Imatges de pàgina

Æsop, read and explained by thyself, than if thou shouldst hear the whole Iliad expounded in Latin by the learnedest man now living. Peruse Pliny, in which author is the greatest knowledge of things, along with the most florid opulence of Latin speech."*

in this letter we may notice, first, the testimonial to the beauty of Ascham's penmanship, which proved a principal means of his advanceinent : secondly, a proof that he was actually engaged in the tuition of boys : thirdly, that in his plans, both for his own improvement, and for that of his pupils, he diverged from the common routine of lectures : fourthly, that his friend, well discerning the bent and purpose of his genius, urged him to proceed with those humane and elegant studies, on which some austerer judgments looked with an evil eye. From one passage of this epistle, a biographer bas observed that “Mr. Robert Pember advised him to learn instrumental music, which would prove a very agreeable entertainment to him after his severer studies, and was easy to be attained by him, as he was already a great master of vocal music.” It is certainly very possible, that Pember

may have given him such advice, but it is nevertheless certain, that he does not give it in the letter in question. There is no allusion at recreation at all. The whole drift of the writer is an exhortation to perseverance in a course of study already commenced. I

* I wish young scholars paid attention to this recommendation. Pliny is never read at school, and very seldom at college ; yet I have the high authority of Southey for saying, that he is the most instructive of all the Roman authors. The extent of his knowledge is almost marvelous; his veracity, where he speaks from personal observation, is daily approved by niodern experiment and discovery; and even his credulity adds to his value, by disclosing more fully the actual state of physical science in his age and country. It is surely quite as interesting to know what properties the passions or the imaginations of men have ascribed to a plant or animal, as to count its stamina and petals. or ascertain the number of its verte.

Both are very useful. But the highest recommendation of Pliny is his moral wisdom, his almost Christian piety, his intelligent humanity. Of all the Romans he was the least of a Roman, and approximated nearest to the pure idea of man.

1 The importance of good penmanship is still appreciated by the English government. In 1954, Viscount Palmerston, then Home Secretary, caused a letter to be addressed to the Seco retary of the Privy Council on Education, in which he submits " for their Lordships consideration that one great fault in the system of instruction in the schools of the country lies in the want of proper teaching in the art of whiting. The great bulk of the middle and lower orders write hands too small and indistinct, and do not form their letters; or they sometimes form them by alternate broad and fine strokes, which makes the words difficult to read. The hand writing which was generally practised in the early part and middle of the last century was far beiter than that now in common use; and Lord Palmerston would suggest that it would be very desirable that the attention of schoolmasters should be directed to this subject, and that their pupils should be taught rather to imitate broad printing than tine copper-plate engraving."

1 The words of the original are—"Da operam, ut sis perfectus, non Stoicus, allà Avpikos, ut belle pulses lyram." No doubt in the same sense that Socrates was commanded by the Oracle to make music; or, to appeal to a far higher authority, as David “shewed a dark speech on the harp," i. e. opened and exalted the understanding by the aid of the imagination S.T. Coleridge remarks on this note of his son Hartley,-neither has Hartley caught the true meaning of the words allà Avoikos, as opposed 10 Stoicus. The Stoicus-the sovereignty of the highest by the sacrifice of the inferior; I.yricus, the whole as a beautiful one, by harmonious subordination.


So far was Ascham from devoting himself to music with that in. tensity which Pember has been supposed to recommend, that he appears to have had no manner of taste, but rather a platonic antipathy for it, even as an amusement. Nor would he be well pleased with the present course of education in his University, if we judge by the sentiments which he expresses in his Schoolmaster, and Toxophilus.

