Imatges de pÓgina


Also for manners and life, hard wits commonly are hardly carried, either to desire every new thing, or else to marvel at every strange thing. And therefore they be careful and diligent in their own matters, not curious and busy in other men's affairs; and so they become wise themselves, and also are counted honest by others. They be grave, steadfast, silent of tongue, secret of heart; not lasty in making, but constant in keeping any promise; not rash in uttering, but wary in considering every matter; and thereby not quick in speaking, but deep of judgment, whether they write or give counsel in all weighty affairs. And these be the men that become in the end both most happy for themselves, and also always best esteemed abroad in the world.

I have been longer in describing the nature, the good or ill success of the quick and hard wits, than perchance some will think this place and matter, doth require. But my purpose was hereby plainly to utter what injury is offered to all learning, and to the commonwealth also, first by the fond father in choosing, but chiefly by the lewd* schoolmaster in beating and driving away the best natures from learning. A child that is still, silent, constant, and somewhat hard of wit, is either never chosen by the father to be made a scholar, or else when he cometh to the school, he is smally regarded, little looked unto; he lacketh teaching, he lacketh encouraging, he lacketh all things; only he never lacketh beating, nor any word that may move him to hate learning, nor any deed that may drive him from learning to any other kind of living.

And when this sad-natured, and hard-witted child is beat from his book, and becometh after either student of the common law, or page in the court, or serving-man, or bound prentice to a merchant, or to some handicraft, he proveth in the end wiser, happier, and many times honester too, than many of these quick wits do by their learning.

Learning is both hindered and injured too by the ill choice of them that send young scholars to the universities, of wbom must needs come all our divines, lawyers, and physicians.

These young scholars be chosen commonly, as young apples be chosen by children in a fair garden, about St. James tide. A child will choose a sweeting, because it is presently fair and pleasant, and refuse a runnet, because it is then green, hard, and sour; when the one, if it be eaten, doth breed both worms and ill humors; the other, if it stand his time, be ordered and kept as it should, is wholesome of itself, and helpeth to the good digestion of other meats. Sweetings will receive worms, rot, and die on the tree, and never or seldom come to the gathering for good and lasting store.

For very grief of heart I will not apply the similitude; but hereby is plainly seen, how learning is robbed of the best wits, first, by the great beating, and after by the ill-choosing of scholars to go to the universities: whereof cometh partly that lewd and spiteful proverb, sounding to the great hurt of learning, and shame of learned men, that 'the greatest clerks be not the wisest men.'

And though I, in all this discourse, seem plainly to prefer hard and rough wits, before quick and light wits, both for learning and manners; yet I am not ignorant that some quickness of wit is a singular gift of God, and so most rare among men: and, namely, such a wit as is quick without lightness, sharp without brittleness, desirous of good things without newfangleness, diligent in painful things without wearisomeness, and constant in good will to do all things well; as I know was

* i. e. The intemperate. .

in Sir John Cheke, and is in some that yet live, in whom all these fair qualities of wit are fully met together.

But it is notable and true, that Socrates saith in Plato to his friend Phædo, That that number of men is fewest, which far exceed, either in good or ill, in wisdom or folly; but the mean betwixt both be the greatest number.' Which he proveth true in divers other things; as in greyhounds, amongst which few are found exceeding great, or exceeding little, exceeding swift, or exceeding slow. And, therefore, speaking of quick and hard wits, I meant the common number of quick and hard wits; amongst the which, for the most part, the hard wit proveth many times the better learned, wiser, and honester man. And therefore do I the more lament that such wits commonly be either kept from learning by fond fathers, or beat from learning by lewd schoolmasters."

The author proceeds to say that he might here declare "the most special notes of a good wit for learning in a child, after the manner and custom of a good horseman, who is skillful to know, and able to tell others, how by certain sure signs a man may choose a colt that is like to prove another day excellent for the saddle." “And it is a pity,” he adds, with keen and Indignant sarcasm, " that commonly more care is had, yea and that among very wise men, to find out rather a cunning man for their horse, than a cunning man for their children. They say nay in a word, but they do so in deed; for to the one they will gladly give a stipend of two hundred crowns by the year, and loth to offer to the other two hundred shillings. God that sitteth in heaven laugheth their choice to scorn, and rewardeth their liberality as it should. For he suffereth them to have tame and well-ordered horses, but wild and unfortunate children; and therefore in the end they find more pleasure in their horses, than comfort in their children."

