Friday, August 16, 2013


Small Points of Grammar

Roger Ascham (1515-1568), The Scholemaster (London: John Daye, 1570), pp. 66-67 (from Book II):
Some man perchance will smile, and laugh to scorne this my writyng, and call it idle curiositie, thus to busie my selfe in pickling about these small pointes of Grammer, not fitte for my age, place and calling, to trifle in: I trust that man, be he neuer so great in authoritie, neuer so wise and learned, either, by other mens iudgement, or his owne opinion, will yet thinke, that he is not greater in England, than Tullie was at Rome, not yet wiser, nor better learned than Tullie was him selfe, who, at the pitch of three score yeares, in the middes of the broyle betwixt Cæsar and Pompeie, whan he knew not, whether to send wife & children, which way to go, where to hide him selfe, yet, in an earnest letter, amongest his earnest councelles for those heuie tymes concerning both the common state of his contrey, and his owne priuate great affaires he was neither vnmyndfull nor ashamed to reason at large, and learne gladlie of Atticus, a lesse point of Grammer than these be, noted of me in Salust, as, whether he should write, ad Piræea, in Piræea, or in Piræeum, or Piræeum sine præpositione: And in those heuie tymes, he was so carefull to know this small point of Grammer, that he addeth these wordes Si hoc mihi ζήτημα persolueris, magna me molestia liberaris. If Tullie, at that age, in that authoritie, in that care for his contrey, in that ieoperdie for him selfe, and extreme necessitie of hys dearest frendes, beyng also the Prince of Eloquence hym selfe, was not ashamed to descend to these low pointes of Grammer, in his owne naturall tong, what should scholers do, yea what should any man do, if he do thinke well doyng, better than ill doyng: And had rather be, perfite than meane, sure than doutefull, to be what he should be, in deed, not seeme what he is not, in opinion. He that maketh perfitnes in the Latin tong his marke, must cume to it by choice & certaine knowledge, not stumble vpon it by chance and doubtfull ignorance: And the right steppes to reach vnto it, be these, linked thus orderlie together, aptnes of nature, loue of learnyng, diligence in right order, constancie with pleasant moderation, and alwayes to learne of them that be best, and so shall you iudge as they that be wisest.

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