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verbal, but merely literal, are too minute for popular narration.
He was not less eminent as a writer of Latin, than as a teacher of Greek. All the public letters of the university were of his composition; and as little qualifications must often bring great abilities into notice, he was recommended to this honourable employment not less by the neatness of his hand, than the elegance of his style.
However great was his learning, he was not always immured in his chamber; but, being valetudinary, and weak of body, thought it necessary to spend many hours in such exercises as might best relieve him after the fatigue of study. His favourite amusement was archery, in which he spent, or, in the opinion of others, lost so much time, that those whom either his faults or virtues made his enemies, and perhaps some whose kindness wished him always worthily employed, did not scruple to censure his practice, as unsuitable to a man professing learning, and perhaps of bad example in a place of education.
To free himself from this censure was one of the reasons for which he published, in 1544, his "Toxophilus, or the schole or partitions of shooting," in which he joins the praise with the precepts of archery. He designed not only to teach the art of shooting, but to give an example of diction more natural and more truly English than was used by the common writers of that age, whom he censures for mingling exotic terms with their native language, and of whom he complains, that they were made authors, not by skill or education, but by arrogance and temerity.
He has not failed in either of his purposes. He has sufficiently vindicated archery as an innocent, salutary, useful, and liberal diversion; and if his precepts are of no great use, he has only shown, by one example among many, how little the hand can derive from the mind, how little intelligence can conduce to dexterity. In every art, practice is much; in arts manual, practice is almost the whole. Precept can at most but warn against error: it can never bestow excellence.
more practice to skilful use than any other instrument of offence.
Fire-arms were then in their infancy; and though battering-pieces had been some time in use, I know not whether any soldiers were armed with hand-guns when the "Toxophilus" was first published. They were soon after used by the Spanish troops, whom other nations made haste to imitate: but how little they could yet effect, will be understood from the account given by the ingenious author of the "Exercise for the Norfolk Militia.”
"The first muskets were very heavy, and could not be fired without a rest; they had match-locks, and barrels of a wide bore, that carried a large ball and charge of powder, and did execution at a greater distance.
"The musketeers on a march carried only their rests and ammunition, and had boys to bear their muskets after them, for which they were allowed great additional pay.
"They were very slow in loading, not only by reason of the unwieldiness of the pieces, and because they carried the powder and balls separate, but from the time it took to prepare and adjust the match; so that their fire was not near so brisk as ours is now. Afterwards a lighter kind of matchlock musket came into use, and they carried their ammunition in bandeliers, which were broad belts that came over the shoulder, to which were hung several little cases of wood covered with leather, each containing a charge of powder; the balls they carried loose in a pouch; and they had also a priming-horn hanging by their side.
“The old English writers call those large muskets calivers: the harquebuze was a lighter piece, that could be fired without a rest. The matchlock was fired by a match fixed by a kind of tongs in the serpentine or cock, which, by pulling the trigger, was brought down with great quickness upon the priming in the pan : over which there was a sliding cover, which was drawn back by the hand just at the time of firing. There was a great deal of nicety and care required to fit the match properly to the cock, so as to come down exactly true on the priming, to blow the ashes from the coal, and to guard the pan from the sparks that fell from it. A great deal of time was also lost in taking it out of the cock, and returning it between the fingers of the left hand every time that the piece was fired; and wet weather often rendered the matches useless."
The bow has been so long disused, that most English readers have forgotten its importance, though it was the weapon by which we gained the battle of Agincourt; a weapon which, when handled by English yeomen, no foreign troops were able to resist. We were not only abler of body than the French, and therefore superior in 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, though the musket was
While this was the state of fire-arms, and this
gradually prevailing. Sir John Hayward, a writer yet later, has, in his History of the Norman kings, endeavoured to evince the superiority of the archer to the musketeer: however, in the long peace of King James, the bow was wholly forgotten. Guns have from that time been the weapons of the English, as of other nations, and as they are now improved, are certainly more efficacious.
Ascham had yet another reason, if not for writing his book, at least for presenting it to King Henry. England was not then what it may be now justly termed, the capital of literature; and therefore those who aspired to superior degrees of excellence, thought it necessary to travel into other countries. The purse of Ascham was not equal to the expense of peregrination; and therefore he hoped to have it augmented by a pension. Nor was he wholly disappointed; for the king rewarded him with a yearly payment of ten pounds.
A pension of ten pounds, granted by a king of England to a man of letters, appears to modern readers so contemptible a benefaction, that it is not unworthy of inquiry what might be its value at that time, and how much Ascham might be enriched by it. Nothing is more uncertain than the estimation of wealth by denominated money; the precious metals never retain long the same proportion to real commodities, 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 whatcham, 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 master of the Princess Elizabeth, died, and the princess, who had already some acquaintance with Ascham, called him from his college to direct her studies. He obeyed the summons, as we may easily believe, with readiness, and for two years instructed her with great diligence; but then, being disgusted either at her or her domestics, perhaps eager for another change of life, he left her without her consent, and returned to the university. Of this precipitation he long repented; and, as those who are not accustomed to disrespect cannot easily forgive it, he probably felt the effects of his imprudence to his death.