Instead, however, of giving his own opinion as to the true marks of promise in a child, he prefers reporting "the judgment of him that was counted the best teacher and wisest man that learning maketh mention of," namely Socrates, as his words are recorded by Plato, in the seventh book of his Republic. From what Socrates says, he extracts “ seven true notes of a good wit," which he explains in succession.

"First, the child must be 'Evduns, that is, “apt by goodness of wit, and appliable by readiness of will

, to learning, having all other qualities of the mind and parts of the body, that must another day serve learning." Among such qualifications, Ascham lays great stress upon a comely countenance and a goodly stature; and he laments that fathers, when out of several sons they have one that is lame or deformed, are too apt to put that one to learning, “as good enough to become a scholar.” He hints that the civil magistrate ought to interfere to prevent this abuse.

Secondly, the child ought to be Mvnzwy, which he intreprets "good for memory." This he says is "so principal a note, as without it all other gifts of nature do small service to learning." "And though,” he adds, "it be the mere gift of nature, yet is memory well preserved by use, and much increased by order, as our scholar must learn another day in the University. But in a child a good memory is well known by three properties; that is, if it be quick in receiving, sure in keeping, and ready in delivering forth again."

The third note is that he be Milovaons, that is, “given to love learning, for though a child have all the gifts of nature at wish, and perfection of memory at will, yet if he have not a special love to learning he shall never attain to much learning.” “Isocrates," he adds, " did cause to be written at the entry of his school in golden letters this golden sentence, 'Εάν δε φιλομαθής έση πολυμαθής : which excellently said in Greek, is thus rudely in English: "If thou love learning, thou shalt attain to much learning."

Fourthly, the child should be Didónovos, that is, should have "a lust to labor, and a will to take pains; for if a child have all the benefits of nature, with perfection of memory, love, life, and praise learning never so much ; yet if he be not of himself painful, he shall never attain unto it. And yet where love is present, labor is seldom absent, and namely in study of learning, and matter of the mind.

Fifthly, he must be pianxoos, that is, “glad to hear and learn of another; for otherwise he shall stick with great trouble, where he might go easily forward; and also catch hardly a very little by his own toil, when he might gather quickly a good deal by another man's teaching."

The sixth mark is that he be ZOTITIKÒS, that is, “naturally bold to ask any. question, desirous to search out any doubt; not ashamed to learn of the meanest, nor afraid to go to the greatest, until he be perfectly taught and fully satisfied."

Lastly, the author (employing, however, a word which is not in Plato) enumerates as one of the characteristics demanded in the child by Socrates, that he be Pidéraivos, that is, one "that loveth to be praised for well doing at his father or master's band."

"And thus," he concludes, " by Socrates' judgment, a good father and a wise schoolmaster should choose a child to make a scholar of, that hath by nature the foresaid perfect qualities and comely furniture both of mind and body; hath memory quick to receive, sure to keep and ready to deliver; hath love to learning; hath lust to labor; hath desire to learn of others; hath boldness to ask any question; hath mind wholly bent to win praise by well doing. The two first of these qualities he considers to be special benefits of nature, yet to be preserved and much increased by discipline. The five last are to be wholly won and maintained by the wisdom and discretion of the schoolmaster. "Which five points," he proceeds, "whether a schoolmaster shall work sooner in a child by fearful beating, or courteous handling, you that be wise, judge.

Yet some men, wise indeed, but, in this matter, more by severity of nature than any wisdom at all, do laugh at us when we thus wish and reason, that young children should rather be allured to learning by gentleness and love, than compelled to learning by beating and fear. They say, only to breed forth talk, and pass away the time; but we never saw good schoolmasters do so, nor never read of wise men that thought so."

In opposition to this doctrine, Ascham quotes from Plato the precept of So. crates, that no learning ought to be learnt with bondage. “And why ?” he adds of himself, "For whatsoever the mind doth learn unwillingly with fear, the same it doth gladly forget without care." He goes on to show that it is expressly of the teaching of children that Socrates in the passage quoted speaks. He then proceeds as follows:

“Fond schoolmasters neither can understand, nor will follow this good counsel of Socrates; but wise riders in their office can, and will do both; which is the only cause that commonly the young gentlemen of England go so unwil.

