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exerts his rhetorical powers in praise of Ascham's disinterestedness and contempt of money; and declares, that though he was often reproached by his friends with neglect of his own interest, he never would ask any thing, and inflexibly refused all presents which his office or imagined interest induced any to offer him. Camden, however, imputes the narrowness of his condition to his love of dice and cock-fights; and Graunt, forgetting himself, allows that Ascham was sometimes thrown into agonies by disappointed expectations. It may be easily discovered from his Schoolmaster, that he felt his wants, though he might neglect to supply them; and we are left to suspect that he showed his contempt of money only by losing at play. If this was his practice, we may excuse Elizabeth, who knew the domestick character of her servants, if she did not give much to him who was lavish of a little.
However he might fail in his economy, it were indecent to treat with wanton levity the memory of a man who shared his frailties with all, but whose learning or virtues few can attain, and by whose excellencies many may be improved, while himself only suffered by his faults.
In the reign of Elizabeth nothing remarkable is known to have befallen him, except that, in 1563, he was invited by Sir Edward Sackville to write the Schoolmaster, a treatise on education, upon an occasion which he relates in the beginning of the book.
This work, though begun with alacrity, in hopes of a considerable reward, was interrupted by the death of the patron, and afterwards sorrowfully and slowly finished, in the gloom of disappoint
ment, under the pressure of distress. But of the author's disinclination or dejection there can be found no tokens in the work, which is conceived with great vigour, and finished with great accuracy; and perhaps contains the best advice that was ever given for the study of languages.
This treatise he completed, but did not publish; for that poverty which in our days drives authors so hastily in such numbers to the press, in the time of Ascham, I believe, debarred them from it. The printers gave little for a copy, and, if we may believe the tale of Ralegh's history, were not forward to print what was offered them for nothing. Ascham's book therefore lay unseen in his study, and was at last dedicated to lord Cecil by his widow.
Ascham never had a robust or vigorous body, and his excuse for so many hours of diversion was his inability to endure a long continuance of sedentary thought. In the latter part of his life he found it necessary to forbear any intense application of the mind from dinner to bed-time, and rose to read and write early in the morning. He was for some years hectically feverish; and though he found some alleviation of his distemper, never obtained a perfect recovery of his health. The immediate cause of his last sickness was too close application to the composition of a poem, which he purposed to present to the queen on the day of her accession. To finish this, he forbore to sleep at his accustomed hours, till in December 1568 he fell sick of a kind of lingering disease, which Graunt has not named, nor accurately described. The most afflictive symptom was want of sleep, which he endeavoured to obtain by the motion of a cradle. Growing every day weaker, he found it vain to contend with his distemper, and prepared to die with the resignation and piety of a true Christian. He was attended on his death-bed by Gravet, vicar of St. Sepulchre, and Dr. Nowel, the learned dean of St. Paul's, who gave ample testimony to the decency and devotion of his concluding life.
He frequently testified his desire of that dissolution which he soon obtained. His fu. neral sermon was preached by Dr. Nowel.
Roger Ascham died in the fifty-third year of his age, at a time when, according to the general course of life, much might yet have been expected from him, and when he might have hoped for much from others: but his abilities and his wants were at an end together; and who can determine, whether he was cut off from advantages, or rescued from calamities? He appears to have been not much qualified for the improvement of his fortune. His disposition was kind and social ; he delighted in the pleasures of conversation, and was probably not much inclined to business. This may be suspected from the paucity of his writings. He has left little behind him; and of that little nothing was published by himself but the Toxophilus, and the account of Germany. The Schoolmaster was printed by his widow; and the epistles were col. lected by Graunt, who dedicated them to queen Elizabeth, that he might have an opportunity of recommending his son, Giles Ascham, to her patronage. The dedication was not lost : the
young man was made, by the queen's mandate, fellow of a college in Cambridge, where he obtained considerable reputation. What was the effect of his widow's dedication to Cecil, is not known: it may be hoped that Ascham's works obtained for his family, after his decease, that support which he did not in his life very plenteously procure them.
Whether he was poor by his own fault, or the fault of others, cannot now be decided; but it is certain that many have been rich with less merit. His philological learning would have gained him honour in any country; and among us it may justly call for that reverence which all nations owe to those who first rouse them from ignorance, and kindle among them the light of literature. Of his manners nothing can be said but from his own testimony, and that of his contemporaries. Those who mention him allow him many virtues. His courtesy, benevolence, and liberality, are celebrated; and of his piety we have not only the testimony of his friends, but the evidence of his writings.
That his English works have been so long neglected, is a proof of the uncertainty of literary fame. He was scarcely known as an author in his own language till Mr. Upton published his Schoolmaster, with learned notes. His other pieces were read only by those few who delight in obsolete books; but as they are now collected into one volume, with the addition of some letters never printed before, the publick has an opportunity of recompensing the injury, and allotting Ascham the reputation due to his knowledge and his eloquence.