After having visited Cambridge, he took a journey into Yorkshire, to see his native place, and his old acquaintance, and there received a letter from the court, informing him, that he was appointed secretary to Sir Richard Morisine, who was to be despatched as ambassador into Germany. In his return to London be paid that memorable visit to Lady Jane Gray, in which he found her reading the Phadu, in Greek, as he has related in his School-mas!er.
A numeral pound in King Henry's time contained, as now, twenty shillings; and therefore it must be inquired what twenty shillings could perform. Bread-corn is the most certain standard of the necessaries of life. Wheat was generally sold at that time for one shilling the bushel; if therefore we take five shillings the bushel for the current price, ten pounds were equivalent to fifty. But here is danger of a fallacy. It may be doubted whether wheat was the general bread-corn of that age; and if rye, barley, or oats, were the common food, and wheat, as I suspect, only a delicacy, the value of wheat will not regulate the price of other things. This doubt, however, is in favour of Ascham; for if we raise the worth of wheat, we raise that of his pension.
but to what they want. In some ages, not only necessaries are cheaper, but fewer things are necessary. In the age of Ascham, most of the elegances and expenses of our present fashions were unknown: commerce had not yet distributed superfluity through the lower classes of the people, and the character of a student implied frugality, and required no splendour to support it. His pension, therefore, reckoning together the wants which he could supply, and the wants from which he was exempt, may be estimated, in my opinion, at more than a hundred pounds a-year; which, added to the income of his fellowship, put him far enough above distress.
This was a year of good fortune to Ascham. He was chosen orator to the university on the removal of Sir John Cheke to court, where he was made tutor to Prince Edward. A man once distinguished soon gains admirers. Ascham was now received to notice by many of the nobility, and by great ladies, among whom it was then the fashion to study the ancient languages. Lee, Archbishop of York, allowed him a yearly pension; how much we are not told. He was probably about this time employed in teaching many illustrious persons to write a fine hand; and among others, Henry and Charles, Dukes of Suffolk, the Princess Elizabeth, and Prince Edward.
But the value of money has another variation, which we are still less able to ascertain: the rules of custom, or the different needs of artificial life, make that revenue little at one time which is great at another. Men are rich and poor, not only in proportion to what they have,
How Ascham, who was known to be a Pro
In September 1550, he attended Morisine to Germany, and wandered over great part of the country, making observations upon all that appeared worthy of his curiosity, and contracting acquaintance with men of learning. To his correspondent Sturmius he paid a visit, but Sturmius was not at home, and those two illustrious friends never saw each other. During the course of this embassy, Ascham undertook to improve Morisine in Greek, and for four days in the week explained some passages in Herodotus every morning, and more than two hundred verses of Sophocles or Euripides every afternoon. He read with him likewise some of the orations of Demosthenes. On the other days he compiled the letters of business, and in the night filled up his diary, digested his remarks, and wrote private letters to his friends in England, and particularly to those of his college, 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 of the reformed religion, and that Englesfield and others often endeavoured to incite Gardiner against him, but found their accusations rejected with contempt: yet he allows, that suspicions, and charges of temporization and compliance had somewhat sullied his reputation. The author of the Biographia Britannica conjectures, that he owed his safety to his innocence and usefulness; that it would have been unpopular to attack a man so little liable to censure, and that the loss of his pen could not have been easily supplied. But the truth is, that morality was never suffered in the days of persecution to protect heresy: nor are we sure that Ascham was more clear from common failings than those who suffered more; and whatever might be his abilities, they were not so necessary, but Gardiner could have easily filled his place with another secretary. Nothing is more vain, than at a distant time to examine the motives of discrimination and partiality; for the inquirer, having considered interest and policy, is obliged at last to admit more frequent and more active motives of human conduct, caprice, accident, and private affections.
He made a short excursion into Italy, and mentions in his "Schoolmaster" with great severity the vices of Venice. He was desirous of visiting Trent while the council were sitting; but the scantiness of his purse defeated his curiosity.
In this journey he wrote his "Report and Discourse of the Affairs in Germany," in which he describes the dispositions and interests of the German princes like a man inquisitive and judicious, and recounts many particularities which are lost in the mass of general history, in a style which to the ears of that age was undoubtedly mellifluous, and which is now a very valuable specimen of genuine English.
By the death of King Edward in 1553, the Reformation was stopped, Morisine was recalled, and Ascham's pension and hopes were at an end. He therefore retired to his fellowship in a state of disappointment and despair, which his biographer has endeavoured to express in the deepest strain of plaintive declamation. "He was deprived of all his support," says Graunt, "stripped of his pension, and cut off from the assistance of his friends, who had now lost their influence: so that he had NEC PREMIA NEC PRÆDIA, neither pension nor estate to support him at Cambridge." There is no credit due to a rhetorician's account either of good or evil. The truth is, that Ascham still had in his fellowship all that in the early part of his life had given him plenty, and might have lived like the other inhabitants of the college, with the advantage of more knowledge and hig! er repu
At that time, if some were punished, many were forborne; and of many why should not Ascham happen to be one? He seems to have been calm and prudent, and content with that peace which he was suffered to enjoy; a mode of behaviour that seldom fails to produce security. He had been abroad in the last years of King Edward, and had at least given no recent offence. He was certainly, according to his
tation. But notwithstanding his love of academical retirement, he had now too long enjoyed the pleasures and festivities of public life, to return with a good will to academical poverty.
