John Dee wrote the preface to a text on Euclid….

[John Dee wrote the preface to a text on Euclid. After describing many of the great virtues of mathematics, Dee takes an aside to complain about the superstitious and ignorant attitudes of many people toward learned men (such as himself) who have benefited the population through their “Skill, will, Industry, and Hability”, while the people repay them poorly by thinking them magicians]


And for these and such like marvellous Acts and Feats, naturally, mathematically and mechanically wrought and contrived, ought any honest student and modest Christian Philosopher be counted and called a CONJURER? Shall the folly of idiots and the malice of the scornful so much prevail that he who seeks no worldly gain or glory at their hands but only of God the treasure of heavenly wisdom and knowledge of pure hands: shall he (I say) in the mean space be robbed and spoiled of his honest name and fame.

He that seeks (by St Paul’s advertisement) in the Creatures, Properties and wonderful Virtues to find just cause to glorify the Eternal and Almighty Creator: shall that man be (in hugger mugger) condemned as a companion of hell-hounds and a caller and Conjurer of wicked and damned spirits? He that bewails his great want of time sufficiently (to his Contention) for learning of Godly wisdom and Godly verities and only therein sets all his delight: will that man waste and abuse his time in dealing with the chief Enemy of Christ our Redeemer; the deadly foe of all mankind; the subtle and impudent perverter of Godly Verity; the hypocritical crocodile, the envious basilisk, continually desirous in the twinkling of an eye to destroy all mankind both in body and soul eternally?

Surely (for my part, somewhat to say herein) I have not learned to make so brutish and so wicked a bargain. Should I for my twenty or twenty-five years study for two or three thousand marks spending; seven or eight thousand miles going; and travelling only for good learning’s sake, and that in all manner of weathers, in all manner of ways and passages; both early and late; in danger of violence by man; in danger of destruction by wild beasts; in hunger and thirst; in perilous heats by day, with toil on foot; in dangerous damps of cold by night, almost bereaving life (as God knows; with lodgings, oft times, of small ease and sometimes of less security; and for much more (than all this) done and suffered for Learning and attaining of Wisdom: should one (I pray you) for all this, not otherwise, nor mere warily or (by God’s Mercy) no more luckily have fished, with so large and costly a net, for so long a time in drawing, and that with the help and advice of Lady Philosophy and Queen Theology, but at length to have caught and drawn up a Frog? Nay, a Devil?

For so does the common peevish prattler imagine and jangle. And so does the malicious scorner secretly and bravely and boldly face down behind my back. Ah, what a miserable thing is this kind of man. How great is the blindness and boldness of the multitude in things above their capacity!

What a Land! What a people! What manners! What times are these? Are they become Devils themselves? And by false witness bearing against their neighbour, would they also become Murderers? Does God so long give them respite to reclaim themselves in from this horrible slandering of the guiltless, contrary to their own consciences, and yet will they not cease? Doth the innocent forbear the calling of them juridically to answer him according to the rigour of the Law? And will they despise his charitable patience?
As they, against him, by name do forge, fable, rage and raise slander by word and print: will they provoke him by word and print likewise to note their names to the world? With their particular devices, fables, beastly imaginings and unchristianlike slanders?

Well, well, (you such) my unkind Countrymen! 0 unnatural Countrymen! 0 unthankful Countrymen! 0 brainsick, rash, spiteful, and disdainful Countrymen! Why do you oppress me thus violently with your slandering of me, contrary to verity and contrary to your own consciences? And I, to this hour, neither by word, deed or thought have been in any way hurtful, damaging or injurious to you or yours? Have I so long, so dearly, so far, so carefully, so painfully, so dangerously fought and travelled for the learning of Wisdom and attaining of virtue, and in the end (in your judgement), am I become worse than when I began? A dangerous member of the Commonwealth — and no member of the Church of Christ? Call you this to be learned? Call you this to be a Philosopher and a lover of Wisdom? To forsake the straight, heavenly way and to wallow in the broad way of damnation. To forsake the light of heavenly wisdom and to lurk in the dungeon of the Prince of Darkness? To forsake the verity of God and His Creatures and to fawn upon the impudent, crafty, obstinate Liar and continual disgracer of God’s Verity to the uttermost of his power? To forsake the Life and Eternal Bliss and to cleave unto the Author of Death everlasting? that murderous Tyrant, most greedily awaiting the Prey of Man’s Soul.

Well: I thank God and Our Lord Jesus Christ for the comfort which I have by the examples of other men before my time; to whom neither in godliness of life nor in perfection of learning am I worthy to be compared; and yet they sustained the verie like injuries that I do: or rather greater. Patient SOCRATES, his Apology will testify to it: Apuleius, his Apologies will declare the brutishness of the multitude:
Joannes Picus, Earl of Mirandola, his Apologie will teach you of the raging slander of the malicious ignorant against him: joannes Trithemius, his Apologie will specify how he had occasion to make public Protestations, as well by reason of the rude, simple folk, as also in respect of such as were counted to be of the wisest sort of men.

Many could I recite. But I defer the precise and determined handling of this matter, being loth to detect the folly and malice of my Native Countrymen, who can hardly digest or like any extraordinary course of Philosophical studies not falling within the compass of their capacity, or where they are not made privy to the true and secret cause of such wonderful Philosophical Feats. These men are of four sorts chiefly:


To each of these (briefly and in charity) I will say a word or two, and so return to my Preface.

VAIN PRATING BUSYBODIES: use your idle assemblies and conference otherwise than in talk of matter either above your capacities for hardness, or contrary to your consciences in truth.

FOND FRIENDS, leave off to commend your unacquainted friend upon blind affection. As, because he knows more than the common student, he must needs be skilful and a doer in such manner and matter as you term CONJURING. Weening thereby, you advance his fame; and you make for other men great marvels of yourselves to have such a learned friend. Cease to ascribe Impiety where you pretend Amity. For, if your tongues were true, then were your friend Untrue, both to God and his Sovereign. Such FRIENDS and FONDLINGS I shake off and renounce. Shake you off your Folly.

IMPERFECTLY zealous, to you do I say that (perhaps) you do mean well. But you miss the mark if you will kill a lamb to feed the flock with his blood. Sheep with lambs’ blood have no natural sustenance. No more is Christ’s rock duly edified with horrible slanders. Nor is your fair presence, by such rash, ragged Rhetoric, any whit well graced. But such as seek to use me, will find a foul crack in their credit. Speak of what you know. And know as you ought. Know not but hearsay when ilk lies in danger. Search to the quick and let charity be your guide.


Though your tongues be sharpned, Serpent like, & Adders poison lie on your lips: [Psalm. 140] yet take heed, and think, betimes, with your self, Vir linguosus non stabilietur in terra. Virum violentum venabitur malum, donec præcipitetur [
Violent men devise evil plans until thrown down. (-? See Psalm 140.)]. For, sure I am, Quia faciet Dominus Iudicium afflicti: & vindictam pauperum [That the Lord secures justice for the afflicted, and will revenge the poor].

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