John Marston



The Works of John Marston, ed. A.H. Bullen, 3 vols (London, 1887).


The Poems of John Marston, ed. Arnold Davenport (Liverpool, 1961).


Letters and Documents

Two extant manuscripts of dramatic works by Marston are partly in his handwriting (*MrJ 3, *MrJ 6). There also survives a single autograph letter by him, to Gervase Clifton (*MrJ 11).

Other extant letters by ‘John Marston’ prove to be spurious. One, addressed to Lord Kimbolton, was formerly among the Duke of Manchester's papers in the (then) Public Record Office but was later sold at Sotheby's, being owned in 1976 by the late R.M. Willcocks, London postal specialist. This letter was first recorded in Shakespeare's Comedies, Histories, Tragedies and Poems, ed. John Payne Collier (London, 1858), I, 179, and was also printed in HMC, 8th Report (1881), Appendix, Part II, p. 58, and in Robert E. Brettle, ‘John Marston and the Duke of Buckingham 1627-1628’, N&Q, 212 (September 1967), 326-30. In ‘The Provenance of John Marston's letter to Lord Kimbolton’, Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, 72 (1978), 213-19, which includes facsimiles of this letter and the genuine one by the dramatist, Albert H. Tricomi clearly established that the Kimbolton letter was written in 1642 by John Marston, rector of St Mary Magdalen Church, Canterbury, whose handwriting appears in his subscription in the Oxford Liber Subscriptionum Clericorum, 1628-46, now in the Oxford University Archives (MS Oxf. Dioc. e. 13, p. 82).

A third letter, supposedly from John Marston to Philip Henslowe, was ‘discovered’ by John Payne Collier at Dulwich College (Alleyn Papers, Vol. I, No. 103, f. 148). This letter is one of Collier's forgeries: see George F. Warner, Catalogue of the Manuscripts and Muniments of Alleyn's College of God's Gift at Dulwich (London, 1881), p. 49. A facsimile, which clearly shows it to be a forgery, appears in Clement Mansfield Ingilby, A Complete View of the Shakspere Controversy (London, 1861), p. 273, and see also the discussion in Albert H. Tricomi, ‘John Marston's Manuscripts’, Huntington Library Quarterly, 43 (1979-80), 87-10. The letter can also be seen in the online Henslowe-Alleyn Papers.

Four other genuine specimens of Marston's handwriting, including his academic subscriptions and his will (MrJ 12-17) have been largely discovered by Robert E. Brettle.

Poems of Doubtful or Spurious Authorship

In his article on Marston and the Duke of Buckingham, N&Q, 212 (September 1967), 326-30, Brettle drew attention to three satirical poems on the Duke of Buckingham which he thought might have been written by Marston. Two of them — Upon the Dukes Goeing into Fraunce and The Duke Return'd Againe. 1627 — were thought to be written in Marston's hand in one manuscript now at the Huntington (MrJ 44 and MrJ 88), while the third, the chronogram Georg IVs DVX BVCkIngaMIae MDCXXVVVIII, is ascribed to ‘John Marsten’ in one manuscript copy in the Bodleian (MrJ 55. In fact the Huntington manuscript is not in the dramatist's hand, the two poems are nowhere ascribed to him (the second poem is ascribed in one manuscript to ‘Mr [John] Heappe’: MrJ 19), while the attribution of the third poem in the Bodleian manuscript might be yet another confusion of the two John Marstons, the Canterbury cleric being apparently a political dissident perhaps capable of this chronogram: see again Tricomi, ‘John Marston's Manuscripts’, HLQ, 43 (1979-80), 87-102. Although outweighing by far the entries for Marston's legitimate works, these three dubious but widely circulated verse satires have been given entries below for the record under the category ‘Verse of Doubtful or Spurious Authorship’ (MrJ 18-54).

Dramatic Works

One other work has been somewhat bedevilled by Collier and by a tenuous attribution to Marston. That is the Gray's Inn entertainment of February 1617/18 known variously as The Mountbank's Masque or as The First Antimasque of Mountebanks, printed by Collier and Peter Cunningham in Inigo Jones…and Five Court Masques, The Shakespeare Society (London, 1848), pp. 111-30, and reprinted in Bullen, III, 417-43. Collier's copy-text was a manuscript now in the Huntington (HM 21), which has on the first page the pencil note ‘By J. Marstone’ and has a few other pencil annotations in the text. In fact these notations are obviously in a modern hand, possibly Collier's own hand, and cannot be taken as the slightest evidence of any connection between this entertainment and John Marston. Marston's authorship is also rejected in Bentley, V, 1376-8. The other known contemporary copies of the work are all anonymous: i.e. Bodleian, MS Rawl. D. 1021; British Library, Add. MS 5956, ff. 74-82v; Gray's Inn Library, MS 29; and the library of Viscount Daventry, Arbury Hall, CR 136/A414, ff. 1r-12v.

Of Marston's genuine works, none of his poems is currently known to survive in manuscript. Besides the two partly autograph dramatic works (*MrJ 3, *MrJ 6), a contemporary copy of part of the Derby entertainment can be recorded (MrJ 7); there are early settings of a song from The Dutch Courtezan (MrJ 4-5), and there are a few extracts from printed editions of the plays in miscellanies. Marston's dramatic canon is taken to be that established in Chambers, III, 427-34, including Jack Drum's Entertainment which Marston evidently helped to revise but which is not printed in Bullen.

Peter Beal