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S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.

Thomas à Becket

  • [An English ecclesiastic, born 1117; Lord Chancellor, 1158; Archbishop of Canterbury, 1162. Having resisted the attempt of Henry II. to limit ecclesiastical authority, he fled to France, but was permitted to return, and continued to defy the king’s authority, until assassinated, Dec. 29, 1170.]
  • Sit I at the helm, and would you have me sleep? (Clavum teneo, et ad somnum me vocas?)

  • Being advised to show greater moderation in his controversy with Henry II. When, finally, the king exclaimed, “Of all the cowards who eat my bread, is there not one who will free me from this turbulent priest?” four knights left his table, crossed the channel, and attacked the archbishop at the foot of the altar of Canterbury Cathedral. He met them with undismayed front: “In vain you menace me. If all the swords in England were brandishing over my head, your terrors could not move me.”