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Unformatted text preview: don, they observed a beggar, who was shivering with cold. Would it not be very praise-worthy, said the king, to give that poor man a warm coat in this severe season? It would, surely, replied the chancellor; and you do well, Sir, in thinking of such good actions. Then he shall have one presently, cried the king: And seizing the skirt of the chancellor’s coat, which was scarlet, and lined with ermine, began to pull it violently. The chancellor defended himself for some time; and they had both of them like to have tumbled off their horses PLL v5 (generated January 22, 2010) 214 http://oll.libertyfund.org/title/695 Online Library of Liberty: The History of England, vol. 1 in the street, when Becket, after a vehement struggle, let go his coat; which the king bestowed on the beggar, who, being ignorant of the quality of the persons, was not a little surprised at the present.x Becket, who, by his complaisance and good-humour, had rendered himself agreeable, and by his industry and abilities useful, to his master, appeared to him the fittest person for supplying the vacancy made by the death of Theobald. As he was well acquainted with the king’s intentionsy of retrenching, or rather confining within the ancient bounds, all ecclesiastical privileges, and always showed a ready disposition to comply with them,z Henry, who never expected any resistance from that quarter, immediately issued orders for electing him archbishop of Canterbury. But this resolution, which was taken contrary to the opinion of Matilda, and many of the ministers,a drew after it very unhappy consequences; and never prince of so great penetration, appeared, in the issue, to have so little understood the genius and character of his minister. No sooner was Becket installed in this high dignity, which rendered him for life the second person in the kingdom, with some pretensions of aspiring to be the first, than he totally altered his demeanor and conduct, and endeavoured to acquire the character of sanctity, of which his former busy and ostentatious course of life might, in the eyes of the people, have naturally bereaved him. Without consulting the king, he immediately returned into his hands the commission of chancellor; pretending, that he must thenceforth detach himself from secular affairs, and be solely employed in the exercise of his spiritual function, but in reality, that he might break off all connexions with Henry, and apprise him, that Becket, as primate of England, was now become entirely a new personage. He maintained, in his retinue and attendants alone, his ancient pomp and lustre, which was useful to strike the vulgar: In his own person he affected the greatest austerity, and most rigid mortification, which, he was sensible, would have an equal or a greater tendency to the same end. He wore sack-cloth next his skin, which, by his affected care to conceal it, was necessarily the more remarked by all the world: He changed it so seldom, that it was filled with dirt and vermin: His usual diet was bread; his drink water, which he even rendered farther...
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- Spring '08