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cate such an important piece of business. “ But what is it I hear ? Would you keep your engagement close, for fear I should send you a High-Dutch epithalamium ? I am informed that your intended is niece to the wife of Mr. Walop, that was governor of Guisnes when I was at Calais. Ah! but she was an honest madam, a fair and comely dame! If it be so, that you are going to make her your spouse, or
any other in your eye, do let me know, and tell me when the day is to be, that if I can not myself be present at the espousals, I may send Thalassius* to make my compliments to your love in my stead.” Ascham replied,—“As for my wife, she is the picture of her aunt Walop, and all that John Sturmius could wish. the wife of Roger Ascham to be."
The singular good fortune of Ascham in not only escaping persecution, but receiving favor, throughout the troubles of Mary's reign, while his contemporaries at college were either led to the stake, or compelled to recant, is a problem which it would now be difficult to solve. Johnson is willing to attribute it to chance; other biographers imagine that his services were of sufficient importance to protect his life; while all allow that his immunity was at any rate not purchased by any sacrifice of his principles.
On the death of Queen Mary, in 1558, Ascham was soon distinguished by the notice of her successor. He had long before taken pains to erase from Elizabeth's mind any unfavorable impression that might have been produced by his abrupt departure from her service, and his excuses had been favorably received. He was now appointed Latin secretary and tutor in Greek to her Majesty, and during the rest of his life was a constant resident at court. He spent some hours every day in reading Greek and Latin authors with the queen, and often enjoyed the more envied honor of being her partner or opponent in games of chance. He obtained from her several pieces of preferment, the principal of which was the prebend of Wetwang in the cathedral of York, which he received in 1559.
He had the opportunity of frequent interviews with her Majesty, and had the favor to talk Greek and Latin, and play chess with her,openings which a more artful and ambitious man might easily have improved. But the pride or modesty of Roger would not suffer him to ask any thing for himself or others. Indeed he used to boast of his backwardness in this particular, often averring in conversation, that during all the happy hours that he had enjoyed his Lady Sovereign's presence, he never opened his mouth to enrich himself or any that belonged to him; that to serve his mistress well was his best reward;
Thalassius was the Roman nuptial god, as Hymen was the Greek. weddings, in which "Io Thalassie” was perpetually repeated like a burden.
A song was sung at
that he had rather freely win her good opinion than be dressed out in her munificence. The Lord Treasurer, who was his friend and wellwisher, often admonished him to take less pains, and urge more requests. But Ascham was slow even to receive what was offered, and thoroughly content with his condition, which, though moderate, was never, as Anthony à Wood states broadly, and a hundred others have copied from him, miserably poor. He had always sufficient for the day, and was not one of those that lay up store for the morrow. Не was extremely indignant when any one offered him presents to purchase his interest with the Queen, saying, that God had not given him the use of his tongue that it might be venal and subservient to his profit.
His income was narrow, he was neither importunate to get, nor provident to save—his purse and house were always open to the distressed scholar, and whatever was his, was his friends' also. He delighted much in an epigram of Martial
Extra fortunam est quicquid donatur amicis ;
And what you give, shall be for ever yours. This is not the way to grow rich. Roger Ascham was generous, and it may be imprudent; but there is no just cause for supposing him viciously extravagant.
There is little more to relate of the last ten years of his life. Finding his health injured by night-studies, he for a time discontinued them, and became an early riser; but toward the close of 1568 he sat up several nights successively in order to finish a poem addressed to the Queen on the new year. That new year he was never to see. Long subject to fever, and latterly to a lingering hectic, his over-exertion brought on a violent attack which his weakened constitution was unable to withstand. Sleep, which he had too long rejected, could not be persuaded to visit him again, though he was rocked in a cradle; all opiates failed, and in less than a week, exhausted nature gave way to the slumber, from which there is no waking on this side of the grave. He took to his bed on the 28th of December, and expired on the 30th of the same month, 1568, aged fifty-three. He was attended to the last by Dr. Alexander Nowel, Dean of St. Paul's, who, on the ensuing fourth of January, preached his funeral sermon, in which he declares that “he never knew man live more honestly nor die more christianly.” As he had many friends, and no enemies, his death was a common sorrow, and Queen Elizabeth is reported to have said, that " she would rather have thrown ten thousand pounds into the sea, than have lost her Ascham."
Notwithstanding his preferments, Ascham died poor. He left a widow, to whom he had been married in 1554, and several children, one of whom, Giles, was in after-life fellow of St. John's, (or Trinity, according to other authorities,) and celebrated, like his father, for the elegance of his Latin epistles. Ascham's greatest work, “The Scholemaster," was not published until after his death. The occasion of its composition is told in the beginning of the book. After a conversation among a number of eminent men, Sir William Cecil at their head, on the merits of severity and its opposite in school discipline, in which Ascham warmly attacked the former, Sir Richard Sackville took him aside, and avowing that his own education had been marred by the severity of his tutor, proposed that Ascham should draw up a plan of instruction, and recommend a person under whom it could be put in practice, having for his scholars Sir Richard's grandson, and Aschain's eldest boy, Giles. Ascham set about his task with delight; but the death of Sir Richard in 1566, before it was completed, put an end to the proposed scheme, and caused the author to finish his work with a sorrow and beaviness in sad contrast to the high hopes with which he entered upon it. He left the book completed for the press, when he died, and it was published by his widow, with a dedication to Sir William Cecil, and with a view, not altogether disappointed, of attracting his attention in behalf of her son Giles to whom it was thus, after all, of some benefit, although in a far different manner from what the author could have anticipated. The principal object of the work besides the reprehension of severity on the part of teachers and parents, is the introduction of a new system of teaching the Latin language, a system which has been partially revived of late years. Ascham proposes, after teaching the rudiments of grammar, to commence a course of double translation, first from Latin into English, and shortly after from English into Latin, correcting the mistakes of the student, and leading to the formation of a classic style, by pointing out the differences between the re-translation and the original, and explaining their reasons.
