Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Ascham, Roger
ASCHAM, ROGER (1515–1568), author was born in 1515 at Kirby Wiske, near Northallerton. His family appears to have been of considerable antiquity, and to have taken its name from the villages known East and West Askham, near York. A Roger de Askham is mentioned as an adherent of Thomas, earl of Lancaster, in 1313, and as receiving pardon for his complicity in the murder of Piers Gaveston (Rymer Fœdera, iii. 444). Hamond Askham was appointed master of Balliol College, Oxford, in 1397 (Wood, Antiquities, p. 82). In 1406 William Askham became an alderman of London, and was sheriff in 1398, when Richard Whittington was mayor (Riley, Memorials of London, 546, 548, 565). The will of another William Askham, dated 7 Nov. 1390 preserved at York, proves the members of the family who remained in Yorkshire to have belonged to the yeoman class. At the date of Roger's birth his father, John Ascham, was house-steward to Lord Scrope, of Bolton, and bore a high reputation for uprightness of life. A mention of him in the will (20 Feb. 1507-8) of Robert Lascelles, a substanial Yorkshire landowner, proves him to have then held the tithes of Newsham, near Kirby-Wiske, and to have lately sustained heavy losses (cf. Testamenta Eboracensia, published by Surtees Soc. i. 129-30, ii. 28, iv. 271). The maiden name of Roger's mother, Margaret Ascham, has not been preserved; but it has been stated that she was of an important Yorkshire family. Roger was the third son. The eldest son, Thomas, was fellow of John's College in 1523 (Baker, Hist. of St. John's Coll. ed. Mayor, i. 282), and died before 1544 (Ascham, Epistles, ed. Giles, No. xxi.). He apparently married, and left three sons, Roger, Thomas, and John, of whom the first was promoted, in 1573, from the office of ordinary yeoman of Elizabeth's chamber to that of yeoman of the bears, and the last was the author of an unprinted pamphlet entitled 'A Discours against the Peace with Spayne, 1603' (Harl. MSS. 168, art. 117; 295, art. 231 b). Anthony, Roger's second brother, was an astrologer [see Ascham, Anthony, fl. 1553].
Roger received his earliest education from his father, to whom he refers in his letters as 'the wisest of men,' and whose advice he frequently sought and acted upon in early manhood. But while still a child he was received into the family of Sir Anthony Wingfield, who 'ever loved and used to have many children brought up in learnynge in his house' together with his own sons (Ascham, Toxophilus, ed. Arber, p. 140). R. Bond was the name of the tutor employed by Sir Anthony, and under his guidance Roger made rapid progress in English as well as in classical studies. His physical education was not neglected, and Sir Anthony himself taught the boys archery, which was always Ascham's favourite exercise (ibid.). At the age of fifteen (1530) Roger, by the advice and at the expense of his patron, who recognised his promise, proceeded to St. John's College, Cambridge, where the best education of the day was to be obtained. His first tutor was Hugh Fitzherbert, who had become fellow of the college in 1528, but of him little is known (Cooper, Athen. Cantab. i. 64). Ascham appears to have developed his special aptitude for Greek under Robert Pember, another fellow of St. John's (cf. Epist. cxxxiv. ). During his undergraduate days he wrote a letter to Pember in Greek, which the tutor described as fit to have been written at Athens. But to John Cheke, afterwards tutor to Edward VI, and to John Redman, afterwards first master of Trinity College — both of whom were admitted fellows of St. John's during his first year of residence — Ascham always ascribed the chief advantages he derived from his academic training. With them, and especially with the first, he lived throughout their lives on terms of peculiar intimacy, and in his latest work he praised 'their onely example of excellency in learnyng, of godnes in liuyng, of diligence in studying, of councell in exhorting, of good order in all thyng' (Scholemaster, p. 67). Other friends that he made at St. John's at the same time were George Day and John Christopherson, both afterwards bishops of Chichester, Robert Horne, afterwards bishop of Winchester, Thomas Watson, afterwards bishop of Lincoln, James Pilkington, afterwards bishop of Durham, and John Seton, afterwards well known as the chaplain of Gardiner, bishop of Winchester. Among members of other colleges with whom he became acquainted were Edmund Grindal, afterwards archbishop of Canterbury, Walter Haddon, afterwards the eminent civilian, Thomas Wilson, who subsequently wrote on logic, and Nicholas Ridley, the martyr bishop of London. Besides devoting himself to Greek, which he taught as an undergraduate to students younger than himself, Ascham made himself master of almost all extant Latin literature, paid some attention to mathematics, became an accomplished musician, and acquired singular skill in penmanship. On 18 Feb. 1533—4 he took the degree of B.A., and on 23 March following was admitted to a fellowship at St. John's, which, as he wrote later, was 'the whole foundation . . . of all the furderance that hitherto else where I have obteyned' (Scholemaster, p. 134). Although Ascham's proficiency well merited a fellowship, his open avowal of the reformed religion imperilled his election. In 1533-4 a public disputation as to the authority of the pope in England took place at Cambridge, and Ascham so violently opposed the catholic champions as to offend many of his friends, among them George Day, a subsequent bishop of Chichester, to whom in later years he apologised for his 'imprudence' (Epist. cxxxvi.). His fellowship was only bestowed on him owing to the 'goodnes and fatherlie discretion' of Dr. Metcalfe, master of his college, who was himself a catholic, but came from the neighbourhood of Ascham's birthplace (Scholemaster, p. 134). Early in July 1537 Ascham proceeded M.A. In the meantime he had been