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more than others; so that though he met with many rarities, he admired them not so much as others do.
"He was never seen to be transported with mirth, or dejected with sadness; always cheer ful but rarely merry, at any sensible rate; sellom heard to break a jest; and when he did, he would be apt to blush at the levity of it: his gravity was natural, without affectation.
"His modesty was visible in a natural habitual blush, which was increased upon the least occasion, and oft discovered without any obser
"They that knew no more of him than by the briskness of his writings, found themselves deceived in their expectation, when they came in his company, noting the gravity and sobriety of his aspect and conversation; so free from loquacity or much talkativeness, that he was sometimes difficult to be engaged in any discourse; though when he was so, it was always singular, and never trite or vulgar. Parsimonious in nothing but his time, whereof he made as much improvement, with as little loss as any man in it: when he had any to spare from his drudging practice, he was scarce patient of any diversion from his study; so impatient of sloth and idleness, that he would say he could not do nothing.
"Sir Thomas understood most of the European languages; viz. all that are in Hutter's Bible, which he made use of. The Latin and Greek he understood critically; the Oriental languages, which never were vernacular in this part of the world, he thought the use of them would not answer the time and pains of learning them; yet had so great a veneration for the matrix of them, viz. the Hebrew, consecrated to the oracles of God, that he was not content to be totally ignorant of it; though very little of his science is to be found in any books of that primitive language. And though much is said to be written in the derivative idioms of that tongue, especially the Arabic, yet he was satisfied with the translations, wherein he found nothing admirable.
"In his religion he continued in the same mind which he had declared in his first book, written when he was but thirty years old, his Religio Medici, wherein he fully assented to that of the church of England, preferring it before any in the world, as did the learned Grotius. He attended the public service very constantly, when he was not withheld by his practice; never missed the sacrament in his parish, if he were in town; read the best English sermons he tould hear of, with liberal applause; and delighted not in controversies. In his last sickness, wherein he continued about a week's time, enduring great pain of the colic, besides a continual fever, with as much patience as hath been seen in any man, without any pretence of Stoical apathy, animosity, or vanity of not being
concerned thereat, or suffering no impeachment of happiness-Nihil agis, dolor.
"His patience was founded upon the Christian philosophy, and a sound faith of God's providence, and a meek and holy submission thereunto, which he expressed in few words. I visited him near his end, when he had not strength to hear or speak much; the last words which 1 heard from him were, besides some expressions of dearness, that he did freely submit to the will of God, being without fear: he had often triumphed over the king of terrors in others, and given many repulses in the defence of patients; but, when his own turn came, he submitted with a meek, rational, and religious courage.
"He might have made good the old saying of Dat Galenus opes, had he lived in a place that could have afforded it. But his indulgence and liberality to his children, especially in their travels, two of his sons in divers countries, and two of his daughters in France, spent him more than a little. He was liberal in his house-entertainments and in his charity; he left a comfortable, but no great estate, both to his lady and children, gained by his own industry.
"Such was his sagacity and knowledge of all history, ancient and modern, and his observations thereupon so singular, that it hath been said by them that knew him best, that if his profession, and place of abode, would have suited his ability, he would have made an extraordinary man for the privy council, not much inferior to the famous Padre Paulo, the late oracle of the Venetian state.
"Though he were no prophet, nor son of a prophet, yet in that faculty which comes nearest it he excelled, i. e. the stochastic, wherein he was seldom mistaken as to future events, as well public as private; but not apt to discover any presages or superstition."
