A Cup of News (Magill's Literary Annual 1985)
Thomas Nashe merits both critical and biographical attention. Born in Lowestoft, on the coast of Suffolk, in 1567, and reared in a preacher’s family, Nashe became the most energetic and inventive of Elizabethan prose writers. His The Unfortunate Traveller (1594) was the first picaresque novel in English. Charles Nicholl, the author of A Cup of News, draws on the basic biographical outline of Nashe’s life which is presented in Ronald B. McKerrow’s five-volume edition of Nashe’s works, The Works of Thomas Nashe (1904-1910; revised edition by F. P. Wilson, 1958). Nicholl, however, also uses passages from Nashe’s works and the demonstrable facts of his life as a springboard for speculation.
A Cup of News, then, has to be classified with the large body of works which aim at literary detection and purport to identify, for example, the real William Shakespeare, the dark lady, and the rival poet. Nicholl seems to have worked principally with secondary sources rather than examining the actual letters and documents. References to the correspondence of Sir Robert Cotton, for example, a patron of Nashe, are cited from Hope Mirelees’ A Fly in Amber: An Extravagant Biography of the Romantic Antiquary, Sir Robert Bruce Cotton (1962). At the same time, Nicholl has carefully gathered a considerable amount of material and worked hard to make accessible the story of a complex and fascinating writer.
(The entire section is 1757 words.)
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