our reasons serve

lingly to school, and run so fast to the stable. For in very deed, fond schoolmasters by fear do beat into them the hatred for learning; and wise riders, by gentle allurements, do breed up in them the love of riding. They find fear and bondage in schools, they feel liberty and freedom in stables; which causes them utterly to abhor the one, and most gladly to haunt the other. And I do not write this, that in exhorting to the one, I would dissuade young gentlemen from the other: yea I am sorry with all my heart that they be given no more to riding than they be. For of all outward qualities, to ride fair is most comely for himself, most necessary for his country; and the greater he is in blood, the greater is his praise, the more he doth exceed all other therein. It was one of the three excellent praises amongst the noble gentlemen, the old Persians: 'Always to say truth, to ride fair, and shoot well;' and so it was engraven upon Darius' tomb, as Strabo witnesseth:

Darius the king lieth buried here,
Who in riding and shooting had never peer."

He next takes up an objection which may be brought against his argument :

“Yet some will say that children of nature love pastime, and mislike learning, because in their kind the one is easy and pleasant, the other hard and wearisome. Which is an opinion not so true as some men ween. For the matter lieth not so much in the disposition of them that be young, as in the order and manner of bringing up by them that be old; nor yet in the difference of learning and pastime. For beat a child if he dance not well, and cherish him though he learn not well, ye shall have him unwilling to go to dance, and glad to go to his book; knock him always when he draweth his shaft ill, and favor him again though he fault at his book, ye shall have him very loth to be in the field, and very willing to go to school. Yea, I say more, and not of myself, but by the judgment of those, from whom few wise men will gladly dissent,—that if ever the nature of man be given at any time, more than other, to receive goodness, it is in innocency of young years, before that experience of evil haven taken root in him. For the pure clean wit of a sweet young babe is like the newest wax, most able to receive the best and fairest printing; and like a new bright silver dish never occupied, to receive and keep clean any good thing that is put into it."

Some further illustration follows of the facility with which impressions, whether good or evil, may be made upon the youthful mind; and then comes a passage too interesting not to be given in full :

“And one example, whether love or fear doth work more in a child for virtue and learning, I will gladly report, which may be heard with some pleasure, and followed with more profit.

Before I went into Germany, I came to Brodogate 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 “Phædo Platonis,' in Greek, and that with as much delight as somo gentlemen would read a merry tale in Boccace. 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 wist, 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 severest parents, and so gentle a schoolmaster. For when I am in presence either 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 honor 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 suchi fair allurements to learning, that I think all the time nothing while I am with him. And when I am called from him, I fall on weeping, because whatsoever I do else, but learning, is full of grief, trouble, fear, and whole misliking unto me. And thus my book hath been so much my pleasure, and bringeth daily to me more pleasure and more, that in respect of it all other pleasures in very deed be but trifles and troubles unto me.'

I remember this talk gladly, both because it is so worthy of memory, and because also it was the last talk that ever I had, and the last time that ever I saw that noble and worthy lady."

For a perfect discussion of this part of his subject, Ascham refers the reader to the treatise “De Institutione Principis," (On the Education of a Prince) addressed by his friend John Sturmius to the Duke of Cleves. Although, however, he is for the use of gentleness rather than severity in the instruction of youth at school, he does not dispute the necessity of sharp chastisement by parents for correcting vicious habits in their children.

This discipline was well known and dilligently used among the Grecians and old Romans; as doth appear in Aristophanes, Isocrates, and Plato, and also in the commedies of Plautus; where we see that children were under the rule of three persons, a schoolmaster, governor, and father. The schoolmaster taught him learning with all gentleness; the governor corrected his manners with much sharpness; the father held the stern of his whole obedience. And so he that used to teach did not commonly use to beat, but remitted that over to another man's charge. But what shall we say, when now in our days the schoolmaster is used both for preceptor in learning, and pædagogus in manners ? Surely, I would he should not confound their offices, but discreetly use the duty of both, so that neither ill touches should be left unpunished, nor gentleness in teaching anywise omitted. And he shall well do both, if wisely ho do appoint diversity of time, and separate place, for either purpose; using always such discreet moderation, as the school-house should be counted a sanctuary against fear; and very well learning a common pardon for ill doing, if the fault of itself be not over heinous.'"

The author considers the second great fault of English education in his time to be the license that was allowed to young men after leaving school. He contrasts with the prevailing manners, the more strict discipline of wise antiquity, when, for instance, “no son, were he never so old in years, nover so great in birth, though he were a king's son, might marry but by his father's

« AnteriorContinua »