Beggars Bush: A Perambulation through the Disciplines of History, Geography, Archaeology, Literature, Philology, Natural History, Botany, Biography & Beggary

Henry Chettle – probably not “H.C.”

The Dialogue of Silvynne and Peregrynne contains the earliest literary reference to an identified contemporaneous location, at Philipstown, (now Daingean), County Offally, Ireland;

“Then they passed aloofe for feare of the greate ordynaunce of the forte, which dismayed them mightely, but yet they burned the moste parte of the subberbs withowt the north gate called beggars bush to the hinderance, and undoinge of many an honest subiect.”


The Dialogue of Silvynne and Peregrynne is addressed to the Earl of Essex by “H.C”. and modelled on Edmund Spenser’s A View of the Present State of Ireland (ca. 1596). The involvement of authors in intelligence and propaganda was not unusual, and the work may have been an attempt to seek advancement. As this is a literary work referring to a real physical location the identity of the author is less important than in purely literary usages.

It is now attributed to Hugh Collier, an obscure messenger and spy. It has been linked to Henry Chettle on stylistic grounds. There are three other works by “H.C.” sometimes attributed to Chettle and he is recorded as the author of other works based on contemporary events, including a popular eulogy on the death of Queen Elizabeth, “Englandes Mourning Garment”, and “A true list of the whole number that hath dies since the time of the last sicknes of the plague began  . . . to October the sixt 1603”. However, he is not known to have been in Ireland at the time though there is a gap in his career. He is associated with many authors who did use the phrase Beggars Bush.

Henry Chettle

Henry Chettle was the son of a London dyer. He became a member of the Stationer’s Company in 1584, travelling to Cambridge on their behalf in 1588. His career as a printer and author is described by DNB “shadowy”. He may have set up some of the tracts printed in response to Martin Marprelate. In 1591, he entered into partnership with William Hoskins & John Danter, two not very reputable stationers who published a good many ballads, and some plays, including a surreptitious & botched first quarto of Romeo and Juliet, to which it is suggested Chettle added lines and stage directions. Although few of his writings survive Chettle was clearly connected with playwrights and the stage before 1590. In 1598 Meres named him among “our best for comedy”.

In 1592 Chettle published Greene’s Groatsworth of wyt, supposedly the work of the recently deceased, and very popular, Robert Greene. This offended several contemporary writers including Christopher Marlow, and Thomas Nashe. Although he denied it Chettle was widely suspected of having been the author, and modern textual analysis supports this suspicion. The Dialogue of Silvynne and Peregrynne appears between this and Chettle’s first appearance in the Diary of Philip Henslowe.

Chettle made a greater number of small borrowings from Henslowe than any other person, including a loan in January 1599 to obtain his release from debtor’s prison at Marshalsea, and from arrest for debt again later that year. These and Henslowe’s casual records of them suggest some friendship between them. Henslowe lists payments to him for 36 plays between 1598 & 1603, and he may been involved in as many as 50 plays, although only a dozen seem to be his alone. Chettle had regular associations with John Dekker, with Henry Porter, and after 1600 with John Day, who probably killed Porter. Little of his work has survived. He died before 1607, when Dekker described thus joining the poets in Elysium: “in comes Chettle sweating and blowing by reason of his fatness”.


Old DNB & DNB Henry Chettle


Dr Hiram Morgan, Department of History, University College, Cork, Ireland

Posted: April 25th, 2011 | Filed under: Writers | Tags: , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Leave a Reply