The Life of Ascham

By Samuel Johnson

Edited by Jack Lynch

The text is scanned from Johnson's 1825 Oxford Works. Small capitals appear here as regular capitals. Please send suggestions and corrections to Jack Lynch.
IT often happens to writers, that they are known only by their works; the incidents of a literary life are seldom observed, and, therefore, seldom recounted: but Ascham has escaped the common fate by the friendship of Edward Graunt, the learned master of Westminster school, who devoted an oration to his memory, and has marked the various vicissitudes of his fortune. Graunt either avoided the labour of minute inquiry, or thought domestick occurrences unworthy of his notice; or, preferring the character of an orator to that of an historian, selected only such particulars as he could best express or most happily embellish. His narrative is, therefore, scanty, and I know not by what materials it can now be amplified.

Roger Ascham was born in the year 1515, at Kirby Wiske, (or Kirby Wicke,) a village near Northallerton, in Yorkshire, of a family above the vulgar. His father, John Ascham, was house-steward in the family of Scroop; and, in that age, when the different orders of men were at a greater distance from each other, and the manners of gentlemen were regularly formed by menial services in great houses, lived with a very conspicuous reputation. Margaret Ascham, his wife, is said to have been allied to many considerable families, but her maiden name is not recorded. She had three sons, of whom Roger was the youngest, and some daughters; but who can hope, that of any progeny more than one shall deserve to be mentioned? They lived married sixty-seven years, and, at last, died together almost on the same hour of the same day.

Roger, having passed his first years under the care of his parents, was adopted into the family of Antony Wingfield, who maintained him, and committed his education, with that of his own sons, to the care of one Bond, a domestick tutor. He very early discovered an unusual fondness for literature by an eager perusal of English books; and, having passed happily through the scholastick rudiments, was put, in 1530, by his patron Wingfield, to St. John's college in Cambridge.

Ascham entered Cambridge at a time when the last great revolution of the intellectual world was filling every academical mind with ardour or anxiety. The destruction of the Constantinopolitan empire had driven the Greeks, with their language, into the interiour parts of Europe, the art of printing had made the books easily attainable, and Greek now began to be taught in England. The doctrines of Luther had already filled all the nations of the Romish communion with controversy and dissension. New studies of literature, and new tenets of religion, found employment for all who were desirous of truth, or ambitious of fame. Learning was, at that time, prosecuted with that eagerness and perseverance, which, in this age of indifference and dissipation, it is not easy to conceive. To teach or to learn, was, at once, the business and the pleasure of the academical life; and an emulation of study was raised by Cheke and Smith, to which even the present age, perhaps, owes many advantages, without remembering, or knowing, its benefactors.

Ascham soon resolved to unite himself to those who were enlarging the bounds of knowledge, and, immediately upon his admission into the college, applied himself to the study of Greek. Those who were zealous for the new learning, were often no great friends to the old religion; and Ascham, as he became a Grecian, became a protestant. The reformation was not yet begun; disaffection to popery was considered as a crime justly punished by exclusion from favour and preferment, and was not yet openly professed, though superstition was gradually losing its hold upon the publick. The study of Greek was reputable enough, and Ascham pursued it with diligence and success, equally conspicuous. He thought a language might be most easily learned by teaching it; and, when he had obtained some proficiency in Greek, read lectures, while he was yet a boy, to other boys, who were desirous of instruction. His industry was much encouraged by Pember, a man of great eminence at that time, though I know not that he has left any monuments behind him, but what the gratitude of his friends and scholars has bestowed. He was one of the great encouragers of Greek learning, and particularly applauded Ascham's lectures, assuring him in a letter, of which Graunt has preserved an extract, that he would gain more knowledge by explaining one of Æsop's fables to a boy, than by hearing one of Homer's poems explained by another.

Ascham took his bachelor's degree in 1534, February 18, in the eighteenth year of his age; a time of life at which it is more common now to enter the universities, than to take degrees, but which, according to the modes of education then in use, had nothing of remarkable prematurity. On the 23rd of March following, he was chosen fellow of the college, which election he considered as a second birth. Dr. Metcalf, the master of the college, a man, as Ascham tells us, "meanly learned himself, but no mean encourager of learning in others," clandestinely promoted his election, though he openly seemed first to oppose it, and afterwards to censure it, because Ascham was known to favour the new opinions; and the master himself was accused of giving an unjust preference to the northern men, one of the factions into which this nation was divided, before we could find any more important reason of dissension, than that some were born on the northern, and some on the southern side of Trent. Any cause is sufficient for a quarrel; and the zealots of the north and south lived long in such animosity, that it was thought necessary at Oxford to keep them quiet, by choosing one proctor every year from each.

