Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Dee, Arthur

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

DEE, ARTHUR (1579–1651), alchemist, eldest son of John Dee [q. v.], by his second wife, Jane, daughter of Bartholomew Fromond of East Cheam, Surrey, was born at Mortlake in that county on 13 July 1579. He accompanied his father in his travels through Germany, Poland, and Bohemia, and at an early age was initiated into the mysteries of the occult sciences. After his return to England he was placed at Westminster School, 3 May 1592, under the tuition of Grant and Camden. Wood was informed that he subsequently studied at Oxford, but he took no degree, and his college is unknown. He afterwards was perhaps at Cambridge. Settling in London with the intention of practising physic he exhibited at the door of his house a list of medicines which were said to be certain cures for many diseases. Forthwith the censors of the College of Physicians, regarding this as 341 ' intolerable cheat and imposture,' summoned him to appear before them; but it is not stated whether a penalty was inflicted (Goodall, Royal College of Physicians of London, p. 364). Proceeding to Manchester Dee there married Isabella, daughter of Edward Prestwych, justice of the peace. Through the recommendation of James I he was appointed one of the physicians to the Tsar, and he remained in Russia for about fourteen years, residing principally at Moscow. On his return he brought imperial commendations to Charles I, was nominated one of the physicians-in-ordinary to the king, and settled in London. Eventually he retired to Norwich, where he practised medicine with success. For many years he was a familiar friend of Sir Thomas Browne [q. v.], who, in a letter to Elias Ashmole, 25 Jan. 1658, says that Dee was a persevering student in hermetical philosophy, and with the highest asseverations affirmed that he had 'ocularly, undeceavably, and frequently' seen projection made in Bohemia. Indeed, not many years before his death he would have gone abroad and 'fallen upon the solemn processe of the great worke ' had not an accident prevented the fulfilment of this design (Sir T. Browne, Works, ed. Wilkin, i. 463). Dee died at Norwich in September 1651, and was buried in the church of St. George, Tomblands, in that city. He had seven sons and six daughters.

He wrote, during his residence at Moscow, 'Fasciculus Chemicus, abstrusae Hermeticae Scientiae ingressum, progressum, coronidem, verbis apertissimis explicans,' Paris, 1631, 12mo. This was translated under the title of 'Fasciculus Chemicus: or Chymical Collections. Expressing the Ingress, Progress, and Egress of the Secret Hermetick Science, out of the choisest and most famous Authors. . . . Whereunto is added, The Arcanum or Grand Secret of Hermetick Philosophy. Both made English by James Hasolle, Esquire [i.e. Elias Ashmole]. Qui est Mercuriophilus Anglicus,' London, 1650, 12mo.

[Aubrey's Lives, p. 310; Black's Cat. of Ashmolean MSS.; Sir T. Browne's Works, i. 414, 465-7; Cooper's Athenae Cantabr. ii. 502, 505; John Dee's Private Diary (Camden Soc.), pp. 6, 7, 8, 14, 16, 28, 34, 39, 40, 42, 46, 60, 64; Hatton's New View of London, i. 102; Lysons's Environs, i. 385; Robinson's Register of Merchant Taylors' School, i. 242; Wilson's Merchant Taylors' School, p. 1169; Wood's Athenae Oxon. (Bliss), iii. 285, iv. 361.]

T. C.