Monday, February 6, 2012

Crossing the Channel by Isabel Gortázar

To the best of my knowledge, pending further research, the first documented appearance of someone whom I personally believe might have been Christopher Marlowe after 1593 occurs in 1595.

Going through the Anthony Bacon Papers1 in 1995, A.D. Wraight2 and Peter Farey3 found several documents relative to a Frenchman, possibly passing for a Huguenot4, named Mr. Le Doux (no Christian name mentioned), staying in the house of Sir John Harington, at Burley-on-the Hill near Exton in Rutland, as tutor to Sir John’s son.

The information is contained in a series of letters from various persons, including: Mr. Le Doux; a de-frocked possibly Huguenot nun called Ide du Wault; Anthony Bacon; and a French servant of the latter called Jacques Petit. Le Doux, Petit and Ide du Wault are all at the house of Sir John Harington during the Christmas Festivities of 1595/6.

Jacques Petit’s letters to Anthony Bacon, together with other documents found in the Lambeth Palace Archives, led A.D. Wraight and Peter Farey to surmise that Le Doux could have been Christopher Marlowe, acting as a secret agent to the Earl of Essex.

(For those who wish to know more about Mr. Le Doux, Anthony Bacon and Jacques Petit as they appear in the Bacon Papers [Lambert Palace Library], and their possible relation with Christopher Marlowe, I suggest they visit The Marlowe Studies, where they will find most of the information published so far on the subject.)

This document below has been included and published as part of a longer essay: "About Mr. Le Doux and Some Related Matters," at The Marlowe Studies website.

However, I thought to post it here separately as well, for what I believe to be interesting information for Marlowe researchers in general, even if probably not particularly relevant to the theories about Mr. Le Doux.

As I say, I find this letter from Jacques Petit to Anthony Bacon interesting in itself, for two reasons. In the first place, it confirms the problem of dates, as it gives us good proof of the unreliability of apparent dates in some of the documents contained in the Bacon papers. The dates can be unreliable on two accounts: The fact that not all the correspondents seem to be using the same calendar, which affects primarily all documents dated January, February and March, of any particular year, but also the day. A second misleader is that we sometimes find the date of reception of one document, but not the date when it was written or even sent.

In the letter we have here, we find, written sideways on the margin the following note: “De Jacques Petit, le 4eme Feburier 159?” The last digit is unclear, but it seemed to me to say 1596. We know from other documents in this correspondence that this letter could not have been written in January 1595/6, when Petit was at Burley writing frantic letters to Bacon about Le Doux and du Wault (see the complete essay). The printed Index in the LPL indicates the year 1597, which would be consistent with the apparent 1596 (OS) in the MS itself. For the record, however, the day that Petit starts this Diary, the 6th of January 1596 was a Tuesday in the Julian, Old Style calendar, and a Saturday in the Gregorian calendar. In 1597, January 6th was a Thursday (Julian) or Monday (Gregorian). In fact we only find January 6th to be a Friday in 1595 (Gregorian), and in 1598 (Julian).

This discovery not only gives us new food for thought as to Petit’s movements, but, as I said above, may also require that we revise several year-dates in the Bacon Papers in order to establish which calendar is being used in each case, and this can only be done by double-checking against week-days whenever possible, and/or following up on events and/or information dated beyond the tricky months of January, February and March. Once we know which calendar is being used in each document, we must remember to add or detract the ten days’ difference that existed between the two.

In this respect, for example, we will find that the letter written from Middleburg by Le Doux to Anthony Bacon, dated 22nd June 1596, would have meant 12th June in England, because the Baron Zeroitin in his letter to the Earl of Essex, also from Middleburg, also dated 22nd June, explicitly says he is using the Gregorian calendar. Even if we cannot be certain that Le Doux had crossed the Channel with Zeroitin, both men seem to have entrusted their letters to the same courier.

The second reason why I think this letter from Petit is interesting to Marlovian researchers has to do with the information it gives us about Channel crossing conditions in the Sixteenth Century - a matter of extraordinary importance when it comes to speculating as to who might have been where, when.

As we will see, Petit’s Diary (Journal) sheds abundant light on the matter, and goes a long way to prove that making exact plans about arrival, or even departure, dates across the Channel may have been futile.

Reading this document we realize that it took Petit nearly a week to go from the Thames Estuary to The Hague. We also realize that the precise dates of departure and arrival were a matter of chance. The crossing could have been done in two or three days, it also might have been delayed even longer. Contrary winds, bad weather, a greedy captain, pirates, enemy ships… There are other documents telling a similar story that I will endeavour to publish in the near future. So here is the letter:

Jacques Petit: Journal de passage from Gravesend to The Hague.

Recorded by Anthony Bacon as follows: “De Jacques Petit, le 4eme Feburier 159?

Below is the transcription (in italics) and English translation, of a two-page document preserved among the Bacon Papers in the Lambeth Palace Archives (MS65, f34 r/v.). It is a letter from Jacques Petit to Anthony Bacon. For easier reading, I have placed each translated paragraph just under its French transcription.

Memoire de nôtre passage depuis Gravesend jusques a La Haye en Hollande:

Diary of our Crossing from Gravesend to The Hague in Holland.

