Christopher Marlowe and Richard Baines: Journeys through the Elizabethan Underground

By Roy Kendall | Go to book overview

9

"That Was In Another Country”

EVERY SOLUTION CREATES A NEW PROBLEM. IN 1925 HARVARD scholar Leslie Hotson thought he had solved the mystery of Marlowe's death in the fight at Deptford when he discovered a record of Marlowe's inquest in the Public Record Office in Chancery Lane, London. The verdict given is one of "homicide in self-defence.” Ironically it was Hotson's own research that began to undo his case. Naming for the first time those present at Marlowe's death, Hotson sparked off an explosion of literary investigation. This resulted in other scholastic detectives, in particular F. S. Boas, casting doubts on the veracity of those who gave evidence at the inquest, especially Robert Poley, who was found to be on record as saying: "I will sweare and forsweare my selffe rather then I will accuse my selffe to doe me any harme.” 1

Another of Hotson's discoveries, the caustic communication of June 1587, from the Privy Council to the university authorities at Cambridge, discussed in part II of this study, helped throw doubt on Hotson's own research, because the gist of the Privy Council's message was that Marlowe had been abroad on government business. 2 Marlowe had therefore been a spy during his last year at Cambridge and was in the company of the most detestable of spies at the end of his career. But that did not necessarily mean that he had been a spy in between, or prove that his death at Deptford could be connected with clandestine activities, as scholars began to suggest as a result of Hotson's two discoveries.

That intelligence work was one of Marlowe's careers and not just two bookends to his literary life was made plain 3 in 1976 by R. B. Wernham's discovery of the letter (see appendix B) from Sir Robert Sidney, the English governor of Flushing in the Low Countries, to Lord Treasurer Burghley, relating to the arrest of "Christofer Marly” in January 1592, for counterfeiting Her Majesty's coin—an offense punishable by death. Marlowe and the goldsmith Gifford Gilbert, who had made the stamps for pressing the coins, were be

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