Abbildungen der Seite

1577-8 is lost. In the accounts for the first quarter of the financial year 1578-9 (namely, from Michaelmas to Christmas 1578) we find no mention of him, but in the accounts for the three following quarters (January to Michaelmas 1579) he is reported to have received his exhibition of £1 per quarter. For 1579-80 the record is missing.1

On 17th March 1580-1, Marlowe matriculated at Cambridge as Pensioner of Benet College (now Corpus Christi). The only mention of him in the Books of the College is an entry of his admission, and he is there called simply "Marlin "—without the Christian name. It appears to have been a rule at Benet College to record the Christian name along with the surname only in the case of scholars; hence the absence of the Christian name is held to show that Marlowe was not elected to one of the two scholarships which had recently been founded by Archbishop Parker at Benet College for the benefit of boys educated at the King's School, Canterbury. Cunningham urges that it is "less unlikely that a hurried and quasi informal entry has been made in the books than that a boy of Marlowe's industry and precocity of intellect should have gone from that particular school to that particular college on any footing than that of a foundation scholar." The absence of Marlowe's Christian name from the College Books is a tangible piece of evidence, but there is nothing whatever

1 As Dyce's account is somewhat loosely worded, I applied to Mr. J. B. Sheppard, who supplied me with the particulars I have given.

to show that Marlowe was distinguished for industry at school. His classical attainments at the beginning of his literary career appear not to have been considerable. In his translation of Ovid's Amores, which is by no means a difficult book, he misses the sense in passages which could be construed to-day with ease by any fourth-form boy. After making all allowance for the inaccuracy of ordinary scholarship in Marlowe's day, it may be safely said that the poet could not have earned much distinction at Cambridge for sound classical knowledge. The probability is that, both at school and college, he read eagerly but not accurately. His fiery spirit, "still climbing after, knowledge infinite," would ill brook to be fettered by the gyves and shackles of an academical training. But whether he held a scholarship or not, he was content to submit so far to the ordinary routine (less irksome then than now) as to secure his Bachelor's Degree in 1583 and commence Master of Arts in 1587.

Dyce puts the question, Who defrayed the expenses of his Academical course if he had no scholarship? It is not improbable that he may have gone to Cambridge at the expense of some patron; and Dyce ventures to suggest that the patron was Sir Roger Manwood, Chief Baron of the Exchequer, who had a mansion at St. Stephen's, near Canterbury. On the back of the titlepage of a copy of Hero and Leander, ed. 1629, Collier found a manuscript Latin epitaph on this gentleman (who died in December 1592), subscribed with Marlowe's name. The epitaph has every appearance of being

genuine ;1 and as Sir Roger Manwood was distinguished for his munificence, it is not at all unlikely that at some time or other he had made Marlowe the recipient of his bounty. But I must leave the reader to accept or reject Dyce's theory as he pleases.

We have now to consider how Marlowe was engaged after taking his bachelor's degree in 1583. The most plausible view is that of Cunningham, who suggests that the poet trailed a pike in the Low Countries. He points out with some force that Marlowe's " familiarity with military terms, and his fondness for using them are most remarkable." But we must beware of laying too much stress on this argument; for all the Elizabethan dramatists possessed in large measure the faculty, for which Shakespeare was supremely distinguished, of assimilating technical knowledge of every kind. Phillips, who was followed by Antony-à-Wood and Tanner, states in his Theatrum Poetarum that Marlowe "rose from an actor

1 It runs as follows:

"In obitum honoratissimi Viri, Rogeri Manwood, Militis, Quaestorii
Reginalis Capitalis Baronis,

Noctivagi terror, ganeonis triste flagellum,
Et Jovis Alcides, rigido vulturque latroni,

Urna subtegitur. Scelerum, gaudete, nepotes!

Insons, luctifica sparsis cervice capillis,

Plange! fori lumen, venerandæ gloria legis,

Occidit: heu, secum effoetas Acherontis ad oras
Multa abiit virtus. Pro tot virtutibus uni
Livor, parce viro; non audacissimus esto

Illius in cineres, cujus tot millia vultus
Mortalium attonuit: sic cum te nuntia Ditis
Vulneret exsanguis, feliciter ossa quiescant,

Famaque marmorei superet monumenta sepulchri."

to be a maker of plays;" but the authority of Phillipswho was very frequently inaccurate-carries little weight. Collier, who did so much to enlighten students, and so much to perplex them, produced from his capacious portfolio a MS. ballad about Marlowe, entitled the Atheist's Tragedie, from which it would appear that the poet had been an actor at the Curtain and in the performance of his professional duties had had the misfortune to break his leg :—

[blocks in formation]

This is doubtless very ingenious, but I have little hesitation in pronouncing the ballad to be a forgery, though Dyce-who had been victimised on other occasions and later editors accept it as genuine. The words "When in his early age" can only mean that the poet was a boy-actor at the Curtain; but we know that he could not possibly have been connected with the stage before 1583. I have not seen the MS., and so am unable to deliver any opinion as to the style of the hand-writing; but when we remember how many documents, proved afterwards to be forgeries, Collier put

1 The ballad is given in full at the end of the third volume.

forward as genuine, we shall be quite justified in rejecting the Atheist's Tragedie. It is a work of no great difficulty to imitate with success a doggerel ballad.

Critics are agreed that the first, in order of time, of Marlowe's extant dramatic productions is the tragedy of Tamburlaine the Great, in two parts. From internal evidence there can be no doubt that Tamburlaine was written wholly by Marlowe; but on the title-page of the early editions there is no author's name, and we have no decisive piece of external evidence to fix the authorship on Marlowe. In Henslowe's Diary there is an entry which, if it had been genuine, would have been conclusive:

"Pd unto Thomas Dickers, the 20 of Desembr 1597, for adycyous to Fostus twentie shellinges, and fyve shellenges for a prolog to Marloes Tamberlen, so in all I saye payde twentye fyve shellinges." (Henslowe's Diary, ed. J. P. Collier, p. 71.)

Unfortunately this entry, which was received without suspicion by Dyce and other editors, is a forgery. Mr. G. F. Warner, who published in 1881 his careful and elaborate catalogue of the Manuscripts and Muniments of Dulwich College, pronounces that "the whole entry is evidently a forgery, written in clumsy imitation of Henslowe's hand. The forger, however, has shown some skill in his treatment of a narrow blot or smudge which intersects the upper part of the W in the second 'shellinges; for in order that the writing may appear to be under and not over the old blot, he has at first carried up the (as if writing u) only as far as the lower edge

« ZurückWeiter »