To see a commentary note, click on a blue square. To see the Latin text, click on a green square.


T is recorded, my young students, that Octavius Augustus, Emperor of the Romans, a man both cultivated in the arts and flourishing with the glory of his accomplishments, rescued that excellent and memorable work of Publius Vergilius Maro, the Aeneid, from fire and flame, to the enduring reputation of the poet, the supreme profit of the republic of letters, and the perpetual fame of his own name. For (as you well recall) on his deathbed Publius Maro gave instructions in his testament that his work, not yet brought to completion, was to be burned. But the prudent emperor thought it better for the poet’s reputation, and more beneficial for all posterity, to spare all those efforts from the fire, rather than indulge the severity of the laws and Maro’s last wish, to the great loss of literature and the perpetual oblivion of the poet. And so, having weighed the arguments on both sides, being moved by the usefulness of the work, and frightened at the loss that would be incurred by burning those verses, he is said to have broken forth in these verses: blue “Rather let the venerable power of the laws be broken than to have a single day consume all those efforts expended over so many nights and days. Let learned Maro live everywhere although unwelcome to himself and hostile to the world of learning. Let him be praised, let him thrive, let him give pleasure, let him be read over and over, let him be loved.”
spacer 2. In a rather similar matter, although for a dissimilar reason, all my thoughts, all my cares, all my effort have been exerting themselves. Roger Ascham, whom I have undertaken to praise at this present time, had commenced no such work. He left behind these writings, but in many individual documents rather than bound together in a single collection, scattered here and there and not arranged in order. In his testament he did not command that these things I have collected by my exertions be burnt. I have rescued them, not from flames, but rather from moths and bookworms, and I have published them, not to gain praise for myself (for none is owed me), but for the sake of Ascham’s enduring glory, which I am industriously striving to propagate. In the first place, I have collected these things for my own personal use (and, perhaps, to gain no little pleasure) when they were nearly consumed with neglect and hidden by deep darkness. I have not published them to hunt after some empty glory (which I judge to be vain and without point), but to honor the memory of a very learned man, which I wish to flourish forever. Nevertheless, had I not exercised my diligence regarding these things, and not invested my zeal and my effort in their preservation and collection, I can truly say without any boasting that it is likely you would never have read these most learned writings of Roger Ascham, which I know you will enjoy with no little anticipation and, as I hope, profit. I have never been so eager to gain esteem, or been so envious of Ascham’s praise, I have never been so bold to proclaim my own slight talent or been such a begrudging and niggardly judge of Roger Ascham’s consummate learning, that I should want to be on men’s lips and gain an empty and evanescent praise, or that I should decline to expose my name to the gravest calumnies and the deadly perils of ignominy for the sake of celebrating Ascham’s fame, which deserves to be honored by my constant striving. Those who entertain such an opinion of my very modest nature are very presumptuous in their opinion, and have no proper understanding of the reasons which have inspired me publish these things.
spacer 3. We see quite a few men doing this. We observe many men, inspired by such considerations, expending their effort in the collection, editing and publication of their friends’ writings. What prevents me from making the happy attempt in gathering the writings of Roger Ascham and bringing them to light (for otherwise they would have perished), for the my own use, the profit of my students, and to satisfy the eager anticipation of no few readers? Will anything be subtracted from Roger Ascham’s consummate endowments if I (in whom all things are barely of average quality, nothing is praiseworthy, and in whom there is very little erudition) should undertake this task, which others (who could have done it better) were unable to manage because of the scarcity of these writings, or would not engage in it because of the laborious effort involved in acquiring letters of this kind? And, since I was never so unaware of the praiseworthiness and genius of the excellent Roger Ascham that I did not earnestly desire that others would do this thing, nor so jealous of other men’s outstanding erudition (or so forgetful of my own limited learning) that I was not always conscious that there are many, nay nearly countless, graduates of both the universities who are most fit for work of this kind and very suited to undertake these tasks. Thus it would have been very foolish, childish, and contrary to the public interest to be so harsh on myself, so difficult towards others, and so hostile to the republic of letters, had I considered myself to be wholly unfit for this work, or, having acquired these writings, to think I should not publish them for the profit of others, or, when other men were lying idle, to shirk this effort on behalf of the public advantage.
spacer 4. And so I was not inspired to undertake this task by some expectation of the praise which Octavius gained thanks to Publius Vergilius Maro’s fine work, but rather by my good-will towards literature and enthusiasm for furthering the education of young students. I might have been inspired by serious and urgent considerations, such as my great affection for Roger Ascham, the man’s high praiseworthiness, my admiration for his excellent learning, and the unspoken thoughts of erudite men concerning his genius and eloquence. I should not have neglected all these things, but the personal considerations of my studies and my mind’s delight, which overcame me in reading his documents, were my primary motive in undertaking this labor. For in reading them I have taken great pleasure in the grace of his writing; in reading over his letters I have been attracted by the seductions of his style; in carefully considering his thoughts, I have been wholly caught up in admiration for his genius and learning; and in contemplating his vocabulary, adornment and structure I have been overcome with wonderful delight. I immediately transcribed everything and gathered into a single collection things that had been scattered in various places. If, as the result of the counsel and effort I have spent on this business, any advantage for your studies can be derived, then I shall think that I have garnered praise enough and reaped a bountiful harvest for my labor. Nor would I have it thought that I have acted arrogantly, if I were in a very loving way to recite that verse about my Ascham which stands last in order, although in my opinion it is first in its dignity, and is fitting for my intention, I mean the one which Octavius very laudably applied to his Vergil, “Let him be praised, let him thrive, let him give pleasure, let him be read over and over, let him be loved.”
spacer 5. But I must treat you to a longer discourse about my Ascham, noble young sirs, and it appears that I have much to say about Ascham, his praise and his writings. And yet, so that I might steer a better course in speaking of him, and and so that you may the better and more readily understand what I am going to say in this unpolished and threadbare oration, I have decided to speak of Ascham in three ways: first about his entire life and his death, and then a little about his writing and manners of speaking, and finally I shall admonish you (although you are in no need of my exhortation) that you read these things diligently. And, that you may be able to profit from them all the quicker, I shall show the ways and means you can most easily attain to the elegance of writing and purity of diction which he achieved. And, though this may prove to be a case of the hog teaching Minerva, blue I have nevertheless chosen to display my incompetence and make a public show of my infantile nature, so that at least my students may learn something from it, rather than wantonly fail in my duty and slothfully shirk the effort, since a fitting occasion has been offered. I shall not insert anything false or feigned in his praises, I shall introduce nothing vain or unnecessary, I shall mention nothing lacking in usefulness (albeit, perhaps, something familiar to yourselves), so that I might inspire your minds, prone enough to studies, to the imitation of these writings. I shall only say of Ascham that which once upon a time I very frequently heard from my tutor John Racster, blue a learned and upright gentleman and a contemporary of his in the same college, or learned by diligent questioning from the friends and acquaintances of Roger Ascham, especially from my most dear friend William Ireland, blue once the pupil of the same Roger Ascham, and other distinguished gentlemen established in positions of high dignity, and particularly by gleanings from his writings and letters, both English and Latin. So pray lend me your most attentive ears, until these my proposed subjects have been briefly handled.


OGER Ascham is said to have been born at Kirby Wiske, Yorkshire, to a decent and genteel family about the Year of our Lord 1515. His father was John Ascham, steward to the household of the noble Lord Scrope. blue This man so abounded in integrity of life, gravity of morals, honesty, prudence in the management of affairs, and modesty that he was not to be held equal to the common run of men in that part of the world, but rather was comparable to the best men of his rank and station. His mother was Margaret Ascham, an honorable and chaste woman, very closely connected to many well-bred men by acquaintance and kinship. When they had produced three sons, Thomas, Anthony and this Roger, and some daughters, and ensured that these would be instructed and molded in those disciplines, branches of learning and manners with which youth is customarily inculcated, and when they had lived together most intimately for forty-seven years, they were gathered to Christ on one and the same day and virtually at the selfsame hour, being conjoined even in death itself. This Roger had been sent off and passed his boyhood in the noble Wingfield household, very honorably supported at the expense of Sir Anthony Wingfield, a gentleman of enduring memory. blue Thanks to his singular and benevolent provision, he learned his first letters together with Sir Anthony’s sons under Richard Bond, their shared tutor, whom he always regarded as a father and uniquely revered, and he laid the foundations (not unhappy or regrettable) of all his virtue. He was a boy of keen intellect and singular industry, inflamed with a great desire for learning, and wonderfully given over to the reading of books in English from the first time he learned his alphabet. This was, as it were, a visible omen of his future diligence and love by the reading of books in Greek and Latin, from which, as his age grew and ripened, he drank the sweetest essences of learning.
spacer 7. When he had thus served his period as a raw recruit under Richard Bond in that household and, thanks as the result both of his tutor’s industry and his own intellect and propensity for letters, had come to that maturity in his education that he required advancement to a more distinguished house of learning, thanks to the great prudence, counsel, financial support and help of the same Sir Anthony Wingfield, he was entrolled in that grave company of most learned men belonging to the College of St. John the Evangelist at Cambridge, in about the year 1530. In all the affairs of his life and amidst the bitterest difficulties he always found this Sir Anthony Wingfield to be such a ready helper, such a kindly and openhanded patron, that (as he said about himself), wherever he might turn his attention and thought, he saw his good deeds crowding in on his memory like a thick swarm of bees, so that he foresaw he could never be equal to repaying them. In this noble college his tutor was Hugh Fitzherbert, a Fellow, excellent in his learning, virtue, and modesty, and he was closely conjoined to Robert Pember blue in friendship. Fitzherbert embraced this Pember with extreme good will and very often used his honeyed speech to exhort him to every manner of honesty and the reading of Holy Writ, and instructed him in a most friendly way. And he uniquely loved Roger, too, for his excellent mental endowments, and gave him instruction him in the Liberal Arts, virtue and piety.
