By Stanton J. Linden
The literary impression 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 finished exam of this impact on English literature from the overdue heart a long time during the 16th and 17th centuries. Drawing commonly on alchemical allusions in addition to at the sensible and theoretical history of the artwork and its pictorial culture, Linden demonstrates the pervasiveness of curiosity in alchemy in this three-hundred-year interval. such a lot writers―including Langland, Gower, Barclay, Eramus, Sidney, Greene, Lyly, and Shakespeare―were conversant in alchemy, and references to it seem in a variety 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 capabilities of alchemy replaced. targeting Bacon, Donne, Herbert, Vaughan, and Milton―in addition to Jonson and Butler―Linden demonstrates the emergence of recent attitudes and cutting edge subject matters, motifs, photographs, and concepts. using alchemy to signify non secular progress and alter, purification, regeneration, and millenarian principles mirrored very important new emphases in alchemical, clinical, and occultist writing. This new culture didn't proceed, even though, and Butler's go back to satire used to be contextualized within the antagonism of the Royal Society and spiritual Latitudinarians to philosophical enthusiasm and the occult. Butler, like Shadwell and quick, increased the diversity of satirical sufferers to incorporate experimental scientists in addition to occult charlatans. The literary makes use of of alchemy hence demonstrate the altering highbrow milieus of 3 centuries.
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Additional resources for Darke Hierogliphicks: Alchemy in English Literature from Chaucer to the Restoration
From Harvard, Starkey (or Stirk) practiced medicine for a time in America and emigrated to England about 1650, where he became active in the scientific circle of Samuel Hartlib and an associate of Robert Boyle. At some point, probably before his arrival in England, he began to promote the work of a mysterious adept who wrote under the pseudonym "Eirenaeus Philalethes," with whom Starkey is usually, but not universally, identified. The Starkey controversy is centered in the identity of "Philalethes," his relationship to Starkey, and authorship of the many works that appear under each of their names.
R E U 5 0 ~U3 1 '}) erit ? Figure 6. The Earth as Nurse. Michael Maier, Atalantafogiens (1617). By permission of the University of Delaware Libraty, Newark, Delaware. 26 Darke Hierogliphicks characters is grounded in several of these types, each with its own distinctive context and associations, it will be useful to sketch some of them briefly, drawing primarily upon the writings of alchemical authors. The earlier distinction between esoteric and exoteric alchemy provides a useful point of departure because the alchemists seemed never to tire of classifying and categorizing themselves while stating (and defending) their own positions.
Yet in spite of such variations in authorial vision, a rough pattern emerges when we trace alchemy's literary portrayal from the late Middle Ages to the end of the seventeenth century. From the time of Chaucer to Jonson, alchemy is quite consistently the object of, or the vehicle for, satire. However, beginning with Bacon's scientific prose and the poems of Donne and Herbert, this singleness of vision is scattered and replaced by what are usually more serious religious, philosophical, and medical adaptations.