He had, however, better fortune than he expected; and, if he lamented his condition like the historian, better than he deserved. He had during his absence in Germany been appointed Latin secretary to King Edward; and by the interest of Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, he was instated in the same office under Philip and Mary, with a salary of £20 a-year.
Soon after his admission to his new employment, he gave an extraordinary specimen of his abilities and diligence, by composing and transcribing with his usual elegance, in three days, forty-seven letters to princes and personages, of whom cardinals were the lowest.
were indecent to treat with wanton levity the memory of a man who shared his frailties with all, but whose learning or virtues few can attain, and by whose excellences many may be im proved, while himself only suffered by his faults.
own opinion, not much in danger; for in the next year he resigned his fellowship, which by Gardiner's favour he had continued to hold, though not resident; and married Margaret Howe, a young gentlewoman of a good family. He was distinguished in this reign by the notice of Cardinal Pole, a man of great candour, learning, and gentleness of manners, and particularly eminent for his skill in Latin, who thought highly of Ascham's style; of which it is no inconsiderable proof, that when Pole was desirous of communicating a speech made by himself as legate, in parliament, to the pope, he employed Ascham to translate it.
In the reign of Elizabeth, nothing remarkable is known to have befallen him, except that, in 1563, he was invited by Sir Edward Sackville to write the "Schoolmaster," a treatise on education, upon an occasion which he relates in the beginning of the book.
This work, though begun with alacrity, in hope of a considerable reward, was interrupted by the death of the patron, and afterwards sorrowfully and slowly finished, in the gloom of disappointment, under the pressure of distress. But of the author's disinclination or dejection there can be found no tokens in the work, which is conceived with great vigour, and finished with great accuracy; and perhaps contains the best advice that was ever given for the study of languages.
He is said to have been not only protected by the officers of state, but favoured and countenanced by the queen herself, so that he had no reason of complaint in that reign of turbulence and persecution: nor was his fortune much mended, when, in 1558, his pupil Elizabeth mounted the throne. He was continued in his former employment, with the same stipend: but, though he was daily admitted to the presence 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 allotment it is again a hopeless search to inquire the reason. The queen was not naturally bountiful, and perhaps did not think it necessary to distinguish by any prodigality of kindness a man who had formerly deserted her, and whom she might still suspect of serving rather for interest than affection. Graunt exerts his rhetorical powers in praise of Ascham's disinterestedness and contempt of money; and declares, that though he was often reproached by his friends with neglect of his own interest, he never would ask any thing, and inflexibly refused all presents which his office or imagined interest induced any to offer him. Cambden, however, imputes the narrowness of his condition to his love of dice and cock-fights: and Graunt, forgetting himself, allows that Ascham was sometimes thrown into agonies by disappointed expectations. It may be easily discovered from his "Schoolmaster," that he felt his wants, though he might neglect to supply them; and we are left to suspect that he showed his contempt of money only by losing at play. If this was his practice, we may excuse Elizabeth, who knew the domestic character of her servants, if she did not give much to him who was lavish of a little.
Ascham never had a robust or vigorous body, and his excuse for so many hours of diversion was his inability to endure a long continuance of sedentary thought. In the latter part of his life he found it necessary to forbear any intense application of the mind from dinner to bed-time, and rose to read and write early in the morning. He was for some years hectically feverish ; and, though he found some alleviation of his distemper, never obtained a perfect recovery of his health. The immediate cause of his last sickness was too close application to the composition of a poem, which he proposed to present to the queen on the day of her accession. To finish this, he forebore to sleep at his accustomed hours, till in December, 1568, he fell sick of a kind of lingering disease, which Graunt has not named, nor accurately described. The most afflictive symptom was want of sleep, which he endeavoured to obtain by the motion of a cradle. Growing every day weaker, he found it vain to contend with his distemper, and prepared to die with the resignation and piety of a true Christian. He was attended on his death-bed by Gravet, vicar of St. Sepulchre, and Dr. Nowel, the learned dean of St. Paul's, who gave ample testimony to the decency and devotion of Lis concluding life. He frequently testified his de
However he might fail in his economy, it sire of that dissolution which he soon obtained.
His funeral sermon was preached by Dr. that support which he did not in his life very Nowel. plenteously procure them.
Whether he was poor by his own fault, or the fault of others, cannot now be decided; but it
Roger Ascham died in the fifty-third year of his age, at a time when, according to the general 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 his 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 ary 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,
END OF THE LIVES OF EMINENT PERSONS.