spacer 8. At the time Roger Ascham was released from parental authority and became a member of this college, there were excellent Doctors and Masters of all the Liberal Arts in this university. Indeed, in this single college (which at that period equaled or far surpassed all the world’s academic institutions in its number of learned theologians, its throng of learned philosophers, and its number of very eloquent orators) there were many men preeminent in all polite letters and in their understanding of the languages. Stimulated by their examples and ablaze with a desire to imbibe learning, he made such progress in Greek and Latin literature, thanks to the admirable power of his intellect and his tireless industry in pursuing his studies, that he far surpassed all his contemporaries. He came up to Cambridge at a time when Greek and Latin studies were beginning to flourish at that university, where fine studies were beginning to sprout up and ripen into a supreme ornament of this kingdom. He himself afterwards flourished at a time when George Day, John Redman, Robert Pember, Thomas Smith, John Cheke, Nicholas Ridley, Edmund Grindall, Thomas Watson, Walter Haddon, James Pilkington, Robert Horne, John Christopherson, Thomas Wilson, John Seton blue and countless other men who were excellent for their learning and the tested probity of their lives were in their prime, men who at the time were great luminaries of the university and afterwards where important ornaments of the nation as a whole. For these men (and among them especially Thomas Smith, that splendor of the university, and John Cheke, that glory of Cambridge) inspired and stimulated everybody to fine studies by the example of their erudition, learning, diligence, constancy, and good counsel not only in their studies, but also by their custom of living aright. And those thus inspired grew up at Cambridge from that time down to today, and have attained to eminence in learning.
spacer 9. In this boy, in addition to his intellectual gifts, the virtues of his mind, and his eager desire for learning, there existed a certain incredible modesty, a singular bashfulness, and a kind of gravity (as Pember was wont to say) greater than one would expect at his youthful age. He aroused great hope in many men concerning his keen mind, his rare talent, and his great industry in absorbing learning, but especially in Robert Pember, a man very distinguished for his admirable prowess at Greek. For he was in the habit of proclaiming that any day now the Ascham boy would either take his place among the excellent men who were most proficient in both languages, or else among the gloomy and unfair judges. From the year of his first arrival he was immediately very well regarded by many great men, beloved to John Cheke (with whom he was later a very close associate in the study of the Greek language), a familiar of Thomas Smith, joined to John Redman by great friendship, very dear to Ridley, Day, and other men of that stamp, and adored by his fellow students. Robert Pember loved him above all others, embraced him, kept him under his hand, praised him, and constantly goaded him onward, in his conversation when present and by letters when absent, to achieve greater things. From boyhood he took great delight in Greek literature, thought about it constantly, and (to his profit) daily combined it with his Latin studies. And so that he might gain an understanding of Greek literature all the quicker, he taught Greek to young men although young himself, which struck Pember as the greatest proof of destined future erudition. Pember encouraged him to throw his energy into this as a means of enhancing and increasing his ability in that language. He praised his enterprise in this business, and daily spurred on his enthusiasm for pursuing this course, and virtue certainly grows when it is praised. Pember also kindled in this lad a great desire to play the lute which (as he thought) was an instrument most suitable for devotees of the Muses, and this was very easy for Ascham, because he was skilled in vocal music. In a letter to Roger Ascham he employed these words: “I thank you for your Greek letter, dearest Roger, which could seem to have been written even at Athens, you have observed the Hellenic idiom in every respect, and it is most elegantly written, as is your constant habit. blue You fancy Dusey and Pilson to be fortunate but you, while still a young lad and all but a boy, surpass them both by a long chalk thanks either to your hard work or your native talent, or more likely to both. I am very eager to receive your letters, which please me wonderfully because of the elegance of your writing and the excellence of the letters themselves. Focus your effort on becoming a lyricist rather than a dyed-in-the-wool Stoic, by which I mean on playing your lute well. Continue reading (as you do) something written in Greek for boys. A single fable of Aesop that you read for yourself will do you more good than listening to the entire Iliad recited in Latin by even a very learned man. Read Pliny, in whom there is the greatest understanding of things and a most flowery wealth of Latinity.”
spacer 10. Thus Pember. Furthermore, he achieved an admirable grace in drawing, and daily practice made this more elegant and artistic. As he grew to maturity he began to read authors constantly in both languages, to indulge in private exercises, constantly to participate in dialectical disputations both within his college and elsewhere, to attend private and public lectures, to burn with the love of philosophy and eloquence, to devote his time to humane letters, and to be captivated and delighted by the pleasure of history. When he had spent a number of years in these things, to his utmost profit and to the great admiration of others, and his intellect and erudition began to shine forth not only within his college but also outside it in the public Schools and, as it were, to come forth on a kind of stage of genius, at length, in accordance with academic custom and the habit of the university and with the full agreement of all the academy, as if he had gained his first reward and crown for his industry and learning, on February 18, 1534, at the age of eighteen he was advanced to the degree of Bachelor of Arts. And a little later, on Mary 23, the day when Fellows were chosen, by the effort and behind-the-scenes help of Nicholas Metcalfe, Master of St. John’s College at that time, blue he was elected a Fellow. This day seemed the sweetest in his life, as if it were his birthday.
spacer 11. He was not so puffed up by this new honor that he abandoned his studies. Rather, inspired by this badge of virtue and learning he devoted himself to his studies more and more, and wholly buried himself in the library. He set himself the task of reading Cicero, Plato and Aristotle in their entirety. He was a very diligent student, the greatest lover, and the most prudent imitator of Cicero, he embraced him uniquely and admired him wonderfully, increasing his own streamlets from Cicero’s clearest fountains. Hence he imbibed the sweet liquors of pure diction. Hence he drank in abundance the delsightsome waters of cultivated oratory, to his immense credit, to the excellent, rich profit of the students whom he now had, and to the very great honor of the university. If anybody constantly read and prudently imitated this author, it was Ascham, as he excellently showed in his writings and in his academic exercises both public and private. If henceforth he excelled at all in the purity of his diction and the fine fluency of his writing, he was obliged to give all the credit to Marcus Tullius Cicero and Caius Caesar. For he preferred to drink deeply from those sources rather than hunt after little streams flowing from them. He very frequently read Plato, that light of all Greece and Athens’ brightest jewel, and very usefully furnished his mind with that philosopher’s precepts. Nor did he read in a frigid and passive way, but scanned his authors so as to gain the greatest profit and acquire the best faculties of speaking and judgment. From Aristotle, that prince of philosophers, he gained an understanding of nature’s secrets and wisdom’s excellent treasuries. Together with his students, he privately read Thucydides and Herodotus, the best historians, and Demosthenes and Isocrates, the sweetest orators. He provided instruction in various philosophers, orators and poets, either publicly in his college or privately in his chamber. From such studies and exercises he acquired such a great increase of learning and such a full ability in both languages that his name shone ever brighter.
spacer 12. Now he had spent three years in these studies and exercises, to the greatest applause of the university, when in the Comitia held at Cambridge in the Year of our Lord 1537 on the day in March that followed the festival of Peter and Paul, blue he was installed as a Master of Arts at the age of twenty-one, at a time when that sovereign of noblest memory Henry VIII had reigned twenty-nine years and sired his noble son Edward on his wife Jane Seymour. Ascham was a man of the easiest manners, being possessed of an open and straightforward mind, a gentle and kindly nature, affable, most loyal to his friends, decent in his living, a man born to make friendships with the good and the learned. He embraced, cultivated and tended to his friends with consummate loyalty, the greatest enthusiasm, and all the gestures of duty he could manage. No man taught his students with greater diligence and care. No man loved his students with greater faith and stronger affection. You would scarcely believe the zeal, energy and exertion with which he consulted for their welfare and profit. He did not only prudently taught them Greek and Latin literature, he also gave them praiseworthy instruction in good morals, the best precepts, virtue, and piety. He stimulated and encouraged their studies partly by his urging and partly by setting a personal example, and he inspired and inflamed them to the study of the best authors in both languages.
spacer 13. William Grindall, a most praiseworthy young man very well commended for his learning, was his pupil. From his youth, Ascham kept him within the walls of his chamber, teaching him Greek and Latin letters. For this Grindall was so well-versed in Greek that even in Ascham’s own opinion he was second to none in that university save John Cheke and Thomas Smith, and was so learned in scholarship and philosophy that he surpassed all his contemporaries in that college. Soon thereafter, thanks to the intervention of his tutor, he was summoned from the university to court by Dominus John Cheke to tutor the noble Lady Elizabeth. To him Robert Pember wrote some lines sent to him before he went down from the university which, since they serve as a solid testimony about the man, I will not be ashamed to repeat. “My learned young man, three or four times I have read over the verses you sent me, and, Grindall, you should believe that these have wonderfully excited your Pember. Your diction is so facile, your Latinity so good, your measures so graceful and elegant that you seem to me to have been writing poetry for many years, and to have been born to the Muses. As I judge, learned Grindall, you seem born to the Muses for writing such verses. Wherever kindly nature summons and takes you from here, you must also direct the powers of your mind. Kindly nature has not created us learned men, that is achieved by painstaking effort. Industry perfects our natural endowments, and in its absence a happy intellect does not thrive. Happy nature confers intelligence on many men, but in very few do attention and effort, but painstaking effort exists in very few. And among those very few, Grindall, you appear to want to occupy a conspicuous place.”
