Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions
Charles Mackay

Part 2 out of 5

were, in some degree, tinctured with their fanciful tenets: but before
we speak more fully of these poetical visionaries, it will be
necessary to resume the history of the hermetic folly where we left
off in the former chapter, and trace the gradual change that stole
over the dreams of the adepts. It will be seen that the infatuation
increased rather than diminished as the world grew older.


Among the alchymists who were born in the fifteenth, and
distinguished themselves in the sixteenth century, the first, in point
of date, is John Aurelio Augurello. He was born at Rimini in 1441, and
became Professor of the belles lettres at Venice and Trevisa. He was
early convinced of the truth of the hermetic science, and used to pray
to God that he might be happy enough to discover the philosopher's
stone. He was continually surrounded by the paraphernalia of
chemistry, and expended all his wealth in the purchase of drugs and
metals. He was also a poet, but of less merit than pretensions. His
"Chrysopeia," in which lie pretended to teach the art of making gold,
he dedicated to Pope Leo X, in the hope that the Pontiff would reward
him handsomely for the compliment; but the Pope was too good a judge
of poetry to be pleased with the worse than mediocrity of his poem,
and too good a philosopher to approve of the strange doctrines which
it inculcated: he was, therefore, far from gratified at the
dedication. It is said, that when Augurello applied to him for a
reward, the Pope, with great ceremony and much apparent kindness and
cordiality, drew an empty purse from his pocket, and presented it to
the alchymist, saying, that since he was able to make gold, the most
appropriate present that could be made him, was a purse to put it in.
This scurvy reward was all that the poor alchymist ever got either for
his poetry or his alchymy. He died in a state of extreme poverty, in
the eighty-third year of his age.


This alchymist has left a more distinguished reputation. The most
extraordinary tales were told and believed of his powers. He could
turn iron into gold by his mere word. All the spirits of the air, and
demons of the earth, were under his command, and bound to obey him in
everything. He could raise from the dead the forms of the great men
of other days, and make them appear "in their habit as they lived," to
the gaze of the curious who had courage enough to abide their

He was born at Cologne in 1486, and began, at an early age, the
study of chemistry and philosophy. By some means or other which have
never been very clearly explained, he managed to impress his
contemporaries with a great idea of his wonderful attainments. At the
early age of twenty, so great was his reputation as an alchymist, that
the principal adepts of Paris wrote to Cologne, inviting him to settle
in France, and aid them with his experience in discovering the
philosopher's stone. Honours poured upon him in thick succession; and
he was highly esteemed by all the learned men of his time. Melancthon
speaks of him with respect and commendation. Erasmus also bears
testimony in his favour; and the general voice of his age proclaimed
him a light of literature and an ornament to philosophy. Some men, by
dint of excessive egotism, manage to persuade their contemporaries
that they are very great men indeed: they publish their acquirements
so loudly in people's ears, and keep up their own praises so
incessantly, that the world's applause is actually taken by storm.
Such seems to have been the case with Agrippa. He called himself a
sublime theologian, an excellent jurisconsult, an able physician, a
great philosopher, and a successful alchymist. The world, at last,
took him at his word; and thought that a man who talked so big, must
have some merit to recommend him -- that it was, indeed, a great
trumpet which sounded so obstreperous a blast. He was made secretary
to the Emperor Maximilian, who conferred upon him the title of
Chevalier, and gave him the honorary command of a regiment. He
afterwards became Professor of Hebrew and the belles lettres, at the
University of Dole, in France; but quarrelling with the Franciscan
monks upon some knotty point of divinity, he was obliged to quit the
town. He took refuge in London, where he taught Hebrew and cast
nativities, for about a year. From London he proceeded to Pavia, and
gave lectures upon the writings, real or supposed, of Hermes
Trismegistus; and might have lived there in peace and honour, had he
not again quarrelled with the clergy. By their means his position
became so disagreeable, that he was glad to accept an offer made him
by the magistracy of Metz, to become their Syndic and
Advocate-General. Here, again, his love of disputation made him
enemies: the theological wiseacres of that city asserted, that St.
Anne had three husbands, in which opinion they were confirmed by the
popular belief of the day. Agrippa needlessly ran foul of this
opinion, or prejudice as he called it, and thereby lost much of his
influence. Another dispute, more creditable to his character, occurred
soon after, and sank him for ever in the estimation of the Metzians.
Humanely taking the part of a young girl who was accused of
witchcraft, his enemies asserted, that he was himself a sorcerer, and
raised such a storm over his head, that he was forced to fly the city.
After this, he became physician to Louisa de Savoy, mother of King
Francis I. This lady was curious to know the future, and required her
physician to cast her nativity. Agrippa replied, that he would not
encourage such idle curiosity. The result was, he lost her confidence,
and was forthwith dismissed. If it had been through his belief in the
worthlessness of astrology, that he had made his answer, we might
admire his honest and fearless independence; but, when it is known
that, at the very same time, he was in the constant habit of
divination and fortunetelling; and that he was predicting splendid
success, in all his undertakings, to the Constable of Bourbon, we can
only wonder at his thus estranging a powerful friend through mere
petulance and perversity.

He was, about this time, invited both by Henry VIII. of England,
and Margaret of Austria, Governess of the Low Countries, to fix his
residence in their dominions. He chose the service of the latter, by
whose influence he was made historiographer to the Emperor Charles V.
Unfortunately for Agrippa, he never had stability enough to remain
long in one position, and offended his patrons by his restlessness and
presumption. After the death of Margaret, he was imprisoned at
Brussels, on a charge of sorcery. He was released after a year; and,
quitting the country, experienced many vicissitudes. He died in great
poverty in 1534, aged forty-eight years.

While in the service of Margaret of Austria, he resided
principally at Louvain, in which city he wrote his famous work on the
Vanity and Nothingness of human Knowledge. He also wrote, to please
his Royal Mistress, a treatise upon the Superiority of the Female Sex,
which be dedicated to her, in token of his gratitude for the favours
she had heaped upon him. The reputation he left behind him in these
provinces was anything but favourable. A great number of the
marvellous tales that are told of him, relate to this period of his
life. It was said, that the gold which he paid to the traders with
whom he dealt, always looked remarkably bright, but invariably turned
into pieces of slate and stone in the course of four-and-twenty hours.
Of this spurious gold he was believed to have made large quantities by
the aid of the devil, who, it would appear from this, had but a very
superficial knowledge of alchymy, and much less than the Marechal de
Rays gave him credit for. The Jesuit Delrio, in his book on Magic and
Sorcery, relates a still more extraordinary story of him. One day,
Agrippa left his house, at Louvain; and, intending to be absent for
some time, gave the key of his study to his wife, with strict orders
that no one should enter it during his absence. The lady herself,
strange as it may appear, had no curiosity to pry into her husband's
secrets, and never once thought of entering the forbidden room: but a
young student, who had been accommodated with an attic in the
philosopher's house, burned with a fierce desire to examine the study;
hoping, perchance, that he might purloin some book or implement which
would instruct him in the art of transmuting metals. The youth, being
handsome, eloquent, and, above all, highly complimentary to the charms
of the lady, she was persuaded, without much difficulty, to lend him
the key, but gave him strict orders not to remove anything. The
student promised implicit obedience, and entered Agrippa's study. The
first object that caught his attention, was a large grimoire, or book
of spells, which lay open on the philosopher's desk. He sat himself
down immediately, and began to read. At the first word he uttered, he
fancied he heard a knock at the door. He listened; but all was silent.
Thinking that his imagination had deceived him, he read on, when
immediately a louder knock was heard, which so terrified him, that he
started to his feet. He tried to say, "come in;" but his tongue
refused its office, and he could not articulate a sound. He fixed his
eyes upon the door, which, slowly opening, disclosed a stranger of
majestic form, but scowling features, who demanded sternly,
why he was summoned? "I did not summon you," said the trembling
student. "You did!" said the stranger, advancing, angrily; "and the
demons are not to be invoked in vain." The student could make no
reply; and the demon, enraged that one of the uninitiated should have
summoned him out of mere presumption, seized him by the throat and
strangled him. When Agrippa returned, a few days afterwards, he found
his house beset with devils. Some of them were sitting on the
chimneypots, kicking up their legs in the air; while others were
playing at leapfrog, on the very edge of the parapet. His study was so
filled with them that he found it difficult to make his way to his
desk. When, at last, he had elbowed his way through them, he found
his book open, and the student lying dead upon the floor. He saw
immediately how the mischief had been done; and, dismissing all the
inferior imps, asked the principal demon how he could have been so
rash as to kill the young man. The demon replied, that he had been
needlessly invoked by an insulting youth, and could do no less than
kill him for his presumption. Agrippa reprimanded him severely, and
ordered him immediately to reanimate the dead body, and walk about
with it in the market-place for the whole of the afternoon. The demon
did so: the student revived; and, putting his arm through that of his
unearthly murderer, walked very lovingly with him, in sight of all the
people. At sunset, the body fell down again, cold and lifeless as
before, and was carried by the crowd to the hospital, it being the
general opinion that he had expired in a fit of apoplexy. His
conductor immediately disappeared. When the body was examined, marks
of strangulation were found on the neck, and prints of the long claws
of the demon on various parts of it. These appearances, together with
a story, which soon obtained currency, that the companion of the young
man had vanished in a cloud of flame and smoke, opened people's eyes
to the truth. The magistrates of Louvain instituted inquiries; and the
result was, that Agrippa was obliged to quit the town.

Other authors besides Delrio relate similar stories of this
philosopher. The world in those days was always willing enough to
believe in tales of magic and sorcery; and when, as in Agrippa's case,
the alleged magician gave himself out for such, and claimed credit for
the wonders he worked, it is not surprising that the age should have
allowed his pretensions. It was dangerous boasting, which sometimes
led to the stake or the gallows, and therefore was thought to be not
without foundation. Paulus Jovius, in his "Eulogia Doctorum Virorum,"
says, that the devil, in the shape of a large black dog, attended
Agrippa wherever he went. Thomas Nash, in his adventures of Jack
Wilton, relates, that at the request of Lord Surrey, Erasmus, and some
other learned men, Agrippa called up from the grave many of the great
philosophers of antiquity; among others, Tully, whom he caused to
re-deliver his celebrated oration for Roscius. He also showed Lord
Surrey, when in Germany, an exact resemblance in a glass of his
mistress the fair Geraldine. She was represented on her couch weeping
for the absence of her lover. Lord Surrey made a note of the exact
time at which he saw this vision, and ascertained afterwards that his
mistress was actually so employed at the very minute. To Thomas Lord
Cromwell, Agrippa represented King Henry VIII. hunting in Windsor
Park, with the principal lords of his court; and to please the Emperor
Charles V. he summoned King David and King Solomon from the tomb.

Naude, in his "Apology for the Great Men who have been falsely
suspected of Magic," takes a great deal of pains to clear Agrippa from
the imputations cast upon him by Delrio, Paulus Jovius, and other such
ignorant and prejudiced scribblers. Such stories demanded refutation
in the days of Naude, but they may now be safely left to decay in
their own absurdity. That they should have attached, however, to the
memory of a man, who claimed the power of making iron obey him when he
told it to become gold, and who wrote such a work as that upon magic,
which goes by his name, is not at all surprising.


This philosopher, called by Naude, "the zenith and rising sun of
all the alchymists," was born at Einsiedeln, near Zurich, in the year
1493. His true name was Hohenheim; to which, as he himself informs us,
were prefixed the baptismal names of Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastes
Paracelsus. The last of these he chose for his common designation
while he was yet a boy; and rendered it, before he died, one of the
most famous in the annals of his time. His father, who was a
physician, educated his son for the same pursuit. The latter was an
apt scholar, and made great progress. By chance the work of Isaac
Hollandus fell into his hands, and from that time he became smitten
with the mania of the philosopher's stone. All his thoughts henceforth
were devoted to metallurgy; and he travelled into Sweden that he might
visit the mines of that country, and examine the ores while they yet
lay in the bowels of the earth. He also visited Trithemius at the
monastery of Spannheim, and obtained instructions from him in the
science of alchymy. Continuing his travels, he proceeded through
Prussia and Austria into Turkey, Egypt, and Tatary, and thence
returning to Constantinople, learned, as he boasted, the art of
transmutation, and became possessed of the elixir vitae. He then
established himself as a physician in his native Switzerland at
Zurich, and commenced writing works upon alchymy and medicine, which
immediately fixed the attention of Europe. Their great obscurity was
no impediment to their fame; for the less the author was understood,
the more the demonologists, fanatics, and philosopher's-stone-hunters
seemed to appreciate him. His fame as a physician kept pace with that
which he enjoyed as an alchymist, owing to his having effected some
happy cures by means of mercury and opium; drugs unceremoniously
condemned by his professional brethren. In the year 1526, he was
chosen Professor of Physics and Natural Philosophy in the University
of Basle, where his lectures attracted vast numbers of students. He
denounced the writings of all former physicians as tending to mislead;
and publicly burned the works of Galen and Avicenna, as quacks and
impostors. He exclaimed, in presence of the admiring and
half-bewildered crowd, who assembled to witness the ceremony, that
there was more knowledge in his shoestrings than in the writings of
these physicians. Continuing in the same strain, he said all the
universities in the world were full of ignorant quacks; but that he,
Paracelsus, over flowed with wisdom. "You will all follow my new
system," said he, with furious gesticulations, "Avicenna, Galen,
Rhazis, Montagnana, Meme -- you will all follow me, ye professors of
Paris, Montpellier, Germany, Cologne, and Vienna! and all ye that
dwell on the Rhine and the Danube -- ye that inhabit the isles of the
sea; and ye also, Italians, Dalmatians, Athenians, Arabians, Jews --
ye will all follow my doctrines, for I am the monarch of medicine!"

But he did not long enjoy the esteem of the good citizens of
Basle. It is said that he indulged in wine so freely, as not
unfrequently to be seen in the streets in a state of intoxication.
This was ruinous for a physician, and his good fame decreased rapidly.
His ill fame increased in still greater proportion, especially when he
assumed the airs of a sorcerer. He boasted of the legions of spirits
at his command; and of one especially, which he kept imprisoned in the
hilt of his sword. Wetterus, who lived twenty-seven months in his
service, relates that he often threatened to invoke a whole army of
demons, and show him the great authority which he could exercise over
them. He let it be believed, that the spirit in his sword had custody
of the elixir of life, by means of which he could make any one live to
be as old as the antediluvians. He also boasted that he had a spirit
at his command, called "Azoth," whom he kept imprisoned in a jewel;
and in many of the old portraits he is represented with a jewel,
inscribed with the word "Azoth," in his hand.

If a sober prophet has little honour in his own country, a drunken
one has still less. Paracelsus found it at last convenient to quit
Basle, and establish himself at Strasbourg. The immediate cause of
this change of residence was as follows: -- A citizen lay at the point
of death, and was given over by all the physicians of the town. As a
last resource Paracelsus was called in, to whom the sick man promised
a magnificent recompence, if by his means he were cured. Paracelsus
gave him two small pills, which the man took and rapidly recovered.
When he was quite well, Paracelsus sent for his fee; but the citizen
had no great opinion of the value of a cure which had been so speedily
effected. He had no notion of paying a handful of gold for two pills,
although they had saved his life, and he refused to pay more than the
usual fee for a single visit. Paracelsus brought an action against
him, and lost it. This result so exasperated him, that he left Basle
in high dudgeon. He resumed his wandering life, and travelled in
Germany and Hungary, supporting himself as he went on the credulity
and infatuation of all classes of society. He cast nativities -- told
fortunes -- aided those who had money to throw away upon the experiment,
to find the philosopher's stone -- prescribed remedies for cows and
pigs, and aided in the recovery of stolen goods. After residing
successively at Nuremburg, Augsburg, Vienna, and Mindelheim, he
retired in the year 1541 to Saltzbourg, and died in a state of abject
poverty in the hospital of that town.

If this strange charlatan found hundreds of admirers during his
life, he found thousands after his death. A sect of Paracelsists
sprang up in France and Germany, to perpetuate the extravagant
doctrines of their founder upon all the sciences, and upon alchymy in
particular. The chief leaders were Bodenstein and Dorneus. The
following is a summary of his doctrine, founded upon supposed
existence of the philosopher's stone; it is worth preserving from its
very absurdity, and altogether unparalleled in the history of
philosophy:-- First of all, he maintained that the contemplation of the
perfection of the Deity sufficed to procure all wisdom and knowledge;
that the Bible was the key to the theory of all diseases, and that it
was necessary to search into the Apocalypse to know the signification
of magic medicine. The man who blindly obeyed the will of God, and who
succeeded in identifying himself with the celestial intelligences,
possessed the philosopher's stone -- he could cure all diseases, and
prolong life to as many centuries as he pleased; it being by the very
same means that Adam and the antediluvian patriarchs prolonged theirs.
Life was an emanation from the stars -- the sun governed the heart,
and the moon the brain. Jupiter governed the liver, Saturn the gall,
Mercury the lungs, Mars the bile, and Venus the loins. In the stomach
of every human being there dwelt a demon, or intelligence, that was a
sort of alchymist in his way, and mixed, in their due proportions, in
his crucible, the various aliments that were sent into that grand
laboratory the belly.[See the article "Paracelsus," by the learned
Renaudin, in the "Biographie Universelle."] He was proud of the title
of magician, and boasted that he kept up a regular correspondence with
Galen from hell; and that he often summoned Avicenna from the same
regions to dispute with him on the false notions he had promulgated
respecting alchymy, and especially regarding potable gold and the
elixir of life. He imagined that gold could cure ossification of the
heart, and, in fact, all diseases, if it were gold which had been
transmuted from an inferior metal by means of the philosopher's stone,
and if it were applied under certain conjunctions of the planets. The
mere list of the works in which he advances these frantic imaginings,
which he called a doctrine, would occupy several pages.


This alchymist was born in the province of Misnia, in 1494. His
real name was Bauer, meaning a husbandman, which, in accordance with
the common fashion of his age, he Latinized into Agricola. From his
early youth, he delighted in the visions of the hermetic science. Ere
he was sixteen, he longed for the great elixir which was to make him
live for seven hundred years, and for the stone which was to procure
him wealth to cheer him in his multiplicity of days. He published a
small treatise upon the subject at Cologne, in 1531, which obtained
him the patronage of the celebrated Maurice, Duke of Saxony. After
practising for some years as a physician at Joachimsthal, in Bohemia,
he was employed by Maurice as superintendent of the silver mines of
Chemnitz. He led a happy life among the miners, making various
experiments in alchymy while deep in the bowels of the earth. He
acquired a great knowledge of metals, and gradually got rid of his
extravagant notions about the philosopher's stone. The miners had no
faith in alchymy; and they converted him to their way of thinking, not
only in that but in other respects. From their legends, he became
firmly convinced that the bowels of the earth were inhabited by good
and evil spirits, and that firedamp and other explosions sprang from
no other causes than the mischievous propensities of the latter. He
died in the year 1555, leaving behind him the reputation of a very
able and intelligent man.


Autobiography, written by a wise man who was once a fool, is not
only the most instructive, but the most delightful of reading. Denis
Zachaire, an alchymist of the sixteenth century, has performed this
task, and left a record of his folly and infatuation in pursuit of the
philosopher's stone, which well repays perusal. He was born in the
year 1510, of an ancient family in Guienne, and was early sent to the
university of Bordeaux, under the care of a tutor to direct his
studies. Unfortunately, his tutor was a searcher for the grand elixir,
and soon rendered his pupil as mad as himself upon the subject. With
this introduction, we will allow Denis Zachaire to speak for himself,
and continue his narrative in his own words :--" I received from
home," says he, "the sum of two hundred crowns for the expenses of
myself and master; but before the end of the year, all our money went
away in the smoke of our furnaces. My master, at the same time, died
of a fever, brought on by the parching heat of our laboratory, from
which he seldom or never stirred, and which was scarcely less hot than
the arsenal of Venice. His death was the more unfortunate for me, as
my parents took the opportunity of reducing my allowance, and sending
me only sufficient for my board and lodging, instead of the sum I
required to continue my operations in alchymy.

"To meet this difficulty and get out of leading-strings, I
returned home at the age of twenty-five, and mortgaged part of my
property for four hundred crowns. This sum was necessary to perform an
operation of the science, which had been communicated to me by an
Italian at Toulouse, and who, as he said, had proved its efficacy. I
retained this man in my service, that we might see the end of the
experiment. I then, by means of strong distillations, tried to
calcinate gold and silver; but all my labour was in vain. The weight
of the gold I drew out of my furnace was diminished by one-half since
I put it in, and my four hundred crowns were very soon reduced to two
hundred and thirty. I gave twenty of these to my Italian, in order
that he might travel to Milan, where the author of the receipt
resided, and ask him the explanation of some passages which we thought
obscure. I remained at Toulouse all the winter, in the hope of his
return; but I might have remained there till this day if I had waited
for him, for I never saw his face again.

"In the succeeding summer there was a great plague, which forced
me to quit the town. I did not, however, lose sight of my work. I went
to Cahors, where I remained six months, and made the acquaintance of
an old man, who was commonly known to the people as 'the Philosopher;'
a name which, in country places, is often bestowed upon people whose
only merit is, that they are less ignorant than their neighbours. I
showed him my collection of alchymical receipts, and asked his opinion
upon them. He picked out ten or twelve of them, merely saying that
they were better than the others. When the plague ceased, I returned
to Toulouse, and recommenced my experiments in search of the stone. I
worked to such effect that my four hundred crowns were reduced to one
hundred and seventy.

"That I might continue my work on a safer method, I made
acquaintance, in 1537, with a certain Abbe, who resided in the
neighbourhood. He was smitten with the same mania as myself, and told
me that one of his friends, who had followed to Rome in the retinue of
the Cardinal d'Armagnac, had sent him from that city a new receipt,
which could not fail to transmute iron and copper, but which
would cost two hundred crowns. I provided half this money, and the
Abbe the rest; and we began to operate at our joint expense. As we
required spirits of wine for our experiment, I bought a tun of
excellent vin de Gaillac. I extracted the spirit, and rectified it
several times. We took a quantity of this, into which we put four
marks of silver, and one of gold, that had been undergoing the process
of calcination for a month. We put this mixture cleverly into a sort
of horn-shaped vessel, with another to serve as a retort; and placed
the whole apparatus upon our furnace, to produce congelation. This
experiment lasted a year; but, not to remain idle, we amused ourselves
with many other less important operations. We drew quite as much
profit from these as from our great work.

The whole of the year 1537 passed over without producing any
change whatever: in fact, we might have waited till doomsday for the
congelation of our spirits of wine. However, we made a projection with
it upon some heated quicksilver; but all was in vain. Judge of our
chagrin, especially of that of the Abbe, who had already boasted to
all the monks of his monastery, that they had only to bring the large
pump which stood in a corner of the cloister, and he would convert it
into gold; but this ill luck did not prevent us from persevering. I
once more mortgaged my paternal lands for four hundred crowns, the
whole of which I determined to devote to a renewal of my search for
the great secret. The Abbe contributed the same sum; and, with these
eight hundred crowns, I proceeded to Paris, a city more abounding with
alchymists than any other in the world, resolved never to leave it
until I had either found the philosopher's stone, or spent all my
money. This journey gave the greatest offence to all my relations and
friends, who, imagining that I was fitted to be a great lawyer, were
anxious that I should establish myself in that profession. For the
sake of quietness, I pretended, at last, that such was my object.

"After travelling for fifteen days, I arrived in Paris, on the 9th
of January 1539. I remained for a month, almost unknown; but I had no
sooner begun to frequent the amateurs of the science, and visited the
shops of the furnace-makers, than I had the acquaintance of more than
a hundred operative alchymists, each of whom had a different theory
and a different mode of working. Some of them preferred cementation;
others sought the universal alkahest, or dissolvent; and some of them
boasted the great efficacy of the essence of emery. Some of them
endeavoured to extract mercury from other metals to fix it afterwards;
and, in order that each of us should be thoroughly acquainted with the
proceedings of the others, we agreed to meet somewhere every night,
and report progress. We met sometimes at the house of one, and
sometimes in the garret of another; not only on week days, but on
Sundays, and the great festivals of the Church. 'Ah!' one used to say,
'if I had the means of recommencing this experiment, I should do
something.' 'Yes,' said another, 'if my crucible had not cracked, I
should have succeeded before now :' while a third exclaimed, with a
sigh, 'If I had but had a round copper vessel of sufficient strength,
I would have fixed mercury with silver.' There was not one among them
who had not some excuse for his failure; but I was deaf to all their
speeches. I did not want to part with my money to any of them,
remembering how often I had been the dupe of such promises.

