Deposition of Henry Sharpe (15 Oct. 1589)

Henry Sharpe, the “binder’ (that is, stitcher) of the Marprelate tracts, was a leading figure in the Northamptonshire puritan community (Sheils, 170). He seems from his own deposition not always to have been entirely trusted by the project’s central figures: he asked a lot of questions and was given evasive answers. Sharpe seems also to have had a grievance against Humphrey Newman, the distributor of the tracts, for (in Sharpe’s view) monopolizing the economic opportunities the tracts represented. On his capture in September 1589, Sharpe supplied a valuably detailed account of the project’s activities, particularly concerning the role of the printers Robert Waldegrave and John Hodgkins, and of three of the households that had harbored the press, those of Sir Richard Knightley, John Hale, and Roger Wigston and his wife. The records of his preliminary examination in September do not survive, but they are cited in the summary of evidence compiled on September 21 (document 14). Information from this apparently more formal deposition, made in October, appears repeatedly in subsequent summaries of evidence (documents 15, 16, 17). Sharpe’s testimony, however, needs to be set against other, and later, testimony. Many of the dates he provides are contradicted by other witnesses, and in his evident eagerness to cooperate with authorities he offered conjectures and speculations about events about which he lacked first-hand knowledge.

Sharpe’s curiosity did elicit some valuable information not only about the movements of the press but also about the thinking that lay behind the Marprelate project. He reports the claim that the first Marprelate tract was compiled from notes made by John Field, and he quotes John Penry’s claim that the models of learned satire provided by writers such as Theodore Beza, Philips van Marnix van Sant Aldegonde, and Caelius Curio legitimated Martinist style.

Source: British Library Lansdowne MS 830/14, fols. 114-18. Printed in Arber (1879), 94-104 from British Library Harley MS 7042, fols. 15-19, an early 18th-century transcription by the antiquary Thomas Baker.


Henry Sharpe sworne and examined by the apoyntment of the L: Chauncelor of England
[Sir Christopher Hatton] the xvth day of October 1589 sayeth as followeth

A. Concerninge the first booke of Martin Marprelate this examinat sayth yt came owt in the beginninge of December 1588 and was printed at Kingstone upon Tames as this examinate gathereth by Mr Penryes wordes.

B. Before the sayd first Martin was published this examinate did see yt at Northampton beinge printed in Mr Penryes handes: and asking him who made yt: his aunswere was that some such notes were founde in Mr [John] Feildes study: that Mr Feild upon his death bed willed they should be burnt, and repented for collectinge them: whereby this examinate was satisfyed supposinge yt to have been of Mr Feildes doinge. Mr Penry then told this examinate also that Walgrave had printed yt: that Walgrave had had yt a good while to printe: that Walgrave had printed yt now agaynst his will, for that sayth he I wold have had my booke agaynst Dr [Robert] Some first printed [STC 19604, Penry’s A defence].

C. Beinge further demaunded who was the corrector of this first booke in the printinge of yt, this examinate sayth he is uncertayne. Howbeyt he supposeth yt was one Mr [John] Udall then of Kingstone: for that the Demonstration of discipline [STC 24499] which Mr Penry told him was of Udalles makinge, was abowt the same time printed there at Kingstone also with the first Martin.

D. The presse that printed this first Martin was Mr Penryes: but Walgrave the printer had the commodity of the sale therof as Penry told this examinate.

E. Abowt the latter ende of Christmas holydayes Mr Penry talked with this examinate concerninge the fetchinge of the presse from Kingstone for that he feared (as he sayd) that yt was knowen to be there. And did afterwardes send one Jeffes of Upton a husbandman and tennaunt of Mr Valentyne Knightlyes, who did fetche yt with his carte, and had for his paynes and chardges fifty shillinges as Mr Penry told this examinate. [fol. 144v]

F. Before this presse came downe, Walgrave as this examinate sayth had conference with Sir Richard Knightly at a Muster in Northampton and was also at his howse with him as he thinketh and for Penry, that he is very familiar with the sayd Knightly.

