The Marlowe Society

Marlowe's Works

Marlowe's Works
Dido Woodcut

Dido

Dido, Queen of Carthage

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Dido, Queen of Carthage

Dido, Queen of Carthage
Thomas Warton (1728-1790)
Thomas Warton (1728-1790) Corresponded with Malone on Nashe's Elegy of Marlowe.

Nashe's Elegy

An intriguing yet ultimately frustrating story associated with the 1594 Quarto of Dido, Queen of Carthage is the report that some printed editions may have contained an elegy on Marlowe by Thomas Nashe.

The report was started by one Thomas Tanner (1674-1735), Bishop of St. Asaph, in his posthumous Bibliotheca Britannico-Hibernica (p.512), a dictionary of pre-17th century authors from England, Scotland and Ireland which was finally published in 1748. In this, Bishop Tanner states that an elegy on Marlowe by Nashe was 'prefixed' to a copy of Dido. The elegy was alleged to have mentioned four of Marlowe's tragedies "and also another, The Duke of Guise".

This anecdote was repeated in summarised form by Thomas Warton (1728-90), Camden Professor of Ancient History at the University of Oxford (1785-90) and Poet Laureate (also 1785-90), in his History of English Poetry (1774-81). Of more interest is that the scholar Edmond Malone corresponded with Warton on the subject of this supposed elegy, and recorded a summary of Warton's response in a handwritten manuscript in his copy of the 1594 Quarto.

Warton, in his response to Malone in the early 1780's, claimed that he had actually seen a volume of the Quarto containing Nashe's elegy "on Marlowe's untimely death" in Osborne the bookseller's shop, having first seen mention of it in Osborne's 1754 catalogue. Warton stated to Malone that the elegy was "inserted immediately after the title page".

However, McKerrow (author of The Works of Thomas Nashe) was unable to find any mention of a Dido Quarto in the 1754 Osborne's catalogue, or other similar catalogues of the time. Since the evidence is anecdotal, and given that Warton's answer to Malone was written nearly thirty years after he claimed to have seen the volume in question, many commentators doubt that such an elegy ever existed. Oliver, for example, wonders whether Bishop Tanner was rather thinking of the prologue to Dr Faustus when he reports the list of plays referred to in the elegy1.

 
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