No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Saturday, February 11, 2017

2017/08: The Marlowe Papers -- Ros Barber

'All those who love not tobacco and booze are fools.' 'Tobacco and boys?' Nashe laughed. He was half deaf,
the close ear dull. 'Dear post, tobacco and booze!
But boys go just as well with sweet Virginia
pressed into a pipe.'
            Misheard, offstage,
the quote that would define me for an age. [loc. 1816]

A novel in iambics, which infect
the mind and make me think in doggerel.
Though Barber's lines are mightier than these
that I am spewing forth in my review.
Ros Barber starts with Marlowe faking death
and fleeing to the Continent to live
in horrid exile, mourning his lost love
(Tom Walsingham, in this case: though this Kit
is comfortable with loves of either sex)
and reminiscing on his vivid life.
He's desperate to return to London, where
the plays he writes are new-performed on stage
though bear another's name. Some glover's son
from Staffordshire, who takes the credit for
Kit Marlowe's work. Kit terms him 'Turnip', finds
no comfort in his friends' assurances
that some day the true authorship of these
posthumous plays will be revealed. Yep,
Ros Barber's a Marlovian: but 'The
Marlowe Papers' isn't simply
another argument in that long war.
Barber's examination of Kit's life --
his lonely travels on the Continent,
his memories of London tavern life,
of spycraft, subterfuge and double deals,
and several inadvisable amours --
is nicely done, and fits with all the facts.
(Or most, at least.) The footnotes were a feast
of scholarship and theory that I had
not previously come across: e.g.
the misheard 'booze/boys' that I quote above.
There are occasional anachronis-
ms (a word that sabotages this
iambic nonsense): and I did not find
Marlowe's finale satisfactory.

But I do like the Kit that Barber paints
and, too, the wit which she imbues him with.
And her iambic lines are weightier
and more poetic than this 'ere review.
In short: the novel's beautifully writ
and scholarly, and I recommend it.

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