studying hard and gatherin pupils about him, in whom he took an affectionate interest: among them he has made special mention of William Grindal, John Thomson, Edward Raven, and William Ireland, the last three of whom became fellows of St. John's, and to Raven and Ireland Ascham addressed some of his most charming letters in later life (Epistt. ci. cii. civ. cxvi. cxx. cxxx. cxxxiv.). About 1538 Ascham was appointed Greek reader at St. John's, with a good salary. His success was remarkable. In five years, he afterwards asserted, Sophocles and Euripides had become at his college as familiar as Plautus had been previously, and Demosthenes was as much discussed as Cicero in former times (Epist. xii.). Students from other colleges regularly attended his lectures. In 1539 he apparently sought, through the influence of William Buckmaster, vice-chancellor, a mathematical lectureship (Epist. iv.), although he candidly confessed in later life that, compared with the classics, 'Euclid's pricks and lines' had little educational value (Epist. ii. liv.; cf. Scholemaster, p. 34). The beauty of his handwriting also brought him much employment as the writer of official letters in behalf of the university; but although he said in 1544 that he had been employed in that capacity for twelve years, the earliest extant letter from him of the kind cannot be dated earlier than 1541 (Epistt. viii. xxii.). But petty quarrels soon disturbed his academic career. He was working hard in 1639 to procure the election of his pupil Thomson to a vacant fellowship at St. John's (Epistt. v. vi, viii.), and his zeal in the matter, which proved successful, brought him into collision with his friend Redman, who was interesting himself in another candidate (Epist. xx.). Soon after this dispute Ascham paid a visit to his parents in Yorkshire, whom he had not seen for several years (Epist. ii.). At the time he apparently attended archery meetings at Norwich and York, and increased his enthusiasm for the sport, which he had practised habitually from youth (Toxophilus, p. 159). It is of interest to note that the statutes of St. John's, adopted in 1530 and reaffirmed in 1545, allowed him to pursue the recreation at Cambridge (Scholemaster, ed. Mayor, p. 258). While in Yorkshire he was seized with a severe illness — a quartan fever — which prevented his return to Cambridge for two years, and exhausted his pecuniary resources (Epistt. ix. x. xii.). His poverty compelled him to appeal for money to Robert Holgate, bishop of Llandaff, who had had some connection with St. John's (Epist, x.), and to Edward Lee, archbishop of York, of whom he requested employment either in epitomising books which the archbishop had not time to read, or in translating into Latin Greek patristic literature (Epist. ix.). Lee replied by awarding him an annual pension of forty shillings, and Ascham, to show his gratitude, set himself to translate into Latin Œcumenius's commentaries on St. Paul's Epistles to Titus and Philemon, gathered out of Cyril, Chrysostom, and other Greek fathers. At the close of 1541 , while Ascham was apparently still in Yorkshire, the work was completed. It was published at Cambridge, after his return there, in 1542. He presented a copy to the archbishop (Epist. xiii.), but it did not satisfy his patron. Lee was displeased with the approval Ascham had bestowed on the married clergy, and there seemed some likelihood of his pension being discontinued. With the humility which invariably characterised Ascham whenever money matters were in question, he implored pardon, and promised to abandon theology for pure classics, and to translate Sophocles into Latin (Epist. xv.). In a second letter to the archbishop on the subject he declared that he was not self-opinionated, nor a seeker after novelties, as his lectures on Aristotle, Plato, and Cicero would plainly show, and that his knowledge of Christianity was solely derived from the Psalter and the Greek Testament (Epist. xvii.). On 13 Sept. 1544 the archbishop's death brought Ascham's pension to an end, and he contemplated seeking a new patron in George Day, the bishop of Chichester (Epistt. xvii. xxiv.). At the time he was involved in many misfortunes. His brother Thomas died early in the year, and shortly afterwards both his father and mother after nearly fifty years of married life. Dissensions in the university disheartened him. In a controversy as to the correct mode of pronouncing Greek he had played an active part. Cheke had attempted to introduce a system of pronunciation resembling that in use in England at the present time, and opposed to the continental practice. Ascham, having at first resisted the innovation, finally supported it; but to his chagrin Gardiner, bishop of Winchester, issued (15 May 1542) a decree, at the instance of Cheke's enemies, forbidding the teaching of the new pronunciation (Epist. xii.; A. J. Ellis, English Pronunciation of Greek, p. 5). His father had advised him to escape the contentions caused by the discussion of this and other questions by abandoning the university, and in July 1542 he appears, in pursuit of this counsel, to have supplicated for incorporation at Oxford, but he does not seem to have persisted in this application (Wood, Fasti, ed. Bliss, i. 114). He had also entertained proposals to become tutor to Lord Mountjoy's son (Epistt. xix. xx.), and about Lady-day 1544 he wrote to Redman that, deep as was still his interest in his Greek lectureship at St. John's, he longed for nothing more than foreign travel in the suite of an English ambassador (Epist. XX.). He was not, however, willing to forego very hastily his chances of preferment in the university, and, with his customary shrewdness, he wrote to Sir William Paget, secretary of state, early in the same year (Epist. xxii.), demanding his influence with the king to obtain for himself the regius professorship of Greek at Cambridge, soon to be vacated by Cheke on his appointment as tutor to Prince Edward.
