January 2012

ABOUT MR LE DOUX and some related matters.

By Isabel Gortázar

To the best of my knowledge and pending further research, the first documented appearance of someone who I personally believe might have been Christopher Marlowe after 1593 occurs in 1595.

(A word of warning to my readers: the dates I use in my work about Mr Le Doux are normally based on my own interpretation of the MSS in the Anthony Bacon Papers in the Lambeth Palace Library. Unfortunately there are several traps laid in these documents for the unwary researcher: In the first place we often get the dates of reception of such documents by Anthony Bacon, not actually the date when the documents were sent or written; secondly, in documents dated during the months of January, February and March, unless the document contains a weekday or some other reference that helps to double-check, we can never be sure whether the author of such document is using the Gregorian Calendar Year or the Julian one; thirdly, in some cases, any date the document may have had, has been erased or badly blurred by the passage of time. In view of this, there is a possibility that some of the dates proposed by my colleagues, let alone myself, on this particular subject, may need to be revised in time. )

Mr Le Doux

Going through the Anthony Bacon Papers1 in 1995, A.D Wraight2 and P. Farey3 found several documents relative to a Frenchman, possibly passing for a Huguenot,4 named Mr Le Doux (no Christian name mentioned), staying in the house of Sir John Harington, at Burley-on-the Hill near Exton in Rutland, as tutor to Sir John’s son.

The information is contained in a series of letters from various persons, including: Mr. Le Doux, a de-frocked possibly Huguenot nun called Ide du Wault, Anthony Bacon and a French servant of the latter called Jacques Petit. Le Doux, Petit and Ide de Wault are all at the house of Sir John Harington during the Christmas Festivities of 1595/6.

Jacques Petit’s letters to Anthony Bacon, together with other documents found in the Lambeth Palace Archives, led A.D Wraight to surmise that Le Doux could have been Christopher Marlowe, acting as a Secret Agent to the Earl of Essex.

Anthony Bacon had been coordinating Essex’s Intelligence network as well as his foreign correspondence since 1592. Among the agents in that network, one of them, Anthony Standen, had used the alias of Monsieur La Faye, so we need not be surprised at the French name of Le Doux. In fact, religious persecution would have been in those days the best excuse for any man to choose to live in a country other than his own, whether temporarily or permanently. So, one would expect to find French and Flemish Calvinists (known as Huguenots or Walloons respectively), settling in England to escape from Catholic rulers, just as one would expect to find Irish and English Catholics trying to make a living in Catholic Countries, on the Continent.

My colleague John Hunt kindly informed me that, according to the Mormon Records, Le Doux was also the name of a Huguenot family that had settled in Canterbury before 1592. These, and other, records have been extensively examined by Peter Farey, who found one “Loys Le Doulx”, a contemporary of Christopher Marlowe, recorded as a Member of “The Walloon and Huguenot Church” in Canterbury. Needless to say, there is no reason to suppose that this Loys Le Doux had anything to do with our Mr Le Doux at Burley, but it may explain the choice of surname by another Canterbury man, perhaps trying to pass in England for an exiled French Huguenot.

As Wraight and Farey have given all the important details (discovered so far), as to Le Doux’ presence at Burley at least since October 1595, I will not repeat the general information, but will deal only with certain aspects that might shed some further light on the hypothesis that Mr Le Doux was Christopher Marlowe. In this respect, I will include different, as it were, sub-chapters, not necessarily in chronological (or any other) order, but as I consider I have enough (or new) information on each individual topic to warrant its publication.

Mr Le Desordre

In his letter of 14th December 1595 to Anthony Bacon, Jacques Petit narrates the day-to-day activities of the Harington family and guests, including Sir John’s daughter, Lucy Countess of Bedford. Named after her grandmother, Lucy Sidney, Sir John’s eldest daughter, had married Edward Russell, 3rd Earl of Bedford on December 12th 1594, so, close to the Christmas of the year previous to the one they were now celebrating. True to type, Petit writes spiteful comments about the price that Harington pays for his daughter’s title of Countess:

“Mr Harington pays alone the expenses of these pleasures and dearly buys the greatness of the name of Countess for his daughter.” (Mr Harington paye tout seul les frais de ces plaisirs et cherement achette la grandeur du nom de Contesse pour sa fille).

