Christopher Marlowe: Poet and Spy

By Park Honan | Go to book overview
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A little matter of murder

O Envy for his virtues spare one man.

('Sir Roger Manwood')

We are in fact convinced that no human experience is without
meaning or unworthy of analysis, and that fundamental values,
even if they are not positive, can be deduced from this particular
experience which we are describing.

(P. Levi, Se questo è un uomo)

A great house in Kent

THOUGH the queen was entertained at Scadbury manor, and business agents, spies, poets, and officers of the Crown dined there, little of this remarkable house remains today. It was pulled down in about 1734, but its moat-surrounded island still exists. The locale is eerie and beautiful for a visitor who comes upon dark water near Kentish woods; a black, water-filled moat protects the ruins of brick cellars, undercrofts, and brewery areas of Thomas Walsingham's former edifice. Thanks to the Orpington and District Archaeological Society, its compact size has become clear, but formerly it was an attractive retreat with many chambers.

In an underground, silted-up drain near the old kitchen, debris has come to light––including a newborn baby's skull. This skull (lately inspected by the Kent police) might be a cruel symbol of Thomas's problems. At 31, Marlowe's patron was a bland, cultivated former espionage officer who meant to excel at the royal court. To succeed as a courtier, he needed to detach himself from spies or 'projectors' to a degree; and yet if


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