Thomas Watson

Thomas Watson (* ~ 1557; † 1592) came from a wealthy family and attended Oxford University, but did not graduate.1 Around 1572 he went to the continent, where he stayed mainly in Italy and France. For a short time he attended the English College, which at that time was still situated in Douai. Presumably he worked there with Thomas Walsingham for Francis Walsingham when the latter was ambassador in Paris. After more than 7 years, Watson returned to study and/or practise law in London – there is some disagreement about this.2 He was probably already known as a poet by then.

Watson’s earliest surviving work is a Latin translation of Sophocles Antigone including some Latin poems from 1581. In 1584 he published Hekatompathia or Passionate Centurie of Love, a collection of poems in French and Italian style, as well as some translations. The dedication is to Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, who had known the manuscript and encouraged Watson to publish it. However, Watson was employed in the household of William Cornwallis. In the Latin epic Amyntas (1585), he describes the eleven-day mourning of the shepherd Amyntas over the death of his mistress Phyllis. After the death of Francis Walsingham, Watson wrote the elegy Melibœus, which appeared in Latin and English in 1590. Watson was not only considered the best Latin poet of his time, he was equally praised for his tragedies, but none of his dramas have survived.

In the autumn of 1589 Watson and Marlowe were staying at Norton Folgate. On 28 September of that year Watson came to Marlowe’s aid when he had an altercation with William Bradley in Hog Lane (now Worship Street). In the course of the melee, Watson killed Bradley in self-defence. While Marlowe was released on bail, Watson had to remain in Newgate Prison until the trial and, despite his acquittal, for some time beyond.3 Watson later processed the Hog Lane incident literarily in Amintae Gaudia, actually a prequel to Amyntas. The publication of this epic, as well as that of The Tears of Fancie, or Love Disdained, was posthumous, for Thomas Watson was buried at St Bartholomew-the-Less on 6 October 1592. The first printing of Amintae Gaudia contains a dedication to Mary Herbert, supposedly by Marlowe.

Dana Sutton sees the description of how Amyntas intervenes in the dispute between two rivals for the favour of Pyllis as a literary treatment of the Hog Lane incident.4

"Faustulus et Corydon, ambo foelicibus orti
Principiis, ambo fortes, virtutibus ambo
Tincti diversis, iisdem sed amoribus ambo
Igniti, rixas audent litesque ciere,
Phyllida dum laudant, dum te, formosula Phylli,
Iste manu gemmam tibi praetulit, ille catellam
Arte laboratam mira. Tu munus utrumque red
Anxia dum renuis, ne protinus aemula virtus
Crescat in invidiam, verbis et cerbere certant
Rivales; clamant socios; amor arma ministrat.
Pallida surgebas, memini, pallere decebat.
Suadebas pacem precibus lachrymis, sed illi
Immoti precibus lachrymisque in proelia pergunt,
Barbara progenies. Mea tum praecordia movit
Irarum subitus, vel amoris conscius ardor.
Insilui turbis, et Martem Marte lacessens,
Mox initum fregi bellum monitis minisque."5

Thanks to Watson, English literature received increased contact with Francesco Petraca for the first time since Wyatt and Howard. This may also have had a noticeable effect on Marlowe (Tamburlaine).

Alhiyari, Ibrahim. 2006. “Thomas Watson. New Birth Year and Privileged Ancestry.” Notes and Queries 53 (1): 35–40.
Fisher, Roger S. 2018? “Law, Pedagogy, and History in Thomas Watson’s Compendium Memoriae Localis.” In Acta Conventus Neo-Latini Vindobonensis, edited by Astrid Steiner-Weber and Franz Römer, 258–67. Acta Conventus Neo-Latini. Leiden: Koninklijke Brill NV.
Sutton, Dana F. 29.11.2010. “Thomas Watson, the Complete Works: A Hypertext Edition. Revised.”

  1. Alhiyari (2006)↩︎
  2. Fisher (2018?)↩︎
  3. Urry (1988); Eccles (06.09.1934); Honan (2005)↩︎
  4. Sutton (29.11.2010)↩︎
  5. Amintae Gaudia,I,36-52↩︎

Aktualisiert am 23.05.2024

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