Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Nash, Thomas (1567-1601)
NASH or NASHE, THOMAS (1567–1601), author, son of William Nash, ‘minister,’ and Margaret, his second wife, was baptised at Lowestoft in November 1567. According to Nash's own account the family was of Herefordshire origin, and boasted ‘longer pedigrees than patrimonies’ (Lenten Stuffe). His father, who is called in the Lowestoft parish register ‘preacher’ as well as ‘minister,’ seems to have been curate there, and never obtained preferment. Thomas describes him as putting ‘good meat in poor men's mouths’ (Have with you to Saffron Walden, ed. Grosart, iii. 189). Two older sons, Nathaniel (1563–1565) and Israel (b. 1565), were born at Lowestoft, as well as four daughters, Mary (b. 1562), Rebecca (b. 1573), and two named Martha, who both died in infancy. The nomenclature of the children suggests that the parents inclined to puritanism. The father survived his son Thomas, and was buried in Lowestoft Church on 25 Aug. 1603.
In October 1582 Nash matriculated as a sizar at St. John's College, Cambridge, having possibly resided there a year or two before. In his youth he described his college (in Roger Ascham's phrase) as at one time ‘an university within itself’ (Epistle to Menaphon); and in his latest work he declared that he 'loved it still, for it ever was and is the sweetest nurse of knowledge in all that university' (Lenten Stuffe, v. 241). Some Latin verses on Ecclesiastes (xli. 1), by himself and fellow-scholars belonging to the Lady Margaret Foundation, are preserved at the Record Office (Cal. State Papers, Dom. Addenda, 1580–1625, p. 166). He graduated B.A. in 1585–6, and remained at Cambridge, he states, for ‘seven yere together, lacking a quarter.’ ‘It is well known,’ he wrote, ‘I might have been a fellow if I had would’ (Have with you to Saffron Walden, iii. 189). His malignant foe, Gabriel Harvey, represents his academic career as briefer and less creditable. He is charged by Harvey with habitually insulting the townsmen, ‘insomuch that to this day [they] call every untoward scholar of whom there is great hope "a verie Nashe."’ After graduating (Harvey proceeds) he ‘had a hand in a show called “Terminus et non Terminus,” for which ‘his partner in it was expelled the college.’ Nash ‘played in it’ (Harvey conjectured) ‘the varlet of clubs. … Then, suspecting that he should be staied for egregie dunsus, and not attain the next degree, said he had commenced enough, and so forsook Cambridge, being bachelor of the third year’ (Harvey, Trimming of Thomas Nashe). In Clerke's ‘Polimanteia’ (1591) the university of Cambridge is reproached with having been ‘unkind’ to Nash in ‘weaning him before his time.’ The words may merely mean that he left before proceeding to the degree of M.A. That he contrived to make a hasty tour through France and Italy before seriously seeking a profession in his own country is to be inferred from a few passages in the works assigned to him (cf. The Unfortunate Traveller, v. 65 sq.)
By 1588 Nash had settled in London. A fair classical scholar, and an appreciative reader of much foreign and English literature, he resolved to seek a livelihood by his pen. Robert Greene, Lodge, Daniel, and Marlowe, whose acquaintance he early made, were attracted by his sarcastic temper and his overmastering scorn of pretentious ignorance and insincerity. But with these stern characteristics he combined some generous traits. Sir George Carey [q. v.], heir of the first Lord Hunsdon, recognised his promise, and to Sir George's wife and daughter respectively he dedicated in grateful language his ‘Christes Teares’ and his ‘Terrors of the Night.’ He seems to have resided for a time at Carey's house at Beddington, near Croydon. In 1592 he wrote that ‘fear of infection detained me with my lord in the country’ (Pierce Pennilesse, 2nd ed. Epistle). Nash also made determined efforts to gain the patronage of the Earl of Southampton. He once tasted (he wrote) ‘in his forsaken extremities’ the ‘full spring’ of the earl's liberality, and paid him a visit in the Isle of Wight, of which the earl was governor and Sir George Carey captain-general (Terrors of the Night, 1594). To Southampton Nash dedicated his ‘Unfortunate Traveller,’ his most ambitious production. Nash essayed, too, to attract the favour of the Earl of Derby, but he did not retain the favour of any patron long. Till his death he suffered the keenest pangs of poverty, and was (he confesses) often so reduced as to pen unedifying ‘toyes for gentlemen,’ by which he probably meant licentious songs.
His first publication was an epistle addressed ‘to the Gentlemen Students of both Universities,’ prefixed to Greene's romance of ‘Menaphon.’ Although written earlier, it was not published till 1589. It is an acrid review of recent efforts in English literature, and makes stinging attacks on poetasters like Stanihurst, the translator of Virgil, and on some unnamed writers of bombastic tragedies in blank verse. Kyd seems to have been the dramatist at whom Nash chiefly aimed. His appreciative references to Marlowe elsewhere render it improbable that his censure was intended for that poet. Nash always appreciated true poetry, and his denunciation of those whom he viewed as impostors is in this earliest work balanced by sympathetic references to ‘divine Master Spencer,’ to Peele, to William Warner, and a few others.