But, fortunately for his future reputation, Ascham looked for advancement in one other direction. In 1543 and 1544 he was engaged on his famous treatise on archery, which he believed would secure him the favour of Henry VIII, and 'would be no doubtful sign of his love of his country nor a mean memorial of his humble learning' (Epist. xxii.). During 1544 he was seeing it through the press, and he desired permission to present it personally to the king before his departure for the siege of Boulogne. But Henry left England in July 1544 before the book was completed, and it was not till 1545 that he found his opportunity of offering it to the king in the gallery at Greenwich. Henry VIII, according to Ascham's own account, 'did so well like and allow it, as he gave me a living for it' in the shape of a pension of 10l. (Epist. ii. lxxxvii.). Shortly before, he had obtained personal introductions to Bishop Gardiner, who was beginning to show a kindly interest in him on account of his literary ability, and to the Duke of Norfolk, and his favourable reception by the king was owing mainly to their influence. The book, dedicated to Henry VIII, and printed at London in 1545, was cast in the form of a dialogue between Toxophilus (Ascham himself) and Philologus, a Greek tutor of Cambridge (doubtless Sir John Cheke). The first part formed an argument in favour of archery as a recreation for students and as an instrument of war; the second part contained practical hints for becoming proficient in the art. The most remarkable characteristics of the work are its vigorous, flexible, and pure English prose, and its plea for the literary use of the 'Englyshe tonge,' as opposed to Latin or Greek, which is set forth in an introductory address 'to all gentle men and yomen of Englande.' Of translators Lord Berners, and of original writers John Tindal and Sir Thomas More, alone of preceding writers, had exhibited a comparable command of 'the speech of the common people,' and they did not always exhibit the ease which is here habitual to Ascham. Walter Haddon prefixed Latin elegiacs, in which he praised Ascham's own skill as an archer and a scholar. Ascham was justly proud of his performance, and sent copies of the 'Toxophilus,' with autograph letters, to the queen (Epist. xxxii.), the Earl of Essex (ibid.), Lord Chancellor Wriothesley (Epist. xxxiii.), Bishop Gardiner (Epistt. xxxiv. xxxv.), and to a large number of noblemen at court (Epist. xxxviii.).
Soon after the publication of this work Ascham fell ill again, and was unable to reside at Cambridge. In 1545 he asked Archbishop Cranmer, on account of his ill health, to permit him to eat flesh instead of fish on fast days, and the dispensation was granted (Epistt. xxvii. xxviii. xxix.). In 1546 he had sufficiently recovered from his sickness to succeed Cheke as public orator of the university (Epist. xlvi.), and in that capacity conducted for the next few years a voluminous correspondence for the university. He repeatedly sought the influence of all the great officers of state to keep the privileges and property of the colleges intact. In 1547 troubles again appear to have come upon him. Late in that year he complained in two letters, one (Epist. lxxxiii.) addressed to Sir William Cecil, to whom he had been introduced by Cheke, and the other (Epist. Ixxxii.) to the master of St. John's (William Bill), that he had been treated with scant courtesy in the matter of a public disputation on the mass to which he had looked forward as a means of utterly reducing the catholic champions at Cambridge. To give the discussion greater publicity and importance, its scene during its progress had been removed at his suggestion from St. John's College to the public schools, but it was there suddenly closed by order of the vice-chancellor Madew. He consoled himself for this disappointment by writing a treatise on the mass, which was published posthumously in 1577. About the same time (1548) the death of his pupil and friend, William Grindal, appointed through Cheke's influence in 1544 tutor to the Princess Elizabeth, caused him intense grief (Epistt. lxxxiv. cxvii.).