It is observable, that he, who in his earlier years had read all the books against religion, was in the latter part of his life averse from controversies. To play with important truths, to disturb the repose of established tenets, to subtilize objections, and elude proof, is too often the sport of youthful vanity, of which maturer There is a time experience commonly repents. when every man is weary of raising difficulties only to task himself with the solution, and desires to enjoy truth without the labour or haThere is, perhaps, no better zard of contest. method of encountering these troublesome irruptions of scepticism, with which inquisitive minds are frequently harassed, than that which Browne declares himself to have taken: "If there arise any doubts in my way I do forget them; or at least defer them, till my better settled judgment, and more manly reason be able to resolve them: for I perceive, every man's reason is his best Edipus, and will, upon a reasonable
of ideas, sometimes obstruct the tendency of his reasoning and the clearness of his decisions; on whatever subject he employed his mind, there started up immediately so many images before him, that he lost one by grasping another. His memory supplied him with so many illustrations, parallel or dependent notions, that he was always starting into collateral considerations: but the spirit and vigour of his pursuit always gives delight; and the reader follows him, without reluctance, through his mazes, in themselves flowery and pleasing, and ending at the point originally in view.
"To have great excellences and great faults, magnæ virtutes, nec minora vitia, is the poesy," says our author, "of the best natures." This poesy may be properly applied to the style of Browne; it is vigorous, but rugged; it is learned, but pedantic; it is deep, but obscure; it strikes, but does not please; it commands, but does not allure: his tropes are harsh, and his combinations uncouth. He fell into an age in which our language began to lose the stability which it had obtained in the time of Elizabeth ; and was considered by every writer as a subject on which he might try his plastic skill, by
As easily may we be mistaken in estimating our own courage, as our own humility; and therefore, when Browne shows himself per-moulding it according to his own fancy. Milton, suaded, that "he could lose an arm without a tear, or with a few groans be quartered to pieces," I am not sure that he felt in himself any uncommon powers of endurance; or, indeed, any thing more than a sudden effervescence of imagination, which, uncertain and voluntary as it is, he mistook for settled resolution.
in consequence of this encroaching license, began to introduce the Latin idiom: and Browne, though he gave less disturbance to our structures in phraseology, yet poured in a multitude of exotic words; many, indeed, useful and sigin-nificant, which, if rejected, must be supplied by circumlocution, such as commensality for the state of many living at the same table; but many superfluous, as a paralogical for an unreasonable doubt; and some so obscure, that they conceal his meaning rather than explain it, as arthritical analogies, for parts that serve some animals in the place of joints.
His style is, indeed, a tissue of many languages; a mixture of heterogeneous words, brought together from distant regions, with terms originally appropriated to one art, and drawn by violence into the service of another. He must, however, be confessed to have augmented our philosophical diction and in defence of his uncommon words and expressions, we must consider, that he had uncommon sentiments, and was not content to express in many words that idea for which any language could supply a single term.
truce, find a way to loose those bonds, wherewith the subtilties of error have enchained our more flexible and tender judgments."
The foregoing character may be confirmed and enlarged by many passages in the "Religio Medici ;" in which it appears, from Whitefoot's testimony, that the author, though no very sparing panegyrist of himself, had not exceeded the truth, with respect to his attainments or visible qualities.
There are, indeed, some interior and secret virtues, which a man may sometimes have without the knowledge of others; and may some times assume to himself, without sufficient reasons for his opinion. It is charged upon Browne, by Dr. Watts, as an instance of arrogant temerity, that, after a long detail of his attainments, be declares himself to have escaped "the first and father-sin of pride." A perusal of the "Religio Medici" will not much contribute to produce a belief of the author's exemption from this father-sin: pride is a vice, which pride itself inclines every man to find in others, and to overlook in himself.
"That there were not many extant, that in a noble way feared the face of death less than himself;" he might likewise believe at a very easy expense, while death was yet at a distance; but the time will come to every human being, when it must be known how well he can bear to die; and it has appeared that our author's fortitude did not desert him in the great hour of trial.
It was observed by some of the remarkers on the "Religio Medici," that "the author was yet alive, and might grow worse as well as better;" it is therefore happy, that this suspicion can be obviated by a testimony given to the continuance of his virtue, at a time when death had set him free from danger of change, and his panegyrist from temptation to flattery.
But it is not on the praises of others, but on his own writings, that he is to depend for the esteem of posterity; of which he will not easily be deprived while learning shall have any reverence among men; for there is no science in which he does not discover some skill; and scarce any kind of knowledge, profane or sacred, abstruse or elegant, which he does not appear to have cultivated with success.