At the close of the essay Nash announced that he was engaged upon his ‘Anatomie of Absurdities,’ which was to disclose his ‘skill in surgery,’ and to further inquire into the current ‘diseases of Art.’ It was entered on the ‘Stationers' Registers’ 17 Sept. 1588, but appeared only late in 1589, with a flattering dedication to Sir Charles Blount (afterwards Earl of Devonshire) [q. v.] The title, which was doubtless modelled on Greene's ‘Anatomie of Flatterie’ or the ‘Anatomie of Fortune’ (the second title of his ‘Arbasto’), ran: ‘The Anatomie of Absurditie, contayning a breefe Confutation of the slender imputed Prayses to Feminine Perfection, with a short Description of the severall Practises of Youth and sundry Follies of our licentious Times,’ London, 1589. The book, which the author describes as ‘the embrion of my infancy’ and the outcome of a disappointment in love, consists of moral reflections of a euphuistic type, and a further supply of sarcastic reflections on contemporary writers, some of whom it is difficult to identify. One reference to ‘the Homer of Women’ appears to be an unfriendly criticism of Nash's ally, Robert Greene; and a contemptuous comment on those who ‘anatomize abuses and stub up sinne by the roots’ is an attack on Philip Stubbes, the puritan author of the ‘Anatomie of Abuses’ (1583).
At the time puritan pamphleteers under the pseudonym of Martin Mar-Prelate were waging a desperately coarse and libellous war upon the bishops and episcopal church-government. Nash's hatred of puritanism was ingrained. His powers of sarcasm rendered him an effective controversialist. The fray consequently attracted him, and he entered it with spirit. The publisher John Danter doubtless encouraged him to engage in the strife, and Gabriel Harvey afterwards sneered at Nash as ‘Danter's gentleman.’ All the actors in this controversial drama wrote anonymously, and it is not easy to describe with certainty the part any one man played in it. Internal evidence shows that Nash's customary nom de guerre was Pasquil. This pseudonym he probably borrowed from the satiric ‘Pasquil the Playne’ (1540) of Sir Thomas Elyot [q. v.], a writer whom he frequently mentioned with respect. The earliest of the tracts claiming to proceed from Pasquil's pen seems to have been circulated in August 1589; it was entitled ‘A Countercuffe given to Martin Junior, by the venturous, hardie, and renowned Pasquill of England Cauiliero. Not of olde Martin's making, which newlie knighted the Saints in Heauen, with rise uppe Sir Peter and Sir Paule. But latelie dubd for his service at home in the defence of his Countrey, and for the cleane breaking of his staffe vpon Martins face. Printed between the skye and the grounde, wythin a myle of an Oake, and not manie Fields off from the vnpriuiledged Presse of the Ass-ignes of Martin Junior,’ 4to, 1589 (cf. Brit. Bibl. ii. 124). Nash re-entered the combat in October, with ‘The Returne of the renouned Cavaliero Pasquil, of England from the other side of the Seas and his meeting with Marforius at London upon the Royall Exchange, where they encounter with a little household Talke of Martin and Martinisme, discovering the Scabbe that is bredde in England, and conferring together about the speedie Dispersing of the Golden Legende of the Lives of the Saints …’ 4to, 1589. The latest contribution to the controversy that can safely be assigned to Nash was ‘The First Parte of Pasquils Apologie. Wherein he renders a reason to his Friendes of his long Silence, and gallops the fielde with the treatise of Reformation, late written by a fugitive, John Penrie, Anno Domini, 1590,’ 4to.
Frequent references are made by Pasquil and other writers to Pasquil's resolve to expose exhaustively the theories and practices of the puritans in a volume to be entitled ‘The Lives of the Saints’ or the new ‘Golden Legend.’ He also promised in the same interest an ‘Owls' Almanack’ and ‘The May-game of Martinisme,’ but the battle seems to have ceased before these pieces of artillery were constructed. That Nash was responsible for other published attacks on Martin Mar-Prelate is, however, very possible. A marginal note in the ‘Stationers' Registers’ tentatively assigns to Nash ‘A Mirror for Martinists’ (22 Dec. 1589). This was ‘published by T. T.,’ doubtfully interpreted as Thomas Thorpe, and ‘printed by Iohn Wolfe, 1590’ (Lambeth and Britwell). Two other clever pamphlets which did notable havoc on the enemy have been repeatedly assigned to Nash, with some plausibility. The first is ‘Martins months minde that is, a certaine Report and true Description of Death and Funeralls of olde Martin Marre-prelate, the great Makebate of England and Father of the Factious, contayning the cause of his death, the manner of his buriall, and the right copies both of his will and such epitaphs as by sundrie his dearest friends and other his well wishers were framed for him …’ August 1589, 4to. But the fact that the dedication is addressed by a pseudonymous Marphoreus to ‘Pasquin,’ i.e. Pasquil, renders it probable that it is by an intimate associate of Nash, but not by himself (cf. Brit. Bibl. ii. 124, 127). To the same pen should probably be allotted one of the latest of the Martin Mar-Prelate lucubrations: ‘An Almond for a Parrat, or Cuthbert Curry-knaues Almes’ (1590). This is dedicated to William Kemp [q. v.] the actor, and the writer claims to have travelled in Italy. John Lyly [q. v.] was closely associated with Nash during the controversy, but it is unlikely that he was responsible for these two sparkling libels. To Lyly, however, should be ascribed the ‘Pappe with a Hatchet,’ which often figures in lists of Nash's works.