spacer 14. His pupils (besides others whose names I do not recall) were John Thomson, Edward Raven, and William Ireland, men so well-versed in Greek and Latin literature, so graceful in their manners, so bright with the splendor of the Liberal Arts, that you could easily identify them as students of Roger Ascham. Now a young man supported by large gifts of intellect as well as the greatest helps of nature and the supreme benefits of his diligence and learning, Roger Ascham was appointed, by vote of the entire university, to lecture publicly on Greek in the Schools, a university appointment carrying with it a handsome enough stipend (this was at a time before the bountiful King Henry VIII established a Regius Professorship of Greek at Cambridge). From this time and long thereafter he lectured on Greek daily in St. John’s College, where he was a Fellow. Here especially he scorned to imitate and embrace the method of pronouncing Greek most happily introduced by Thomas Smith and John Cheke, blue those most gifted men, the lights of the university. And for this reason at the beginning, he skirmished with Ponet, blue a clever and learned young Fellow of Queen’s College. But because of the authority enjoyed by Cheke and Smith (whom he always acknowledged as his most gifted friends and most learned instructors) he did not dare attack them seriously or in public. Shortly thereafter this scheme of pronunciation made a deeper impression on his mind, and until his dying day he defended it most vigorously, as is most clear in a certain letter to Hubert, secretary to the Palatine Elector of the Rhine, a man very well-versed in Greece, included in Book III of Ascham’s Letters. He very much liked honorable pastimes and forms of exercises, such as were fitting for a learned man, and particularly those which fostered physical health and strengthened the mind. He greatly exercised himself with archery, and the skill with which he did this is witnessed by the book he very learnedly wrote and dedicated to Henry VIII in 1544, prior to the king’s departure to France for the siege of Boulogne. blue Robert Pember humorously touched on this book by Roger Ascham in this couplet: “No less distinguished with the bow than for his eloquence, with both he ornaments and helps his nation.”
spacer 15. Men were not lacking who held his delight in archery against him, blue men who, if you would compare Ascham with them regarding prudence, knowledge of languages, intellect, experience, writing, thinking, decent living, or teaching their pupils, would clearly fall flat. For decent exercises are fitting for a decent and studious life, nor in the course of leading a decent life are we to neglect decent pastimes. For a decent pastime banishes the care derived from serious pursuits, and refreshes and restores men for further efforts. In order that I might demonstrate that this thing is legal and permitted, and always granted to all humankind, it is needful that my discourse stray a little beyond its limits, as it shows that Roger Ascham was well within his rights to employ decent exercises for his mind’s relaxation, and particularly that he was obliged to indulge in such delights for the sake of preserving his physical health. Although he most learnedly handled this subject in Book I of Toxophilus, from which an honorable defense and fitting response may be gained, nevertheless, inasmuch as the time demands it and the occasion supplies me with a subject for speaking, I shall not find it troublesome (with your permission) to add my further support and illuminate it most clearly with illustrations and arguments.
spacer 16. We read that Scipio, that pair most distinguished for their true friendship (if I may use the words of Valerius Maximus) blue were devoted to decent pastimes. When they would take a vacation in the countryside they would relax their minds with boyish games, and at Caieta (a harbor of Campania) and Lucrinum (a Campanian lake), just like boys, they would gather shells of sea creatures, such as cuttlefish and oysters, and “belly-buttons” (i. e., shiny and smooth round stones which resemble our navels), and permit themselves every manner of game and relaxation. This manner of diversion would be disgraceful in idle layabouts, but in Scipio Africanus the Younger and the wise Caius Laelius, who were conjoined, as Cicero bears witness, blue by sharing all the virtues (as Valerius Maximus tells us), it appears very honorable. These gentlemen, unfair judges that they are, are unaware that Quintus Scaevola, the father-in-law of Crassus and son-in-law of Caius Laelius, played with dice and board-games, and sometimes with balls, when he was exhausted by performing his courthouse duties and services. These stern and harsh judges are unaware that Cato the Younger indulged in dicing and drink, that Socrates mounted a hobbyhorse, that King Amasis of Egypt gave himself over to drinking-bouts and sport and, having finished his business and worn himself out with serious affairs, played the clown and buffoon. And when he was reproved on that score by the Egyptians, as if he had done something unbecoming a king, he wisely replied that bows will break if over-stretched, and in the same way, if men give themselves over to constant labor and studies and refuse to employ any part of their lives for play, it comes pass that they gradually become unsound of mind or body. Hence Ovid excellently said, “That which lacks occasional rest will not endure.” blue
spacer 17. Plutarch wisely observed that “rest is the sweet sauce of labor.” blue For studious men exercise their bodies with moderate, decent exercises, rendering themselves more eager and energetic for study and its attendant exertions. Just as over-stretching breaks a bow, so to be constantly given over to literary studies without ever relaxing one’s mind with decent pastimes brings it about that the human mind cannot long endure in serious studies and efforts. Crassus in Cicero (in De Oratore, Book II) blue does a fine job of refuting Catulus’ opinion. He says that gymnasia were devised and built for the sake of the body rather than the mind, and maintains that profit we derive from leisure is the mind’s relaxation, not its agitation. To illustrate his view he especially employs the example of Scipio and Laelius that I used above, who were in the habit of resorting to the countryside and to an incredible extent acting as if they were boys once more, when they had flown to the country from the city, as if from bondage. Then he draws another argument from a comparison with birds, which prettily supports his case, saying “just as we see birds making their nests for the sake of procreation and utility, but when they have built something for the sake of gaining relief from their labors they fly about freely, so our minds, worn out by our courtroom business and city work (and I might mention even more serious pursuits), are eager to fly about, free of care and effort.” By heaven, this is a pleasant comparison, and one which appears excellently to refute the error and over-severe censure of men of this stripe. For the intellect is blunted by excessive work, but is refreshed by moderate exercise. Physical strength is weakened by constant studies, but is most pleasantly restored by decent exertions. Galen bears witness that constant inactivity works greatest harm on the physical constitution, but, as he thought, moderate bodily movement works greatest good. For this reason the Greeks were habituated to indulge in athletic contests, the hunt, dancing, and other pursuits by which they employed such voluntary exertions to prepare their young men for the genuine and necessary exertions of war, lest they grow sluggish out of idleness.
spacer 18. Thus, lest by unremitting study they undermine their intellect or ruin their bodily vigor, students have had their relaxations, music, athletics, or other things of this kind by which the mind, worn out by study, is delightfully restored. And so, if decent exercises banish this difficult and restore us for fresh efforts, if Scipio and Laelius, the most grave and wisest of men, gathered shells and smooth stones like boys, if Quintus Scaevola played at the ball, Cato indulged in dicing, Socrates mounted his hobby-horse, and Amasis played the fool, if decent exercises make bodies stronger for indulging in exertions, if Crassus makes this same point in Cicero, if idle nest-building birds fly freely for the sake of finding relief from their labor, if bodies are weakened by constant studies but refreshed by decent exercises, if moderate physical movements preserve physical health, but inactivity harms the body’s powers, if the Greeks exercised themselves with athletic competitions and other activities of that kind, and if students should always revive their minds, tired out by their studies, with music, or their bodies with athletic pursuits, I do not see what prevents Roger Ascham from having his decent pastimes, employing his bow, or attending cock-fights. I have made this digression in order to free this constant, studious man who took delight in decent and praiseworthy pastimes from all suspicion of frivolity and to hold up the finicky frivolity and error of those other men to be ridiculed by us all, men who, although they could not match him in virtue or learning, never ceased begrudging him his decent exercises and chiding him for them. He took great pleasure in archery (and did not conceal it) when he was at Cambridge, and sometimes, overcome by his studies, he indulged in that exercise. But this eagerness for archery never distracted him from his books, but rather made his intellect keener and more eager for learning, and made him readier to renew his studies. For many reasons exist for our returning to our studies, and it is necessary that from these there be a frequent cessation. Ascham had a frail physique, afflicted by many diseases, and if he had never been sparing to his body and refreshed it with decent exertions, he could not have had the strength long to endure in good condition. But so much for these things.
spacer 19. Having digressed, my discourse picks up where it left off. For the space of many years Ascham wrote all the letters sent by the university to His Royal Majesty or any other honorable addressees, blue and he composed them with such diligence and wrote them out with such elegance that nothing could have been done more carefully and neatly. For he wrote in a very polished style and wrote in a very graceful hand, and in this excellent exercise he far surpassed all the scholars and literary men of his age. If he would write in Latin, nothing was more admirable; if in Greek, nothing more handsome than his calligraphy; if in English, he did so quite elegantly. By his practice in this exercise he subsequently addressed the noble sovereign Edward VI, the noble Lady Elizabeth, and the honorable brothers Henry and Charles, Dukes of Suffolk, as well as many others, both men and women. And, what was most distinguished and fitting for him, in a convocation of the Academic Senate he was unanimously elected University Orator in place of John Cheke, who on July 10, 1540 A. D. was called away from the university to serve as tutor to the noble Prince Edward by his noble father Henry VIII. He held this position for nearly nine years, both present and absence, and performed it with such diligence, dignity, admiration, and moderation that it could not have been held by anyone else in a better or more distinguished manner. In a letter to him Christopherson blue attested that “Many men thus admired his sweetness, that there was nothing at all which inspired them more to the study of polite letters. In his discourse there was such gravity that it did not only instruct the minds of his hearers in prudence, it could also move them so as to lead them wherever he wished. His Muses were so elegant in writing that men were quite unsure whether they took more delight in the grace of his discourse, which was arranged so neatly, artfully, and elegantly, or in the prudence of the statements with which his orations were so chock-full.”
