verbal, but merely literal, are too minute for more practice to skilful use than any other inpopular narration.

strument of offence. He was not less eminent as a writer of Latin, Fire-arms were then in their infancy; and than as a teacher of Greek. All the public let-though battering-pieces had been some time in ters of the university were of his composition; use, I know not whether any soldiers were and as little qualifications must often bring great armed with hand-guns when the “ Toxophilus” abilities into notice, he was recommended to was first published. They were soon after used this honourable employment not less by the by the Spanish troops, whom other nations neatness of his hand, than the elegance of his made baste to imitate : but how little they could style.

yet effect, will be understood from the account However great was his learning, he was not given by the ingenious author of the “ Exercise always immured in his chamber ; but, being for the Norfolk Militia." valetudinary, and weak of body, thought it ne- “ The first muskets were very heavy, and cessary to spend many hours in such exercises could not be fired without a rest; they had as might best relieve him after the fatigue of match-locks, and barrels of a wide bore, that study. His favourite amusement was archery, carried a large ball and charge of powder, and in which he spent, or, in the opinion of others, did execution at a greater distance. lost so much time, that those whom either bis “ The musketeers on a march carried only faults or virtues made his enemies, and perhaps their rests and ammunition, and had boys to some whose kindness wished him always wor-bear their muskets after them, for which they thily employed, did not scruple to censure his were allowed great additional pay. practice, as unsuitable to a man professing learn- “ They were very slow in loading, not only ing, and perhaps of bad example in a place of by reason of the unwieldiness of the pieces, and education.

because they carried the powder and balls separTo free himself from this censure was one of ate, but from the time it took to prepare and the reasons for which he published, in 1544, his adjust the match; so that their fire was not “ Toxophilus, or the schole or partitions of near so brisk as ours is now. Afterwards a shooting,” in which he joins the praise with the lighter kind of matchlock musket came into use, precepts of archery. He designed not only to and they carried their ammunition in bandeliers, teach the art of shooting, but to give an example which were broad belts that came over the of diction more natural and more truly English shoulder, to which were hung several little cases than was used by the common writers of that of wood covered with leather, each containing a age, whom he censures for mingling exotic charge of powder; the balls they carried loose terms with their native language, and of whom in a pouch; and they had also a priming-horn he complains, that they were made authors, not banging by their side. by skill or education, but by arrogance and te- “ The old English writers call those large merity.

muskets calivers : the harquebuze was a lighter He has not failed in either of his purposes. piece, that could be fired without a rest. The He bas sufficiently vindicated archery as an in- matcblock was fired by a match fixed by a kind nocent, salutary, useful, avd liberal diversion; of tongs in the serpentine or cock, which, by and if his precepts are of po great use, he has pulling the trigger, was brought down with only shown, by one example among many, how great quickness upon the priming in the pan : little the hand can derive from the mind, how over which there was a sliding cover, which was little intelligence can conduce to dexterity. In drawo back by the hand just at the time of firevery art, practice is much; in arts manual, ing. There was a great deal of nicety and care practice is almost the whole. Precept can at required to fit the match properly to the cock, most but warn against error: it can never be- so as to come down exactly true on the priming, stow excellence.

to blow the ashes from the coal, and to guard The bow has been so long disused, that most the pan from the sparks that fell from it. A English readers have forgotten its importance, great deal of time was also lost in taking it out though it was the weapon by which we gained of the cock, and returning it between the fingers the battle of Agincourt; a weapon which, when of the left hand every time that the piece was bandled by English yeomen, no foreign troops tired; and wet weather often rendered the were able to resist. We were not only abler of matches useless." body than the French, and therefore superior in While this was the state of fire-arms, and this the use of arms, which are forcible only in pro- state continued among us to the civil war with portion to the strength with which they are very little improvement, it is no wonder that handled, but the national practice of shooting the long-bow was preferred by Sir Thomas for pleasure or for prizes, by which every man

