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Ron Heisler - Two Worlds that Converged: Shakespeare and the Ethos of the Rosicrucians
Article originally published in The Hermetic Journal, 1990.
Two Worlds that Converged:
Shakespeare and the Ethos of the Rosicrucians
Ron Heisler ©
In a 1986 article on "Shakespeare
and the Rosicrucians", I dissected a late play that Shakespeare
wrote jointly with John Fletcher, The Two Noble Kinsmen.
Relying mainly on internal evidence, I found some very strong
Rosicrucian affinities, particularly the striking scene in which
a quasi-religious ceremony takes place in the temple of Diana,
at which a rose plays a crucial role. Emilia declares that "a
rose is best" and then explains:
"It is the very emblem of a maid:
For when the west wind courts her gently
How modestly she blows and paints the sun
With her chaste blushes! When the north comes near her,
Rude and impatient, then, like chastity,
She locks her beauties in her bud again
And leaves him to base briars."
The play as we know it probably
was premiered in early 1613 and I felt it somewhat of a coincidence
that at Christmas 1611 the great Rosicrucian Michael Maier sent
a "greetings card" to James I, which expressed the cryptic
hope "May the Rose not be gnawed by the Canker of the North
Since 1986 I have had some leisure
to explore Shakespeare's friends and acquaintances in depth, seeking
for Rosicrucian clues - and hoping against hope that for once
literature's greatest, most opaque and most secretive figure will
have relaxed his guard. Readers must judge the results for themselves.
Born at Stratford-on-Avon on November
16th 1561, Richard Field is presumed to have attended the local
grammar school. This probably accounted for his becoming England's
outstanding printer-linguist. In 1579 he came to London to be
bound to the printer George Bishop; it was agreed, however, that
he should serve the first six of the seven years apprenticeship
with the great Huguenot printer, Thomas Vautrollier, a decision
which coloured his future career greatly. In 1587 he married Vautrollier's
widow, Jacqueline, acquiring a backlist of titles of considerable
quality, with an evident Protestant emphasis. He prospered: not
the richest of the London printer-booksellers, he was one of the
more successful by the time he died in December 1624. His status
is underlined by the fact that he served as Master of the Stationers'
Company in 1619 and again in 1622.2
Field's relationship with Shakespeare
is illuminated, alas, by a sparsity of hard facts. His father
Henry died at Stratford-on-Avon in 1592; John Shakespeare, the
Bard's father, helped to value Henry's goods and chattels on the
On the 18th April 1592 Field entered Venus and Adonis on
the Stationers' Register, which he printed in a fine first edition.
In 1594 he printed the first edition of The Rape of Lucrece,
which was published, however, by John Harrison the elder. The
quality of both first editions has been usually attributed to
Field's personal interest in doing justice to the poetry of his
friend. The last "hard fact" in our litany concerns
Love's Martyr, or Rosalin's Complaint
by Robert Chester;
published in 1601, it has appended poems by Marston, Chapman,
Ben Jonson and "Ignoto" - and Shakespeare's most mysterious
poem, The Phoenix and the Turtle. Sold by Edward Blount,
the frontispiece shows Fields's printing device. Strangely, he
was not called upon to print the Sonnets.
was probably written in early 1610 and Shakespeare includes an
allusion, which is perceived as referring to Field - a very private
joke indeed. When Imogene discovers the headless corpse of what
she believes to be her beloved Posthumous (IV. ii.), Caius Lucius
asks her, "
say his name, good friend." She replies,
"Richard du Champ" - Richard of the Field.4
The extent of the influence of Giordano
Bruno on Shakespeare's thought has been debated for over a century
now, principally occasioned by Hamlet's "To be or not to
be" soliloquy. Unquestionably the phrases "the whips
and scorns of time, the proud man's contumely" are distilled
from Bruno's Oratio valedictoria on leaving Wittenberg
university, where he complains of "the whips and scorns of
vile and foolish men who, although they are really beasts in the
likeness of men, in the pride of their good fortune, are full
of evil arrogance." But many other parallels - to Bruno's
general philosophical weltanschauung - have been detected
Field's apprenticeship to Vautrollier
is important here, although mystery swathes the whole issue like
Scotch mist. Bruno published at least four tracts in England in
1584/5, and his attack on the reactionaries of Oxford, although
probably printed abroad, was surely aimed at an English market.
But none of the tracts came off Vautrollier's printing presses.
