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himself, a quiet subject to his prince, or willing to serve God, under the obedience of true doctrine, or within the order of honest living.
In stating the consequences of the transla tion from the Italian poets and novelists, the reasonings of Ascham savour strongly of the puritanical notions of his times. They are the arguments rather of a calvinistic preacher, than of a polite and elegant scholar. The books alluded to, were the works of Boccace, consisting of poems and novels; of Petrarca and other Italian novelists. These compositions not being made up entirely of romantic adventures, had various scenes of real life and of manners; and though they dealt in fictitious stories, those stories consisted of probable events. They gave birth to numerous plays, poems, and other inventions on a similar plan; and usurped the plan of legends and chronicles,
The character of the Epistles is thus given by bishop Nicholson. "These letters (says he) have chiefly, on account of their elegancy, had several editions. The author was some
time an instructor in the Latin tongue, and afterwards Latin secretary to king Edward VI. queen Mary, and queen Elizabeth; and in this latter station, was frequently employed to translate several letters of the then English, ministers of state, to foreign princes, ambassadors, and other great men. In these we have all the fine variety of language that is proper, either for rendering a petition or complaint the most agreeable, and withal a very great choice of historical matter that is hardly preserved any where else. Together with the author's own letters, we have a good many that are directed to him, both from the most eminent foreigners of his time, such as Sturmius, Sleidan, &c. and the best scholars, as well as the wisest statesmen of his own country. And the publisher of these assures us, that he had the perusal of a vast number of others in the English tongue, which were highly valuable. His attendance on sir Richard Morrison, in his German embassy, gave him an intimate acquaintance with the affairs of that country; and the extraordinary freedom and familiarity with which the two sister queens treated him here at home, afforded him a perfect knowledge of the most secret mysteries of state in
this kingdom; so that, were the rest of his papers retrieved, we could not perhaps have a more pleasing view of the main arcana of those reigns that his writings would give us.'
Of the various editions of these letters which have been printed, the last and best is that of Oxford, in 1703, published by Mr, Elstob, who has added from MSS. many letters, not in the former editions; but has omitted Ascham's Poems, inserted in the rest.
Another work of our author's is mentioned by Wood, intitled, Apologia contra Missam, &c. i. e. An Apology against the Mass, said to be printed in 1577, in 8vo. There is still another ascribed to him, intitled, De Imitatione, included in the last edition of his letters.
In 1761, a new and complete edition of his English works was published by Mr. James Bennet, to which his Life is prefixed by Dr. Johnson. In this edition are to be found, some letters never before printed.
His works have, perhaps, been less read than their merit deserves. It has been observed, in respect of his literary habits, that “he lost no time in the perusal of mean or unprofitable books;" a rule which merits the
attention of every student who reads for information, and who pursues information in order to acquire knowledge.
Roger Ascham must be classed among the most distinguished scholars of his time. Dr. Johnson observes, that he "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 interior 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 dissention. 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 public.
The study of
Greek was reputable enough, and Ascham pursued it with diligence and success equally conspicuous."
It has been before observed, that the restoration of ancient literature, notwithstanding its beneficial influence on taste and general refinement, tended in the first instance to check the progress of the English language: for all persons of education, ambitious of the character of erudition, wrote in Latin. From the introduction of the ancient classics to the publication of Ascham's Toxophilus, no mau