Smith, who wrote of the choice of weapons in was inured to archery from his infancy, gave the reign of Queen Elizabeth, when the use of us insuperable advantage, the bow requiring the bow still continued, thongh the musket was

gradually prevailing. Sir John Hayward, a but to what they want. In some ages, not only writer yet later, has, in his History of the Nor- necessaries are cheaper, but fewer things are neman kings, endeavoured to evince the superior- cessary. In the age of Ascham, most of the ity of the archer to the musketeer : however, in elegances and expenses of our present fashions the long peace of King James, the bow was were unknown : commerce had not yet distriwholly forgotten. Guns have from that time buted superfluity through the lower classes of been the weapons of the Euglish, as of other | the people, and the character of a student imnations, and as they are now improved, are cer- plied frugality, and required no splendour to tainly more efficacious.

support it.

His pension, therefore, reckoning Ascham had yet another reason, if not for , together the wants which he could supply, and writing his book, at least for presenting it to the wants from which he was exempt, may be King Henry. England was not then what it estimated, in my opinion, at more than a hunmay be now justly termed, the capital of litera- dred pounds a-year; which, added to the inture; and therefore those who aspired to supe- come of his fellowship, put him far enough above rior degrees of excellence, thought it necessary distress. to travel into other countries. The purse of This was a year of good fortune to Ascham. Ascham was not equal to the expense of pere- He was chosen orator to the university on the grination; and therefore he hoped to have it removal of Sir John Cheke to court, where he augmented by a pension. Nor was he wholly was made tutor to Prince Edward. A man disappointed; for the king rewarded him with once distinguished soon gains admirers. Asa yearly payment of ten pounds.

cham was now received to notice by many of the A pension of ten pounds, granted by a king of nobility, and by great ladies, among whom it England to a man of letters, appears to modern was then the fashion to study the ancient lanreaders so contemptible a benefaction, that it is guages. Lee, Archbishop of York, allowed him not unworthy of inquiry what might be its a yearly pension; how much we are not told. value at that time, and how much Ascham He was probably about this time employed in might be enriched by it. Nothing is more un- teaching many illustrious persons to write a certain than the estimation of wealth by deno- fine hand; and among others, Henry and minated money; the precious metals never re- Charles, Dukes of Suffolk, the Princess Elizatain long the same proportion to real commodi- beth, and Prince Edward. ties, and the same names in different ages do not Henry VIII. died two years after, and a reimply the same quantity of metal; so that it is formation of religion being now openly proseequally difficult to know how much money was cuted by King Edward and his council, Ascontained in any nominal sum, and to find what cham, who was known to favour it, had a new any supposed quantity of gold or silver would grant of his pension, and continued at Cambridge, purchase ; both which are necessary to the com- where he lived in great familiarity with Bucer, mensuration of money, or the adjustment of who had been called from Germany to the proproportion between the same sums at different fessorship of divinity. But his retirement was periods of time.

soon at an end; for in 1548 his pupil Grindal, the A numeral pound in King Henry's time con- master of the Princess Elizabeth, died, and the tained, as now, twenty shillings; and therefore princess, who had already some acquaintance it must be inquired what twenty shillings could with Ascham, called him from his college to diperform. Bread-corn is the most certain stan- rect her studies. He obeyed the summons, as dard of the necessaries of life. Wheat was

we may easily believe, with readiness, and for generally sold at that time for one shilling the two years instructed her with great diligence; bushel ; if therefore we take five shillings the but then, being disgusted either at her or her bushel for the current price, ten pounds were domestics, perhaps eager for another change of equivalent to fifty. But here is danger of a life, he left her without her consent, and returnfallacy. It may be doubted whether wheat was ed to the university. Of this precipitation be long the general bread-corn of that age; and if rye, repented ; and, as those who are not accustomed barley, or oats, were the common food, and to disrespect cannot easily forgive it, he probably wheat, as I suspect, only a delicacy, the value of felt the effects of his imprudence to his death. wheat will not regulate the price of other things. After having visited Cambridge, he took a This doubt, however, is in favour of Ascham ; } journey into Yorkshire, to see his native place, for if we raise the worth of wheat, we raise that and his old acquaintance, and there received a of his pension.