Petit is shocked at the way the Harington family seem to spend money like water; his mean little soul is apparently not capable of enjoying any of the fun, unlike his colleague Mr Le Doux. After denouncing the extravagant expenses in honour of the young Countess, Petit goes on with a momentous piece of information:

“And besides they are busy (at Burley) inventing and creating ruinous confusion this Christmas, with a lot of useless expense for the tragedies and games of Mr le desordre."

(Et encor est on apres a inventer & brouiller une confusion de ruine ce Noel faisant beasucoup de vaine despence pur les tragedies et jeux de Mr le desordre.5)

The word jeux cannot be here translated as plays, except in the sense of playfulness, not theatre plays. Therefore it seems that Mr Le Desordre was busy organizing games and other entertainments for the guests, who would need to be indoors since early in the afternoon, the days in December/January being so short in England.

But Petit has also mentioned “the tragedies of Mr Le Desordre”; surely, that must mean plays, and moreover plays perhaps written by Mr Le Desordre himself!

The word desordre means disorder, confusion, chaos; it can easily be proposed as the opposite of doux, which means gentle, sweet, suave. Opposing the two words desordre and doux, Petit seems to be doing a pun on Le Doux’ name, as well as accusing him of being responsible for the expense and confusion at Burley on account of his “games and tragedies”.

I can see no way that this Mr Le Desordre can be anyone else but Mr Le Doux. Petit would not refer, without further explanation, to someone who has not previously appeared in his letters to Bacon. Nor can Mr Le Desordre refer to disorder as a concept, because “concepts” do not invent games or write tragedies. In pure logic Petit would be referring to a man that belongs in the household; a man he dislikes and of whose status among the Harington family he is clearly envious, as is apparent in practically every letter in which he mentions Le Doux.

When interpreting Petit’s letter, Gustav Ungherer6 has assumed that Mr le desordre means the Lord of Misrule; that may be so, but Petit is fond of puns and jeux de mots, a fact of which there is ample evidence in the letters. For example, he makes an anagram of questionable taste of Ida Du Wault’s name to read as du Vi du valet 7 (Petit obtains this anagram by splitting the W into two Vs for vit and valet), and in another letter he calls her Mzlle Vaultrien (Miss Worth-nothing.)

In a letter of uncertain date, in January, moreover, he not only seems to refer to Le Doux and De Wault as “fornicateurs” but more interestingly, begs his master (je vous supplie) to remove him, Petit, from the house, or else he will “ruin” Mr Le Doux and the nun, (ou je ruinerait Mr Le Doux et la nonain). How he intends to “ruin” them is not obvious, unless he means to cause them physical harm, as he was already doing his best to ruin their reputation, and one wonders what he could have actually done to carry out his threat; if Mr Le Doux however, were somebody in hiding, or in some sort of awkward position, Petit’s threat might be more meaningful than it appears at first.

In any case, we know that Le Doux travelled to London with Sir John Harington before the end of January, supposedly carrying with him two letters from Ide Du Wault: One to Mr Castol dated 14/24th January and another to a Madame Vilegre, dated 16/26th January.

I say “supposedly”, because in the letter received by A. Bacon on January 30th, Petit confirms that Le Doux has left Burley, and after referring to Du Wault as Mzele Waultrien,8 he sends Bacon a copy of the letters “that she thinks she has sent through her… (Wraight suggests the unreadable word could be “lover”): Petit also says that Du Wault refers to Le Doux’ departure as “precipitate.”