"Some wits, moderate enough by nature, be many times marred by over much study and use of some sciences, namely, music, arithmetic, and geometry. These sciences, as they sharpen men's wits over much, so they, charge men's manners over sore, if they be not moderately mingled, and wisely applied to some good use of life. Mark all mathematical heads, which be wholly and only bent to those sciences, how solitary they be themselves, how unapt to serve in the world. This is not only known by common experience, but uttered long before by wise men's judgment and sentence. Galen saith, much music marreth men's manners, and Plato' hath a notable place of the same thing, and excellently translated by Tully himself. Of this matter I wrote once more at large, twenty years ago, in my book of shooting.” The passage of the Toxophilus referred to, is as follows:-“ Whatsoever ye judge, this I am sure, that lutes, harps, barbitons, sambukes, and other instruments, every one which standeth by quick and fine fingering, be condemned of Aristotle, as not to be brought in and used among them, which study for learning and virtue. Much music marreth men's manners, saith Galen. Although some men will say that it doth not so, but rather recreateth and maketh quick a man's mind, yet methinks, by reason it doth, as honey doth to a man's stomach, which at the first receiveth it well; but afterwards it maketh it unfit to abide any strong nourishing meat, or else any wholesome sharp and quick drink; and, even so in a manner, these instruments make a man's wit so soft and smooth, so tender and queasy, that they be less able to brook strong and rough study. Wits be not sharpened, but rather made blunt, with such soft sweetness, even as good edges be blunted, which men whet upon soft chalk-stones.”

These opinions require considerable limitation. Music is so high a delight to such as are really capable of enjoying it, that there is some danger of its encroaching too much upon the student's time, and it is frequently a passport to very undesirable company; but if these evils be avoided, its effects on the mind are extremely salutary and refreshing. Nothing calms the spirit more sweetly than sad music; nothing quickens cogitation like a lively air. But the truth was, that honest Roger had no ear, and like a true Englishman of an age when Kings

were wrestlers, and queens not only presided at tournaments, but “ rained influence" upon bear baitings, delighted rather in muscular exertion than in fine fingering. That the practice of music no way impairs the faculty of severe thought, is sufficiently evinced by the fact that Milton was a skillful musician,* and that most of the German philosophers of the present day, who in mental industry excel the whole world, play on some instrument. Mathematical pursuits are so far from disqualifying men for business, that of all others they are most necessary to such as are intended for public life. Be it as it may, with music and mathematics, it is certain that Ascham did teach Greek and Latin with eminent success.

It must be an affair of delicate management to teach Greek to a princess ; but Ascham had a love and a genius for teaching, and Elizabeth possessed in an extraordinary degree the facility of her sex in learning languages. She had then little or no expectation of reigning. Her situation was one of peculiar difficulty: she needed a spirit at once firm and yielding; and displayed in earliest youth a circumspection and self-control in which her latter years were deficient. Ascham found her a most agreeable pupil; and the diligence, docility, modest affection, and self-respective deference of the royal maiden, endeared an office which the sby scholar had not undertaken without fears and misgivings. His epistles to his friends are full of the princess' commendations and his own satisfaction; and in his later works he refers to this part of his life with honest pride. In this happy strain he writes to John Sturmius, of Strasburg :-" If you wish to know how I am thriving at Court, you may assure yourself that I had never more blessed leisure in my college than now in the palace. The Lady Elizabeth and I are studying together, in the original Greek, the crown orations of Demosthenes and Æschines. She reads her lessons to me, and at one glance so completely comprehends, not only the idiom of the language and the sense of the orator, but the exact bearings of the cause, and the public acts, manners, and usages of the Athenian people, that you would marvel to behold her.” In like temper he told Aylmer, afterward Bishop of London, that he learned more of the Lady Elizabeth than she did of him. “I teach her words," said he, “and she teaches me things. I teach her the tougues to speak, and her modest and maidenly looks teach me works to do; for I think she is the best disposed of any in Europe.” In several of his Latin epistles, and also in his “Schoolmaster,” he explains and recommends his mode of instructing the princess with evident exultation at * Much music is Galen's phrase, and see the last lines of Milton's sonnet

He who of these delights can judge, and
To interpose them oft, is not unwise.


his success.