He seems to have been, hitherto, supported by the bounty of Wingfield, which his attainment of a fellowship now freed him from the necessity of receiving. Dependance, though in those days it was more common and less irksome, than in the present state of things, can never have been free from discontent; and, therefore, he that was released from it must always have rejoiced. The danger is, lest the joy of escaping from the patron may not leave sufficient memory of the benefactor. Of this forgetfulness, Ascham cannot be accused; for he is recorded to have preserved the most grateful and affectionate reverence for Wingfield, and to have never grown weary of recounting his benefits.

His reputation still increased, and many resorted to his chamber to hear the Greek writers explained. He was, likewise, eminent for other accomplishments. By the advice of Pember, he had learned to play on musical instruments, and he was one of the few who excelled in the mechanical art of writing, which then began to be cultivated among us, and in which we now surpass all other nations. He not only wrote his pages with neatness, but embellished them with elegant draughts and illuminations; an art at that time so highly valued, that it contributed much both to his fame and his fortune.

He became master of arts in March, 1537, in his twenty-first year, and then, if not before, commenced tutor, and publickly undertook the education of young men. A tutor of one-and-twenty, however accomplished with learning, however exalted by genius, would now gain little reverence or obedience; but in those days of discipline and regularity, the authority of the statutes easily supplied that of the teacher; all power that was lawful was reverenced. Besides, young tutors had still younger pupils.

Ascham is said to have courted his scholars to study by every incitement, to have treated them with great kindness, and to have taken care, at once, to instil learning and piety, to enlighten their minds, and to form their manners. Many of his scholars rose to great eminence; and among them William Grindal was so much distinguished, that, by Cheke's recommendation, he was called to court, as a proper master of languages for the lady Elizabeth.

There was yet no established lecturer of Greek; the university, therefore, appointed Ascham to read in the open schools, and paid him out of the publick purse an honorary stipend, such as was then reckoned sufficiently liberal. A lecture was afterwards founded by king Henry, and he then quitted the schools, but continued to explain Greek authors in his own college.

He was at first an opponent of the new pronunciation introduced, or rather of the ancient restored, about this time, by Cheke and Smith, and made some cautious struggles for the common practice, which the credit and dignity of his antagonists did not permit him to defend very publickly, or with much vehemence: nor were they long his antagonists; for either his affection for their merit, or his conviction of the cogency of their arguments, soon changed his opinion and his practice, and he adhered ever after to their method of utterance.

Of this controversy it is not necessary to give a circumstantial account; something of it may be found in Strype's Life of Smith, and something in Baker's Reflections upon Learning; it is sufficient to remark here, that Cheke's pronunciation was that which now prevails in the schools of England. Disquisitions not only 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 publick 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 exotick 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 errour; it can never bestow excellence.

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, superiour in the use of arms, which are forcible only in proportion to the strength with which they are handled, but the national practice of shooting for pleasure or for prizes, by which every man was inured to archery from his infancy, gave us insuperable advantage, the bow requiring more practice to skilful use than any other instrument of offense.

Firearms 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 matchlocks, 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 harquebuss 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."

While this was the state of firearms, and this state continued among us to the civil war, with very little improvement, it is no wonder that the long-bow was preferred by sir Thomas Smith, who wrote of the choice of weapons in the reign of queen Elizabeth, when the use of the bow still continued, though the musket was gradually prevailing. Sir John Haward, 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 superiour 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 imply the same quantity of metal; so that it is equally difficult to know how much money was contained in any nominal sum, and to find what any supposed quantity of gold or silver would purchase; both which are necessary to the commensuration of money, or the adjustment of proportion between the same sums at different periods of time.

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 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, 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 elegancies 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 one 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.