Vendredi, le six de Janvier sommes parties de Gravesend & avec la Maree sommes descendus jusques a Lee por le minuit. Le vent et la maree estant contraires, le maitre du navire est retourné a Gravesend pour avoir davantage de passagers et faire mieux son profit.

Friday, January sixth we have set off from Gravesend and sailed down with the tide, reaching Lee at midnight. As we had the wind and the tide against us, the captain of the vessel took us back to Gravesend to find more passengers so he could make more money

Sammedi nous n’avons point bougé de la a cause que le vent estoit toujours mauvais.

Saturday we have not moved because the wind was still bad.

Dimanche de grand matín, avec bon vent et la maree, sommes descendus jusque a Lee, puis a la seconde maree sommes arrives a Lands End. La nuit avec peu de vent avons passé Dunkirk et jetté l’ancre entre Ostend et Newport.

Sunday, early in the morning, with good wind and the tide, we sailed to Lee, then with the second tide we arrived at Lands End. At night with little wind, we passed Dunkirk and anchored between Ostend and Newport.

Lundi il a eté calme tellment que n’avons peu bouge de tout ce jour jousques avec la maree.

Monday it was so calm that we have moved very little all day, until the tide.

Mardi sommes arrives a Fleshingue ou nos passagers (qui n’avaint ni vivres ni argent) on mis pied a terre. et de 20 ou 25 qu’ils estoint il ny a a pas 20 qui ayent paye pour leur passage. Cestoit telle racailleque c’est merveille que n’ayons ete submerges. Et que l’enemy ne nous aye pris veu les blasphemes et les vilanies quon y profiroit et endurcit tant des homes et des femmes & le mauvais gouvernement plein de nonchalance de nos mariniers.

Tuesday, we arrived at Flushing, where our passengers (who had neither food nor money) disembarked, and out of the 20 or 25 there were, not 20 had paid for their trip. They were such riff-raff that it’s a miracle we didn’t drown. And that the enemy did not take us despite the blasphemies and villainies they proffered, both the men and the women, and the bad managing of the indifferent sailors.

Ceux de Flesingue qui vinrent regarder nôtre Flibot chargé de chaux (a la valeur seulement de 30p sterling)5 et de ces passagers nous demandant si l’enemy nous avoit rencontres s’estonoit d’entendre que non, disant qu’il y avait et navires et scouters de Dunkirk que auront rode les alentours tout hier et la nuit passé.

Those of Flushing who came to inspect our Flyboat loaded with lime (at the value of only 30d sterling) and of those passengers were asking us if we had met the enemy and they were surprised when we said we hadn’t, saying that there were vessels and scouters6 from Dunkirk that would have been roaming around all of yesterday and last night.

Mercredi: Nous sommes arrives a Dort,7 et de la a Rotterdam, puis de Rotterdam jusques a Delft ou nous avons couche.

Wednesday: We arrived to Dort , and, from there (continued) to Rotterdam, then to Delft, where we have stayed the night.

Jeudi: Au matin nous sommes arrives a La Haye ou nous nous sommes retires chex un Mr Daniel Anglois (name unclear), ou Sir Francies Ver a aussi son logis. La nous avons mis les hardes de Sr William Woodhouse, et faissons nôtre ordinaire ailleurs lequel revient pour nous 5, a un angelot par jour, ce qui est le moins que l’on puisse payer car tout est extremement cher.

Thursday: In the morning we arrived at The Hague where we rested in the house of one Mr. Daniel Anglois (name unclear), where Sir Francis Ver also lives. There, we changed into some rags (provided by) Sir William Woodehouse, and we are staying in an inn which costs us 5 one angelot8 each day, which is the least one can pay, because everything is extremely expensive.

Si nous n’entendons point bientôt des nouvelles de Mr W. Wodehouse, il nous faudra vivre a credit car son despensier dit qu’íl n’a plus d’argent de son maistre et commence déjà a nous laisser faire comme nous pourrons.

If we don’t hear soon from Mr. William Woodehouse we will need to live on credit, because his agent says he has no more money from his master and is already leaving us to fend for ourselves.


©Isabel Gortázar, February 2012

My sincerest thanks to LCR Seeley and Anthony Kellett for their invaluable help in translating and making sense of this document. Thanks also to S. Foster for sharing his Channel navigation experience with me. I wish to thank Cynthia Morgan as well, for her help and suggestions.

