By Stanton J. Linden

The literary impact of alchemy and hermeticism within the paintings of such a lot medieval and early smooth authors has been ignored. Stanton Linden now presents the 1st complete exam of this impact on English literature from the past due heart a long time in the course of the 16th and 17th centuries. Drawing broadly on alchemical allusions in addition to at the sensible and theoretical historical past of the paintings and its pictorial culture, Linden demonstrates the pervasiveness of curiosity in alchemy in this three-hundred-year interval. so much writers―including Langland, Gower, Barclay, Eramus, Sidney, Greene, Lyly, and Shakespeare―were acquainted with alchemy, and references to it look in quite a lot of genres. but the needs it served in literature from Chaucer via Jonson have been narrowly satirical. In literature of the 17th century, specifically within the poetry of Donne, Herbert, Vaughan, and Milton, the services of alchemy replaced. targeting Bacon, Donne, Herbert, Vaughan, and Milton―in addition to Jonson and Butler―Linden demonstrates the emergence of latest attitudes and leading edge subject matters, motifs, photos, and concepts. using alchemy to signify non secular development and alter, purification, regeneration, and millenarian rules mirrored vital new emphases in alchemical, clinical, and occultist writing. This new culture didn't proceed, even if, and Butler's go back to satire used to be contextualized within the antagonism of the Royal Society and non secular Latitudinarians to philosophical enthusiasm and the occult. Butler, like Shadwell and fast, increased the diversity of satirical sufferers to incorporate experimental scientists in addition to occult charlatans. The literary makes use of of alchemy therefore display the altering highbrow milieus of 3 centuries.

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For example, as already noted, Patrick Scot, in asserting the primacy of spiritual alchemy and philosophical stoicism in The Tillage of Light, concludes with a warning to practitioners of physical alchemy to abandon their quests for artificial gold and turn to the perfection of their own souls: "If truth may have trust, all their Ignitions, Calcinations, Dissolutions, Amalgations, Circulations, Sublimations, Fixations, and Multiplications, otherwise then in a spiritual! "57 The alchemists who are singled out for treatment by medieval and Renaissance satirists are generally adherents of the practical or exoteric type.

9 This line of reasoning is, I think, again open to question. In addition to works ascribed to Hermes, the Middle Ages were in possession of manuscript copies of alchemical works thought to have been written by Plato and Aristotle as well as other eminent Greeks. The fact that such attributions were false and the works spurious, even had this been known, would have been of little concern to devotees of alchemy in the Middle Ages and early Renaissance. Unlike modern chemistry, alchemy never depended on the systematic study and development of a body of knowledge from century to century; interest in it could be stimulated merely by reports of spectacular successes, by the fanciful stories and legends that evolved from the careers of famous adepts, and the regard for it that was expressed in the writings of traditionally revered auctors.

Who through Envy have scattered abroad their unfaithful recipies and false glosses; (taking for president [sic] the Devil that can sow tares, and transform himself into an Angel ofLight) with intent to choak and obfuscate the more evident light of the plain dealing Philosophers. "73 Ashmole's third and fourth types of alchemi- Backgrounds, Definitions, and Preliminaries 33 Figure 8. Alchemical Master and Disciple. Elias Ashmole, Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum (1652). By permission of The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.

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