In the opinion of the next generation, Nash's unbridled pen chiefly led to the discomfiture of the ‘Martinists.’ Many pamphleteers claiming to be his disciples attempted to employ his weapons against the sectaries of Charles I's reign. In 1640 John Taylor the water-poet issued ‘Differing Worships … or Tom Nash his ghost (the old Martin queller) newly rous'd and is come to chide … nonconformists, schismatiques, separatists, and scandalous libellers.’ In 1642 another disciple published ‘Tom Nash his Ghost to the three scurvy Fellowes of the upstart family of the Snufflers, Rufflers, and Shufflers … a little revived since the 30 yeare of the late Queen Elizabeth when Martin Marprelate was as mad as any of his Tubmen are now.’ Nash's ghost in a verse-preface claims to have ‘made the nest of Martins take their flight.’ On 17 Feb. 1644 there appeared a third work of like calibre, ‘Crop-eare curried, or Tom Nash his Ghost: declaring the pruining of Prinnes two last Parricidicall Pamphlets,’ by John Taylor. Nash's ‘merry wit,’ wrote Izaak Walton, ‘made some sport and such a discovery of [the Martinists'] absurdities as—which is strange—he put a greater stop to these malicious pamphlets than a much wiser man had been able’ (Life of Hooker, ed. Bullen, p. 208).
When the controversy subsided, Nash sought employment in more peaceful paths, and apparently tried his hand at poetry. The publisher Thomas Newman employed him in 1591 to edit an unauthorised edition of Sidney's ‘Astrophel and Stella.’ But it was quickly withdrawn, and in Newman's revised edition of the same year Nash's contributions were suppressed (cf. Arber, Garner, i. 467 seq.). In a prefatory address, entitled ‘Somewhat to reade for them that list,’ Nash had bestowed profuse and apparently sincere commendations on Sidney and his sister, the Countess of Pembroke, and only showed his satiric vein when mockingly apologising for his ‘witless youth’ and ‘the dulness of his style.’ More serious offence was probably given by Nash's, or the publisher's, boldness in appending to Sidney's poems verses by Daniel and ‘sundry other noblemen and gentlemen,’ without apparently asking the consent of the authors. An anonymous poem of two stanzas, which in the unauthorised edition concludes the collection (‘If floods of tears could cleanse my follies past’), has been reasonably assigned to Nash himself (Pierce Pennilesse, ed. Collier, xxi.). These stanzas, transposed in order, were again printed with music in Dowland's ‘Second Booke of Songs,’ 1600. A manuscript copy of them is found in a printed edition of Nicholas Breton's ‘Melancholike Humours,’ 1600, among Tanner's books in the Bodleian Library, and there an admirable third stanza is added (‘Praise blindness, eyes, for seeing is deceit’). The additional lines, however, properly belong to a separate poem, which is also set to music in Dowland's ‘Second Booke,’ and possibly came likewise from ‘Nash's pen’ (Shakspeare Soc. Papers, i. 76–9, ii. 62–4).
As a professional controversialist, Nash was not willing to let the Martin Mar-Prelate controversy wholly die without making a strenuous effort to revive it. Circumstances favoured his ambition. In a lame and impotent way, Richard Harvey [q. v.], astrologer and divine, had taken part in the latest stages of the warfare. He had recommended peace, but his contributions were largely characterised by savage denunciations of the men of letters who had, he argued, irresponsibly embittered the strife. In his ‘Theological Discourse of the Lamb of God’ (1590), and in his ‘Plaine Percevall,’ he especially singled out Nash, Greene, and Lyly for attack. Nash he openly referred to as ‘the Cavaliero Pasquil’ (cf. Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. iv. 320 seq.). Nash retaliated by satirising his assailant's notoriously ineffective efforts in astrology in ‘A wonderful, strange, and miraculous Astrologicall Prognostication for this year of our Lord God 1591, by Adam Fouleweather, student in Asse-tronomy, ——, London, by Thomas Scarlet.’ Next year Nash's friend Greene carried the dispute a step further in his ‘Quip for an Upstart Courtier’ by contemptuously describing Richard Harvey and his well-known brothers Gabriel and John as the sons of a poor ropemaker of Saffron Walden. Moreover, in his ‘Groatsworth of Wit,’ which he completed on his deathbed, Greene encouraged Nash to carry on the controversy by apostrophising him as ‘young Juvenal, that biting satirist,’ whose business in life it was to ‘inveigh against vain men.’
