Page images
PDF
EPUB

186 and that the world should owe thank thereof to you, to whom

my husband, the author of it, was, for good received of you, most dutifully bounden. And so beseeching you to take on you the defence of this book, to advance the good that may come of it by your allowance, and furtherance to public use and benefit, and to accept the thankful recognition of me and my poor children, trusting of the continuance of your good memory of Mr. Ascham and his ; and daily commending the prosperous estate of you and yours to God, whom you serve, and whose you are, I rest to trouble you. Your humble

MARGARET ASCHAM.

A

PREFACE TO THE READER,

When the great plague was at London, the year 1563, the Queen's Majesty, Queen Elizabeth, lay at her castle of Windsor: where, * upon the tenth day of December, it fortuned, that in Sir William Cecil's chamber, her Highness's principal Secretary, there dined together these personages, Mr. Secretary himself, Sir William Peter, Sir J. Mason, D. Wotton, Sir Richard Sackville Treasurer of the Exchequer, Sir Walter Mildmay Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Haddon Master of Requests, Mr. John Astely Master of the Jewel-House, Mr. Bernard Hampton, Mr. Nicasius, and I. Of which number, the most part were of her Majesty's most honourable Privy Council, and the rest serving her in very good place. I was glad then, and do rejoice yet to remember, that my chance was so happy to be there that day, in the company of so many wise and good men together, as hardly then could have been picked out again out of all England beside.

Mr. Secretary hath this accustomed manner; though his head be never so full of most weighty affairs of the realm, yet at dinner-time he doth seem to lay them always aside; and findeth ever fit occasion to talk pleasantly of other matters, but most gladly of some matter of learning, wherein he will courteously hear the mind of the meanest at his table.

Not long after our sitting down, “ I have strange news

* This was about five years before the author's death; for he died the 30th of December in the year 1568, in the fifty-third year of brought me," saith Mr. Secretary, “ this morning, that divers scholars of Eton be run away from the school for fear of beating.” Whereupon, Mr. Secretary took occasion to wish, that some more discretion were in many schoolmasters, in using correction, than commonly there is ; who many times punish rather the weakness of nature, than the fault of the scholar; whereby many scholars, that might else prove well, be driven to hate learning before they know what learning meaneth : and so are made willing to forsake their book, and be glad to be put to any other kind of living.

his age.

Mr. Peter, as one somewhat severe of nature, said plainly, That the rod only was the sword, that must keep the school in obedience, and the scholar in good order. Mr. Wotton, a man mild of nature, with soft voice and few words, inclined to Mr. Secretary's judgement, and said, “ In mine opinion, the school-house should be in deed, as it is called by name, the house of play and pleasure, and not of fear and bondage ; and, as I do remember, so saith * Socrates in one place of Plato: And therefore, if a rod carry the fear of a sword, it is no marvel if those that be fearful of nature, choose rather to forsake the play, than to stand always within the fear of a sword in a fond man's handling."

Mr. Mason, after his manner, was very merry with both parties, pleasantly playing both with the shrewd touches of many curst boys, and with the small discretion of

many lewd schoolmasters. Mr. Haddon was fully of Mr. Peter's opinion, and said, That the best schoolmaster of our time was the t greatest beater, and named the person. “Though,"

The passage to which the Dean of Canterbury here refers, is in Plat 's seventh book of his Republic, not far from the end, and is afterwards cited by Mr. Ascham. I shall here transcribe it somewhat more fully for the reader's satisfaction Tà pèy Toiruv aoyio

pcr τι και γεωμετριών, και πάσης της προπαιδείας, ήν της Διαλεκτικής δεί προπαιδευθήναι, παισιν ούσι χρή προβάλλειν, ουχ ως επάναγκες μαθεϊν το σχήμα της διδαχής σοιουμένους. Τί δη; "Οτι (ενδ' εγώ) ουδέν μάθημα μετά δουλείας τον ελεύθερος χρή μανθάνειν. . Οι μεν γαρ του σώματος πόνοι, βία πονούμενοι, χείρον ουδέν το σώμα απεργάζονται. Ψυχή δε βίαιον ουδέν έμμενον μάθημα. 'Αληθή, έφη. Μη τοίνυν βία (είπον) ώ άριστε, τους παίδας εν τοις μαθήμασιν, αλλά παίζοντας τρέφε, ένα και μάλλον οίός τ' ής καθoράν εφ' δ έκαστος πέφυκε.

