Ascham, Roger

views updated Jun 08 2018

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