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my lord, to recompense part of your great pains. In the which I must require you in the meantime to accept my good will, in the stead of the power, the which must proceed partly from you, as our Lord knoweth; to whom I beseech to send you long life with continuance in honour. Written with the hand of her that is most bound to be
Your humble and obedient servant,
In the last edition of Roger Ascham's works, prepared by Dr. Giles, it will be found that the letters occupy as much space as all his other writings. Of the 295 letters only a very few were originally written in English; but these few, conjointly with the English treatises are valuable as specimens of a language as it was spoken at a period which has left us too few examples. That the secretaryship Ascham held under Edward VI. should have been continued him under Queen Mary, in spite of his open profession of the reformed religion, and that he should have preserved the friendship of Bishop Gardiner and Cardinal Pole, and have been the favourite tutor of Queen Elizabeth shows that he was, in his way, as astute and useful as the equally fortunate Lord Burleigh. The following letter refers to an ingenious device for securing an increase of pension from Queen Mary.
Roger Ascham to Bishop Gardiner.
In writing out my patent I have left a vacant place for your wisdom to value the sum; wherein I trust to find further favour; for I have both good cause to ask it, and better hope to obtain it, partly in consideration of my unrewarded pains and undischarged costs in teaching King Edward's person, partly for my three years' service in the Emperor's court, but chiefly of all when King Henry first gave it me at Greenwich, your lordship in the gallery there asking me what the king had given me, and knowing the truth, your lordship said it was too little, and most gently offered me to speak to the king for me. But then I most happily desired your lordship to reserve that goodness to another time, which time God hath granted even to these days, when your lordship may now perform by favour as much as then you wished by good will, being as easy to obtain the one as to ask the other. And I beseech your
lordship sec what good is offered me in writing the patent: the space which is left by chance doth seem to crave by good luck some words of length, as viginti or triginta, yea, with the help of a little dash quadraginta would serve best of all. But sure as for decem it is somewhat with the shortest nevertheless I for my part shall be no less contented with the one than glad with the other, and for either of both more than bound to your lordship. And thus God prosper your lordship.
Your lordship's most bounden to serve you,
To the Rt Reverend Father in God,
My Lord Bishop of Winchester his Grace, theso.
This beautiful letter of condolence at the death of his son, Sturm, is selected as an excellent example of Roger Ascham's epistolary style; particularly as all the other English letters are of very great length. It is, in its easy and intelligible flow of words, free from the 'spots of rust' which Hallam discovers in the rough sentences and obsolete words of the prose of the sixteenth century.
Roger Ascham to his wife Margaret.
Mine own good Margaret,-The more I think upon your sweet babe, as I do many times both day and night, the greater cause I always find of giving thanks continually to God for his singular goodness bestowed at this time upon the child, yourself, and me, even because it hath rather pleased him to take the child to himself into heaven, than to leave it here with us still on earth. When I mused on the matter as nature, flesh, and fatherly fantasy did carry me, I found nothing but sorrows and care, which very much did vex and trouble me, but at last forsaking these worldly thoughts, and referring me wholly to the will and order of God in the matter, I found such a change, such a cause of joy, such a plenty of God's grace towards the child, and of his goodness towards you and me, as neither my heart can comprehend, nor yet my tongue express the twentieth part thereof.
Nevertheless, because God and good will hath so joined you. and me together as we must not only be the one a comfort to the
other in sorrow, ,but also partakers together in any joy, I could not but declare unto you what just cause I think we both have of comfort and gladness by that God hath so graciously dealt with us as he hath. My first step from care to comfort was this, I thought God had done his will with our child, and because God by his wisdom knoweth what is best, and by his goodness will do best, I was by and by fully persuaded the best that can be is done with our sweet child, but seeing God's wisdom is unsearchable with any man's heart, and his goodness unspeakable with any man's tongue, I will come down from such high thoughts, and talk more
sensibly with you, and lay open before you such matter as may be
both a full comfort of all our cares past, and also a just cause of rejoicing as long as we live. You well remember our continual desire and wish, our nightly prayer together, that God would vouchsafe to us to increase the number of this world; we wished that nature should beautifully perform the work by us; we did talk how to bring up our child in learning and virtue; we had care to provide for it, so as honest fortune should favour and follow it. And see, sweet wife, how mercifully God hath dealt with us in all points, for what wish could desire, what prayer could crave, what nature could perform, what virtue could deserve, what fortune could afford, both we have received, and our child doth enjoy already. And because our desire (thanked be God) was always joined with honesty, and our prayers mingled with fear, and applied always to the world too, the will and pleasure of God hath given us more than we wished, and that which is better for us now than we could hope to think upon; but you desire to hear and know how marry, even thus, we desired to be made vessels to increase the world, and it hath pleased God to make us vessels to increase heaven, which is the greatest honour to man, the greatest joy to heaven, the greatest spite to the devil, the greatest sorrow to hell, that any man can imagine. Secondarily, when nature had performed what she would, grace stepped forth and took our child from nature, and gave it such gifts over and above the power of nature, as where it could not creep in earth by naturo it was straitway well able to go to heaven by grace. It could not then speak by nature, and now it doth praise God by grace; it could not then comfort the sick and careful mother by nature, and now through prayer is able to help father
and mother by grace; and yet, thanked be nature, that hath done all she could do, and blessed be grace that hath done more and better than we would wish she should have done. Peradventure yet you do wish that nature had kept it from death a little longer, yea, but grace hath carried it where now no sickness can follow, nor any death hereafter meddle with it; and instead of a short life with troubles on earth, it doth now live a life that never shal end with all manner of joy in heaven.