"A Greek at last presented himself; and with him I worked a long
time uselessly upon nails, made of cinabar, or vermilion. I was also
acquainted with a foreign gentleman newly arrived in Paris, and often
accompanied him to the shops of the goldsmiths, to sell pieces of gold
and silver, the produce, as he said, of his experiments. I stuck
closely to him for a long time, in the hope that he would impart his
secret. He refused for a long time, but acceded, at last, on my
earnest entreaty, and I found that it was nothing more than an
ingenious trick. I did not fail to inform my friend, the Abbe, whom I
had left at Toulouse, of all my adventures; and sent him, among other
matters, a relation of the trick by which this gentleman pretended to
turn lead into gold. The Abbe still imagined that I should succeed at
last, and advised me to remain another year in Paris, where I had made
so good a beginning. I remained there three years; but,
notwithstanding all my efforts, I had no more success than I had had

"I had just got to the end of my money, when I received a letter
from the Abbe, telling me to leave everything, and join him
immediately at Toulouse. I went accordingly, and found that he had
received letters from the King of Navarre (grandfather of Henry IV).
This Prince was a great lover of philosophy, full of curiosity, and
had written to the Abbe, that I should visit him at Pau; and that he
would give me three or four thousand crowns, if I would communicate
the secret I had learned from the foreign gentleman. The Abbe's ears
were so tickled with the four thousand crowns, that he let me have no
peace, night or day, until he had fairly seen me on the road to Pau. I
arrived at that place in the month of May 1542. I worked away, and
succeeded, according to the receipt I had obtained. When I had
finished, to the satisfaction of the King, he gave me the reward that
I expected. Although he was willing enough to do me further service,
he was dissuaded from it by the lords of his court; even by many of
those who had been most anxious that I should come. He sent me then
about my business, with many thanks; saying, that if there was
anything in his kingdom which he could give me -- such as the produce
of confiscations, or the like -- he should be most happy. I thought I
might stay long enough for these prospective confiscations, and never
get them at last; and I therefore determined to go back to my friend,
the Abbe.

"I learned, that on the road between Pau and Toulouse, there
resided a monk, who was very skilful in all matters of natural
philosophy. On my return, I paid him a visit. He pitied me very much,
and advised me, with much warmth and kindness of expression, not to
amuse myself any longer with such experiments as these, which were all
false and sophistical; but that I should read the good books of the
old philosophers, where I might not only find the true matter of the
science of alchymy, but learn also the exact order of operations which
ought to be followed. I very much approved of this wise advice; but,
before I acted upon it, I went back to my Abbe, of Toulouse, to give
him an account of the eight hundred crowns, which we had had in
common; and, at the same time, share with him such reward as I had
received from the King of Navarre. If he was little satisfied with the
relation of my adventures since our first separation, he appeared
still less satisfied when I told him I had formed a resolution to
renounce the search for the philosopher's stone. The reason was, that
he thought me a good artist. Of our eight hundred crowns, there
remained but one hundred and seventy-six. When I quitted the Abbe, I
went to my own house, with the intention of remaining there, till I
had read all the old philosophers, and of then proceeding to Paris.

"I arrived in Paris on the day after All Saints, of the year 1546,
and devoted another year to the assiduous study of great authors.
Among others, the 'Turba Philosophorum' of the 'Good Trevisan,' 'The
Remonstance of Nature to the wandering Alchymist,' by Jean de Meung;
and several others of the best books: but, as I had no right'
principles, I did not well know what course to follow.

"At last I left my solitude; not to see my former acquaintances,
the adepts and operators, but to frequent the society of true
philosophers. Among them I fell into still greater uncertainties;
being, in fact, completely bewildered by the variety of operations
which they showed me. Spurred on, nevertheless, by a sort of frenzy or
inspiration, I threw myself into the works of Raymond Lulli and of
Arnold de Villeneuve. The reading of these, and the reflections I made
upon them, occupied me for another year, when I finally determined on
the course I should adopt. I was obliged to wait, however, until I had
mortgaged another very considerable portion of my patrimony. This
business was not settled until the beginning of Lent, 1549, when I
commenced my operations. I laid in a stock of all that was necessary,
and began to work the day after Easter. It was not, however, without
some disquietude and opposition from my friends who came about me; one
asking me what I was going to do, and whether I had not already spent
money enough upon such follies. Another assured me that, if I bought
so much charcoal, I should strengthen the suspicion already existing,
that I was a coiner of base money. Another advised me to purchase some
place in the magistracy, as I was already a Doctor of Laws. My
relations spoke in terms still more annoying to me, and even
threatened that, if I continued to make such a fool of myself, they
would send a posse of police-officers into my house, and break all my
furnaces and crucibles into atoms. I was wearied almost to death by
this continued persecution; but I found comfort in my work and in the
progress of my experiment, to which I was very attentive, and which
went on bravely from day to day. About this time, there was a dreadful
plague in Paris, which interrupted all intercourse between man and
man, and left me as much to myself as I could desire. I soon had the
satisfaction to remark the progress and succession of the three
colours which, according to the philosophers, always prognosticate the
approaching perfection of the work. I observed them distinctly, one
after the other; and next year, being Easter Sunday, 1550, I made the
great trial. Some common quicksilver, which I put into a small
crucible on the fire, was, in less than an hour, converted into very
good gold. You may judge how great was my joy, but I took care not to
boast of it. I returned thanks to God for the favour he had shown me,
and prayed that I might only be permitted to make such use of it as
would redound to his glory.

"On the following day, I went towards Toulouse to find the Abbe,
in accordance with a mutual promise that we should communicate our
discoveries to each other. On my way, I called in to see the sage monk
who had assisted me with his counsels; but I had the sorrow to learn
that they were both dead. After this, I would not return to my own
home, but retired to another place, to await one of my relations whom
I had left in charge of my estate. I gave him orders to sell all that
belonged to me, as well movable as immovable -- to pay my debts with
the proceeds, and divide all the rest among those in any way related
to me who might stand in need of it, in order that they might enjoy
some share of the good fortune which had befallen me. There was a
great deal of talk in the neighbourhood about my precipitate retreat;
the wisest of my acquaintance imagining that, broken down and ruined
by my mad expenses, I sold my little remaining property that I might
go and hide my shame in distant countries.

"My relative already spoken of rejoined me on the 1st of July,
after having performed all the business I had intrusted him with. We
took our departure together, to seek a land of liberty. We first
retired to Lausanne, in Switzerland, when, after remaining there for
some time, we resolved to pass the remainder of our days in some of
the most celebrated cities of Germany, living quietly and without

Thus ends the story of Denis Zachaire, as written by himself. He
has not been so candid at its conclusion as at its commencement, and
has left the world in doubt as to his real motives for pretending that
he had discovered the philosopher's stone. It seems probable that the
sentence he puts into the months of his wisest acquaintances was the
true reason of his retreat; that he was, in fact, reduced to poverty,
and hid his shame in foreign countries. Nothing further is known of
his life, and his real name has never yet been discovered. He wrote a
work on alchymy, entitled "The true Natural Philosophy of Metals."


John Dee and Edward Kelly claim to be mentioned together, having
been so long associated in the same pursuits, and undergone so many
strange vicissitudes in each other's society. Dee was altogether a
wonderful man, and had he lived in an age when folly and superstition
were less rife, he would, with the same powers which he enjoyed, have
left behind him a bright and enduring reputation. He was born in
London, in the year 1527, and very early manifested a love for study.
At the age of fifteen he was sent to Cambridge, and delighted so much
in his books, that he passed regularly eighteen hours every day among
them. Of the other six, he devoted four to sleep and two for
refreshment. Such intense application did not injure his health, and
could not fail to make him one of the first scholars of his time.
Unfortunately, however, he quitted the mathematics and the pursuits of
true philosophy to indulge in the unprofitable reveries of the occult
sciences. He studied alchymy, astrology, and magic, and thereby
rendered himself obnoxious to the authorities at Cambridge. To avoid
persecution, he was at last obliged to retire to the university of
Louvain; the rumours of sorcery that were current respecting him
rendering his longer stay in England not altogether without danger. He
found at Louvain many kindred spirits who had known Cornelius Agrippa
while he resided among them, and by whom he was constantly entertained
with the wondrous deeds of that great master of the hermetic
mysteries. From their conversation he received much encouragement to
continue the search for the philosopher's stone, which soon began to
occupy nearly all his thoughts.

He did not long remain on the Continent, but returned to England
in 1551, being at that time in the twenty-fourth year of his age. By
the influence of his friend, Sir John Cheek, he was kindly received at
the court of King Edward VI, and rewarded (it is difficult to say for
what) with a pension of one hundred crowns. He continued for several
years to practise in London as an astrologer; casting nativities,
telling fortunes, and pointing out lucky and unlucky days. During the
reign of Queen Mary he got into trouble, being suspected of heresy,
and charged with attempting Mary's life by means of enchantments. He
was tried for the latter offence, and acquitted; but was retained in
prison on the former charge, and left to the tender mercies of Bishop
Bonner. He had a very narrow escape from being burned in Smithfield,
but he, somehow or other, contrived to persuade that fierce bigot that
his orthodoxy was unimpeachable, and was set at liberty in 1555.

On the accession of Elizabeth, a brighter day dawned upon him.
During her retirement at Woodstock, her servants appear to have
consulted him as to the time of Mary's death, which Circumstance, no
doubt, first gave rise to the serious charge for which he was brought
to trial. They now came to consult him more openly as to the fortunes
of their mistress; and Robert Dudley, the celebrated Earl of
Leicester, was sent by command of the Queen herself to know the most
auspicious day for her coronation. So great was the favour he enjoyed
that, some years afterwards, Elizabeth condescended to pay him a visit
at his house in Mortlake, to view his museum of curiosities, and, when
he was ill, sent her own physician to attend upon him.

Astrology was the means whereby he lived, and he continued to
practise it with great assiduity; but his heart was in alchymy. The
philosopher's stone and the elixir of life haunted his daily thoughts
and his nightly dreams. The Talmudic mysteries, which he had also
deeply studied, impressed him with the belief, that he might hold
converse with spirits and angels, and learn from them all the
mysteries of the universe. Holding the same idea as the then obscure
sect of the Rosicrucians, some of whom he had perhaps encountered in
his travels in Germany, he imagined that, by means of the
philosopher's stone, he could summon these kindly spirits at his will.
By dint of continually brooding upon the subject, his imagination
became so diseased, that he at last persuaded himself that an angel
appeared to him, and promised to be his friend and companion as long
as he lived. He relates that, one day, in November 1582, while he was
engaged in fervent prayer, the window of his museum looking towards
the west suddenly glowed with a dazzling light, in the midst of which,
in all his glory, stood the great angel Uriel. Awe and wonder rendered
him speechless; but the angel smiling graciously upon him, gave him a
crystal, of a convex form, and told him that, whenever he wished to
hold converse with the beings of another sphere, he had only to gaze
intently upon it, and they would appear in the crystal and unveil to
him all the secrets of futurity. [The "crystal" alluded to appears to
have been a black stone, or piece of polished coal. The following
account of it is given in the Supplement to Granger's "Biographical
History." -- "The black stone into which Dee used to call his spirits
was in the collection of the Earls of Peterborough, from whence it
came to Lady Elizabeth Germaine. It was next the property of the late
Duke of Argyle, and is now Mr. Walpole's. It appears upon examination
to be nothing more than a polished piece of cannel coal; but this is
what Butler means when he says,
'Kelly did all his feats upon
The devil's looking-glass -- a stone.'"]
This saying, the angel disappeared. Dee found from experience of the
crystal that it was necessary that all the faculties of the soul
should be concentrated upon it, otherwise the spirits did not appear.
He also found that he could never recollect the conversations he had
with the angels. He therefore determined to communicate the secret to
another person, who might converse with the spirits while he (Dee) sat
in another part of the room, and took down in writing the revelations
which they made.

He had at this time in his service, as his assistant, one Edward
Kelly, who, like himself, was crazy upon the subject of the
philosopher's stone. There was this difference, however, between them,
that, while Dee was more of an enthusiast than an impostor, Kelly was
more of an impostor than an enthusiast. In early life he was a
notary, and had the misfortune to lose both his ears for forgery. This
mutilation, degrading enough in any man, was destructive to a
philosopher; Kelly, therefore, lest his wisdom should suffer in the
world's opinion, wore a black skull-cap, which, fitting close to his
head, and descending over both his cheeks, not only concealed his
loss, but gave him a very solemn and oracular appearance. So well did
he keep his secret, that even Dee, with whom he lived so many years,
appears never to have discovered it. Kelly, with this character, was
just the man to carry on any piece of roguery for his own advantage,
or to nurture the delusions of his master for the same purpose. No
sooner did Dee inform him of the visit he had received from the
glorious Uriel, than Kelly expressed such a fervour of belief that
Dee's heart glowed with delight. He set about consulting his crystal
forthwith, and on the 2nd of December 1581, the spirits appeared, and
held a very extraordinary discourse with Kelly, which Dee took down in
writing. The curious reader may see this farrago of nonsense among the
Harleian MSS. in the British Museum. The later consultations were
published in a folio volume, in 1659, by Dr. Meric Casaubon, under the
title of "A True and Faithful Relation of what passed between Dr. John
Dee and some Spirits; tending, had it succeeded, to a general
Alteration of most States and Kingdoms in the World." [Lilly, the
astrologer, in his Life written by himself, frequently tells of
prophecies delivered by the angels in a manner similar to the angels
of Dr. Dee. He says, "The prophecies were not given vocally by the
angels, but by inspection of the crystal in types and figures, or by
apparition the circular way; where, at some distance, the angels
appear, representing by forms, shapes, and creatures what is demanded.
It is very rare, yea, even in our days," quoth that wiseacre, "for any
operator or master to hear the angels speak articulately: when they do
speak, it is like the Irish, much in the throat!"]

