A collection of letters illustrative of the progress of science in England, from the reign of Queen Elizabeth to that of Charles the Second/Letter 4

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DR. JOHN DEE TO LORD BURGHLEY[1].

[MS. Lansd. No. 19. Art. 38. Orig.]

Right honorable and my singuler good Lord,—Whereas of late your honor very favorably used me, considering your mervailous skantnes of leysor from very waighty matters and publick: I am now, therefore, most humbly to render thanks to your honor. Sins which tyme I have som whole dayes attended at London, hoping for your lordship comming thither. And on fryday last, perceyving your honor to be almost in a redines to ride toward the court, ere I could get to London (after I hard of your lordship certayn being there) I than thowght the season to be very unfeete for my purpose. Therfore finding your Lordship, at all tymes of usuall access for suters, so fraught with matters of more importance than any of myne can justly be deemed, I thowght good (with your lordships leave and favor) thus by writing to enjoye one howre of your lordships leisour (best known to your Lordship onely, whan that is) to vew the pattern of som part of my symple sute: which hertofore I wold gladly have opened unto your honor by word of mowth; and that is this. So much of my intent and studious doings is well known unto your honor, and the most part of all universities in Christendome (and farder); that for this xx. yeres last past, and longer, it may be very truely avowched that I have had a mervailous zeale, taken very greate care, endured great travayle and toyle, both of mynde and body, and spent very many hundred powndes, onely for the attayning some good and certayn knowledg in the best and rarest matters mathematicall and philosophicall. How little or much therin the æternall God hath imparted to me (for my talent) He onely best knoweth. But certaynly by due conference with all that ever I yet met with in Europe, the pore English Bryttains (Il favorito, di vostra Excellentia) hath carried the bell away. God Almighty have the glory! The same zeale remayneth (yea, rather, greater is grown). But the hability, for chargis, is far lesser; and that somwhat occasioned the sooner, throwgh my frank dealing for procuring and purchasing speady meanes of good knowledg. Which also I did uppon no small hope that som nedefull supportail wolde be for me (in due tyme) devysed: eyther throwgh the meer and gracious good favour that I was perswaded the Q. most excellent Majesty did beare unto me, or els throwgh the procurement of some of the right honorable cownsaylours, which both right well knew, by how hard dealing my father Roland Dee (servant to her Majesties father the most renowned and triumphant King of our age) was disabled for leaving unto me due mayntenance: and also sufficiently understode of sundry sutes in my behalf motioned, for some ayde toward the atcheving of some of my honest intents. Of which sutes no one (hitherto) hath taken the wished for success, for any my behofe. Nay, in the mean tyme of some my travayles beyond the seas, unleast your honor had put to your helping hand, I had byn defeated of that little exhibition, which I enjoye; being but borrowed a while, by speciall priviledge and favor extraordinary. And that unwillingly un my part, if I could other wayes have had the supply therof in like yerely value, which (as God knoweth) findeth not me, and my pore familie, necessary meat, drink, and fewel, for a frugall and philosophicall dyet. But if I may (with your Lordships favor) speak as I think, unfaynedly: unleast your honor had supposed that I had odly committed the care for my necessary mayntenance unto some other noble cownsaylour than yourself: veryly I judge, that, long ere this, your honor would have made me to have tasted of that mervaylously famous your honorable constant and lucky favour and benedicite of the Court Royall; whereby, may have bin and are made liable to dispend of their owne yerely, thre, fowre, five, &c. of hundred pownds. To compare with any of them in desert publik or lerning, I neyther dare, nor justly can. But in zeale to the best lerning and knowledg, and in incredible toyle of body and mynde, very many yeres therfore onely endured: I know most assuredly that this land never bred any man, whose accownt therin can evidently be proved greater than myne. I trust that this my simple speche, uttered in the record of my conscience, and with a sincere estimate both of myne and my predecessors doings, will not seme to your wisdome arrogantly vaunted; onely God can make the perswasion of the truth hereof to settle into the bottom of your lordships hart. And fearing to offend your honor any way, eyther with rude homelyness, or with superfluitie of wordes, I will cut of all such digressions; and