However, early in the 18th century Thomas Baker wrote to the great
bibliographer Ames that Vautrollier "was the printer of Jordanus
Brunus in the year 1584, for which he fled, and the next year
being at Edinburgh in Scotland, he first taught that nation the
way of good printing, and there staid until such time as by the
intercession of friends he had got his pardon
most of the papers of the Star Chamber have been destroyed for
this period, and Vautrollier's actual offense is impossible to
determine, although, according to the records of the Stationers'
Company, Vautrollier "at the time of his decease was noe
printer", and they link the matter to a Star Chamber decree.
Vautrollier's offense must have been very great, since he had
acquired over the years patrons of the greatest influence at court,
including Lord Burghley. From the press of John Charlewood came
the "English" tracts of Bruno - but perhaps to the commission
Yet Vautrollier it was who printed the work on the "Art of
Memory" by Bruno's Scottish friend, Alexander Dicson, in
1585 and who probably published Thomas Watson's tract on the same
subject in the same year. Moreover, again in the same year, he
published a work by yet another friend of Bruno's, the great
jurist, Alberigo Gentile.
I am totally sceptical towards any
argument of mere coincidence as an explanation of the fact that
Hamlet's great "To be or not to be" soliloquy is clearly
based not merely on writings of Bruno subsequently associated
with Vautrollier, but also upon a text indisputably printed by
him, Dr Timothy Bright's Treatise on Melancholy (1586)
which eventually inspired Robert Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy.
Bright is notable for more that one reason. In 1590 Rudolf Goclenius
published at Marburg University, which later became a spawning
ground for Rosicrucians, a compilation with a contribution by
Bright. And a generation later the Yorkshireman Dr Edmund Deane
published Spadacrene Anglica. Or the English Spaw-Fountaine
(1626), in which he reminisced about "Doctor Timothy Bright
of happy memory a learned Physitian (while he lived, my very kind
friend, and familiar acquaintance)
Deane was probably a Rosicrucian and almost certainly Robert Fludd's
friend. He edited eight tracts by the alchemist Samuel Norton,
which were published at Frankfurt on Main by Fludd's friend, William
Fitzer. A letter survives in which Deane addresses Theodorus Gravius,
chemical assistant to Dr Richard Napier of Lynford, the magician,
as his "loveing brother".
Of all Field's later publications,
the most intriguing is the Janua Linguarum Quadrilinguis. Or
a Messe of Tongues, which his friend Matthew Lownes printed
in 1617. A polyglot dictionary of phrases, originating from the
Irish college at Salamanca, it was dedicated to Prince Charles
and signed "Io. Barbier Parifiensis". Behind the French
pseudonym stood an Alsatian, his identity revealed only in the
introduction to the Janua Linguarum Silinguis, published
at Strasbourg in 1629 by Eberhard Zetzner. Isaac Habrecht lets
on in his 1629 preface that he himself had contributed sections
to the 1617 London version.
Habrecht is an important figure
in our ongoing discussion of international Rosicrucian cross-currents.
A physician and mathematician, he died in 1633. Like the main
author of the Rosicrucian manifestos, J.V. Andreae, he became
vehemently anti-Rosicrucian, conducting attacks under the sobriquet
of Hisiam sub Cruce Atheniensem. But his Eines Newen ungewohnlichen
Sterns, oder Cometen
in 1618, one of a flood of works
on the significance of comets, suggests to me that we should qualify
our general impression of his attitude. The tract refers to the
cometary observations of John Dee and Thomas Digges in 1572 and
to the fall of the Earl of Somerset in the Overbury affair; it
also includes three references to the Brotherhood of the Rosy
Cross, including a comment on their interpretation of cometary
phenomena of 1600 and 1604.8
The neutral tone of these suggests to me that Habrecht at the
time of writing had not quite given up on the Rosicrucians. It
was he who, in VIII Miraculum Artis, claimed that Robert
Fludd was the model for the brother in the Fama who had
cured a Duke of Norfolk of leprosy.
On the 24th June 1623 Matthias Bernegger,
a member of Andreae's Societas Christiana in 1620, who, like Habrecht,
worked in Strasbourg, informed Zincgref that Habrecht had obtained
the poems of Georg Rudolff Weckherlin.9
Weckherlin's diary of the 1630's suggests that he may have been
a Rosicrucian. An Anglophile, he spent three consecutive years
in England between 1607 and 1614, probably in the service of the
Wurtemberg ambassador. In 1616 he again visited England, marrying
an English bride; in 1624 he became an under-secretary of state
Even if Habrecht had never visited England, it is conceivable
that Weckherlin may have acted as his intermediary.
Field had a zest for the occasional
medical book. In 1594 he published John Hester the Paracelsian's
The pearl of practice
for phisicke and chirurgerie,
which had been expended by John Fourestier. Hester had been Gabriel
Harvey's friend. The book was dedicated to Sir George Carey, Sir
Walter Ralegh's friend. Hester's Hundred and Fourteen Experiments
was actually dedicated to Ralegh. In 1605 Field published Christopher
Wirsung's The general practice of physicke, translated
and augmented in the English by Dr James Mosan. Mosan was to become
a personal physician to Moritz, the Landgrave of Hessen-Kassel;
it is inconceivable that the first editions of the Rosicrucian
manifestos could have been published in Kassel without Moritz's
express approval, who was later rumoured to be a Rosicrucian.
That Field and Dr Matthew Gwinne
were friends is highly probable. Gwinne was the associate of John
Florio, Giordano Bruno and Robert Fludd. In 1605 Field published
Gwinne's two Gresham College lectures and in 1612 he brought out
Gwinne's devastating dissection of Francis Anthony's aurum potabile,
, done at the behest of the College
of Physicians. Fludd's friend, Dr William Paddy,
was one of two censors approving the book. Gwinne, incidentally,
was a minor playwright. On the 27th August 1605 James I was greeted
at Oxford by a Gwinne playlet in which three sibyls prophesied
that the descendants of Banquo - among whom James was numbered
- would reign for ever ("imperium sine fine"). Kenneth
Muir accepts that this was the probable model for the prophesies
of the witches in Shakespeare's Scottish play, Macbeth.11
Two other authors in Field's list
cry out for special mention. In 1604 he printed a work by Robert
Fludd's patron, Dr John Thornborough, lauding the union of England
and Scotland under James I. But of far greater significance is
his close association with William Bedwell, a fine mathematician
and pioneer Arabist. Between 1612 and 1615 Field published four
of Bedwell's books, three being of a mathematical nature. Bedwell
is an important link with the Rosicrucian world. Of Robert Fludd,
Thomas Hearne observed in 1709 that "he was much admir'd
by the famous Mr [John] Selden, chiefly, I think for this reason,
because he was of the Rosa-Crucian sect, and addicted himself
to Chymistry, of wch Mr Selden himself was an admirer
Now Bedwell was in the habit of borrowing books from John Selden
and vice-versa. And in 1612 Bedwell lodged at Leiden at the house
of Thomas and Govaert Basson, the publishers.12
It was from the Basson press that Fludd's first two tracts defending
the Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross poured forth.
One of the two great tragedians
of his age, Edward Alleyn, the founder of Dulwich College, led
the Lord Admiral's Men for many years. Between 1590 and 1593,
when that troupe seems either to have merged - or gone into partnership
- with Shakespeare's company, Lord Strange's Men, he played the
title-role in the Bard's Titus Andronicus. It was the Admiral's
Men who performed Palamon and Arcite several times in 1594,
of which no text survives and for which the author is unknown,
and which I strongly suspect (a) was by Shakespeare and (b) was
the original script from which The Two Noble Kinsmen arose.
Whatever the truth, Alleyn almost certainly played one of the
leads in 1594. There is a mysterious Hamlet - possibly by the
Bard - being played in that year also. Alleyn probably bagged
An alchemist, Alleyn provided medical
potions for friends. His diary record the purchase of a pewter
limbeck on the 29th June 1621. He was a patient of Robert Fludd's
friend, William Harvey. He bought pills made to Harvey's prescriptions
in 1619 and 1620. He even dined with Harvey on the 30th May 1619.
In 1619 he took a lotion prescribed by another of Fludd's close
friends, Dr Gulston. On the 6th August 1620 he dined with Dr Matthew
Gwinne. It is not surprising, in the light of these connections,
that we find him dining on the 7th April 1620 with "doc:
Fludd". Alleyn's father-in-law, again of the Lord Admiral's
Men, Philip Henslowe, was paying rent to Fludd's father, Sir Thomas
Fludd, on the 27th April 1599. That Alleyn was a keen Palatinist
is not unexpected. His wife subscribed to the Queen of Bohemia's
fund on the 8th August 1620.13
When fifty seven years of age, Alleyn shocked the social world
by marrying the twenty year old daughter of a keen Palatinist,
who had come under Rosicrucian influence, John Donne.