But this last event was not without a brighter side. Ascham had, doubtless through Cheke, already made the acquaintance of the Princess Elizabeth, and had been as favourably impressed with her zeal for learning as she had been impressed with his skill as a teacher. From 1545 onwards he frequently wrote to encourage her in her studies (cf. Epist. xxxi.), and on one occasion mended her silver pen for her, and presented her with an Italian book and a book of prayers (Epist. xxxix.). He had also been intimate with her attendants, John Astley and his wife (Epist. lv.), of whom he had urged in 1545 the appointment of the latter as the princess's governess (Epist. xl.). Sir Anthony Denny, at whose house at Cheshunt the princess lived for many years, had also shown Ascham marks of special favour since the days that the latter was a poor and he a rich student of St. John's. On Grindal's death Ascham wrote to Elizabeth, condoling with her on the loss of her tutor, urging her to persevere in her studies, and vaguely expressing his anxiety that he might place his abilities at her service, while he recommended her to find another tutor in 'that other Grindal (i.e. Edmund, afterwards archbishop), who resembles William in gentleness' (Epist. lxxxiv.). But to Sir John Cheke he openly stated his desire to succeed Grindal himself (Epist. Ixxxv.). Before July 1548 his wishes were fulfilled, and he took up his residence at Cheshunt. He found there a congenial companion in a young man named John Whitneye, whom he had known before (Epist. xxxvii.), and to whom he now taught Latin on the system afterwards recommended in the 'Scholemaster.' The death of this 'worthie young gentleman' within a few months of Ascham's settlement at Cheshunt gave him a new grief, for which he sought expression in some poor English verses 'of misorderlie meter,' printed in the 'Scholemaster' (p. 91). Ascham found his royal pupil as apt as he had anticipated. According to his account she talked French and Italian as well as English; she could hold her own in Latin conversation, and fairly well in Greek; she was a shrewd critic of style in Latin, Greek, and English. Her handwriting was admirable, and, like Ascham himself, she delighted in music. During the two years he taught her at this time, he read all Cicero with her, and the greater part of Livy; every morning she devoted some hours to the Greek Testament, and some to Isocrates and Sophocles. To Cyprian and Melanchthon Ascham also introduced her, to confirm her in good doctrine (Epist. xcix.). But none the less he found the life he led in the princess's service an irksome one. He could rarely visit Cambridge; he had to go to court, and mixed with men whose frivolity or dishonesty disgusted him. Finally, he quarrelled over a trifle with Elizabeth's steward; a coolness sprang up between himself and his mistress (Epist. cxi.), and he hastily resigned his post in 1549-50, to resume his own studies and his official duties as public orator at Cambridge. Among his pupils on his return were Lords Henry and Charles Brandon, to both of whom he taught penmanship, and to the latter Greek (Epist. cviii.). To the sad deaths of these youths on 10 July 1551 Ascham frequently makes mournful reference in his later letters. But Ascham was still restless. He paid a visit to his friends in Yorkshire in 1550; and hinted to Cheke, whose influence he freely claimed for his own advancement, that he should be glad to spend two years in foreign travel (Epist. cv.). While still in Yorkshire, he heard from Cheke that he had been appointed secretary to Sir Richard Morysin, recently nominated English ambassador to the emperor Charles V. On his journey south to Billingsgate to embark, Ascham visited Lady Jane Grey at her father's house at Bradgate, Leicestershire, and in a memorable passage in the 'Scholemaster' (p. 46) he has described how he found her reading Plato's 'Phaedo' in her chamber while all the household was out hunting. Before leaving her, he obtained a promise from her of a Greek letter (Epist. xcix.). Ascham also visited the Princess Elizabeth, and effected a reconciliation (Epist. cxi.). While in London he met Cheke, and spent nine hours on the day before his departure talking with him of old days at Cambridge (Epist. civ.). On 21 Sept. 1550 he set out from Billingsgate. He landed at Gravesend to visit Archbishop Cranmer at Canterbury, who escorted the party to Dover. In the passage to Calais Ascham and a young man alone escaped sea-sickness. On 30 Sept. Antwerp was reached; on 6 Oct. the embassy arrived at Louvain, whose university teaching he thought far inferior to that given at St. John's; afterwards he visited Cologne, where he heard a lecture on Aristotle's 'Ethics' in Greek which he says he could not admire, and travelled on to Mainz, Worms, Spires, and Ulm. On 28 Oct. Sir Richard Morysin fixed his headquarters at Augsburg. There Ascham stayed with a few intervals till the end of 1552, It was probably at the close of 1551 that he spent nine days in Italy and visited Venice, where he bitterly lamented the absence of 'all service of God in spirit and truth' (Scholemaster, p. 84). He paid occasional visits to Halle in the Tyrol (17 Nov. 1551, and 29 Jan. 1551-2), to Innspruck (18 Nov. 1551), and to Villach in Carinthia (12 July 1552). Early in 1553 he was staying at Brussels, and in July of that year he returned to England, when the embassy was recalled on the death of Edward VI. Ascham throughout these years regularly corresponded with his