spacer 20. I could have adduced a host of witnesses about this matter, but that is not necessary in a matter so sure and obvious. As he grew in age and years, so he did in learning, intellect, proficiency in languages, and knowledge of humane letters and history, so that his reputation could not be restricted within the walls of a single college, nor be hidden in the obscure corners of his chamber. Rather, it was spread far and wide thanks to the remarks of many men, and broke forth, as it were, into the open field of public esteem. He came to the attention of noble men, distinguished women, and learned bishops, and he procured the good will of many men, the benevolence of quite a few, and experienced the benevolence and liberality of no small number. He was especially a familiar of Edward Lee, Archbishop of York, blue who loved him greatly and most liberally endowed him with many favors and an annual pension. Likewise to the Duke of Suffolk’s fine wife and his noble sons Henry and Charles, blue to that noble woman Anne, wife of the distinguished Earl of Pembroke and sister to that noble lord the Marquis of Northampton, blue and to that most pious man Dominus Martin Bucer blue (after the death of Henry VIII, near the end of January 1547, when his son Edward, born to the reformation of religion, succeeded his father), who was summoned from Germany by King Edward in exchange for lavish rewards, so that he might profess Divinity at Cambridge as a Regius Professor. To what man was Roger Ascham more dear than to Bucer? What man was dearer to Roger Ascham than Bucer? What man did Roger Ascham embrace with greater affection? To what man did Roger Ascham pay his observance, and venerate and cultivate with greater faithfulness, duty and zeal? He always regarded, and long adored, this man as his father in terms of age, prudence, and counsel, and as his tutor in terms of learning, morals, and sanctity of life.
spacer 21. And finally, he became a familiar of that Phoenix of all young ladies, the noble Lady Elizabeth, daughter of Henry VIII and sister of King Edward, who showed him much favor because of William Grindall, who at that time was tutor to the said Lady Elizabeth thanks to the good offices of John Cheke. After the death of William Grindall, when Roger Ascham had most happily studied at the university for about eighteen years and flourished as one if its memorable men, he was called away by her (being about the age of 21) from his literary leisure to literary employment, from the university to Cheston, blue where it is said she was staying at the time, in 1548 A. D., in about the month of February. He obtained a leave of absence from the Master and Fellows of his college so that he might bring to perfection in all its lines, colors and shapes the outline of learning which William Grindall had begun in her.
spacer 22. For two years he taught her with such diligence, with such experience and enthusiasm, and she studied under him with such constancy, effort, love and pleasure, that it I cannot easily decide whether he taught with more pleasure and willingness or she learned with a more willing mind. I shall say only this, that we all learn most eagerly from the man we highly esteem, and it assuredly gives our studies a great push forward if we have warm feelings about our tutor. She devoured Greek literature with avid zeal, and snatched at Latin literature with tireless enthusiasm. Let others judge how much progress she made, blue but those who heard her speaking in Latin and Greek greatly marveled. blue He took her through nearly all of Cicero, a great part of Livy, select orations of Isocrates, the tragedies of Sophocles, the New Testament in Greek, and Philip Melanchthon’s Commonplaces, blue together with other equally important authors. I prefer to pass over in silence the affection and kindness with which that unique Phoenix among women treated her tutor at that time, and the attention, zeal, and dutifulness with which he served her, leaving that to the reputation of so great a sovereign, rather than recount it to others awkwardly and ineptly. He unwittingly gave a clear proof of this when he inconsiderately (as he afterwards confessed) went back to Cambridge, very much against his mistress’ will, to return and enjoy his old pursuits once more. Nothing ever chagrined him more than that he left her against her will, since he was expecting his great effort to bear fruit, as it most happily did thereafter, when Lady Elizabeth came to power. blue
spacer 23. Free of the crowded court and restored to the delight of his former academic leisure, he returned to Cambridge (where he retained his old place in St. John’s College, taught Greek, performed the duties of University Orator, and was well enough off thanks to the generosity of King Edward), I do not care to say with what joy he was suffused when he returned to his old intellectual course, to his old friendships, returning to the embrace of his most loyal companions, to visiting pious Dominus Bucer, to seeing his most grateful pupils, and to overseeing and promoting young men’s studies. But his destiny (or, to be more accurate, God) did not allow him to stay his foot and pitch his tent for life, since he was born for greater things and fit and suited for performing greater services in the commonwealth. In the summer of 1550 A. D. he visited friends in Yorkshire, but when he had stayed there but a short time he was quickly summoned to court by a letter from the noble Sir John Cheke, to attend that distinguished gentleman Sir Richard Moryson, blue the King’s ambassador to Charles V, on a mission to Germany. For him, nothing could be more welcome. For he was gripped by a great desire to travel through foreign nations, to learn the manners of other peoples, to visit cities, see universities, and inspect the customs, monuments and institutions of these regions. Here I do not wish to omit what he later reported as a pleasant memory, that as he was returning from Yorkshire to the court he turned aside into Leicester blue to visit the noble young Jane Grey, the daughter of the noble Marquis of Dorchester, to whom he had previously been a great familiar at court. When he was admitted to her chamber, he found her by herself, reading Plato’s Phaedo in Greek. But there is no need to repeat their conversation, because he himself prettily describes it in English, in his Scholemaster. blue
spacer 24. When he had come to court and discussed his journey with Sir John Cheke, within a few days he started together with that distinguished gentleman Sir Richard Moryson, the King’s ambassador to Germany (which he had long desired to visit), and on September 20, 1550, he took ship on the Thames. On his journey he painstakingly examined all things, carefully noted men’s manners, and prudently studied their churches, monuments, harbors, monasteries, libraries, markets, walls, and castles. He made the acquaintance of learned men and gained their affection, forging close bonds of friendship with many, and so by his constant efforts and indefatigable industry he was able to bring home a report of the topography of their cities and towns, assembled with great zeal. blue And now this man, who had recently been dear and held in trust by very many men, became very dear to many in Germany, and lived on familiar terms with a number of men in Italy. I shall not mention Johann Sturm, blue to whom he had previously written letters in England, and whom he long adored but never met (although he once visited Strassburg but did not find his friend Sturm at home). Book I of his Epistles, consisting of letters to Sturm, shows how dear they were to each other, and Sturm himself attests this in many letters written to him and others.
spacer 25. It will not be irrelevant to quote here the words which this Johann Sturm wrote in a letter to Lord Paget: blue “I am fond of Ascham, since from his very enthusiastic letters to me (which are always welcome) I perceive he is fond of me, and also because of the similarity of our enthusiasms, so that we do not only seem to understand the same things in the authors we read, but also to wish to do so, and again because of his learning, for, were it not great, he could not write to me as he does.” And in another letter to the same man, “It is unbelievable how much I love and adore Ascham. From his epistles I understand his inspiration in letters, prudence, and learning, which have always been most pleasant for me.” Thus Sturm. At Augsburg he entered into mutual friendships with many learned men, but in particularly he lived on terms of great familiarity and friendship with Hieronymus Wolf. blue He was so dear to many German princes and cities (as Johann Sturm bore excellent witness in a letter to Lord Paget) “For his own personal virtues of prudence, humanity, elegance, learning, sweetness, and also because of commendations of his friends which his virtue has earned for itself, he has been so welcome and beloved that he seems worthy to be in diplomatic service constantly, but he is so learned and studious, so suitable for literary studies that I would wish him constantly to be in the Schools of the learned.”
spacer 26. Because of his prudence and experience in affairs, Sir Richard Moryson, the King’s ambassador, always made him party to all his plans and deliberations concerning the most important and serious matters in Germany, and valued his loyalty, intellect and singular prudence that he shared with him all his concerns and thoughts. He found him to be so earnest, honorable, industrious, dutiful, and learned that he took great delight in his company. And, although he was naturally eager and gripped by a great desire to observe things done elsewhere in Germany, nevertheless with great constancy and pleasure he desired to perform his duty towards the Lord Legate at home. Should I place before you the man’s great industry which I perceive in his various letters written in English from Germany to England, you would say that Roger Ascham was not idle in Germany nor that, in the manner of travelers abroad who often return home more dissolute and foolish than when they departed, he frittered away his time. From his arrival in Germany on October 12, 1550 until August 12, 1551, together with the Lord Legate at Augsburg he read all of Herodotus, five tragedies of Sophocles, some of Euripides, and twenty-three orations of Demosthenes. He would read twice daily, four days out of the week. Before noon he would translate three or four pages of Herodotus, and in the afternoon he would explicate 212 or 213 verses of Sophocles or Euripides. On the remaining three days of the week he would write out the despatches sent by the Lord Legate to England. Do you not marvel at the man’s diligence, industry, and enthusiasm, who was oppressed by such continual occupations yet executed everything with consummate elegance and grace. What time was left for peace and quiet, for conversations with his friends, and for writing home to his friends in England? He would do these things at night, and also write in his diary about the things he heard, did, or saw. If any small space time were granted him from his other occupations and pursuits, he would most happily spend it all in inspecting individual towns surrounding wherever he and the Lord Legate were staying, visiting the learned, learning of the manners and customs of cities, and hearing news.
spacer 27. Various items of news fell into his hands from Turkey, Asia, Africa, the Papal States, Germany, and the Holy Roman Empire, and of all these he diligently took note. Nonetheless those letters which he received from Johann Sturm, very full of erudition, elegance, eloquence, kindness, filled him with far more pleasure. In all the letters he sent from Germany to his Cambridge friends, John’s Men as he called them, he always prayerfully urged that in his absence the men of St. John’s College would make daily progress in Greek learning and in the virtues, that they would imbibe morality and piety as well as learning, and that the University Orator’s work would continue to be done with diligence (for he continued to receive that stipend in absentia). You would scarcely believe the zeal and urgency with which he demanded this in his various letters written in English, which I myself most affectionately keep and most diligently preserve. Some men press me to publish them, both because of the grace of their writing and the splendor of the sentiments that adorn them. I have many in my possession, of which I, enticed by their pleasantness, have translated many out of English, but my versions will never be worth the publishing. If I can collect others of this kind, or acquire them from others, perhaps they will make a public appearance, dressed in splendid vestments.