Then we find a letter9 in which Anthony Bacon informs Petit that he has asked Le Doux to send him, Petit, back to Bacon (in London) and to thank Lord Harington very affectionately for the favour he did me, etc” This is interesting: What favour was that? Giving shelter to Le Doux perhaps?

This letter, although addressed to Petit, is recorded by Bacon as having been sent to both Petit and Le Doux: (A Mr Le Doux et Jacques Petit, le 2….de janvier 1596), leaving us once more without a first name for Le Doux; the date starts with a 2, so it says either 2xieme (2nd) or 29vieme (29th) de Janvier, 1596.

The year date seems clear to me, so if Bacon were using the OS, Julian, calendar, the 2nd January 1596 would mean the 12th January 1597, Gregorian, which scenario would place Le Doux back in Burley for one more year. If, on the other hand, Bacon were using the Gregorian calendar, the 2nd January 1596 seems impossible, in view of the dates we have for all those January documents, whereas the 29th January 1596, Gregorian, would mean that Bacon wrote that letter one day before Petit wrote to him saying Le Doux had already left with Sir John.

And, if that were the case, we might remember (for what it’s worth), that Le Doux had left Burley “precipitately” a few days after Petit had threatened to “ruin” him, and before Anthony Bacon had recalled him. But, between the confusion on dates and the diffculty I find in taking Petit’s threat seriously, I leave the matter for the moment with a big question mark.

Going back to Mr Le Desordre, I think we can take, for lack of a better explanation, that Mr Le Desordre is Mr Le Doux., which brings us to the next wonderful item of information. On some –unreadable- date of January 1596, Petit writes to Anthony Bacon a letter recounting the festivities of Christmas and New Year, for which so many preparations had been undertaken during December. Explaining the abundance of food, drink, music and other jollities that had been available, he then adds that the London Players had come, and after being made to perform on the very evening of their arrival, had been sent away the following day.

In the event, the tragedie de Mr le desordre that the London Players (les commediens de Londres) performed in the Harington household on New Year’s Day was Titus Andronicus10, preceded by a Mask “invented” by Sir Edward Wingfield. (Sir Edward was married to Mary, one of Sir John’s sisters.)

(“On a fait ici une masquerade de l’invention de Sir Ed. Wingfield, on a joue aussi la tragedia de Titus Andronicus, mais la monstre a plus valeur que la piece.).  


I am assuming that the words la monstre mean “the show”, as per the French verb montrer, which means to show.

When writing about the “expense and confusion” on 14th December, Petit was probably not exaggerating. As we know from Henslowe’s Diary, Titus Andronicus had been performed in the public playhouses, possibly on a large, double stage on two levels; adapting the show for a private house would have required major stage alterations that could have caused a lot of expense and confusion, indeed.

As we are told, the London Players were in the house for just the one evening, so they could not have prepared a suitable space within the house for such complicated performance in that one evening. It seems also reasonable to surmise that the Players would have been told well in advance which tragedie they were to represent at Burley. Meanwhile, Le Doux, and perhaps Sir John and the ladies, had been since mid December having enormous fun, making plans and seeing them carried out, for the refurbishment of some big hall in the house, to make the production of Titus Andronicus possible for les commediens de Londres.  So, that seems to fit.

Petit’s spiteful remarks about the show being better than the piece are consistent with the dislike he shows for Le Doux, throughout his letters to Bacon. If he knew that Le Doux was the author, he could not refrain from rubbishing the text, although he praised the Players’ performance, perhaps because the Patron of such Players was among the guests.

As for those commediens de Londres, Ungerer analyzes the likelihood of the various Companies of Actors who would have known the play.

The Play (titus & ondronicus) was performed by the Sussex Men, according to Henslowe’s diary, on 23th and 28th Jan 1593/44. Then, always according to Henslowe, the Admirall men and/or My Lorde Chamberlen men, (Henslowe’s list does not specify which of these two Companies performed which of the listed plays), performed it on 5th June 1594 (four days before the recorded performance of Hamlet), and again on 12th June.11

The title page of the 1Q (Stationer’s Register February 6th 1594; published by Ion Danter the same year) says that the play was acted by the Honourable Earle of Darbie, Earle of Pembrooke and Earle of Sussex their Seruants. However, the 2Quarto (1600), adds the Chamberlain’s Men to these Companies, while the title page of 3Q (1611) excludes all Companies except the Chamberlain’s Men, which were then the Kings Men.

According to Ungerer, when it comes to conjecture which of these companies acted at Burley-on-the-Hill in the New Year of 1595/6, we need to consider the following facts: The Admiral’s Men were engaged by the Queen at Court on the same night; the Chamberlain’s Men, with only nine days at their disposal between December 28, 1595 and January 6th, 1595/6, would have had to leave London on the 29th travelling to Burley at an unusual speed, in order to arrive in time for a single private performance. The Earl of Sussex’s Men had disappeared by now as a Company (even if it may have merged with the Queen’s Men). This seems to leave us with Derby’s and Pembroke’s Men unaccounted for.

Ungerer does not come to any conclusion, but on the light of his comments and of the special circumstances of the event, I would vote for the Pembroke Men. Considering that Sir John Harington’s mother was Lucy Sydney, and that his New Year’s party seems to have been a huge family affair by all accounts, I find it quite plausible that the Earl and Countess of Pembroke were probably present and may have been happy to cover the expense of their Men, travelling to Burley for just one evening. That said, which London Players came to Burley for this occasion, is probably irrelevant, except for the question as to whether they knew Marlowe personally or not, whether they saw Le Doux or not, and what importance it would have had if they did.



Crossing the Channel


I am including this document here for what I believe to be the interest of the letter itself, not because it seems to be at this point particularly relevant to the Le Doux research.

First of all I must point out that here is another case of the unreliability of apparent dates I was mentioning above. On the margin of the document, written sideways, there is a note: “De Jacques Petit, le 4eme Feburier 159?” The last digit is unclear, but it seemed to me to say 1596. We know from the documents referred to above that it could not have been 1595/6, when Petit was at Burley writing frantic letters to Bacon about Le Doux and Du Wault. The printed Index in the LPL indicates the year 1597, which would be consistent with the apparent 1596 (OS) in the MS itself. However, the day that Petit starts this Diary, the 6th of January 1596, was a Tuesday in the Julian, Old Style calendar, and a Saturday in the Gregorian calendar. In 1597, January 6th was a Thursday (Julian) or Monday (Gregorian). In fact we only find January 6th to be a Friday in 1595 (Gregorian), and in 1598 (Julian).


This discovery not only gives us new food for thought as to Petit’s movements, but, as I said above, may also require that we revise several year-dates in the Bacon Papers in order to establish which Calendar is being used, and this can only be done by double-checking against week-days whenever possible, and/or following up on events and/or information dated beyond the tricky months of January, February and March. Once we know which Calendar is being used in each document, we must remember to add or detract the ten days’ difference that existed between the two.

(In this respect for example, we will find that the letter written from Middleburg by Le Doux to Anthony Bacon, dated 22nd June 1596 would have meant 12th June in England, because the Baron Zeroitin in his letter to the Earl of Essex, also from Middleburg, also dated 22nd June, explicitly says he is using the Gregorian Calendar. Even if we cannot be certain that Le Doux had crossed the Channel with Zeroitin, both men seem to have entrusted their letters to the same Courier.) 

The second reason why I think this letter from Petit is interesting to Marlovian researchers has to do with the information it gives us about Channel crossing conditions in the Sixteenth Century; a matter of extraordinary importance when it comes to speculating as to who might have been where, when.

As we will see, Petit’s Diary (Journal) sheds abundant light on the matter, and goes a long way to prove that making exact plans about arrival, or even departure, dates across the Channel may have been futile.

Reading this document we realize that it took Petit nearly a week to go from England to The Hague. We also realize that the precise dates of departure and arrival were a matter of chance. The crossing could have been done in two or three days, it also might have been delayed even longer. Contrary winds, bad weather, a greedy Captain, pirates, enemy ships. There are other documents telling a similar story that I will endeavour to publish in the near future.


So here is the letter:

Jacques Petit: Journal de passage from Gravesend to The Hague.


Recorded by Anthony Bacon as follows:


De Jacques Petit, le 4eme Feburier 159?


Below is the transcription (in italics) and English translation, of a two-page document preserved among the Bacon Papers in the Lambeth Palace Archives (Trip MS65, f34 r/v.). It is a letter from Jacques Petit to Anthony Bacon.

For easier reading, I have placed each translated paragraph just under its French transcription.


Memoire de nôtre passage depuis Gravesend jusques a La Haye en Hollande:


Memory of our Crossing from Gravesend to The Hague in Holland.

Vendredi, le six de Janvier sommes parties de Gravesend & avec la Maree sommes descendus jusques a Lee por le minuit.  Le vent et la maree  estant contraires, le maitre du navire est retourné a Gravesend pour avoir davantage de passagers  et faire mieux son profit.


Friday, January sixth (1) we have set off from Gravesend and sailed down with the tide, reaching Lee at midnight. As we had the wind and the tide against us, the Captain of the vessel took us back to Gravesend to find more passengers so he could make more money.


Sammedi nous n’avons point bougé de la a cause que le vent estoit toujours mauvais.

Saturday we have not moved because the wind was still bad.


Dimanche de grand matín, avec bon vent et la maree, sommes descendus jusque a Lee, puis a la seconde maree sommes arrives a Lands End. La nuit avec peu de vent avons passé Dunkirk et jetté l’ancre entre Ostend et Newport.


Sunday, early in the morning, with good wind and the tide, we sailed to Lee, then with the second tide we arrived at Lands End. At night with little wind, we passed Dunkirk and anchored between Ostend and Newport.

Lundi il a eté calme tellment que n’avons peu bouge de tout ce jour jousques avec la maree.


Monday it was so calm that we have moved very little all day, until the tide.

Mardi sommes arrives a Fleshingue ou nos passagers (qui n’avaint ni vivres ni argent) on mis pied a terre. et de 20  ou 25 qu’ils estoint  il ny a a pas 20 qui ayent paye pour leur passage. Cestoit telle racailleque  c’est merveille que n’ayons ete submerges. Et que l’enemy ne nous aye pris veu les blasphemes et les vilanies quon y profiroit et endurcit  tant des homes et des femmes   &  le mauvais gouvernement plein de nonchalance de nos mariniers.


Tuesday, we arrived at Flushing, where our passengers (who had neither food nor money) disembarked, and out of the 20 or 25 there were, not 20 had paid for their trip. They were such riff-raff that it’s a miracle we didn’t drown. And that the enemy did not take us despite the blasphemies and villainies they proffered, both the men and the women, and the bad managing of the indifferent sailors.

Ceux de Flesingue qui vinrent regarder nôtre Flibot chargé de chaux (a la valeur seulement de 30p sterling) et de ces passagers nous demandant si l’enemy nous avoit rencontres s’estonoit d’entendre que non, disant qu’il y avait et navires et scouters de Dunkirk que auront rode les alentours tout hier et la nuit passé.


Those of Flushing who came to inspect our Flyboat loaded with lime (at the value of only 30d sterling) (2) and of those passengers were asking us if we had met the enemy and they were surprised when we said we hadn’t, saying that there were vessels and scouters (3) from Dunkirk that would have been roaming around all of yesterday and last night.


Mercredi:  Nous sommes arrives a Dort, et de la a Rotterdam, puis de Rotterdam jusques a Delft ou nous avons couche.


Wednesday: We arrived to Dort (4), and, from there (continued) to Rotterdam, then to Delft, where we have stayed the night.


