Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/617

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was then. Demosthenes is as familiar an author as Cicero used to be; and there are more copies of Isocrates in use than there formerly were of Terence. Nor do we disregard the Latin authors, but study with the greatest zeal the choicest writers of the best period. It is Cheke's labour and example that have lighted up and continue to sustain this learned ardour." This was written in 1542. It is perhaps the most precise testimony that exists as to the state of Greek studies at any important English seat of learning at any moment in the sixteenth century. Great progress had evidently been made in the preceding ten or twenty years. Sir John Cheke's services to Greek learning in his day were certainly unequalled in England; but Sir Thomas Smith deserves to be remembered along with him as a man who had also given a new and great impetus to those studies.

Mention is due here to the important part which both these eminent men bore in a controversy which excited and divided the humanists of that age. The teachers from whom the scholars of the Renaissance learned Greek pronounced that language as Greeks do at the present day. In 1528 Erasmus published at Basel his dialogue De recta Latini Graecique sermonis Pronuntiatione. His protest was chiefly directed against the modern Greek "iotacism"; i.e. the pronunciation of several different vowels and diphthongs with the same sound, that of the Italian i. He rightly maintained that the ancients must have given to each of these vowels and diphthongs a distinctive sound; and he urged that it was both irrational and inconvenient not to do so. He also objected to the modern Greek mode of pronouncing certain consonants. His reformed pronunciation came to be known as the "Erasmian"; while that used by modern Greeks was called the "Reuchlinian," because Reuchlin (whom Melanchthon followed) had upheld it. About 1535, Thomas Smith and John Cheke-then young men of about twenty- examined the question for themselves, and came to the conclusion that Erasmus was right. Thereupon Smith began to use the "Erasmian" pronunciation in his Greek lectures-though cautiously at first; Cheke and others supported him; and the reform was soon generally accepted. But in 1542 Bishop Gardiner, the Chancellor of the University, issued a decree, enjoining a return to the Reuchlinian mode. Ascham has described, not without humour, the discontent which this edict evoked. After Elizabeth's accession, the "Erasmian" method was restored.

Meanwhile, in the first half of the sixteenth century, a classical training had been introduced into English schools. In developing this type of education Italy had preceded England by about eighty years. Vittorino's school at Mantua, already described, was the earliest model. Winchester College had been founded when Vittorino was a boy; Eton College arose at a time when his school was in its zenith; but these great English foundations, since so distinguished as seats of classical teaching, came into being long before the humanistic influences of the