Abbildungen der Seite

poet's memory. I give the dedication in full, as it has not received due attention from Marlowe's editors:— "Sir,—We think not ourselves discharged of the duty we owe to our friend when we have brought the breathless body to the earth; for albeit the eye there taketh his ever-farewell of that beloved object, yet the impression of the man that hath been dear unto us, living an afterlife in our memory, there putteth us in mind of farther obsequies due unto the deceased; and namely of the performance of whatsoever we may judge, shall make to his living credit and to the effecting of his determinations prevented by the stroke of death. By these meditations (as by an intellectual will) I suppose myself executor to the unhappily deceased author of this poem; upon whom knowing that in his lifetime you bestowed many kind favours, entertaining the parts of reckoning and worth which you found in him with good countenance and liberal affection, I cannot but see so far into the will of him dead, that whatsoever issue of his brain should chance to come abroad, that the first breath it should take might be the gentle air of your liking; for since his self had been accustomed thereunto, it would prove more agreeable and thriving to his right children that any other foster-countenance whatsoever." There is nothing conventional in such language as this. It is plain that Edward Blount had a sincere admiration and pity for Marlowe. "The impression of the man that hath been dear unto us!" Surely these are tender and pathetic words! When vials of venom were being poured on the dead man's head, it required some courage to speak Vol. i. e

out generously and manfully; and, therefore, let us give honour to the magnanimous publisher.

The name "atheist " has a very ugly sound. "Agnostic," "materialist," and the like, are gentleman-like designations, but a person who styles himself "atheist" is regarded in polite society as blunt and boorish. In Marlowe's time there were no fine distinctions. Any who ventured to impugn the authenticity of the biblical narrative spoke and wrote at their own deadly peril. In February 1589 Francis Kett, fellow of Benet College, Cambridge,—the College of which Marlowe had been a member,—was burnt at Norwich for holding unorthodox views about the Trinity and about Christ's divinity. Such being the state of society, prudence would naturally have dictated that each man should keep his private views to himself, or at least that he should have explained them only to his most intimate friends. "In divinity I keep the road," says that champion of orthodoxy, Sir Thomas Browne, who exposed the vulnerable points in the scriptural narrative with more acumen and gusto than the whole army of "free-thinkers" from Antony Collins downwards. It would have been well if Marlowe had "kept the road." Unfortunately he seems to have lost no opportunity of expounding his heretical opinions. The passage referring to Marlowe in Greene's Groat's Worth of Wit, that crazy death-bed wail of a weak and malignant spirit, has been often quoted before, but must be given here once again :—" Wonder not (for with thee will I first beginne), thou famous gracer of tragedians, that Green, who hath said with thee, like the foole in his heart, 'There is no God,' should now give glorie unto his greatnesse; for penetrating in his power, his hand lyes heavy upon me, he hath spoken unto me with a voyce of thunder, and I have felt [old ed. left] he is a God that can punish enemies. Why should thy excellent wit, his gift, be so blinded that thou shouldest give no glory to the giver? Is it pestilent Machivilian policie that thou hast studied? O peevish [old ed. punish] follie! What are his rules but meere confused mockeries, able to extirpate in small time the generation of mankinde? for if sic volo, sic iubeo, holde in those that are able to commaund, and if it be lawfull fas et nefas, to doo any thing that is beneficiall, onely tyrants should possesse the earthe, and they, striving to exceed in tiranny, should ech to other be a slaughterman, till, the mightyest outliving all, one stroke were left for Death, that in one age mans life should end. The brocher of this dyabolicall atheisme is dead, and in his life had never the felicitie he aymed at, but, as he beganne in craft, lived in feare, and ended in dispaire. Quam inscrutabilia sunt Dei judicia! This murderer of many brethren had his conscience seared like Cayne; this betrayer of him that gave his life for him inherited the portion of Judas; this apostata perished as ill as Julian: and wilt thou, my friend, be his disciple? Looke unto mee, by -him perswaded to that libertie, and thou shalt finde it an infernall bondage. I know the least of my demerits merit this miserable death; but wilfull striving against knowne truth exceedeth all the terrors of my soule. Deferre not (with mee) till this last point of extremitie; for little knowest thou how in the end thou shalt be visited." Then follow the well-known references to Nashe (or, as some think, Lodge), Peele, and the "upstart crow" Shakespeare. Greene died in September 1592, and the tract must have been published immediately afterwards. Its publication caused much excitement, and the rumour went abroad that the pamphlet was a forgery. Some attributed it to Chettle, others to Nashe. Both these writers quickly came forward to disclaim all share in the authorship. In the preface to Chettle's KindHart's Dreame, a tract entered in the Stationers' Books in December 1592 and published immediately afterwards, occurs the following passage :—

"About three moneths since died M. Robert Greene, leaving many papers in sundry book-sellers hands ; among other, his Groatsworth of Wit, in which- a letter written to divers play-makers is offensively by one or two of them taken; and because on the dead they cannot be avenged, they wilfully forge in their conceites a living author; and after tossing it two [to] and fro, no remedy, but it must light on me. How I have all the time of my conversing in printing hindred the bitter inveying against schollers, it hath been very well knowne, and how in that I dealt I can sufficiently proove. With neither of them that take offen.ce was I acquainted, and with one of them [i.e. Marlowe] I care not if I never be: the other [i.e. Shakespeare], whome at that time I did not so much spare as since I wish I had, for that as I have moderated the heate of living writers, and might have used my owne discretion (especially in such a case) the author beeing dead, that I did not, I am as sory as if the originall fault had beene my fault, because myselfe have seene his demeanor no lesse civil than he exclent in the qualitie he professes: besides, divers of worship have reported his uprightnes of dealing which argues his honesty, and his facetious grace in writing that aprooves his art. For the first, whose learning I reverence, and, at the perusing of Greenes booke, stroke out what then in conscience I thought he in some displeasure writ, or, had it beene true, yet to publish it was intollerable, him I would wish to use me no worse than I deserve. I had onely in the copy this share; it was il written, as sometime Greenes hand was none of the best; licensd it must be, ere it could bee printed, which could never be if it might not be read: to be breife, I writ it over, and, as neare as I could, followed the copy, only in that letter I put something out, but in the whole booke not a worde in; for I protest it was all Greenes, not mine, nor Maister Nashes, as some uniustly have affirmed." From Chettle's statement it is plain that the passage about Marlowe in the Groat's Worth of Wit was not printed in its venomous integrity. Chettle had no personal knowledge of Marlowe; he judged only from common report. It is to his credit that, prejudiced as he was, he had the good feeling to temper the virulence of Greene's attack. Nashe, in the "Private "Epistle to the Printer," prefixed to Pierce Pennilesse (a tract issued at the close of 1592) was more vehement in repudiating all connection with the pamphlet which had given so much offence. "Other newes," he writes, " I am advertised of, that a scald triviall

« ZurückWeiter »