friends in England, and especially with his old pupils, Raven and Ireland, besides writing all Sir Richard Morysin's official despatches. In one very long English letter to Raven (20 Jan. 1550; Epist. cxvi.) he gives an entertaining account of his interviews with Charles V. To Sir William Cecil and to Cheke he sent, shortly before his return, some Roman coins; he mentioned to the latter that he had accustomed himself to write all his letters in English instead of Latin (Epist. cl.), a statement that his collected correspondence fully supports, and he informed Cecil (Epist. cxlix.) that he had ceased to feel interest in strange countries or courts, and longed for peace at Cambridge to keep company with the Bible, Plato, Aristotle, Demosthenes, and Tully. The most interesting portion of his correspondence in Germany is that with the learned John Sturm, rector of the gymnasium at Strasburg and editor of Cicero. For his classical attainments Ascham had had from an early date the most sincere respect. He had apparently heard much of him from Martin Bucer, whose acquaintance Ascham had made as soon as Bucer had arrived in England, and had written a long letter from Cambridge introducing himself to the scholar on that ground early in 1550 (Epist. xcix.). He went to Strasburg to see him in 1552, but Sturm was from home (Epist. cxl.), and the two friends never met, although they continued to correspond in terms of the utmost intimacy from 1550 till a few days before Ascham's death. On the death of Martin Bucer on 28 Feb. 1550-1, Ascham offered to aid Sturm in writing his life. With Sir Richard Morysin Ascham seems to have lived on excellent terms; he read Greek with him five days a week, and between 12 Oct. 1550 and 12 Aug. 1551 they went through all Herodotus with five tragedies (probably of Sophocles) and seventeen orations of Demosthenes. He kept a diary in English throughout his foreign sojourn, in which he described the German princes he met and the political questions at issue in Europe. The greater part of it he forwarded in 1552 in a letter to his friend, John Astley, in attendance on Princess Elizabeth at Hatfield, and this document was published at London in 1553 under the title of 'A Report . . . of the Affaires and State of Germany.' On the accession of Queen Mary, Ascham's prospects in England looked very gloomy. His pension of 10l., which had been renewed and increased by Edward VI, had again terminated. While in Germany he had, through the influence of Cheke and William Cecil, been nominated Latin secretary to the king and his librarian, but he had never exercised these functions, and the appointments now ceased to have effect. He still retained the public oratorship at Cambridge and a fellowship. Before the close of 1553 his fortunes improved. He sought the favour of his old friend Gardiner, and through him was appointed Latin secretary to Queen Mary, with an annual salary of twenty pounds. The bishop, on hearing how he had lost his pension, bade him have the patent written out again, and Ascham brought the document to him, leaving a blank space for the sum of money. He showed Gardiner that, through the carelessness of the scrivener, the space was too wide for 'the old word ten' and begged him to use his influence with the queen to obtain twenty pounds a year for him. In one letter to Gardiner (Epist. clxx.) he naively wrote: 'The space which is left by chance doth seem to crave by good luck some words of length, as viginti or triginta, yea, with the help of a little dash, quadraginta would serve best of all.' He told the same story to Queen Elizabeth in 1567, with some variations to give it a more avowedly amusing tone (ii.lxxxvii.). But his device succeeded, and Queen Mary gave him twenty pounds a year. Through the favour of Sir William Petre he obtained a grant from the crown of the lease of a farm at Walthamstow, Essex, called Salisbury Hall, at the low rent of twenty pounds. He soon afterwards gave proof of his industry as the queen's Latin secretary by writing with his wonted skill forty-seven letters for her to persons of exalted rank, of whom cardinals were the lowest, within three days. One other exceptional favour was bestowed on him at the time. While his friend Cheke was compelled to renounce the reformed religion, and Ridley suffered for his adherence to it with his life, Ascham was permitted to continue in its profession, and Gardiner's friends incited him in vain to interfere with his religious liberty (Epist. cxci.). This exemption has been attributed to various causes, but Ascham was doubtless worldly-minded enough, as Dr. Johnson has suggested, to avoid any obnoxious display of his opinions, and thus escaped notice. It is noticeable that in his voluminous correspondence, while he bestows approval on Gardiner's policy (Epist. clxxv.), to whose personal kindness he repeatedly refers, keeps Pope Paul IV informed, in the exercise of his official duties, of the progress that the Roman catholic revival makes in England (Epist. cxciv.), and seeks with success the patronage of Cardinal Pole (Epist. clxxxix.), he preserves an ominous silence as to the fate of Lady Jane Grey, to whom he had last written with friendly familiarity from Germany in 1551 (Epist. cxiv.), and makes no mention of his friends, Ridley and Cranmer. But Ascham in the early part of Mary's reign continued on intimate terms with Elizabeth, who never concealed her religious opinion, and found leisure to read with her Demosthenes and Æschines (Epist. cxci.)
