Tuesday, September 14, 2021

My hero / Christopher Marlowe by Val McDermid

 

The only known portrait of Christopher Marlowe.

My hero: Christopher Marlowe

 by Val McDermid 

Saturday 25 September 2010

I

admire Marlowe for lots of reasons: he started from humble beginnings, the son of a shoemaker, and he found a benefactor who paid for his education, which he made the most of, ending up at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. Even as an undergraduate he showed signs of being unusual, not like the other students. When the college refused to award him a degree, the privy council intervened – it turned out that what looked like subversive behaviour was actually a front for spying on behalf of the Queen.

He was never far away from trouble: once he'd moved to London he was caught up in a street brawl in which someone died. But in between spying and sword fighting, Marlowe started his career as a writer. What he brought to the early practice of blank verse was a real sense of poetry and passion. It's fascinating that even in his short career you can see growth and development, which makes it all the more sad that he died so young because you can see not just that he had potential, but that he was capable of developing that potential into something extraordinary.

Also fascinating, of course, is the mystery surrounding his death. What we know is that he died in an alehouse in Deptford, and that the three men who were present with him were all connected in one way or another to the Walsingham family and the English secret service. As a crime writer, I find any unresolved mystery fascinating – and when it concerns the life of such a writer, it's irresistible.

I admire the tenacity and the bloody-mindedness that took him from that shoemaker's house in Canterbury to become a thorn in the side of the highest in the land. And the glorious way he used the English language to conjure up extraordinary images is something that inspires me to this day.

THE GUARDIAN




2009
001 My hero / Oscar Wilde by Michael Holroyd
002 My hero / Harley Granville-Barker by Richard Eyre
003 My hero / Edward Goldsmith by Zac Goldsmith
004 My hero / Fridtjof Nansen by Sara Wheeler 
005 My hero / Mother Mercedes Lawler IBVM by Antonia Fraser

007 My hero / Ernest Shepard by Richard Holmes
008 My hero / JG Ballard by Will Self
009 My hero / Alan Ross by William Boyd
010 My hero / Ben the labrador by John Banville

011 My hero / Vicent van Gogh by Margaret Drabble
012 My hero / Franz Marek by Eric Hobsbawm

2010

017 My hero / Jack Yeats by Colm Tóibín
018 My hero / Francisco Goya by Diana Athill
019 My hero / Max Stafford-Clark by Sebastian Barry
020 My hero / Arthur Holmes by Richard Fortey

036 My hero / Robert Lowell by Jonathan Raban
037 My hero / Beryl Bainbridge by Michael Holroyd
038 My hero / Charles Schulz by Jenny Colgan
039 My hero / Oliver Knussen by Adam Foulds
040 My hero / Annie Proulx by Alan Warner

041 My hero / David Lynch by Paul Murray
042 My hero / Edwin Morgan by Robert Crawford
043 My hero / Anne Lister by Emma Donoghue
044 My hero / Jane Helen Harrinson by Mary Beard
045 My hero / Edmund Burke by David Marquand
046 My hero / Shelagh Deleaney by Jeanette Winterson
047 My hero / Christopher Marlowe by Val McDermid
048 My hero / Gwen John by Anne Enright
049 My hero / Michael Mayne by Susan Hill
050 My hero / Stanley Spencer by Howard Jacobson

051 My hero / William Beveridge by Will Hutton
052 My hero / Jean McConville by Amanda Foreman
053 My hero / Alexander Pushkin by Elaine Feinstein
058 My hero / Cy Twombly by Edmund de Waal

2011
079 My hero / Gene Wolfe by Neil Gaiman
087 My hero / Alberto Moravia by John Burnside
096 My hero / Isaac Babel by AD Miller
097 Lucian Freud by Esi Edugyan
100 Thomas Tranströmer by Robin Robertson
102 My hero / David Hockney by Susan Hill

2012

190 My hero / Iris Murdoch by Charlotte Mendelson
194 My hero / René Descartes by James Kelman
199 My hero / Albert Camus by Geoff Dyer

2015
2016


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