Thursday, May 17, 2012

Dabblers in Alchemy

17th May, 1653. My servant Hoare, who wrote those
exquisite several hands, fell of a fit of an apoplexy,
caused, as I suppose, by tampering with mercury about
an experiment in gold.

John Evelyn’s servant, Richard Hoare, appears to be engaged in alchemy, based on what Evelyn recorded in his diary.  Evelyn doesn’t  describe Hoare’s features, but as his diary makes clear, he is clearly impressed with Hoare’s  abilities.  Walter Scott includes some bits of alchemy in “The Antiquary”:

                          --And this Doctor,
             Your sooty smoky-bearded compeer, he
             Will close you so much gold in a bolt's head,
             And, on a turn, convey in the stead another
             With sublimed mercury, that shall burst i' the heat,
                      And all fly out in fumo.--
                                        The Alchemist

                 Here has been such a stormy encounter
                 Betwixt my cousin Captain, and this soldier,
                 About I know not what!--nothing, indeed;
                 Competitions, degrees, and comparatives
                          Of soldiership!--
                                    A Faire Qurrell.
The attentive audience gave the fair transcriber of the foregoing legend
the thanks which politeness required. Oldbuck alone curled up his nose,
and observed, that Miss Wardour's skill was something like that of the
alchemists, for she had contrived to extract a sound and valuable moral
out of a very trumpery and ridiculous legend. "It is the fashion, as I
am given to understand, to admire those extravagant fictions--for me,
                            --I bear an English heart,
             Unused at ghosts and rattling bones to start."

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