Christopher Marlowe and Richard Baines: Journeys through the Elizabethan Underground

By Roy Kendall | Go to book overview

15

"Libels Are Cast Against Thee in the Street”

1

IT HAS LONG BEEN PRESUMED THAT RICHARD BAINES'S DENUNCIATION of Marlowe was made voluntarily, either for some kind of reward or out of religious zeal. These presumptions can now be laid to rest. It may well be that Baines welcomed the opportunity to put the record straight (or further blot it) in some respects, especially in the area that concerned his activities in Flushing; but the information in his note was not given of his own free will.

That this is so is, in my view, made clear when his activities at Rheims and Flushing and their ramifications as previously discussed are looked at in conjunction with a letter (see appendix C) from Thomas Drury to Anthony Bacon, which is preserved in the Lambeth Palace Library. 1 This letter was discovered by S. E. Sprott in 1974 2 but, surprisingly, has been largely overlooked by biographers and interpreters of Marlowe's life and works. Constance Kuriyama makes no mention of it in "Marlowe's Nemesis: The Identity of Richard Baines, ” or in her follow-up essay "Marlowe, Shakespeare, and the Nature of Biographical Evidence.” William Urry remarks on it but affords his discussion of the letter only a page, 3 and speaks of Drury as having "rambled on” and concludes that it "is difficult to know what to make of Drury's tirade.” It is difficult, I believe, because Drury was being careful to guard his valuable information. The last two paragraphs make it clear that he was desirous of a secret meeting with Bacon, and was anxious to trade secrets for money. He had to intrigue Bacon but at the same time not give too much away. In any case, it would have been too dangerous to commit what he knew to paper. My interpretation of the letter is that rather than rambling on, he is very careful to tread a path he hoped the recipient would wish to follow but which at the same time would not lead him to or over the cliff edge.

It is only Charles Nicholl in The Reckoning who, aside from

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