b. 1515, Kirby Wiske, near York, Eng.
d. Dec. 30, 1568, London
British humanist, scholar, and writer, famous for his prose style, his
promotion of the vernacular, and his theories of education.
As a boy of 14, Ascham entered the University of Cambridge,
where he later took his M.A. and was elected a fellow of St. John's
and appointed reader in Greek. The new Renaissance enthusiasm
for the classics, especially Greek, was at its height.
Ascham's Toxophilus ("Lover of the Bow"), written in the form of
a dialogue, was published in 1545 and was the first book on archery
in English. In the preface Ascham showed the growing patriotic zeal
of the humanists by stating that he was writing "Englishe matter in the
Englishe tongue for Englishe men." He became Princess Elizabeth's
tutor in Greek and Latin (1548-50), then served for several years as
secretary to Sir Richard Moryson, English ambassador to the
Habsburg emperor Charles V, traveling widely on the European
continent. Thereafter, he was appointed Latin secretary to Edward
VI, a post he held until his death early in the reign of Queen
Elizabeth I. He served her by composing her official letters to
foreign rulers and by helping her pursue the study of Greek.
The Scholemaster, written in simple, lucid English prose and
published posthumously in 1570, is Ascham's best-known book. It
presents an effective method of teaching Latin prose composition,
but its larger concerns are with the psychology of learning, the
education of the whole man, and the ideal moral and intellectual
personality that education should mold.
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