Thomas Nashe

From Academic Kids

Thomas Nashe (November 1567 - ?1600) was an English Elizabethan pamphleteer, poet and satirist. Son of the minister William Nashe and his wife Margaret (nee Witchingham).

Baptized in Lowestoft, Suffolk. The family moved to West Harling, near Thetford in 1573. Around 1581 Thomas went up to St John's College, Cambridge gaining his bachelor's degree in 1586. Then he moved to London and started his literary career.

It does not appear that Nashe ever proceeded Master of Arts at Cambridge, and most of his biographers agree that he left his college about summer 1588, as his name appears on a list of students due to attend philosophy lectures in that year. It is evident, however, that he had got into some kind of trouble, and probably was no longer in good repute; for William Covell, in "Polimanteia," 1595, speaking of Harvey and Nashe, and the pending quarrel between them, uses these terms: "Cambridge make thy two children friends: thou hast been unkind to the one to wean him before his time, and too fond upon the other to keep him so long without preferment: the one is ancient and of much reading; the other is young, but full of wit." The cause of his disgrace is reported to have been the share he took in a show called "Terminus et non Terminus," not now extant; and it is asserted that his partner in this offence was expelled, though the source reporting this, Richard Lichfield, does not claim Nashe met the same fate. As Nashe himself boasts he might have remained at college ("it is well knowen I might have been a Fellow if I had would"), it seems he did not suffer the disgrace of formal expulsion.

Having left Cambridge Nashe apparently went to London, where his pamphlet, 'The Anatomie of Absurditie' was registered for publication on 19th September 1588, although it only seems to have been published much later. During the interim Nashe apparently took part in the anti-Martinist campaign, in what capacity is not clear, though he was strongly associated with the writing of pamphlets by John Taylor some fifty years later. He may have gathered intelligence or helped by writing anti-Martinist plays and pamphlets, or contributed to the pamphlets his friend John Lyly brought out in 1589. If Nashe be the author of the late anti-Marprelate pamphlet An Almond for a Parrat (1590), attributed on the title-page to one 'Cutbert Curry-knave', he humorously claims to have met Harlequin while returning from a trip to Venice in the summer of 1589. However, there is no evidence Nashe had either time or means to go abroad, and he never subsequently refers to having visited Venice elsewhere in his work.

In London Nashe became acquainted with Robert Greene, and their friendship drew him into a long literary contest with Gabriel Harvey, to which Nash owes much of his reputation. It arose out of the posthumous attack of Harvey upon Robert Greene, of which sufficient mention has been made elsewhere. Nashe replied on behalf of his dead companion, and reiterated the charge which he claimed had given the original offence to Harvey, viz., that he was the son of a ropemaker. (Harvey always said he had been offended by attacks on the character and honesty of his father and brothers, not by the reference to his family's humble origin.) One piece, 'Have With You to Saffron-Walden', (1596) was humorously dedicated to Richard Lichfield, a barber of Cambridge, and answered by Lichfield in a tract called "The Trimming of Thomas Nash," (1597). This pamphlet also contained a crude woodcut portrait of Nashe, shown as a man disreputably dressed and in fetters.

He remained in London apart from periodic visits to the countryside to avoid the plague, and in 1597, following the suppression of The Isle of Dogs (co-written with Ben Jonson), Jonson was jailed, but Nashe was able to escape to the country. He remained for some time in Great Yarmouth before returning to London.

He was alive in 1599, when his last known work Nashes Lenten Stuffe was published, and dead by 1601, when he was memorialized in a Latin verse in Affaniae by Charles Fitzjeoffrey.

He was featured in Thomas Dekker's News from Hell and the anonymous The Three Parnassus Plays, which provides this epitaph:

Let all his faults sleep with his mournful chest
And there for ever with his ashes rest
His style was witty, though it had some gall;
Some things he might have mended, so may all.
Yet this I say, that for a mother of wit,
Few men have ever seen the like of it.

Works by Thomas Nashe

He is also credited with the erotic poem The Choice of Valentines and his name appears on the title page of Christopher Marlowe's Dido, Queen of Carthage, though there is uncertainty as to what Nashe's contribution was. Some editions of this play, still extant in the 18th century but now unfortunately lost, contained memorial verses on Marlowe. Template:Wikiquoteparde:Thomas Nash


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