And now, Margaret, go to, I pray you, and tell me as you think, do you love your sweet babe so little, do you envy his happy state so much, yea, once to wish that nature should have rather followed your pleasure in keeping your child in this miserable world, than grace should have purchased such profit for your child in bringing him to such felicity in heaven? Thirdly, you may say unto me, if the child had lived in this world, it might have come to such goodness by grace and virtue as might have turned to great comfort to us, to good service to our country, and served to have deserved as high a place in heaven as he doth now. To this, in short, I answer, ought we not in all things to submit to God's good will and pleasure, and thereafter to rule our affections, which I doubt not but you will endeavour to do? And therefore I will say no more, but with all comfort to you here, and a blessing hereafter, which I doubt not but is prepared for you.
Your dearly loving husband,
To my dear wife, Mrs. Margaret Askam, these.
The pages of Tudor history bristle with attainders and judicial murders, and it must be admitted that the victims in nearly every instance died hard. The writer of the following pitiably abject appeal was, however, a subject meet for the executioner's axe; and considering his great position and the importance of his misdeeds, his was the solitary instance of downright cowardice in the face of death. As the contriver of Protector Somerset's overthrow, as the most prominent figure in the worst phases of the Reformation, as the seductive counsellor of Edward VI., and as the opponent of Princess Mary, he was simply an ambitious and cunning intriguer; but as a trifler all his life with religion, and in his last moments a recanter in search of pardon, he was a worthless hypocrite.
John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, to the Earl of Arundell. The Tower: August 22, 1553.
Honble Lord, and in this my distress my especiall refuge, most wofull was the newes I receyved this evenynge by Mr Lieutenant, that I must prepare myselfe against tomorrowe to receyve my deadly stroke. Alas, my good lord, is my cryme so heynous as noe redemcion but my blood can washe awaye the spottes thereof? An old proverb ther is, and that most true, that a lyving dogge is better than a dead lyon. Oh! that it would please her good grace to give me life, yea, the life of a dogge, if I might but lyve and kiss her feet, and spend both life and all in her honble services, as I have the best part already under her worthie brother, and most glorious father. Oh! that her mercy were such as she would consyder how little proffitt my dead and dismembered body can bringe her; but how great and glorious an honor it will be in all posterityes when the report shall be that soe gracious and mightie a queene had graunted life to so miserable and penitent an object. Your honble usage and promise to me since these my troubles have made me bold to challenge this kindnes at your handes. Pardon me if I have done amiss therein, and spare not, I pray, your bended knees for me in this distresse. The God of heaven, it may be, will requite it one day on you or yours; and if my life be lengthened by your mediation, and my good lord chauncellor's (to whom I have also sent my blurred letters), I will ever owe it to be spent at your honble feet. Oh! my good lord, remember how sweet is life, and how bitter the contrary. Spare not your speech and paines; for God, I hope, hath not shut out all hopes of comfort from me in that gracious, princely, and womanlike hart; but that as the doleful newes of death hath wounded to death both my soule and bodye, soe the comfortable newes of life shall be as a new resurrection to my wofull hart. But if no remedy can be founde, eyther by imprisonment, confiscation, banishment, and the like, I can saye noe more, but God grant me pacyence to endure, and a hart to forgive the whole world.
Once your fellowe and lovinge companion but now worthy of noe name but wretchednes and misery,