But his innovations are sometimes pleasing, and his temerities happy he has many verba ardentia, forcible expressions, which he would never have found but by venturing to the utmost verge of propriety; and flights which would never have been reached, but by one who had very little fear of the shame of falling.
There remains yet an objection against the writings of Browne, more formidable than the
His exuberance of knowledge, and plenitude animadversions of criticism. There are passage,
from which some bave taken occasion to rank him among deists, and others among atheists. It would be difficult to guess how any such conclusion should be formed, had not experience shown that there are two sorts of men willing to enlarge the catalogue of infidels.
sentials of Christianity; men may sometimes eagerly dispute, and yet not differ much from one another: the rigorous persecutors of error should, therefore, enlighten their zeal with knowledge, and temper their orthodoxy with charity; that charity, without which orthodoxy is vain; charity that "thinketh no evil," but "hopeth all things," and "endureth all things.”
It has been long observed, that an atheist has no just reason for endeavouring conversions; and yet none harass those minds which they can Whether Browne has been numbered among influence, with more importunity of solicitation the contemners of religion, by the fury of its to adopt their opinions. In proportion as they friends, or the artifice of its enemies, it is no doubt the truth of their own doctrines, they are difficult task to replace him among the most desirous to gain the attestation of another under-zealous professors of Christianity. He may, standing and industriously labour to win a perhaps, in the ardour of his imagination, have proselyte, and eagerly catch at the slightest hazarded an expression, which a mind intent pretence to dignify their sect with a celebrated upon faults may interpret into heresy, if considered apart from the rest of his discourse; but a phrase is not to be opposed to volumes; there is scarcely a writer to be found, whose profession was not divinity, that has so frequently testified his belief of the sacred writings, has appealed to them with such unlimited submission, or mentioned them with such unvaried reverence.
The others become friends to infidelity only by unskilful hostility; men of rigid orthodoxy, cautious conversation, and religious asperity. Among these, it is too frequently the practice, to make in their heat concessions to atheism, or deism, which their most confident advocates had never dared to claim, or to hope. A sally of levity, an idle paradox, an indecent jest, an unreasonable objection, are sufficient, in the opinion of these men, to efface a name from the lists of Christianity, to exclude a soul from everlasting life. Such men are so watchful to censure, that they have seldom much care to look for favourable interpretations of ambiguities, to set the general tenor of life against single failures, or to know how soon any slip of inadvertency has been expiated by sorrow and retraction; but let fly their fulminations, without mercy or prudence, against slight offences or casual temerities, against crimes never committed, or immediately repented.
The infidel knows well what he is doing. He is endeavouring to supply, by authority, the deficiency of his arguments; and to make his cause less invidious, by showing numbers on his side: he will, therefore, not change his conduct, till he reforms his principles. But the zealot should recollect, that he is labouring by this frequency of excommunication, against his own cause, and voluntarily adding strength to the enemies of truth. It must always be the condition of a great part of mankind to reject and embrace tenets upon the authority of those whom they think wiser than themselves; and, therefore, the addition of every name to infidelity in some degree invalidates that argument upon which the religion of multitudes is necessarily founded.
Men may differ from each other in many religious opinions, and yet all may retain the es
• Therefore no heretics desire to spread
It is, indeed, somewhat wonderful, that he should be placed without the pale of Christianity, who declares, "that he assumes the bonourable style of a Christian," not because it is "the religion of his country," but because "having in his riper years and confirmed judgment seen and examined all, he finds himself obliged, by the principles of grace, and the law of his own reason, to embrace no other name but this:" who to specify his persuasion yet more, tells us, that "he is of the Reformed religion; of the same belief our Saviour taught, the apostles disseminated, the fathers authorised, and the martyrs confirmed;" who, though "paradoxical in philosophy, loves in divinity to keep the beaten road; and pleases himself that he has no taint of heresy, schism, or error:" to whom, "where the Scripture is silent, the Church is a text; where that speaks, 'tis but a comment;" and who uses not "the dictates of his own reason, but where there is a joint silence of both: who blesses himself, that he lived not in the days of miracles, when faith had been thrust upon him; but enjoys that greater blessing, pronounced to all that believe and saw not.” He cannot surely be charged with a defect of faith, who "believes that our Saviour was dead, and buried, and rose again, and desires to see him in his glory:" and who affirms that “this
not much to believe;" that we have reason to owe this faith unto history;" and that "they only had the advantage of a bold and noble faith, who lived before his coming; and upon obscure prophecies, and mystical types, could raise a belief." Nor can contempt of the positive and ritual parts of religion be imputed to him, who doubts, whether a good man would refuse a poisoned eucharist; and "who would violate his own arm, rather than a church."
