On Arthur Dee

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On Arthur Dee
by Thomas Browne

Source Bibl. Bodleian MS No. 1788

Dr Browne to Mr Elias Ashmole 25 January 1658

Most worthy Sr, I returne you humble thancks for your courteous letter and the good newes of the hopefull recoverie or Mr Dugdale, unto whom I shall be readie in any farther service, and shall god willing send unto him concerning the fish bone, wch I have not forgott. It can hardly fall into my apprehension how I can afford any addition unto your worthy endeavors, notwithstanding I have enclosed a list of such tracts of that subject wch I have by mee, most whereof I receaved from Dr Arthur Dee, my familiar freind, sonne unto old Dr Dee the mathematician; hee lived many yeares and dyed in Norwich, from whom I have heard many accounts agreable unto those wch you have sett downe in your annotations, concerning his father and Kelley; hee was a persevering student in Hermeticall philosophy and had noe small encouragement, having seen projection made; And with the highest asserverations hee confirmed unto his death, that hee had ocularly, undeceavably, and frequently beheld it in Bohemia, and to my knowledge, had not an accident prevented, hee had not many yeares before his death retired beyond sea and fallen upon the solemne processe of the great worke. Sr, if you shall desire a viewe of any of these bookes or all, I shall find some way to send them, and you may peruse or transcribe them, butt I shall entreat the favor to have them returned. Mr Stanley gave mee the honour of a visit some fewe yeares past, and if hee signified my mind unto you, you might have receaved them long agoe. Sr I thinck myself much honored in your worthy acquaintance and shall ever rest,

Your respectfull freind and servant,
Thomas Browne

Enclosed Alchemical manuscripts.


Source Bibl. Bodleian Ashmole MS 1788

Sir Thomas Browne to Elias Ashmole March 1674

I was very well acquainted with Dr. Arthur Dee, and at one time or another he has given me some account of the whole course of his life. I have heard the doctor say that he lived in Bohemia with his father, both at Prague and in other parts. That Prince or Count Rosenberg was their great patron, who delighted much in alchemie. I have often heard him affirme, and sometimes with oaths, that he had seen projection made, and transmutation of pewter dishes and flaggons into silver, which the goldsmiths at Prague bought of them. And that Count Rosenberg played at quoits with silver quoits made by projection as before. That this transmutation was made by a powder they had, which was found in some old place, and a book lying by it containing nothing but heiroglyphicks; which book his father bestowed much time upon, but I could not hear that he could make it out. He said also that Kelly dealth not justly by his father, and that he went away with the greatest part of the powder, and was afterwards imprisoned by the Emperor in a castle, from whence attempting to escape down the wall, he fell and broke his leg, and was imprisoned again. That his father, Dr. John Dee, presented Queen Elizabeth with a little of the powder, who having made trial thereof, attempted to get Kelly out of prison, and sent some [persons] to that purpose, who, giving opium in drink unto the keepers, laid them so fast asleep that Kelly found opportunity to attempt an escape; and there were horses readie to carry him away; but the business unhappily succeeded as is before declared. Dr. Arthur Dee was a young man (aged 8)when he saw this projection made in Bohemia, but he was so inflamed therewith that he fell early upon that study, and read not much all his life but books of that subject; and two years before his death, contracted with one Hunniades, or Hans Hanyar, in London, to be his operator. This Hans Hanyar having lived longin London and growing in years, resolved to return into Hungary. He went first to Amsterdam, where he was to remain ten weeks, till Dr. Arthur came to him. the Dr. to my knowledge was serious in this businesse and had provided all in readiness to go, but suddenly he heard that Hans Hanyar was dead.