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serted to have disadvantages from which the manly old English exercise is quite exempt.*
* ROGER ASCHAM.
From the Preface to the “ Toxophilus ; " published in 1544. If any man would blame me, either for taking such a matter in hand, or else for writing it in the English tongue, this answer I may make him; that, when the best of the realm think it honest for them to use, I, one of the meanest sort, ought not to suppose it vile for me to write. And, though to have written it in another tongue had been both more profitable for my study, and also more honest for my name, yet I can think my labour weil bestowed, if, with a little hindrance of my profit and name, may come any furtherance to the pleasure or commodity of the gentlemen and yéomen of England, for whose sake I took this matter in hand.
And as for the Latin or Greek tongue, everything is so excellently done in them that none can do better; in the English tongue, contrary, every thing in a manner so meanly, both for the matter and hanciling, that no man can do worse, For therein the least learned, for the most part, have been always most ready to write. And they which had least hope in Latin have been most bold in English; when surely every man that is most ready to talk, is not most able to write.
He that will write well in any tongue, must follow this counsel of Aristotle : to speak as the common people do, to think as wise men do: as so should every man understand him, and the judgment of wise men allow him. Many English writers have not done so, but, using strange words, as Latin, French, and Italian, do make all things dark and hard. Once I communed with a man which reasoned the English tongue to be enriched and increased thereby, saying, “ Who will not praise that feast, where a man shall drink at a dinner both wine, ale, and beer ?” Truly,” quoth I, “they be all good, every one taken by himself alone ; but if you put malmsey and sack, red wine and white, ale and beer, and all in one pot, you shall make a drink not easy to be known, nor yet wholesome for the body."
English writers, by diversity of time, have taken divers matters in hand. In our fathers' time, nothing was read but books of feigned chivalry, wherein a man hy reading should be led to none other end but only manslaughter and lewdness
. If any man suppose they were good enough to pass the time withal, he is deceived. For surely vain words do work no small thing in vain, ignorant, and young minds; especially if they be given anything thereunto of their own nature. These books, as I have heard say, were made the most part in abbeys and monasteries ; a very likely and fit fruit of such an idle and blind kind of living. In our time, now, when every man is given to know, much rather than to live well, very many do write, but after such a fashion as very many do shoot. Some shooters take in hand stronger bows than they be able to maintain. This thing maketh them sometime to overshoot the mark, sometime to shoot far wide, and perchance hurt some that look on. Other, that never learned to shoot, nor yet knoweth good shaft nor bow, will be as busy as the best. If any man will apply these things together, he shall not see the one far differ from the other.
And I also, amongst all other, in writing this little treatise, have fol
There is much greater value in the matter, but considerably less of liveliness in the composition of Ascham's most celebrated work, “ The Schoolmaster.” It is introduced in a strain reminding us, yet again, of the manner in which the philosophers of antiquity loved to give an air of dramatic reality to their speculations. In the year 1563, when the court had sought refuge at Windsor from the plague which then raged in London, Elizabeth's tutor dines, with several of the royal counsellors, in the chamber of the secretary, the elder Cecil
, afterwards known by his title of Lord Burleigh. The host says he had just heard, that some of the pupils of Eton had run away from the school for fear of beating. The news leads to a conversation on the discipline of the young, and the comparative efficacy of love and fear in teaching. The treasurer, Sir Richard Sackville, who is described as taking a lively interest in the education of his grandsons, pays close attention to the discussion ; and, after Ascham had been released from his reading of Demosthenes with the Queen, the argument is renewed between the two. On Sackville's request, Ascham proceeds to record his opinions, dividing his treatise into two books. The first is described as “ Teaching the Bringing up of Youth.” It abounds with good sense and right feeling, and, though scholastic and somewhat formal in shape, is still interesting as well as suggestive. The Second Book is announced as “ Teaching the Ready Way to the Latin Tongue." It has the appearance of being incomplete; the excellent critical remarks on Roman authors breaking off abruptly. While the whole work well deserves to be studied by teachers, this part of it, in particular, proposes improvements for which there are still both room and need ; and the value of the hints is not unappreciated. One of the first classical scholars of our own day, in recently editing a work of Cicero, has supported his arguments in support of certain methods of teaching, by a long quotation from Ascham's Second Book.
Two passages of “The Schoolmaster” deserve, for different reasons, special remembrance.
In the one, the writer treats the versification of the modern languages. He vehemently condemns rhyme as barbarous, urging a return to the unrhymed measures of the ancients. Yet he
lowed some young shooters, which both will begin to shoot for a little money, and also will use to shoot once or twice about the mark for nought, before they begin for good. And therefore did I take this little matter in hand, to assay myself; and hereafter, if judgment of wise men that look on think that I can do any good, I may perchance cast my shaft among other, for better game.
shows that he understood thoroughly the prosodial structure of the English tongue. For, on the one hand, he prophesies utter failure in all attempts to naturalize the classical hexameters; attempts which were industriously made in the next generation, and had precisely the issue which this acute critic had foreseen. On the other hand, he points out the iambic metres as those for which our language has the greatest aptitude, and recommends, as models for English rhythm, the recent versification of Lord Surrey : that is, as we shall immediately learn, he hails the introduction of blank verse, unquestionably the finest of all our metrical forms.