1Bacon Papers. Lambeth Palace Library.
2Wright, A.D. Shakespeare, New Evidence. (Adam Hart Publishers Ltd. 1996.) Also online at
3See Farey’s extensive research at:; Also at
4Huguenots and Walloons were French and French-speaking Flemish Calvinists respectively.
5 The denomination of sterling is difficult to make out, as the letter after 30 is not clear. However, having consulted my colleague Anthony Kellett about the possible relative prices of lime at the time, and discarding absolutely the it may refer to pounds sterling, the probable meaning seems to be 30d, rather than 30s, particularly in view of Petit qualifying the sum with the word “only." Here follows Kellett’s information:
“One cubic metre of lime would cost around four shillings (48d) in Holland, in 1596; and weigh roughly one tonne (though both price and weight would vary, based on the actual material described as 'lime'). Therefore, as an approximation, Petit’s transport either carried around 7 cubic metres (7 tonnes), and was worth 30 shillings; or less than one tonne (one cubic metre) and was worth 30d."
6 "scouters" may mean “privateers." If they were “from Dunkirk," as the letter says, they would have been under Spanish orders. Dunkirk was taken in 1583 by Spanish forces led by the Duke of Parma. It became a base for the Dunkirkers, a series of ships that acted both as pirates, and as part of the Spanish “Armada de Flandes” (Flemish Armada).
7 Dort, or Dordrecht, in Dutch.
8 This would be the second time we find, in the Bacon Papers, Jacques Petit referring to “an angelôt” as 10 shillings. It would also seem that Petit’s travelling party could have consisted of five people, but that is not clear.


daver852 said...

Very interesting article, Isobel. This business of different calendars drives me up a wall. You almost have to a chart for reference; it is also meddening when an author does not make it clear if he/she is using "Old Style" dates, or Gregorian dates. And while most educated people know that Britain adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752, fewer realize that up until that year, New Year's Day in England was March 25. So while we say George Washington was born February 22, 1732, he was born February 11, 1731 "Old Style." Many, if not most, countries changed New Year's Day to January 1 prior to adopting the Gregorian calendar, but there are exceptions. It's very complicated, but these little details can be very important. You'll often hear people say that Shakespeare and Cervantes died on the same day, when actually they died ten days apart.

isabel Gortazar said...

Thanks Daver:

You are right about Cervantes, and by the same token, Marlowe was born in late February 1563; if we "modernize" his birthday to 1564 in the Gregorian calendar, he may have been born in early March.

Now I am counting on those of you who feel like it, to work out a scenario that would justify Petit writing that letter either in Jan 1595 (so before the "Montauban" correspondence), or as late as January 1598. I must confess my head reels at the prospect.

It might help if we could find Mr William Woodehouse in The Hague. That should not be too difficult.

As I said, in my opinion, the letter opens up a bit of a Pandora box around the Bacon papers. In the rest of my essay posted at The Marlowe Studies, I find I need to question Wraight's assertion that Le Doux returned to Burley after he had left in January.

It is a bit of a nightmare.

Peter Farey said...


Vendredi, le six de Janvier can have only occurred (within an acceptable range) in the winter of1597/8. In other word two years after Le Doux's apparent departure.

Should anyone be interested, I was finding this date/day confusion so bad at one time (long before such things could be found on the internet) that I wrote an Excel-based spreadsheet which converts any English date (A.D. or C.E., whichever term is more acceptable these days) to the day of the week which it was or will be.

I'll be happy to send a copy to anyone who gives me an address to send it too.

Peter Farey

Peter Farey said...

Having read Isabel's article a little more carefully as a result of a comment to me by Anthony Kellett, I see that Isabel quite correctly stated that - using the Gregorian ('New Style') calendar - the 8th of January was a Friday in 1594/5 too. Sorry Isabel!

Google books now has copies of both volumes of Thomas Birch's Memoirs of the Reign of Queen Elizabeth (1754) available online. This is based to a very large extent upon the Anthony Bacon papers, and was in fact where Dolly Wraight first came across the "instructions" for a Monsieur Le Doux, whom she had a hunch just might be Christopher Marlowe. I'm afraid that there is no mention of Jaques Petit's trip around either of those two possible dates however.

One other clue might be given by the Volume in which his Journal is to be found. Unfortunately there is a crucial typo in your article which conceals that information! The MS numbers of the Bacon papers run from MS647 to MS662, whereas it is shown here as "MS65, f34 r/v." Luckily, I have a copy of the Index, and I see that it should read "MS651, f34 r/v." Although they do appear to be out of chronological order quite often, a rough guide is that MS649 would be 1593, MS650-1 1594/5, MS652-3 1595/6, and MS654-5 1596. One would expect to find a document from 1597/8 up around MS660.


Peter Farey said...

I think I have got it, and if Birch is correct, Petit's trip was in January 1596/7. He says (Vol I, p.255):

"JACQUES PETIT, mr. BACON's Gascon servant, who attended that gentleman's nephew, sir WILLIAM WOODHOUSE, to Holland, where they arrived soon after the victory at Turnhout, informed his master in a letter in French, that the cardinal arch-duke had refused any marks of honour or any solemnity at the funeral of his general, the count DE WARAX, who had been killed in the action..."

According to Wikipedia, the battle of Turnhout was on "24 January 1597", and Birch (p.252), writing of the battle is also good enough to tell us, correctly for 1596/7, that "The 14/24, which was Friday, they rose very early."

So it rather looks as though Jaques Petit is another who has trouble with his days and dates!


daver852 said...

It is rather odd that the word "angelot" is used here. An "angel" was an English gold coin worth (in Marlowe's time) ten shillings. But there were also coins known as "angelots." These included a coin minted in France by Henry VI, weighing about 35 grains,and a much heavier French gold coin, weighing around 90 grains, which was last minted (so far as I can tell) during the reign of Louis XI.