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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 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 man
of literary eminence (with the exception of sir Thomas More) published any piece of consequence in English. On this account, the vernacular language, long after the invention of printing, instead of being refined, was corrupted by various affected additions and barbarisms. In the extract from the Toxophilus, we have seen Ascham complaining of this; and feeling its impropriety, he was the first, after More, who had the resolution to throw off the fetters of a learned language. The Toxophilus (as above noticed) was published the last year of Henry VIII. or in 1545.
This universal attention to polite literature, the prominent feature in the literary character of the age of which we are treating, had one bad effect: it excluded philosophy Weneed not regret, perhaps, that the redoubted logicians and metaphysicians Duns Scotus, and Thomas Aquinas were abandoned; but we have reason to lament that words usurped the place of things, to the knowledge of which they are merely secondary and subservient. The improvement of society. can never be greatly advanced by mere verbalists. These men had their use in their day; 'but it re
quired the genius of a Bacon to illumine, with a light full and clear, the benighted intellects of men, by instructing them, that it is only by the successive accumulation of facts su:ceptible of useful or refined applications, to which society can be indebted for a certain and rapid progression.
Join Fox, divine, and ecclesiastical historian, was born at Boston, in Lincolnshire, in 1517, being the same year that Luther began the reformation in Germany. His father dying when he was young, the care of his early education was undertaken by a father-inlaw; and at the age of sixteen, he entered at Brazen-nose College, Oxford, where, in the years 1538, and 1543, he took his degrees in
He engaged with great ardour in the study of divinity, and had embraced the principles of the reformers without any previous intercourse with any of them. But in order to make himself master of the theological controversies which then disturbed and divided all Europe, he began to examine into the history of the church, both in ancient and modern