Mr Ald. said that Mr Fineux of Dover2 was an Atheist & that he would go out at midnight into a wood, & fall down upon his knees & pray heartily that the Devil would come, that he might see him (for he did not believe that there was a Devil). Mr Ald. said that he was a very good scholar, but would never have above one book at a time, & when he was perfect in it, he would sell it away & buy another: he learned all Marlowe by heart & divers other books: Marlowe made him an Atheist. This Fineux was fain [i.e. obliged] to make a speech upon The fool hath said in his heart there is no God, to get his degree. Fineux would say as Galen said that man was of a more excellent composition than a beast, & thereby could speak; but affirmed that his soul died with his body, & as we remember nothing before we were born, so we shall remember nothing after we are dead.Simon Aldrich
From 1569 until his death in 1602, the Register (i.e. registrar) of the Archbishop’s Consistory Court of Canterbury was one Francis Aldrich. This Aldrich had two sons, Francis and Simon, both of whom went to Cambridge like their father, who appears to have been at Corpus Christi. Francis went to Clare and then Sidney Sussex College, where he was one of the first Fellows, and was later elected Master, albeit holding the position only briefly, due to his death in 1609.3 The executors of his will were his brother Simon and his mother, with the Headmaster of the King’s School Canterbury, Roger Raven, as overseer. There are no lists of boys attending the King's School when the Aldrich brothers would have been there, but from the information given above it must be very likely that they did.
Simon Aldrich matriculated from (i.e. started at) Trinity College in about 1593/4 – the records are missing – but he is listed as a scholar there in Easter 1596, and went on to be awarded his B.A. degree in 1596/7 and M.A. in 1600, having been elected a Fellow in 1599. 4 On 30 December 1606, Simon was licensed to marry Elizabeth Hamon of Canterbury at Marlowe's own church of baptism, St. George's, and although there is no record of the wedding itself, there is no reason to assume that it didn’t happen, as the existence of the son-in-law mentioned below indicates. In 1607 he became a Bachelor of Divinity, and on 13 March 1611, vicar of Ringmer in Sussex. Having resigned from this position in 1626, he retired later to Denton in Kent where he lived with his son-in-law, John Swan, in a house called Little Maydeken, possibly until his death in July 1655.5
Little Maydeken was owned by the gentleman and letter-writer Henry Oxinden, who lived in a house called Great Maydeken, at Barham, about three miles from Denton. Another Canterbury man, having been baptized there on 18 January 1609, Oxinden seems to have had a particular interest in Christopher Marlowe – a good thing for us, since he recorded in his commonplace book several things about him. Most of them were learned from Simon Aldrich, and they have been of great help to Marlowe’s biographers, not least that his father was a Canterbury shoemaker, the first source of this information. Aldrich, via Oxinden, also seems to have been the source of the epitaph in Latin verse upon the death of Sir Roger Manwood, and the fact that Marlowe wrote it. Also of considerable interest to biographers, perhaps, is that he, reporting Aldrich, is probably the most trustworthy witness that Marlowe was "an atheist" who had convinced at least one other person that he was right, and that he had written "a book against the Scripture" which he would have had printed, but "it would not be suffered." Oxinden was married, but his first wife died in 1640 and he remarried two years later. He died in June 1670.6
Mr Fineux of Dover
Mark Eccles, who first brought together and reported on the references to Marlowe in Oxinden's commonplace book, thought that the Fineux referred to was Thomas Fineux, who was baptized as "Thos. son of Thos. Fineux" on 16 May 1574 at Hougham, three miles from Dover. His father, Thomas the elder, apparently commanded the garrison at Moat's Bulwark (Dover) as early as 1593 and as late as 1624, and was buried on 6 Jun 1627.
There is no record of Thomas's schooling, and the records for the King's School Canterbury between 1580 and 1590 are apparently missing, but he matriculated from Corpus Christi, Cambridge, at Easter 1587. However, there is no record of his taking a degree. He married Elizabeth Rooke (of Mersham in Kent) at St. Paul's Canterbury on 19 Apr 1604, and around 1620 (according to The Visitation of Kent, Taken in the Years 1619-21) he was living back in his place of birth, Hougham.
Since there appears to have been a very brief overlap of the times when Thomas Fineux and Christopher Marlowe were at Corpus Christi, this identification has been accepted by most of Marlowe's biographers, including Frederick Boas,7 William Urry,8 A.D. Wraight,9 Charles Nicholl,10 Roy Kendall,11 and David Riggs.12 In his article on Christopher Marlowe for the 2004 Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Nicholl also says: "In his last weeks at Cambridge he may have met Thomas Fineux of Hougham, near Dover, who entered Corpus in the Easter term. According to a well-informed contemporary, Simon Aldrich, ... young Fineux fell drastically under Marlowe's spell."
Constance Brown Kuriyama13and Park Honan,14 however, thought that a better candidate might be Thomas's younger brother John, who had been considered by Eccles but, probably rightly, was thought too young to have been acquainted with Marlowe.
A "John Finnix" is listed among the pupils at the King's School Canterbury in 1590,15 and a "John Fineux (or Fennis)" went up to Trinity College Cambridge around 1593/4, where he obtained a B.A. degree in 1596/7 and M.A. in 1600. In The Visitation of Kent, Taken in the Years 1619-21 he is described "of St. Margaret at Cliffe." The most common spelling of the family name in the parish records at around that time seems to have been "Fineas," but it was the spelling "Finnis" which stuck, and there have been people of that name living there right through to the present day.16 St Margaret's-at-Cliffe is also about three miles from the centre of Dover.
Thomas or John?
Most biographers seem to have favoured Thomas as "Mr Fineux of Dover," mainly because his time at Corpus Christi overlapped very briefly with Christopher Marlowe's. I would suggest, however, that there are rather better reasons for assuming it to have been John.
