Reference > Quotations > S.A. Bent, comp. > Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men
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S.A. Bent, comp.  Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men.  1887.
 
Sir Thomas More
 
        [An English philosopher and statesman; born in London, 1480; educated at Oxford; elected to Parliament, 1504; wrote “Utopia,” 1516; lord chancellor, 1529–32; committed to the Tower for refusing to acknowledge the validity of the king’s marriage to Anne Boleyn; beheaded for treason, July 6, 1535.]
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If my head would win him a castle in France, it should not fail to go.
          Of Henry VIII., at the time of More’s highest favor at court.
  Being appointed on an embassy to Francis I. by Henry, he feared that the French king might order him to be beheaded, if the message did not suit him. “If he does that,” said Henry, “I will make every Frenchman in my realm a head shorter.”—“But I am afraid,” rejoined More, “that none of those heads would fit my shoulders.”
  On meeting Erasmus for the first time, who said to him, “Aut tu es Morus aut nullus” (You are More or nobody), More replied, “Aut tu es Erasmus aut Diabolus” (You are Erasmus or the Devil).
  “To aim at honor in this world,” he was wont to say, “is to set a coat-of-arms over a prison-gate.”
  When a man asked for a long day in which to pay a just debt to a widow, More, then lord chancellor, replied, “Monday next is St. Bartholomew’s Day, which is the longest in the year. Pay it on that day, or you shall kiss the Fleet.”
  A woman, who had a suit at court, presented him with a pair of gloves containing £40. He took the gloves, and returned the money, saying, “I prefer my gloves without lining.”
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I pray God to spare my friends from a similar clemency.
          When told that the king, to show his clemency, had changed the sentence of death pronounced upon More to simple decapitation.
  More gave a curious example of his wit at his own execution. “The scaffold had been awkwardly erected,” says Froude, “and shook as he placed his foot upon the ladder. ‘See me safe up,’ he said to Kingston: ‘for my coming down I can shift for myself.’… The fatal stroke was about to fall, when he signed for a moment’s delay, while he moved aside his beard: ‘Pity that should be cut,’ he murmured, ‘that has not committed treason.’ With which strange words,—the strangest, perhaps, ever uttered at such a time—the lips most famous through Europe for eloquence and wisdom closed forever.”—History of England, chap. ix.
  When the Emperor Charles V. heard of More’s execution, he exclaimed, “I would rather have lost the best city in my dominions, than so worthy a counsellor.”
  Erasmus said that with More, “You might imagine yourself in the Academy of Plato.”
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