Fludd, Robert (DNB00)

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FLUDD or FLUD, ROBERT, M.D. (1574–1637), rosicrucian, second, or, according to Waite, fifth son of Sir Thomas Fludd, knight, by Elizabeth, daughter of Philip Andros of Taunton, Somerset, was born in 1574 at Milgate House, in the parish of Bearsted, Kent. The family was of Welsh origin; Robert's grandfather, David Fludd, was of Morton, Shropshire. Sir Thomas Fludd was ‘sometime treasurer of war to Q. Elizabeth in France and the Low Countries.’ In 1591 Fludd became commoner of St. John's College, Oxford, and graduated B.A. on 3 Feb. 1596; M.A. on 8 July 1598. As a student of medical science he travelled for nearly six years on the continent, visiting France, Spain, Italy, and Germany, and teaching in noble families. Returning with considerable repute as a proficient in chemistry, he became a member of Christ Church, Oxford, and on 16 May 1605 received the degrees of M.B. and M.D. Early in 1606 he was twice examined by the College of Physicians; on the second occasion (7 Feb.) the censors reported that although he had not fully satisfied the examiners, he was qualified to practise medicine. In consequence of alleged expressions of contempt for the Galenic system, he was cited before the censors on 2 May 1606. He denied the charges; his accusers not appearing, he was dismissed with an admonition. Thrice in the same year he was examined for the fellowship, and on 22 Dec. was pronounced ‘dignus.’ But he got into further trouble with the authorities, and ‘tam insolenter se gessit’ that on 21 March 1608 he was again admonished. On 20 Sept. 1609 he was elected a fellow of the College of Physicians; he was censor in 1618, 1627, 1633, and 1634.

Fludd practised in London as a physician, and kept a handsome establishment. His success in the healing art is ascribed by Fuller to his influence on the minds of his patients, producing a ‘faith-natural’ which aided the ‘well working’ of his drugs. He had his own apothecary under his roof, which was unusual; and he was always provided with an amanuensis, to whom he dictated at untimely hours his numerous and elaborate treatises on things divine and human. He claims notice as a mechanician; by his own account he had constructed a wooden bull that bellowed, an automatic dragon, and a self-performing lyre.

As a writer, Fludd is the chief English representative of that school of medical mystics which laid claim to the possession of the key to universal science. With less of original genius than Paracelsus, he has more method, and takes greater pains to frame a consistent system. The common idea of this school, that the biblical text contains a storehouse of hints for modern science, has lost interest, its potency expiring with the Hutchinsonians. And since Fludd did not make, like Paracelsus, any permanent addition to the pharmacopœia, or foreshadow, like Servetus, any later discoveries in chemistry or physiology, his lucubrations have passed into oblivion. His writings obtained more attention abroad than at home, though Selden highly valued them, and an admiring writer (John Webster) esteems their author ‘one of the most Christian philosophers that ever writ.’ Kepler and Gassendi entered the lists against him. De Quincey, following Buhle, makes him oddly enough the ‘immediate father’ of freemasonry.

Fludd is best remembered for his connection with the fraternity of the rosy cross, a society so obscure that its very existence has been denied. It was introduced to the public in 1614 by an anonymous work in German, best known as the ‘Fama Fraternitatis,’ which promised a ‘universal and general reformation of the whole world’ through the ‘Orden des Rosenkreuzes.’ This publication, which Gottfried Arnold regards as an elaborate skit on the part of Johann Valentin Andreas (1586–1654), ascribed the foundation of the fraternity to one Christian Rosenkreuz, in the fifteenth century. In addition to the attainment of the usual prizes of the alchemist, one of its practical objects was reported to be the gratuitous healing of the sick. The movement was commended to Fludd's notice by the German alchemist, Michael Maier, who visited him in London. Fludd came forward in vindication of the fraternity, especially from the suspicions of theologians. To a manuscript ‘Declaratio breuis,’ which he addressed to James I, are appended the confirmatory letters of French and German associates. On behalf of German writers of the fraternity, Justus Helt testifies (20 April 1617) that they are neither popish nor Lutheran, in short that ‘Fratrum theosophiam esse Calvinistarum theologiam.’

Flood takes the position that all true natural science is rooted in revelation. He opposes the ‘ethnic philosophy’ of Aristotle, and is equally opposed to all modern astronomy, for he denies the diurnal revolution of the earth. Holding with the neoplatonists that all things were ‘complicitly and ideally in God’ before they were made, he advances to a doctrine of the divine immanence which betrays a strong pantheistic tendency. In the dedication of one of his works (1617) he addresses the deity, ‘O natura naturans, infinita et gloriosa.’ St. Luke he calls his ‘physicall and theosophicall patron’ (Mosaicall Philos.)

Fludd died unmarried on 8 Sept. 1637 at his house in the parish of St. Catherine, Coleman Street; he had previously lived in Fenchurch Street. He was buried with some ceremony in the chancel of Bearsted Church, under a stone which he had laid for the purpose; it bears an English inscription. He left directions for a monument in the style of that of Camden at Westminster; this, with bust and long Latin epitaph, was erected 10 Aug. 1638 within the chancel rails at Bearsted, by his nephew, Thomas Fludd or Floyd of Gore Court, Otham, Kent. His portrait was engraved by Mathias Merran of Basle, and again by Cooper. It represents a man with bald head, high forehead, and good features. Granger mentions five different prints of him. A sister of Fludd married Sir Nicholas Gilbourne of Charing, Kent (Answer to Foster, p. 108).