committing myself, and my honest purposes, wholy to your Lordships protection and direction henceforward, I beseche your honor to accept my faithfull good meaning toward your Lordship, which, dayly and howerly, will (by God's grace) appeare unto your lordship more and more abundantly. Returning now, therefore, to the matter wherof I last (by mowth) spake unto your honor, and which, also, was the last principall point of my spedy letter than delivered to your Lordship,—As concerning thresor hid. First, it may pleas your lordship to consider this clause truely by me noted out of Theseus Ambrosius, fol. 206, b. In copiosa illa Antonii de Fantis Tarvisini librorum multitudine, magnum sane volumen repertum fuit, in quo abdita quam plurima, et satis abunde curiosa, tam ad philosophiam, medicinam, et herbarum notionem, quam etiam ad astrologiam, geomantiam, et magiam, pertinentia continebantur. Et in ejus præcipua quadam parte tractabatur de thesauris per totum fere orbem reconditis atque latentibus, quorum admodum clara atque specifica notio haberi poterat, &c. Secondly out of Henricus Leicestrensis (I suppose) it is noted, in the summary of English chronicles, anno 1344, of a Sarazin comming than to Erle Warren, as concerning a great threasor hid in his grownd, in the Marches of Wales, and of the good success therof. Thirdly (for this xx. yeres space) I have had sundry such matters detected unto me, in sundry lands. Fowrthly, of late, I have byn sued unto by diverse sorts of people, of which, some by vehement iterated dreames, some by vision, as they have thowght, other, by speche forced to their imagination by night, have byn informed of certayn places where threasor doth lye hid; which all, for feare of kepars, as the phrase commonly nameth them, or for mistrust of truth in the places assigned, and some for some other causes, have forborn to deale farder, unleast I shold corrage them, or cownsaile them, how to procede. Wherein I have allways byn contented to heare the histories, fantasies, or illusions to me reported, but never entermeddled according to the desire of such. Hereof might grow many articles of question and controversie among the common lerned; and skruple among the theologians: which all I cut of from this place, ready to answer onely your Lordship most largely, in termes of godly philosophic, whan opportunitie shall serve: making small accownt of vulgar opinions in matter of so rare knowledg: but making allways my chief reckening to do nothing but that which may stand with the profession of a true Christian, and of a faithfull subject. But, if, (besides all bokes, dreames, visions, reports and virgula divina) by any other naturall meanes and likely demonstrations of sympathia and antipathia rerum, or by attraction and repulsion, the places may be discryed or discovered, where gold, silver, or better matter, doth lye hid, within a certayne distance: how great a commodity shold it be for the Quenens Majestie, and the common weale of this Kingdome, by such a secret, not onely threasor hid may be deciphered in precise place: but, also, it may be disclosed where, in this land, any mynes, vaynes, or owre of gold or silver be naturally planted. And here (by the way) I must note unto your Lordship the name and argument of one strange boke, ihich, in old tyme, was in this land,—Pandulphus de meatibus terræ: qui cunctas venas, meatus, atque aditus subterraneos, conflexiones, specus, antra et interiora latibula, cavernulasque terrarum, porositates, profunditates, concavitatesque totius sæculi materialis, et ambitus subtus terram enumerat singillatim. So that by this and the former boke it may appeare what manner of philosophers and mathematiciens have bin in tymes past. Conclusionally than, in respect of all the premisses, one part of my present sute unto your honor is that, by your lordships wisdome, the Queens Majestie may be induced to think somwhat favorably (as very many other, noble and lerned, of forrayn lands do) of my great travailes, patience, constancy, costs, and credit, in matters philosophicall and mathematicall: and thereuppon, in the ende of my carefull race, to let some token of her Majesties royall good affection precede toward me, whome, your lordship knoweth (or may know) that emperors, kings, princes, dukes, marchises, erles, barons, and other many men, of great powre and magnificent courrage, have sued unto (in my tyme) to enjoye my simple talent, in their service or company: to whome all, I ever have given answer (as my duety was, and my stomach served me therto) for the honor of my naturall and drad soveraigne (for that tyme) here raigning. Your honor knoweth that thresor trouvé is a very casuall thing: and of which, althowgh the prerogative of the Q. Majestic do entitle to her a proprietie, yet how seldome her Grace hath hitherto receyved any