spacer 28. But why dwell on these things? When he was lingering at Innsbruck and Hall near the Italian boarder, he felt a curiosity to see the General Council to be convened at Trent on May 1, so that he might clearly investigate and carefully note the condition, organization, and dealings of this General Council and synod. But he lacked the arrangement and resources to do this. But he did what he could with complete diligence. From his close friend Johannes Sleidanus blue (who was at Trent as the representative of Strassburg) he learned the names of all the participants. Sleidanus also wrote him letters supplying accurate reports of what was transacted in that council, and he transmitted these to his friends in England, so that, inasmuch as he himself could not attend the council, he could at least inform them of what was being done there. It is impossible to relate the assiduity with which he visited all the towns in that region, and the zeal with which he desired to learn the customs of all these communities. Yet in all this overseas travel, in all this protracted delight he derived from sightseeing in foreign parts and examining foreign manners and customs, he adjudged that no manner of life, no matter how splendid it might seem, either in a position of dignity in England nor in foreign nations gaining experience of many things and enjoying such pleasure, was comparable to living at Cambridge, freely devoted to his studies. He perhaps thought that the companions of his studies were pleasant, their conversations were pleasant, his strolls abroad pleasant and without danger, the Muses very pleasant indeed, and his very loyal friends were the parties to his inmost thoughts, since the same love and enthusiasm for learning, and the same pursuits bound them together with bonds of friendship as strong as steel. For the closest friendship is that which is held together by virtue rather than pleasure or self-advantage. And this friendship, when it is once imbibed by men’s minds and has taken firm root, is never dissolved, and even if friends become separated by space they earnestly retain their friendship as strongly as they can, either by letters or go-betweens, or in some other manner. Cicero strikes me as having excellently observed (as is his wont) blue “Of all human associations, none is superior or stronger than that which occurs when good men of similar manners are conjoined in friendship. Nothing is more endearing or intimate than the likeness of goodly manners.”
spacer 29. Roger Ascham preferred this life to all splendor, dignity, and splendid positions within the commonwealth. And for what other reason than so that he might peacefully devoted himself to the Muses wholeheartedly, constantly improve his mind with learning, teach the Greek language (by which he was wonderfully captivated) at Cambridge, and describe and expound to all his students the force, vigor, grace, phraseology, and delights of Demosthenes (whom he always read enthusiastically, but most enthusiastically of all when he was in Germany)? He was wont to say that he is ignorant of men and human affairs, and wholly ignorant of a life pleasantly led who has never adhered to one of the formulae set forth by Marcus Tullius Cicero in the first sentence of Book I of De Oratore, “They are most happy who have been able to live out the course of their lives so as either to spend their days engaged in affairs without danger, or at leisure with dignity.”
spacer 30. Now, after he had consumed the time from September 20, 1550, to the year 1553, to his enjoyment and satisfaction, in seeing many cities in Germany and some also in Italy, an experience of the greatest profit, on July 6 the noble sovereign Edward VI died an early death, to the great loss of this realm, to the immense sorrow of all good men, to the great evil of all Englishmen, and to the serious detriment of Roger Ascham. Ascham, undone by this worst of deaths and all but wholly consumed by sorrow, very much caught up in his cares, poverty and concern over the king’s death, because his little fortune had been used up, and because, with Mary come to power, all his friends had fallen out of their former dignities. He hastened his return and prepared to travel from Germany to England about the end of September. He had come to Germany with great joy, and went home with the greatest sorrow. For he was bereft of all protections, deprived of his annual stipend, and destitute of all friends. With truth Seneca attests that “a single hour exchanges the highest with the lowest,” Ovid excellently writes, “Fortune is mutable with its uncertain steps,” and Juvenal learnedly teaches us “When Fortune wishes to play she raises the lowly up to the heights.” blue
spacer 31. For consider, I ask you, the variable outcome of fortune. Thanks to the intervention of the noble Lord Paget, King Henry VIII of brightest memory enriched him with an annual pension as a reward for dedicating Toxophilus to himself, but when King Henry died Ascham lost his pension. Because of the same Lord Paget’s love for Ascham, out of his goodness the noble King Edward renewed the pension granted by his father but taken away by his death, increasing it with his liberality, confirming it with his authority, and confirming it with the Great Seal of England (but with that bitter qualification “at his pleasure”). On the death of Edward no stipend remained for him, no incomes or rents to support his studies at Cambridge. The thought of these things, together with the death of the most bountiful sovereign, cast him into gnawing cares. But behold, when he returned home in these hardest of times God’s goodness shone upon him. For when he had lost everything and had no hopes or expectations, with all his dearest friends cast out of office, he was suddenly summoned from the university (where he had betaken himself after his return from Germany) to the Privy Council, thanks to the kindness of the Bishop of Winchester blue and Lord Paget, his eneretic supporters, and in the presence of the Council he was sworn in as Latin Secretary. He had previously been awarded this position in absentia during his mission to Germany, at the request of the excellent and noble Sir William Cecil, a secretary to King Edward. blue It was the most splendid thing in his life that, at a time he was plunged in deep despair, the Privy Council chose him out of all the abundance of learned men available for Her Royal Majesty to rely upon for his effort and talent in writing Latin letters, a position long reckoned as most honorable by the rulers of England. Since the letters patent granted by King Edward for Toxophilus were now null and void, again thanks to the operations of Winchester and the zeal of Lord Paget, they were kindly renewed, and his annual stipend of ten pounds was enlarged by another ten.
spacer 32. He discharged this duty under two Queens, first Mary and then his dearest and most bountiful mistress Elizabeth, with such diligence, enthusiasm, ability at writing, and elegance of penmanship, with such loyalty and steadfastness, that nobody in living memory could have performed the task with greater elegance, a more ornate style, or purer diction. It is wonderful to recall with what industry, with what tireless effort, with what assiduity in writing he carried out all things, with what diligence he wrote his letters, with what intellect he devised them, and with what artfulness he polished them to perfection. At the beginning of the reign of Philip and Mary, during a single period of three days he wrote forty-seven separate letters to forty-seven different princes, of whom the lowest in rank were Cardinals, which he ornately devised and excellently drafted. If this should strike someone as a miracle, or if someone were to imagine I was indulging in fiction, I can rebut him with handwritten documents by Ascham, who affirmed this same thing in a letter to Edward Raven, a Fellow of St. John’s College.
spacer 33. Installed in this office, provided with this honorable position, raised up from his previous misery to this rank, until nearly St. John the Baptist’s day he retained his place in St. John’s College (where he remained a Fellow throughout all the time of his travel abroad), as well has his position as University Orator, blue at the behest of Her Royal Majesty and Winchester. On June 1, 1554, he married Margaret Howe, an upright and chaste young woman born of genteel stock, whose parents bestowed her hand on Ascham. When Johann Sturm had heard of this marriage, he wrote thus in a letter to Ascham sent on June 24, 1554: “But what do I hear? You have been made a bridegroom and want to conceal that from me? So I won’t send you some wedding-song written in German? I hear that your bride has the wife of the Lord Wallop, blue who was once captain of Guines when I was at Calais, for a maternal aunt. God god, what a handsome and graceful woman, what an upright matron! If this this is true, if you want to have her for your wife, or if you have married somebody else, pray let me know, and let me know the day of the wedding, so, if I cannot be there myself, I can send some wedding-poem which may adorn your marriage on my behalf.” Thus Johann Sturm.
spacer 34. His virtue and diligence procured him many important friends. Winchester, who beginning at this time enjoyed great authority, conferred many benefits on him and embraced him with great affection, for he always had a high opinion of Ascham because of his intellect and ability at writing, and he greatly valued his loyalty and honesty. Although he was aware that Ascham adhered to a different religious persuasion than himself, nevertheless for the sake of his excellent adroitness at writing letters, and also because of his prudence and ability to keep his silence, he refused either to remove him from his place or put any trust in the malicious slanders of his detractors. It is scarcely to believed how many and how serious charges were laid with Winchester because of his religion (which he always confidently professed) by Englefield, blue by which this highly corrupt contriver of most wicked errors and vain superstitions strove to alienate Winchester from Ascham. But Winchester always shut his ears to this fellow’s accusations, and often reproved him for being over-hostile, because he set a higher value on Ascham’s fine endowments than to yield to another man’s frequent accusations that Ascham was a heretic. Ascham revered Winchester for his authority, loved him for his kindness (which he experienced more than other men), and admired him for his prudence. He wrote many letters to him, in which he exclaimed over Winchester’s outstanding kindness towards himself. Behold the man’s gratitude, who refused to seem an ingrate even towards a highly superstitious man, who preferred to praise his patron for his kindness (although he was ill-disposed to pure religion) rather than uncivilly pass over the benefits he had received in silence and shameful forgetfulness, to his great discredit.
