Imágenes de páginas

volved in reading comedies ; of which word you should explain the signification and derivation. Next you may briefly but perspicuously unravel the substance of the plot; and carefully point out the particular kind of verse. You may afterwards arrange the words in more simple order: and wherever there may appear any remarkable elegance; any antiquated, new-modelled, or Grecian phrase ; any obscurity of expression ; any point of etymology, whether derivation or composition; any order of construction rather harsh and confused; any point of orthography; any figure of speech, uncommon beauty of style, rhetorical ornament, or proverbial expression; in short anything proper or improper for imitation, it should be scrupulously noticed to the young party.

" Moreover, you will pay attention that in play-time the party speak with all possible correctness; sometimes commending the speaker, when a phrase is rather apposite, or improving his expression, when erroneous. Occasionally some pithy subject for a short epistle in their native tongue should be proposed. And, to conclude, you may exhibit, if you please, some formulæ, which serving as a guide, a given theme may conveniently be treated.

“Furnished with these rudiments in our school, boys will easily display the paramount importance of beginning from the best. Do you but now proceed, and enlighten with most honourable studies your well-deserving country."


"The Schoolmaster” is dedicated by Ascham's widow to Sir William Cecil (afterwards Lord Burleigh), in an address, in which she states, that she is moved to seek his protection for the work, " well remembering," she says, “how much my said husband was many ways bound unto you, and how gladly and comfortably he used in his life to recognise and report your goodness towards him, leaving with me then his poor widow, and a great sort of orphans, a good comfort in the hope of your good continuance, which I have truly found to me and mine." These expressions countenance what has been handed down as to the indifferent circumstances in which Ascham died.

A preface, from the pen of the author, gives an account of the circumstances in which the work originated. On the 10th of December, 1563, while the Queen was at Windsor Castle during the great plague at London, there met at dinner, in Sir William Cecil's chamber, Sir William himself, Sir William Petre, Sir John Mason, Dr. Wotton, Sir Richard Sackville, Sir Walter Mildmay, Mr. Haddon, Mr. John Astley, Mr. Bernard Hampton, Mr. Nicasius (a Greek from Constantinople), and our author. “Mr. Secretary,” says Ascham, “ hath this accustomed manner; though his head be never so full of most weighty affairs of the realm, yet at dinner time he doth seem to lay them always aside ; and findeth ever fit occasion to talk pleasantly of other matters, but inost gladly of some matter of learning, wherein he will courteously hear the mind of the meanest at his table."

The company had not long sat down, when Cecil mentioned what he termed a strange piece of news that had been brought him that morning, that several of the Eton scholars had run away from the school for fear of a beating. He added, that he wished schoolmasters would use more discretion than many of them did in correcting their pupils, punishing, as they often did, “ rather the weakness of nature than the fault of the scholar; whereby many scholars, that might else prove well, be driven to bate learning before they know what learning meaneth, and so are made willing to forsake their book, and be glad to be put to any other kind of living."

Some of the company assented to this opinion; others opposed it. Ascham joined those who thought that “ children were suoner allured by love, than driven by beating, to attain good learning; wherein," he says, “ I was the bolder to say my mind, because Mr. Secretary courteously provoked me thereunto; or else in such a company, and namely in his presence, my wont is to be more willing to use mine ears than to occupy my tongue."

Mr. Wotton, “a mau of mild nature, with soft voice, and few words,” inclined to the same sentiments. “Mr. Mason, after his manner, was very merry with both parties.... Sir Walter Mildmay, Mr. Astley, and the rest said very little ; only Sir Richard Sackville said nothing at all."

“ After dinner," continues Ascham, "I went up to

read with the Queen's Majesty: we read there together in the Greek tongue, as I well remember, that noble oration of Demosthenes against Æschines, for his false dealing in his embassage to King Philip of Macedony." Sir Richard Sackville, who was treasurer of the Exchequer to Queen Elizabeth, came up soon after, and finding our author in her Majesty's privy chamber, took him by the hand, and led him to a window, where he recurred to the subject they had been discussing, by saying, that he would not for a good deal of money have been absent from the dinner, "where," he added, “though I said nothing, yet I gave as good ear, and do consider as well the talk that passed as any one did there.” He then warmly expressed his agreement with what Cecil and Ascham had advanced, instancing what had happened to himself, whom, he said, a foolish schoolmaster, before he was fourteen years old, had so driven with fear of beating from all love of learning, that now, when he knew the difference between having learning and having little, or none at all, he felt it his greatest grief, and found it his greatest hurt, that he had ever fallen into such hands. He then expressed his anxiety that his grandson, Robert Sackville, should for his mishap fare the better, and added, " I hear say you have a son much of his age; we will deal thus together : point you out a schoolmaster, who by your order shall teach my son and yours, and for all the rest I will provide, yea though they three do cost me a couple of hundred pounds by year ; and beside, you shall find me as fast a friend to you and yours as perchance any you have.”

“This promise,” Ascham says, “the worthy gentleman surely kept with me until his dying day." They then had some further talk together on the right method of educating children, which ended in Sackville requesting that our author would put down in writing the chief points of their conversation. The latter attempted to excuse himself from this task “by lack of ability and weakness of body;" but Sir Richard persisted in urging its performance. I beginning some further excuse," continues Ascham, " suddenly was called to come to the Queen. The night following I slept little, my head was so full of this our former talk, and I so mindful somewhat to satisfy the honest request of so dear a friend. I thought to prepare some little treatise for a New-year's Gift that Christinas; but, as it chanceth to busy builders, so, in building this my poor school-house (the rather because the form of it is somewhat new, and differing from others), the work rose daily higher and wider than I thought it would at the beginning. And though it appear now, and be in very deed but a small cottage, poor for the stuff, and rude for the workmanship, yet in going forward I found the site so good, as I was loth to give it over; but the making so costly outreaching my ability, as many times I wished that some one of those three, my dear friends, with full purses, Sir Thomas Smith, Mr. Haddon, or Mr. Watson, had had the doing of it. Yet, nevertheless, I myself spending gladly that little that I gat at home by good Sir John Cheke, and that I borrowed abroad of my friend Sturmius, beside somewhat that was left me in reversion by my old niasters, Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero, I have at last patched it up, as I could, and as you see. If the matter be mean, and meanly handled, I pray you bear both with me and ji; for vever work went up in worse weather, with more lets and stops, than this poor school-house of mine, Westminster-Hall can bear some wituess, beside much

« AnteriorContinuar »