Tea with Dolly Wraight

 

John Baker

February 20, 2002

 

 

Dolly Wraight passed on today, February 15, 2002, after a lengthy battle with Stratfordians (and more than a few Marlovians). I've known Dolly Wraight for 19 years.  I read her *In Search of Christopher Marlowe* back in the late 60s or early 70s, as my interest in Marlowe began to take me on a search that has lasted over thirty years.  An exploration that in many ways simply retraced Dolly's and Virginia Stern's.  A journey that would take me around the world, back into time and change my life forever.

 

We met during the First International Conference on Marlowe in 1983, introduced by Calvin Hoffman.  For some strange reason neither of these famous Marlovians presented papers and I, an errant truant, ended up chairing the authorship discussion with Kenneth Muir in attendance. It was Hoffman who first "influenced" Dolly about Marlowe's possible post 1593 survival, as he ignited me and thousands of other Marlovians, young and old.  

 

I remember Dolly as a gentle, softly spoken woman passionately interested in Marlowe's life and in Elizabethan times.  She struck me, a young brash Yank, as reserved, shy and modest.  We became friends over tea. I met her next in Oxford in 1988, where, unfortunately she again didn't present a paper, but attended the nearly endless offerings, none of which suggested Marlowe lived on to be Shakespeare, excepting of course mine and Ule's, stoically.  I linked her up with Ule and we chewed over Marlowe's possible role in the Babington Plot.   She thought it was large, I thought small.  She was going grew and was bitter that more people weren't seeing their way thorough to Marlowe's likely survival.  

 

We corresponded and she sent me an inscribed copy of Christopher Marlowe and Edward Allyen.  The note is dated from Christmas 1993 "23.12.1993", and reads "To John Baker in mutual questioning and research for the truth about Marlowe, with best wishes Dolly Wraight." We continued our correspondence and in March 1995 I received a from Dolly a copy of her book *The Story that the Sonnets Tell,* along with a note telling me she'd designated the book for Leslie Hotson, even inscribed it to him first. The only problem is she used whiteout on his name...so I only have her note about it and not the original inscription to Hotson, which I would have loved to have ended up with. It now reads, "For John Baker, (over Leslie Hotson's name) in gratitude, with sincere good wishes!" A.D. Wraight 3.8.1995/25/1996". As I look at it, the inscription is in the same color ink as the final date, so I suspect the first inscription to Hotson only had his name on it and Wraight's signature under it, i.e., the inscription was to me. 

 

I met her again at Cambridge in 1998 where she presented evidence for Marlowe's identification as a Bacon/Essex agent, using the nom de germ, Monsieur Le Doux. She gave me copy of the book before I left.  It is inscribed , "For John, with best wishes, Dolly Wraight 3.July. 1998".   Most of the evidence was based on her analysis of a list of books that appear to be "Le Doux's" but might,according to Peter Farey, have been Anthony Bacon's. Since this date was before the conference she either sent the book to me before I left or dated it early and handed it to me at the Conference.  I don't recall which.  I do recall she spoke on Le Doux's books.

 

I remember she had some venting to do about our Peter Farey. I'm not sure quite what it was all about, since it was indirect.  I think it was about his opinion as to whose books these were.  Le Doux's or Bacon's. That trip gave me an opportunity to later spend a day with her at her apartment before I returned to Seattle.  Her modest flat was a narrow two story affair with a marvelous tea garden in the back.  I remember I nearly wiped out her stash of shortbread cookies and felt so bad about it I hiked to store and picked up another package and took it back to her. And we got together again there in 1999.  When I was over for the eclipse.  I took extra cookies with me this time.

 

I'll always remember her as a lovely gray haired lady, full of grace and charm and compassion for Marlowe's name, which she rightly regarded as blighted by circumstances and generations of neglect. She was, of course, the driving force behind the Marlowe Society of England, and a constant reminder to all of us who are and were members that Marlowe's early training lay not in atheism but in religion and
"aspiring minds."  In this we were firmly united.  Marlowe's works and the works of Shakespeare were devised for improving, not harming, our souls.   Nor could either of us believe him introverted.  Edward II's introversion is ridiculed in the play.  His love for women everywhere apparent. Even in Dido and particularly in Hero and Leander.

