He then goes on to beg the minister and Secretary of State to
procure for him that "learned leisure (dulcia illa ocia)
the fruit whereof my country and all the republic of letters shall
justly ascribe to your wisdom and honorable zeal toward the advancement
of good letters and wonderful, divine, and secret sciences."
Dee had copied in ten days, "by continual labour," about
half of the book: a Hungarian nobleman there has offered to finish
the rest, if Dee will remain in Antwerp and direct his studies
for a time.
"Of this boke the one half (with contynual labour and watch, the most part of 10 days) have I copyed oute. and now I stand at the curtesye of a nobleman of Hungary for writing furth the rest; who hath promised me leave thereto, after he shall perceyve that I may remayne by him longer (with the leave of my Prince) to pleasure him also with such pointes of science as at my handes he requireth.
"I assure you the meanes that I used to cumpas the knowledge
where this man and other such are, and likewise of such book as
this, as for this present I have advertisement of, have cost me
all that ever I could here with honesty borrow, besydes that which
(for so short a time intended) I thowght needefull to bring with
me, to the value of xxlib. God knoweth my zeale to honest and
true knowledg; for which my flesh, blud, and bones should make
the marchandize, if the case so required."
Dee did remain in the Low Countries; he completed his Monas Hieroglyphica, dated its prefatory dedication to the Emperor Maximilian II., at Antwerp, January 29, 1564, and added an address to the typographer, his "singular good friend, Gulielmo Silvio," dated the following day. the book appeared in April, and he at once journeyed to Presburg, to present a copy to Maximilian. Its twenty-four theorems deal with the variations of the figure represented on our title-page, which may be roughly explained as the moon, the sun, the elements (the cross), and fire as represented by the waving line below. Dee says that many "universitie graduates of high degree, and other gentlemen, dispraised it because they understood it not," but "Her Majestie graciously defended my credit in my absence beyond the seas." On his return in June she sent for him to Court and desired him to read the book with her. Dee's account of his regal pupil is given with much quaintness. "She vouchsafed to account herself my schollar in my book...and said whereas I had prefixed in the forefront of the book: Qui non intelligit aut taceat, aut discat: if I would disclose to her the secrets of that book she would et discere et facere. Whereupon her Majestie had a little perusion of the same with me, and then in most heroicall and princely wise did comfort and encourage me in my studies philosophicall and mathematicall."
His escort had been required for the Marchioness of Northampton,
who was returning from Antwerp to Greenwich. In return for this
assistance the lady begged the Queen's favour for her cavalier.
elizabeth was always Dee's very good friend, and she made a grant
to him on December 8, 1564, of the Deanery of Gloucester, then
void, but other counsels prevailed, and it was soon bestowed on
some other man. No doubt the appointment would have given great
offence, for the popular eye was already beginning to see in Dee
no highly equipped mathematician, geographer and astronomer, but
a conjuror and magisian of doubtful reputation, in fact, in the
current jargon, one who "had dealings with the devil."
What there had been at this time to excite these suspicions beyond
the fact that Dee was always ready to expound a comet or an eclipse,
to cast a horoscope, or explain that the Queen would not immediately
expire because a wax doll with a stiletto in its heart was found
under a tree, it is hard to say. But that these rumours were extremely
persistent is seen by the astrologer's defence of himself in the
"very fruitfull" preface which he, as the first mathematician
of the day, was asked to write to Henry Billingsley's first English
translation of Euclid's Elements, in February, 1570. This
preface must be reckoned as one of Dee's best achievements, although,
as he says, in writing it, "he was so pinched with straightness
of time that he could not pen down the matter as he would."
He points out that Euclid has already appeared in Italian, German,
High Dutch, French, Spanish and Portuguese dress, and now at last
comes to England.
|Previous page||Table of Contents||Next page|