In the autumn Nash liberally followed this advice by penning his ‘Pierce Pennilesse his Supplication to the Divell,’ which was first entered on the ‘Stationers' Registers’ on 8 Aug. 1592. It was an uncompromising exposure of the deceits by which worldly prosperity was fostered, and satirised contemporary society with all the bitterness of a disappointed aspirant to fortune. Some verse in the opening chapter—containing the lines:
Divines and dying men may talk of hell,
But in my heart her several torments dwell
—illustrates the depths of Nash's despondency. The couplet was effectively introduced into the popular play ‘The Yorkshire Tragedy,’ 1606. At the close of Nash's pamphlet is a fine sonnet commending Spenser's ‘Faerie Queene,’ but lamenting the omission of the name of a great nobleman (doubtless the Earl of Derby) from the list of those whom Spenser had commemorated in his prefatory sonnets. ‘Pierce Pennilesse’ was first published by Richard Jones with a pretentious title-page of the publisher's composition. The words ran: ‘Pierce Pennilesse his Supplication to the Divell. Describing the overspreading of Vice and the suppression of Vertue. Pleasantly interlac'd with variable delights and pathetically intermixt with conceipted reproofes. Written by Thomas Nash, Gentleman, London, by Richard Jhones, 1592.’ Of this ‘long-tailed’ verbiage Nash disapproved, and he contrived that Abel Jeffes, another stationer, should issue at once a second edition with the first seven words alone upon the title-page, along with the motto ‘Barbaria grandis habere nihil.’ In a ‘private epistle,’ Nash here explained that fear of the plague kept him from London while the book was going through the press, and that he had no intention of attacking any save those who attacked him. The work was well received; it was six times reprinted within the year, and was ‘maimedly translated’ into French. In 1595 H. C. (perhaps Henry Chettle) published a feeble imitation, entitled ‘Piers Plainnes seaven yeres Prentiship.’ About 1606, after Nash's death, an anonymous writer issued an ineffective sequel, ‘The Returne of the Knight of the Post from Hell with the Devils Answeare to the Supplication of Piers Penniless.’ Nash had himself contemplated the continuation of his ‘Piers’ under some such title. Dekker, as the champion of Nash's reputation, adversely criticised this effort in his ‘Newes from Hell brought by the Divells Carrier’ (1606).
In one bitter passage of ‘Pierce Pennilesse,’ Nash pursued his attack on the Harveys. Immediately afterwards Gabriel Harvey descended into the arena, avowedly to avenge Greene's attacks in his ‘Quip’ on himself and his brothers. Greene was now dead, but Gabriel had no scruple in defaming his memory in his ‘Foure Letters and certain Sonnets,’ which was licensed for publication in December 1592. Nash sprang to the rescue, as he asserted, of his friend's reputation. In his epistle to ‘Menaphon’ he had written respectfully of Gabriel Harvey as a writer of admirable Latin verse, and Gabriel Harvey had hitherto spoken courteously of Nash. He numbered him in his ‘Foure Letters’ among ‘the dear lovers and professed sons of the Muses,’ and had excused his onslaughts on Richard Harvey on the ground of his youth. But Nash now scorned compliments, and wholly devoted his next publication to a vigorous denunciation of Gabriel. He was seeking free play for his gladiatorial instincts, and his claim to intervene solely as Greene's champion cannot be accepted quite literally. In the second edition of his ‘Pierce,’ issued within a month of Greene's death, he had himself denounced Greene's ‘Groatsworth of Wit,’ his friend's dying utterance, as ‘a scald trivial lying pamphlet.’ His new tract was entitled ‘Strange Newes of the Intercepting certaine Letters and a Conuoy of Verses as they were going priuilie to victuall the Low Countries,’ i.e. to be applied to very undignified purposes, London, by John Danter, 1593. The work was licensed for the press on 12 Jan. 1592–3, under a title beginning ‘The Apologie of Pierce Pennilesse,’ and the second edition of 1593 was so designated. The dedication was addressed to ‘William Apis-Lapis,’ i.e. Bee-stone, whom Nash describes as ‘the most copious Carminist of our time, and famous persecutor of Priscian’ (Christopher Beestone, possibly son of William, was a well-known actor). Harvey replied to Nash's strictures in his venomous ‘Pierce's Supererogation.’ But a novel experience for Nash followed. He grew troubled by religious doubts; his temper took a pacific turn, and he was anxious to come to terms with Harvey. On 8 Sept. 1593 he obtained a license for publishing a series of repentant reflections on the sins of himself and his London neighbours, called ‘Christes Teares over Jerusalem.’ The dedication is addressed to Elizabeth, wife of Sir George Carey. There he affected to bid ‘a hundred unfortunate farewels to fantasticall satirisme, in whose veines heretofore I misspent my spirit and prodigally conspired against good houres. Nothing is there now so much in my vowes as to be at peace with all men, and make submissive amends where I have most displeased.’ Declaring himself tired of the controversy with Harvey, he acknowledged in generous terms that he had rashly assailed Harvey's ‘fame and reputation.’ But Harvey was deaf to the appeal; ‘the tears of the crocodile,’ he declared, did not move him. He at once renewed the battle in his ‘New Letter of Notable Contents.’ In a second edition of his ‘Christes Teares’ Nash accordingly withdrew his offers of peace, and lashed Harvey anew with unbounded fury. Thereupon for a season the combatants refrained from hostilities, and in 1595 Clarke in his ‘Polemanteia’ made a pathetic appeal to Cambridge University to make her two children friends.