It was the same method of double translation pursued with such distinguished results in the tuition of the young sovereign, by Sir John Cheke, from whom Ascham adopted it: and, indeed, like many of the best discoveries, it seems so simple that we wonder how it ever could be missed, and so excellent, that we know not why it is so little practiced. It had, indeed, been suggested by the younger Pliny, in an epistle to Fuscus, and by Cicero, in his Dialogue de Oratore. “Pliny,” saith Roger, “expresses many good ways for order in study, but beginneth with translation, and preferreth it to all the rest. But a better and nearer example herein may be our noble Queen Elizabeth, who never yet took Greek nor Latin grammar in her hand after the first declining of a noun and a verb; but only by this double translating of Demosthenes and Isocrates daily without missing, every forenoon, and likewise some part of Tully every afternoon, for the space of a year or two, hath attained to such perfect understanding in both the tongues, and to such a ready utterance in the Latin, and that with such a judgment, as they be few in number in both Universities, or elsewhere in England, that be in both tongues comparable to her Majesty." And so in an epistle to Sturmius :-“ It is almost incredi-. ble to how excellent an understanding both of Greek and Latin I myself conducted our sacred Lady Elizabeth by this same double translation, constantly and in brief time delivered in writing.” In the same letter he insists upon the pupil making the translations with his or her own hand, proprio, non alieno stylo, whence it may be concluded that Elizabeth was her own amanuensis on these occasions. We may

well allow a teacher to be a little rapturous about the proficiency of a lady, a queen, and his own pupil; but after all due abatements, the testimony remains unshaken both to the talent of the learner, and the efficiency of the system of instruction.

For two years the most perfect harmony subsisted between Elizabeth and her preceptor. The intervals of study were occasionally relieved with chess, at which Ascham is said to have been an adept. It is to be hoped that he had too much prudence and gallantry to beat the Lady oftener than was necessary to convince her that he always played his best. True, the royal virgin was not then Queen, or even presumptive heir; but no wise man would take the conceit out of a chess-player, that stood within the hundredth degree of relationship to the throne. Elizabeth was not the only distinguished female whose classical studies were assisted by our author; he taught Latin to Anne, Countess of Pembroke, to whom he addressed two letters in that language, still extant.

The court of the young Edward was filled with lovers of learning,

in whose society and patronage Ascham enjoyed himself fully, as Sir John Cheke his old friend, Lord Paget, Sir William Cecil, and the Chancellor Wriothesly. He had a share in the education of the two Brandons, and he partook the favor of the youthful King, who honoring knowledge, and all its professors, must have especially esteemed it in the instructor of his Lady Temper, as the amiable boy used to call his favorite sister. It was at this period that he became acquainted with the lovely Jane Grey, a creature whose memory should singly put to rout the vulgar prejudice against female erudition.

At the end of two years, however, upon a disgust he felt at the conduct of some of the princes's attendants, he suddenly threw up his appointment, and retired to his college. He afterward had reason to regret the precipitancy of his conduct, which was, perhaps, never entirely forgotten, though he succeeded in a great measure in regaining the favor of Elizabeth.

Returning to his duties, as public orator at Cambridge, he still retained his pension, and the confidence of the worthiest persons about court. His interest must have been very considerable, it, as Lloyd quaintly expresses it, “ he hindered those who had dined on the church from supping on the universities;" He was certainly esteemed by Elizabeth, and of her he spoke with enthusiasm to his latest day, not without a pleasing consciousness of his own services in making her what she was. Thus, in the “Schoolmaster,” bis latest work, he makes her perfections a reproach to all her male subjects. your shame, (I speak to you all, you young gentlemen of England,) that one maid should go beyond ye all in excellency of learning, and knowledge of divers tongues. Point out six of the best given gentlemen of this court, and all they together show not so much good will, bestow not so many hours daily, orderly, and constantly, for the increase of learning and knowledge, as doth the queen's Majesty herself. Yes, I believe that besides hier perfect readiness in Latin, Italian, French, and Spanish, she readeth now at Windsor more Greek every day than some prebendary of this church doth Latin in a whole week. Amongst all the benefits which God hath blessed me withal, next the knowledge of Christ's true religion, I count this the greatest, that it pleased God to call me to be one poor minister in setting forward there excellent gifts of learning."

In excuse, however, of “the six best given gentlemen," it should be stated, that the learning of languages is emphatically a female talent, bearing a much larger ratio to general ability in woman than in

Yet who can but admire the indefatigable intellect of the renowned queen, harassed in youth with peril and persecution, and

“ It is


« AnteriorContinua »