letter from the court, informing him, that he But the value of money has another variation, was appointed secretary to Sir Richard Moriwhich we are still less able to ascertain : the sine, who was to be despatched as ambassador rules of custom, or the different needs of artifi-into Germany. In his return to London he cial life, make that revenue little at one time paid that memorable visit to Lady Jane Gray, which is great at another. Men are rich and in which he found her reading the Phædu, in poor, not only in proportion to what they have, Greek, as he has related in his School-masler.

In September 1550, he attended Morisine to tation. But notwithstanding his love of acadeGermany, and wandered over great part of the mical retirement, he had now too long enjoyed country, making observations upon all that ap- the pleasures and festivities of public life, to repeared worthy of his curiosity, and contracting turn with a good will to academical poverty. acquaintance with men of learning. To his He had, however, better fortune than he excorrespondent Sturmius he paid a visit, but pected ; and, if he lamented his condition like Sturmius was not at home, and those two illus- the historian, better than he deserved. He had trious friends never saw each other. During during his absence in Germany been appointed the course of this embassy, Ascham undertook Latin secretary to King Edward; and by the to improve Morisine in Greek, and for four interest of Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, he days in the week explained some passages in was instated in the same office under Philip and Herodotus every morning, and more than two Mary, with a salary of £20 a-year. hundred verses of Sophocles or Euripides every Soon after his admission to his new employafternoon. He read with him likewise some of ment, he gave an extraordinary specimen of his the orations of Demosthenes. On the other abilities and diligence, by composing and trandays be compiled the letters of business, and in scribing with his usual elegance, in three days, the night filled up his diary, digested bis re- forty-seven letters to princes and personages, of marks, and wrote private letters to his friends wbom cardinals were the lowest. in England, and particularly to those of his col- How Ascham, who was known to be a Prolege, whom he continually exhorted to perseve testant, could preserve the favour of Gardiner, rance in study. Amidst all the pleasures of and hold a place of honour and profit in Queen novelty which his travels supplied, and in the Mary's court, it must be very natural to inquire. dignity of his public station, he preferred the Cheke, as is well known, was compelled to a retranquillity of private study, and the quiet of cantation; and why Ascham was spared, canacademical retirement. The reasonableness of not now be discovered. Graunt, at the time this choice has been always disputed ; and in when the transactions of Queen Mary's reign the contrariety of human interests and disposi- must have been well enough remembered, detions, the controversy will not easily be decided. clares that Ascham always made open profession

He made a short excursion into Italy, and of the reformed religion, and that Englesfield mentions in his “ Schoolmaster” with great and others often endeavoured to incite Gardiner severity the vices of Venice. He was desirous against him, but found their accusations rejected of visiting Trent while the council were sit- with contempt: yet he allows, that suspicions, ting; but the scantiness of his purse defeated and charges of temporization and compliance his curiosity.

had somewhat sullied his reputation. The auIn this journey he wrote his “ Report and thor of the Biographia Britannica conjectures, Discourse of the Affairs in Germany,” in that he owed his safety to his innocence and which he describes the dispositions and interests usefulness; that it would have been unpopular of the German princes like a man inquisitive to attack a man so little liable to censure, and and judicious, and recounts many particularities that the loss of his pen could not have been which are lost in the mass of general history, easily supplied. But the truth is, that morality in a style which to the ears of that age was un- was never suffered in the days of persecution to doubtedly mellifluous, and which is now a very protect heresy: nor are we sure that Ascham valuable specimen of genuine English.

