Thomas Nashe (November 1567 - ?1600) was an English Elizabethan pamphleteer, poet and satirist. Son of William Nashe a minister and Margaret his wife.
Baptized in Lowestoft, Suffolk. The family moved to West Harling, near Thetford in 1573. Around 1581 Thomas went up to St John's College, Cambridge gaining his bachelor's degree in 1586. Then he moved to London and started his literary career.
It does not appear that Nashe ever proceeded Master of Arts at Cambridge, and most of his biographers agree that he left his college about 1587. It is evident, however, that he had got into disgrace, and probably was expelled; for the author of "England to her three Daughters" in "Polimanteia," 1595, speaking of Harvey and Nashe, and the pending quarrel between them, uses these terms: "Cambridge make thy two children friends: thou hast been unkind to the one to wean him before his time, and too fond upon the other to keep him so long without preferment: the one is ancient and of much reading; the other is young, but full of wit." The cause of his disgrace is reported to have been the share he took in a piece called "Terminus et non Terminus," not now extant; and it is not denied that his partner in this offence was expelled. Most likely, therefore, Nashe suffered the same punishment.
If Nashe be the author of An Almond for a Parrot, of which there is little doubt, although his name is not affixed to it, he travelled in Italy; and we find from another of his pieces that he had been in Ireland. Perhaps he went abroad soon after he abandoned Cambridge, and before he settled in London and became an author. His first appearance in this character seems to have been in 1589, and we believe the earliest date of any tract attributed to him relating to Martin Marprelate is also 1589. He was the first, as has been frequently remarked, to attack this enemy of the Church with the keen missiles of wit and satire, throwing aside the lumbering and unserviceable weapons of scholastic controversy. Having set the example in this respect, he had many followers and imitators, and among them John Lyly, the dramatic poet, the author of "Pap with a Hatchet."
In London Nashe became acquainted with Robert Greene, and their friendship drew him into a long literary contest with Gabriel Harvey, to which Nash owes much of his reputation. It arose out of the posthumous attack of Harvey upon Robert Greene, of which sufficient mention has been made elsewhere. Nash replied on behalf of his dead companion, and reiterated the charge which had given the original offence to Harvey, viz., that his brother was the son of a ropemaker. One piece was humorously dedicated to Richard Litchfield, a barber of Cambridge, and Harvey answered it under the assumed character of the same barber, in a tract called "The Trimmino of Thomas Nash," which also contained a woodcut of a man in fetters.
He remained in London apart from periodic visits to the countryside to avoid the plague, and in 1597, following the supression of The Isle of Dogs (co-written with Ben Jonson), Jonson was jailed, but Nashe was able to escape to the country. He remained for some time in Great Yarmouth before returning to London.
He was alive in 1599, when his last known work Nashes Lenten Stuffe was published, and dead by 1601, when he was memorialized in a Latin verse in Affaniae by Charles Fitzjeoffrey.
He was featured in Thomas Dekker's News from Hell and the anonymous The Three Parnassus Plays, which provides this epitaph:
Let all his faults sleep with his mournful chest
And there for ever with his ashes rest
His style was witty, though it had some gall;
Some things he might have mended, so may all.
Yet this I say, that for a mother of wit,
Few men have ever seen the like of it.
Works by Thomas Nashe
1589 The Anatomy of Absurdity
1590 Preface to Greene's Menaphon
1590 An Almond for a Parrot
1592 Pierce Penniless
1592 Summer's Last Will (play performed 1592, published 1600)
1592 Strange News
1593 Christ's Tears over Jerusalem
1594 Terrors of the Night
1594 The Unfortunate Traveller
1596 Have with You to Saffron Walden
1597 Isle of Dogs (Lost)
1599 Nashe's Lenten Stuff
He is also credited with the erotic poem The Choice of Valentines and his name appears on the title page of Christopher Marlowe's Dido, Queen of Carthage, though there is uncertainty as to what Nashe's contribution was. Some editions of this play, still extant in the 18th century but now unfortunately lost, contained memorial verses on Marlowe.