In the intervals of the strife Nash had written ‘The Terrors of the Night, or a Discourse of Apparitions,’ London, by John Danter, 1594, 4to; he gives an enlightened explanation of the character of dreams, and declares his incredulity respecting many popular superstitions. It was dedicated to Elizabeth, daughter of Sir George Carey. The dedication is rendered notable by its frank praise of Daniel's ‘Delia.’ The work was licensed on 30 June 1593. A new literary experiment, and one of lasting influence and interest, followed. In 1594 appeared Nash's ‘Unfortunate Traveller, or the Life of Jack Wilton,’ which he dedicated to the Earl of Southampton. It was entered on the ‘Stationers' Register,’ 7 Sept. 1593. It is a romance of reckless adventure, and, although it is a work of fiction, a few historical personages and episodes are introduced without much regard to strict accuracy, but greatly to the advantage of the vraisemblance of the story. The hero is a page, ‘a little superior in rank to the ordinary picaro;’ he has served in the English army at Tournay, but lives on his wits and prospers by his impudent devices. He visits Italy in attendance on the Earl of Surrey the poet, of whose relations with the ‘fair Geraldine’ Nash tells a romantic but untrustworthy story, long accepted as authentic by Surrey's biographers. After hairbreadth escapes from the punishment due to his manifold offences, Jack Wilton marries a rich Venetian lady, and rejoins the English army while Francis I and Henry VIII are celebrating the Field of the Cloth of Gold. Thomas Deloney [q. v.] may have suggested such an effort to Nash by his pedestrian ‘Jack of Newbery’ or ‘Thomas of Reading,’ but Nash doubtless designed his romance as a parody of those mediæval story-books of King Arthur and Sir Tristram which he had already ridiculed in his ‘Anatomie of Absurditie.’ Whatever Nash's object, the minute details with which he describes each episode and character anticipate the manner of Defoe. No one of Nash's successors before Defoe, at any rate, displayed similar powers as a writer of realistic fiction. The ‘Unfortunate Traveller’ was, unhappily, Nash's sole excursion into this attractive field of literature.
In 1596 Nash returned to his satiric vein. He had learned that Harvey boasted of having silenced him. To prove the emptiness of the vaunt, he accordingly issued the most scornful of all his tracts: ‘Haue with you to Saffron-Walden, or Gabriel Harueys Hunt is Up, containing a Full Answere to the Eldest Sonne of the Hatter-Maker … 1596.’ The work was dedicated, in burlesque fashion, to Richard Litchfield, barber of Trinity College, Cambridge, and includes a burlesque biography of Harvey, which is very comically devised. Harvey sought to improve on this sally by publishing his ‘Trimming of Thomas Nashe’ late in 1597, while Nash was suffering imprisonment in the Fleet. The heated conflict now attracted the attention of the licensers of the press. The two authors were directed to desist from further action; and in 1599 it was ordered by the Archbishop of Canterbury and others ‘that all Nashe's bookes and Dr. Harvey's bookes be taken, wheresoever they may be, and that none of the same bookes be euer printed hereafter.’ Nash undoubtedly won much sympathy from many spectators of this protracted duel. Francis Meres wrote in his ‘Palladis Tamia’ (1598), ‘As Eupolis of Athens used great liberty in taxing the vices of men: so doth Thomas Nash. Witness the brood of the Harveys.’ Sir John Harington was less complimentary in his epigram (bk. ii. 36):
The proverb says who fights with dirty foes
Must needs be soil'd, admit they win or lose;
Then think it doth a doctor's credit dash
To make himself antagonist to Nash.
Thomas Middleton in his ‘Ant and the Nightingale,’ 1604, generously apostrophises Nash, who was then dead:
Thou hadst a strife with that Tergemini;
Thou hurt'st them not till they had injured thee.
Dekker wrote that Nash ‘made the doctor [Harvey] a flat dunce, and beat him at his two sundry tall weapons, poetrie and oratorie’ (Newes from Hell, 1606).
Like all the men of letters of his day, Nash meanwhile paid some attention to the stage. The great comic actor Tarleton had befriended him on his arrival in London, and he has been credited with compiling ‘Tarltons Newes out of Purgatorie,’ 1590. Alleyn he had eulogised in his ‘Piers Penniless.’ In 1593 he prepared a ‘Pleasant Comedie, called Summers Last Will and Testament.’ It was privately acted about Michaelmas at Beddington, near Croydon, at the house of Sir George Carey. It was not published till 1600. The piece is a nondescript masque, in which Will Summers, Henry VIII's jester, figures as a loquacious and bitter-tongued chorus (in prose), while the Four Seasons, the god Bacchus, Orion, Harvest, Solstitium, and similar abstractions soliloquise in competent blank-verse on their place in human economy. A few songs, breathing the genuine Elizabethan fire, are introduced; that entitled ‘Spring’ has been set to music by Mr. Henschel. For Marlowe's achievements in poetry and the drama Nash, too, had undisguised regard, and in 1594 he completed and saw through the press Marlowe's unfinished ‘Tragedie of Dido’ [see Marlowe, Christopher] (cf. Lenten Stuffe, v. 262). Nash's contribution to the work is bald, and lacks true dramatic quality. But Nash was not discouraged, and in 1597 attempted to convert to dramatic uses his ‘fantastical’ powers of satire. Henslowe agreed to accept a comedy for the lord admiral's company to be called ‘The Isle of Dogs.’ At the time Nash was in exceptional distress, and had to apply to Henslowe for payments on account. ‘Lent the 14 May 1597 to Jubie,’ wrote Henslowe in his ‘Diary’ (p. 94), ‘uppon a notte from Nashe, twentie shellinges more for the Jylle of dogges, wch he is wrytinge for the company.’ The play duly appeared a month later. But Nash asserts that, as far as he was concerned, it was ‘an imperfect embrio.’ He had himself only completed ‘the induction and first act of it; the other five acts, without my consent or the least guess of my drift or scope, by the players were supplied’ (Lenten Stuffe, v. 200). The piece, however, attacked many current abuses in the state with so much violence as to rouse the anger of the privy council. The license to Henslowe's theatre was withdrawn, and Nash, who protested that the acts written by others ‘bred’ the trouble, was sent to the Fleet prison, after his lodgings had been searched and his papers seized (Privy Council MS. Reg. October 1596–September 1597, p. 346). Henslowe notes (p. 98): ‘Pd this 23 of auguste 1597 to harey Porter, to carye to T Nashe nowe at this in the Flete, for wrytinge of the eylle of Dogges ten shellinges, to be paid agen to me when he canne.’ The restraint on the company was removed on 27 Aug., but Nash was not apparently released for many months; and, when released, he was for a time banished from London. ‘As Actæon was worried by his own hounds,’ wrote Francis Meres in his ‘Palladis Tamia,’ ‘so is Tom Nash of his Isle of Dogs. Dogs were the death of Euripides, but be not disconsolate, gallant young Juvenal! Linus, the son of Apollo, died the same death. Yet God forbid that so brave a wit should so basely perish! Thine are but paper dogs, neither is thy banishment like Ovid's, eternally to converse with the barbarous Getæ. Therefore comfort thyself, sweet Tom! with Cicero's glorious return to Rome, and with the counsel Æneas gives to his sea-beaten soldiers (Lib. i. Æneid).’ But persecution did not curb Nash's satiric tongue. In the printed version of his ‘Summers Last Will’ (1600) he inserted a contemptuous reference to the hubbub caused by the suppressed play: ‘Here's a coil about dogs without wit! If I had thought the ship of fools would have stay'd to take in fresh water at the Isle of Dogs, I would have furnish'd it with a whole kennel of collections to the purpose.’ The incident was long remembered. In the ‘Returne from Pernassus’ one of the characters says ‘Writs are out for me to apprehend me for my plays, and now I am bound for the Isle of Dogs.’
In 1597 Nash, in despair of recovering his credit, and being ‘without a penny in his purse,’ appealed for assistance to Sir Robert Cotton, but, with characteristic effrontery, chiefly filled his letter with abuse of Sir John Harington's recent pamphlet, ‘Metamorphosis of A-jax.’ He signed himself ‘Yours, in acknowledgment of the deepest bond,’ but his earlier relations with Cotton are unknown (Collier, Annals, i. 302). In 1592, in the second edition of his ‘Pierce Pennilesse,’ he had complained that ‘the antiquaries,’ of whom Cotton was the most conspicuous representative, ‘were offended without cause’ by his writings, and had protested that he reverenced that excellent profession ‘as much as any of them all.’ Nash's bitter temper certainly alienated patrons, and no permanent help seems to have reached him now. Selden, in his ‘Table Talk’ (ed. Arber, p. 71), tells a story of the scorn poured by Nash—‘a poet poor enough as poets used to be’—on a wealthy alderman because ‘the fellow’ could not make ‘a blank verse.’ In 1599 he showed all his pristine vigour in what was probably his latest publication, ‘Nashe's Lenten Stuffe, containing the description and first procreation and increase of the towne of Great Yarmouth, in Norfolke.’ This is a comically burlesque panegyric of the red herring, and is dedicated to Humfrey King, tobacconist and author. Nash had, he explains, recently visited Yarmouth, and had obtained a loan of money and very hospitable entertainment there (v. 202–3). Hence his warm commendation of the town and its industry. In the course of the work he announced that he was about to go to Ireland (v. 192). Next year he published his ‘Summers Last Will,’ and he has been doubtfully credited with a translation from the Italian of Garzoni's ‘Hospitall of Incurable Fooles,’ a satiric essay published by Edward Blount in 1600. But Blount seems to claim the work for himself. At the same time Nash's name figures among the ‘modern and extant poets’ whose work is quoted in John Bodenham's ‘Belvedere, or Garden of the Muses’ (1600). In 1601 Nash was dead; he had not completed his thirty-fourth year. A laudatory ‘Cenotaphia’ to his memory is appended by Charles Fitzgeffrey to his ‘Affaniæ’ (p. 195), which was published in that year. A less respectful epitaph among the Sloane MSS. states that he ‘never in his life paid shoemaker or tailor’ (Dodsley, Old Plays, 1874, viii. 9).
