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ROGER ASCHAM, an eminent teacher as well as a great writer, has thus won double fame as a man of letters. He acted as classical tutor to Queen Elizabeth, whose fondness for him was very great; and he left behind him two works, which rank high among our English classics.
At Kirby Wiske, near Northallerton in Yorkshire, he was born in 1515, the son of an honest yeoman who acted as steward to the Scroopes. A certain Sir Anthony Wingfield, noticing the studious boy, took him among his own sons, gave him a good education, and in 1530 sent him to St. John's at Cambridge. To the study of Greek—which was just then taking root in our universities—the young student applied himself with such ardour, that he was soon qualified to read Greek lectures to his younger associates. In 1534 he took B.A., and M.A. in 1536. And then he entered on the life of a teacher, for which he was remarkably well qualified. When Cheke resigned in 1544, he was chosen to fill the honourable office of University Orator. One year later, his first great book, T'oxophilus, was published.
This work won for him the kind wishes and cordial sup1545 port of troops of friends, besides the notice of King
Henry, who granted the writer a pension of £10 a
year. Ascham was shortly afterwards chosen to act as private tutor to the Princess Elizabeth. It was a fortunate choice for both the royal girl and the Cambridge man. Fortunate for her, because
her fine intellect was intrusted to the culture of one who knew his profession and loved it well; fortunate for him, because during two happy years (1548–50) he enjoyed the delight of teaching one who loved to learn, and in after days he found, in his submissive and hard-working pupil, a royal mistress, who loved and honoured her Greek master to the last.
The last three years of King Edward's reign (1550–53) Ascham spent in Germany, acting as secretary to Sir Richard Morysine, who was English ambassador at the Imperial Court. His experiences of German life are embodied in a work on that country and court. During these three years of absence his friends at home were endeavouring to do him good. His pension, which had ceased at the death of Henry VIII., was restored, and he received in addition the important office of Latin Secretary to the king.
Upon the accession of Queen Mary a cloud seemed to hang over the fortunes of the scholar, who was a keen Protestant. But the shadows passed. Bishop Gardiner was induced to look kindly on him, and on the strength of his book “Toxophilus,” his pension was doubled, and his appointment as Latin Secretary was renewed. Nor was his college standing altered, for he still held his fellowship, and still wore the honours of Public Orator.
Under the sceptre of Elizabeth his life was a smooth and quiet stream. But it was fast gliding to its rest. Her majesty read Greek and Latin with her honoured tutor for some hours almost every morning, and in the evening they often played at tables or shovel-board together. At last the studies, that he loved so well, proved too much for the scholar's weakened frame. A feverishness, which prevented him from afternoon study and broke his night's rest, had long hung about him. Anxious to finish by New Year's day 1569 a poem, which he was writing in honour of his royal pupil, he began to work at night. Ague seized him, and in a week laid him on his death-bed (December 30, 1568). So old Roger Ascham died, as many of his life's best hours had been spent, in the service of his pupil-queen. When she heard that the kind heart was still in death, whose warmest pulses had throbbed for
WORKS OF ROGER ASCHAM.
her, she cried out, “I would rather have thrown ten thousand pounds into the sea than have lost my Ascham.”
The titles of Ascham's three chief books are here given in full, as a specimen of the way in which the writers of this time named their works. We have, 1. “Toxophilus, the Schole or Partitions of Shootinge, contayned in II. Bookes. Written by Roger Ascham, 1544, and now newly perused. Pleasaunt for all Gentlemen and Yeomen of Englande, for theyr pastime to reade, and profitable for theyr use to followe both in Warre and Peace.” 2. "A Report and Discourse, written by Roger Ascham, of the Affaires and State of Germany, and of the Emperor Charles his Court, during certain
years while the sayd Roger was there.” 3. “The ScholeMaster; or Plain and Perfite Way of teaching Children to Understand, Write, and Speake the Latin Tongue, but specially purposed for the private bringing up of Youth in Jentlemen and Noblemen's Houses."