was more clear from common failings than By the death of King Edward in 1553, the those who suffered more; and whatever might Reformation was stopped, Morisine was recall be his abilities, they were not so necessary, but ed, and Ascham's pension and hopes were at an Gardiner could have easily filled his place with end. He therefore retired to his fellowship in another secretary. Nothing is more vain, than a state of disappointment and despair, which at a distant time to examine the motives of dishis biographer bas endeavoured to express in the crimination and partiality; for the inquirer, deepest strain of plaintive declamation. “He having considered interest and poliey, is obliged was deprived of all bis support,” says Graunt, at last to admit more frequent and more active * stripped of his pension, and cut off from the motives of human conduct, caprice, accident, assistance of his friends, who had now lost and private affections. their influence: so that he had NEC PRÆMIA At that time, if some were punished, many NEC PRÆDIA, neither pension nor estate to sup- were forborne; and of many why should not port him at Cambridge." There is no credit Ascham bappen to be one? He seems to have due to a rhetorician's account either of good or been calm and prudent, and content with that evil. The truth is, that Ascham still had in peace which he was suffered to enjoy; a mode his fellowship all that in the early part of his of behaviour that seldom fails to produce seculife had given bim plenty, and might have lived rity. He had been abroad in the last years of like the other inhabitants of the college, with the King Edward, and had at least given no recent advant ge of more knowledge and hig' er repu- offence. He was certainly, according to bic own opinion, not much in danger ; for in the were indecent to treat with wanton levity the next year he resigned his fellowship, which by memory of a man who shared his frailties with Gardiner's favour he had continued to hold, all, but whose learning or virtues few can attain, though not resident; and married Margaret and by whose excellences many may be im Howe, a young gentlewoman of a good family. proved, while himself only suffered by his

He was distinguished in this reign by the faults. notice of Cardinal Pole, a man of great candour, In the reign of Elizabeth, nothing remarkable learning, and gentleness of manners, and parti- is known to have befallen him, except that, in cularly eminent for his skill in Latin, who 1563, he was invited by Sir Edward Sackville thought highly of Ascham's style; of which it to write the “ Schoolmaster,” a treatise on eduis no inconsiderable proof, that when Pole was cation, upon an occasion which he relates in the desirous of communicating a speech made by beginning of the book. himself as legate, in parliament, to the pope, he This work, though begun with alacrity, in employed Ascham to translate it.

hope of a considerable reward, was interrupted He is said to have been not only protected by by the death of the patron, and afterwards sorthe officers of state, but favoured and counte- rowfully and slowly finished, in the gloom of nanced by the queen herself, so that he had no disappointment, under the pressure of distress. reason of complaint in that reign of turbulence But of the author's disinclination or dejection and persecution : nor was his fortune much there can be found no tokens in the work, which mended, when, in 1558, his pupil Elizabeth is conceived with great vigour, and finished mounted the throne. He was continued in his with great accuracy; and perhaps contains the former employment, with the same stipend : best advice that was ever given for the study of but, though he was daily admitted to the pre- languages. sence of the queen, assisted her private studies, This treatise he completed, but did not puband partook of her diversions; sometimes read lish; for that poverty which in our days drives to her in the learned languages, and sometimes authors so hastily in such numbers to the press, played with her at draughts and chess; he add- in the time of Ascham, I believe, debarred them ed nothing to his twenty pounds a-year but the from it. The printers gave little for a copy, prebend of Westwang in the church of York, and, if we may believe the tale of Raleigh's hiswhich was given him the year following. His tory, were not forward to print what was offortune was therefore not proportionate to the fered them for nothing. Ascham's book, thererank which his offices and reputation gave him, fore, lay unseen in his study, and was at last or to the favour in which he seemed to stand dedicated to Lord Cecil by his widow. with his mistress. Of this parsimonious allot. Ascham never had a robust or vigorous body, ment it is again a hopeless search to inquire the and his excuse for so many hours of diversion reason. The queen was not naturally bounti- was his inability to endure a long continuance ful, and perhaps did not think it necessary to of sedentary thought. In the latter part of his distinguish by any prodigality of kindness a life he found it necessary to forbear any intense man who had formerly deserted her, and whom application of the mind from dinner to bed-time, she might still suspect of serving rather for in- and rose to read and write early in the morning. terest than affection. Graunt exerts his rhe- He was for some years hectically feverish ; and, torical powers in praise of Ascham's disinterest- though he found some alleviation of his distemedness and contempt of money; and declares, per, never obtained a perfect recovery of his that though he was often reproached by his health. The immediate cause of his last sickfriends with neglect of his own interest, he ness was too close application to the composition never would ask any thing, and inflexibly re- of a poem, which he proposed to present to the fused all presents which his office or imagined queen on the day of her accession. To finish interest induced any to offer him. Cambden, this, he forebore to sleep at his accustomed however, imputes the narrowness of his condi- hours, till in December, 1568, he fell sick of a tion to his love of dice and cock-fights: and kind of lingering disease, which Graunt has not Graunt, forgetting himself, allows that Ascham named, nor accurately described. The most was sometimes thrown into agonies by disap- afflictive symptom was want of sleep, which he pointed expectations. It may be easily discovered endeavoured to obtain by the motion of a cradle. from his “Schoolmaster,” that he felt his wants, Growing every day weaker, he found it vain to though he might neglect to supply them; and contend with his distemper, and prepared to die we are left to suspect that he showed his con- with the resignation and piety of a true Christempt of money only by losing at play. If this tian. He was attended on his death-bed by was his practice, we may excuse Elizabeth, Gravet, vicar of St. Sepulchre, and Dr. Nowel, who knew the domestic character of her ser- the learned dean of St. Paul's, who gave ample vants, if she did not give much to him who was testimony to the decency and devotion of Lis lavish of a ilttle.