In his printed works his name is given indifferently as Flud or Fludd; the former seems to represent his earlier usage, and it is that of the manuscript ‘Declaratio breuis’ (1617). The punning translation, ‘De Fluctibus,’ used by Fludd in his second publication, and adopted by Kepler and others, argues an ignorance of Welsh, as the rendering bears no relation either to ‘llwyd’ (grey), or ‘llwydd’ (luck). Once he employs (1617) the name Rudolf Otreb, an anagram for Robert Floud. He published also under the name of Joachim Frizius; and a posthumous work, which has been assigned to him, appeared under the name of Alitophilus.

His principal works are: 1. ‘Apologia Compendiaria, Fraternitatem de Rosea Cruce suspicionis … maculis aspersam, veritatis quasi Fluctibus abluens,’ &c., Leyden, 1616, 8vo. (the assailant of the rosicrucians was Andreas Libavius). 2. ‘Tractatus Apologeticus integritatem Societatis de Rosea Cruce defendens,’ &c., Leyden, 1617, 8vo (a revision of No. 1). 3. ‘Tractatus Theologo-philosophicus,’ &c., Oppenheim, 1617 [the date is given in a chronogram], 4to (this treatise ‘a Rudolfo Otreb Britanno’ is dedicated to the rosicrucian fraternity, and consists of three books, ‘De Vita,’ ‘De Morte,’ and ‘De Resurrectione;’ in the third book he contends that those filled with the spirit of Christ may rise before his second advent). 4. ‘Utriusque Cosmi … metaphysica, physica atque technica Historia,’ &c., Oppenheim and Frankfort, 1617–24, fol. (has two dedications, first to the Deity, secondly to James I; very curious copperplates; it was to have been in two volumes, the first containing two treatises, the second three; it was completed as far as the first section of the second treatise of the second volume). 5. ‘Veritatis Proscenium,’ &c., Frankfort, 1621, fol. (reply to Kepler, who had criticised him in appendix to ‘Harmonice Mundi,’ 1619, fol.). 6. ‘Monochordon Mundi Symphoniacum,’ &c., Frankfort, 1622, 4to (reply to Kepler's ‘Mathematice,’ 1622, fol.). 7. ‘Anatomiæ Amphitheatrum,’ &c., Frankfort, 1623, fol. (includes reprint of No. 6). 8. ‘Philosophia Sacra et vere Christiana,’ &c., Frankfort, 1626, fol. (portrait; dedicated to John Williams, bishop of Lincoln). 9. ‘Medicina Catholica,’ &c., Frankfort, 1629–31, fol. (in five parts; the plan included a second volume, not published). 10. ‘Sophiæ cum Moria Certamen,’ &c., Frankfort, 1629, fol. (reply to the ‘Quæstiones Celebres in Genesim,’ by Marin Mersenne). 11. ‘Summum Bonorum,’ &c. [Frankfort], 1629, fol. (‘per Joachim Frizium;’ further reply to Mersenne, who had accused Fludd of magic; Gassendi took up the controversy in an ‘Examen Philosophiæ Fluddanæ,’ 1630). 12. ‘Doctor Fludds Answer vnto M. Foster, or, The Sqvesing of Parson Fosters Sponge,’ &c., London, 1631, 4to (defence of weapon-salve, against the ‘Hoplocrisma-Spongus,’ 1631, 4to, of William Foster [q. v.], of Hedgerley, Buckinghamshire); an edition in Latin, ‘Responsum ad Hoplocrisma-Spongum,’ &c., Gouda, 1638, fol. Posthumous were: 13. ‘Philosophia Moysaica,’ &c., Gouda, 1638, fol.; an edition in English, ‘Mosaicall Philosophy,’ &c., London, 1659, 4to. 14. ‘Religio Exculpata,’ &c. [Ratisbon], 1684, 4to (‘Autore Alitophilo Religionis fluctibus dudum immerso, tandem … emerso;’ preface signed J. N. J.; though assigned to Fludd, this work wholly differs in character from his genuine productions). 15. ‘Tractatus de Geomantia,’ &c. (four books), included in ‘Fasciculus Geomanticus,’ &c., Verona, 1687, 8vo. 16. An unpublished manuscript, copied by an amanuensis, and headed ‘Declaratio breuis, &c.,’ is in the British Museum, Royal MSS., 12 C. ii.; the manuscript 12 B. viii., which seems to have been another copy of this, with a slightly different title, has perished by fire. Fludd's ‘Opera’ consist of his folios, not reprinted, but collected and arranged in six volumes in 1638; appended is a ‘Clavis Philosophiæ et Alchimiæ Fluddanæ,’ Frankfort, 1633, fol.

[Fuller's Worthies, 1672, p. 78 sq. (second pagination), gives the name as Floid; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. 1691, i. 504, 509 (i.e. 519), 773, 778, 793; additions in Bliss, ii. 618; Ebert's Lexicon, 1821–30, No. 7701; Webster's Displaying of Supposed Witchcraft, 1677; Granger's Biog. Hist. of Engl. 1824, ii. 119; De Quincey's Historico-Crit. Inquiry into the Origin of the Rosicrucians and the Freemasons (1824), Works, xvi. 406 sq.; Hunt's Relig. Thought in Engl. 1870, i. 240 sq.; Munk's Coll. of Phys. 1878, i. 150 sq.; Waite's Real Hist. of the Rosicrucians, 1887, p. 284 sq.; Fludd's Works.]

A. G.