Dr. John Dee
John Dee was born in 1527, the son of a minor court official. He became one of the leading figures of the Elizabethan Renaissance and collected one of the biggest libraries of the time, numbering thousands of books. Educated at Cambridge, he was a scholar of philosophy, mathematics, architecture and cartography amongst others.
His belief in English imperialism led him to propose ambitious plans for the Navy, and to promote English ventures to the New World. John Dee is at least partly responsible for the fact that Americans speak English (rather than French or Spanish), and he came close to owning vast amounts of Canada.
Dee was also interested in mystical matters. Of Welsh family, he claimed to be descended from a British prince, and thought highly of the Arthurian legends. He styled himself a Christian Cabalist, communicating with angels and making a keen study of alchemy, numerology and astrology.
During the period 1558 to 1583, when his favour with Elizabeth was highest, he was not only court mathematician but also cast horoscopes for royalty. His influence made him many enemies, however, and most common folk thought him a sorceror. In this period he undertook many translations from Latin to English, including works by Cornelius Agrippa. He also began to produce writings of his own.
In 1583 he left to tour the continent with his assistant Edward Kelley, an alchemist of dubious reputation who was once pilloried for forgery. Together they traveled Europe, conducting seances and crystal-gazings. Dee wrote widely in this time and even invented his own language, Enochian. In this period he visited Baron von Hauptman in Transylvania and may have translated portions of Philetas’ Greek edition of the Necronomicon.
At home, storm clouds gathered. Months after he left, a mob pillaged his house in Mortlake and much of the library was destroyed. The Leicester and Sidney families who had supported him at court were decimated in the Armada conflict of 1588, while other friends, such as Sir Walter Raleigh, fell from favour.
Dee returned to England in 1589, perhaps with the Wormius [[Necronomicon (Latin ver.) | Necronomicon (Latin ver.)]], to find himself far less in favour than he had been, and facing accusations of witchcraft. James I became king in 1603, and the Witchcraft Act which he passed in 1604 did little to augment Dee’s position. Dee petitioned the King to clear his name, but found himself shunned and friendless. The leading philosopher of the English Renaissance died in illness and poverty in his Mortlake house in 1608.