Roger Ascham

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Ascham, Roger (1515/16–68). Protestant classical scholar and educator, born in Yorkshire. He went up about 1530 to St John's College, Cambridge, which was already famous for piety and learning, and was there influenced by Sir John Cheke, whom he supported on Greek pronunciation. Ascham himself taught Latin, Greek, and logic, being also university public orator, and, though seemingly always subject to health and money difficulties, sought wider responsibilities. His Toxophilus, the School of Shooting (1545), a finely observed and beautifully written account of the merits of archery, ‘English matter, in the English tongue, for English men’, secured him patronage. After tutoring both Princess Elizabeth and the future Edward VI, Ascham went on embassy to Germany in 1550, and briefly visited Venice, where he found ‘all service to God lacking’. A sympathizer with Lady Jane Grey, he suffered little under Mary, for whom he acted as Latin secretary; and was in favour with Elizabeth. Ascham's best-known work, The Schoolmaster, or Plain and Perfect Way of Teaching Children the Latin Tongue (1570), advocated an education based ultimately on Quintilian, applied so as to persuade rather than force English young people to live, speak, and write well. This patriotic purpose is reinforced with dispraise of the current Italianized English fashion. Like The Schoolmaster, Ascham's Report on Germany was published posthumously.

J. B. Trapp

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Roger Ascham (ăs´kəm), 1515–68, English humanist and scholar, b. Yorkshire. Ascham was a major intellectual figure of the early Tudor period. His Toxophilus (1545), an essay on archery, proved him a master of English prose; in it he urged the importance of physical recreation for students and scholars. The essay won him the favor of Henry VIII, and Ascham became tutor (1548–50) to Princess Elizabeth. He seems to have been largely responsible for her love of the classics and her proficiency in Greek. As a member of a diplomatic mission Ascham spent several years on the Continent, in contact with other scholars, and in 1553 was appointed Latin secretary to Queen Mary. He continued as secretary and private tutor to Elizabeth I after Mary's death. The Scholemaster (1570), his treatise on the teaching of Latin, urged the use of the double translation method. Dr. Johnson's life of Ascham (1761), included in many editions of Ascham's collected works, is a classic.

See W. F. Phelps, Roger Ascham and John Sturm (1879); study by L. V. Ryan (1963).