G. When the presse came downe which was in January, yt was caryed to Fawesley to Sir Richard Knightlyes howse as this examinate thinketh: and there the Epitome was printed by Walgrave, Penry beinge the corrector himselfe as he thinketh. It came owt and was published in February as he thinketh.

H. This examinate never saw this presse at Fawsley. But these reasons he hath whereby he is induced so to thinke. A mayde that had dwelt with the keeper of the howse there at that tyme gave yt owt as this examinate hath hard it reported that there had been bookes printed lately at Fawsley. Newman told this examinate that the Epitome was printed there: one Steven a man of Sir Richard Knightlyes told him that he the sayd Steven caryed the presse thence. The voyce of the country was that this booke was printed at Fawsley and that there was a presse there. Mr Valentine Knightley talkinge upon a time with this examinate abowt this matter: sayd he was very sory that ever his Father suffered any such thing to come abowt this howse, affirminge that owt of doubt it wold bringe his father to great troubles.

I. Agayne he this examinate talkinge upon a tyme with Sir Richard Knightley, and sayinge he wondered how he wold aunswere this matter of printinge of this Booke yf yt were knowen, and whether he was not affrayd least his howse shold have been searched considering that Mr Baker the officiall and diverse others, had the beinge of the presse there in their mouthes? Sir Richard aunswered thus in effect: Lett me alone: the knaves durst not search my howse, yf they had I wold have courst [i.e., coursed or chased] them they know well inough: but now yt is gone and that danger is past.

K. As this examinate thinketh, when these bookes were printed they were brought from Fawsley by Mr Penryes meanes. At one time he went with Mr Penry within a myle of Fawsley and stayed in a field there by Penryes apoyntment baytinge his horse: and so in the meane tyme Mr Penry [fol. 115r] went to Fawsley, and brought a clokebagge with bookes behind him, and on the morrow this examinate had some of the Epitomes brought to his howse, as he thinketh by Mr Penryes apoyntment, for that he payed unto Penry the monny due for them.

L. Abowt three or fower dayes after (as this examinate remembreth) Newman was at Northampton, who caryed up these bookes as he thinketh to London beinge bownde [i.e., stitched] by Walgrave himselfe at Fawsley.

M. When this second booke came owt, then this examinate as he sayth beganne to suspect Penry to be the author of yt. And talkinge with him told him as much, alledginge this reason. Surely sayth this Examinate I thinke this booke (the Epitome) to be of your makinge, bicause there are two or three phrases in the epistle of yt, which are youres certaynly, and you have used them in other of your writings: whereunto Mr Penry gave no aunswer but lawghed. Besides this examinate beganne then likewise to suspect Penry for the author of the first booke: in that Mr Feild beinge dead, this booke came owt, which was promised in the first: and furthermore the same suspition was also generally amongst his favorers receaved for a truth. Newman in like sorte affirmed to this examinate that Penry was thought generally at London, to be the author of these bookes.

N. After that time upon some other occasion this examinate askinge Mr Penry whether this were a lawfull course that Martin had taken in the two sayd bookes to jest in such sorte, and to detect to the world such mens infirmityes: he aunswered that godly men had taken heretofore the like course, as Mr Beza in his booke named Passavantius: the author of the Bee Hive, Pasquine in a traunce &c.

O. Upon the foresayd suspition and common speach in the contrye of the presse beinge at Sir Richard Knightlyes yt was sent thence as this examinate sayth by Steven Sir Rich: man (one whome he used secretly in these matters) unto the fryers [White Friars] in Coventrye where Mr Hales dwelleth, after yt had been at Sir Rich: Knightleys abow three weekes as he thinketh. This was signifyed to this examinate by the sayd Steven as they were ridinge together over a gutter: where Steven told this examinate he was never so affrayd as he was lest his carte shold have stucke fast in the same gutter as he was driving it to Coventrye. [fol. 115v]

P. When this presse was there setled then beganne Walgrave to printe the Mineralls [the third Marprelate tract, the broadsheet Certain Mineral and Metaphysical Schoolpoints] which he had of Mr Penry: and after sent them to this examinates howse in number abowt a thowsand where Newman was ready within a day to receyve them, and so leavinge with this examinate abowt fifty or more the rest he tooke towardes London.