Nash's original personality gives him a unique place in Elizabethan literature. In rough vigour and plain speaking he excelled all his contemporaries; like them, he could be mirthful, but his mirthfulness was always spiced with somewhat bitter sarcasm. He was widely read in the classics, and was well versed in the Italian satires of Pietro Aretino, whose disciple he occasionally avowed himself. Sebastian Brandt's ‘Narren-schiff’ he also appreciated, and he was doubtless familiar with the work of Rabelais. He had real sympathy at the same time with great English poetry, and he never wavered in his admiration of Surrey, Spenser, Sir Philip Sidney, and Thomas Watson. ‘The poets of our time … have cleansed our language from barbarism,’ he wrote in his ‘Pierce Pennilesse.’ His own excursions into verse are few, but some of the lyrics in ‘Summers Last Will’ come from a poet's pen. His rich prose vocabulary was peculiar to himself as far as his English contemporaries were concerned, and he boasted, with some justice, that he therein imitated no man. ‘Is my style,’ he asks, ‘like Greene's, or my jests like Tarleton's?’ On euphuism, with its ‘talk of counterfeit birds or herbs or stones,’ he poured unmeasured scorn, and he tolerated none of the current English affectations. But foreign influences—the influences of Rabelais and Aretino—are perceptible in many of the eccentricities on which he chiefly prided himself (cf. Harvey, New Letter, in Grosart's edit. i. 272–3, 289). Like Rabelais and Aretino, he depended largely on a free use of the vernacular for his burlesque effects. But when he found no word quite fitted to his purpose, he followed the example of his foreign masters in coining one out of Greek, Latin, Spanish, or Italian. ‘No speech or wordes,’ he wrote, ‘of any power or force to confute or persuade but must be swelling and boisterous,’ and he was compelled to resort, he explained, ‘to his boisterous compound words’ in order to compensate for the great defect of the English tongue, which, ‘of all languages, most swarmeth with the single money of monosyllables.’ ‘Italianate’ verbs ending in ize, such as ‘tyrannize or tympanize,’ he claims to have introduced to the language. Like Rabelais, too, Nash sought to develop emphasis by marshalling columns of synonyms and by constant reiteration of kindred phrases. His writings have at times something of the fascination of Rabelais, but, as a rule, his subjects are of too local and topical an interest to appeal to Rabelais's wide circle of readers. His romance of ‘Jack Wilton,’ which inaugurated the novel of adventure in England, will best preserve his reputation.
His contemporaries acknowledged the strength of his individuality. Meres uncritically reckoned him among ‘the best poets for comedy.’ Lodge described him more convincingly as ‘true English Aretine’ (Wits Miserie, p. 57), while Greene suggestively compared his temper with that of Juvenal. In the ‘Returne from Pernassus’ (ed. Macray, p. 87), full justice is done him. ‘Ay, here is a fellow,’ one critic declares, ‘that carried the deadly stock [i.e. rapier] in his pen, whose muse was armed with a gag tooth [i.e. tusk], and his pen possessed with Hercules' furies.’ Another student answers:
Let all his faults sleep with his mournful chest,
And then for ever with his ashes rest.
His style was witty, tho' he had some gall,
Something he might have mended, so may all;
Yet this I say, that for a mother's wit,
Few men have ever seen the like of it.
Middleton very regretfully lamented that he did not live to do his talents full justice (Ant and Nightingale, 1604). Dekker, who mildly followed in some of Nash's footsteps, strenuously defended his memory in his ‘Newes from Hell,’ 1606, which was directly inspired by ‘Piers Penniless,’ and was reissued as ‘Knights Conjuring’ in 1607. Into Nash's soul (Dekker asserts) ‘the raptures of that fierce and unconfineable Italian spirit was bounteously and boundlessly infused.’ ‘Ingenious and ingenuous, fluent, facetious,’ are among the phrases that Dekker bestows on his dead friend. Later Dekker described Nash as welcomed to the Elysian fields by Marlowe, Greene, and Peele, who laughed to see him, ‘that was but newly come to their college, still hunted with the sharp and satirical spirit that followed him here upon earth, inveighing against dry-fisted patrons, accusing them of his untimely death.’ Michael Drayton is more sympathetic:
Surely Nash, though he a proser were,
A branch of laurel well deserved to bear;
Sharply satiric was he.
Izaak Walton described Nash as ‘a man of a sharp wit, and the master of a scoffing, satirical, and merry pen.’
Besides the works noted, Nash was author of a narrative poem of the boldest indecency, of which an imperfect manuscript copy is among the Tanner MSS. in the Bodleian Library. Oldys in his notes on Langbaine's ‘Dramatick Poets’ asserts that the work was published. John Davies of Hereford, in his ‘Paper's Complaint’ (‘Scourge of Folly’) mentions the shameless performance, and declares that ‘good men's hate did it in pieces tear;’ but whether the work met this fate in manuscript or print Davies leaves uncertainb. In his ‘New Letter of Notable Contents.’ Harvey had denounced Nash for emulating Aretino's licentiousness. In his ‘Haue with you to Saffron Walden’ (iii. 44) Nash admitted that poverty had occasionally forced him to prostitute his pen ‘in hope of gain’ by penning ‘amorous Villanellos and Quipassas’ for ‘new-fangled Galiardos and senior Fantasticos.’ These exercises are not known to be extant, but the poem in the Tanner MSS. may perhaps be reckoned among them. An indelicate poem, ‘The Choosing of Valentines by Thomas Nashe,’ is in Inner Temple MS. 538. A few of the opening lines only are printed by Dr. Grosart.
A caricature of Nash in irons in the Fleet is engraved in Harvey's ‘Trimming’ (1597) (cf. Harvey's ‘Works,’ ed. Grosart, iii. 43). Another rough portrait is on the title-page of ‘Tom Nash his Ghost’ (1642).