concluding life. He frequently testified his deHowever be might fail in his economy, it , sire of that dissolution wbich he sonn obtained. His funeral sermon was preached by Dr. | that support which he did not in his life very Nowel.

plenteously procure them. Roger Ascham died in the fifty-third year of Whether he was poor by his own fault, or the his age, at a time when, according to the general fault of others, cannot now be decided; but it course of life, much might yet have been ex- is certain that many have been rich with less pected from him, and when he might have hoped merit. His philological learning would have for much from others : but his abilities and his gained him honour in any country; and among wants were at an end together; and who can us it may justly call for that reverence which determine, whether he was cut off from advan- all nations owe to those who first rouse them tages, or rescued from calamities? He appears from ignorance, and kindle among them the to have been not much qualified for the improve light of literature. Of his manners nothing can ment of his fortune. His disposition was kind be said but from his own testimony, and that of and social ; he delighted in the pleasures of con- his contemporaries. Those who mention him versation, and was probably not much inclined allow him many virtues. His courtesy, benevto business. This may be suspected from the olence, and liberality, are celebrated ; and of paucity of his writings. He has left little be- his piety we have not only the testimony of his hind him; and of that little, nothing was pub- friends, but the evidence of his writings. lished by himself but the “ Toxophilus," and the That bis English works have been so long account of Germany. The“ Schoolmaster” was neglected, is a proof of the uncertainty of liter- printed by his widow; and the epistles were arg fame. He was scarcely known as an aucollected by Graunt, who dedicated them to thor in his own language till Mr. Upton publishQueen Elizabeth, that he might have an oppor-ed his “ Schoolmaster” with learned notes. His tunity of recommending his son, Giles Ascham, other poems were read only by those few who to her patronage. The dedication was not lost : delight in obsolete books ; but as they are now the young man was made, by the queen’s man- collected into one volume, with the addition of date, fellow of a college in Cambridge, where some letters never printed before, the public has he obtained considerable reputation. What was an opportunity of recompensing the injury, and the effect of his widow's dedication to Cecil, is allotting Ascham the reputation due to his not known: it may be hoped that Ascham's knowledge and his eloquence. works obtained for his family, after his decease,


« ElőzőTovább »