Christopher Marlowe and Richard Baines: Journeys through the Elizabethan Underground

By Roy Kendall | Go to book overview

6

"The Joy of His Returning Home”

1

BACK IN ENGLAND, SIR FRANCIS WALSINGHAM CANNOT HAVE BEEN best pleased when he first perused the English version of Fr. Richard Baines's written recantation, which, given Walsingham's vast network of spies, informers, and priest-catchers, and, in consequence, his almost immediate access to Catholic propaganda, he must surely have read soon after its publication on June 1, 1583. If, that is, William Allen had not already sent him a complementary copy! Being a man who used torture himself, and not always as the last resort, Walsingham would certainly have understood why Baines had suddenly become a penitent Catholic. But he must have blanched when he read some of its contents, especially those lines relating to the period prior to Baines's arrest and subsequent interrogation about missing "the divine offices [he] was obliged to attend, ” trusting in the "love and discretion” of certain friends, and spewing out "revolting and blasphemous remarks.” What kind of a secret agent was this? And when Baines stood before Walsingham on his actual or metaphorical carpet, as Baines the Overreacher must have done at some point subsequent to his release, he would surely have regretted eating those meat pies.


2

So what happened to Richard Baines between leaving Rheims in 1583 and betraying Marlowe in Flushing in 1592? This is a question I shall endeavor to answer in parts II and III of this study; although, with the entry of Marlowe onto the chronological stage later in this chapter, it will be necessary thereafter to deviate from a strict reassessment of Baines's life in direct proportion to the chains of action and reaction that are set off when his biography and Marlowe's begin to intermingle.

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