His whole system is built upon this principle of dispensing as much as possible with the details of grammar, and he supports his theory by a triumphant reference to its practical effects, especially as displayed in the case of Queen Elizabeth, whose well-known proficiency in Latin he declares to have been attained without any grammatical rules after the very simplest had been mastered.
The excellence of Ascham's epistolary style has been referred to. He was in correspondence with most of the learned men of his time, both in England and on the continent, especially with Sturmius, whose name he gave to one of his three sons. After his death, a collection,
of his Latin letters was published by his friend Edward Grant, magter of Westminster School, together with a few poems, for the benefit of Giles Ascham, who was then under Grant's tuition. To this collection was prefixed a panegyric on Ascham, wbich is the principal source for his life, though his letters, and numerous allusions scattered through his works, contribute to a knowledge of his personal history.
A writer in the Retrospective Review, (Vol. iv. p. 76,) in an interesting notice of Toxophilus remarks : “Ascham is a great name in our national literature. He was one of the founders of a true English style in prose composition, and one of the most respectable and useful of our scholars. He was amongst the first to reject the use of foreign words and idioms, a fashion, which in the reign of Henry the VIII., began to be so prevalent, that the authors of that day, by “using straunge wordes, as Latine, Frenche, and Italian, did make all thinges darke and harde.” It required some virtue moreover in Aschain, attached as he was to the study of the learned languages, to abstain from mingling them with his English compositions, especially when the public taste countenanced such innovations. But Ascham's mind was too patriotic to permit him to think, that his native tongue could be improved by this admixture of foreign phrases, an opinion which he illustrates by this comparison ; —" but if you put malvesye and sacke, redde wyne and white, ale and beere, and all in one pot, you shall make a drincke not easye to be known nor yet holsome for the bodye.” In obedience to the precept of Aristotle,-to think like the wise, but to speak like the common people; Ascham set a successful example of a simple and pure taste in writing, and we question whether we do not owe more to him on this account, than even for the zeal which he displayed in the cultivation of the Greek, language, during its infancy amongst us.”
Ascham's character is well summed up in a passage of his life by Mr. Hartley Coleridge : "There was a primitive honesty, a kindly innocence, about this good old scholar, which gave a personal interest to the homeliest details of his life. He had the rare felicity of passing through the worst of times without persecution and without dishonor. He lived with princes and princesses, prelates and diplomatists, without offence and without ambition. Though he enjoyed the smiles of royalty, his heart was none the worse, and his fortunes little the better."
TOXOPHILUS; THE SCHOLE OF SHOOTINGE.*
BY ROGER ASCRAM, WRITTEN IN 1554.
BEFORE introducing to our readers “the Schole Master" of Queen Elizabeth, or “the plaine and perfite way" in which Roger Ascham led his royal pupil up the sublime heights of ancient learning, we will devote a few pages to a brief notice and a few specimens of his Toxophilus.
ToxOPHILUS was written in 1554, during Ascham's residence at the University of Cambridge, and seems, in addition to other ends, to have been intended as an apology for the zeal with which he studied and practiced the ancient, but now forgotten art of archery as a means of recreation. His great attachment to the exercise, and the time spent upon it were considered unbecoming the character of a grave scholar and teacher.
From this imputation, he endeavors in the character of Toxophilus, (a lover of archery,) to free himself, by showing in a dialogue with Philologus, (a student,) the honor and dignity of the art, in all nations and in all times. He asserts truly that much of the success of English arms at Cressy, Poictiers, Agincourt, and Flodden, was due to their strength of arm and accuracy of eye, with which the bold yeomen of England "drew their arrows to the head," and discharged the “iron sleet" against their discomfited enemies. To realize the part which the practice of archery played in the pastimes of peace, we have only to recall its frequent introduction into the rural poetry of England, and the traditionary stories of the Strongbows and Robin Hoods of ancient days. It was the national practice of shooting for pleasure or prizes, by which every man was inured to archery from his infancy, that gave the English yeomen an insuperable advantage in the use of the bow over all foreign troops, and made them formidable even to foes armed with the clumsy muskets of the times of Queen Elizabeth. We do not propose to set forth Ascham's encomiums on the utility of archery in matters of war, or the minute practical details which he gives for choosing and using the bow, even to the species of goose, from the wing of which the best feathers are to be plucked for the shaft, but to present his views of the fitness and utility of manly sports, and recreating amusements for those who lead a sedentary life. A writer in the Retrospective Review, (Vol. IV., p. 79,) in commenting on this work of Ascham justly observes :
* The following is the title in Bennett's Edition of Roger Ascham's Works:
TOXOPHILUS: The Schole, or Partitions of Shooting. Contayned in II Bookes. Writ. ten by ROGER ASCRAM, 1554. And now newly perused. Pleasant for all Gentlemen and Yomen of Englande. For theyr pastime to reade, and profitable for theyr use to followein warre and peace. Anno, 1571. Imprinted at London, in Fletestreate, wear to Saint Dun. Hones Churche by Thomas Marshe.