It is worth noting to start with that Simon Aldrich and John Fineux were probably exact contemporaries at the King's School Canterbury. They also seem to have arrived at Trinity College Cambridge at the same time, and taken their B.A. and M.A. degrees in the same years too. They were therefore very closely associated over many years, whereas there is no indication of Aldrich having known Thomas at all. Yet what he reports is just the sort of thing that a fellow student would have been sure to know about, and if it had not been his close acquaintance John, then surely he would have made it clear which one he meant.
Second, Thomas would have been at Cambridge from 1587 until about 1590 at the latest. For him to have "learned all Marlowe by heart" during that period would have been impossible, since the earliest of Marlowe's works to be printed, Tamburlaine parts 1 & 2, weren't published until August 1590. When John left university, all of his works except Doctor Faustus and The Jew of Malta were in print.
Third, John Fineux took two degrees, but there is no record of his brother Thomas having taken one. Yet Aldrich apparently said that "This Fineux was fain to make a speech upon The fool hath said in his heart there is no God, to get his degree."
Lastly, when their father, another Thomas, died in 1627, he left everything to "John Fineux of Dover." The correspondence with Aldrich's description is interesting, and it also seems to indicate that the younger Thomas had died twelve years or more before Oxinden wrote this up in his commonplace book.17
Does it matter?
I think we can reasonably assume that Eccles and others were right to find John Fineux too young to have been acquainted with Marlowe, even though they were apparently both in Canterbury in 1592, when Marlowe was having his confrontation with William Corkine and John was still at school there. So what I find particularly interesting about this is just how Marlowe "made him an Atheist" if, as is argued above, it was in fact John Fineux whom Aldrich was discussing. How could Fineux's having "learned all Marlowe by heart" do this? Charles Nicholl18 says "The influence was perhaps mainly literary—Dr Faustus springs to mind," but he seems to have forgotten that Dr Faustus didn't appear in print until 1604, and there is in any case no obvious reason why this or any of the other plays, even the Tamburlaines, would have had such an effect.19
The obvious answer is that what he read was Marlowe's "book against the Scripture," also mentioned in Oxinden's account. It was what Thomas Drury called "the book that doth maintain this damnable sect," the script of "the atheist lecture" Marlowe allegedly read to "Sir Walter Ralegh and others," and what William Vaughan called a "book against the Trinity." It would also have been the main reason why Marlowe eventually found himself in real trouble.
This seems to indicate that a manuscript of the book was to be found at Cambridge (probably in either Corpus Christi or Trinity) some time between 1593 and 1600. If so, the chances of it surviving would presumably be pretty slim, as would the name of its author. But I wonder if anyone would realize just who the author probably was if such an anonymous manuscript did still exist? It took a Marlovian, Calvin Hoffman, to identify the Corpus Christi portrait's probable identity, after all!
© Peter Farey, August 2012
1Eccles, Mark (1935). "Marlowe in Kentish Tradition", Notes & Queries, 139. p.40. (I have modernized the spelling). Eccles's piece was in fact submitted in four parts, and my thanks are due to Ros Barber for giving me the chance to read all of them.
2In fact there are two versions of Oxinden's notes. The original version, held at the British Library, was written in about 1640–1, and there is a copy written by him some ten years later, now in the Folger. The first says "one Finis of Dover" which was changed by Oxinden in the later version to "Mr Fineux of Dover."
3Edwards, D. L. (1957). A History of the King’s School Canterbury, Faber & Faber. p.82.
4Venn, John & J.A. (eds. 1924). Alumni Cantabrigienses, a biographical list of all known students, graduates and holders of office at the University of Cambridge, from the earliest times to 1900, Cambridge, The University Press. Similar information given later is from the same source.
5Eccles, Mark (1935). "Marlowe in Kentish Tradition", Notes & Queries, 140. p.58.
6Hingley, Sheila (2004). "Oxinden , Henry (1609–1670)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press.
7Boas, Frederick S. (1940). Christopher Marlowe: A Critical and Biographical Study. Oxford: Clarendon Press. p.110.
8Urry, William (1988). Christopher Marlowe and Canterbury. Faber & Faber. p.60.
9Wraight, A.D. and Stern, Virginia F. (1965). In Search of Christopher Marlowe: A Pictorial Biography. Macdonald. pp.11, 59.
10Nicholl, Charles (2002). The Reckoning: The Murder of Christopher Marlowe (2nd edition). Vintage. pp.244–245.
11Kendall, Roy (2003). Christopher Marlowe and Richard Baines: Journeys through the Elizabethan Underground. Associated University Presses. pp.54–55.
12Riggs, David (2004). The World of Christopher Marlowe. Faber & Faber. pp.229–230
13Kuriyama, Constance Brown (2002). Christopher Marlowe: A Renaissance Life. Cornell University Press. p.160.
14Honan, Park (2005). Christopher Marlowe: Poet & Spy. Oxford University Press. p.250.
15I haven't examined this list myself, so I don't know whether Aldrich is mentioned too.
16Memorials to men named "Finnis" of St. Margaret's at Cliffe are to be found from both World Wars, and Ted Finnis, brother of the aviation historian Malcolm Finnis, still lives there.
17Eccles, Mark (1935). "Marlowe in Kentish Tradition", Notes & Queries, 144. pp.134–5. Even if this timing is wrong, Thomas's widow remarried eight or nine years earlier, in 1632.
18Nicholl, Charles (2004). "Marlowe , Christopher (bap. 1564, d. 1593)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press.
19David Riggs (p.230) does say, however, that Fineux, "who 'affirmed his soul died with his body & as we can remember nothing before we were born: so we shall remember nothing after', had grasped the true meaning of 2 Tamburlaine."