Last Wednesday's edition of The Times newspaper contained an announcement that our regular contributor Peter Farey had been awarded a half-share in the 2012 Hoffman Prize. Regular readers of the blog will know that this is the second time that he has achieved this, so we asked him the following question:
Q: Peter, congratulations on
co-winning the 2012 Calvin and Rose G. Hoffman Prize for a Distinguished
Publication on Christopher Marlowe. You had previously won the award in 2007
for your essay "Hoffman and the Authorship."
Your entry this year was entitled “Arbella Stuart and Christopher Marlowe.” Can
you briefly summarize the essay for us?
PF: Thanks, Carlo. I am of
course delighted to be successful a second time, although my subject is not
quite as contentious this year, having a less obvious connection with the
dreaded "authorship question."
In Charles Nicholl's mostly excellent
book The Reckoning, he added an Appendix of what he called "false
trails," one of which concerned a man called "Morley" who had
for some three and a half years "read to" – in other words tutored –
Arbella Stuart. A direct
descendant of Henry VII, and first cousin to James VI of Scotland, she was born
in England, and probably the most likely person to accede to the throne of
England if James was barred as a foreigner. Nicholl considered the question of whether this Morley could
have actually been our Christopher, but he reluctantly concluded that "the
balance is probably against the tutor being Marlowe," and Sarah Gristwood,
author of the most recent biography of Arbella, agreed with him.
The main reason for their
conclusion – a view apparently shared by most of Marlowe's other biographers –
was that for most of the period in question (1589–1592), Arbella was probably
in Derbyshire when we know Marlowe to have been occupied elsewhere. By taking a
close look at Arbella's travels away from Derbyshire at other times,
however, my essay challenges the assumption that she must have been constantly
in Derbyshire during this period, and finds that it is certainly need not be
the impediment that the biographers seem to assume.
We also know that the tutor Morley
had left university – which, given the role we are talking about, would almost
certainly have been either Oxford or Cambridge – a year or two before 1589. I
therefore looked at all those coming down from either of them in the preceding
twenty years, who had a name which might be morphed into "Morley" and
who was not known to be otherwise engaged between 1589 and 1592. Only one
person fitted the bill – Christopher Marlowe.
I am not the only Marlovian to
have studied this question over the years, of course, and much of what I mentioned had already been noted by others. Ros Barber included (and argued for)
the idea in her The Marlowe Papers, for example, and John Baker had a
letter about it published in Notes & Queries as well as posting
an essay on his website. What I tried to do, therefore, was to put all of the
relevant information together – with a few additional findings of my own
– in such a way that it would be hard for anyone not to conclude that Morley
the tutor most probably was Christopher Marlowe, placed to spy
on Arbella by the Queen's right-hand-man, William Cecil, Lord Burghley.
© The Marlowe-Shakespeare
Connection, December 2012