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A Query for Dr. Dee

In our last posting on Notes and Queries we cited a query by one 'E.F.R.' as an example. He seems to have been an assiduous querier and soon after was asking about the Elizabethan occultist, John Dee.

Dr. Dee's petition to James I.—"E.F.R." states that he has lately discovered, in the lining of an ancient trunk, two or three curious broadsides, one of which purports to be Dr. Dee's petition to James I., 1604, against the report raised against him, namely, "That he is or hath bin a Conjurer and Caller, or Invocator of Divels." He would be glad to know whether this curious broadside has been printed in any memoir of Dr. Dee.

A valuable find. John Dee (13 July 1527 – 1608 or 1609) was a mathematician, astronomer, astrologer, occultist, navigator, and consultant to Queen Elizabeth I. He devoted much of his life to the study of alchemy, divination, numerology and Hermetic philosophy.

A few decades after his death his manuscripts came into the possession of the scholar Méric Casaubon, who published them in 1659, together with a long introduction critical of their author, as A True & Faithful Relation of What passed for many Yeers between Dr. John Dee (A Mathematician of Great Fame in Q. Eliz. and King James their Reignes) and some spirits. The British Museum has three copies and also a copy of Dee's 1604 petitioning broadside which appears to be unpublished.

The name Casaubon was of course used by George Eliot in Middlemarch for the pompous and dessicated scholar who marries the heroine, Dorothea Brooke, because he needs an assistant for his work. His 'masterwork' Key to All Mythologies, is stalled and remains unfinished at his death. He is likely to have been a Notes and Queries reader...

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2 thoughts on “A Query for Dr. Dee

  1. Joel Robuchon

    Great stuff. Just a quick question. That has to be Dr Dee with nude behind him and not any Casaubon? There was a third Casaubon but three's enough. J

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  2. admin Post author

    Many thanks Joel — that is the Mage himself Dr Dee. I think it's cut from a graphic illustration for a magazine or something similar. You're not wrong – there was a third Casaubon, Isaac Casaubon (1559-1616) classical scholar and philologist. There have been suggestions that George Eliot (+Dorothea) treated the old scholar cruelly…

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