DOCTOR DEE, AND SIR EDWARD KELLY.
DOCTOR JOHN DEE, and SIR EDWARD KELLY, knight, being professed associates, their story is best delivered together. They have some title to the philosopher's stone in common fame. Dee, besides his being deep in chymistry, was very well versed in mathematics, particularly geometry and astrology: but Sir Edward Kelly appears to have been the leading man in alchymy. In some of Dee's books are found short memoirs of the events of his operations: as, Donum Dei, five ounces. And in another place, "This day Edward Kelly discovered the grand secret to me, sit nomen Domini benedictum." Ashmole says, absolutely, they were masters of the powder of projection, and, with a piece not bigger than the smallest grain of sand, turned an ounce and a quarter of mercury into pure gold: but here is an equivoque; for granting them possessed of the powder of projection, it does not appear they had the secret of making it. The story is, that they found a considerable quantity of it in the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey, with which they performed many notable transmutations for the satisfaction of several persons. Kelly, in particular, is said to have given away rings of gold wire to the tune of 4000l. at the
marriage of his servant maid. And a piece of a brass warming-pan being cut out by order of queen Elizabeth, and sent to them when abroad, was returned pure gold. Likewise Dee made a present to the landgrave of Hesse of twelve Hungarian horses, which could never be expected from a man of his circumstances without some extraordinary means.
In the year 1591 they went into Germany, and settled some time at Trebona, in Bohemia; the design of which journey is very mysterious. Some say their design was to visit the alchymists of these countries, in order to get some light into the art of making the powder. Accordingly they travelled through Poland, &c. in quest thereof, and, some say, attained it; others say, not. Others, again, will make them sent by the queen as spies, and that alchymy was only a pretence, or means, to bring them into confidence with the people. But what will give most light upon this subject, is a book, now extant, wrote by Dee, entitled Dee's Conferences with Spirits, but some conjecture it to be with Trithemius's mere Cryptography; which light Doctor Hook takes it in. However, this book is truly curious in respect of the many magical operations there displayed, it being wrote journal-fashion by the Doctor's own hand, and relates circumstantially the conferences he held with some spirits (either good or bad) in company with Sir Edward Kelly.
They were no sooner gone out of England than Dee's library was opened by the queen's order, and 4000 books, and 700 choice manuscripts, were taken away on pretence of his being a conjuror. That princess soon after used means to bring him back again, which a quarrel with Kelly happening to promote, he returned in 1596, and in 1598 was made warden of Manchester college, where he died 1
Some very curious manuscripts, with the chrystal he used to invoke the spirits into, are at this time carefully laid up in the British Museum. 2
As for Sir Edward Kelly, the Emperor, suspecting he had the secret of the philosophers in his possession, clapped him up in prison, in hopes to become a sharer in the profits of transmutation: however, Kelly defeated his intentions. After having been twice imprisoned, the last time he was shut up endeavouring to make his escape by means of the sheets of his bed tied together, they happened to slip the knots, and so let him fall, by which he broke his leg, and soon after lost his life.
196:1 Authors differ very much in respect of the place where Doctor Dee resigned his life: it appears from the most eminent historians that he died at his house at Mortlake.
196:2 Although Dee's manuscripts, and his Magic Chrystal, are to be seen at the Museum, there are six or seven individuals in London who assert they have the stone in their possession; thereby wishing to deceive the credulous, and to tempt them to a purchase at an enormous price.