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He was at first an opponent of the new pronunciation introduced, or rather of the ancient reftored, about this time by Cheke and Smith, and made fome cautious ftruggles for the common practice, which the credit and dignity of his antagonists did not permit 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, foon changed his opinion and his practice, and he adhered ever after to their method of
Of this controverfy it is not neceffary to give a circumftantial account; fomething of it may be found in Strype's life of Smith, and fomething in Baker's Reflections upon Learning; it is fufficient to remark here, that Cheke's pronunciation was that which now prevails in the schools of England. Difquifitions not only verbal, but merely literal, are too minute for popular narration.
He was not lefs eminent as a writer of Latin, than as a teacher of Greek. All the publick letters of the univerfity were of his compofition; and as little qualifications must often bring great abilities into notice, he was recommended to this honourable employment not lefs by the neatness of his hand, than the elegance of his ftyle.
However great was his learning, he was not always immured in his chamber; but, being valetudinary, and weak of body, thought it neceffary to spend many hours in fuch exercises as might beft relieve him after the fatigue of study. His favourite amufement was archery, in which he spent, or, in the opinion of others,
others, loft fo much time, that thofe whom either his faults or virtues made his enemies, and perhaps fome whofe kindness wifhed him always worthily employed, did not fcruple to cenfure his practice, as unsuitable to a man profeffing learning, and perhaps of bad example in a place of education.
To free himfelf from this cenfure was one of the reasons for which he published, in 1 544, his "Toxophi"lus, or the schole or partitions of shooting," in which he joins the praise with the precepts of archery. He defigned not only to teach the art of fhooting, 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 cenfures for mingling exotick terms with their native language, and of whom he complains, that they were made authors, not by kill or education, but by arrogance and temerity.
He has not failed in either of his purposes. He has fufficiently vindicated archery as an innocent, falutary, ufeful, and liberal diverfion; 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 almoft the whole. Precept can at most but warn against error, it can never beftow excellence.
The bow has been fo long difufed, 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 refift. We were not only abler of body than the French, and therefore
therefore fuperior in the use of arms, which are forci ble only in proportion to the strength with which they are handled, but the national practice of fhooting for pleasure or for prizes, by which every man was inured to archery from his infancy, gave us infuperable advantage, the bow requiring more practice to skilful use than any other inftrument of offence.
Fire-arms were then in their infancy; and though battering-pieces had been fome time in ufe, I know not whether any foldiers were armed with hand-guns when the "Toxophilus" was first published. They were foon after used by the Spanish troops, whom other nations made hafte to imitate: but how little they. could yet effect, will be understood from the account given by the ingenious author of the "Exercife for the "Norfolk Militia."
"The first muskets were very heavy, and could not "be fired without a reft; they had match-locks, 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 muf"kets after them, for which they were allowed great "additional pay.
"They were very flow in loading, not only by rea"fon of the unweildinefs of the pieces, and because
they carried the powder and balls feparate, but "from the time it took to prepare and adjuft the "match; fo that their fire was not near fo brisk as "ours is now. Afterwards a lighter kind of match"lock musket came into ufe, and they carried their "ammunition
"ammunition in bandeliers, which were broad belts "that came over the fhoulder, to which were hung "feveral little cafes of wood covered with leather, each "containing a charge of powder; the balls they car"ried loofe in a pouch; and they had also a priming"horn hanging by their fide.
"The old English writers call those large mufkets "calivers: the harquebuze was a lighter piece, that "could be fired without a reft. The match-lock was "fired by a match fixed by a kind of tongs in the "ferpentine or cock, which, by pulling the trigger, "was brought down with great quicknefs upon the "priming in the pan; over which there was a fliding cover, which was drawn back by the hand juft at "the time of firing. There was a great deal of nicety "and care required to fit the match properly to the "cock, fo as to come down exactly true on the prim"ing, to blow the afhes from the coal, and to guard "the pan from the fparks that fell from it. A great "deal of time was alfo loft 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 ufe"lefs."
While this was the ftate of fire-arms, and this ftate 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 ufe of the bow ftill continued, though the mufket was gradually prevailing. Sir John Hayward, a writer yet later, has, in his Hiftory of the Norman kings, endeaVOL. IV. S s voured
voured to evince the fuperiority of the archer to the mufketeer 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.
Afcham had yet another reafon, if not for writing his book, at leaft for prefenting it to king Henry. England was not then what it may be now juftly termed, the capital of literature; and therefore thofe who afpired to fuperiour degrees of excellence, thought it neceffary to travel into other countries. The purse of Afcham was not equal to the expence of peregrination; and therefore he hoped to have it augmented by a penfion. Nor was he wholly difappointed; for the king rewarded him with an yearly payment of ten pounds.
A penfion of ten pounds granted by a king of England to a man of letters, appears to modern readers fo contemptible a benefaction, that it is not unworthy of enquiry what might be its value at that time, and how much Afcham might be enriched by it. Nothing is more uncertain than the estimation of wealth by denominated money; the precious metals never retain long the fame proportion to real commodities, and the fame names in different ages do not imply the fame quantity of metal; fo that it is equally difficult to know how much money was contained in any nominal fum, and to find what any fuppofed quantity of gold or filver would purchase; both which are neceffary to the commensuration of money, or the adjustment of proportion between the fame fums at different periods of time.