Page:Henry VIII and the English Monasteries.djvu/54

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Henry VIII. and the English Monasteries

recipients of the royal generosity. By established custom every bishop, every superior of a religious house, on entering upon the emoluments of his see was bound, "ratione novæ creationis" to allow a fitting pension to any clerk recommended by the crown until such time as he had provided a suitable benefice for him. So, in the same way, founders and their descendants claimed and exercised the right of billeting poor relations or needy dependents for maintenance, and often for lodging, on the religious houses of which they were patrons.

In their endeavour to meet the demands upon their revenue, the abbots and superiors of the religious houses endeavoured to accommodate their farming arrangements to the requirements of the time. Like the nobles and other landowners, they tried to turn their estates to the most profitable account by forming large enclosures, and devoting land hitherto cultivated to the pasture of sheep. This was regarded with great disfavour by the people, who were no longer required in the same numbers as before to make the monastic estates profitable to their owners. In the parliament of 1529 this, and the fact that the religious kept "tan houses and sold wool and cloth," &c., were causes of complaint against them by the Commons.

It is difficult for the popular mind to resist the influence of attractive pictures presented to it. The advantages to be derived from a redistribution of the worldly wealth of the Church, and in particular of the religious bodies in England, were constantly insisted upon. And the poison instilled into the people by scurrilous tales and descriptions of clerical and monastic life, circulated by their authors for the purpose of bringing discredit upon the Church, was no doubt insidious. These generally were not indigenous, but imported, venerable stories, Eastern in their origin and adapted from Mahometan life to suit the Christian character; but even they could not deprive the religious bodies of popular respect.

The most celebrated and perhaps most dangerous attack against the religious orders made in the early sixteenth century was in the "Supplication of Beggars," written by one Simon Fish. It was answered by Sir Thomas More, step by step, in his "Supplication of Poor Souls;" but, like all such stories, the answer probably reached only a