Friday, August 17, 2012

Aldrich, Oxinden and Fineux by Peter Farey

One of the more colourful characters to appear in biographies of Christopher Marlowe is someone referred to as "Mr Fineux of Dover." Reporting the words of his elderly friend Simon Aldrich in early 1641, Henry Oxinden wrote the following in his commonplace book.1
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

Henry Oxinden

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."


Maureen Duff said...

Peter, Very interesting research. I have three questions regarding the Atheist Lecture. First, what is the likelihood that the document might be found in another archive? Presumably Archbishop Whitgift, Lord Puckering and their clerks or officers would have been in the business of gathering any incriminating documents of those they suspected of promoting atheism or sedition. Secondly, with regard to the content, from what you say above, Galen and his anatomical researches would likely be mentioned. Also I imagine that the ideas of Giordano Bruno, the Italian philospher, would feature strongly. What other names do you think might be included? And thirdly, is it likely that the document would be in Latin or English?

Peter Farey said...

Hi Maureen. I'm sorry. For some reason I missed seeing your post until now.

The phrase I find particularly interesting in Oxenden's report is that "it would not be suffered" to be printed, which does seem to imply a censorship of some sort. On the other hand, Thomas Drury wrote to Anthony Bacon that there was "old hold and shove" (presumably by the authorities) to get hold of it. I don't know of any specific repository for banned books, let alone banned manuscripts, in England. Has there ever been such a thing?

As for names other than Galen and Bruno, those of Epicurus (and therefore also Lucretius) and Lucian - both of whom had been mentioned in connection with Marlowe) are the only ones which immediately come to mind.

Funnily enough, Ros Barber asked me the same question about whether it would have been in Latin or English, to which I replied that it hadn’t crossed my mind that it might have been in Latin, "but now you mention it I would say that it is very likely." It rather depends on just whom he was mainly writing it for, I guess. It could have been for a level of society who might be thought more likely to be afraid of bugbears and hobgoblins, but this article rather suggests that it was written mainly for his fellow-academics at Cambridge, which would certainly favour Latin.

Thanks for asking. I hope this helps,


Maureen Duff said...

Thanks Peter. I think you're right that the likeliest place for a surviving manuscript (in Latin?) is in an archive at Cambridge, presumably Corpus Christi. If Mr Fineux had to make a speech on "The fool has said in his heart there is no God" in order to get his degree, it would make sense that Mr Marlowe had to do the same. I believe at the time MA students were obliged to produce extensive arguments both for and against certain philosophical ideas in order to graduate. I expect the university kept to the same topics year after year. This would provide a plausible reason for the existence of the "Atheist Lecture" in the first place - and Marlowe's version of this probable standard Cambridge requirement I suspect would have been so well argued that he may have deemed it worthy of resurrection a few years later for reading to Raleigh's group. If this is right, Marlowe would have kept one manuscript (at least) for himself and possibly had to produce one or more copies for the Cambridge professors who were judging his suitability for a degree.

Peter Farey said...

Interesting idea Maureen. Remember that, unlike his brother, John Fineux was at Trinity rather than Corpus Christi, though. I don't know whether the subjects were set at university or college level, do you?

Incidentally, if one were looking for names which might have appeared in it, I suppose those which appeared in the Baines note - Moses etc. - might be worth watching out for too.


Dan Sayers said...

Note also Robert Greene (who was at St John's and Clare Hall, Cambridge) mentions the theme in the Groatsworth:

"Wonder not (for with thee wil I first begin), thou famous gracer of Tragedians, that Greene, who hath said with thee (like the foole in his heart) There is no God, should now giue glorie vnto his greatnes ..."

Which suggests it may have been something all Cambridge (University?) men had to speak on. I would doubt it was one that many chose to argue the "devil's advocate" side with - but it would certainly fit Marlowe's character and intelligence that he might see game in applying the idea of arguing both sides to this, too. Good idea, Maureen!

Ros Barber said...

That's interesting, Dan. I know that Peter (and many others) have used this line of Greene's as powerful confirmation that Marlowe really was an atheist (rather than an anti-Trinitarian or someone who simply enjoyed theological disputation) but a logical extension of the discussion here leads to a different interpretive possibility - that Greene is simply saying "you are, like me, a graduate of Cambridge".

