Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

The Tranistory Nature of Earthly Treasures

September 6, 2010 · No Comments

As a college student in this day and age, the 21st century, certain aspects or principles of life tend to be on my mind like every other student in America. Specifically I ponder whether my future career will have worldly riches at the forefront or intellect and the communities well being. As my young mind tries to figure this out I was caught off guard in the National Portrait Gallery, in the section of the museum that is labeled “The Tudor Dynasty”. As this title suggests the majority of these portraits were of Kings and Queens and nobility ranging from King Edward II to King Edward VIII. However, among all these nobles and riches sat a man by the name of Sir Thomas Chaloner.

Sir Thomas Chaloner, unlike any of the other Tudors in that room, was not born into greatness but instead earned it, through sheer determination and the use of an insightful mind. He was a statesman, one of the first England ever saw. He served under four different Tudors, was knighted after participating in the war against the Scots in 1547; he is best remembered as the first English translator of Praise of Folly. Besides having such an amazing and extensive resume, what caught my attention was what I saw within his portrait. Just as I ponder about what my life will say about me, so did Sir Thomas Chaloner ponder the same question five centuries ago.  However, he was able to find an answer. His portrait depicts him in a frontal view with a very unwelcoming facial expression. In his hand he has a scale; on one side there is gold and the riches of the world on the other lies a stack of blazing books that outweigh the “transitory nature of earthly treasures.” Above him is a Latin inscription that refers to the Assyrian King Sardanapulus’ realization on material riches, “they fade black and begrimed with soot as though gold were nothing else but smoke…” ( You may find more information on the portrait at http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait/mw01174/Sir-Thomas-Chaloner?search=ss&firstRun=true&sText=Sir+Thomas+Chaloner+&LinkID=mp00823&role=sit&rNo

Although I know Sir Thomas Chaloner, like the majority of humans, had many faults I commend him for devoting the intelligence he did gather for the improvement of society. I only wish to take the privileges I have received so far and will receive in the future to improve our 21st century society in one way or another; whether it be helping a child understand their homework , or having an active part in legislation. Only time will tell if I achieve this, in the meantime I will keep searching for my own answer.

Categories: 2010 Jamie
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