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Of this controversy it is not necessary to give a circumstantial account; something of it may be found in Strype’s Life of Smith, and something in Baker’s Reflections upon Learning; it is sufficient to remark here, that Cheke’s pronunciation was that which now prevails in the schools of England. Disquisitions not only verbal, but merely literal, are too minute for popular narration.

He was not less eminent, as a writer of Latin, than as a teacher of Greek. All the publick letters of the university were of his composition; and, as little qualifications must often bring great abilities into notice, he was recommended to this honourable employment, not less by the neatness of his hand, than the elegance of his style.

However great was his learning, he was not always immured in his chamber; but, being valetudinary, and weak of body, thought it necessary to spend many hours in such exercises as might best relieve him after the fatigue of study. His favourite amusement was archery, in which he spent, or, in the opinion of others, lost so much time, that those whom either his faults or virtues made his enemies, and, perhaps, some whose kindness wished him always worthily employed, did not scruple to censure his practice, as unsuitable to a man professing learning, and, perhaps, of bad example in a place of education.

To free himself from this censure was one of the reasons for which he published, in 1544, his Toxophilus, or the Schole or Partitions of Shooting, in which he joins the praise with the precepts of archery. He designed not only to teach the art of shooting, but to give an example of diction more natural and more truly English than was used by the common writers of that age, whom he censures for mingling exotick terms with their native language, and of whom he complains, that they were made authors, not by skill or education, but by arrogance and temerity.

He has not failed in either of his purposes. He has sufficiently vindicated archery as an innocent, salutary, useful, and liberal diversion; and if his precepts are of no great use, he has only shown, by one example among many, how little the hand can derive from the mind, how little intelligence can conduce to dexterity. In every art, practice is much; in arts manual, practice is almost the whole: precept can, at most, but warn against errour; it can never bestow excellence.

The bow has been so long disused, that most English readers have forgotten its importance, though it was the weapon by which we gained the battle of Agincourt; a weapon which, when handled by English yeomen, no foreign troops were able to resist. We were not only abler of body than the French, and, therefore, superiour in the use of arms, which are forcible only in proportion to the strength with which they are handled, but the national practice of shooting for pleasure or for prizes, by which every man was inured to archery from his infancy, gave us insuperable advantage, the bow requiring more practice to skilful use than any other instrument of offence.

Firearms were then in their infancy; and though battering-pieces had been some time in use, I know not whether any soldiers were armed with hand-guns when the Toxophilus was first published. They were soon after used by the Spanish troops, whom other nations made haste to imitate; but how little they could yet effect, will be understood from the account given by the ingenious author of the Exercise for the Norfolk Militia.

“The first muskets were very heavy, and could not be fired without a rest; they had matchlocks, and barrels of a wide bore, that carried a large ball and charge of powder, and did execution at a greater distance.

“The musketeers on a march carried only their rests and ammunition, and had boys to bear their muskets after them, for which they were allowed great additional pay.