Note to self: do not take hiatus of several weeks in the midst of reading a book for research. You will forget most of what you read in the first half.
This book, as some of you might guess, is a biography of Doctor John Dee. I also need to pick up Dee’s diaries, probably, and give those a read-through (especially the parts around my time period), but first I figured I needed an orienting framework, a simple biography that would give me the context of the things noted down in those diaries.
If that’s what you’re after, this book seems pretty good. It has the virtue of acknowledging not just Dee’s mysticism, but also his scientific work and the political context in which he was operating. (That latter aspect in particular cemented my dissatisfaction with Lisa Goldstein’s novel The Alchemist’s Door, which I very much wanted to like but didn’t.) I suspect that balance might be a legacy of Dame Frances Yates, whose work I’ll be taking a look at — hopefully — if I have the time. From the overview given toward the end of this book, it sounds like a lot of biographies of Dee more or less write him off as a deluded crackpot, which does not serve my purposes at all.
Oh yes, I have a purpose in reading this. (Are you surprised?) I will admit that Dee is likely to show up in Midnight Never Come. For those of you — i.e. mrissa — who grimace at the thought, I promise to try and put him in right, up to and including reading Yates if I have the time. (I solemnly swear to depict John Dee as a Christian Cabalist, not as some kind of cracked-out mother-goddess-worshipping Elizabethan neo-pagan. Mris, who the hell did that to him?) The difficult part will be grokking Christian Cabalism well enough to try and depict it, and balancing that out with the ever-unanswered question of what the hell was going on with Edward Kelley. I can think of all kinds of interesting possibilities; I just don’t know which one will serve my purposes best.
Now, let’s see if I can finish off one of the other three or four books I’m halfway done with.