The fame of these wondrous colloquies soon spread over the
country, and even reached the Continent. Dee, at the same time,
pretended to be in possession of the elixir vitae, which he stated he
had found among the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey, in Somersetshire.
People flocked from far and near to his house at Mortlake to have
their nativities cast, in preference to visiting astrologers of less
renown. They also longed to see a man who, according to his own
account, would never die. Altogether, he carried on a very profitable
trade, but spent so much in drugs and metals to work out some peculiar
process of transmutation, that he never became rich.

About this time there came into England a wealthy polish nobleman,
named Albert Laski, Count Palatine of Siradz. His object was
principally, he said, to visit the court of Queen Elizabeth, the fame
of whose glory and magnificence had reached him in distant Poland.
Elizabeth received this flattering stranger with the most splendid
hospitality, and appointed her favourite Leicester to show him all
that was worth seeing in England. He visited all the curiosities of
London and Westminster, and from thence proceeded to Oxford and
Cambridge, that he might converse with some of the great scholars
whose writings shed lustre upon the land of their birth. He was very
much disappointed at not finding Dr. Dee among them, and told the Earl
of Leicester that he would not have gone to Oxford if he had known
that Dee was not there. The Earl promised to introduce him to the
great alchymist on their return to London, and the Pole was satisfied.
A few days afterwards, the Earl and Laski being in the antechamber of
the Queen, awaiting an audience of her Majesty, Dr. Dee arrived on the
same errand, and was introduced to the Pole. [Albert Laski, son of
Jaroslav, was Palatine of Siradz, and afterwards of Sendomir, and
chiefly contributed to the election of Henry of Valois, the Third of
France, to the throne of Poland, and was one of the delegates who went
to France in order to announce to the new monarch his elevation to the
sovereignty of Poland. After the deposition of Henry, Albert Laski
voted for Maximilian of Austria. In 1585 he visited England, when
Queen Elizabeth received him with great distinction. The honours which
were shown him during his visit to Oxford, by the especial command of
the Queen, were equal to those rendered to sovereign princes. His
extraordinary prodigality rendered his enormous wealth insufficient to
defray his expenses, and he therefore became a zealous adept in
alchymy, and took from England to Poland with him two known
alchymists. -- Count Valerian Krasinski's "Historical Sketch of the
Reformation in Poland."] An interesting conversation ensued, which
ended by the stranger inviting himself to dine with the astrologer at
his house at Mortlake. Dee returned home in some tribulation, for he
found he had not money enough, without pawning his plate, to entertain
Count Laski and his retinue in a manner becoming their dignity. In
this emergency he sent off an express to the Earl of Leicester,
stating frankly the embarrassment he laboured under, and praying his
good offices in representing the matter to her Majesty. Elizabeth
immediately sent him a present of twenty pounds.

On the appointed day, Count Laski came, attended by a numerous
retinue, and expressed such open and warm admiration of the wonderful
attainments of his host, that Dee turned over, in his own mind, how he
could bind irretrievably to his interests a man who seemed so well
inclined to become his friend. Long acquaintance with Kelly had imbued
him with all the roguery of that personage; and he resolved to make
the Pole pay dearly for his dinner. He found out, before many days,
that he possessed great estates in his own country, as well as great
influence; but that an extravagant disposition had reduced him to
temporary embarrassment. He also discovered, that he was a firm
believer in the philosopher's stone and the water of life. He was,
therefore, just the man upon whom an adventurer might fasten himself.
Kelly thought so too; and both of them set to work, to weave a web, in
the meshes of which they might firmly entangle the rich and credulous
stranger. They went very cautiously about it; first throwing out
obscure hints of the stone and the elixir; and, finally, of
the spirits, by means of whom they could turn over the pages of the
Book of Futurity, and read the awful secrets inscribed therein. Laski
eagerly implored that he might be admitted to one of their mysterious
interviews with Uriel and the angels; but they knew human nature too
well to accede at once to the request. To the Count's entreaties they
only replied by hints of the difficulty or impropriety of summoning
the spirits in the presence of a stranger; or of one who might,
perchance, have no other motive than the gratification of a vain
curiosity: but they only meant to whet the edge of his appetite by
this delay, and would have been sorry indeed if the Count had been
discouraged. To show how exclusively the thoughts both of Dee and
Kelly were fixed upon their dupe, at this time, it is only necessary
to read the introduction to their first interview with the spirits,
related in the volume of Dr. Casaubon. The entry made by Dee, under
the date of the 25th of May 1583, says, that when the spirit appeared
to them, "I, [John Dee], and E. K. [Edward Kelly], sat together,
conversing of that noble Polonian Albertus Laski, his great honour
here with us obtained, and of his great liking among all sorts of the
people." No doubt they were discussing how they might make the most of
the "noble Polonian," and concocting the fine story with which they
afterwards excited his curiosity, and drew him firmly within their
toils. "Suddenly," says Dee, as they were thus employed, "there seemed
to come out of the oratory, a spiritual creature, like a pretty girl,
of seven or nine years of age, attired on her head, with her hair
rolled up before, and hanging down behind; with a gown of silk, of
changeable red and green, and with a train. She seemed to play up and
down, and seemed to go in and out behind the books; and, as she seemed
to go between them, the books displaced themselves, and made way for

With such tales as these they lured on the Pole from day to day;
and at last persuaded him to be a witness of their mysteries. Whether
they played off any optical delusions upon him; or whether, by the
force of a strong imagination, he deluded himself, does not appear;
but certain it is, that he became a complete tool in their hands, and
consented to do whatever they wished him. Kelly, at these interviews,
placed himself at a certain distance from the wondrous crystal, and
gazed intently upon it; while Dee took his place in corner, ready to
set down the prophecies as they were uttered by the spirits. In this
manner they prophesied to the Pole, that he should become the
fortunate possessor of the philosopher's stone; that he should live
for centuries, and be chosen King of Poland; in which capacity he
should gain many great victories over the Saracens, and make his name
illustrious over all the earth. For this pose it was necessary,
however, that Laski should leave England, and take them with him,
together with their wives and families; that he should treat them all
sumptuously, and allow them to want for nothing. Laski at once
consented; and very shortly afterwards they were all on the road to

It took them upwards of four months to reach the Count's estates,
in the neighbourhood of Cracow. In the mean time, they led a pleasant
life, and spent money with an unsparing hand. When once established in
the Count's palace, they commenced the great hermetic operation of
transmuting iron into gold. Laski provided them with all necessary
materials, and aided them himself with his knowledge of alchymy: but,
somehow or other, the experiment always failed at the very moment that
it ought to have succeeded; and they were obliged to recommence
operations on a grander scale. But the hopes of Laski were not easily
extinguished. Already, in idea, the possessor of countless millions,
he was not to be cast down for fear of present expenses. He thus
continued from day to day, and from month to month, till he was, at
last, obliged to sell a portion of his deeply-mortgaged estates, to
find aliment for the hungry crucibles of Dee and Kelly, and the no
less hungry stomachs of their wives and families. It was not till ruin
stared him in the face, that he awoke from his dream of infatuation --
too happy, even then, to find that he had escaped utter beggary. Thus
restored to his senses, his first thought was how to rid himself of
his expensive visiters. Not wishing to quarrel with them, he proposed
that they should proceed to Prague, well furnished with letters of
recommendation to the Emperor Rudolph. Our alchymists too plainly saw
that nothing more was to be made of the almost destitute Count Laski.
Without hesitation, therefore, they accepted the proposal, and set out
forthwith to the Imperial residence. They had no difficulty, on their
arrival at Prague, in obtaining an audience of the Emperor. They found
him willing enough to believe that such a thing as the philosopher's
stone existed, and flattered themselves that they had made a
favourable impression upon him; but, from some cause or other --
perhaps the look of low cunning and quackery upon the face of Kelly --
the Emperor conceived no very high opinion of their abilities. He
allowed them, however, to remain for some months at Prague, feeding
themselves upon the hope that he would employ them: but the more he
saw of them, the less he liked them; and, when the Pope's Nuncio
represented to him, that he ought not to countenance such heretic
magicians, he gave orders that they should quit his dominions within
four-and-twenty hours. It was fortunate for them that so little time
was given them; for, had they remained six hours longer, the Nuncio
had received orders to procure a perpetual dungeon, or the stake, for

Not knowing well where to direct their steps, they resolved to
return to Cracow, where they had still a few friends; but, by this
time, the funds they had drawn from Laski were almost exhausted; and
they were many days obliged to go dinnerless and supperless. They had
great difficulty to keep their poverty a secret from the world; but
they managed to bear privation without murmuring, from a conviction
that if the fact were known, it would militate very much against their
pretensions. Nobody would believe that they were possessors of the
philosopher's stone, if it were once suspected that they did not know
how to procure bread for their subsistence. They still gained a little
by casting nativities, and kept starvation at arm's length, till a new
dupe, rich enough for their purposes, dropped into their toils, in the
shape of a royal personage. Having procured an introduction to
Stephen, King of Poland, they predicted to him, that the Emperor
Rudolph would shortly be assassinated, and that the Germans would look
to Poland for his successor. As this prediction was not precise enough
to satisfy the King, they tried their crystal again; and a spirit
appeared, who told them that the new sovereign of Germany would be
Stephen of Poland. Stephen was credulous enough to believe them, and
was once present when Kelly held his mystic conversations with the
shadows of his crystal. He also appears to have furnished them with
money to carry on their experiments in alchymy: but he grew tired, at
last, of their broken promises, and their constant drains upon his
pocket; and was on the point of discarding them with disgrace, when
they met with another dupe, to whom they eagerly transferred their
services. This was Count Rosenberg, a nobleman of large estates, at
Trebona, in Bohemia. So comfortable did they find themselves in the
palace of this munificent patron, that they remained nearly four years
with him, faring sumptuously, and having an almost unlimited command
of his money. The Count was more ambitious than avaricious: he had
wealth enough, and did not care for the philosopher's stone on account
of the gold, but of the length of days it would bring him. They had
their predictions, accordingly, all ready framed to suit his
character. They prophesied that he should be chosen King of Poland;
and promised, moreover, that he should live for five hundred years to
enjoy his dignity; provided always, that he found them sufficient
money to carry on their experiments.

But now, while fortune smiled upon them; while they revelled in
the rewards of successful villany, retributive justice came upon them
in a shape they had not anticipated. Jealousy and mistrust sprang up
between the two confederates, and led to such violent and frequent
quarrels, that Dee was in constant fear of exposure. Kelly imagined
himself a much greater personage than Dee; measuring, most likely, by
the standard of impudent roguery; and was displeased that on all
occasions, and from all persons, Dee received the greater share of
honour and consideration. He often threatened to leave Dee to shift
for himself; and the latter, who had degenerated into the mere tool of
his more daring associate, was distressed beyond measure at the
prospect of his desertion. His mind was so deeply imbued with
superstition, that he believed the rhapsodies of Kelly to be, in a
great measure, derived from his intercourse with angels; and he knew
not where, in the whole world, to look for a man of depth and wisdom
enough to succeed him. As their quarrels every day became more and
more frequent, Dee wrote letters to Queen Elizabeth, to secure a
favourable reception on his return to England; whither he intended to
proceed, if Kelly forsook him. He also sent her a round piece of
silver, which he pretended he had made of a portion of brass cut out
of a warming-pan. He afterwards sent her the warming-pan also, that
she might convince herself that the piece of silver corresponded
exactly with the hole which was cut into the brass. While thus
preparing for the worst, his chief desire was to remain in Bohemia
with Count Rosenberg, who treated him well, and reposed much
confidence in him. Neither had Kelly any great objection to remain;
but a new passion had taken possession of his breast, and he was
laying deep schemes to gratify it. His own wife was ill-favoured and
ill-natured; Dee's was comely and agreeable: and he longed to make an
exchange of partners, without exciting the jealousy or shocking the
morality of Dee. This was a difficult matter; but, to a man like
Kelly, who was as deficient in rectitude and right feeling as he was
full of impudence and ingenuity, the difficulty was not
insurmountable. He had also deeply studied the character and the
foibles of Dee; and he took his measures accordingly. The next time
they consulted the spirits, Kelly pretended to be shocked at their
language, and refused to tell Dee what they had said. Dee insisted,
and was informed that they were henceforth to have their wives in
common. Dee, a little startled, inquired whether the spirits might not
mean that they were to live in common harmony and good-will? Kelly
tried again, with apparent reluctance, and said the spirits insisted
upon the literal interpretation. The poor fanatic, Dee, resigned
himself to their will; but it suited Kelly's purpose to appear coy a
little longer. He declared that the spirits must be spirits, not of
good, but of evil; and refused to consult them any more. He thereupon
took his departure, saying that he would never return.