Jeudi:  Au matin nous sommes arrives a La Haye ou nous nous sommes retires chex un Mr Daniel Anglois (name unclear), ou Sir Francies Ver a aussi son logis. La nous avons mis les hardes de Sr William Woodhouse, et faissons nôtre ordinaire ailleurs lequel revient pour nous 5, a un angelot par jour, ce qui est le moins que l’on puisse payer car tout est extremement cher.


Thursday: In the morning we arrived at The Hague where we rested in the house of one Mr Daniel Anglois (name unclear), where Sir Francis Ver also lives. There, we changed into some rags (provided by) Sir William Woodehouse, and we are staying in an Inn which costs us 5 one angelot (5) each day, which is the least one can pay, because everything is extremely expensive. 


Si nous n’entendons point bientôt des nouvelles de Mr W. Wodehouse, il nous faudra vivre a credit car son despensier dit qu’íl n’a plus d’argent de son maistre et commence déjà a nous laisser faire comme nous pourrons.


If we don’t hear soon from Mr William Woodehouse we will need to live on credit, because his agent says he has no more money from his master and is already leaving us to fend for ourselves. 




(1) The denomination of sterling is difficult to make out, as the letter after 30 is not clear. However, having consulted my colleague Anthony Kellett about the possible relative prices of lime at the time, and discarding absolutely the it may refer to pounds sterling, the probable meaning seems to be 30d, rather than 30s, particularly in view of Petit qualifying the sum with the word “only”.  Here follows Kellett’s information:

One cubic metre of lime would cost around four shillings (48d) in Holland, in 1596; and weigh roughly one tonne (though both price and weight would vary, based on the actual material described as “lime”). Therefore, as an approximation, Petit’s transport either carried around 7 cubic metres (7 tonnes), and was worth 30 shillings; or less than one tonne (one cubic metre) and was worth 30d.  ”…Anthony Kellett. 

(2) scouters may mean “privateers”. If they were “from Dunkirk”, as the letter says, they would have been under Spanish orders. Dunkirk was taken in 1583 by Spanish forces led by the Duke of Parma. It became a base for the Dunkirkers, a series of ships that acted both as pirates, and as part of the Spanish “Armada de Flandes” (Flemish Armada).

(3) Dort, or Dordrecht, in Dutch.

(4) This would be the second time we find, in the Bacon Papers, Jacques Petit referring to “an angelôt” as 10 shillings. It would also seem that Petit’s travelling party could have consisted of five people, but that is not clear. 

(My sincerest thanks to LCR Seeley and Anthony Kellett for their invaluable help in translating and making sense of this document. Thanks also to S. Foster for sharing his Channel navigation experience with me. I wish to thank Cynthia Morgan as well, for her help and suggestions. )


© Isabel Gortázar , January 2012






1 Bacon Papers. Lambeth Palace Library.

2 AD Wright: AD Wright: Shakespeare, New Evidence. Adam Hart Publishers Ltd. 1996. Also online at: http://www.themarlowestudies.org

3 See Farey’s extensive research at: http://www2.prestel.co.uk/rey/title.htm. Also at: http://www.themarlowestudies.org

4 Huguenots and Walloons were French and French-speaking Flemish Calvinists respectively.

5 J. Petit, Dec 14th 1595. LPL: MS 652 f. 243v. My translation.

6 Ungherer, Gustav: “An unrecorded Elizabethan performance of Titus Andronicus.” Shakespeare Survey, Vol 14, Cambridge 1961.

7 LPL: MS 654, f. 69.

8 LPL: MS 654, f. 13, received 30th Jan.

9 LPL MS 654 f 248v

10 This is, to my knowledge, the only private production of TA on record between 1594 and 1660.

11 For the dates of performances here mentioned, I have followed the information given in my copy of Henslowe’s Diary, edited by R.A. Foakes; Cambridge University Press 2002.










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