mercy grant that it be so!  If I looked to secondary causes
alone, my fears would preponderate.  But I conclude as I began, in firm
reliance upon Him who is the beginning and the end.  Our sins are
manifold, our danger is great, but His mercy is infinite.

_Sir Thomas More_.--Rest there in full faith.  I leave you to your
dreams; draw from them what comfort you can.  And now, my friend,

The look which he fixed on me, as he disappeared, was compassionate and
thoughtful; it impressed me with a sad feeling, as if I were not to see
him again till we should meet in the world of spirits.

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