Thomas Nashe was born in November, 1567, the second son of William Nashe, a minister in Lowestoft, moving in 1573 to West Harling in Norfolk, where his father took up the duties of rector. There Nashe likely remained until he left for Cambridge in 1581 or 1582.
R. B. McKerrow and others have suggested that young Nashe’s early education was probably accomplished at home with his father as tutor, a likely suggestion because no suitable school existed in West Harling. Wherever he acquired his schooling, it was of such quality as to allow young Nashe to enter St. John’s College, Cambridge, where, as Nashe himself later wrote in Nashe’s Lenten Stuffe (1599), Have with You to Saffron-Walden (1596), and the preface to Robert Greene’s Menaphon (1589), he did well in his studies and enjoyed the academic life. Although he complained that the curriculum at Cambridge was weighted too heavily toward vague theology and too little toward the ancient philosophers, he nevertheless praised St. John’s and was proud of his college’s reputation for sound scholarship. The Puritan influence at Cambridge, with its emphasis on utilitarian training rather than on Humanistic inquiry, did not please the inquisitive Nashe.
Nashe received his bachelor’s degree from Cambridge in 1586 and left school in 1588 without taking his master’s degree. Whether he ended his education because he lacked funds to continue (his father had died in 1587) or because he did not fit well into the Puritan narrowness at the school is not clear, but it is clear from his comments in The Anatomie of Absurditie (1589) that he thought Cambridge had failed him.
Leaving Cambridge with no resources but a ready wit, Nashe followed the lead of fellow University Wits Robert Greene and Christopher Marlowe by moving to London to attempt to support himself as a professional writer. Nashe may have been acquainted with both Greene and Marlowe at Cambridge; it is certain that he knew both in London. Like Nashe, both loved poetry and detested Puritans. In the same year that he left Cambridge, Nashe published The Anatomie of Absurditie, a dull, preachy work reflecting his inexperience and brashness. Nashe’s intent was to use the satiric pamphlet form against the satiric pamphlets of the Puritans, chiefly against Philip Stubbs’s The Anatomie of Abuses (1583), but his fervor to condemn the lack of learning and discrimination shown in the narrow Puritan tracts blossomed into a general diatribe against bad books, bad science,...
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