The Digges Family, Thomas Russell
and Sir Robert Killigrew
In 1590 Richard Field produced an
edition of Leonard Digges's An arithmetical warlike treatise
named Stratioticos "revised, corrected and augmented"
by Leonard's son, the great mathematician Thomas Digges.The Digges
family were connected with the Bard over many years, it would
seem. It has often been wondered where he got the obscure Danish
names of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, those famous characters
in Hamlet. They were in fact ancestors of the Danish astronomer
Tycho Brahe. In 1590 Brahe sent a letter to Thomas Savile, in
which he desired to be remembered to John Dee and Thomas Digges.
With the letter went four copies of an engraving done of his portrait
- a portrait on which was to be found his ancestors' names.14
Thomas Digges died and his widow,
Anne, married Thomas Russell, who acquired property near Stratford-on-Avon.
Shakespeare named him as an overseer of his will. For some years
Russell lived at Hartlebury, a close neighbour of the occupant
of Hartlebury Castle, Dr John Thornborough, Bishop of Worcester.
The bishop's daughter, Jane, married one Francis Finch - and Russell
planned to make the young man his heir. Thornborough, and alchemical
writer, was also a patient of Dr John Hall, the Bard's son-in-law.
He was Robert Fludd's patron, Fludd visiting him at Hartlebury.
A work Thornborough published is replete with references to Fludd's
writings. Simon Forman, the magician-physician, had been Thornborough's
servant at Oxford.15
Richard Field the printer - like members of Shakespeare's troupe,
the Lord Chamberlain's Men - was a patient of Forman's incidentally.
On the 30th August 1596 a "Richard Field", described
as being 37 (actually, he was born in 1561), visited the physician:
he had swallowed a gold coin which "lies in the pit of the
mouth of the stomach".16
But we have digressed from the Digges
family. Thomas Digges's son, Leonard, achieved immortality by
contributing a good poem to the first Folio of Shakespeare's
works, whilst his other son, Dudley, is of distinct Rosicrucian
interest. He was a close friend of the radical Sir John Eliot,
whom Charles I had goaled for his oppositional activities in parliament,
and in whose handwriting there exists apparently a manuscript
in English of the Rosicrucian manifesto, the Fama. When
Eliot languished in the Tower, Sir Dudley Digges wrote him a letter
that began with the words, "Deere Brother
would we not give to know for sure in what sense Eliot was Dudley's
Thomas Russell's family connections
were extensive, to say the least. His half-brother was the minor
radical parliamentarian Sir Maurice Berkeley. Berkeley married
Elizabeth, daughter of Sir William Killigrew, thus acquiring as
brother-in-law Sir Robert Killigrew (1579-1633). Sir Robert leads
right to the heart of English Rosicrucian activity. Given to making
potions and cordials, Sir Robert had a strong scientific bent.
Constantine Huygens, the Dutch savant and collector of Rosicrucian
books, was frequently at Killigrew's home in 1622 and 1623, where
he met the brilliant Rosicrucian inventor Cornelius Drebbel, the
widow of Sir Walter Ralegh and John Donne.18
It is worth noting, in passing, that Killigrew had his youngest
boy, Henry, educated in "grammar learning" by Thomas
Richard Field published Lucan's Pharsalia in 1618 - and
Farnaby had annotated it for him.
I have recounted in some detail
elsewhere the squalid scandal of Sir Thomas Overbury's murder
and how Michael Maier was drawn into the affair. Sir Robert Killigrew
features in the scenario. In May 1613, after visiting Ralegh in
the Tower, he was hailed by the incarcerated Overbury - an old
friend - from a window. James I had Killigrew committed to the
Fleet prison for about a month for this illicit communication.
When the scandal eventually broke into the public arena, it transpired
that the principal accused, the Earl of Somerset, had obtained
white powders from Killigrew for Overbury's use - and claimed
that one of these had effected the murderous deed. The charge
did not stand up, however.20
Some of the pathetic letters the desperate, dying Overbury had
smuggled out of the Tower have survived; several reveal that Michael
Maier was ministering to him. At the end of one of the latter,
Overbury has forged the signature of "Robert Killigrew"
- obviously a ploy to fool his captors, probably done with Killigrew's
That Killigrew knew Maier is most likely.
When the storm broke in 1615 and
the murder trials began, Sir Dudley Digges was ready to give evidence.
Overbury had been sent to the Tower originally by James I for
refusing to accept an embassy to Russia. Overbury's friends maintained
that the refusal had been contrived by Somerset in order to get
Overbury into James's bad books. Digges "voluntarily at the
arraignment in open Court upon his oath witnessed how Sir Thomas
had imparted to him his readinesse to be imployed in an Ambassage."
