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WHEN the latest biographer of Marlowe set out with a declaration that "the time of this writer's birth cannot be ascertained,"* he rather hastily assumed the impossibility of discovering it. Christopher Marlowe, the son of John Marlowe, shoemaker, was born at Canterbury in February 1563-4, and baptized there in the Church of St. George the Martyr on the 26th of that month.
* Lives of English Dramatists, i. 49. (Lardner's Cyclop.)
"Marlowe a shooe makers sonne of Cant." MS. Note, in a very old hand, on the margin of a copy of Beard's Theatre of God's Judgments, 1598, which, when I saw it, belonged to the late Mr. B. H. Bright."His [Marlowe's] father was a shoemaker in Canterburie." MS. Note in a copy of Hero and Leander, ed. 1629, now in the possession of Mr. J. P. Collier.-See also the last stanza but four of the ballad called The Atheist's Tragedie, Appendix I. to this volume.
1563-4, "The 26th day of ffebruary was christened Christofer the sonne of John Marlow." Register of St. George the Martyr, Canterbury.—The following entries are found in the same Register; which, though very old, is only a transcript; and the scribe was unable to decypher the Christian names in the fourth, seventh, and eighth entries:
1548, "The 28th day of December was christened Marget the daughter of John Marlow." 1562, "The xxist of May was christened Mary the daughter of John Marlowe."
1565, "The [date illegible] day of December was christened Margarit the daughter of John Marlowe."
1568, "The last day of October was christened [sic] the sonne of John Marlow." 1569, "The 20th day of August was christened John the sonne of John Marlow."
1566, "The 10th day of December was buried Simon the sonne of Thomas Marlow." 1567, "The 5th day of November was buried [sic] the sonne of John Marlow." 1568, "The 28th day of August was buried [sic] the daughter of John Marlow."
1570, "The 7th day of August was buried Thomas ye sonne of John Marlow." 1604, "John Marloe clarke of St. Maries was buried ye 26th of January."
Qy. does the last entry refer to the elder or to the younger John Marlowe (see the fifth entry)? It is possible that, while our poet's father followed the business of a shoemaker (which, according to the stanza of the ballad referred to in the preceding note, he continued to do till his death), he also held the situation of "clarke of St. Maries."
So unsettled was the orthography of the time, that our author's name (as will be seen) was written in ten different ways,-Marlo, Marloe, Marlow, Marlowe, Marley, Marly, Marlye, Marlen, Marlin, Marlyn!
Our poet's history has hitherto been a blank up to the period of his graduating at Cambridge; but that deficiency is now in some sort supplied by the following particulars.
The King's School at Canterbury was founded by Henry the Eighth for a Master, an Usher, and fifty Scholars between the ages of nine and fifteen,-the Scholars having each a stipend of four pounds per annum, and retaining their Scholarships for five years. To enable some of the more deserving Scholars, on completing their education at this establishment, to proceed to one of the Universities, several benefactions were made at various times. The earliest which I find recorded is that of Archbishop Parker. In 1569 he founded two Scholarships, each of the value of £3. 68. 8d., in Corpus Christi alias Benet College, Cambridge, to maintain, during the space of two hundred years, two Scholars, natives of Kent, and educated at the King's School, who were to be called Canterbury Scholars, and to be entitled to all the advantages enjoyed by the other Scholars in the college. Archbishop Whitgift having renewed this foundation, it is now perpetual.*
That the King's School may henceforth claim the honour of having contributed to the instruction of Marlowe is proved by a document which I obtained with great difficulty,t-an extract from "the Treasurer's Accounts" concerning the "Stipend. sive Salar. La puerorum studen. Grammatic.," for the year ending at the Feast of St. Michael, 21st Eliz. It commences with "Idem denar. per dictum Thesaur. de exit. officii sui hoc anno solut. quinquaginta pueris studen. Grammatic. pro salariis suis ad s. iiijli pro quolibet eorum per annum," and contains four notices of the usual sum having been paid "Xrōfero Marley,"-" in primo termino hujus anni," "in secundo termino hujus anni," "in tercio termino hujus anni," and "in ultimo termino hujus anni." If I may depend upon the information which I received together with the extract just quoted, Marlowe did not continue at the King's School the full period which its statutes allowed him to remain.‡
At the proper age Marlowe was removed to Cambridge; and, as Benet was the college of which he became a member, I at first concluded that he had been elected to one of the Parker Scholarships already mentioned; but a careful examination of the records both of the University and of Benet, which has recently been made at my request, leaves, I am told, very little doubt that he did not obtain a Scholarship.§
* For other particulars concerning the King's School, see Hasted's Hist. of Kent, iv. 583 sqq. + See Preface.
"Marlowe's name," I am informed, "does not occur in [the Accounts for] 1575, 1576, 1577, nor 1581 the intervening Accounts are wanting." (It could not occur in the Accounts for 1581).-The present Master of the King's School observes to me "that no special patronage was required for Marlowe's election as a Scholar; any boy of good ability may at any time get into the School."
§ The only mention of him in the Books of Corpus (Benet) Coll. is an entry of his admission in 1580; and there he is called "Marlin," without the Christian name. My correspondent at Cambridge observes; "the University books enter both the Christian name and the surname in all cases; the Benet Books only in the case of Scholars. It therefore seems nearly certain that Marlowe was not
He was matriculated as Pensioner of Benet College, 17th March, 1580-1.* He took the degree of A.B. in 1583, and that of A.M. in 1587.† .
If Marlowe did not benefit by the Parker foundation, we are at a loss to know how he was enabled to meet the expenses of the University: that his father could have furnished him with the requisite sums, is altogether improbable; and we are driven to conjecture that Marlowe owed his maintenance at college either to some wealthier relative, or to some patron whose favour he had won by early indications of genius. Among the Kentish gentry there was no one more likely to have lent him a helping hand than Sir Roger Manwood, Chief Baron of the Exchequer, who had his principal mansion at St. Stephen's near Canterbury, and was much distinguished for his munificence. Indeed, it would seem that on some occasion or other Marlowe was indebted to the bounty either of that excellent man, or of his son Peter (afterwards Sir Peter) Manwood, who was both learned himself and an encourager of the learned; for, unless the Latin verses in p. 384 of the present volume are wrongly assigned to our poet, which there is no reason to suppose, a tribute of respect to the memory of Sir Roger Manwood was among his latest compositions.
It is plain that Marlowe was educated with a view to one of the learned professions. Most probably he was intended for the Church; nor is it unlikely that, having begun, even during his academic course, to entertain those sceptical opinions for which he was afterwards so notorious, he abandoned all thoughts of taking
a Foundation Scholar. He may perhaps have held some bye-scholarship or exhibition." The same obliging informant has since communicated to me the remark of a gentleman belonging to Corpus, that "Scholars were entered with a 'pomp and circumstance' not found in the notice of 'Marlin.""
* "17 Mar. 1580 Chrōf. Marlen Pensioner." Cambridge Matriculation-Book.
"Xrof. Marlyn 1583 A.B."-" Chr: Marley 1587 A.M." Cambridge Grace-Book.
Sir Roger Manwood, the son of a draper, was born at Sandwich in 1525. He applied himself to the study of the law, and appears to have become early eminent in his profession. He was made a Serjeant, 23d April, 1567, a Justice of the Common-Pleas, 14th Octr. 1572; and he was both knighted and appointed Chief Baron of the Exchequer, 17th Novr. 1578. He founded and endowed a free-school at Sandwich, and was a very liberal benefactor to the parish and church of St. Stephen's alias Hackington, where (in the neighbourhood of Canterbury) he mostly resided. Sir Roger was twice married by his first wife he had three sons and two daughters; by his second wife no issue. He died 14th Decr. 1592, and was buried in the parish-church of St. Stephen's, which contains a splendid monument to his memory. See Hist. of Sandwich, pp. 245-248, by Boys (who erroneously states that Sir Roger was author of the well-known treatise on Forest Laws: it was written by John Manwood). -The monument above-mentioned was erected by Sir Roger himself shortly before his decease. This fact was curiously confirmed some years ago when the monument was undergoing repairs the person who was at work on it told the present rector of St. Stephen's that some letters and figures in the last line of the inscription (those that record the date of Sir Roger's death) were not cut by the same hand which had cut the rest.-The Register of St. Stephen's states that Sir Roger was buried 16th December.
Peter Manwood, the eldest and only surviving son of Sir Roger, was created a Knight of the Bath at the Coronation of James the First. He served several times in Parliament for Sandwich; and died in 1625. His eldest daughter became the wife of Sir Thomas Walsingham, knight, who (as will afterwards be shown) was on terms of intimacy with Marlowe. See Boys's Hist. of Sandwich, pp. 249, 250.
orders. Be that as it may, his predilection for the drama was decided: before 1587 it seems certain that he had produced Tamburlaine the Great; and eventually he joined the crowd of literary adventurers in the metropolis with a determination to rely on his genius alone for a subsistence.
