Disappearance and Death

The sixteenth century ended in England with political stormclouds gathering. The Queen was old, and couldn't last much longer. Who would take over when she was gone? Great men like Essex and Cecil engaged in power struggles. It was a tense time. On June 1, 1599 a rather edgy government began a crackdown on satire. In particular it issued a sweeping ban on all Nashe's works, past and to come, ordering the printers to burn existing stocks.

From that time on, as Nashe's biographer Charles Nicholl puts it, "Amid the smoke of the Elizabethan police state, Nashe begins to fade from view." The next mentions of him make it clear that he is dead.

In a play produced in 1601 at his old university, Cambridge, comes a valedictory comment. Two characters are discussing current writers. One mentions Nashe, and asks the other for a verdict:

Ingenioso: Thomas Nashe - Aye, here is a fellow, Judicio, that carried the deadly stockado in his pen, whose muse was armed with a gagtooth and his pen possessed with the spirit of Hercules furies.

  Judicio: Let all his faults sleep with his mournful chest, 
   And there forever 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 wit,  
   Few men have ever seen the like of it. 

Thomas Nashe: 1567 - ?1601

Barbarus hic ego sum, quia non intelligor ulli.

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