A "Robert Killigrew" turns
up in yet another Rosicrucian context. One of the more important
verse compilations of the 1620's in the British Library is Sloane
MS 1792. It includes many poems by John Donne, Dr Richard Corbett,
Ben Jonson and others - and a good copy of the second of Shakespeare's
Sonnets, which is markedly different from that published
in the 1609 edition, but which is, nevertheless, wholly the Bard's
On a covering leaf is inscribed "Robert Killigrew his booke
witnes by his maiesties ape George Harifon." Following the
Martin Marprelate furore at the end of the 1580's a "martin"
became synonymous in popular parlance with an "ape".
On the same page we find an inscription in a different hand: "JA
Christchurch". James Martin, who contributed verses lauding
Robert Fludd to Sophia Cum Moria Certamen (1629), was wont
to use the pen-name of "Jacobus Aretius" - and certainly
had matriculated at Christchurch, Oxford, in 1604. I am sure that
the phrase "his maiesties ape" was a pun intended at
his expense. Whether the "Robert Killigrew" mentioned
was Sir Robert Killigrew the potion maker, or his son, Robert
Killigrew, who matriculated at Christchurch in 1630, I cannot
The Salusbury Family
Over the life of Sir John Salusbury
of Llewenni lay the shadow of the execution of his brother for
complicity in the 1586 Babington plot. The same year, Sir John
married Ursula Stanley, natural daughter of Henry Stanley, fourth
Earl of Derby. The Earl's son was Ferdinando Lord Strange, with
whose theatrical troupe Shakespeare was closely associated for
a time. Sir John was admitted a student of the Middle Temple in
London in March 1595, and it is probably from this period that
we should date his acquaintanceship with Ben Jonson, George Chapman,
and other poets who contributed to the book largely written by
the deservedly obscure Robert Chester, Love's Martyr (1601).
Professor Honigmann persuasively argues that Shakespeare's offering
to the work, The Phoenix and the Turtle, is probably of
rather earlier provenance and goes back to the 1580's, for the
poem is written as if Shakespeare was ignorant of the fact that
Sir John had fathered children.23
Various academic fantasies have inevitably been concocted over
the years, including the notion that the poem is an allegory on
Elizabeth and Essex. The truth is wrapped up in a letter which
escaped Professor Honigmann's net. On the 12th November 1632 William
Wynne wrote to Sir Thomas Salusbury, pleading to hear of his matching
with some worthy virgin, lest he should die without issue, seeing
that all his estate relied on "one branch or Phoenix,
your worthy self."24
Clearly, it was the custom of the Llewenni Salusburies to think
of the head of their branch as a "Phoenix". Love's
Martyr, we know from its printing device, was printed by Richard
I have given a description of the
Rosicrucian Sir William Vaughan and his Rosicrucian tract, The
Golden Fleece, elsewhere.25
What needs to be added to our account is his relationship with
the Salusburies. Sir John died in 1612 and was succeeded by his
son, Sir Henry, the first Baronet. At some time between 1614 and
1617 Sir Henry remarried: his bride, Elizabeth, was Sir William
Vaughan's sister. The Salusburies have left posterity a marvellous
manuscript collection, consisting mainly of poetry, which amply
testifies to the friendship between the Vaughans and the Salusburies.
It also contains a poem written by Sir Henry "To my good
freandes mr John Hemings & Henry Condall".26
John Heminges and Henry Condell were senior members of Shakespeare's
acting company, the King's Men; it was they who edited the great
1623 first Folio of the Bard's works.