Dee, thus left to himself, was in sore trouble and distress of
mind. He knew not on whom to fix as the successor to Kelly for
consulting the spirits; but at last chose his son Arthur, a boy of
eight years of age. He consecrated him to this service with great
ceremony, and impressed upon the child's mind the dignified and awful
nature of the duties he was called upon to perform; but the poor boy
had neither the imagination, the faith, nor the artifice of Kelly. He
looked intently upon the crystal, as he was told; but could see
nothing and hear nothing. At last, when his eyes ached, he said he
could see a vague indistinct shadow; but nothing more. Dee was in
despair. The deception had been carried on so long, that he was never
so happy as when he fancied he was holding converse with superior
beings; and he cursed the day that had put estrangement between him
and his dear friend Kelly. This was exactly what Kelly had foreseen;
and, when he thought the Doctor had grieved sufficiently for his
absence, he returned unexpectedly, and entered the room where the
little Arthur was in vain endeavouring to distinguish something in the
crystal. Dee, in entering this circumstance in his journal, ascribes
this sudden return to a "miraculous fortune," and a "divine fate;"
and goes on to record that Kelly immediately saw the spirits, which
had remained invisible to little Arthur. One of these spirits
reiterated the previous command, that they should have their wives in
common. Kelly bowed his head, and submitted; and Dee, in all humility,
consented to the arrangement.

This was the extreme depth of the wretched man's degradation. In
this manner they continued to live for three or four months, when, new
quarrels breaking out, they separated once more. This time their
separation was final. Kelly, taking the elixir which he had found in
Glastonbury Abbey, proceeded to Prague, forgetful of the abrupt mode
in which he had previously been expelled from that city. Almost
immediately after his arrival, he was seized by order of the Emperor
Rudolph, and thrown into prison. He was released after some months'
confinement, and continued for five years to lead a vagabond life in
Germany, telling fortunes at one place, and pretending to make gold at
another. He was a second time thrown into prison, on a charge of
heresy and sorcery; and he then resolved, if ever he obtained his
liberty, to return to England. He soon discovered that there was no
prospect of this, and that his imprisonment was likely to be for life.
He twisted his bed-clothes into a rope, one stormy night in February
1595, and let himself down from the window of his dungeon, situated at
the top of a very high tower. Being a corpulent man, the rope gave
way, and he was precipitated to the ground. He broke two of his ribs,
and both his legs; and was otherwise so much injured, that he expired
a few days afterwards.

Dee, for a while, had more prosperous fortune. The warming-pan he
had sent to Queen Elizabeth was not without effect. He was rewarded,
soon after Kelly had left him, with an invitation to return to
England. His pride, which had been sorely humbled, sprang up again to
its pristine dimensions; and he set out for Bohemia with a train of
attendants becoming an ambassador. How he procured the money does not
appear, unless from the liberality of the rich Bohemian Rosenberg, or
perhaps from his plunder. He travelled with three coaches for himself
and family, and three waggons to carry his baggage. Each coach had
four horses, and the whole train was protected by a guard of four and
twenty soldiers. This statement may be doubted; but it is on the
authority of Dee himself, who made it on oath before the commissioners
appointed by Elizabeth to inquire into his circumstances. On his
arrival in England he had an audience of the Queen, who received him
kindly as far as words went, and gave orders that he should not be
molested in his pursuits of chemistry and philosophy. A man who
boasted of the power to turn baser metals into gold, could not,
thought Elizabeth, be in want of money; and she, therefore, gave him
no more substantial marks of her approbation than her countenance and

Thrown thus unexpectedly upon his own resources, Dee began in
earnest the search for the philosopher's stone. He worked incessantly
among his furnaces, retorts, and crucibles, and almost poisoned
himself with deleterious fumes. He also consulted his miraculous
crystal; but the spirits appeared not to him. He tried one Bartholomew
to supply the place of the invaluable Kelly; but he being a man of
some little probity, and of no imagination at all, the spirits would
not hold any communication with him. Dee then tried another pretender
to philosophy, of the name of Hickman; but had no better fortune. The
crystal had lost its power since the departure of its great
high-priest. From this quarter then Dee could get no information on
the stone or elixir of the alchymists, and all his efforts to discover
them by other means were not only fruitless but expensive. He was soon
reduced to great distress, and wrote piteous letters to the Queen,
praying relief. He represented that, after he left England with Count
Laski, the mob had pillaged his house at Mortlake, accusing him of
being a necromancer and a wizard; and had broken all his furniture,
burned his library, consisting of four thousand rare volumes, and
destroyed all the philosophical instruments and curiosities in his
museum. For this damage he claimed compensation; and furthermore
stated, that, as he had come to England by the Queen's command, she
ought to pay the expenses of his journey. Elizabeth sent him small
sums of money at various times; but, Dee still continuing his
complaints, a commission was appointed to inquire into his
circumstances. He finally obtained a small appointment as Chancellor
of St. Paul's cathedral, which he exchanged, in 1595, for the
wardenship of the college at Manchester. He remained in this capacity
till 1602 or 1603, when, his strength and intellect beginning to fail
him, he was compelled to resign. He retired to his old dwelling at
Mortlake, in a state not far removed from actual want, supporting
himself as a common fortune-teller, and being often obliged to sell or
pawn his books to procure a dinner. James I. was often applied to on
his behalf, but he refused to do anything for him. It may be said to
the discredit of this King, that the only reward he would grant the
indefatigable Stowe, in his days of old age and want, was the royal
permission to beg; but no one will blame him for neglecting such a
quack as John Dee. He died in 1608, in the eighty-first year of his
age, and was buried at Mortlake.


Many disputes have arisen as to the real name of the alchymist who
wrote several works under the above designation. The general opinion
is that he was a Scotsman, named Seton; and that by a fate very common
to alchymists, who boasted too loudly of their powers of
transmutation, he ended his days miserably in a dungeon, into which he
was thrown by a German potentate until he made a million of gold to
pay his ransom. By some he has been confounded with Michael Sendivog,
or Sendivogius, a Pole, a professor of the same art, who made a great
noise in Europe at the commencement of the seventeenth century.
Lenglet du Fresnoy, who is in general well-informed with respect to
the alchymists, inclines to the belief that these personages were
distinct; and gives the following particulars of the Cosmopolite,
extracted from George Morhoff, in his "Epistola ad Langelottum," and
other writers.

About the year 1600, one Jacob Haussen, a Dutch pilot, was
shipwrecked on the coast of Scotland. A gentleman, named Alexander
Seton, put off in a boat, and saved him from drowning, and afterwards
entertained him hospitably for many weeks at his house on the shore.
Haussen saw that he was addicted to the pursuits of chemistry, but no
conversation on the subject passed between them at the time. About a
year and a half afterwards, Haussen being then at home at Enkhuysen,
in Holland, received a visit from his former host. He endeavoured to
repay the kindness that had been shown him; and so great a friendship
arose between them, that Seton, on his departure, offered to make
him acquainted with the great secret of the philosopher's stone. In
his presence the Scotsman transmuted a great quantity of base metal
into pure gold, and gave it him as a mark of his esteem. Seton then
took leave of his friend, and travelled into Germany. At Dresden he
made no secret of his wonderful powers; having, it is said, performed
transmutation successfully before a great assemblage of the learned
men of that city. The circumstance coming to the ears of the Duke or
Elector of Saxony, he gave orders for the arrest of the alchymist. He
caused him to be imprisoned in a high tower, and set a guard of forty
men to watch that he did not escape, and that no strangers were
admitted to his presence. The unfortunate Seton received several
visits from the Elector, who used every art of persuasion to make him
divulge his secret. Seton obstinately refused either to communicate
his secret, or to make any gold for the tyrant; on which he was
stretched upon the rack, to see if the argument of torture would
render him more tractable. The result was still the same, - neither
hope of reward nor fear of anguish could shake him. For several months
he remained in prison, subjected alternately to a sedative and a
violent regimen, till his health broke, and he wasted away almost to a

There happened at that time to be in Dresden a learned Pole, named
Michael Sendivogius, who had wasted a good deal of his time and
substance in the unprofitable pursuits of alchymy. He was touched with
pity for the hard fate, and admiration for the intrepidity of Seton;
and determined, if possible, to aid him in escaping from the clutch of
his oppressor. He requested the Elector's permission to see the
alchymist, and obtained it with some difficulty. He found him in a
state of great wretchedness, -- shut up from the light of day in a
noisome dungeon, and with no better couch or fare than those allotted
to the worst of criminals. Seton listened eagerly to the proposal of
escape, and promised the generous Pole that he would make him richer
than an Eastern monarch if by his means he were liberated. Sendivogius
immediately commenced operations. He sold some property which he
possessed near Cracow, and with the proceeds led a merry life at
Dresden. He gave the most elegant suppers, to which he regularly
invited the officers of the guard, and especially those who did duty
at the prison of the alchymist. He insinuated himself at last into
their confidence, and obtained free ingress to his friend as often as
he pleased; pretending that he was using his utmost endeavours to
conquer his obstinacy and worm his secret out of him. When their
project was ripe, a day was fixed upon for the grand attempt; and
Sendivogius was ready with a postchariot to convey him with all speed
into Poland. By drugging some wine which he presented to the guards of
the prison, he rendered them so drowsy that he easily found means to
scale a wall unobserved, with Seton, and effect his escape. Seton's
wife was in the chariot awaiting him, having safely in her possession
a small packet of a black powder, which was, in fact, the
philosopher's stone, or ingredient for the transmutation of iron and
copper into gold. They all arrived in safety at Cracow; but the frame
of Seton was so wasted by torture of body and starvation, to say
nothing of the anguish of mind he had endured, that he did not long
survive. He died in Cracow in 1603 or 1604, and was buried under the
cathedral church of that city. Such is the story related of the author
of the various works which bear the name of the Cosmopolite. A list of
them may be found in the third volume of the "History of the Hermetic


On the death of Seton, Sendivogius married his widow, hoping to
learn from her some of the secrets of her deceased lord in the art of
transmutation. The ounce of black powder stood him, however, in better
service; for the alchymists say that, by its means, he converted great
quantities of quicksilver into the purest gold. It is also said that
he performed this experiment successfully before the Emperor Rudolph
II, at Prague; and that the Emperor, to commemorate the circumstance,
caused a marble tablet to be affixed to the wall of the room in which
it was performed, bearing this inscription, "Faciat hoc quispiam
alius, quod fecit Sendivogius Polonus." M. Desnoyers, secretary to the
Princess Mary of Gonzaga, Queen of Poland, writing from Warsaw in
1651, says that he saw this tablet, which existed at that time, and
was often visited by the curious.

The after-life of Sendivogius is related in a Latin memoir of him
by one Brodowski, his steward; and is inserted by Pierre Borel in his
"Treasure of Gaulish Antiquities." The Emperor Rudolph, according to
this authority, was so well pleased with his success, that he made him
one of his counsellors of state, and invited him to fill a station in
the royal household and inhabit the palace. But Sendivogius loved his
liberty, and refused to become a courtier. He preferred to reside on
his own patrimonial estate of Gravarna, where, for many years, he
exercised a princely hospitality. His philosophic powder, which, his
steward says, was red, and not black, he kept in a little box of gold;
and with one grain of it he could make five hundred ducats, or a
thousand rix-dollars. He generally made his projection upon
quicksilver. When he travelled, he gave this box to his steward, who
hung it round his neck by a gold chain next his skin. But the greatest
part of the powder he used to hide in a secret place cut into the step
of his chariot. He thought that, if attacked at any time by robbers,
they would not search such a place as that. When he anticipated any
danger, he would dress himself in his valet's clothes, and, mounting
the coach-box, put the valet inside. He was induced to take these
precautions, because it was no secret that he possessed the
philosopher's stone; and many unprincipled adventurers were on the
watch for an opportunity to plunder him. A German Prince, whose name
Brodowski has not thought fit to chronicle, served him a scurvy trick,
which ever afterwards put him on his guard. This prince went on his
knees to Sendivogius, and entreated him in the most pressing terms to
satisfy his curiosity by converting some quicksilver into gold before
him. Sendivogius, wearied by his importunity, consented, upon a
promise of inviolable secrecy. After his departure, the Prince called
a German alchymist, named Muhlenfels, who resided in his house, and
told him all that had been done. Muhlenfels entreated that he might
have a dozen mounted horsemen at his command, that he might instantly
ride after the philosopher, and either rob him of all his powder or
force from him the secret of making it. The Prince desired nothing
better; and Muhlenfels, being provided with twelve men well mounted
and armed, pursued Sendivogius in hot haste. He came up with him at a
lonely inn by the road-side, just as he was sitting down to dinner. He
at first endeavoured to persuade him to divulge the secret; but,
finding this of no avail, he caused his accomplices to strip the
unfortunate Sendivogius and tie him naked to one of the pillars of the
house. He then took from him his golden box, containing a small
quantity of the powder; a manuscript book on the philosopher's stone;
a golden medal with its chain, presented to him by the Emperor
Rudolph; and a rich cap ornamented with diamonds, of the value of one
hundred thousand rix-dollars. With this booty he decamped, leaving
Sendivogius still naked and firmly bound to the pillar. His servants
had been treated in a similar manner; but the people of the inn
released them all as soon as the robbers were out of sight.

