Saturday, March 28, 2009

On Nicholas Faunt & Anthony Bacon: a question for 2007 Hoffman Prize winner Peter Farey

Q: Peter, you've studied intelligence agent Anthony Bacon (brother of Francis Bacon) very closely - and I'd like to refer all my readers to your excellent essay, "Le Doux's Coffre, But Whose Papers?" - so I have to ask you about John Baker's claim that Nicholas Faunt, an agent for Anthony Bacon, met Marlowe in Dover after Marlowe's alleged staged death on May 30, 1593.

Peter: Ah yes, I remember being very excited about Nicholas Faunt's letter when I first came across it in the Bacon Papers way back in 1995! In fact, I wrote to Dolly Wraight about it at the time. However, I think that John's remarks concerning Nicholas Faunt's presence in Dover at the time of Marlowe's alleged death need to be put in context.

The catholic Anthony Standen, a former servant of Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, had been in exile on the continent ever since Darnley's death and Mary Stuart's imprisonment, for much of the time having provided intelligence (as a sort of "double agent") first for Sir Francis Walsingham and later Lord Burghley. He was also a good friend of Anthony Bacon, who had helped him escape from prison when they were both in Bordeaux, and after Bacon's return to England in early 1592 was therefore also a source of intelligence for the Earl of Essex, for whom Bacon was now working.

On 23rd May, 1593 (to make things easier I'll use the "English" calendar throughout) Standen wrote apparently out of the blue to Bacon, saying that he was now in Calais having just arrived from Spain, and was hoping to return to England in the guise of a Frenchman (Monsieur La Faye and André Sandal had been past identities). He asked for somewhere to stay in England, and for someone to meet him upon his arrival in Dover with instructions to accompany him to London. He had apparently sent a similar request to Lord Burghley. He said that he would remain in Calais until he received a reply (LPL Bacon Papers MS.649 f.175). Bacon wrote back on the 26th (MS.649 f.123), saying how delighted he was to hear this news, and that Nicholas Faunt (apparently representing Burghley too) would be his contact in Dover.

Faunt arrived there on Monday morning, 28th May, dispatching a message (and money) to Standen within 4 hours of his arrival. He sent this by hand of a citizen of Calais whose trustworthiness he had checked, helped by the "Lieutenant" of Dover, with local people to whom he was well known (MS.649 f.140). Although Standen did in fact write back thanking him at 9 o'clock on Wednesday 30th, Faunt didn't receive the reply, as the courier was apparently forced to throw it overboard because their ship was being pursued by an enemy vessel (MS.649 f.170).

Worried at having heard nothing by 31st May, Faunt sent another "young man" over to Calais to find out what was going on. The same man returned straight away with two letters from Standen (the first written before, the second after, his arrival) in which Standen's inability to move out of Calais at that time was explained (MS.649 ff.128 &173). Standen says that it may be another 8 days or so before he will be able to come over, and suggests that Faunt just leave word with the Captain of Dover Castle, whom he will contact on arrival, since even though he has been away for 28 years he still doesn't doubt his ability to find his way to Gray's Inn (where the Bacon Brothers were living) on his own.

Faunt writes to Bacon at 3 p.m. on Saturday the 2nd June, saying that the young man who carried the letters between them would await Standen's arrival in Dover, and act as his "guard and servant" for the journey to London. Faunt himself, the following day being Sunday, planned to overnight in Canterbury (where he went to school) before returning to London (MS.649 f.170).

Certain things need to be noted in considering the likelihood of this also having something to do with Marlowe's escape from England.
1) The reason for Faunt's presence in Dover on that date arose from circumstances entirely beyond the control of anyone in England.
2) It is quite clear that, according to what is said, neither of the two people sent over to Calais can have been Marlowe.
3) There is no reason to assume that Anthony Bacon knew anything at all about Marlowe's death at that time, let alone being involved in the subterfuge in any way.
4) This was obviously a very dangerous operation, with a strong possibility of it going wrong, and to combine it with another highly risky one would be very foolish.
5) Marlowe already had somebody well able to provide him with any of the help he might have needed in escaping - Robert Poley. Furthermore, although Poley apparently had "urgent letters of great importance" for delivery to the Privy Council, he didn't in fact report there until 8th June, having (as his warrant said) "been in Her Majesty's service all the aforesaid time."

© The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection, March 2009

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4 comments:

Marlovian said...

I have long suspected that there was no connection between Nicholas Faunt's presence at Dover and Marlowe's predicament at Deptford, even though the dates might suggest so. Peter Farey very nicely clears up the mystery. Faunt was at Dover awaiting the arrival of Standen from Calais. Poley probably arranged Marlowe's departure from Deptford for France. Based on this information, we can surmise that Anthony Bacon, head of Essex's intelligence office, knew nothing about the Deptford plot which had been the work of Thomas Walsingham and Burghley's son, Robert Cecil, arch rival of Anthony's younger brother, Francis. John Baker, intrepid researcher that he is, will occasionally take speculative leaps that seem to contradict known facts. But he is usually right 90 percent of the time. Peter Farey, however, is no wild-eye speculator. His research is peerless.
Sam Blumenfeld

Sebastian said...

a fascinating world of intrigue; thanks, Mr. Farey.

MensaNYC said...

I always appreciate Peter's meticulous research . . .

MauveExcel said...

my, how dapper, peter!