The commitment of the Salusburies
to the Palatinate cause - with which the Rosicrucian movement
was originally inextricably bound up - is evidences in the tragic
history of Sir Henry's brother, Captain John Salusbury. The Captain
led a troop of horse in the service of Frederick, the Elector
Palatine, and died at Prague in 1620.27
Llewenni is situated in Denbighshire,
and the gentry of that county were among the clientele of one
of the most effective surgeons in the land, the Scot, Alexander
Read. Brother of Thomas Read (known as Rhaedus), Latin secretary
to James I and close friend of the Rosicrucians Joachim Morsius
and Daniel Cramer, Alexander himself donated a work by Michael
Maier to Aberdeen University. There is a surviving letter of William
Wynne to Sir Thomas Salusbury (31st October 1632) in which Wynnes
reminds Sir Thomas of his promise to "Mr Rede, the chirurgeon"
made at Llewenni, of two lancets "for a memoriall of his
office done there." Chester was the most fashionable centre
in the region in this period, patronised by the Stanleys and Salusburies;
and we know that Alexander Read was already active at Chester
by January 1612, an intimate, valued friend there, it would appear,
of Matthias de Lobel and his son, the apothecary Paul, who was
attending Sir Thomas Overbury in the Tower about the time of his
Sir William Vaughan
It was in 1597 that the Rosicrucian
Sir William Vaughan published Erotopaignion pium, the first
hard evidence we have of his interaction with Shakespeare's coterie
- for the book's title-page features Richard Field's printing
device. Vaughan could not help being drawn towards the charismatic
figure of the Earl of Essex, for his sister-in-law was the daughter
of the dangerous political adventurer, Sir Gelly Meyrick, the
steward of Essex's household. Vaughan dedicated Speculum humane
(1598) to Meyrick and Poematum Libellus
continens (1598) to the Earl of Essex. Meyrick played a key
role in the Essex rebellion of 1601 against Elizabeth; we have
on record the story of how he paid forty shillings extra to Augustine
Phillips of Shakespeare's acting company, the Lord Chamberlain's;
Men, for a performance of Richard II - presumably with the notorious
abdication scene included, which was censored from the published
editions - on the eve of the Essex uprising.29
Vaughan's theatrical connections,
although he was soon to profess his contempt for stage-players
(The Golden Grove chapter 66), are not exhausted by the
Meyrick avenue. Canticum canticorum Salomonis has an elegy
by Vaughan dedicated to the patron of the Lord Admiral's Men,
Charles Howard, Lord Effingham. But this may have arisen as a
consequence of Matthew Gwinne, a close friend, having a brother,
Roger, who served as Howard's apothecary. Gwinne, with his intimate
friend, John Florio, provided commendatory verses to Sir William's
The Golden Grove of 1600. The traces of Florio's various
writings have been convincingly detected in several of Shakespeare's
works. Gonzalo's speech portraying a communist utopia in The
Tempest was largely lifted from Florio's marvellous translation
of Montaigne. Florio served the young Earl of Southampton at a
time when the Earl and Shakespeare appear to have been close acquaintances:
the legend goes that Southampton lent the Bard £1,000. Beyond
dispute is the fact that Shakespeare dedicated both Venus and
Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece to Southampton.
The murder of Christopher Marlowe
in 1593 remains an enthralling mystery to this very day. Strangely,
for several years no accurate descriptions of the death saw print.
The notion widely circulated, in fact, that Marlowe died of the
plague. Then in 1600, in As You Like It (III. iii. 9-12),
Shakespeare makes an allusion to the murder which betrays, we
know now, an insider's knowledge of the circumstances. By a startling
coincidence, in the same year, in The Golden Grove (Chapter
3 First Book), Sir William Vaughan provided a detailed description
of the deed, which is accurate in most respects. Did he and the
Bard have a common source, who was at last spilling the beans?
This must remain an open question.
One thing is indisputable, however:
Sir William, in Carmarthen, was part of a circle of gentlemen
that were very familiar with the "atheist" ideas of
Giordano Bruno, which had so taken the Marlowe-Ralegh set by storm.
Astronomy was a favourite pastime amongst the gentry in the district;
and we have even a letter from Sir William Lower of Trefenty -
about ten miles from Carmarthen - to Thomas Hariot, the great
mathematician who was alleged to be the prime "atheist"
in the society of Sir Walter Ralegh, discussing Bruno's ideas.
Frances Yates wonders inconclusively if Sir William Vaughan was
connected with Sir William Lower.30
They certainly knew each other! Lower's wife was Penelope Perrot,
daughter of Sir Thomas Perrot. Lower's father-in-law was the son
of Sir John Perrot. Sir William Vaughan step-mother, Lettice,
was the daughter of the same Sir John Perrot. And The Golden
Grove includes a commendatory verse by James Perrot, an illegitimate
son of Sir John.