Sendivogius proceeded to Prague, and made his complaint to the
Emperor. An express was instantly sent off to the Prince, with orders
that he should deliver up Muhlenfels and all his plunder. The Prince,
fearful of the Emperor's wrath, caused three large gallows to be
erected in his court-yard; on the highest of which he hanged
Muhlenfels, with another thief on each side of him. He thus
propitiated the Emperor, and got rid of an ugly witness against
himself. He sent back, at the same time, the bejewelled hat, the medal
and chain, and the treatise upon the philosopher's stone, which had
been stolen from Sendivogius. As regarded the powder, he said he had
not seen it, and knew nothing about it.

This adventure made Sendivogius more prudent; he would no longer
perform the process of transmutation before any strangers, however
highly recommended. He pretended, also, to be very poor; and sometimes
lay in bed for weeks together, that people might believe he was
suffering from some dangerous malady, and could not therefore by any
possibility be the owner of the philosopher's stone. He would
occasionally coin false money, and pass it off as gold; preferring to
be esteemed a cheat rather than a successful alchymist.

Many other extraordinary tales are told of this personage by his
steward Brodowski, but they are not worth repeating. He died in 1636,
aged upwards of eighty, and was buried in his own chapel at Gravarna.
Several works upon alchymy have been published under his name.


It was during the time of the last-mentioned author that the sect
of the Rosicrucians first began to create a sensation in Europe. The
influence which they exercised upon opinion during their brief career,
and the permanent impression which they have left upon European
literature, claim for them especial notice. Before their time, alchymy
was but a grovelling delusion; and theirs is the merit of having
spiritualised and refined it. They also enlarged its sphere, and
supposed the possession of the philosopher's stone to be, not only the
means of wealth, but of health and happiness; and the instrument by
which man could command the services of superior beings, control the
elements to his will, defy the obstructions of time and space, and
acquire the most intimate knowledge of all the secrets of the
universe. Wild and visionary as they were, they were not without their
uses; if it were only for having purged the superstitions of Europe of
the dark and disgusting forms with which the monks had peopled it, and
substituted, in their stead, a race of mild, graceful, and beneficent

They are said to have derived their name from Christian
Rosencreutz, or "Rose-cross," a German philosopher, who travelled in
the Holy Land towards the close of the fourteenth century. While
dangerously ill at a place called Damcar, he was visited by some
learned Arabs, who claimed him as their brother in science, and
unfolded to him, by inspiration, all the secrets of his past life,
both of thought and of action. They restored him to health by means of
the philosopher's stone, and afterwards instructed him in all their
mysteries. He returned to Europe in 1401, being then only twenty-three
years of age; and drew a chosen number of his friends around him, whom
he initiated into the new science, and bound by solemn oaths to keep
it secret for a century. He is said to have lived eighty-three years
after this period, and to have died in 1484.

Many have denied the existence of such a personage as Rosencreutz,
and have fixed the origin of this sect at a much later epoch. The
first dawning of it, they say, is to be found in the theories of
Paracelsus, and the dreams of Dr. Dee, who, without intending it,
became the actual, though never the recognised founders of the
Rosicrucian philosophy. It is now difficult, and indeed impossible, to
determine whether Dee and Paracelsus obtained their ideas from the
then obscure and unknown Rosicrucians, or whether the Rosicrucians did
but follow and improve upon them. Certain it is, that their existence
was never suspected till the year 1605, when they began to excite
attention in Germany. No sooner were their doctrines promulgated, than
all the visionaries, Paracelsists, and alchymists, flocked around
their standard, and vaunted Rosencreutz as the new regenerator of the
human race. Michael Mayer, a celebrated physician of that day, and who
had impaired his health and wasted his fortune in searching for the
philosopher's stone, drew up a report of the tenets and ordinances of
the new fraternity, which was published at Cologne, in the year 1615.
They asserted, in the first place, "that the meditations of their
founders surpassed everything that had ever been imagined since the
creation of the world, without even excepting the revelations of the
Deity; that they were destined to accomplish the general peace and
regeneration of man before the end of the world arrived; that they
possessed all wisdom and piety in a supreme degree; that they
possessed all the graces of nature, and could distribute them among
the rest of mankind according to their pleasure; that they were
subject to neither hunger, nor thirst, nor disease, nor old age, nor
to any other inconvenience of nature; that they knew by inspiration,
and at the first glance, every one who was worthy to be admitted into
their society; that they had the same knowledge then which they would
have possessed if they had lived from the beginning of the world, and
had been always acquiring it; that they had a volume in which they
could read all that ever was or ever would be written in other books
till the end of time; that they could force to, and retain in their
service the most powerful spirits and demons; that, by the virtue of
their songs, they could attract pearls and precious stones from the
depths of the sea or the bowels of the earth; that God had covered
them with a thick cloud, by means of which they could shelter
themselves from the malignity of their enemies, and that they could
thus render themselves invisible from all eyes; that the eight first
brethren of the "Rose-cross" had power to cure all maladies; that, by
means of the fraternity, the triple diadem of the Pope would be
reduced into dust; that they only admitted two sacraments, with the
ceremonies of the primitive Church, renewed by them; that they
recognised the Fourth Monarchy and the Emperor of the Romans as their
chief and the chief of all Christians; that they would provide him
with more gold, their treasures being inexhaustible, than the King of
Spain had ever drawn from the golden regions of Eastern and Western
Ind." This was their confession of faith. Their rules of conduct were
six in number, and as follow:--

First. That, in their travels, they should gratuitously cure all

Secondly. That they should always dress in conformity to the
fashion of the country in which they resided.

Thirdly. That they should, once every year, meet together in the
place appointed by the fraternity, or send in writing an available

Fourthly. That every brother, whenever he felt inclined to die,
should choose a person worthy to succeed him.

Fifthly. That the words "Rose-cross" should be the marks by which
they should recognise each other.

Sixthly. That their fraternity should be kept secret for six
times twenty years.

They asserted that these laws had been found inscribed in a golden
book in the tomb of Rosencreutz, and that the six times twenty years
from his death expired in 1604. They were consequently called upon,
from that time forth, to promulgate their doctrine for the welfare of
mankind. [The following legend of the tomb of Rosencreutz, written by
Eustace Budgell, appears in No. 379 of the Spectator:-- "A certain
person, having occasion to dig somewhat deep in the ground where this
philosopher lay interred, met with a small door, having a wall on each
side of it. His curiosity, and the hope of finding some hidden
treasure, soon prompted him to force open the door. He was immediately
surprised by a sudden blaze of light, and discovered a very fair
vault. At the upper end of it was a statue of a man in armour, sitting
by a table, and leaning on his left arm. He held a truncheon in his
right hand, and had a lamp burning before him. The man had no sooner
set one foot within the vault, than the statue, erecting itself from
its leaning posture, stood bolt upright; and, upon the fellow's
advancing another step, lifted up the truncheon in his right hand. The
man still ventured a third step; when the statue, with a furious blow,
broke the lamp into a thousand pieces, and left his guest in sudden
darkness. Upon the report of this adventure, the country people came
with lights to the sepulchre, and discovered that the statue, which
was made of brass, was nothing more than a piece of clock-work; that
the floor of the vault was all loose, and underlaid with several
springs, which, upon any man's entering, naturally produced that which
had happened. Rosicreucius, say his disciples, made use of this method
to show the world that he had re-invented the ever-burning lamps of
the ancients, though he was resolved no one should reap any advantage
from the discovery."]

For eight years these enthusiasts made converts in Germany; but they
excited little or no attention in other parts of Europe. At last they
made their appearance in Paris, and threw all the learned, all the
credulous, and all the lovers of the marvellous into commotion. In the
beginning of March 1623, the good folks of that city, when they arose
one morning, were surprised to find all their walls placarded with the
following singular manifesto:--

"We, the deputies of the principal College of the Brethren of the
Rose-cross, have taken up our abode, visible and invisible, in this
city, by the grace of the Most High, towards whom are turned the
hearts of the just. We show and teach without books or signs, and
speak all sorts of languages in the countries where we dwell, to draw
mankind, our fellows, from error and from death."

For a long time this strange placard was the sole topic of
conversation in all public places. Some few wondered; but the greater
number only laughed at it. In the course of a few weeks two books were
published, which raised the first alarm respecting this mysterious
society, whose dwelling-place no one knew, and no members of which had
ever been seen. The first was called a history of "The frightful
Compacts entered into between the Devil and the pretended
'Invisibles;' with their damnable Instructions, the deplorable Ruin of
their Disciples, and their miserable End." The other was called an
"Examination of the new and unknown Cabala of the Brethren of the
Rose-cross, who have lately inhabited the City of Paris; with the
History of their Manners, the Wonders worked by them, and many other

These books sold rapidly. Every one was anxious to know something
of this dreadful and secret brotherhood. The badauds of Paris were so
alarmed that they daily expected to see the arch-enemy walking in
propria persona among them. It was said in these volumes, that the
Rosicrucian society consisted of six-and-thirty persons in all, who
had renounced their baptism and hope of resurrection. That it was not
by means of good angels, as they pretended, that they worked their
prodigies; but that it was the devil who gave them power to transport
themselves from one end of the world to the other with the rapidity of
thought; to speak all languages; to have their purses always full of
money, however much they might spend; to be invisible, and penetrate
into the most secret places, in spite of fastenings of bolts and bars;
and to be able to tell the past and future. These thirty-six brethren
were divided into bands or companies:- six of them only had been sent
on the mission to Paris, six to Italy, six to Spain, six to Germany,
four to Sweden, and two into Switzerland; two into Flanders, two into
Lorraine, and two into Franche Comte. It was generally believed that
the missionaries to France resided somewhere in the Marais du Temple.
That quarter of Paris soon acquired a bad name; and people were afraid
to take houses in it, lest they should be turned out by the six
invisibles of the Rose-cross. It was believed by the populace, and by
many others whose education should have taught them better, that
persons of a mysterious aspect used to visit the inns and hotels of
Paris, and eat of the best meats and drink of the best wines, and then
suddenly melt away into thin air when the landlord came with the
reckoning. That gentle maidens, who went to bed alone, often awoke in
the night and found men in bed with them, of shape more beautiful than
the Grecian Apollo, who immediately became invisible when an alarm was
raised. It was also said that many persons found large heaps of pure
gold in their houses, without knowing from whence they came. All Paris
was in alarm. No man thought himself secure of his goods, no maiden of
her virginity, or wife of her chastity, while these Rosicrucians were
abroad. In the midst of the commotion, a second placard was issued to
the following effect:--

"If any one desires to see the brethren of the Rose-cross from
curiosity only, he will never communicate with us. But if his will
really induces him to inscribe his name in the register of our
brotherhood, we, who can judge of the thoughts of all men, will
convince him of the truth of our promises. For this reason we do not
publish to the world the place of our abode. Thought alone, in unison
with the sincere will of those who desire to know us, is sufficient to
make us known to them, and them to us."

Though the existence of such a society as that of the Rose-cross
was problematical, it was quite evident that somebody or other was
concerned in the promulgation of these placards, which were stuck up
on every wall in Paris. The police endeavoured in vain to find out the
offenders, and their want of success only served to increase the
perplexity of the public. The church very soon took up the question;
and the Abbe Gaultier, a Jesuit, wrote a book to prove that, by their
enmity to the Pope, they could be no other than disciples of Luther,
sent to promulgate his heresy. Their very name, he added, proved that
they were heretics; a cross surmounted by a rose being the heraldic
device of the arch-heretic Luther. One Garasse said they were a
confraternity of drunken impostors; and that their name was derived
from the garland of roses, in the form of a cross, hung over the
tables of taverns in Germany as the emblem of secrecy, and from whence
was derived the common saying, when one man communicated a secret to
another, that it was said "under the rose." Others interpreted the
letters F. R. C. to mean, not Brethren of the Rose-cross, but Fratres
Roris Cocti, or Brothers of Boiled Dew; and explained this appellation
by alleging that they collected large quantities of morning dew, and
boiled it, in order to extract a very valuable ingredient in the
composition of the philosopher's stone and the water of life.