The Toxophilus is, in many things, a sensible and pleasant book on archery, cast into the form of a dialogue, between a lover of study (Philologus), and a lover of archery (Toxophilus). But, while it very properly insists on the use of out-door recreation to the studious man, it gives an undue prominence to the pastime whose name it bears, and needlessly undervalues some fine old English athletic sports. The language of the book-in the preface he half apologizes for not writing it in Latin-is good honest English prose, pretending to no great elegance, but full of idiomatic strength.
Ascham's greatest work is The Schoolmaster, which was not published until after the author's death. It is noted as being the first important work on Education in our literature. The idea of the book
sprang from a discussion at Cecil's dinner-table at Windsor. Some of the Eton boys having run away from school to escape a flogging, the conversation turned upon this bit of local news; and Ascham spoke out his mind. On the encouragement of Sackville, who sat by, he committed his thoughts to paper, and so the book began. The first section of the work condemns severity in the treatment of the young, while the second develops a new way of
SPECIMEN OF ASCHAM'S STYLE.
teaching Latin, without putting the pupils through the preparatory drudgery of mastering the details of the grammar.
Ascham's work on Germany gives, besides much political information, some curious pictures of the Emperor and his court, which are valuable as being sketched by an eye-witness.
EXTRACT FROM "THE SCHOOLMASTER” OF ASCHAM.
Before I went into Germany, I came to Broadgate in Leicestershire, to take my leave of that noble Lady Jane Grey, to whom I was exceeding much beholden. Her parents, the duke and duchess, with all the household, gentlemen and gentlewomen, were hunting in the park. I found her in her chamber reading Phedon Platonis in Greek, and that with as much delight as some gentle. men would read a merry tale in Bocace. After salutation and duty done, with some other talk, I asked her why she would lose such pastime in the park? Smiling, she answered me: “I wiss, all their sport in the park is but a shadow to that pleasure that I find in Plato. Alas! good folk, they never felt what true pleasure meant.” “And how came you, madam," quoth I, “to this deep knowledge of pleasure ? And what did chiefly allure you unto it, seeing not many women, but very few men, have attained thereunto ?” “I will tell you," quoth she, “and tell you a truth which, perchance, ye will marvel at. One of the greatest benefits that ever God gave me, is, that he sent me so sharp and severe parents, and so gentle a schoolmaster. For when I am in presence either of father or mother, whether I speak, keep silence, sit, stand, or go, eat, drink, be merry or sad, be sewing, playing, dancing, or doing anything else, I must do it, as it were in such weight, measure, and number, even so perfectly as God made the world, or else I am so sharply taunted, so cruelly threatened, yea, presently, sometimes with pinches, nips, and bobs, and other ways which I will not name for the honour I bear them, so without measure misordered, that I think myself in hell, till time come that I must go to Mr. Elmer; who teacheth me so gently, so pleasantly, with such fair allurements to learning, that I think all the time nothing, whiles I am with him."
GEORGE BUCHANAN has been styled the Scottish Virgil from the elegance of his Latin verse, in which among moderns he stands unrivalled, at least by any writer of British birth. Nor is his Latin
prose much inferior in vigour and in flow. Born in Dumbartonshire in 1506, he passed, after a poor and struggling boybood, to the University of Paris, where he was supported by the kindness of his uncle, James Heriot. But in less than two years the death of this good friend flung him upon the world, sick and poor. Returning to Scotland, he joined a Scottish army that was marching into England; but the hardships of a soldier's life once more laid him on a sick-bed. When restored to health, he went to college at St. Andrews, graduated there, and went again to France, where he completed his academic course at Paris. About the age of twenty-three he was chosen professor in the College of St. Barbe, and then began his teaching life.
Having acted for five years as tutor to the young Earl of Cassilis, who lodged near St. Barbe, Buchanan returned with his pupil to his native land. His growing reputation as a teacher won for him the notice of James V. who intrusted one of his own natural sons to his care. This office he continued to fill until his poetic satires upon the vices of the friars, especially the poem called Franciscanus, drew upon him the fiery wrath of the clergy. Charged with holding the Lutheran heresy-he really had caught the flame in Paris—he was arrested; and but for