 

Dolly was especially interested in preventing the search for Christopher Marlowe from turning into a "hobby horse", which was her phrase for a fictionalized biography similar to those describing Shakespeare. Dolly knew that we had little solid evidence for Marlowe's survival, other than the works of Shakespeare.  She was intent on keeping our attention on that lack of hard evidence and was always reluctant to advance Marlowe's case openly.  Hedging many of her public statements with words like "possibly" and "perhaps."  Indeed she was forty years coming out of the closet on this topic. This conservatism didn't prevent her from knowing as much about Marlowe's life and the lives he interacted with as anyone alive.  (I recall she once laced me down for not knowing the difference between Robert Poley, the messenger, and Powle, the Queen's stenographer, who signed her tenor to Sir William Danby, Coroner of the household, shortly after Marlowe's "death." A death Poley, not "Powle" witnessed.

 

She also took me to the mat on my notion that the Queen's tenor commanded Danby to respond in kind..  I'm still not certain I wasn't right.  In any case Dolly yielded on two important points. 1) the Queen knew about the event before Danby's report reached her and knew about it in great detail and she commanded Danby to use the names being used by Marlowe's alleged killers, i.e., they may well
have been official aliases.  2) She yielded that the Queen's pardon of Frizer, which explicitly notes that no further inquiries into the slaying could be made except through her Court, was an official lid similar to a modern inaction of the British Secrecy  Act. It was an official lid that forbad further local inquires, similar to the fact that there was no local inquest for President Kennedy in Dallas, Texas.  

 

I wasn't there to badger her, so we parted friends. Indeed her conservatism may have enhanced her knowledge, since she never wasted time on mere speculation or chats on HLAS.  The pointed exception is her book The Story the Sonnets Tell, which bases on Leslie Hotson's wild theory on the Sonnets.  Both Hotson and Dolly believed they were addressed not to William Herbert but to William Hatcliffe.  Hotson published this notion in 1994 in his book, *Mr. W.H."  Of which I have an autographed copy, "For John Baker, Though we strongly disagree, Leslie Hotson." I remember she got quite heated when I reminded her that proposition ignores the poet's heterosexual nature, his allusions to his fatherhood of the pretty boy, and the boy's rank among peers, which would be destroyed if their relationship (and there is no other word from the bond between a father and an illicit son than this) became public and the fact that the poet recalls Mary Sidney Herbert as the boy's mother.  I am supported in nearly all of this inference by both Boas and Chambers who agree that Mary Sidney Herbert was the pretty boy's mother and that the pretty boy was thus William Herbert. Chamber actually reversed himself to come to this conclusion.  I also pointed out that Hotson's and her notion would also have to avoid the fact that the PB was imprisoned of an errant love affair.  As was Herbert. Needless to say, she didn't just rollover on this point but I could see it troubled her.

 

I remember our discussions when she went over my evidence, line by line, that the Christopher Marlowe, who had surfaced at Valladolid in 1599, was our boy.  Fresh out of the grave.  And the best proof we have for a post 1593 Marlowe.  I hadn't yet proven that he overlapped with Cervantes at Valladolid, but the record was clear where he was and when he entered. The Valladolid/Cervantes connection is important, even pivotal, because the case has been made by Carr  that Cervantes had an English language collaborator working with him on Don Quixote, a writer and linguist who called himself "T. S." or "Thomas Shelton" and who in the 1600s would give to the world the remarkable English language version of Don Quixote.  

 

Thomas Shelton was supposedly the brother-in-law of Sir Thomas Walsingham. Apart from being a brilliant linguist Shelton is widely acknowledged as the master of Elizabethan or Jacobean prose, as evidenced in or by his version of Don Quixote.  Yet beyond his name, or in this case, initials, on title pages nothing is known about Shelton.  Actually the name proves fictitious and it stands, I suspect, as an
alias comprised of Sir Thomas's first name and the last name of his wife, Lady Audrey (maiden name Shelton) Walsingham. Both of these individuals are closely linked to Marlowe's works.Part's One and Two of Hero and Leander were dedicated to Sir Thomas Walsingham, Blount identifying him as the poet's patron and friend, and its sequel, supposedly by George Chapman, was dedicated to Lady Audrey. It was at Walsingham’s manor house, Scadsbury, that Marlowe was arrested c. 19 May 1593, his arrest order dated 18 May. Shelton gave his name to a popular system of shorthand, later employed by Samuel Pepys, a system traced to Cambridge, Marlowe's university.

