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[Roger Ascham was born at Kirby-Wiske, or Kirbyupon-Wiske, near Northallerton, in Yorkshire, about the
His father, whose name was John, was steward to Lord Scroop, and is said to have been a man of very superior understanding, as well as of eminent integrity: his mother was of a good family. They liad two other sons, Thomas and Anthony, both born before Roger, as well as several daughters. John Ascham and his wife are stated to have died on the same day, and almost in the same hour, after a union of forty-seven years.
Roger, who appears to have been born in his father's old age, was in his boyhood taken into the house of Sir Anthony Wingfield, to be educated, at the expense of that gentleman, along with his two sons. Their tutor was a Mr. Bond. Here he so greatly took Sir Anthony, by the love he showed for reading, and the rapid progress he made in his studies, that this generous patron resolved to complete his kindness by sending him to the University. He was accordingly entered of St. John's College, Cambridge, about the year 1530. He soon greatly distinguished himself in this new sphere, especially by his progress in the knowledge of the Greek language,
then new as a general study in England, and the most fashionable of all others. He is said to have acquired the language principally by teaching it to others, a course which he pursued by the advice of his friend, Mr. Robert Pember, who told him that he would learn more by reading to a boy a single fable of Æsop, than by hearing others read Latin lectures on the whole Iliad. He took his degree of B.A. on the 28th February, 1534 ; and on the 23rd March following was elected Fellow of his college. We shall give, at the proper place, the passage in his “Schoolmaster," in which he relates how he obtained his fellowship through the management of Dr. Nicholas Medcalf, the master of the college, although he had already made himself obnoxious to the authorities by the inclination he had begun to show for the reformed faith. In 1536 he took his degree of M.A. In 1544, he published, with a dedication to Henry VIII., his first work, under the title of “Toxophilus; the School or Partitions of Shooting, contained in two books.” It is a treatise in defence of archery, which was at this time Ascham's favourite pastime. Henry was much pleased with this production, and settled a small pension upon the author, who was also the same year chosen to succeed his friend, Sir John Cheke, as University orator.
Among Ascham's other accomplishments was great skill in penmanship. Such was his reputation in this line, that he was employed to teach writing to the king's children, Prince Edward and the Princess Elizabeth, ás well as to many of the young nobility. In 1546, one of his pupils, Mr. William Grindal, had been selected to be
tutor, in the Greek and Latin languages, to the Princess
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Lord Chancellor, that on the recommendation of Lord Paget, although perfectly aware of Ascham's attachment to the doctrines of the reformers, he replaced him in his post of Latin Secretary; and not only procured him the restoration of his old pension of ten pounds a year, but induced the Queen to double its amount. He retained, likewise, his place of public orator to the University, and his fellowship in St. John's, till the 1st of June, 1554, when he married Margaret Howe, a lady of good family, with whom he is said to have received a considerable fortune.
He continued in great favour with Queen Mary during the remainder of her reign; but his constant residence at court appears only to have commenced after the accession of Elizabeth. That queen both continued him in his office of Latin Secretary, and reinstated him in his former office of her tutor in the Greek and Latin languages. He continued to read the classics with her for some hours every day so long as he lived. Among several benefactions which he received from her Majesty was a prebendal stall in the cathedral of York, which she bestowed upon him in 1559, and which he held till his death.
It was in 1563 that he commenced the composition of his principal work, entitled " The Schoolmaster; or a plain and perfect way of teaching children to understand, write, and speak the Latin tongue, but especially purposed for the private bringing up of youth in gentlemen and noblemen's houses, and commodious, also, for all such as have forgot the Latin tongue, and would, by