ask me to paint you a full-length portrait of More as in a picture.
Would that I could do it as perfectly as you eagerly desire it. At least
I will try to give a sketch of the man, as well as from my long familiarity
with him I have either observed or can now recall. To begin, then, with
what is least known to you, in stature he is not tall, though not remarkably
short. His limbs are formed with such perfect symmetry as to leave nothing
to be desired. His complexion is white, his face fair rather than pale,
and though by no means ruddy, a faint flush of pink appears beneath
the whiteness of his skin. His hair is dark brown, or brownish black.
The eyes are grayish The eyes are grayish blue, with some spots, a kind
which betokens singular talent, and among the English is considered
attractive, whereas Germans generally prefer black. It is said that
none are so free from vice.
countenance is in harmony with his character, being always expressive
of an amiable joyousness, and even an incipient laughter, and, to speak
candidly, it is better framed for gladness than for gravity and dignity,
though without any approach to folly or buffoonery. The right shoulder
is a little higher than the left, especially when he walks. This is
not a defect of birth, but the result of habit, such as we often contract.
In the rest of his person there is nothing to offend. His hands are
the least refined part of his body.
was from his boyhood always most careless about whatever concerned his
body. His youthful beauty may be guessed from what still remains, though
I knew him when be was not more than three-and-twenty. Even now he is
not much over forty. He has good health, though not robust; able to
endure all honourable toil, and subject to very few diseases. He seems
to promise a long life, as his father still survives in a wonderfully
green old age.
voice is neither loud nor very weak, but penetrating; not resounding
or soft, but that of a clear speaker. Though he delights in every kind
of music he has no vocal talents. He speaks with great clearness and
perfect articulation, without rapidity or hesitation. He likes a simple
dress, using neither silk nor purple nor gold chain, except when it
may not be omitted. It is wonderful how negligent he is as regards all
the ceremonious forms in which most men make politeness to consist.
He does not require them from others, nor is he anxious to use them
himself, at interviews or banquets, though he is not unacquainted with
them when necessary. But he thinks it unmanly to spend much time in
such trifles. Formerly he was most averse to the frequentation of the
court, for he has a great hatred of constraint (tyrannis) and loves
equality. Not without much trouble he was drawn into the court of Henry
VIII., though nothing more gentle and modest than that prince can be
desired. By nature More is chary of his liberty and of ease, yet, though
he enjoys ease, no one is more alert or patient when duty requires it.
seems born and framed for friendship, and is a most faithful and enduring
friend. He is easy of access to all; but if he chances to get familiar
with one whose vices admit no correction, he manages to loosen and let
go the intimacy rather than to break it off suddenly. When he finds
any sincere and according to his heart, he so delights in their society
and conversation as to place in it the principal charm of life. He abhors
games of tennis, dice, cards, and the like, by which most gentlemen
kill time. Though he is rather too negligent of his own interests, no
one is more diligent in those of his friends. In a word, if you want
a perfect model of friendship, you will find it in no one better than
in More. In society he is so polite, so sweet-mannered, that no one
is of so melancholy a disposition as not to be cheered by him, and there
is no misfortune that he does not alleviate. Since his boyhood he has
so delighted in merriment, that it seems to be part of his nature; yet
he does not carry it to buffoonery, nor did he ever like biting pleasantries.
When a youth he both wrote and acted some small comedies. If a retort
is made against himself, even without ground, he likes it from the pleasure
he finds in witty repartees. Hence he amused himself with composing
epigrams when a young man, and enjoyed Lucian above all writers. Indeed,
it was he who pushed me to write the "Praise of Folly," that
is to say, he made a camel frisk.
human affairs there is nothing from which he does not extract enjoyment,
even from things that are most serious. If he converses with the learned
and judicious, he delights in their talent; if with the ignorant and
foolish, he enjoys their stupidity. He is not even offended by professional
jesters. With a wonderful dexterity he accommodates himself to every
disposition. As a rule, in talking with women, even with his own wife,
he is full of jokes and banter.
"No one is less led by the opinions of the crowd, yet no one departs less from common sense. One of his great delights is to consider the forms, the habits, and the instincts of different kinds of animals. There is hardly a species of bird that he does not keep in his house, and rare animals such as monkeys, foxes, ferrets, weasels and the like. If he meets with anything foreign, or in any way remarkable, he eagerly buys it, so that his house is full of such things, and at every turn they attract the eye of visitors, and his own pleasure is renewed whenever he sees others pleased."