« PreviousContinue »
subject scientifically; and the art of composition itself (as we have already scen) was subjected to theoretic rules.
From the reign of Elizabeth, we trace the regular and orderly march of society in improvement; and from this period, to the revo- ' lution, no country has produced a series of more illustrious writers than England. The Chroniclers and historians, disregarding the idle fables of their predecessors, begin to be attentive only to genuine and authentic history; and among the writers of particular treatises, subjects are. discussed of the first importance to human welfare. By these exertions of literary talent the language becomes fixed. There are comparatively few words used by the best writers in this reign, which are not perfectly intelligihle to a modern reader.
Ar the head of these literary worthies, we find the famous Roger Ascham, who was born at Kirby-Wiske, near North Allerton, in Yorkshire, about the year 1515. Before his father's death, he was taken into the family of the Wingfields, and was educated by Mr. Bond, together with his two sons, and at the expence of sir Anthony Wingfield. In this situation, having mastered the elements of the learned languages, he was sent by his generous patron in 1530, to St. John's College, Cambridge, where he early became distinguished. In 1534, when he was only eighteen years of age, he took his degree of bachelor of arts, and was shortly after elected fellow of his own college. At the age of twenty-one, he took his degree of master of arts.
Prior to this, he taught the Greek language, in which he was pre-eminently skilled, both publicly in the university, and privately in his own college. His pupils are said to have made an extraordinary proficiency; and one of them (William Grindal) from his recommendation, was engaged by sir John Cheke, as tutor to the lady Elizabeth.
Ascham was particularly fond of archerya diversion to which he frequently resorted as a relaxation from study. But his conduct, in this respect, exciting the malicious censure of some persons, he defended himself by a small treatise, which he entitled, “Toxophilus,” published in 1544, and dedicated to Henry VIII.
In consequence of this, the king, at the instance of sir William Paget, settled a small pension upon him, which, though discontinued for a time after Henry's death, was at length restored to him by Edward. VI. during pleasure, and also confirmed by Mary, with an addition of ten pounds a year.
The same year in which he published this book, he was chosen university orator in the room of Cheke. On the death of his pupil, Mr. Grindal, in 1548, he was invited to court to become preceptor of the learned languages to the lady Elizabeth -- an office he dis, charged during two years with great credit and satisfaction to himself and his illustrious pupil. But taking umbrage at some ill-founded rumours maliciously propagated against him, he abruptly quitted the court in disgust, returned to the university, and resumed his studies, with his office of public orator.
While he was on a visit to his relations in Yorkshire, in 1550, he was recalled to court, to attend sir Richard Morison, about to depart for Germany as ambassador to Charles V. On his road to London, he visited the lady Jane Gray, at her father's house, at Broadgate, in Leicestershire; and on this occasion it was that he surprised her reading Plato's Phado, in Greek. He continued three years in Germany, during which he wrote an account “ of the Affairs and State of Germany," &c. In the mean while, his friends in England procured for him the office of Latin secretary to Edward VI.; but on the death of the king, losing all his places and pensions, together with all expectation of further favours at court, he retired again to the university. His friend, however, the lord Paget, recommending him to Gardiner bishop of Winchester, then lord high chancellor, he was courteously received by that celebrated prelate, who re-obtained for him his pension, and the post of Latin secretary to the king and queen. In 1554, he married Mrs. Margaret Howe, a lady of family and fortune.
On the accession of Elizabeth, he was immediately distinguished, and read with the queen some hours every day in the Latin and Greek languages. In this office, and in that of Latin secretary, he continued at court for the remainder of his life. It docs not appear, however, that his fortune was ever proportional to his station, or to his literary eminence. Grant, who pronounced his funeral oration, attributes this to his contempt of money, which prevented his solicitation of favours ; though Camden imputes his narrowness of condition to his want of frugality, and to his love of dice and cock-fighting. Johnson remarksm" We may easily discover from his Schoolmaster, that he felt his wants, though he might neglect to supply them; and we are left to suspect, that he shewed his contempt of money only by losing it at play. If this was his practice (says he) we may excuse Elizabeth, who knew the domestic character of