+ This was Nic. Udal, master of Eton school,' whom Bale styles, Elegantissimus omnium bonarum literarum magister, et earum feliquoth I, " it was his good fortune to send from his school unto the University * one of the best scholars indeed of all our time, yet wise men do think, that that came so to pass, rather by the great towardness of the scholar, than by the great beating of the master: and whether this be true or no, you yourself are best witness." I said somewhat further in the matter, how, and why young children were sooner allured by love than driven by beating, to attain good learning; wherein I was the bolder to say my mind, because Mr. Secretary courteously provoked me thereunto; or else in such a company, and namely in his presence, my wont is, to be more willing to use mine ears, than to occupy my tongue.

Sir Walter Mildmay, Mr. Astely, and the rest, said very little; only Sir Richard Sackville said nothing at all. After dinner, I went up to read with the Queen's Majesty. We read then together in the Greek tongue, as I well remember, that noble Oration of Demosthenes against Æschines, for his false dealing in his embassage to King Philip of Macedonia. Sir Richard Sackville came up soon after, and finding me in her Majesty's privy-chamber, me by the hand, and carrying me to a window, said : “ Mr. Ascham, I would not for a good deal of money have been this day absent from dinner. Where, though I said nothing, yet I gave as good ear, and do consider as well the talk that passed, as any one did there. Mr. Secretary said very wisely, and most truly, that many young wits be driven to hate learning, before they know what learning is. I can be good witness to this myself; for a fond school

cissimus interpres. His severity his own scholar, Mr. Tusser, has sufficiently proclaimed in these lines :

“ From Paul's I went, to Eton sent,

To learn straightways the Latin phrase;
Where fifty-three stripes given to me

At once I had :
For fault but small, or none at all,
It came to pass, thus beat I was :
See, Udal, see the mercy of thee

To me poor lad." * This was Mr. Haddon, some time fellow of King's College in Cambridge, very much complimented by all the learned men of that age; and of whom Queen Elizabeth, upon some comparison made betwixt him and Buchanan, thus gave her opinion: Buchananum omnibus antepono : Haddonum nemini postpono.

master, before I was fully fourteen years old, drove me so with fear of beating from all love of learning, as now, when I know what difference it is, to have learning, and to have little or none at all, I feel it my greatest grief, and find it my greatest hurt that ever came to me, that it was my so ill chance to light upon so lewd a schoolmaster. But seeing it is but in vain to lament things past, and also wisdom to look to things to come, surely, God willing, if God lend me life, I will make this my mishap some occasion of good hap to little • Robert Sackville my son's son. For whose bringing up, I would gladly, if it so please you, use especially your good advice. I hear say you have a son much of his age; we will thus deal together : point you out a schoolmaster, who by your order shall teach my son and yours, and for all the rest I will provide, yea though they three do cost me a couple of hundred pounds by year; and beside, you shall find me as fast a friend to you and yours, as perchance any you have." Which promise the worthy gentleman surely kept with me until his dying day.

We had then further talk together of bringing up of children, of the nature of quick and hard wits, of the right choice of a good wit, of fear and love in teaching children. We passed from children and came to young men, namely, gentlemen : we talked of their too much liberty to live as they lust; of their letting loose too soon to overmuch experience of ill, contrary to the good order of many good old commonwealths of the Persians and Greeks; of wit gathered, and good fortune gotten by some, only by experience without learning. And, lastly, he required of me very earnostly to show what I thought of the common going of Englishmen into Italy. “ But,” saith he, “ because this place, and this time will not suffer so long talk, as these good matters require, therefore I pray you, at my request, and at your leisure, put in some order of writing the chief points of this our talk, concerning the right order of teaching, and ho. nesty of living, for the good bringing up of children and young men ; and surely, beside contenting me, you shall both please and profit very many others." I made some excuse by lack of ability and weakness of body. Well,” saith he,

* This great care of the Treasurer's in the education of his two grandsons, my Lord Clarendon has likewise taken notice of in the first book of his History.

« PreviousContinue »