All the works with certainty attributed to Nash, together with ‘Martins Months Mind,’ which is in all probability from another's pen, are reprinted in Dr. Grosart's ‘Huth Library’ (6 vols.), 1883–5. The following list supplies the titles somewhat abbreviated. All the volumes are very rare: 1. ‘The Anatomie of Absurditie,’ London, by I. Charlewood for Thomas Hacket, 1589, 4to; the only perfect copy is in Mr. Christie Miller's library at Britwell; an imperfect copy, the only other known, is at the Bodleian Library; another edition, dated 1590, is in the British Museum. 2. ‘A Countercuffe giuen to Martin Iunior. … Anno Dom. 1589,’ without printer's name or place (Brit. Mus. and Huth Libr.). 3. ‘The Returne of the Renowned Caualier Pasquill of England. … Anno Dom. 1589,’ without printer's name or place (Huth Libr., Britwell, and Brit. Mus.). 4. ‘The First Parte of Pasquils Apologie.’ Anno Dom. 1590, doubtless printed by James Robert for Danter (Huth Libr., Britwell, and Brit. Mus.). 5. ‘A Wonderfull strange and miraculous Astrologicall Prognostication,’ London, by Thomas Scarlet, 1591 (Bodl.). 6. ‘Pierce Pennilesse his Supplication to the Devill,’ London, by Richard Jhones, 1592, an unauthorised edition (the only known copies are at Britwell and that formerly in the library at Rowfant); reprinted for the Shakespeare Soc. by J. P. Collier, in 1842; the authorised edition by Abel Ieffes, 1592 (Bodl., Trin. Coll. Camb., formerly at Rowfant, Brit. Mus., and Huth Libr.); 1593 and 1595 (both in Brit. Mus.). 7. ‘Strange Newes of the Intercepting certaine Letters … by Tho. Nashe, Gentleman,’ printed 1592 (Brit. Mus.); London, by John Danter, 1593, with the title ‘An Apologie for Pierce Pennilesse’ (Huth Libr.); reprinted by Collier in 1867. 8. ‘Christs Teares over Ierusalem, London, by James Roberts, and to be solde by Andrewe Wise,’ 1593 (Brit. Mus., Britwell, and Huth Libr.); 1594, with new address ‘to the Reader,’ ‘printed for Andrew Wise’ (Huth Libr.); 1613 (Bodl.), with the prefatory matter of 1593. 9. ‘The Terrors of the Night,’ London, printed by John Danter for William Jones, London, 1594, 4to (Bodl., Britwell, and Bridgwater Libr.). 10. ‘The Unfortunate Traveller, or the Life of Iacke Wilton,’ London, printed by T. Scarlet for C. Burby, 1594, 4to (Brit. Mus. and Britwell); reprinted in ‘Chiswick Press Reprints,’ 1892, edited by Mr. Edmund Gosse. 11. ‘The Tragedie of Dido … by Christopher Marlowe and Thomas Nash, Gent.’ London, by the Widdowe Orwin for Thomas Woodcocke, 1594 [see under Marlowe, Christopher]. 12. ‘Haue with you to Saffron-Walden,’ London, by John Danter, 1596 (Brit. Mus., Britwell, and Huth Libr.). 13. ‘Nashe's Lenten Stuffe,’ printed for H. L. and C. B., 1599 (Huth Libr., Bodl., Britwell, and Brit. Mus.); reprinted in ‘Harleian Miscellany.’ 14. ‘A pleasant Comedie called Summers Last Will and Testament,’ London, by Simon Stafford for Walter Burre, 1600 (Brit. Mus., Britwell, Huth Libr., formerly at Rowfant, and Duke of Devonshire's Libr.); reprinted in Dodsley's ‘Old Plays.’[Bibliographical information from Mr. R. E. Graves of Brit. Mus.; Grosart's introductions to Nash's Works, in vols. i. and vi.; McKerrow's edition of Nash; Collier's preface to his reprint of Pierce Pennilesse, for Shakespeare Soc. 1842; Mr. Gosse's preface to his reprint of the Unfortunate Traveller, 1892; Cunningham's New Facts in the Life of Nash, in Shakspeare Society's Papers, iii. 178; Fleay's Biog. Chron. of English Drama; Collier's Bibl. Account of Early English Lit.; Cooper's Athenæ Cantabr. vol. ii.; Jusserand's English Novel in the Time of Shakespere (Engl. transl.), 1890; D'Israeli's Quarrels of Authors; Herford's Lit. Relations of England and Germany, pp. 165, 372; Dodsley's Old Plays, ed. Hazlitt, 1874, viii. 1 seq.; Harvey's Works, ed. Grosart; Hunter's manuscript Chorus Vatum, in Addit. MS. 24489, f. 367; Oldys's manuscript notes on Langbaine's Dramatick Poets, 1691, f. 382, in Brit. Mus. (C. 28. g. l.); Simpson's School of Shakspere; Anglia, vii. 223 (Shakspere and Puritanism, by F. G. Fleay, whose conclusions there respecting Nash seem somewhat fantastic); Maskell's Martin Marprelate Controversy; Arber's Introduction to the Martin Marprelate Controversy. A third-rate poem in Sloane MS., called ‘The Trimming of Tom Nashe,’ although its title is obviously borrowed from Harvey's tract, does not concern itself with either Harvey or Nash. See arts.: Greene, Robert; Harvey, Gabriel; Harvey, Richard; Lyly, John; and Marlowe, Christopher.