Q. This pamphlett was shewed by Penry to this examinate in written hand, before yt was printed. He did commend yt unto him, as a pretty thinge to be sett owt before the other bookes. He heard him then read yt in writing: and he told this examinate that yt was sent him from London. Howbeyt when yt came owt in printe which was about the 20th of February this examinate beganne then to suspect yt, to be of Penrys makinge, bicause there were some tauntes agaynst Dr Some in the printed, which he did not remember were in the written copy which he had heard read before.

R. Next to this pamphlett the Supplication [STC 19613, John Penry’s A viewe] was there printed which came owt before the middest of Lent. In the time of the printinge of this sayde booke this examinate did ryde with Penry to Coventrye: and there askinge him yf they might not goe to see Waldgrave, no sayth he: for Walgrave perceavinge that my often goinge to Fawsley did make the place to be suspected, hath forbidden me to come at him.

S. That day this examinate was with Penry at Mr Pigottes in that city. That afternoone Mr Hales and Mr Penry goinge towards the fryers [White Friars] this examinate followed them, but they seinge him beckned that he should goe backe, and so he went that night to Wolston fower miles thence.

T. Abowt a fortnight after, this examinates beinge at Coventrye the sayd Supplication came owt which was before midlent: at which time this examinate beinge at Wolston, Newman came unto him thither and havinge with him at Mr Wigstons about a thowsand of the sayd bookes, desired this examinate to binde [i.e., stitch] them; which he refused to doe there: but helped him to carry them to Northampton and there bound them. Which beinge done Newman lefte abowt a hundreth with this examinate and caryed the rest towardes London as this examinate thinketh. Mr Penry was at this tyme with Newman at Mr Wigstons. This examinate payd Penry for the said hundred bookes. [fol. 166r]

V. As sone as this Supplication was thus dispatched then Hay any worke for the Cooper [the fourth Marprelate tract] went in hand (as this examinate thinketh). This booke was about three weekes in printing: In which space this examinate being at Sir Richard Knightlyes and signifyinge that he was ridinge to his father in lawes: Steven told him that he shold beare him company. And riding together, Steven told this examinate that he was ridinge to Coventry to fetch some new bookes. This examinate went after to Wolston: and the next day Steven came to him in his jorney homewarde and told him they were not yet ready and that he must come agayne for them a weeke after.

W. Abowt a weeke after this time, which was abowt Palme Sonday [March 23, 1589] this examinate beinge in Northampton, Newman brought unto him abowt seven hundred of the bookes Hay any worke for Cooper: and then he told this examinate that Walgrave had sent some of his parte of the sayd bookes already to London which were abowt two hundred and moe. This examinate bounde up the sayd seven hundred bookes: and Newman tooke them away with him all but an hundred which he left with this examinates wife: and after his retorne did fetch the most of them agayne: for the which this examinate did chyde with Newman, for that he was loth to have any to gayne but him selfe.

X. This booke this examinate thinketh to be of Mr Penryes makinge: for that there is the same reason made in that booke for the lawfullnes in jestinge, which he made to this examinate before the booke was printed.

About this time the search for these matters beinge very hot: Steven Sir Rich: Knightlyes man was conveyed owt of the way for a time, as afterward the sayd Steven confessed to this examinate.

In the Easter weeke this examinate beinge at his father in lawes at Wolston, Walgrave came thyther, and dininge with this examinate: after they walked into the feildes and there this examinate askinge him what newes: he answered: that now all was dispatched, and that the Milne [i.e., Mill, their code word for the press] was not goinge (for that was the phrase of theyr printinge) that he wold no longer meddle or be a dealer in this course, partly because sayth he all the preachers that I have conferred withall doe mislike yt: but chiefly for that he [fol. 116v] had now gotten the thinge he had longe desired which was Mr [Thomas] Cartwrightes testament agaynst the Jesuites [STC 4709, not published until 1618, though Waldegrave published the preface in 1602 (STC 4716)] as Mr Penry told this examinate afterward and sayd he wold goe printe yt in Devonshyre. Furthermore this examinate askinge him how yt chaunced that he looked so palely: he aunswered that one of Mr Hales men kept him so closely at worke that for that time he had lived as in a prison and could not have oftentimes warme meate.