On 1 Jan. 1554 Ascham married Margaret Howe, and he consequently resigned his fellowship and public oratorship at Cambridge. The lady was a niece by marriage of Sir Henry Wallop. Ascham, writing to Sturm at the time, speaks in high praise of his wife's beauty (Epist. cxci.), and in a later letter to Queen Elizabeth (ii. Ixxxvii.), describes her as very young compared with himself, who was now 'well stept into years.' Elsewhere (ii. clxxi.) he writes of her under date 18 Jan. 1554-5: 'God, I thancke him, hath given me such an one as the lesse she seeth I doe for herr the more loveing in all causes she is to me,' and adds that 'hitherto she hath founde rather a loveing than a luckye husband unto her.' The close of Mary's reign saw Ascham steadily at work in her service, but his private letters are full of complaints of his poverty and his inability to maintain on his income his wife and his son Giles. The accession of Elizabeth did not appreciably improve his fortunes. He was continued in the various offices he held under Mary, and was installed anew in the office of the queen's private tutor. He read Greek with her until his death, and sometimes played chess with her. On 5 Oct. 1559 the queen bestowed on him the prebend of Wetwang in York Cathedral, to which he was admitted on 11 March 1559-60. But a long lawsuit followed, apparently with the former holder of the preferment, who had been deprived for nonconformity, and he only won the case in 1566, after the queen had bidden the archbishop of York to give him his assistance (Epist. ii. lxxv.), and thus enjoyment of the emoluments of the office was long delayed. In 1562 a second son was born to him, and he christened him Sturm after his friend at Strasburg (Epist. ii. xxxviii.). 'Household griefs' were still oppressing him. The death of his wife's father in 1669 left her mother almost destitute, and he mortgaged his farm at Walthamstow in her behalf. He made few friends at the court, with which he was always out of sympathy; and although Sir William Cecil still offered him aid in suits for advancement, the Earl of Leicester, who had been well disposed to him as a young man, and stood godfather to his third son Dudley in 1564 (Epist. lix.), apparently contrived later that his connection with the queen should give him no very substantial advantage (Epist. ii. lxxv.). Before 1567 he borrowed a small sum of money of the queen, the repayment of which she generously excused (cf. Epist. ii. lxxxvi.), and about the same date he received, on the death of his mother-in-law, a lease of Wicklyford parsonage. His severest trouble for the last nine years of his life was his own ill-health and the fear that he should leave his wife and children wholly unprovided for. After hinting to many noblemen from 1559 onwards that his official services deserved a fuller recognition than they had received, in 1567 he boldly applied to the queen to make some permanent provision for his family (Epist. ii. lxxxvii.). In a half-humorous tone he reminded her of the favour shown him by her father, brother, and sister, and asked her as his friend to intercede in his behalf with herself as queen. He had never solicited any previous favour, except a gift of venison to make some friend merry. He expected death very soon, and pathetically entreated her to enable him to settle twenty pounds a year on each of his sons. No answer to this appeal is extant, and no favourable one seems to have been given. In the course of the following year his son Sturm died, and he sent his wife soon afterwards, while temporarily absent from her, a very touching letter of condolence (Epist. ii. xcviii.)
But between 1563 and the date of his death Ascham found some relief from his cares in the composition of his 'Scholemaster.' In 1563, the year of a plague, Ascham dined at Windsor with Sir William Cecil, and among the guests were Sir Richard Sackville and his friends Haddon and Astley. After dinner Ascham was informed that certain scholars had run away from Eton for fear of a flogging, and the conversation turned on educational discipline, in which Ascham strongly condemned corporal punishment. Sir Richard Sackville was so well impressed with Ascham's remarks that he offered to educate Ascham's son with his own under a master instructed in Ascham's system, and others of the company begged him to write a practical treatise on education. He at once set to work, chiefly with a view to the bringing up of his own children. He freely confessed that his method was borrowed mainly from Sturm and from his old tutor Cheke, who had died in 1657, and whose memory he believed he might best honour by putting posterity in possession of the secrets of his teaching. For five years he was filling in a plan of the work, of which he sent a sketch to Sturm in the last letter he ever wrote, about December 1568. Of the greater portion, which he had then completed, the first book contained, with many autobiographical reminiscences, a general disquisition on education, arguments in favour of alluring a child to learning by gentleness rather than by force, a statement of the evils attendant on foreign travel, and an account of the immoral training acquired by young men at court. The second book detailed Ascham's method of teaching Latin by means of a 'double translation,' which subsequent writers on education have invariably praised. He advised the master in the first place to explain in general terms the meaning of a selected passage, and afterwards to let the pupil construe it and parse each word in two successive lessons. After an interval the child was to write out his translation, and after a further interval was to turn his translation back into Latin. The teacher should then show him how the various constructions employed corresponded with, and were explained by, examples in the grammar-book. The first reading-book Ascham recommended was Sturm's selection from Cicero, and the second a play of Terence. The advance to more difficult authors was to be gradual, and the boy was not to attempt to speak Latin until he was master of the grammar. Ascham added remarks on Latin prosody, which he looked forward to seeing adopted in English verse, and criticised the style of many Latin authors.
