Thomas Elyot

From Wikiquote
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Study for a lost portrait of Elyot by Hans Holbein the Younger
Study for a lost portrait of Lady Elyot, also by Holbein

Sir Thomas Elyot (c. 1496 – 26 March 1546) was an English diplomat and scholar. He is best known as one of the first proponents of the use of the English language for literary purposes.


I haue nowe enterprised to describe in our vulgare tunge the fourme of a iuste publike weale
  • I haue nowe enterprised to describe in our vulgare tunge the fourme of a iuste publike weale: whiche mater I haue gathered as well moste noble autours (grekes and latynes) as by myne owne experience, I beinge continually trayned in some dayly affaires of the publike weale of this your moste noble realme all mooste from my chyldhode.
  • A gentil man, er he take a cooke in to his seruice, he wyll firste diligently examine hym, howe many sortes of meates, potages, and sauces, he can perfectly make, and howe well he can season them, that they may be bothe pleasant and nourishynge; yea and if it be but a fauconer, he wyll scrupulously enquire what skyll he hath in feedyng, called diete, and kepyng of his hauke from all sickenes, also how he can reclaime her and prepare her to flyght. And to suche a cooke or fauconer, whom he findeth expert, he spareth nat to gyue moche wages with other bounteous rewardes. But of a schole maister, to whom he will committe his childe, to be fedde with lernynge and instructed in vertue, whose lyfe shall be the principall monument of his name and honour, he neuer maketh forther enquirie but where he may haue a schole maister; and with howe litel charge; and if one be perchance founden, well lerned, but he will nat take paynes to teache without he may haue a great salary, he than speketh. nothing more, or els saith, What shall so moche wages be gyuen to a schole maister whiche wolde kepe me two seruantes? to whom maye be saide these wordes, that by his sonne being wel lerned he shall receiue more commoditie and also worship than by the seruice of a hundred cokes and fauconers.
  • Lorde god, howe many good and clene wittes of children be nowe a dayes perisshed by ignorant schole maisters. Howe litle substancial doctrine is apprehended by the fewenesse of good gramariens? Not withstanding I knowe that there be some well lerned, whiche haue taught, and also do teache, but god knoweth a fewe, and they with small effecte, hauing therto no comforte, theyr aptist and moste propre scholers, after they be well instructed in speakyng latine, and understanding some poetes, being taken from theyr schole by their parentes, and either be brought to the courte, and made lakayes or pages, or els are bounden prentises; wherby the worshyp that the maister, aboue any reward, couaiteih to haue by the praise of his scholer, is utterly drowned; wherof I haue herde schole maisters, very well lerned, of goode righte complayne. But yet (as I sayd) the fewenesse of good gramariens is a great impediment of doctrine. ...
    Undoubtedly ther be in this realme many well lerned, whiche if the name of a schole maister were nat so moche had in contempte, and also if theyr labours with abundant salaries mought be requited, were righte sufficient and able to induce their herers to excellent lernynge, so they be nat plucked away grene, and er they be in doctrine sufficiently rooted. But nowe a dayes, if to a bachelar or maister of arte studie of philosophie waxeth tediouse, if he haue a spone full of latine, he wyll shewe forth a hoggesheed without any lernynge, and offre to teache grammer and expoune noble writers, and to be in the roome of a maister: he wyll, for a small salarie, sette a false colour of lernyng on propre wittes, whiche wyll be wasshed away with one shoure of raine. For if the children be absent from schole by the space of one moneth, the best lerned of them will uneth tell wheder Fato, wherby Eneas was brought in to Itali, were other a man, a horse, a shyppe, or a wylde goose. Al thoughe their maister wyll perchance auaunte hym selfe to be a good philosopher.
    • XV. For what cause at this day there be in this realme fewe Perfects schole maisters.
      • Quoted, with modernised orthography, by John Gross, ed. The New Oxford Book of English Prose (1998), p. 14
  • In euery daunse, of a moste auncient custome, there daunseth to gether a man and a woman, holding eche other, by the hande or the arme, whiche betokeneth concorde. Nowe it behouethe the daunsers and also the beholders of them to knowe all qualities incident to a man, and also, all qualities to a woman lyke wyse appertaynynge.
    A man in his naturall perfection is fiers, hardy, stronge in opinion, couaitous of glorie, desirous of knowlege, appetiting by generation to brynge forthe his semblable. The good nature of a woman is to be milde, timerouse, tractable, benigne, of sure remembrance, and shamfast. Diuers other qualities of eche of them mought be founde, out, but these be moste apparaunt, and for this time sufficient.
    Wherfore, whan we beholde a man and a woman daunsinge to gether, let us suppose there to be a concorde of all the saide dualities, beinge ioyned to gether, as I haue set them in ordre. And the meuing of the man wolde be more vehement, of the woman more delicate, and with lasse aduauncing of the body, signifienge the courage and strenthe that oughte to be in a man, and the pleasant sobrenesse that shulde be in a woman. And in this wise fiersenesse ioyned with mildenesse maketh Seueritie; audacitie with timerositie maketh Magnanimitie; wilfull opinion and tractabilitie (which is to be shortly persuaded and meued) makethe Constance a vertue; Couaitise of Glorie adourned with benignititie causeth honour; desire of knowlege with sure remembrance procureth Sapienee; Shamfastnes ioyned to appetite of generation maketh Continence, whiche is a meane betwene Chastilie and inordinate luste. These qualities, in this wise beinge knitte to gether, and signified in the personages of man and woman daunsinge, do expresse or sette out the figure of very nobilitie; whiche in the higher astate it is contained, the more. excellent is the vertue in estimation.
    • XX. Of the firsts begynnyng of daunsing and the old estimation therof.
      • Quoted, with modernised orthography, by John Gross, ed. The New Oxford Book of English Prose (1998), p. 15
Wikipedia has an article about: