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their lives; and all of them at mortal enmity with the Puritanical Precisians. Free-thinking on religious topics was then, as it has been deemed since, a mark of the man of spirit and of the world, ‚—a fashionable vice. It may be remarked, that more heterodoxical books were then printed in England than in any other part of Europe; the works of Giordano Bruno, and Servetus, with others of the same stamp, first issued into light from the London press, under the countenance of men of eminence for their rank and talent in the court of Elizabeth.
It is possible, though the evidence is equivocal, that Marlow may have been led by the influence of evil example, in thoughtlessness and gaiety of spirits" to sport with sacred subjects; more perhaps from the preposterous ambition of courting the casual applause of profligate and unprincipled companions, than from any systematic disbelief of religion," he may have ventured upon
Whose deepness doth entice such forward wits :"
but it should be remarked that his accusers were the Puritans, the inveterate enemies of stageplayers and poets; and that Marlow seems to have aimed a blow at them in his Edward the Second, where young Spencer addressing the scholar Baldock ridicules the hypocritical pedant, who says a long grace at the table's end, wears a little band, buttons like pins heads, and
"Curate-like, in his attire,
Though inwardly licentious enough."
This would never be forgiven or forgotten, his ridicule of their sacred persons would render him more obnoxious than absolute Atheism. Accordingly the fanatic Thomas Beard, in his "Theatre of God's Judgments," gladly avails himself of the unfortunate catastrophe of Marlow's untimely death, to show that it was an immediate judgment of Heaven. He represents him as
giving too large a swing to his own wit, and suffering his lust to have the full reins, so that he fell to that outrage and extremity, as Jodelle
*Printed about 1598.
a French tragical poet did, (being an epicure and an atheist) that he denied God and his son Christ, and not only in word blasphemed the Trinity, but also (as it was credibly reported) wrote divers discourses against it, affirming our Saviour to be a deceiver, and Moses to be a conjuror: the Holy Bible also to contain only vain and idle stories, and all religion but a device of policy." (I quote from good old Anthony Wood, not having immediate access to Beard's Theatre,) he continues: "But see the end of this person, which was noted by all, especially the Precisians. For so it fell out, that he (Marlow) being deeply in love with a certain woman, had for his rival a bawdy serving-man, one rather fit to be a pimp, than an ingenious Amoretto, as Marlow conceived himself to be. Whereupon Marlow, taking it to be an high affront, rush'd in upon, to stab him with his dagger: but the serving man being very quick so avoided the stroke, that with all catching hold of Marlow's wrist, he stab'd his own dagger into his own head, in such sort, that notwithstanding all the means of surgery that could be wrought, he
shortly after died of his wound, before the year 1593."
This account of Beard's is the foundation of all that has been laid to the charge of Marlow, it was in part copied and referred to by Meres in his Wit's Treasury; it was followed by Wood, and by all succeeding writers. William Vaughan, another puritan, published a little common place book, called the Golden Grove, about the year 1600, in which, among other instances of God's judgment upon atheists, &c. he relates with some variation of circumstances the same catastrophe*; and in the same work will be found a
* "Christopher Marlow, by profession a play-maker, who, as it is reported, about fourteen years ago wrote a book against the Trinity: but see the effects of God's justice; it so happen'd, that at Deptford, a little village about three miles distant from London, as he meant to stab with his poniard one named Ingram, that had invited him thither to a feast, and was then playing at tables; he quickly perceiving it, so avoided the thrust, that withall drawing out his dagger for his defence, he stab'd this Marlow into the eye, in such sort, that his brains coming out at the dagger's point, he shortly after died. Thus did God, the true executioner of divine justice, work the end of impious atheists."
chapter entitled, "Whether Stage-players ought to be suffered in a Commonwealth!!" which is to the full as liberal in its conclusions.
A late writer* has supposed that Thomas Beard
* See "The Poetical Decameron, by I. P. Collier. Edinburgh, 1820, vol. ii. p. 128.—An advertisement states that these volumes contain "A popular view of that brilliant era of English Poetry, during which Shakspeare,, Spenser, Ben Jonson, &c. flourished." It also sets forth that they include the concentrated essence of the Censura, Restituta, &c. "together with much new information, and many valuable notices not hitherto generally known!" -and finally, that "the work resembles in its plan the elegant dialogues of Bishop Hurd!!"
In its plan then be it, certainly not in its spirit; a more undiscriminative, prolix piece of verbosity about antiquarian trifles, quisquiliæ, scarcely could have graced or disgraced the heaviest of those periodicals from which it is compiled. How Mr. Dibdin must chuckle when he glances his eye from the Templar's Decameron to his own brisk publications! However he must not plume himself too much on his fancied superiority. If he has erected an eighth mundane wonder in producing on the supposed arid, jejune subject of Bibliography, two works replete with life, vivacity, and curious anecdote; (the honestly-filled "Bibliomania,” and the beautifully-decorated “Decameron") a less Alcidean task was not achieved by his rival in turning, with magic pen, "the fruitage fair" of poetry into "bitter ashes, which our offended jaws with spattering noise reject."