The fraternity thus attacked defended themselves as well as they
were able. They denied that they used magic of any kind, or that they
consulted the devil. They said they were all happy; that they had
lived more than a century, and expected to live many centuries more;
and that the intimate knowledge which they possessed of all nature was
communicated to them by God himself as a reward for their piety and
utter devotion to his service. Those were in error who derived their
name from a cross of roses, or called them drunkards. To set the world
right on the first point, they reiterated that they derived their name
from Christian Rosencreutz, their founder; and, to answer the latter
charge, they repeated that they knew not what thirst was, and had
higher pleasures than those of the palate. They did not desire to
meddle with the politics or religion of any man or set of men,
although they could not help denying the supremacy of the Pope, and
looking upon him as a tyrant. Many slanders, they said, had been
repeated respecting them; the most unjust of which was, that they
indulged in carnal appetites, and, under the cloak of their
invisibility, crept into the chambers of beautiful maidens. They
asserted, on the contrary, that the first vow they took on entering
the society was a vow of chastity; and that any one among them who
transgressed in that particular would immediately lose all the
advantages he enjoyed, and be exposed once more to hunger, woe,
disease, and death, like other men. So strongly did they feel on the
subject of chastity, that they attributed the fall of Adam solely to
his want of this virtue. Besides defending themselves in this manner,
they entered into a further confession of their faith. They discarded
for ever all the old tales of sorcery and witchcraft, and communion
with the devil. They said there were no such horrid, unnatural, and
disgusting beings as the incubi and succubi, and the innumerable
grotesque imps that men had believed in for so many ages. Man was not
surrounded with enemies like these, but with myriads of beautiful and
beneficent beings, all anxious to do him service. The air was peopled
with sylphs, the water with undines or naiads, the bowels of the earth
with gnomes, and the fire with salamanders. All these beings were the
friends of man, and desired nothing so much as that men should purge
themselves of all uncleanness, and thus be enabled to see and converse
with them. They possessed great power, and were unrestrained by the
barriers of space or the obstructions of matter. But man was in one
particular their superior. He had an immortal soul, and they had not.
They might, however, become sharers in man's immortality, if they
could inspire one of that race with the passion of love towards them.
Hence it was the constant endeavour of the female spirits to captivate
the admiration of men; and of the male gnomes, sylphs, salamanders,
and undines, to be beloved by a woman. The object of this passion, in
returning their love, imparted a portion of that celestial fire the
soul; and from that time forth the beloved became equal to the lover,
and both, when their allotted course was run, entered together into
the mansions of felicity. These spirits, they said, watched constantly
over mankind by night and day. Dreams, omens, and presentiments were
all their works, and the means by which they gave warning of the
approach of danger. But, though so well inclined to befriend man for
their own sakes, the want of a soul rendered them at times capricious
and revengeful: they took offence on slight causes, and heaped
injuries instead of benefits on the heads of those who extinguished
the light of reason that was in them, by gluttony, debauchery, and
other appetites of the body.

The excitement produced in Paris by the placards of the
brotherhood, and the attacks of the clergy, wore itself away after a
few months. The stories circulated about them became at last too
absurd even for that age of absurdity, and men began to laugh once
more at those invisible gentlemen and their fantastic doctrines.
Gabriel Naude at that conjuncture brought out his "Avis a la France
sur les Freres de la Rose-croix," in which he very successfully
exposed the folly of the new sect. This work, though not well written,
was well timed. It quite extinguished the Rosicrucians of France; and,
after that year, little more was heard of them. Swindlers, in
different parts of the country, assumed the name at times to cloak
their depredations; and now and then one of them was caught, and
hanged for his too great ingenuity in enticing pearls and precious
stones from the pockets of other people into his own, or for passing
off lumps of gilded brass for pure gold, made by the agency of the
philosopher's stone. With these exceptions, oblivion shrouded them.

The doctrine was not confined to a sphere so narrow as France
alone; it still flourished in Germany, and drew many converts in
England. The latter countries produced two great masters, in the
persons of Jacob Bohmen and Robert Fludd; pretended philosophers, of
whom it is difficult to say which was the more absurd and extravagant.
It would appear that the sect was divided into two classes,-- the
brothers Roseae Crucis, who devoted themselves to the wonders of this
sublunary sphere; and the brothers Aureae Crucis, who were wholly
occupied in the contemplation of things Divine. Fludd belonged to the
first class, and Bohmen to the second. Fludd may be called the father
of the English Rosicrucians, and as such merits a conspicuous niche in
the temple of Folly.

He was born in the year 1574, at Milgate, in Kent; and was the son
of Sir Thomas Fludd, Treasurer of War to Queen Elizabeth. He was
originally intended for the army; but he was too fond of study, and of
a disposition too quiet and retiring to shine in that sphere. His
father would not, therefore, press him to adopt a course of life for
which he was unsuited, and encouraged him in the study of medicine,
for which he early manifested a partiality. At the age of twenty-five
he proceeded to the Continent; and being fond of the abstruse, the
marvellous, and the incomprehensible, he became an ardent disciple of
the school of Paracelsus, whom he looked upon as the regenerator, not
only of medicine, but of philosophy. He remained six years in Italy,
France, and Germany; storing his mind with fantastic notions, and
seeking the society of enthusiasts and visionaries. On his return to
England, in 1605, he received the degree of Doctor of Medicine from
the University of Oxford, and began to practice as a physician in

He soon made himself conspicuous. He Latinized his name from
Robert Fludd into Robertus a Fluctibus, and began the promulgation of
many strange doctrines. He avowed his belief in the philosopher's
stone, the water of life, and the universal alkahest; and maintained
that there were but two principles of all things, -- which were,
condensation, the boreal or northern virtue; and rarefaction, the
southern or austral virtue. A number of demons, he said, ruled over
the human frame, whom he arranged in their places in a rhomboid. Every
disease had its peculiar demon who produced it, which demon could only
be combated by the aid of the demon whose place was directly opposite
to his in the rhomboidal figure. Of his medical notions we shall have
further occasion to speak in another part of this book, when we
consider him in his character as one of the first founders of the
magnetic delusion, and its offshoot, animal magnetism, which has
created so much sensation in our own day.

As if the doctrines already mentioned were not wild enough, he
joined the Rosicrucians as soon as they began to make a sensation in
Europe, and succeeded in raising himself to high consideration among
them. The fraternity having been violently attacked by several German
authors, and among others by Libavius, Fludd volunteered a reply, and
published, in 1616, his defence of the Rosicrucian philosophy, under
the title of the "Apologia, compendiaria, Fraternitatem de
Rosea-cruce, Suspicionis et Infamiae maculis aspersam, abluens." This
work immediately procured him great renown upon the Continent, and he
was henceforth looked upon as one of the high-priests of the sect. Of
so much importance was he considered, that Keppler and Gassendi
thought it necessary to refute him; and the latter wrote a complete
examination of his doctrine. Mersenne also, the friend of Descartes,
and who had defended that philosopher when accused of having joined
the Rosicrucians, attacked Dr. a Fluctibus, as he preferred to be
called, and showed the absurdity of the brothers of the Rose-cross in
general, and of Dr. a Fluctibus in particular. Fluctibus wrote a long
reply, in which he called Mersenne an ignorant calumniator, and
reiterated that alchymy was a profitable science, and the Rosicrucians
worthy to be the regenerators of the world. This book was published at
Frankfort, and was entitled "Summum Bonum, quod est Magiae, Cabalae,
Alchimiae, Fratrum Roseae-Crucis verorum, et adversus Mersenium
Calumniatorem." Besides this, he wrote several other works upon
alchymy, a second answer to Libavius upon the Rosicrucians, and many
medical works. He died in London in 1637.

After his time there was some diminution of the sect in England.
They excited but little attention, and made no effort to bring
themselves into notice. Occasionally, some obscure and almost
incomprehensible work made its appearance, to show the world that the
folly was not extinguished. Eugenius Philalethes, a noted alchymist,
who has veiled his real name under this assumed one, translated "The
Fame and Confession of the Brethren of the Rosie Cross," which was
published in London in 1652. A few years afterwards, another
enthusiast, named John Heydon, wrote two works on the subject: the one
entitled "The Wise Man's Crown, or the Glory of the Rosie Cross ;" and
the other, "The Holy Guide, leading the way to unite Art and Nature,
with the Rosie Crosse uncovered." Neither of these attracted much
notice. A third book was somewhat more successful: it was called "A
New Method of Rosicrucian Physic; by John Heydon, the servant of God
and the secretary of Nature." A few extracts will show the ideas of
the English Rosicrucians about this period. Its author was an
attorney, "practising (to use his own words) at Westminster Hall all
term times as long as he lived, and in the vacations devoting himself
to alchymical and Rosicrucian meditation." In his preface, called by
him an Apologue for an Epilogue, he enlightens the public upon the
true history and tenets of his sect. Moses, Elias, and Ezekiel were,
he says, the most ancient masters of the Rosicrucian philosophy. Those
few then existing in England and the rest of Europe, were as the eyes
and ears of the great King of the universe, seeing and hearing all
things; seraphically illuminated; companions of the holy company of
unbodied souls and immortal angels; turning themselves, Proteus-like,
into any shape, and having the power of working miracles. The most
pious and abstracted brethren could slack the plague in cities,
silence the violent winds and tempests, calm the rage of the sea and
rivers, walk in the air, frustrate the malicious aspect of witches,
cure all diseases, and turn all metals into gold. He had known in his
time two famous brethren of the Rosie Cross, named Walfourd and
Williams, who had worked miracles in his sight, and taught him many
excellent predictions of astrology and earthquakes. "I desired one of
these to tell me," says he, "whether my complexion were capable of the
society of my good genius. 'When I see you again,' said he, (which was
when he pleased to come to me, for I knew not where to go to him,) 'I
will tell you.' When I saw him afterwards, he said, 'You should pray
to God; for a good and holy man can offer no greater or more
acceptable service to God than the oblation of himself -- his soul.'
He said, also, that the good genii were the benign eyes of God,
running to and fro in the world, and with love and pity beholding the
innocent endeavours of harmless and single-hearted men, ever ready to
do them good and to help them."

Heydon held devoutly true that dogma of the Rosicrucians which
said that neither eating nor drinking was necessary to men. He
maintained that any one might exist in the same manner as that
singular people dwelling near the source of the Ganges, of whom
mention was made in the travels of his namesake, Sir Christopher
Heydon, who had no mouths, and therefore could not eat, but lived by
the breath of their nostrils; except when they took a far journey, and
then they mended their diet with the smell of flowers. He said that in
really pure air "there was a fine foreign fatness," with which it was
sprinkled by the sunbeams, and which was quite sufficient for the
nourishment of the generality of mankind. Those who had enormous
appetites he had no objection to see take animal food, since they
could not do without it; but he obstinately insisted that there was no
necessity why they should eat it. If they put a plaster of
nicely-cooked meat upon their epigastrium, it would be sufficient for
the wants of the most robust and voracious! They would by that means
let in no diseases, as they did at the broad and common gate, the
mouth, as any one might see by example of drink; for, all the while a
man sat in water, he was never athirst. He had known, he said, many
Rosicrucians, who, by applying wine in this manner, had fasted for
years together. In fact, quoth Heydon, we may easily fast all our
life, though it be three hundred years, without any kind of meat, and
so cut off all danger of disease.

