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OGER 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 Afcham was houfe-fteward 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 fervices in great houses, lived with a very confpicuous reputation. Margaret Afcham, his wife, is faid to have been allied to many confiderable families, but her maiden name is not recorded. She had three fons, of whom Roger was the youngest, and fome daughters; but who can hope, that of any progeny more than one fhall deferve to be mentioned? They lived married fixty-feven years, and at last died together almoft on the fame hour of the fame day.
Roger having paffed his firft years under the care of his parents, was adopted into the family of Antony *First printed before his Works in 4to.
Wingfield, who maintained him, and committed his education, with that of his own fons, to the care of one Bond, a domestic tutor. He very early difcovered an unusual fondness for literature by an eager perufal of English books; and having paffed happily through the fcholaftick rudiments, was put, in 1530, by his patron Wingfield, to St. John's college in Cambridge.
Afcham entered Cambridge at a time when the laft great revolution of the intellectual world was filling every academical mind with ardour or anxiety. The deftruction of the Conftantinopolitan empire had driven the Greeks with their language into the interior parts of Europe, the art of printing had made the books eafily 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 controverfy and diffention. New ftudies of literature, and new tenets of religion, found employment for all who were defirous of truth, or ambitious of fame. Learning was at that time profecuted with that eagerness and perfeverance which in this age of indifference and diffipation it is not eafy to conceive. To teach or to learn, was at once the bufinefs and the pleasure of the academical life; and an emulation of study was raised by Cheke and Smith, to which even the prefent age perhaps owes many advantages, without remembering or knowing its benefactors.
Afcham foon refolved to unite himself to those who were enlarging the bounds of knowledge, and, immediately upon his admiffion into the college, applied himself to the ftudy of Greek. Those who were zealous for the new learning, were often no great friends
to the old religion; and Afcham, as he became a Grecian, became a Proteftant. The Reformation was not yet begun, difaffection to Popery was confidered as a crime justly punifhed by exclufion from favour and preferment, and was not yet openly profeffed, though fuperftition was gradually losing its hold upon the publick. The ftudy of Greek was reputable enough, and Afcham purfued it with diligence and fuccefs equally confpicuous. He thought a language might be most eafily learned by teaching it; and when he had obtained fome proficiency in Greek, read lectures, while he was yet a boy, to other boys who were defirous of inftruction. His induftry 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 fcholars has beftowed. He was one of the great encouragers of Greek learning, and particularly applauded Afcham's lectures, affuring him in a letter, of which Graunt has preferved an extract, that he would gain more knowledge by explaining one of Æfop's fables to a boy, than by hearing one of Homer's poems explained by another.
Afcham 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 ufe, had nothing of remarkable prematurity. On the 23d of March following, he was chofen fellow of the college; which election he confidered as a fecond birth. Dr. Metcalf the master of the college, a man, as Afcham tells us, "meanly learned himself, but no mean encourager of "learning
"learning in others," clandeftinely promoted his election, though he openly feemed first to oppofe it, and afterwards to cenfure it, because Ascham was known to favour the new opinions; and the mafter 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 reafon of diffention, than that fome were born on the Northern and fome on the Southern fide of Trent. Any caufe is fufficient for a quarrel; and the zealots of the North and South lived long in fuch animofity, that it was thought neceffary at Oxford to keep them quiet by chufing one proctor every year from each.
He feems to have been hitherto supported by the bounty of Wingfield, which his attainment of a fellowfhip now freed him from the neceffity of receiving. Dependence, though in thofe days it was more common, and lefs irkfome, than in the prefent ftate of things, can never have been free from difcontent; and therefore he that was released from it must always have rejoiced. The danger is, left the joy of escaping from the patron may not leave fufficient memory of the benefactor. Of this forgetfulness Afcham cannot be accused; for he is recorded to have preferved the most grateful and affectionate reverence for Wingfield, and to have never grown weary of recounting his
His reputation ftill increased, and many reforted to his chamber to hear the Greek writers explained. He was likewife eminent for other accomplishments. By the advice of Pember, he had learned to play on mufical inftruments, and he was one of the few who excelled in the mechanical art of writing, which then began
began to be cultivated among us, and in which we now furpass all other nations. He not only wrote his pages with neatness, but embellished them with elegant draughts and illuminations; an art at that time fo highly valued, that it contributed much both to his fame and his fortune.
He became mafter of arts in March 1537, in his twenty-first year; and then, if not before, çommenced 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 thofe days of difcipline and regularity, the authority of the ftatutes easily fupplied that of the teacher; all power that was lawful was reverenced. Besides, young tutors had ftill younger pupils.
Afcham is faid to have courted his fcholars to ftudy by every incitement, to have treated them with great kindness, and to have taken care at once to inftill learning and piety, to inlighten their minds, and to form their manners. Many of his scholars rose to great eminence; and among them William Grindal was fo much diftinguifhed, that, by Cheke's recommendation, he was called to court as a proper mafter of languages for the lady Elizabeth.
There was yet no established lecturer of Greek; the university therefore appointed Afcham to read in the open schools, and paid him out of the publick purse an honorary ftipend, fuch as was then reckoned fufficiently 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.