Among Sir William Vaughan's friends
must be counted Gabriel Powel, a Denbighshire man, who had commendatory
verses in three of Vaughan's tracts. Power became chaplain to
Richard Vaughan, Bishop of London, and acted as Licenser of the
Press on a few occasions. A manuscript title-page has survived
for the 7th September 1609, inscribed with Powel's signature and
the signatures, on behalf of the Stationers' Company, of Humphrey
Lownes and Richard Field.31
Shakespeare had intensely close
connection, we suspect, with the Stanleys - the clan of the Earls
of Derby - in the early 1590's, when he worked with the company
of the Derby heir, Lord Strange's Men. Professor Honigmann, in
Shakespeare: the 'lost years', argues convincingly that
Sir William Dugdale was correct in noting down the inscription
on a tomb at Tonge, Shropshire, in 1664 and remarking, " These
following verses were made by William Shakespeare, the late famous
tragedian." The tomb was built for Thomas Stanley, second
son of Edward, Earl of Derby, and his son, Sir Edward Stanley
The fact that Sir Edward died sixteen years after Shakespeare
is neither here nor there. It was commonplace at that time for
people to commission their own epitaphs whilst still living, and
in any case Sir Edward may have commissioned it originally simply
in memory of his father, it being carried over by natural extension
Sir Edward had a famous daughter,
Venetia (born 1600), a great beauty and a bit of a tart, who finally
married, in 1625, Sir Kenelm Digby.33
Digby and she had been childhood playmates. Digby, a friend of
"Sandy" Napier - Dr Richard Napier of Lynford, who was
given to invoking favourable spirits by the practice of angel
magic on a daily basis - was a Rosicrucian, who managed to oscillate
between Protestantism and Catholicism with disconcerting frequency.
His Rosicrucian jewel was exhibited on occasion at meetings of
the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia in the early years of this
His close friends included John Selden, Ben Jonson and, if we
are to go by various references in letters addressed to Father
Mersenne, James Martin, the eccentric eulogist of Robert Fludd.35
Venetia died unexpectedly in 1633. Sir Anthony Vandyck painted
a most moving death-bed portrait of her, which now hangs in the
Dulwich Gallery. On her pillow lie faded rose petals.
Ferdinando Lord Strange died in
mysterious circumstances in 1594 and was succeeded by William
Stanley, the sixth Earl of Derby, a man even more enthusiastic
about the theatre than Ferdinando. It was stated on June 30th
1599 that "Therle of Darby is busyed only in penning comedies
for the common players."36
William Stanley had a daughter, Anne, who in 1621 married Sir
Robert Ker, who eventually was created Earl of Ancram. Apart from
being the correspondent of William Drummond of Hawthornden and
John Donne's closest friend, Ker has left us an insight into his
mind in the shape of a small group of medical recipes and alchemical
manuscripts, of which the outstanding example is a copy of the
great Rosicrucian classic, Theophilus Schweighardt's Speculum
1. The Hermetic Journal 33
(Autumn 1986). Willliam Drummond of Hawthorndon's poem on the
death of W. Ramsay in 1649 was possibly inspired by the quoted
lines from Two Noble Kinsmen. Drummond writes "so
falls by northern blast a virgin rose
" W.C. Ward ed.
Poems of William Drummond vol. II pp.175-6.
2. Dictionary of National Biography.
A.E.M. Kirwood "Richard Field
" The Library
4th ser. XII (1932).
3. Mark Eccles Shakespeare in
Warwickshire, section on the Fields.
4. See Robert J. Kane's note in
Shakespeare Quarterly IV (1953) p. 206.
5. Hilary Gatti The Renaissance
Drama of Knowledge p. 180.
6. Dic. of Nat. Biog. Annals
of Scottish Printing pp. 377-93 by R. Dickson and J.P. Edmond
(Ames' letter on p. 381). G. Aquilecchia is sceptical in the standard
survey "Lo stampatore londinese di Giordano Bruno" Studi
di Filologia Italiana XVIII (1960) pp. 101 ff.
7. A. Gentilis De Legationibus,
Libri Tres. R. Goclenius
hoc est, De Hominis Perfectione
W.J. Carlton Timothie Bright
(1911) p. 151.
8. I. Habrecht Eines Newen ungewohnlichen
pp. 39,93. Rosicrucian references pp. 58, 65,
9. Marian Szyrocki Martin Opitz
p.146 f. 2.
10. Dic. of Nat. Biog.
11. P.H. Kocher "John Hester,
Paracelsian" in John Quincey Adams Memorial Studies
ed. J.G. McManaway, G.E. Dawson and E.E. Willoughby. K. Muir The
Sources of Shakespeare's Plays (1977) p.208.
12. J. Thornborough A discourse
plainely proving the
necessitie of the union of England
and Scotland, sold by T. Chard. Remarks and Collections
of Thomas Hearne vol. II (1707-1710) p. 277. A. Hamilton William
Bedwell the Arabist pp. 52, 38.
13. E.K. Chambers A Short Life
of Shakespeare abr. C. Williams pp. 34, 37. R.A. Foakes and
R.T. Rickert Henslowe's Diary pp. 24-5. Wm. Young ed. History
of Dulwick College vol. II p. 210. G.L. Hosking Life and
Times of Edward Alleyn p. 190. Young op. cit. pp. 136,
186, 174 (Fludd). On Thomas Fludd, see Foakes and Rickert op.cit.