But before the book had gone further Ascham died. In November 1568 he sat up many nights to finish a Latin poem which he desired to present to the queen on 17 Nov., the anniversary of her accession; some of these verses are printed in the various editions of Ascham's letters, excepting that of 1703. He had long suffered from sleeplessness and a kind of continuous fever. But on 23 Dec. his habitual ill-health assumed a fatal form. He lingered for a week in the utmost pain, and could give little attention to the ministrations at his bedside of William Gravet, vicar of St. Sepulchre's, London, in whose parish he was living, and of Alexander Nowell, dean of St. Paul's. He died in his fifty-fourth year on 30 Dec. 1568. His last words were : 'I desire to depart and be with Christ.' He was buried quietly in St, Sepulchre's Church, and Dean Nowell preached his funeral sermon, in which he declared that 'he had never seen or heard of any one who had lived more virtuously or died more christianly.' Queen Elizabeth, on hearing of his death, exclaimed that she would rather have cast 10,000l. into the sea than have lost her Ascham. His widow published the 'Scholemaster' in 1570 as her husband had left it, only adding a graceful dedication to Sir William Cecil, recently elected chancellor of Cambridge University.
All scholars in England and on the Continent lamented Ascham's death, and many of them expressed their grief in Latin verses to his memory. George Buchanan, who had dined with him at his house some years before (Buchanani Opera, ii. 762), and had already addressed him in complimentary Latin epigrams (bk. i. No. 29) wrote on his death —
Aschatnum extinctum patriæ Graiæque Camœnæ
Et Latiæ vera cum pietate dolent.
Principibus vixit carus, jucundus amicis,
Re modica, in mores dicere fama nequit.
A short time afterwards (1577) Gabriel Harvey panegyrised the style and matter of Ascham's 'Scholemaster' in his 'Ciceronianus,' p. 55; and in many of his letters Harvey refers to him as worthy of a place beside Chaucer and Spenser, More and Sidney. His 'period' he called 'the siren of Isocrates.' Others of the century who honoured Ascham's memory by flattering mention of him in their works were Mulcaster, Camden, Thomas Nash, and Bacon; and Mr. J. E. B. Mayor has collected their testimonies in an appendix to his edition of the 'Scholemaster,' pp. 268-80. All scholars who were personally acquainted with him speak of his affectionate and gentle nature; but Camden adds in his 'Annals,' under date 1568: 'Nevertheless, being too much given todicing and cockfighting, he lived and died a poor man.' Upon this passage much discussion has arisen, and several writers have attributed the poverty of Ascham's later years to his habit of gambling. In the 'Toxophilus,' however, he especially denounces 'cardes and dyse,' but he complains that 'those which use shooting be so much marked of men, and ofttimes blamed for it, and that in a maner as moche as those which play at cardes and dise' (p. 49). Camden's accusation may therefore rest on a confusion of the kind here indicated. As to the charge of cockfighting, thought by few of his contemporaries to be a discreditable pastime, Ascham, in the 'Scholemaster,' acknowledged his interest in the sport, and his intention, which was never fulfilled, of writing 'a book of the Cockpitte,' in which 'all kinde of pastime fitte for a gentleman' should be fully declared (p. 65). Ascham's undoubted love of sport is an interesting trait: it distinguishes him from the over-diligent students of the Renaissance, with whom he has much in common. His letters show him to have shared much of their irritability, and more than their customary freedom in demanding money of their patrons. But his treatment of his wife, of friends like Cheke and Sturm, and of his pupils, wholly relieves him of the charge of undue selfishness. His place in English literature depends less on his efforts to extend the knowledge of Greek at Cambridge, or to improve the method of teaching Latin — labours which were attended with eminent success — than on the simple vigour of his English prose. He precedes the Euphuistic period; his style, as Gabriel Harvey suggested, knows no tricks: its easy flow and straightforwardness, at a time when literary composition in English was seldom attempted, constitute the grounds of Ascham's reputation. As a letter-writer, both in English and in fluent Ciceronian Latin, he takes rank with the most eminent literary men.
