Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/616

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the New Learning in England was William Lilly, who had studied Greek in Rhodes, and afterwards at Rome. There were others then at Oxford who had some knowledge of Greek, though the whole number cannot have been large. Few books which could help a beginner with the first rudiments of Greek had as yet found their way to England. An English student desirous of acquiring that language was, as a rule, obliged to go abroad. Erasmus mentions that John Fisher, the Bishop of Rochester, who began Greek late in life, had been dissuaded by Latimer from attempting it unless he could procure a teacher from Italy. John Colet, a scholar of most active mind and of great industry, lamented in 1516 that he had not been able to learn Greek-a deficiency which he afterwards made strenuous efforts to repair. But the Oxford Hellenists^ though not numerous, represented a new ideal of humane learning, and had a fruitful influence on its progress in England. At Cambridge the study of Greek received its first impulse from the teaching of Erasmus between 1510 and 1513. He began with the rudiments, using first the Erotemata of Chrysoloras, and then the larger manual of Theodoras Gaza. His class was a small one, but included some ardent students, such as his friend Henry Bullock; who, writing to him in 1516, reported that the Greek studies which he had initiated were being vigorously prosecuted. Richard Croke, of King's College, Cambridge, who took his degree in the year 1509-10, studied Greek at Oxford with William Grocyn; went thence to Paris; and subsequently taught Greek at Cologne, Louvain, Leipzig, and Dresden. Returning to Cambridge in 1518 he began a course of lectures there on the Greek language, though without official sanction. In 1519 he was formally appointed University reader of Greek, and delivered a remarkable inaugural address in praise of Greek studies, which is still extant. His successor in the readership was a man of rare ability, Sir Thomas Smith (1512-77), of Queens' College, who afterwards rose to eminence in the1 public service. Smith lectured on Greek, with great success, from about 1535 to 1540. In the latter year Henry VIII founded the five Regius Professorships of Divinity, Civil Law, Physic, Hebrew, and Greek. Smith received the chair of Civil Law; that of Greek was given to his close friend, John Cheke (1514-57), of St John's College, whose repute already stood very high.

Roger Ascham was Cheke's contemporary, and a member of the same College. Scarcely two years after Cheke's appointment, Ascham wrote an interesting letter from Cambridge to a Fellow of St John's, in which he describes the state of classical studies in the University. Aristotle and Plato, he mentions, are read by the undergraduates; as had, indeed, been the case, at least in his own College, for some five years. "Sophocles and Euripides," he then says, "are more familiar authors than Plautus was in your time" [i.e. about 1525-35]. "Herodotusi, Thucydides, and Xenophon are more conned and discussed than Livy