14. Leslie Hotson I, William
Shakespeare pp. 123-4. One of the best works of fresh Shakespeare
biography ever written.
15. Ibid. p. 273. J. Thornborough
Antiquorum Sapientum Viris coloribus depicta (1621)
pp.60,68,126,127 according to W.H. Huffman Robert Fludd and
the End of the Renaissance p. 189.
16. A.L. Rowse The Case Books
of Simon Forman (Picador) p. 211, 90.
17. R. Heisler "Rosicrucianism:
The First Blooming in Britain" The Hermetic Journal 1989
18. Dic. of Nat. Biog. J.A.
Worp ed. De Briefwisseling van Constantijn Huygens (1608-1687)
Vol. I has many references to Killigrew, Donne and Drebbel, who
apparently was accused of sorcery. De Jengal van Constantijn
Huygens trans. A. H. Kau (1946) has much on Drebbel.
19. Athenae Oxonienses à
Wood vol. IV. 621.
20. Dic. of Nat. Biog.
21. All the Maier references are
given in my article on "Michael Maier and England" in
The Hermetic Journal, 1989 p.122.
22. A True and Historical Relation
of the Poysoning of Sir Thomas Overbury (1651) p. 22. See
Gary Taylor "Some Manuscripts of Shakespeare's Sonnets"
Bulletin of John Rylands Library vol. 68 (1985-6).
23. E.A.J. Honigmann Shakespeare:
the 'lost years' pp. 90-113. Also Carleton Brown ed. Poems
by Sir John Salusbury and Robert Chester (1914).
24. Parallels with Bruno's thought
in the poem are given in Roy T. Eriksen "Un certo amoroso
" Spenser Studies II (1981]. W.J. Smith
Calendar of Salusbury Correspondence p.81.
25. The Hermetic Journal 1989
26. National Library of Wales
MS. 5390D. Calendared in printed catalogue. John Salusbury
has poems, etc. in MSS 183, 184 at Christ Church Library,Oxford.
27. National Library of Wales
MS. 5390D in printed catalogue.
28. W.J. Smith op. cit. pp.
80-1. Ecclesiae Londino-Batavae Archivum vol. I ed. J.H.
Hessels pp. 838-9 in particular.
29. Hotson op. cit. pp. 163-5.
On Meyrick see Dic. of Nat. Biog. Edward Edwards Life
of Sir Walter Ralegh II pp. 164, 166.
30. The Vaughan quote given in F.S.
Boas Christopher Marlowe p. 281; Shakespeare's on p. 283.
F.A. Yates A Study of Love's Labour's Lost. p. 93. Lower,
in a further letter to Hariot, mentions that its "bearer"
was a "Mr Vaughan" British Library MS 6789 f.427.
Alas, there are many Welsh Vaughans! The play was probably premiered
in the Autumn of 1599, it is generally thought.
31. Calendar of State Papers
(Dom.) 1603-10 p. 542. Powell apparently only approved eight
books between 1605 and 1611.
32. Honigmann op. cit. pp.
33. Dic. of Nat. Biog. on
both Kenelm and Venetia.
34. A.E . Waite The Brotherhood
of the Rosy Cross (1961) p. 308.
35. On Martin see my article op.
cit. pp. 40-42.
36. On Ferdinando see Dic. of
Nat. Biog.; Honigmann op. cit. pp. 150-4. Frances Yates,
in The Rosicrucian Enlightenment, pp. 66-7, discusses the
transmission of Edmund Spenser's Red Cross Knight from The
Fairie Queene to J. V. Andreae's Chemical Wedding,
which has the Rose Cross Brother. R. Johnson's Tom a Lincolne
(1607) has the Red Cross Knight. Thomas Nashe, in The Supplication
of Pierce Penniless, curiously addresses Amyntis (Ferdinando
Lord Strange) thus: "none but thou, most curteous Amyntas,
be the second mistical argument of the Knight of the Red-Crosse:
Oh deus atque oeri gloria Summa tui." Quoted in The Stanley
Papers. vol. I. p. 33 (Chetham Society 29). Quoted in J. Greenstreet
"A hitherto unknown noble writer of Elizabethan comedies"
The Genealogist (April 1891).
37. Dic. of Nat. Biog. National
Library of Scotland Newbattle Collection MS 5774. He also owned
MSS of works by Ripley and Isaac Hollander.