Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
The Apology of Sir Thomas More
By Sir Thomas More (14781535)
BUT I suppose in good faith that this pacifier hath of some facility of his own good nature, been easy to believe some such as have told him lies, and hath been thereby persuaded to think that many other folk said and knew the thing that some few told him for very truth. And surely they that are of this new brotherhood be so bold and so shameless in lying, that whoso shall hear them speak, and knoweth not what sect they are of, shall be very sore abused by them.
And this tale had some of those good brethren so caused to be blown about, that a right worshipful friend of mine did of late, within less than this fortnight, tell unto another near friend of mine that he had of late heard much speaking thereof.
What cannot these brethren say, that can be so shameless to say thus? For of very truth, albeit that for a great robbery, or an heinous murder, or sacrilege in a church, with carrying away the pyx with the blessed sacrament, or villainously casting it out, I caused sometimes such things to be done by some officers of the Marshalsea, or of some other prisons, with which ordering of them by their well-deserved pain, and without any great hurt that afterward should stick by them, I found out and repressed many such desperate wretches as else had not failed to have gone farther abroad, and to have done to many good folk a great deal much more harm; yet though I so did in thieves, murderers, and robbers of churches, and notwithstanding also that heretics be yet much worse than all they, yet saving only their sure keeping, I never did else cause any such thing to be done to any of them all in all my life, except only twain, of which the one was a child and a servant of mine, in mine own house, whom his father had, ere ever he came with me, nousled1 up in such matters, and had set him to attend upon George Jaye or Gee, otherwise called Clerke, which is a priest, and is now for all that wedded in Antwerp, into whose house there the two nuns were brought, which John Birt, otherwise called Adrian, stole out of their cloister to make them harlots.
This George Jaye did teach this child his ungracious heresy against the blessed sacrament of the altar, which heresy this child afterward, being in service with me, began to teach another child in my house, which uttered his counsel. And upon that point perceived and known, I caused a servant of mine to stripe him like a child before mine household, for amendment of himself and ensample of such other.
Another was one which, after that he had fallen into that frantic heresy, fell soon after into plain open frenzy beside. And albeit that he had therefore been put up in Bedlam, and afterward by beating and correction gathered his remembrance to him, and began to come again to himself, being thereupon set at liberty, and walking about abroad, his old fancies began to fall again in his head. And I was from divers good holy places advertised, that he used in his wandering about to come into the church, and there make many mad toys and trifles, to the trouble of good people in the divine service, and specially would he be most busy in the time of most silence, while the priest was at the secrets of the mass about the elevation. Whereupon I, being advertised of these pageants, and being sent unto and required by very devout religious folk, to take some other order with him, caused him as he came wandering by my door, to be taken by the constables, and bounden to a tree in the street before the whole town, and there they striped him with rods therefor till he waxed weary, and somewhat longer. And it appeared well that his remembrance was good enough, save that it went about in grazing till it was beaten home. For he could then very well rehearse his faults himself, and promise to do afterward as well. And verily, God be thanked, I hear none harm of him now.
And of all that ever came in my hand for heresy, as help me God, saving as I said the sure keeping of them, and yet not so sure neither, but that George Constantine could steal away: else had never any of them any stripe or stroke given them, so much as a fillip on the forehead.
And some have said that when Constantine was gotten away, I was fallen for anger in a wonderful rage. But surely, though I would not have suffered him go, if it would have pleased him to have tarried still in the stocks, yet when he was neither so feeble for lack of meat but that he was strong enough to break the stocks, nor waxen so lame of his legs with lying but that he was light enough to leap the walls, nor by any mishandling of his head so dulled or dazed in his brain but that he had wit enough, when he was once out, wisely to walk his way, neither was I then so heavy for the loss but that I had youth enough left me to wear it out, nor so angry with any man of mine that I spake them any evil word for the matter more than to my porter that he should see the stocks mended and locked fast, that the prisoner stole not in again. And as for Constantine himself, I could him, in good faith, good thank. For never will I for my part be so unreasonable as to be angry with any man that riseth if he can, when he findeth himself that he sitteth not at his ease.
But now tell the brethren many marvellous lies, of much cruel tormenting that heretics had in my house, so farforth that one Segar, a bookseller of Cambridge, which was in mine house about four or six days, and never had either bodily harm done him or foul word spoken him while he was in mine house, hath reported since, as I hear say to divers, that he was bound to a tree in my garden, and thereto piteously beaten, and yet beside that bounden about the head with a cord and wrungen,2 that he fell down dead in a swoon.
And this tale of his beating did Tyndale tell to an old acquaintance of his own and to a good lover of mine with one piece farther yet, that while the man was in beating, I spied a little purse of his hanging at his doublet, wherein the poor man had (as he said) five mark, and that caught I quickly to me, and pulled it from his doublet, and put it in my bosom, and that Segar never saw it after, and therein I trow he said true, for no more did I neither nor before neither, nor I trow no more did Segar himself neither in good faith.
But now when I can come to goods by such goodly ways, it is no great marvel though I be so suddenly grown to so great substance of riches, as Tyndale told his acquaintance and my friend, to whom he said that he wist well that I was no less worth in money and plate and other movables than twenty thousand marks. And as much as that have divers of the good brethren affirmed here near home.
And surely this will I confess, that if I have heaped up so much good together, then have I not gotten the one half by right. And yet by all the thieves, murderers, and heretics, that ever came in my hands, am I not (I thank God) the richer of one groat, and yet have they spent me twain. Howbeit if either any of them, or of any kind of people else that any cause have had before me, or otherwise any meddling with me, find himself so sore grieved with anything that I have taken of his, he had some time to speak thereof. And now sith no man cometh forth to ask any restitution yet, but hold their peace and slack their time so long: I give them all plain peremptory warning now, that they drive it off no longer. For if they tarry till yesterday, and then come and ask so great sums among them as shall amount to twenty thousand marks, I purpose to purchase such a protection for them that I will leave myself less than the fourth part, even of shrewdness, rather than ever I will pay them.
And now dare I say, that if this pacifier had by experience known the troth of that kind of people, he would not have given so much credence to their lamentable complainings, as it seemeth me by some of his Some says he doth.
Howbeit what faith my words will have with him in these mine own causes, I cannot very surely say, nor yet very greatly care. And yet stand I not in so much doubt of myself, but that I trust well that among many good and honest men, among which sort of folk I trust I may reckon him, mine own word would alone, even in mine own cause, be somewhat better believed than would the oaths of some twain of this new brotherhood in a matter of another man.