Of the career of Ascham's widow after his death little is known. An unprinted letter from her to Queen Elizabeth at Hatfield, dated March 1582, proves her to have been still living then (Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. iv. 221). Of his surviving sons no information of Dudley, the younger, is extant. Giles, the elder, was given a pension in 1569, at Sir William Cecil's intercession; but its payment was delayed, and several letters from him to the lord treasurer are extant petitioning for money. It is clear from these and later letters among the Lansdowne MSS. that his life was, like his father's, a long struggle with poverty. He was in 1573 admitted to Westminster School, of which Grant, his father's friend and biographer, had just become head master. In 1578 he went to Trinity College, Cambridge, proceeded B.A. 1582-3, and was admitted a fellow under royal mandate 2 Oct. 1583. He proceeded M.A. 1586 and B.D. 1593, and was presented by his college to the vicarage of Trumpington 1590-1, which he resigned the same year. About 1595 he obtained the rectory of Duxford St. Peter, Cambridgeshire, and died shortly afterwards, his will being dated 15 June 1596 (Cooper, Athen. Cantab, ii. 207).
No contemporary portrait of Ascham is known; but an engraved portrait of him reading a letter to Queen Elizabeth, by Michael Burghers, was prefixed to Elstob's edition of his letters, published in 1703.
The separate editions of Ascham's English works are as follows: 1. 'Toxophilus,' with engraved title-page, was first published in quarto in 1545 (London, Edw. Whytchurch); second and third editions appeared in 1571 and 1589. In 1788 and again in 1821 the Rev. John Walters reprinted, with a preface, the edition of 1571, and the original edition has since been reprinted by Dr. Giles in 1865, and by Professor Arber in 1868. The copy of the first edition, presented by Ascham to Edward VI, is in the library of the Rev. Sir William Cope, at Bramshill House, Hampshire (Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. iii. 244). 2. 'A Report and Discourse written by Roger Ascham of the Affaires and State of Germany and the Emperour Charles his Court, duryng certain years while the sayd Roger was there,' was first printed about 1553 (the volume is undated). It was republished in 1572. 3. 'The Scholemaster, a plaine and perfite way of teachyng children to vnderstand, write, and speake in Latin tong,' was first published in 1570, republished in 1571, and again, according to the bibliographers, in 1572, 1573, 1579, and 1583. An edition of 1589 is well known. A carefully edited reprint was issued, with introduction and notes, by the Rev. James Upton in 1711, and again in 1743. Professor J. E. B. Mayor published the best extant edition, with elaborate notes, in 1863, and Professor Arber reprinted the first edition in 1870. Extracts from the 'Scholemaster,' with critical remarks, appear in Sabourn's 'Epitome of Grammar' (1733) and in Lefevre's 'Compendious Way of teaching ancient and modern Languages' (1750). The best analysis of Ascham's educational system is that by Mr. R. H. Quick, in his 'Essays on Educational Reformers' (1868).
Of Ascham's Latin Works, (1) the 'Expositiones antiquæ in Epistolam Divi Pauli ad Titum et Philemonem ex diversis sanctorum Patrum Græce scriptis Commentariis ab Œcuenico collectæ et Cantabrigiæ Latine versæ' (1542) was published in his lifetime. In 1577 it was reprinted by Edward Grant, with Ascham's (2) 'Apologia pro Cœna Dominica contra Missam et ejus præstigias,' which was then published for the first time. (3) A little volume, printed at Strasburg in 1551, contained Ascham's 'Epistola J. Sturmio de Nobilitate Anglicana, 4 Apr. 1550,' with 'Conradi Herksbachii de laudibus literarum Græcarum Oratio.'
Of his letters, Edward Grant, his biographer, who was a sizar of St. John's College in 1563, and afterwards head-master of Westminster School, published a selection, with a very full life in Latin, and several of his Latin poems, under the title of 'Familiarium Epistolarum libri tres magna orationis elegantia conscripti, nunc denuo emendati et aucti,' in 1576. The book was dedicated to Queen Elizabeth, and was republished in London in 1578 and 1590, at Hanover in 1602 and 1610, and at Nuremberg in 1611. In 1703 William Elstob published a new and much enlarged edition at Oxford under the title 'Rogeri Aschami Epistolarum libri quatuor: accessit Joannis Sturmii aliorumque ad Aschamum Anglosque alios eruditos Epistolarum liber unus.' A number of Ascham's English letters were printed for the first time in Whittaker's 'Richmondshire' in 1823 (i. 265-90).
Of collected editions of Ascham's English works, James Bennet issued the first in a single volume in 1771. Besides the three English books, many letters are added, and a life by Dr. Johnson is prefixed, in which he states (p. xxi) that Ascham 'was scarcely known as an author in his own language till Mr. Upton published his "Scholemaster"' in 1711. A second collected edition, limited to 250 copies, appeared in 1815, edited by J. E. Cochrane. In 1864-5 Dr. Giles published, in three volumes, the completest edition of the kind. It included 295 Latin and English letters, many of which were printed for the first time from British Museum and Cambridge manuscripts, besides six letters of Giles Ascham from the Lansdowne MSS. and Grant's Latin life. The references to Ascham's letters in this article are to the numbers given them in Dr. Giles's collection.