commodity therby,—it is to your honor better known, than unto me. But as for mines of gold and silver, to be in England or Ireland, many have written and reported both of old tyme, and latter: as I think, your honor hath, ere this, hard abundantly discoursed. The value of a myne is a matter for a King's threasor; but a pot of two or three hundred pownds, &c., hid in the grownd, wall, or tree, is but the price of a good boke or instrument for perspective, astronomy, or som feat of importance. And truely vulgar, obscure persons, as hosiers and tanners, can (by colour of seking assays of metalls, for the say master) enjoye liberty to content their fantasies to dig after dremish demonstrations of places, &c. May not I, than (in respect of all the former allegations of my pains, cost, and credit, in matters philosophicall and mathematicall) yf no better or easyer way to serve my turn will fall to my lot from her Majesties hands; may not I than (I say) be thowght to meane and intend good service toward the Q. Majestie and this realme, if I will do the best I can at my own costis and chargis, to discover, and deliver true profe of a myne, vayn, or owre of gold, or silver, in some one place of her graces kingdoms and dominions, to her graces onely use; in respect, I mean, of any my demaund or part to be had therof. But uppon this comfortable consideration, that her Majesty do frely give unto me, by good warranty and assurance of her letters-patents, her right and propriety to all thresor trouvé, and such things commodious, as (under that name and meaning comprised) by digging or search any where, in her graces kingdomes and dominions, I, or my assignes shall come to, or finde: and with all good warranty (for my indemnity) agayn all laws and persons, to make serch by digging, or otherwise. And this to dure the terme of my life. And in token of my hart fully bent to shew myself thankfull to your lordship for compasing eyther of these two wayes: (I mean eyther an easyer means of provision, for two hundred pownds, yerely, during my life: or this casual marts of paynfull search); before God, I promise unto your lordship (or will by oth uppon the Evangelists be bownde) of all thresor trouvé (commyng to my hands) to impart unto your lordship, or your assignes, the one half, during my life. Moreover your Lordship may be most assured that any notable benefit (throwgh your L. meanes) bestowed uppon me now in the very pynch and opportunytie, shall not, ne yet can, be hid under a bushell: but is like with your L. famous renown, very far immortally to be blazed. The third and last principall point of this my present sute to your L., is for your L. hand to a letter directed to Mr. Harly, keper of the records of Wigmor castell, or to whome, in this case, it doth appertayn. For that, at my late being there, I espied an heap of old papers and parchments, obligations, acquittances, accownts, &c. (in tyme past belonging to the abbay of Wigmor) and there to lye rotting, spoyled, and tossed, in an old decayed chappell, not committed to any man's speciall charge: but thre quarters of them I understand to have byn taken away by diverse (eyther taylors, or others, in tymes past). Now my fantasie is that, in som of them, will be some mention made of noblemen and gentlemen of those dayes, whereby (eyther for chronicle or pedigree) som good matter may be collected out of them by me (at my leysor) by the way of a recreation. And whatsoever I shall finde in them, eyther of your L. ancestors (in direct line, braunche, collaterall, or match) wherin I am not utterly ignorant: eyther of any other matter worthy your lordships knowledg; I will make true report, and deliver the same to your L. ordring; but els they ar to unclenly (som of them) for your L. eyes to behold. Thus, in the perswaded security of your L. favorable interpreting of all the premisses, I ende this long letter, beseeching the blessed Trinity that this florishing kingdome may long enjoye the great talent committed to your L. (from above) and, on your L. behalf, moste wisely employed to the welth and tranquilitye of this kingdome.

 This 3 of October, 1574.

Your L. most bownden,  
JOHN DEE. 

To the right honorable and my singular
 good lord and patron, the L. Burgh-
 ley, Lord High Threasorer of England.




This work was published before January 1, 1924, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

 
  1. This letter has been partly printed by Strype, in his Annals of the Reformation, vol. ii. App. xlv. The conclusion of it is a striking example of the little attention that was paid to the preservation of ancient records; it is known, from Dr. Dee's well-known memorial addressed to Elizabeth on the subject, that a MS. of Cicero "De Republica" was even as late as the sixteenth century preserved in the library of Canterbury cathedral.