The opinions of every man must be learned from himself: concerning his practice, it is safest to trust the evidence of others. Where these testimonies concur, no higher degree of historical certainty can be obtained; and they!
Ir often happens to writers, that they are known only by their works; the incidents of a literary life are seldom observed, and therefore seldom recounted but Ascham has escaped the com. mon fate by the friendship of Edward Graunt, the learned master of Westminster-school, who devoted an oration to his memory, and has marked the various vicissitudes of his fortune. Graunt either avoided the labour of minute inquiry, or thought domestic occurrences unworthy of his notice; or, preferring the character of an orator to that of an historian, selected only such particulars as he could best express or most happily embellish. His narrative is therefore scanty, and I know not by what materials it can now be amplified.
ROGER ASCHAM was born in the year 1515, at Kirby Wiske, (or Kirby Wicke,) a village near Northallerton, in Yorkshire, of a family above the vulgar. His father, John Ascham, was house-steward in the family of Scroop; and in that age, when the different orders of men were at a greater distance from each other, and the manners of gentlemen were regularly formed by menial services in great houses, lived with a very conspicuous reputation. Margaret Ascham, his wife, is said to have been allied to many considerable families, but her maiden name is not recorded. She had three sons of whom Roger was the youngest, and some daughters; but who can hope, that of any progeny more than one shall deserve to be mentioned? They lived married sixty-seven years, and at last died together almost on the same hour of the same day.
apparently concur to prove, that Browne was a zealous adherent to the faith of Christ, that he lived in obedience to his laws, and died in confidence of his mercy.
Roger, having passed his first years under the care of his parents, was adopted into the family of Antony Wingfield, who maintained him, and
committed his education, with that of his own sons, to the care of one Bond, a domestic tutor. He very early discovered an unusual fondness for literature by an eager perusal of English books; and having passed happily through the scholastic rudiments, was put in 1530, by his patron Wingfield, to St. John's college in Cambridge.
Ascham entered Cambridge at a time when the last great revolution of the intellectual world was filling every academical mind with ardour or anxiety. The destruction of the Constantinopolitan empire had driven the Greeks with their language into the interior parts of Europe. the art of printing had made the books easily attainable, and the Greek now began to be taught in England. The doctrines of Luther had already filled all the nations of the Romish communion with controversy and dissention. New studies of literature, and new tenets of religion, found employment for all who were desirous of truth, or ambitious of fame. Learning was at that time prosecuted with that eagerness and perseverance which in this age of indifference and dissipation it is not easy to conceive. To teach or to learn, was at once the business and the pleasure of the academical life; and an emulation of study was raised by Cheke and Smith, to which even the present age perhaps owes many advantages, without remembering or knowing its benefactors.