spacer 35. Ascham did not try to gain Winchester’s favor by dancing attendance upon him. Rather, Winchester earned his gratitude by freely conferring many kindnesses on Roger Ascham, even in Ascham’s hardest times. What? Should he have hurled insults at a man who had deserved so excellently of him? Should he have railed against a bishop who at the time had been raised to the highest rank, his very bounteous patron? Should he have leveled public accusations against a Lord Chancellor of England who, at a time he was deprived of his little fortune and his friends and stripped of his pension, had placed him in an honorable position, increased his stipend, and had established him in royal favor, and condemned him for the sake of his shameful religion? Was this the duty of a learned man imbued with the doctrines of pure religion? Who can rightly blame him for praising Winchester, addicted though he was to vain and superstitions opinions, from whom he had received such great favors, been enriched with such great heaps of benefits, and protected by such great guarantees of his life? Who can rightly blame Ascham for this? Who can justly brand him with any mark of disgrace for inconstancy or vain adulation because he loved his singular friend, because praised a man for being so kindly towards himself, because he outspokenly extolled him for benefits received? When he praised him, he did so sparingly, and, had he received no profit from the man, in my opinion he would not have praised him at all. But some will say he trimmed and adapted himself to the times. But Roger Ascham was must unwillingly fetched from the university (where he desired to bury his head and hide himself in library corners) to the service of his sovereign, and was obliged to serve his prince and commonwealth rather than the times. This poem (whoever wrote it) openly urges the same thing: “Be wise and always serve the times, nor try to sail against the wind.” blue
spacer 36. Assuredly he was compelled to serve the time, rather than in any way voluntarily to acquiesce in men’s manners and superstition. And yet he did not cease inveighing against the manners of the time, mocking the superstition of men of that age, and chiding them for their blindness. And so shall we pronounce him inconstant in religion, for obeying his sovereign? Shall we blame him that he praised men who loved him for his virtues and intellectual endowments, because they were blinded by errors? Shall we call him less than steadfast in his opinion for unwillingly serving his commonwealth and his sovereign at that time? But why say so much to free Ascham from even the smallest suspicion of any inconstancy and vanity, when he was untouched by the fripperies and vain superstition of that time and served his queen with consummate diligence, yet did not change his former manners out of inconstancy? Ascham was always the same in religion, the same in honesty, the same in his loyalty to his friends, the same in his piety, constancy, industry, and dutifulness towards two queens. blue Furthermore, he was on close terms with Cardinal Pole, blue who (contrary to the common haughtiness and pride of arrogant Cardinals) consorted with him in a very intimate and friendly manner. He is said to have valued Ascham’s diction more than his own excellent ability to write (for he wrote in a very idiomatic and elegant Latin style). I possess a copy of a speech to Parliament made by Pole (who was sent here as a papal legate), translated very elegantly into Latin by this same Roger Ascham, which Cardinal Pole subsequently sent to the Pope, which, as far as grace and diction go, could not be finer, more ornate, or more idiomatic. I would publish it, if its very odious subject-matter matched the elegance and beauty of its translation.
spacer 37. At that time who was not on familiar terms with Ascham? Who did not have an honorable opinion of him? He stood in great favor with Queen Mary, whose liberality he often experienced. And after she died after a reign of five years, five months and eleven days, on November 17, 1557, and the noble Elizabeth, his bountiful mistress, replaced Mary on that selfsame day, to the supreme consolation of the English and to Roger Ascham’s boundless joy, he continued to occupy the same place and position which he had held under the reign of Mary. In Mary’s eyes, as I have said above, he thrived with great trust and favor, but in the eyes of his most generous mistress and bountiful sovereign, his learned pupil, he enjoyed such authority and grace that he was almost never away from her side. He was daily in her presence, constantly reading something in Greek or Latin. Very often he conversed with her and joined her in whiling away the time with dice or board-games or some entertainment of the kind. Our serene Queen Elizabeth took great pleasure in his company and witty (but never boorish) conversation. Ascham was always granted admission to her and never excluded or turned away. Thanks to this royal favor and the grace and personal presence of his serene mistress Elizabeth, he could have been promoted to higher dignity and had far greater facilities placed at his disposal, had he either been driven by ambition (to which his mind was always most averse) or had been fired by greed for money or the splendor of dignity. But he was so alien to all ambition, so far removed from all aspiration, so opposed to all desire for lodging requests (something which in this age of the world and with these human manners is a thing more to be admired than to be imitated), that he never asked anything from the noble and bountiful Queen Elizabeth. His nature was so averse to such requesting that no opportunity ever emboldened him to ask for anything. No need could make him importunate, his nature could not allow him to be impudent, his covetousness could not make him troublesome, nor could poverty ever turn him into a wheeler.
spacer 38. What industry! What contempt for honor and dignity! What neglect of wealth! When in need he was less sorrowful than to derive any pleasure from complaining of his condition to others. He was gripped by a greater desire, willingness, loyalty, constancy, industry, and sense of duty than to trouble his sovereign with presumptuous and irksome requests. He was wont to say in public, and often remind his friends, that in all those fine days spent in the presence of his sovereign, he never opened his mouth to ask for anything that would enrich himself and his friends, so that they say that that noble gentleman the Marquis of Wotton, the Lord High Treasurer of England at the time blue and a dear friend of Ascham, often criticized him for his bashfulness in asking, saying “Ascham, you should be less punctual in performing your service and be bolder in petitioning the Queen.” Many others were wont to chide him for being over-bashful, saying, “Why don’t you ask, Ascham? Why don’t you solicit Her Royal Majesty with petitions? If you are in want, the fault is yours for not asking, not in your most bountiful mistress, who desires to bestow much upon you.” He would reply, “I have preferred to deserve well of my sovereign by means of diligence and dutifulness rather than be undeservedly enhanced by fine gifts.” Nevertheless, out of her generous goodness Her Royal Majesty enhanced him with many great benefits. But these were always granted by her before he asked for them. Such was this man’s abstinence from accepting all largesse and gifts that, when many fine bribes were offered him for sake of the honorable place he enjoyed and his influence with his sovereign, and, as Homer would say, glorious presents were sent to him, he would refuse, scorn, and send back them all, very frequently saying that God had not given him a tongue so that it might be put up for sale, and either be subverted by bribes or openly conquered by money.
spacer 39. He preferred to live sparingly and austerely rather than pollute his mind with the foulness of bribery. As his age advanced, he shrank from studies in the afternoon and night. But he would read, annotate, study, and write before the dawn and in the morning. His body was feeble and invalid, broken by many diseases, a prey to constant fevers and afflicted by various maladies. A few years before his death these plunged him into a hectic fever, blue at which time they despaired of his health. But such was God’s goodness towards him that at length he recovered from it with the help of his physicians. He bore all adversities calmly, and was not wont to be cast into consternation by calamities or rendered arrogant by successes. He sometimes surrendered himself to anguish, and greatly troubled himself over the unkindness of certain men who were disloyal to himself although he had been most loyal to them. The time remaining from his morning studies or Her Majesty’s private affairs he employed for the decent exercises and delights I have discussed previously, or conversations with his friends or discussions with foreign visitors. In his diet he was very temperate and abstemious. He was naturally averse to seafood, for which reason during the reign of Edward he was granted a licence by the Archbishop of Canterbury which freed him of the necessity of eating fish, and when Mary was on the throne he was obliged to resort to other means of preserving his health. He never failed to satisfy the requests of studious men with his help, counsel and advice, and gave a number of subsidies to poor scholars. He gave much to his close friends, very often helping them in time of need. He liked and approved no verses more than these of Martial, “Whatever you give to your friends is beyond the reach of Fortune. The only wealth you always possess is that which you give away.”blue
spacer 40. And so, thus excellent in his erudition, thus preeminent in the integrity of his life, thus tried-and-true in his zeal for the pure religion, most dear to many men, he zealously worshipped God, the bestower of all good things, the rich fountainhead of all the virtues. His conversation was pious and upright, and did much to illustrate God’s glory. He worshipped at home daily. He freely acknowledged his sins, vehemently begging for divine mercy and humbly praying for forgiveness. When he went away from his house, he was always beginning conversations with his friends about God, about human misery, iniquity, malice and backbiting, about the great kindnesses conferred on mankind by God Almighty, and about God’s wonderful goodness in creating, redeeming, renewing, sanctifying, calling and binding us wretched mortals. Most trustworthy men who were his familiars report that he was greatly pious within his own household, very modest in his conversations, most loyal towards his sovereign, most loving towards his friends, most eager for learning, and that in his strolls abroad and his journeys he was mindful of God’s boons for mankind.
spacer 41. Let these words concerning his very holy and upright life suffice. It remains for me to say a few things about his departure from this world. Just as his life was pious, honorable, upright, averse to vices, given over to virtues and intellectual pursuits, shining with fine good deeds, harmful and hateful to no man, so his death, Christian and most pious, resembled his life in all ways, for a bad death cannot follow upon a life lived very honorably and piously and those who live piously die piously. As I have said above, he was afflicted by many fevers which had weakened his powers for many years and greatly afflicted him. And for the years preceding his death he suffered from the hectic fever. Although he had recovered from this somewhat, it nevertheless left behind certain traces which were aroused and provoked by his excessive zeal and effort in writing some verses as a New Year’s gift for Her Majesty, blue and began to grow serious. While he occupied his mental powers with its composition and spent many a sleepless night because of his great exertion, he took a chill, and fell into a grave disease on December 23, A. D. 1568. In his illness he was often visited by that most eminent gentleman and learned member of the clergy Alexander Nowell, the right worthy Dean of St. Paul’s, blue who would console him, in wholesome words piously setting before his eyes the tediums of this life and the miseries of this world, and feeding his soul with his very holy sayings, so much so that after this holy man’s departed Roger Ascham said with a certain exultation that Alexander Nowell, a pious man and a gentleman of most upright life, had fed his soul with foods destined never to perish.
spacer 42. The disease began to afflict him increasingly, at no time allowing him rest or sleep. He was sometimes carried upstairs or down by the hands of his servants, and a cradle was made for him so that he was rocked to sleep like an infant. But these measures failed to induce sleep. Out of his happy memory he would piously inform the right worshipful Dean and his other friends standing by his bed things about God and His mercy, love, and benefits conferred on mankind. Who could speak or think more piously, more divinely, or in a more Christian manner? What this same very pious Alexander Nowell said about him strikes me as highly creditable, that he had never seen or heard of any men who lived more honorably or died a more Christian death. I attach so much importance to his words and his faith that I do not think him able to give a false report, because of his piety, nor be willing to affirm anything but the truth, because of his prudence and integrity. For he was a most informative witness of Roger Ascham’s life and manners, being a very close friend, and also an eyewitness to his death. Afterwards he bequeathed everything to his wife, particularly his dearest sons. blue He requested that she manage everything as she saw fit, that out of her maternal affection she see to their education, and that she ensure they be raised with virtue, piety, learning, and goodly manners. Also present at the deathbed was that man of preeminent honesty and erudition Dominus Gravet, the worthy vicar of St. Sepulchre, blue who came to visit the gravely ill Roger, console him, and perform the last rites. “I have not come to give you instruction, Dominus Ascham, for, thanks to the words of the Rev. Alexander Nowell and my own memory of you, I know you are very well instructed. Rather, I have come to console you and to do my duty.” Ascham replied, “I am in great pain and oppressed by a grave disease. This is my confession, my statement of faith, my prayer. All I want is to be released and to exist with Christ.” He had quoted that divine, heavenly sentiment of St. Paul’s blue to Alexander Nowell many times before. When he had said these last words, a kind of swan song, he fell silent, and about ten p. m. he returned his soul (which he had desired to be with God so often beforehand) to God, to the greatest grief and lamentation of the bystanders. When the true rumor of this death had penetrated to the inmost parts of the palace and reached the ears of our most serene sovereign, the grief with which she heard the news of her friend Ascham can scarcely be described. It is reported (and I believe it to be most true) that Elizabeth said at that time that she would prefer to cast £10,000 into the sea than thus to lose her Ascham.
