I HAVE BEEN INSISTING ON THAT, partly because it enormously enhances the credit of their performance. Mr. Belloc has written very well on that point. He writes of St. Thomas - and it was equally true of St. John - as follows: "To allow oneself to be killed, of one's own choice, in full life, rather than pay the price of yielding upon one dry, narrow, intellectual point; having, to sustain one ... neither enthusiasm within, nor the sense of agreement from others without, this is to die alone indeed! He had no enthusiasm for the Papacy; all his life he had been a reformer in the full sense of the word ... Nor was the extraordinary man supported from without ... The average Englishmen had little concern with the quarrel between the crown and Rome; it did not touch his life. The Mass went on just the same, and all the splendours of religion ... To the ordinary man of that day anyone, especially a highly-placed official, who stood out against the King's policy, was a crank ... No, he was not supported from without."
If you want to realize how lonely these two men must have felt in making their protest against the tyranny of King Henry, you have only to look at the sort of way More's wife talked about it, when she went to visit him in prison. "I marvel," she said, "that you, that hitherto have been taken for a wise man, will now so play the fool, to lie here in this close, filthy prison, and be content to be thus shut up among rats and mice, when you might be abroad at your liberty, and with the favour and goodwill both of king and his council, if you would but do as all the bishops and best learned men of his realm have done. And seeing that you have at Chelsea a right fair house, your library, your gallery and all other necessities so handsome about you, where you might in the company of me, your wife, your children and household be merry, I muse what a God's name you mean, here still thus fondly to tarry."
Thus was More's second wife, and she wasn't the ancestress of anybody here, so there is no reason why we should be specially polite about her. But I think it is fair to remember that her point of view was probably the common point of view about the line More was taking. And it was worse when his daughter Margaret came and tried to talk him round, because she was a really good woman and he was very fond of her ... Put this question to yourself for a moment. If your father, or someone you were very fond of, was in prison, and about to be martyred on a point of conscience, would you advise him to stick to his point of conscience? or would you advise him to cave in? ... Life is difficult, isn't it? (No-Men Pt 3 continues here.)
- Ronald A. Knox