Y. Abowt this time of Easter this examinate findinge how he was layd for by the high commissioners and understanding withall how the Lord Chauncelor [Sir Christopher Hatton] was offended with him, was purposinge to have offred himselfe of his owne accorde into theyr handes especially unto the Lord Chauncelor. And did thereupon conferre with Sir Richard Knightly who did disswade him from that purpose, sayinge that yf he went now up they were presently so moved as surely they wolde hange him, and so willed him to withdraw himselfe untill they were better pacifyed.

Z. After the sayd Easter weeke this examinate did not meet with Mr Penry as he remembreth untill about May day: And then askinge him what became of Walgrave and whether they sholde have any more new bookes: he aunswered that Walgrave was surely in hand in some corner with the printinge of Mr Cartwrightes Testament: that he looked daily for his Appellation from him, and that then he shold goe in hand with More worke for Cooper, and further sayd that Wallgrave had the dutch letters with him.

Not longe after that is a litle before Whitsontide as this examinate remembreth Mr Penry hearinge that Walgrave was gone to Rochell, dealt with this examinate and asked him yf he could not worke abowt the presse: he aunswered that he could in some sorte, but that he wold not so doe except the Lord Chauncelor refused to remitt him. And thereupon this examinat sent his wife to the Lord Chauncelor with a supplication to that purpose.

A little after Whitsontide Mr Penry dispayringe of Walgraves retorne procured as he told this examinate one Hoskins [John Hodgkins] to supply Walgraves place which he willingly undertooke to doe as Hoskins told him likewise afterwarde. [fol. 117r]

Aa. About this Whitsontide Newman had Sir Richard Knightlyes livery with his cognisaunce which he had and ware (as this examinate thinketh) for that therby he might with lesse daunger publishe [i.e., distribute] his bookes and not be taken.

Bb. After this examinates wives goinge to London yt was towardes Midsommer before she returned. At what time Mr Penry hearinge that there wold be no remission obteyned, he then urged agayne this examinate, that accordinge to his promise he wold now helpe Hoskins at the presse: but then this examinate understandinge by his wife how the matter was taken above [i.e., by the authorities], he utterly refused to have any dealinge therein.

Cc. About the said Midsommer Hoskins comminge to Northampton told this examinate that he had sent a presse into the North, to printe some such new bookes as Mr Penry shold sett him on worke withal: and sayed further to this examinate, If I want worke will yow helpe me away with a stampe of Accidentes? [i.e., Accidence, a grammar book] To whom this examinate aunswered when I see them I will tell yow more. Thus Hoskins and this examinate parted, and this examinate did verily thinke for a tyme that Hoskins had been in the North.

Dd. It should seeme that after Walgraves departure the presse beinge packed up, Mr Hales wold suffer no more printinge there: or what els the cawse was this examinate knoweth not: but howsoever, this he thinketh that by Mr Penryes perswasion, Mistress Wigstone cawsed the sayd presse to be fetcht from Coventry in her wagon unto her owne howse in Wolston. But how long this presse remayned at Coventry before yt was fetcht to Wolston this examinate knoweth not.

Ee. Within a fortnight after Midsommer this examinate beinge drawn by necessity to leave Northampton: went to dwell at Wolston with his wives Mother. And after his comminge thither, he fownd that there, for the which he was sory. For whereas he had thought that Hoskins had been printinge in the North he fownd him at worke in Mr Wigstons howse at Wolston, in printinge of Martin Junior and Martin Senior. This Hoskins wrought there very privatly in a low parlour and was kept there under the name of [fol. 117v] an Imbroyderer that the servauntes might know nothinge of the matter. When Martin Junior was printed which was the xxiith of July this examinate helped to make up those bookes in a bedchamber: and beinge so bound, Newman carried thence at the least seven or eyght hundred of them. After within seven or eyght dayes Martin Senior was there likewise printed.