Ascham soon resolved to unite himself to those who were enlarging the bounds of knowledge, and, immediately upon his admission into the college, applied himself to the study of Greek. Those who were zealous for the new learning, were often no great friends to the old religion; and Ascham, as he became a Grecian, became a Protestant. The Reformation was not yet begun, disaffection to Popery was considered as a crime justly punished by exclusion from favour
• First printed before his Works, 4to. published by and preferment, and was not yet openly proBennet, 1763.-H. fessed, though superstition was gradually losing
its hold upon the public. The study of Greek was reputable enough, and Ascham pursued it with diligence and success equally conspicuous. He thought a language might be most easily learned by teaching it; and when he had obtained some proficiency in Greek, read lectures, while he was yet a boy, to other boys, who were desirous of instruction. His industry was much encouraged by Pember, a man of great eminence at that time, though I know not that he has left any monuments behind him, but what the gratitude of his friends and scholars has bestowed. He was one of the great encouragers of Greek learning, and particularly applauded Ascham's lectures, assuring him in a letter, of which Graunt has preserved an extract, that he would gain more knowledge by explaining one of Æsop's fables to a boy, than by hearing one of Homer's poems explained by
Ascham took his bachelor's degree in 1534, February 18, in the eighteenth year of his age: a time of life at which it is more common now to enter the universities than to take degrees, but which, according to the modes of education then in use, had nothing of remarkable prematurity. On the 23d of March following, he was chosen fellow of the college, which election he considered as a second birth. Dr. Metcalf, the master of the college, a man as Ascham tells us, "meanly learned himself, but no mean encourager of learning in others," clandestinely promoted his election, though he openly seemed first to oppose it, and afterwards to censure it, because Ascham was known to favour the new opinions; and the master himself was accused of giving an unjust preference to the Northern men, one of the factions into which this nation was divided, before we could find any more important reason of dissention, than that some were born on the Northern and some on the Southern side of Trent. Any cause is sufficient for a quarrel; and the zealots of the North and South lived long in such animosity, that it was thought necessary at Oxford to keep them quiet by choosing one proctor every year from each.
He seems to have been hitherto supported by the bounty of Wingfield, which his attainment of a fellowship now freed him from the necessity of receiving. Dependance, though in those days it was more common, and less irksome, than in the present state of things, can never have been free from discontent; and therefore he that was released from it must always have rejoiced. The danger is, lest the joy of escaping from the patron may not leave sufficient memory of the benefactor. Of this forgetfulness Ascham cannot be accused; for he is recorded to have preserved the most gratefu1 and affectionate reverence for Wingfield, and to have never grown weary of recounting his benefits.
His reputation still increased, and many resorted to his chamber to hear the Greek writes explained. He was likewise eminent for other accomplishments. By the advice of Pember, he had learned to play on musical instruments, and he was one of the few who excelled in the mechanical art of writing, which then began to be cultivated among us, and in which we now surpass all other nations. He not only wrote his pages with neatness, but embellished them with elegant draughts and illuminations; an art at that time so highly valued, that it contributed much both to his fame and his fortune.
He became master of arts in March, 1537, in his twenty-first year, and then, if not before, commenced tutor, and publicly undertook the education of young men. A tutor of one-andtwenty, however accomplished with learning, however exalted by genius, would now gain little reverence or obedience; but in those days of discipline and regularity, the authority of the statutes easily supplied that of the teacher; all power that was lawful was reverenced. Besides, young tutors had still younger pupils.
Ascham is said to have courted his scholars to study by every incitement, to have treated them with great kindness, and to have taken care at once to instil learning and piety, to enlighten their minds, and to form their manners. Many of his scholars rose to great eminence; and among them William Grindal was so much distinguished, that, by Cheke's recommendation, he was called to court as a proper master of languages for the Lady Elizabeth.
There was yet no established lecturer of Greek; the university therefore appointed Ascham to read in the open schools, and paid him out of the public purse an honorary stipend, such as was then reckoned sufficiently liberal. A lecture was afterwards founded by King Henry, and he then quitted the schools, but continued to explain Greek authors in his own college.
He was at first an opponent of the new pronunciation introduced, or rather of the ancient restored, about this time by Cheke and Smith, and made some cautious struggles for the common practice, which the credit and dignity of his antagonists did not permit him to defend very publicly, or with much vehemence: nor were they long his antagonists: for either his affection for their merit, or his conviction of the cogency of their arguments, soon changed his opinion and his practice, and he adhered ever after to their method of utterance.
Of this controversy it is not necessary to give a circumstantial account; something of it may be found in Strype's Life of Smith, and something in Baker's Reflections upon Learning; it is sufficient to remark here, that Cheke's pro nunciation was that which now prevails in the schools of England. Disquisitions not only