Sunday, 7 August 2016
Friday, 5 August 2016
Francis Garland, William Shakespeare, and John Dee's Green Language - Teresa Burns
Francis Garland, William Shakespeare, and John Dee’s Green Language
by Teresa Burns
I. Enter Francis Garland
In his now-famous diary, on December 19, 1586, John Dee writes:
19 Dec. On the 19th day (by the new calendar), to please Master Edward Garland (who had been sent as a messenger from the Emperor of Muscovy to ask me to come to him, etc) and his brother Francis, E.K. made a public demonstration of the philosophers’ stone in the proportion of one grain (no bigger than the least grain of sand) to 1 oz and a ¼ of common and almost 1 oz of the best gold was produced. When we had weighed the gold, we divided it up and gave the crucible to Edward at the same time.
Who are these “Garland brothers” who witnessed such a significant demonstration?
While the modern tendency has been to dismiss Edward Kelley’s gold-making as a trick to ensnare the gullible, there is no question that many people alive at the time thought it was real and said they witnessed it. As Lyndy Abraham, Charles Nicoll, and Lauren Kassell have all written about in more detail, “an incredible series of attested transmutations remain” from Kelley’s years on the continent, with eyewitness accounts ranging from French alchemist Nicolas Barnaud to Elizabethan courtier Sir Edward Dyer to Dee’s son (and Dyer’s godson) Arthur, and once-removed accounts from many others, including the Holy Roman Emperor himself. Kelley’s gold-making apparently so convinced Sir Edward Dyer, and Dyer’s intelligence report back to England so convinced William Cecil, Lord Burghley, that Burghley later used Dyer as an emissary to try to get Kelley to come back to England. We can find records of all of these men writing in other places and reporting what they saw . . . but none of them save Dee ever mention anyone named “Garland.”
This absence is most telling in the cases of Edward Dyer and Arthur Dee. Dyer, by Dee’s account, sends and receives letters from Dee via Francis Garland and travels to and from Trebona with him. . . but Dyer never mentions Francis Garland. Arthur Dee, who devoted his life to alchemical pursuits and later became chief physician to the Russian czar, in several different places affirms that he saw Kelley’s “projections,” including one in Bohemia which would seem to be the same “public demonstration” referred to by his father’s diary entry above. But he never mentions a family friend named Garland.
In his diary, Dee refers to several “Garland” brothers; Francis, Edward, and Robert; and a fourth “Garland,” Henry. None have ever been positively identified, even though they’re most frequently described acting as couriers. No archival records in England have ever been found that show a payment to or letter from any of these men; no civic record of any kind lists their names. In fact, with only two or perhaps three significant exceptions which I mention in this essay, all of the references to a “Garland” connected to John Dee or Edward Kelley have as their source the writings of John Dee.
Yet according to Dee, Edward and Francis Garland witnessed Kelley’s demonstration of the philosopher’s stone. Suddenly the lack of a “Garland” in English records is more than curious: it is a glaring absence, when one considers that for much of the time period when a “Garland,” particularly “Francis Garland,” appeared in Dee’s writing, a major objective of English intelligence, and certainly of Sir Edward Dyer and William Cecil Lord Burghley, was to lure Edward Kelley back to England. It is not hard to deduce that “Garland” must not be these men’s real surname.
A few months later, the same two Garlands are referred to in a very puzzling and uncharacteristic spirit vision, in part of what must be the singularly most inaccurate string of prophesies to appear anywhere in Dee’s writing. In April 1587, Dee tells us that,
After dinner, as E.K. was alone, there appeared unto him little creatures of a cubit high: and they came to the still where he had the spirit of wine distilling over out of a retort. And one of them (whose name they expressed Ben) said that it was in vain so to hope for the best spirit of the wine, and showed him how to distil it and separate it better, and moreover how to get oil of the spirit of wine as it burned in the lamps: and began to ask E.K. what countryman he was. And when he had answered “an Englishman.” he asked then how he came hither. He answered “by sea.”
We may wonder why a Magus of Dee’s stature is recording visions had by Kelley while Kelley is in the distillery inhaling alcohol fumes and learning to make wine spirit oil from the lamps . . . especially given what Dee recounts Kelley as hearing next:
Then said he [Ben]: “and who helped you to pass the marvellous great dangers of the sea?” And so took occasion to speak of the benefits which God had hitherto done for us, very many. And this Ben said then among very many other things (as Mr. E.K. told me on Saturday night after supper, holding on his talk almost till 2 of the clock after midnight) that he it was that delivered him, or gave unto his hands the powder. And also he said either then, or the next day at the furthest, that unless he would be conformable to the will of God in this last Action declared, that he would take the virtue and force of the powder from it, that it should be unprofitable, and that he should become a beggar.
And of me also he said that I did evil to require proof or testimony now that this last Action was from God Almighty, and said that I should be led prisoner to Rome, etc..
