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Ascham took his bachelor’s degree in 1534, February 18, in the eighteenth year of his age; a time of life at which it is more common now to enter the universities, than to take degrees, but which, according to the modes of education then in use, had nothing of remarkable prematurity. On the 23rd of March following, he was chosen fellow of the college, which election he considered as a second birth. Dr. Metcalf, the master of the college, a man, as Ascham tells us, “meanly learned himself, but no mean encourager of learning in others,” clandestinely promoted his election, though he openly seemed first to oppose it, and afterwards to censure it, because Ascham was known to favour the new opinions; and the master himself was accused of giving an unjust preference to the northern men, one of the factions into which this nation was divided, before we could find any more important reason of dissension, than that some were born on the northern, and some on the southern side of Trent. Any cause is sufficient for a quarrel; and the zealots of the north and south lived long in such animosity, that it was thought necessary at Oxford to keep them quiet, by choosing one proctor every year from each.

He seems to have been, hitherto, supported by the bounty of Wingfield, which his attainment of a fellowship now freed him from the necessity of receiving. Dependance, though in those days it was more common and less irksome, than in the present state of things, can never have been free from discontent; and, therefore, he that was released from it must always have rejoiced. The danger is, lest the joy of escaping from the patron may not leave sufficient memory of the benefactor. Of this forgetfulness, Ascham cannot be accused; for he is recorded to have preserved the most grateful and affectionate reverence for Wingfield, and to have never grown weary of recounting his benefits.

His reputation still increased, and many resorted to his chamber to hear the Greek writers explained. He was, likewise, eminent for other accomplishments. By the advice of Pember, he had learned to play on musical instruments, and he was one of the few who excelled in the mechanical art of writing, which then began to be cultivated among us, and in which we now surpass all other nations. He not only wrote his pages with neatness, but embellished them with elegant draughts and illuminations; an art at that time so highly valued, that it contributed much both to his fame and his fortune.

He became master of arts in March, 1537, in his twenty-first year, and then, if not before, commenced tutor, and publickly undertook the education of young men. A tutor of one-and-tweuty, however accomplished with learning, however exalted by genius, would now gain little reverence or obedience; but in those days of discipline and regularity, the authority of the statutes easily supplied that of the teacher; all power that was lawful was reverenced. Besides, young tutors had still younger pupils.

Ascham is said to have courted his scholars to study by every incitement, to have treated them with great kindness, and to have taken care, at once, to instil learning and piety, to enlighten their minds, and to form their manners. Many of his scholars rose to great eminence; and among them William Grindal was so much distinguished, that, by Cheke’s recommendation, he was called to court, as a proper master of languages for the lady Elizabeth.

There was yet no established lecturer of Greek; the university, therefore, appointed Ascham to read in the open schools, and paid him out of the publick purse an honorary stipend, such as was then reckoned sufficiently liberal. A lecture was afterwards founded by king Henry, and he then quitted the schools, but continued to explain Greek authors in his own college.

He was at first an opponent of the new pronunciation introduced, or rather of the ancient restored, about this time, by Cheke and Smith, and made some cautious struggles for the common practice, which the credit and dignity of his antagonists did not permit him to defend very publickly, or with much vehemence: nor were they long his antagonists; for either his affection for their merit, or his conviction of the cogency of their arguments, soon changed his opinion and his practice, and he adhered ever after to their method of utterance.