spacer 43. The sovereign mourned his death, the people mourned it, Eliza blue mourned it, all her court mourned it. It is better to leave in their minds the sorrow caused to the learned men of Strassburg who had been Roger Ascham’s close friends, and particularly Johann Sturm (for they experienced the height of grief), than to coldly and feebly repeat the reports we heard. He died on December 30, 1568, at the age of fifty-three. He was buried without any show of funeral pomp on January 4 in the Church of St. Sepulcher outside the prison called by Londoners Newgate. On that day very learned and pious sermon was preached in that church by the Rev. Alexander Nowell to a crowded congregation, in which that erudite gentleman in his usual graceful terms thus honored the death of a very eloquent man and beloved friend .that neither could any upright man’s life be adorned with more lavish praises, nor could anybody’s death be deplored with more sorrow and bitterness. May God grant that those of us who survive him live in a similar way, walking in the footsteps of his most virtuous life and Christian death, and may we also die in a similar way when the Fates take us off.


spacer 44. Now I shall turn my discourse from his life and death to praises of his writing and purity of diction. I value and always attributed to Ascham’s judgment and the grace of his writings just as much value as deserves to be granted a man who is schooled in the knowledge of languages and the Arts, in the precepts of philosophy, the ability to speak and to write, the mysteries of Scripture, not just by learning them but also by exercising them and putting them into practice. For his writings are not just learned, but also pious and Christian, and hence it appears that he has kept his eye fixed on the true end of learning and has achieved that, so that he might combine virtue, piety, sweetness of manners, and loyalty and great love of his friends with his singular erudition and admirable ability at speaking and writing. And so, as often as I read his most erudite letters (which are all that have now been made printed) and certain theological notes which I intend to publish soon, blue as I often am wont to do, attracted by the subject-matter and moved by the brilliance of his excellent style, I both admire him and congratulate our noble sovereign for employing him as a tutor, and I congratulate all England, on which he conferred such great honor among foreigners for his learning, and such utility on his fellow-citizens because of his prudence, experience and education of our sovereign, as much as any excellent man, loyal subject and learned man could do. Whatever he wrote he wrote in a polished manner, suffusing all his readers with pleasure. It can scarcely be told how much men superior for their erudition and endowed with great eloquence praise the civility, modesty, humanity, and countless felicities in Ascham’s writing, the grace in his sentences, the elegance in his words, the moderation in his cadences, the neatness in his syntax, the illumination in everything, the fact that nothing in him in not exquisite. And yet nothing is affected, he has great power without becoming overbearing, consummate grace without slackness, brevity with pith, and again prolixity without lack of self-control, a certain rotundity and crispness, yet without the constant flash from which Pliny’s generation suffered, diction which is clean and clear, and yet without that anxious scrupulosity with which Ciceronians of our times emaciate and fetter themselves. blue Johannes Sturm attests that, in terms of elocution and styles of writing, he never saw anything more sagacious than the writings of Roger Ascham For in a letter he says, “Your letters are not only graceful, but also elegant. For in them there is such flexibility of diction that reaches both the soprano notes of affability and the bass ones of philosophy; there is such organization in your word-order that I admire the grace of your writing; and I also understand that your letters have been written with care — unless nothing issues from you that is not perfect, no matter how quickly it has been dashed off.”
spacer 45. The Portuguese Hieronymus Osorius, Bishop of Faro, blue a man heaped with praise for his eloquence, who embraced Roger Ascham with great affection, thought nothing to be richer or more fitting in this vein. Petrus Nannius of Alkmaar, Professor of Latin of the Collegium Trilingue at Louvain, blue averred that nothing was more learned or polished than Ascham’s letters. Michael Toxites, the Tyrolian poet laureate, blue adjudged that nothing was more graceful or learned. Hieronymus Wolf of Otting blue thought nothing to be neater. Many other men very well versed in the virtues of eloquence, learning and speaking, famous at home and abroad, always had the highest opinion of Roger Ascham’s writing and purity of diction. I forebear to speak of our own countrymen: Cardinal Pole, Stephan Winchester, John Cheke and Thomas Smith (those two bulwarks of learning, letters, and the English university), Robert Pember, Richard Bransby, John Christopherson, William Bill, blue Walter Haddon, blue James Pilkington, Thomas Wilson, Nicholas Carr, blue and many others illustrious for their consummate learning, who always thought highly of Ascham. Had he devoted himself wholeheartedly to writing and had desired to put into practice what he had learned from Cicero, Plato, Aristotle, Demosthenes, Isocrates, Thucydides and Herodotus, what Bembo blue could be more elegant, what Sadolet more learned, what Longolius more polished, what Manutius more excellent and artful in bringing this kind of writing to perfection than could Roger Ascham?
spacer 46. He only wrote two books, Toxophilus and The Scholemaster, together with a certain small treatise about current affairs in Germany, all written in English, are in circulation, which show his great erudition and his graceful elegance in writing. If he had chosen to clad these in Roman dress, nothing of the kind could be more illustrious, copious, or ornate. Furthermore, he left behind these scattered letters which, together with other writings that I am soon going to publish, I have collected for your benefit, and these assuredly show to no mean degree from what artist’s workshop they have come forth. In these you will have a fine example for imitation, and if you frame your manner of letter-writing after their model, you will get yourselves both pure diction and an excellent facility at writing. So that you can more readily achieve excellence at writing and speaking, I am about to say a little about eloquence, in accordance with my slender and slight little ability, and set before your eyes the road whereby you may attain to elegance of writing and speaking, to which the third portion of my scheme will be dedicated.


spacer 47. It is a great thing I have undertaken, more arduous and difficult than the slight powers of my intellect seem able to support. For I must speak of that supreme and divine virtue called eloquence, and I readily appreciate that an oration can scarcely be devised equal to its praiseworthiness and excellence. But if you lend me your eager ears, and read this what is said by me in my arid manner of oratory with a kindly and friendly spirit, I shall bring it about that my words do not only strike you as pleasant, but I shall make you understand that there is nothing in this life you should strive for more than the ability to speak, nothing more worthy of young students than wise and ornate oratory, pure and clear diction.
spacer 48. For this reason I shall divide my discourse so that part of it will be directed towards the praiseworthiness and excellence of eloquence (of which I have chosen to speak), but part towards urging your minds to its pursuit. Let it all be informed by the example of Roger Ascham. But in the first part I do not think much elaboration is required. For the elegance of oratory is celebrated everywhere in the eulogies and praises of very eloquent man, and so illustrated by the writings and discourse of many men that I can tell you nothing new or unheard-of. And so I shall touch on it but lightly.
spacer 49. Eloquence is certainly one of the greatest virtues, and it take its name from speaking out (eloquendum), because he who is instructed and well-equipped in this can speak wisely and and elegantly about whatever is on his mind. Therefore nothing finer, nothing fairer, nothing more divine can be said or imagined. For inasmuch as Man exists midway between God and a beast, on the one hand touching God with his reason and power of speech, but on the other creeping among the beasts while pleasure’s tickle impinges on his senses and the passions’ savagery launch their assault on the government of reason, this branch of learning is most fit for our study and most suitable for mankind, not insofar as any consideration for the body and senses must be had, but rather inasmuch as discourse is advanced to learned speech, and reason to divine understanding. And although there should be fine praise for the other arts, but especially for that one which can expel diseases and knowledgeably preserve our body and life, nevertheless, since countless cautious beasts have discovered this so they might not be injured, and the more skillful have discovered it so that they might be cured, although this branch of learning is indeed most useful for our life, nevertheless I do not dare compare it with the excellent faculty of speech and understanding, the one mark that distinguishes us from the beasts, the sole thing that joins us to divinity. Therefore I see nothing more handy for Man’s use, or finer for his praiseworthiness, nor more steadfast for his immortality, nor do I think anything more fit for the studies of young men than cultivating one’s discourse for speaking ornately, preparing one’s reason for prudent understanding, and acquiring the divine power of eloquence. And although Antonius in Cicero deprives us of all hope of achieving this, blue nevertheless we must strive to come as close to it as possible with all our diligence and striving.
spacer 50. Besides the fact that it has nothing in common with the beasts, but is taken and imbibed from divinity itself, and so tied up and bound together that these three things, speech, reason, and God, are embraced by Plato in the single word logos, which we may most fitly interpret as meaning eloquence, I certainly see nothing more desirable for a man, nothing more favorable for his understanding, nothing better for his use, nothing greater for his glory, nothing superior for his power, and nothing can be devised more similar to the divine mind. Without it, the other arts not only fail to have regard for their proper ends, but become mute, useless and sordid. For, just as Man’s glory is his intellect, thus the light of his intellect is eloquence. Hence it comes about that by means of speech alone the wise and eloquent man can sway men’s minds and drive them towards or away from whatever he wishes. This is most laudable, this is noble and very obvious, this alone (as long as it is regarded as most honorable and wonderful), as Cicero attests, has always flourished and held sway in every free people, and particularly in societies that are tranquil and at peace.
