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A numeral pound in king Henry's time contained, as now, twenty shillings; and therefore it must be in quired what twenty shillings could perform. Bread. corn is the most certain standard of the necessaries of life. Wheat was generally sold at that time for one fhilling the bushel: if therefore we take five shillings the bushel for the current price, ten pounds were equivalent to fifty. But here is danger of a fallacy. It may be doubted, whether wheat was the general breadcorn of that age; and if rye, barley, or oats, were the common food, and wheat, as I suspect, only a delicacy, the value of wheat will not regulate the price of other things. This doubt is however in favour of Ascham; for if we raise the worth of wheat, we raise that of his pension.
But the value of money has another variation, which we are still less able to ascertain: the rules of custom, or the different needs of artificial life, make that revenue little at one time which is great at another. Men are rich and poor, not only in proportion to what they have, but to what they want. In some ages, not only necessaries are cheaper, but fewer things are necessary, In the age of Ascham, most of the elegancies and expences of our present fashions were unknown: commerce had not yet distributed fuperfluity through the lower classes of the people, and the character of a student implied frugality, and required no splendour to support it. His pension, therefore, reckoning together the wants which he could supply, and the wants from which he was exempt, may be estimated, in my opinion, at more than one hundred pounds a year; which, added to the income of his fellowship, put him far enough above distress.
This was an year of good fortune to Ascham. He was chosen orator to the university on the removal of Sir John Cheke to court, where he was made tutor to prince Edward. A man once distinguished foon gains admirers. Ascham was now received to notice by many of the nobility, and by great ladies, among whom it was then the fashion to study the ancient languages. Lee, archbishop of York, allowed him an yearly pension; how much we are not told. He was, probably about this time employed in teaching many illustrious persons to write a fine hand; and, among others, Henry and Charles, dukes of Suffolk, the princess Elizabeth, and prince Edward.
Henry VIII. died two years after, and a reformation of religion being now openly prosecuted by king Edward and his council, Ascham, who was known to favour it, had a new grant of his pension, and continued at Cambridge, where he lived in great familiarity with Bucer, who had been called from Germany to the profefforship of divinity. But his retirement was soon at an end; for in 1548 his pupil Grindal, the master of the princess, Elizabeth, died, and the princess, who had already some acquaintance with Ascham, called him from his college to direct her studies. He obeyed the summons, as we may easily believe, with readiness, and for two years instructed her with great diligence; but then, being disgusted either by her or her domesticks, or perhaps eager for another change of life, he left her without her consent, and returned to the university. Of this precipitation he long repented; and, as those who are not accustomed to disrespect cannot easily forgive it, he probably felt the effects of his im prudence to his death.
After having visited Cambridge, he took a journey into Yorkshire, to see his native place, and his old acquaintance, and there received a letter from the court, informing him, that he was appointed secretary to Sir Richard Morisine, who was to be dispatched as ambassador into Germany. In his return to London he paid that memorable visit to lady Jane Gray, in which he found her reading the Phado in Greek, as he has related in his Schoolmaster.
In the year 1550, he attended Morisine to Germany, and wandered over a great part of the country, making observations upon all that appeared worthy of his curiosity, and contracting acquaintance with men of learning. To his correspondent Sturmius he paid a visit, but Sturmius was not at home, and those two illustrious friends never saw each other. During the course of this embaffy, Ascham undertook to improve Morisine in Greek, and for four days in the week explained some
pages of Herodotus every morning, and more than two hundred verses of Sophocles or Euripides every after
He read with him likewise some of the orations of Demosthenes. On the other days he compiled the letters of business, and in the night filled up his diary, digested his remarks, and wrote private letters to his friends in England, and particularly to those of his college, whom he continually exhorted to perseverance in Audy. Amidst all the pleasures of novelty which his travels supplied, and in the dignity of his public sta. tion, he preferred the tranquillity of private study, and the quiet of academical retirement. The reasonablenefs of this choice has been always disputed; and in the contrariety of human interests and dispositions, the controversy will not easily be decided. Ss 3
He made a short excursion into Italy, and mentions in his Schoolmaster with great severity the vices of Ve. nice. He was desirous of visiting Trent while the council were fitting; but the scantiness of his purse defeated his curiosity.
. In this journey he wrote his Report and discourse of the affairs in Germany, in which he describes the dispositions and interests of the German princes like a man inquisitive and judicious, and recounts many particularities which are lost in the mass of general history, in a style which to the ears of that age was undoubtedly mellifluous, and which is now a very valuable specimen of genuine English.
By the death of king Edward in 1553, the Reformation was stopped, Morisine was recalled, and Ascham's pension and hopes were at an end. He therefore retired to his fellowship in a state of disappointment and despair, which his biographer has endeavoured to express in the deepest strain of plaintive declamation. “ He was deprived of all his support,” says Graunt,
stripped of his pension, and cut off from the affif" tance of his friends, who had now lost their influence; « so that he had nec PRÆMI A NEC PRÆDIA, neither
pension nor estate to support him at Cambridge.” There is no credit due to a rhetorician's account either of good or evil. The truth is, that Ascham still had in his fellowship all that in the early part of his life had given him plenty, and might have lived like the other inhabitants of the college, with the advantage of more knowledge and higher reputation. But notwithstanding his love of academical retirement, he had now top long enjoyed the pleasures and festivities of pub
lick life, to return with a good will to academical poverty.
He had however better fortune than he expected; and, if he lamented his condition like his historian, better than he deserved. He had during his absence in Germany been appointed Latin secretary to king Edward ; and by the interest of Gardiner, bishop of Winchester, he was instated in the same office under Philip and Mary, with a salary of twenty pounds a year.
Soon after his admission to his new employınent, he gave an extraordinary specimen of his abilities and diligence, by composing and transcribing with his usual elegance, in three days, forty-seven letters to princes and personages, of whom cardinals were the lowest.
How Ascham, who was known to be a Protestant, could preserve the favour of Gardiner, and hold a place of honour and profit in queen Mary's court, it must be very natural to inquire. Cheke, as is well known, was compelled to a recantation; and why Afcham was spared, cannot now be discovered. Graunt, at a time when the transactions of queen Mary's reign must have been well enough remembered, declares, that Ascham always made open profession of the Reformed religion, and that Englesfield and others often endeavoured to incite Gardiner against him, but found their accusations rejected with contempt: yet he allows, that suspicions and charges of temporization and compliance had somewhat sullied his reputation. The author of the Biographia Britannica conjectures, that he owed his fafety to his innocence and usefulness; that it would have been unpopular to attack a man so litile