Maureen Duff said...

Peter, I don't know if the university or the individual colleges set the curriculum (perhaps someone else knows?), but I suspect that the professors from all colleges would have required their divinity students to be aware of the arguments on both sides of this basic subject, ie, if the students were not familiar with the atheist argument how could they defend the religious position if it was attacked by an atheist?

Dan Sayers said...

Ros - well, to be fair, that paragraph of Greene's is pretty explicit in associating the addressee (assumed by all to be Marlowe) with, at the very least, not giving God his due, and being associated, possibly a follower of, the "atheist" Machiavelli. I think the Cambridge/University reading is an interesting one, but in the context it would pretty much have to be a double-meaning.

By the way, perhaps some of you are as unversed in the bible as I and will be interested to know - Google tells me the line about "the fool hath said in his heart there is no God" is the start of not one, but two Psalms of David.

Peter Farey said...

I agree with Dan. I would have thought that, whether we are describing total there-is-no-God atheism or something less extreme, the words with which Greene continued suggest something rather more than a hark back to a thesis written at Cambridge.

"Why should thy excellent wit, his gift, bee so blinded, that thou shouldst give no glorie to the giver? Is it pestilent Machivilian pollicy that thou hast studied? ...The brocher of this Diabolicall Atheisme is dead, and in his life had never the felicitie hee aymed at: but as he began in craft; lived in feare, and ended in despaire. Quam inscrutabilia sunt Dei iudicia? This murderer of many brethren, had his conscience seared like Caine: this betrayer of him that gave his life for him, inherited the portion of Judas: this Apostata perished as ill as Julian: and wilt thou my friend be his disciple? Looke but to me, by him perswaded to that libertie, and thou shalt find it an infernall bondage. I knowe the least of my demerits merit this miserable death, but wilfull striving against knowne truth, exceedeth all the terrors of my soule. Defer not (with me) till this last point of extremitie; for litle knowst thou how in the end thou shalt be visited."

There was an interesting item relevant to this in The Guardian last April. It's at .


Peter Farey said...

Dan, I'll assume that this will have been answered already but, if not, it's Psalms 14 and 53.


daver852 said...

I have spent most of the morning reading an incredibly boring book entitled, "Cambridge University Transactions During the Puritan Controversies of the 16th and 17th Centuries" (1854). Unfortunately, most of the book, including the chapters that deal with curriculum, is in Latin. I did, however, find the following information: "A litle was saied by D. Barrowe of the interpretacion of another statute, wherein is declared that it will suffise to dispute twise againste a master of arte answering in divinitie." In other words, graduates did have to participate in a theological debate before receiving their degrees. This book is available online at:

Peter Elmer said...

I'm not sure if this helps, but you might be interested to know that John Fineux of Hougham, Kent (son of Thomas Fineux of Hougham), was licensed to practise medicine in the diocese of Canterbury in 1627. Given the ref to Galen in the description of the atheistical comments of your Mr Fineux, as well as the early modern commonplace that associated learned doctors with atheism, it might just add further weight to your argument that ther ref here is to john rather than Thomas Fineux
Peter Elmer
Senior Research fellow
Centre for Medical History
Exeter University

Peter Farey said...

Thanks Peter, that's good information. And thank you for your interest too.

There were three Thomas Fineuxs, the oldest of which, Thomas (I), had five sons - Thomas (II), and (after 1574) Richard, John, William and Henry.

We don't have any dates for Thomas (II), other than that he was born before 1574 and died before the death of his father Thomas (I) in 1627. There was also another Thomas (III) Fyneas buried in St Margaret-At-Cliffe in 1637.

John, the son of Thomas (I) appears to have been born in 1582, which would make him about 45 years old in 1627. So when you say that he "was licensed to practise medicine in the diocese of Canterbury in 1627" it rather depends upon just what that means if we are to decide whether this was "our" John or not. In the absence of any other facts, I would assume that this was when he was first licensed, which seems quite unlikely at 45.

Without that further evidence, therefore, I think that I would tend to assume that your Dr John was the son of Thomas (II), rather than Thomas (I), and in fact the nephew of the atheist John Fineux. Does that make sense?

Incidentally, your reference to "the early modern commonplace that associated learned doctors with atheism" was a new one to me. Can you give us a bit more to go on?