spacer 51. I am not unaware that to certain people this discipline of speaking seems very full of toil and trouble, so that it is only with difficulty that they can be induced to apply themselves to this thing wholeheartedly and devote all their zeal to acquiring it. But those who love the glory of great things cannot in any way be frightened off by the difficulty that seems to be inherent in it, nor be deterred by any feelings of hopelessness. Rather, these men will always keep before their eyes the very rich fruits, the lavish honors, and the enduring glory to be had from it. For the acquisition of such a great thing should not be measured by difficulty, effort and aversion, which are transitory, but rather by honor, glory,and pleasure. But since men are so constructed by nature that they are mostly inspired by advantage, and are in the habit of keeping their eye on expedience before all else, in this context it will not be entirely beside the point to touch briefly on the utility of oratory. For from the ability to speak derive the most abundant profits and numberless advantages, not only for those who possess this capacity, but also for the entire commonwealth. For they have the means to protect and defend themselves and their lives against the snares of their enemies. And with the help and support of this most excellent virtue, they can easier govern, enhance, and preserve these things. For thanks to the moderation and wisdom of a prudent orator, dissolute and criminal men are banished from the commonwealth, whereas good men who are wholesome for the republic are retained in it; the guilty are punished, the innocent are spared; and, to sum up briefly its other advantages, which are countless, the safety of the entire commonwealth depends upon this ability of speech.
spacer 52. Now it remains for me to say something of its necessity. For we should make up our minds that skill at speaking is supremely necessary for the maintenance of religion, the preservation of liberty, the protection of the laws, the uprooting of false and depraved opinions from men’s minds, the encouragement of the afflicted, the procuring of friendships, and the establishment of tranquility among our citizens. In its absence, not only those who attain to the helm of the state, but also the members of the clergy and those who practice the law could maintain their positions only with great difficulty. But inasmuch as this thing can appear to possess the greatest difficulty, especially in the eyes of those who are ignorant of the ways and means by which it can be achieved, I shall therefore point out a short, sure, and compendious way by which you may arrive at that ability at speaking and writing which Roger Ascham happily attained, if you have one begun your studies. And so the things are five in number wherein all the science of speaking and writing is contained, and brought to perfection and completion: nature, learning, understanding, the imitation of eloquent and approved authors, and experience or practice. And to make my beginning with nature, there is none of you who does not enjoy a modicum of natural talent, and is endowed with a good enough nature, if not necessarily an excellent one. But this bounty of nature, which often seems slight, needs to be exercised with industry and diligence. For it often happens that even the best of natures become corrupted and depraved by idleness and neglect. So let this be decided, that nature herself has laid the foundations and sowed the seeds of the art of speaking. But inasmuch as nature often lacks order and cannot extricate itself from difficult controversies, the precepts of the art of rhetoric very properly come to our aid, precepts which train us, show us the way, and provide us the method we should follow. They make a good nature better, they moderate one that goes astray, they make an orator deviate less from his intention, they illuminate his discourse with grave sentences, and they polish his speech with the choicest words. Without these no man can speak well or write elegantly. These precepts of the art of rhetoric, I tell you, must be learned from the books of the best rhetoricians.
spacer 53. To these are added an understanding of things, without which those precepts are empty and of entirely no value. How this can be achieved you will hear, not from me, but from Cicero, who in his book entitled the Brutus gives us excellent precepts about the roads leading to the citadel of eloquence. To use Cicero’s intention, although not his actual words, he states that all eloquence sprouts from two things, the subject-matter and the handling. The subject-matter is visible in things and words. Things are to be absorbed from history, and books of ethical, physical, and political writers, who supply a sufficient understanding of things. Words, be they proper or figurative, should be taken from Cicero, if Latin, or if you prefer Greek, from Plato, Demosthenes, Isocrates, and similar writers. From these sources flows the entire stream of oratory by whose current all of men’s senses and minds are wont to be caught up and swept along. Therefore whoever wishes to think prudently and express his thoughts fitly, if Cicero has caught sight of anything, should, as it were, travel the road from history to physics and ethics, and so to the divine power of eloquence itself. In addition to these things, the writings of the most eloquent of men are set before us, so we may match our composition to them, as to a rule and pattern. For thus the counsel and intention of an author is put on display, as are his handling and composition, so that it does not seem very difficult to produce something similar. And so there is nothing that can strike as as difficult, nothing that allows us to manufacture an excuse for our sloth, and no reason why we should not strive might and main to acquiring such great ability at speaking and writing.
spacer 54. It only remains for experience and daily practice to be added to the things of which I have spoken, in the absence of which everything remains maimed and defective. This makes a man ready, this brings him to perfection, this consummates and perfects everything. In nothing can we see the power of art, imitation, and usage more clearly and plainly than in those base and mechanical trades, to which their practitioners have devoted their entire lives, persuaded by the truth of that trite and commonplace proverb, practice makes artists. Those who invest all their effort in learning their art and understanding its most abstruse points but pay no attention to practice and exercise, if they should chance to receive some patronage reveal themselves as so frigid, bloodless and feeble that they are justly thought to be booed and hissed off the stage by all men, as is once said to have happened to Hermogenes and Quintilian, although they were most learned in the art of rhetoric. Furthermore, those who always rely on the imitation of others and never exercise themselves in writing or speaking are as unhappy wretches as if they could not see, hear, or talk without borrowing eyes, hears and feet from their neighbor. I shall not now speak about the great power of usage in all things (for example how raindrops can hollow out hard rock by their constant downfall), nor how iron plows are worn down by even the softest earth, nor the great power of usage in inanimate things, but I shall only demonstrate its power in human affairs. Although, in many men’s opinions, nature in its kindness confers much upon us in our infancy, I would argue that all these things, or at least the greater part of them, accrue to us by usage and habit. For (if I might place most stress on the things of greatest importance), are we to imagine that the very power of speech, by which we surpass other animals, is granted to us by nature, or rather that it has been acquired by usage and habit? I confess (as I have said above) that nature has planted the seeds, but usage has brought them to ripeness; nature has made the beginning, but habit has brought them to perfection. For who can utter even one meaningful word who had not learned it by frequently and habitually listening to others? Let us immediately separate an infant from human company, what language would it adopt? What sounds would it produce? Would it not howl or grunt? So let nature cease congratulating herself upon this gift, for, unless usage perfected and completed it, it would be crude, rough, uncultivated, and just like that of other animals.
spacer 55. For usage is separated from nature in nothing, they are so mutually conjoined that usage is justly called a second nature by Marcus Tullius Cicero. When it comes to the liberal arts, one can express the power of usage more than define it in in any words. In grammar, it provides copiousness and a fund of words. In dialect, it spurs our keenness in inventing arguments and our prudence in judging them. In rhetoric, usage will readily grant us the power to excite any emotions you care to name, and direct the mind’s agitation in any direction you choose. But why dwell on other considerations when Marcus Tullius Cicero calls usage the best instructor for speaking? What about the fact that even today there are things which are done without any help of nature, art, or imitation, but only by usage and habit? For Milo of Croton, that very stout athlete, was instructed by no precept of art, helped by no example he could imitate, nor endowed with no rare benefit of nature, but was strengthened by his constant daily usage of weight-lifting, when he carried the calf, no matter how great, up to Mt. Olympus. Here I could adduce Demosthenes, were his story not so familiar. And if any man was ever as well-read as he, he should have attributed this entirely to exercise. And just as any intellect, no matter how fine and excellent, is covered over by much rust if it is not exercised and cultivated by diligent usage, so a slow and dull wit can become clever, wise, and very splendid by means of unrelenting exercise. From all these considerations we can learn that nothing is so difficult or arduous that usage and exercise cannot overcome and conquer it.
spacer 56. This exercise is undertaken in various ways, by listening, learning, reading, meditating, writing, translating, imitating, and declamation. But it consists of these three things in particular, whether we speak extemporaneously or after consideration, or do the same in our style and habit of writing. Cicero assigns the first role to style, the second to deliberation, and the third to extemporaneous speech, because a the habit of extemporaneous speech cannot be inculcated usefully and fruitfully unless it has been preceded by diligent practice in writing. For in the acquisition of eloquence the chief thing is writing, and for that reason Cicero did not hesitate to call style the facilitator and, as I have already said, the teacher of speaking. For he steadfastly maintained that all the commonplaces such as appertain to the subject of which we are writing, all our grave thoughts and brilliant expressions fall under the category of acuteness of style, and also that our marshalling and arrangement of words is perfected by writing frequently. Roger Ascham often indulged in these exercises and, facile by nature, powerful thanks to the precepts of art, cultivated with an understanding of things, helped by the imitation of Cicero, and strengthened by usage and the habit of writing something every day, he attained to that excellent elegance of writing and speaking which he attained, if anybody ever did. And so, since stylistic exercise and constancy at writing have so many and such great advantages, and deserve such great praise from Cicero, called the source and father of all eloquence, and since Roger Ascham, whose writings you may now enjoy thanks to my effort, has attained to such great grace of writing by these things, but most of all by usage and exercise, and (so to speak) has calloused his hands with them, I beg you, my young students, and, if the opportunity for exhortation be granted me, I exhort you greatly to devote yourselves to these things for a long time, and write so frequently that when you are obliged to speak extemporaneously, what you say will seem very like what you write. And this is something which will garner you supreme admiration, the greatest praise, and enduring glory.
spacer 57. And so, since nobody is hindered by difficulty, but rather the easiness beckons you, the dignity encourages you, the utility exhorts you, the necessity urges you, I again exhort you, noble young men, that by lengthy usage and daily exercise you make your own that virtue which is attended on by honor, glory, and fine praises. For thus it will come about that you can serve the interests of yourselves and your honor, and the profit of your commonwealth and nation, and you may perceive that Roger Ascham reaped these noble rewards of dignity and excellent ornaments bestowed by his nature, to his great glory, and to the supreme advantage of his commonwealth.