 

Dolly was very reluctant to grant me my surmise that the Valladolid scholar was in fact the poet.  She knew that Leslie Hotson had first identified him, on the basis of William Vaughan's dispatch to the Privy Council dated 4/14 July 1602 and sent from Pisa, as the Trinity scholar of that name. However, my inquiries to Trinity, conducted both by mail and in person when I was there in 1998, had proven that scholar, who bore a name identical to the poet and Corpus Christi scholar, had died in 1596, his will both on record at his college and witnessed by Hugh Holland who would later added a dedicatory poem to the First Folio of Shakespeare.  With both Marlowe's officially dead it seemed a safe bet to me it could have only been the poet spy who turned up at Valladolid. However, Wraight also knew that this early identification had been set aside by John Bakeless, one of Marlowe's best biographers, who supposed the Valladolid scholar was actually a Trinity scholar named John Mathew.  So, over tea she pointedly reminded me of this problem, methodically taking out her own personal copies of Bakeless.  I, too, knew about Bakeless's claim and counted that the biographic dates do not match with Mathews' particulars, nor is there any indication that scholar ever traveled to Spain, let alone attended the Catholic/English seminary there. Such a move would have made him an expatriate and attached in that age an indelible stain to his name.  It might even have gotten him hanged.  There simply is not reason in the record to suppose the Valladolid scholar was John Mathew . . . the source of that alias should be obvious to all. On the other hand several King School scholars ended up at Valladolid, including Father Weston, who was also at Rheims, where Marlowe was rumored to have traveled for the Crown in 1587. We can't know, of course, which Marlowe or Mathew was at Valladolid, but we do know he surfaced there on a date significant to our Marlowe. He materialized there 20/30 May 1599 or six years to the day from the date of Marlowe's release and/or "death".   It is also the date chosen for three sequential registrations of "Shakespeare" including the highly autobiographic Sonnets. 

 

When Dolly and I had tea and cookies in her apartment, we didn't know about the connection to Cervantes.  So she remained firmly convinced I was on the wrong road in making out this scholar Marlowe as the poet. I remember a post from her congratulating me for connecting Cervantes to Valladolid c. 1601.  (I got it from Carr.)  I took the post to imply that she had come over to my opinion. In a like fashion she was reluctant, at first, to accept that I had proven the poet the "attendant and reader" of Arbella Stuart.  I'm not certain why she failed to embrace this discovery, other than the fact it runs counter to many suppositions about his activities during the 1588 to 1592 period. I recall that over cookies we discussed the evidence, which exclusively identifies Marlowe, since he is the only Morley who left a university setting c. 1588, in detail.  She eventually became excited about it and could not offer any counter explanation.  She seemed particularly taken about the appearance of the Countess and Talbot in 1 Henry VI, a an historic scene built on Marlowe's knowledge of Arbella's life at Shrewsbury Hall, the residence of the Countess and Talbot, which is complete with her portrait gallery in 1 Henry VI, juxtaposed to France. The connection is important in several other ways as well. Shakespeare is interested in the fate of Arbella, as evidenced by Cymbeline.  Indeed Arbella actually quotes from Lucan in one of her letters. (See Steen) More importantly is the Talbot/Pembroke connection.  Pembroke, who was reluctant to wed, did eventually marry Talbot's daughter, after the poet's urging in the sonnets.  (I hasten to add that most authorities believe these sonnets, the first 12, were written early during the period that Herbert was being urged to marry Sir George Carey's daughter, as evidenced by Whyte's letters to Sidney (see Chambers) and not at the time he married Talbot's daughter, i.e., Mary (?). However the record is quite clear regarding a Talbot/Herbert connection.

 

It’s ironic that Dolly now knows the answers to these questions, while I don't.  But I am looking forward to finding out over tea with her and Marlowe someday for myself. And to the day Webb joins us. Now, like the reader, I shall just have to make do with suppositions as fuel for my hobbyhorse. I shall miss Dolly Wraight,  who was the Grand Dame of Marlovians and who should have won Hoffman's prize long ago if, that is, it has been administered fairly according to the instructions set down in Hoffman's will. I know she entered the prize and the contempt she held for those who administered it in a fashion in flagrant violation of Hoffman's wishes.That will made it perfectly clear that as long as Marlovians entered the prize the winning essay should come from their submissions, not from Stratfordian submissions. To date only Stratfordians have won, with the single curious exception of Mike Rubbo, who did not summit a paper and whose film on Hoffman, Dolly, Peter and myself, etc. had yet to be aired.  

 

While Hoffman's will makes no provisions for a posthumous awards, perhaps the King's School, under Bate's urging, could see its way clear to awarding her the prize next year and establishing a scholarship in her name with the proceeds, for some well qualified young Marlovian? Or an old one, like Peter and I. She certainly deserved it.   Meanwhile I'm looking forward to having tea with Dolly again. She did good.  I hope she is telling Marlowe all about the controversy. I'll be along before you know it.  (Darn it.)

 

 

Rev. Dr. John Baker, ET (errant truant)

John Baker