Charlotte Fell-Smith’s book on Dee

[From Charlotte Fell-Smith’s book on Dee (downloadable as a PDF below):]

Since Dee’s departure from England six years ago, great events had happened. The “invincible” Armada of Philip had been beaten in a six days’ running fight up the Channel. The Queen’s hated rival, Mary Queen of Scotland, had been put to death; Leicester’s short dictatorship of the Netherlands had begun and come to an end. Leicester had been dead about a year. New favourites had arisen in the Queen’s favour. But even more significant than these public affairs had been the upward movement in literature, the birth of dramatic art, a passionate outburst of poetic fervour, the growth of a taste for well-disciplined prose.

Many splendid fruits of this movement had not yet seen the light, Sidney’s Arcadia and the first part of Spenser’s Faerie Queen were to be issued within a few months; the first play of Shakespeare was publicly performed within little more than a year of Dee’s return.

But Lyly and Marlowe had already, during his absence, given Campaspe, Tamburlaine and Doctor Faustus, to be performed by actors in the first stationary home of the earlier nomadic players, the theatres of Shoreditch, immediately to be followed by those of Bankside. Bacon was perhaps even then meditating his Essays, published some half a dozen years later; Hooker issued the first books of his monumental Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity within four years; and Nash, Peele, Green, and a horde of other writers, were contributing to establish the English literary renaissance. One can scarcely help wondering how much the fabulous stories of Dee and Kelley, which must have reached Marlowe’s ears, contributed to his splendid dramatisation of the Faust legend (first printed in Frankfort in 1587). But after all, even the story of Dee’s angels and Kelley’s gold, pales before the lurid glow of the stories of the earlier alchemists, Agrippa and Paracelsus.

John Dee by Charlotte Fell-Smith (1909)

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