This "sage philosopher" further informed his wondering
contemporaries that the chiefs of the doctrine always carried about
with them to their place of meeting their symbol, called the R.C.
which was an ebony cross, flourished and decked with roses of gold;
the cross typifying Christ's sufferings upon the Cross for our sins,
and the roses of gold the glory and beauty of his Resurrection. This
symbol was carried alternately to Mecca, Mount Calvary, Mount Sinai,
Haran, and to three other places, which must have been in mid-air,
called Cascle, Apamia, and Chaulateau Virissa Caunuch, where the
Rosicrucian brethren met when they pleased, and made resolution of all
their actions. They always took their pleasures in one of these
places, where they resolved all questions of whatsoever had been done,
was done, or should be done, in the world, from the beginning to the
end thereof. "And these," he concludes, "are the men called

Towards the end of the seventeenth century, more rational ideas
took possession of the sect, which still continued to boast of a few
members. They appear to have considered that contentment was the true
philosopher's stone, and to have abandoned the insane search for a
mere phantom of the imagination. Addison, in "The Spectator," [No.
574. Friday, July 30th, 1714.] gives an account of his conversation
with a Rosicrucian; from which it may be inferred that the sect had
grown wiser in their deeds, though in their talk they were as foolish
as ever. "I was once," says he, "engaged in discourse with a
Rosicrucian about the great secret. He talked of the secret as of a
spirit which lived within an emerald, and converted everything that
was near it to the highest perfection that it was capable of. 'It
gives a lustre,' says he, 'to the sun, and water to the diamond. It
irradiates every metal, and enriches lead with all the properties of
gold. It heightens smoke into flame, flame into light, and light into
glory.' He further added 'that a single ray of it dissipates pain, and
care, and melancholy from the person on whom it falls. In short,' says
he, 'its presence naturally changes every place into a kind of
heaven.' After he had gone on for some time in this unintelligible
cant, I found that he jumbled natural and moral ideas together into
the same discourse, and that his great secret was nothing else but


It is now time to speak of Jacob Bohmen, who thought he could
discover the secret of the transmutation of metals in the Bible, and
who invented a strange heterogeneous doctrine of mingled alchymy and
religion, and founded upon it the sect of the Aurea-crucians. He was
born at Gorlitz, in Upper Lusatia, in 1575; and followed, till his
thirtieth year, the occupation of a shoemaker. In this obscurity he
remained, with the character of a visionary and a man of unsettled
mind, until the promulgation of the Rosicrucian philosophy in his part
of Germany, toward the year 1607 or 1608. From that time he began to
neglect his leather, and buried his brain under the rubbish of
metaphysics. The works of Paracelsus fell into his hands; and these,
with the reveries of the Rosicrucians, so completely engrossed his
attention that be abandoned his trade altogether, sinking, at the same
time, from a state of comparative independence into poverty and
destitution. But he was nothing daunted by the miseries and privations
of the flesh; his mind was fixed upon the beings of another sphere,
and in thought he was already the new apostle of the human race. In
the year 1612, after a meditation of four years, he published his
first work, entitled "Aurora; or, The Rising of the Sun;" embodying
the ridiculous notions of Paracelsus, and worse confounding the
confusion of that writer. The philosopher's stone might, he contended,
be discovered by a diligent search of the Old and New Testaments, and
more especially of the Apocalypse, which alone contained all the
secrets of alchymy. He contended that the Divine Grace operated by the
same rules, and followed the same methods, that the Divine Providence
observed in the natural world; and that the minds of men were purged
from their vices and corruptions in the very same manner that metals
were purified from their dross, namely, by fire.

Besides the sylphs, gnomes, undines, and salamanders, he
acknowledged various ranks and orders of demons. He pretended to
invisibility and absolute chastity. He also said that, if it pleased
him, he could abstain for years from meat and drink, and all the
necessities of the body. It is needless, however, to pursue his
follies any further. He was reprimanded for writing this work by the
magistrates of Gorlitz, and commanded to leave the pen alone and stick
to his wax, that his family might not become chargeable to the parish.
He neglected this good advice, and continued his studies; burning
minerals and purifying metals one day, and mystifying the Word of God
on the next. He afterwards wrote three other works, as sublimely
ridiculous as the first. The one was entitled "Metallurgia," and has
the slight merit of being the least obscure of his compositions.
Another was called "The Temporal Mirror of Eternity ;" and the last
his "Theosophy revealed," full of allegories and metaphors,

"All strange and geason,
Devoid of sense and ordinary reason."

Bohmen died in 1624, leaving behind him a considerable number of
admiring disciples. Many of them became, during the seventeenth
century, as distinguished for absurdity as their master; amongst whom
may be mentioned Gifftheil, Wendenhagen, John Jacob Zimmermann, and
Abraham Frankenberg. Their heresy rendered them obnoxious to the
Church of Rome; and many of them suffered long imprisonment and
torture for their faith. One, named Kuhlmann, was burned alive at
Moscow, in 1684, on a charge of sorcery. Bohmen's works were
translated into English, and published, many years afterwards by an
enthusiast, named William Law.


Peter Mormius, a notorious alchymist, and contemporary of Bohmen,
endeavoured, in 1630, to introduce the Rosicrucian philosophy into
Holland. He applied to the States-General to grant him a public
audience, that he might explain the tenets of the sect, and disclose a
plan for rendering Holland the happiest and richest country on the
earth, by means of the philosopher's' stone and the service of the
elementary spirits. The States-General wisely resolved to have nothing
to do with him. He thereupon determined to shame them by printing his
book, which he did at Leyden the same year. It was entitled "The Book
of the most Hidden Secrets of Nature," and was divided into three
parts; the first treating of "perpetual motion," the second of the
"transmutation of metals," and the third of the "universal medicine."
He also published some German works upon the Rosicrucian philosophy,
at Frankfort, in 1617.

Poetry and Romance are deeply indebted to the Rosicrucians for
many a graceful creation. The literature of England, France, and
Germany contains hundreds of sweet fictions, whose machinery has been
borrowed from their day-dreams. The "delicate Ariel" of Shakspeare
stands pre-eminent among the number. From the same source Pope drew
the airy tenants of Belinda's dressing-room, in his charming "Rape of
the Lock;" and La Motte Fouque, the beautiful and capricious
water-nymph, Undine, around whom he has thrown more grace and
loveliness, and for whose imaginary woes he has excited more sympathy,
than ever were bestowed on a supernatural being. Sir Walter Scott also
endowed the White Lady of Avenel with many of the attributes of the
undines, or water-sprites. German romance and lyrical poetry teem with
allusions to sylphs, gnomes, undines, and salamanders; and the French
have not been behind in substituting them, in works of fiction, for
the more cumbrous mythology of Greece and Rome. The sylphs, more
especially, have been the favourites of the bards, and have become so
familiar to the popular mind as to be, in a manner, confounded with
that other race of ideal beings, the fairies, who can boast of an
antiquity much more venerable in the annals of superstition. Having
these obligations to the Rosicrucians, no lover of poetry can wish,
however absurd they were, that such a sect of philosophers had never


Just at the time that Michael Mayer was making known to the world
the existence of such a body as the Rosicrucians, there was born in
Italy a man who was afterwards destined to become the most conspicuous
member of the fraternity. The alchymic mania never called forth the
ingenuity of a more consummate or more successful impostor than Joseph
Francis Borri. He was born in 1616 according to some authorities, and
in 1627 according to others, at Milan; where his father, the Signor
Branda Borri, practised as a physician. At the age of sixteen, Joseph
was sent to finish his education at the Jesuits' College in Rome,
where he distinguished himself by his extraordinary memory. He learned
everything to which he applied himself with the utmost ease. In the
most voluminous works no fact was too minute for his retention, and no
study was so abstruse but that he could master it; but any advantages
he might have derived from this facility, were neutralized by his
ungovernable passions and his love of turmoil and debauchery. He was
involved in continual difficulty, as well with the heads of the
college as with the police of Rome, and acquired so bad a character
that years could not remove it. By the aid of his friends he
established himself as a physician in Rome, and also obtained some
situation in the Pope's household. In one of his fits of studiousness
he grew enamoured of alchymy, and determined to devote his energies to
the discovery of the philosopher's stone. Of unfortunate propensities
he had quite sufficient, besides this, to bring him to poverty. His
pleasures were as expensive as his studies, and both were of a nature
to destroy his health and ruin his fair fame. At the age of
thirty-seven he found that he could not live by the practice of
medicine, and began to look about for some other employment. He
became, in 1653, private secretary to the Marquis di Mirogli, the
minister of the Archduke of Innspruk at the court of Rome. He
continued in this capacity for two years; leading, however, the same
abandoned life as heretofore, frequenting the society of gamesters,
debauchees, and loose women, involving himself in disgraceful street
quarrels, and alienating the patrons who were desirous to befriend

All at once a sudden change was observed in his conduct. The
abandoned rake put on the outward sedateness of a philosopher; the
scoffing sinner proclaimed that he had forsaken his evil ways, and
would live thenceforth a model of virtue. To his friends this
reformation was as pleasing as it was unexpected; and Borri gave
obscure hints that it had been brought about by some miraculous
manifestation of a superior power. He pretended that he held converse
with beneficent spirits; that the secrets of God and nature were
revealed to him; and that he had obtained possession of the
philosopher's stone. Like his predecessor, Jacob Bohmen, he mixed up
religious questions with his philosophical jargon, and took measures
for declaring himself the founder of a new sect. This, at Rome itself,
and in the very palace of the Pope, was a hazardous proceeding; and
Borri just awoke to a sense of it in time to save himself from the
dungeons of the Castle of St. Angelo. He fled to Innspruck, where he
remained about a year, and then returned to his native city of Milan.

The reputation of his great sanctity had gone before him; and he
found many persons ready to attach themselves to his fortunes. All who
were desirous of entering into the new communion took an oath of
poverty, and relinquished their possessions for the general good of
the fraternity. Borri told them that he had received from the
archangel Michael a heavenly sword, upon the hilt of which were
engraven the names of the seven celestial Intelligences. "Whoever
shall refuse," said he, "to enter into my new sheepfold, shall be
destroyed by the papal armies, of whom God has predestined me to be
the chief. To those who follow me, all joy shall be granted. I shall
soon bring my chemical studies to a happy conclusion by the discovery
of the philosopher's stone, and by this means we shall all have as
much gold as we desire. I am assured of the aid of the angelic hosts,
and more especially of the archangel Michael's. When I began to walk
in the way of the spirit, I had a vision of the night, and was assured
by an angelic voice that I should become a prophet. In sign of it I
saw a palm-tree, surrounded with all the glory of Paradise. The angels
come to me whenever I call, and reveal to me all the secrets of the
universe. The sylphs and elementary spirits obey me, and fly to the
uttermost ends of the world to serve me, and those whom I delight to
honour." By force of continually repeating such stories as these,
Borri soon found himself at the head of a very considerable number of
adherents. As he figures in these pages as an alchymist, and not as a
religious sectarian, it will be unnecessary to repeat the doctrines
which he taught with regard to some of the dogmas of the Church of
Rome, and which exposed him to the fierce resentment of the papal
authority. They were to the full as ridiculous as his philosophical
pretensions. As the number of his followers increased, he appears to
have cherished the idea of becoming one day a new Mahomet, and of
founding, in his native city of Milan, a monarchy and religion of
which he should be the king and the prophet. He had taken measures, in
the year 1658, for seizing the guards at all the gates of that city,
and formally declaring himself the monarch of the Milanese. Just as he
thought the plan ripe for execution, it was discovered. Twenty of his
followers were arrested, and he himself managed, with the utmost
difficulty, to escape to the neutral territory of Switzerland, where
the papal displeasure could not reach him.

The trial of his followers commenced forthwith, and the whole of
them were sentenced to various terms of imprisonment. Borri's trial
proceeded in his absence, and lasted for upwards of two years. He was
condemned to death as a heretic and sorcerer in 1661, and was burned
in effigy in Rome by the common hangman.

Borri, in the mean time, lived quietly in Switzerland, indulging
himself in railing at the Inquisition and its proceedings. He
afterwards went to Strasbourg, intending to fix his residence in that
town. He was received with great cordiality, as a man persecuted for
his religious opinions, and withal a great alchymist. He found that
sphere too narrow for his aspiring genius, and retired in the same
year to the more wealthy city of Amsterdam. He there hired a
magnificent house, established an equipage which eclipsed in
brilliancy those of the richest merchants, and assumed the title of
Excellency. Where he got the money to live in this expensive style was
long a secret: the adepts in alchymy easily explained it, after their
fashion. Sensible people were of opinion that be had come by it in a
less wonderful manner; for it was remembered that, among his
unfortunate disciples in Milan, there were many rich men, who, in
conformity with one of the fundamental rules of the sect, had given up
all their earthly wealth into the hands of their founder. In whatever
manner the money was obtained, Borri spent it in Holland with an
unsparing hand, and was looked up to by the people with no little
respect and veneration. He performed several able cures, and increased
his reputation so much that he was vaunted as a prodigy. He continued
diligently the operations of alchymy, and was in daily expectation
that he should succeed in turning the inferior metals into gold. This
hope never abandoned him, even in the worst extremity of his fortunes;
and in his prosperity it led him into the most foolish expenses: but
he could not long continue to live so magnificently upon the funds he
had brought from Italy; and the philosopher's stone, though it
promised all for the wants of the morrow, never brought anything for
the necessities of to-day. He was obliged in a few months to retrench,
by giving up his large house, his gilded coach, and valuable
blood-horses, his liveried domestics, and his luxurious
entertainments. With this diminution of splendour came a diminution of
renown. His cures did not appear so miraculous, when he went out on
foot to perform them, as they had seemed when "his Excellency" had
driven to a poor man's door in his carriage with six horses. He sank
from a prodigy into an ordinary man. His great friends showed him the
cold shoulder, and his humble flatterers carried their incense to some
other shrine. Borri now thought it high time to change his quarters.
With this view he borrowed money wherever he could get it, and
succeeded in obtaining two hundred thousand florins from a merchant,
named De Meer, to aid, as he said, in discovering the water of life.
He also obtained six diamonds, of great value, on pretence that he
could remove the flaws from them without diminishing their weight.
With this booty he stole away secretly by night, and proceeded to


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