The other passage that has been alluded to, is one which is very well known. He relates, in it, how, visiting his pupil Lady Jane Grey in Leicestershire, he found her reading Plato in the original Greek, while her parents and their household were hunting in the park. The learning of this unfortunate lady, that of Queen Elizabeth herself, and the similar pains bestowed by Sir Thomas More on the instruction of his daughters, are striking examples of that zeal for the diffusion of education, and of education reaching up to a very high point, which actuated our countrymen so strongly during the sixteenth century.
While Ascham announced new views in education, another writer endeavoured, with much talent, to popularize sciences that had long been known and taught. Thomas Wilson, who, like
other accomplished men of the time, transferred himself in mature life from the closet to the business of the state, published, in the middle of the century, “ The Rule of Reason, containing the Art of Logic," and, a little afterwards, “ The Art of Rhetoric.” The couching of such treatises in the living tongue, was an innovation well worthy of being chronicled. The works themselves are good : the latter, in particular, having been published several years before Ascham's book, gives the author some right to be regarded as having been the earliest critical writer in the English language. One incident in his life is interesting. Emigrating to the continent, on Queen Mary's accession, and prosecuting his studies in Italy, he was apprehended by the Inquisition in Rome. On the accession of a new pope, the populace of the city broke open the prisons; and among those captives who escaped were Wilson, and the Scottish Reformer Craig.
ENGLISH POETRY NON-DRAMATIC. 3. The Poetry which arose in England, during the reigns of Henry and his next successors, is, quite as much as the kinds of literature that have already been reviewed, important rather for its relations to other things than for its own merit. Yet it occupies a higher place than the prose, in our literary history. It exhibits, in temper, in manner, and in the nature of the topics selected, a very decisive contrast to the poetry of the times that were past: it bears in several points a close resemblance, and it furnished
many materials and many forms, to the poetry of the energetic age that was soon to open.
The poetical names with which we require to form an acquaintance are very few: and the character of the works might be understood most easily if we were to arrange them in three groups, which would exhibit three dissimilar stages in the progress of taste and literary cultivation. In the first of these the chief was Skelton: the second was headed by Surrey ; and the third, which shows deviation, perhaps, rather than progress, may be represented by Sackville. This classification should be remembered; though the order of the minor poets would make it inapplicable to a full history of the time.
The irregular pomp of chivalrous and allegorical pageantry, which accompanied us in our survey of the middle ages, had in the meantime vanished. Its last appearance was in the poem of Hawes, which, as already noticed, might have been referred, without impropriety, to the beginning of this period. It was succeeded, at first, by nothing higher than a Satirical kind of Poetry, in which features of actual life were depicted and anatomized, in a spirit caught from the prevalent restlessness and discontent. One of its effusions was Alexander Barclay's “ Ship of Fools,” translated from a continental work, but containing many additions illustrating the weaknesses and vices of English life and
It is a general moral satire, having very little that is either vigorous or amusing. The poems, if they deserve to be so called, of the eccentric
John Skelton, are not only more interesting for their
closeness of application to historical incidents and persons, but are singularly though coarsely energetic, and do not altogether want glimmerings of poetical fancy. After having been the tutor of Henry the Eighth, he continued to write during the greater part of his pupil's reign, satirizing ecclesiastical and social abuses, attacking great men in the full flush of their power, and taking greater liberties with none than with the formidable Wolsey. The point of his sarcasms is not infrequently lost, through obscure and aimless digressions and mystifications, which may plausibly be attributed to an occasional fit of caution. But the personalities are still oftener so undisguised, and the malicious bitterness is so provoking, that the impunity enjoyed
by the libeller is a matter of surprise, although we make the full-
opened by the works of Henry Howard, Earl of Sur-
b. ab. 1516.
* JOHN SKELTON,
From “ Colin Clout;" in which the abuses said to prevail in the Church are set forth in long complaints, put into the mouths of the people, and interspersed with very short and doubtful expressions of discontent by the poet. What trow ye they say more
And all they lay Of the bishops' lore?
On you'prelates, and say, How in matters they be raw: Ye do wrong and no right: They lumber forth the law, No matins at midnight! And judge it as they will,
Book and chalice gone quite !
Pluck away the leads
And all that they have else
Rails like rebels,
Rede shrewdly and spells:
How ye break the dead's wills: And whiles the heads do this, Turn monasteries into water-mills; The remnant is amiss
Of an abbey ye make a grange.
Your works, they say, are strange.
What could the Turk do more,
With all his false lore?