The corrector of these two bookes this examinate thinketh to be Mr Penry: who was there diverse times by startes at Mr Wigstons.

Ff. At this examinates comminge first to Mr Wigstons and finding them printinge these two bookes with that letter that the Supplication was printed withall, he talked with Mr Penry and sayd unto him, that yt wold discry him to be Martin: who made to this examinate a carelesse aunswere and so they past yt over.

Gg. When the last booke Martin Senior was finished Mr Penry and Mistress Wigstone were very earnest with Hoskins to stay there and to printe More worke for the Cooper: which he refused to doe, bicause (as he sayd) he had promised his wife to have been at home three weekes before that tyme: and another reason he gave to this examinate, for that he misliked Mr Penryes presse.

Hh. This examinate further sayth that Mr Wigstone was not of councell with the first beginninge of the printinge of these two bookes, as Mistress Wigstone told this examinate. And further sayth that the said Mistress Wigstone told this examinate that she had desired of her husband leave, to doe a peice of worke at his howse, wherof he wold be content to take no knowledge: and that she obteyned her desire. But afterwards Mr Wigston understood of the matter, and was very angry with his wife: but yet suffred them to finishe that which they had begonne.

Ii. Who caryed the bookes of Martin Senior thence this examinate knoweth not: onely this he sayth that he had bound up those bookes for the caryer of Warwicke (as they sayd) to carry to London, and writt the direction upon the packe for theyr deliveraunce to [fol. 118r] one Lawrence Wood a Taylor dwellinge at the ende of Fishe street to convey them to Newman.

Kk. This examinate upon Hoskins apprehension [August 14, 1589] asked Mr Penry beinge at Wolston what bookes they were then in printinge? who aunswered that he thought they were printinge the Epistle to More worke for the Cooper. He asked likewise, what letter they had? And his aunswere was that they had his owne letter that Martin Junior and Martin Senior were printed withall. Whereunto this examinate replyinge that then both he and this place (meaninge Wolston) wold be more notoriously discryed: his aunswere was that the printers wold salve that, those lettres beinge taken there, and sayinge they printed the other in the same place likewise.

Ll. Beinge demaunded whether Mr Pigott of Coventry was privy to the printinge of any of those bookes which were there printed: aunswereth that of certayne knowledge he is not able to chardge him: howbeyt he supposeth that beinge so familiarly acquainted with Mr Penry and Mr Hales, he knew all those thinges as well as the least as this examinate.

Mm. Beinge demaunded upon occasion of some wordes heard at Mr Harrisons in Paules churchyard, whether he were not certifyed that Mr Pigot of Coventry did chardge this examinate as beinge the cawse that his howse was searched at Coventry: and that agaynst Christian liberty he had done wickedly in taking his oathe before the Lord Chauncelor: this examinate aunswereth that he hath heard some such thinge, but can say nothinge certaynly of yt.

Nn. Beinge further demaunded whether he had no other reasons then are above mentioned wherby he was induced to thinke that Penry was the author of all the sayd bookes of Martin: he aunswereth negatively: savinge that he never saw or knew any other man to deale in suche sorte as Penry did about them.

Oo. The presse wherein they were all printed was Penryes: he was the dealer with men to printe them: he had the bookes with the first: he could talke of them before they were printed, and of the times of theyr comminge forth; he devided stakes (as this examinate hath hearde) with Walgrave for the second, third and fourth Martin, and afterwardes he allowinge of Hoskins after seaven shillinges a Reame for the printinge (as the sayd Hoskins told this examinate) had the commoditye of the sale of Martin Junior and Senior as he thinketh.

By me Henry Sharpe

Chr: [Chistopher] Hatton Canc: [Chancellor]

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