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He was in his day no mean master of English, a truth-loving though somewhat sceptical philosopher, and a noble man; brave as a knight-errant, never taking gift or reward, and even 'from childhood,' as he says, 'never choosing to stain his mind with telling a lie.'
His autobiography (first printed in 1764), and his Life and Reign of King Henry the Eighth (published in 1649), both deserve to be better known than they are.
His Latin treatises on Natural Religion, etc., prove him, says Leland, the most eminent of Deistical writers. His Occasional Poems, published in 1665, show that he (like his brother George, of Bemerton) had in him something of a poet's feeling.
I BELIEVE since my coming into this world my soul hath formed or produced certain faculties, which are almost as useless for this life, as the above-named senses (eyes, ears, &c.) were for the mother's womb; and these faculties are Hope, Faith, Love, and Joy, since they never rest or fix upon any transitory or perishing object in this world, as extending themselves to something further than can be here given, and indeed acquiesce only in the perfect, eternal, and infinite: I confess they are of some use here, yet I appeal to everybody whether any worldly felicity did so satisfy their hope here, that they did not wish and hope for something more excel
lent; or whether they had ever that faith in their own wisdom, or in the help of man, that they were not constrained to have recourse to some diviner and superior power, than they could find on earth, to relieve them in their danger or necessity; whether ever they could place their love on any earthly beauty, that it did not fade and wither, if not frustrate or deceive them; or whether ever their joy was so consummate in anything they delighted in, that they did not want much more than it, or indeed this world can afford, to make them happy. The proper object of these faculties therefore, though framed, or at least appearing in this world, is God only, upon whom Faith, Hope, and Love were never placed in vain, or remain long unrequited.
WHEREUPON he (Wolsey) began to tell the King, that he should sometimes follow his Studies in School-Divinity, and sometimes take his pleasure, and leave the care of publick affairs to him : promising that what was amiss in his kingdom should be rectified. Likewise, he omitted not to infuse fears and jealousies of all those whom he conceived the King might affect. Whereby he became so perfect a Courtier, that he had soon attained the height of favour. For as Princes have arts to govern Kingdoms, Courtiers have those by which they govern their Princes, when through any indisposition they grow unapt for affairs. These arts being hopes and fears, which as doors and passages to the heart, are so guarded by their vigilancy, that they can both let themselves in, and keep all others out: and therefore may be termed not only the two ends of that thred upon which government depends, but through their dextrous handling may be tyed upon what knot they will.
3. Learning must be met by Learning. The Reasons represented to the Pope, were I suppose of this nature: That his Holiness could not be ignorant what diverse effects this New Invention of Printing had produced. For as it had brought in and restored Books and Learning, so together it hath been the Occasion of those Sects and Schisms which daily appeared in the World, but chiefly in Germany : where men begun now to call in question the present Faith and Tenets of the Church, and to examine how far Religion is departed from its primitive institution. And, that which particularly was most to be lamented, they had exhorted Lay and Ordinary men to read the Scriptures, and to pray in their Vulgar Tongue. That, if this were suffered, besides all other dangers, the Common People at last might come to believe that there was not so much Use of the Clergy. For if men were persuaded once they could make their own way to God, and that Prayers in their native and ordinary Language might pierce Heaven, as well as Latin : how much would the Authority of the Mass fall? how prejudicial might this prove unto all our Ecclesiastical orders.
4. Indulgences. PUNISHMENTS might have been left to God, but that they serve to deter others. But who would be afraid now, when he knows at what rate he may put away his crimes? Of what use would our threatenings for sins be, if they grow so contemptible as that a little sum of Money would discharge them? Is not this to make Heaven venal? Doth not this reflect so much on Christian faith that it makes a new price for sin ? Believe me, my Lords, to make our faults cheap, is to multiply them, and to take away not only that reverence is due to Virtue, but to dissolve those bonds which knit and hold together both Civil and Religious Worship.
5. Queen Katharine's timely submission. The Queen herself did this year run no little danger : for as she began about this time to give ear unto those who declaimed against the abuses of the Roman Church, she thought herself so well instructed in Religion, that she would debate with the King thereof: which yet the King did but impatiently hear; both as the anguish of a sore leg he had at this time made him very froward, and as he loved not to be contradicted in his opinions, especially, as he said, in his old age, and by his Wife.
. . Insomuch, that her Enemies expected only a Warrant for carrying her by night to the Tower. Which the Queen accidentally having notice of, fell into that passion and bitter bewailing her misfortune, that the King hearing the perplexity she was in, sent his Physicians, and after came himself to her Chamber, where compassionating her estate, he used such kind words as did help to recover her. Insomuch that the next night being attended by the Lady Anne her Sister, wife to Sir William Herbert, after Earl of Pembroke, she went unto the King's Bed-chamber, where he courteously welcomed her, and began to talk of Religion.
But she wittily excusing herself by the weakness of her Sex and Judgement, said, she would refer herself in this and all other causes, to his Majesties wisdom. Not so (by Saint Mary) quoth the King, you are become a Doctor Kate, to instruct us (as we take it) and not to be instructed or directed by us. But the Queen replying, that what she said was rather to pass away the time and pain of his infirmity, than to hold argument; and that she hoped by hearing his Majesties learned discourse, to receive some profit thereby. The King answered, And is it even so, Sweet-heart? then are we perfect friends again : which also he confirmed by divers testimonies.
PASSING two or three days here, it happened one evening that a daughter of the Duchess of about ten or eleven years of age, going one evening from the castle to walk in the meadows, myself with divers French gentlemen attended her and some gentlewomen that were with her ; this young lady wearing a knot of ribband on her head, a French chevalier took it suddenly and fastened it to his hatband; the young lady offended herewith demands her ribband, but he refusing to restore it, the young lady addressing herself to me, said Monsieur, I pray get my ribband from that gentleman: hereupon going towards him, I courteously, with my hat in my hand, desired him to do me the honour that I may deliver the lady her ribband or bouquet again; but he roughly answering me, do you think I will give it you, when I have refused it to her? I replied, nay then Sir I will make you restore it by force, whereupon also putting on my hat and reaching at his, he to save himself ran away, and after a long course in the meadow finding that I had almost overtook him, he turned short, and running to the young lady was about to put the ribband on her hand, when I seizing upon his arm, said to the young lady, it was I that
Pardon me, quoth she, it is he that gives it me: I said then, Madam, I will not contradict you, but if he dare say that I did not constrain him to give it, I will fight with him. The French gentleman answered nothing thereunto for the present, and so conducted the young lady again to the castle. The next day I desired Mr. Aurelian Townsend to tell the French cavalier that either he must confess that I constrained him to restore the ribband, or