The Marlowe Society was formed1 on 09 September 1955 at a meeting attended by 46 people at Chislehurst Library, with Thomas A Bushell in the chair, and Clifford Russell as honorary secretary. The Society was set up to promote Christopher Marlowe and his generally accepted works, although Bushell had found Calvin Hoffman’s proposal – that Marlowe had survived 1593 and gone on to write the works attributed to Shakespeare – most persuasive.
At a packed meeting to debate Hoffman’s ideas, the principal opposition had come from Canon Lunn of St. Nicholas Church, Chislehurst. He had also opposed opening the Walsingham tomb in his church. But after his death, permission had been given, and the table-tomb in the church had been opened on 01 May 1956. It contained no documents: the space was empty. The true tomb was no doubt somewhere below, where it could not be disturbed.
The early Society published an occasional magazine, Marlovia, and a number of booklets. In the quarter-centenary year, 1964, the Marlowe Society Drama Company put on a performance of Edward the Second at Berkeley Castle, and the Society produced a special souvenir book, displaying for the first time the Corpus Christi portrait, which had been discovered in 1953.
The present Society Newsletter was begun in 1993. It is published twice a year, and contains news of the Society’s activities in order to maintain contact with a world wide membership. The Newsletter also contains articles ranging from the scholarly to the light-hearted about Marlowe, his life, his works, his contemporaries, and his times, and featuring current attitudes and opinions about Marlowe, book reviews, play reviews, and letters from members.
The Marlowe Society Research Journal was conceived to provide a medium for more detailed research on Marlowe and related areas of study. The first issue was produced in December 2004, and the fourth in September 2006, since when the Journal has been published on this website. The Research Journal is the forum for lengthier and more detailed research articles contributed by scholars, academics and Society members.
The Society continues to hold periodic meetings for debate, lectures, play- and poetry-readings, as well as organising theatre visits and outings to places of historic interest connected with Marlowe. These meetings are usually held four times a year somewhere in or near London – typically in February, May, August, and November. The Annual General Meeting is held on the nearest Saturday or Sunday to 26 February, the day of Marlowe’s baptism.
As a registered charity, the stated objects of the Marlowe Society are “to provide, develop and encourage the advancement of education for the public benefit in the field of Elizabethan literature, and that of Christopher Marlowe in particular“. In 2002, the Society was instrumental in obtaining over-due commemoration for Marlowe in Poets’ Corner. A Dedication Service on 11 July of that year marked the unveiling of a memorial window in Westminster Abbey.
The Society celebrated its Golden Jubilee in 2005, and its membership continues to grow every year. It has even tentatively dipped its toe into the murky technological waters that enable web surfing, with this website, launched in 1996 the result.
1Information relating to the early years of the Marlowe Society is available courtesy of the exhaustive research of committee member Frieda Barker. In anticipation of the Golden Jubilee celebrations in 2005, she examined the Society archives, deciphering, typing up and preserving in plastic wallets the Society’s frail papers, which included some of Calvin Hoffman’s notes. Frieda presented her findings at the 2005 AGM, and a selection of items from the archive was exhibited at both Marlowe Day and the Jubilee Day at Chislehurst later that year.
Professor Christopher Miles
Sir Mark Rylance
Professor Lisa Hopkins
Dr C R H Niven
Professor Kenneth Pickering
Dr Ildiko Solti
Marlowe Theatre Representative
Professor Richard Wilson
Dr Julian Ng
Professor Roy Eriksen
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