Henry the eighth died two years after, and a reformation of religion being now openly prosecuted by king Edward and his council, Ascham, who was known to favour it, had a new grant of his pension, and continued at Cambridge, where he lived in great familiarity with Bucer, who had been called from Germany to the professorship of divinity. But his retirement was 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 domesticks, 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 ambassadour into Germany. In his return to London he paid that memorable visit to lady Jane Gray, in which he found her reading the Phædo in Greek, as he has related in his Schoolmaster.

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 perseverance in study. Amidst all the pleasures of novelty which his travels supplied, and in the dignity of his publick station, he preferred the tranquillity of private study, and the quiet of academical retirement. The reasonableness of this choice has been always disputed; and in the contrariety of human interests and dispositions, the controversy will not easily be decided.

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 be 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 pensions and cut off from the assistance of his friends, who had now lost their influence: so that he had nec præmia 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 higher reputation. But, notwithstanding his love of academical retirement, he had now too long enjoyed the pleasures and festivities of publick 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 his 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 twenty pounds 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.

How Ascham, who was known to be a protestant, could preserve the favour of Gardiner, and hold a place of honour and profit in queen Mary's court, it must be very natural to inquire. Cheke, as is well known, was compelled to a recantation; and why Ascham was spared, cannot now be discovered. Graunt, at a time when the transactions of queen Mary's reign must have been well enough remembered, declares, 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.

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 offense. He was certainly, according to his 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.

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, and partook of her diversions; sometimes read to her in the learned languages, and sometimes played with her at draughts and chess; he added nothing to his twenty pounds a year but the prebend of Westwang, in the church of York, which was given him the year following. His fortune was, therefore, not proportionate to the rank which his offices and reputation gave him, or to the favour in which he seemed to stand 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. Camden, however, imputes the narrowness of his condition to his love of dice and cockfights: 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 domestick character of her servants, if she did not give much to him who was lavish of a little.

However he might fail in his economy, it 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 excellencies many may be improved, while himself only suffered by his faults.

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 hopes 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.

This treatise he completed, but did not publish; for that poverty which, in our days, drives authors so hastily in such numbers to the press, in the time of Ascham, I believe, debarred them from it. The printers gave little for a copy, and, if we may believe the tale of Raleigh's history, were not forward to print what was offered them for nothing. Ascham's book, therefore, lay unseen in his study, and was, at last, dedicated to lord Cecil by his widow.

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 bedtime, 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 purposed to present to the queen, on the day of her accession. To finish this, he forbore 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 his concluding life. He frequently testified his desire of that dissolution which he soon obtained. His funeral sermon was preached by Dr. Nowel.

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 expected from him, and when he might have hoped for much from others: but his abilities and his wants were at an end together; and who can determine, whether he was cut off from advantages, or rescued from calamities? He appears to have been not much qualified for the improvement of his fortune. His disposition was kind and social; he delighted in the pleasures of conversation, and was probably not much inclined to business. This may be suspected from the paucity of his writings. He has left little behind him; and of that little, nothing was published by himself but the Toxophilus, and the account of Germany. The Schoolmaster was printed by his widow; and the epistles were collected by Graunt, who dedicated them to queen Elizabeth, that he might have an opportunity of recommending his son, Giles Ascham, to her patronage. The dedication was not lost: the young man was made, by the queen's mandate, fellow of a college in Cambridge, where he obtained considerable reputation. What was the effect of his widow's dedication to Cecil, is not known: it may be hoped that Ascham's works obtained for his family, after his decease, that support which he did not, in his life, very plenteously procure them.

Whether he was poor by his own fault, or the fault of others, cannot now be decided; but it is certain that many have been rich with less merit. His philological learning would have gained him honour in any country; and, among us, it may justly call for that reverence which all nations owe to those who first rouse them from ignorance, and kindle among them the light of literature. Of his manners, nothing can be said but from his own testimony, and that of his contemporaries. Those who mention him allow him many virtues. His courtesy, benevolence, and liberality, are celebrated; and of his piety, we have not only the testimony of his friends, but the evidence of his writings.

That his English works have been so long neglected, is a proof of the uncertainty of literary fame. He was scarcely known, as an author, in his own language, till Mr. Upton published his Schoolmaster, with learned notes. His other pieces were read only by those few who delight in obsolete books; but as they are now collected into one volume, with the addition of some letters never printed before, the publick has an opportunity of recompensing the injury, and allotting Ascham the reputation due to his knowledge and his eloquence.