At one time Marlowe unquestionably "fretted his hour upon the stage." According to Phillips, whose account is followed by Wood* and Tanner,† he “rose from an actor to be a maker of plays;"‡ and in a very curious ballad,§ which was composed while some of his contemporaries were still alive, we are told that he performed at the Curtain in Shore-ditch;
"He had alsoe a player beene
But brake his leg in one lewd scene
But is the assertion of Phillips, that Marlowe was first an actor and afterwards a dramatist, to be received as the exact truth? I think not; for, without taking into consideration the flagrant inaccuracies of Phillips's work, there are circumstances in the history of Marlowe which seem strongly to contradict it. Nor do the words of the ballad, "When in his early age," necessarily confirm the statement of Phillips. In the stanza just cited, the ballad-monger (who found "age" an obvious rhyme to stage") meant, I conceive, no more than this, that Marlowe's histrionic feats took place soon after he had formed a permanent connection with the London theatres for the sake of a livelihood; and, as far as I can judge, such really was the case. We have seen that Marlowe took the degree of A.M. in 1587; and there is every reason to believe that he was then known as a successful dramatist: but if he had been also known as one who had exhibited himself on the London boards in the capacity of a regular actor (and as such the ballad-monger evidently describes him), I am by no means sure that, in those days, the University of Cambridge would have granted the degree. On this point, however, I would not urge my opinion with any
* Ath. Oxon. ii. 7, ed. Bliss.
+Biblioth. Brit. p. 512.
Theat. Poet. (Modern Poets), p. 24, ed. 1675.- Warton says that Marlowe was "often applauded, both by Queen Elizabeth and King James the First, as a judicious player" (Hist. of Engl. Poet. iii. 433, ed. 4to.); yet he presently adds that Marlowe "died rather before the year 1593" (p. 437),-which was "rather before" King James ascended the throne of England.
§ The Atheist's Tragedie; see Appendix I. to this volume. The date of the ballad may be inferred from the second stanza,
"A truer storie nere was told,
Even the composing of plays for a London theatre by a member of the University was a proceeding very unlikely to meet with approbation from the Dons of Cambridge. They most probably held in supreme contempt all modern dramas which were not academic,-which were not written to be acted in a college-hall when some royal or dignified personage honoured the University with a visit.
stage." ="rose ch was hat he
rds a - into es in
positiveness: new materials for Marlowe's biography may hereafter come to light,
For the same person to unite in himself the actor and the dramatist was very common, both at that time and at a later period. Marlowe may have performed on more than one stage, though we can trace him only to the Curtain; and we may gather from the terms of the ballad (“ He had alsoe a player beene.... But brake his leg," &c.) that, the accident which there befell him having occasioned incurable lameness, he was for ever disabled as an actor.
The tragedy of Tamburlaine the Great, in Two Parts (the Second Part, it appears, having been brought upon the stage soon after the First *), may be confidently assigned to Marlowe, though the old editions have omitted the author's name. It is his earliest drama, at least the earliest of his plays which we possess. From Nash's Epistle "To the Gentlemen Students of both Universities,"+ prefixed to Greene's Menaphon, 1587, and from Greene's Address "To the Gentlemen Readers," ‡ prefixed to his Perimedes the Blacke-Smith, 1588, Mr. Collier concludes, and, it would seem, justly, "that Marlowe was our first poet who used blank-verse in dramatic compositions performed in public theatres, that Tamburlaine was the play in which the successful experiment was made, and that it was acted anterior to 1587."§ On the authority of a rather obscure passage in The Black Book, 1604, Malone had conjectured that Tamburlaine was written either wholly or in part by Nash :|| but to that conjecture Mr. Collier,-besides adducing a line from a sonnet by Gabriel Harvey, in which Marlowe, then just deceased, is spoken of under the
See Prologue to the Sec. Part.
+ In which Nash ridicules the then recent introduction of blank-verse on the public stage, and seems to allude to Marlowe in contemptuous terms.
In which Greene expressly mentions Marlowe's tragedy; "daring God out of heauen with that atheist Tamburlan, or blaspheming with the mad preest of the sonne."-Mr. Collier thinks that Marlowe also wrote the play in which "the Priest of the Sun" was a leading character.
§ Hist. of Engl. Dram. Poet. iii. 112.-Compare too the Prologue to the First Part of Tamburlaine;
Mr. Collier informs us, that, before the appearance of Tamburlaine, writers for the regu
had confined themselves to the use of prose or rhyme; and that all the English tragedies in blank verse which
|| Shakespeare (by Boswell), iii. 357.-The passage in The Black Book is,- -"the spindle-shank