He told of England, and said that about July or November her Majesty should from heaven be destroyed; and that about the same time the King of Spain should die. And that this present Pope at his mass should be deprived of life before two years to an end. And that another should be Pope, who should be Decimus quintus of his name, and that he would begin to reform things, but that shortly he should of the cardinals be stoned to death. And that after that there should be no pope for some years. [. . .]
He said also that this Francis Garland was an espy upon us from the Lord Treasurer of England, and that Edward Garland is not his brother: and that so the matter is agreed between them, etc.. He said that shortly this Francis Garland should go into England, and that we should be sent for, but that it were best to refuse their calling us home.
After all these and many other things told me by the same Mr. E.K., about 2 of the clock after midnight, we departed each to his bed, where I found my wife awake, attending to hear some new matter of me from Mr. Kelly his reports of the apparitions continued with him above four hours, being else alone.
For some reason, what follows next in this account is Dee telling his wife that he “sees no remedy” but to participate in the cross-matching, or we might say spouse-swapping, pact with Edward and Joan Kelley, as revealed by the angels the day before.
What should we make of such a strange vision and Dee’s method of reporting it, and why does “Ben” need to prophesy about the unknown “Francis Garland” at all? Kelley is at the still, presumably set up in a damp lower hall or barrel-vaulted crypt of the castle in Trebona, and while the “spirit of wine” is “distilling out over the retort,” in a household which, as Dee records it, is in a state of alarm over tantric angelic directives, Kelley learns from a spirit named Ben how to make better wine. . .and then Ben tells Kelley that Dee should be taken off to Roman inquisitors, lists off various world leaders who will die, and —somehow of equal importance to the rest of this bizarrie—tells Kelley that Francis Garland is a spy.
It is almost impossible to take the spirit vision on face value, and puzzling why Dee chooses to record it at all unless it is some sort of magical blind. (In fact, the descriptions about the wine should tell the initiated reader just that, that this IS a something totally different, communicated via symbol rather than direct explication.) We’ll look at possible motives behind Dee’s recording this improbable scene next issue, in part two of “Shakespeare’s Green Garland,” and suggest what it may tell us when read through the combined filters of magic and espionage. But for now, we can note some rather obvious things: the Garland brothers appear in Dee’s diary then in his spiritual record at two of the most fantastic-sounding times, first to watch Kelley turn mercury into gold, and then one of them, Francis, is named with equal weight as a monarch or pope in a spiritual conversation that sounds more, or the surface, like a drug-induced hallucination. Then, when it seems things can’t get much stranger, we see that Dee has made a note to himself in the margins of the above narrative, that “Ben was the deliverer of the powder to E.K. at the digging in England.” According to legend, this would be the red powder Kelley found in Glastonbury, a grain of which he has used the previous December to make a public demonstration of the philosopher’s stone.
If we observe other things going on in the lives of the Dees and Kelleys at this time, we’ll find that they’re in the midst of seven major magical workings that we have no record of what were save that some of the dates are recorded, and Dee’s diary entries the next year, 1588, suggest that he thinks whatever they did, succeeded. We don’t even know for sure if the Garlands stayed with the Dees and Kelleys on their repeated visits, though given the travel habits of the time, one would suspect that they did.
Edward Garland doesn’t play much of a role in the rest of Dee’s diary, but his “brother” Francis appears often, six of those times in references that include Edward Dyer. He carries letters to and from England, both to Dyer and to Robert Yong (Young), one of the most archly anti-Catholic judges in England and perhaps one of Dee’s in-laws. At one point Francis Garland arrives back in Trebona with Joan Kelley’s brother, then he is sent to find Edward Dyer, who evidently is no longer in England, and the search must have been successful, because six weeks later we read that Francis Garland, Joan Kelley’s brother, Edward Dyer, and Dyer’s “man” Rowles are all leaving again. Kelley leaves for Prague at some point; in November 1588, he returns, with Francis Garland.
Just reading the Garland brother entries in Dee’s diary suggests the outline of a mystery. February 1589, Edward Kelley rides away from Trebona for the last time. A few months later, his brother Thomas, Thomas’s wife, Francis Garland, and Dyer’s man Rowles head toward England, a few months ahead of John Dee and his family.
Once Dee is back to his home in Mortlake, Francis Garland visits him several times: first in March 1590, when he delivers a letter from Edward Kelley, then later that month, to visit Thomas Kelley and his wife when they stop by Mortlake to get letters from Dee to take back to Kelley, then that August, when Francis Garland again brings Dee letters from Kelley. Keep in mind that this is at the very same time that Lord Burghley is trying to convince the now Sir Edward Kelley to return to England, or if he won’t return home, to send some red powder. As different spying circles shift and reform through the early 1590s, luring Kelley back continues to be a major goal of the Cecils. Acting upon Lord Burgley’s instructions, Sir Edward Dyer spends several months in 1591 as a student of Kelley’s in Prague, and causes something of a diplomatic incident by getting thrown in jail with him.
And though all these dramas, Dee keeps referring to the enigmatic Francis Garland, who seems connected to all the players and, according to Dee’s diary, is still ferrying letters back and forth. Who is he? He last appears Dee’s diary in 1595, in this March 18 entry:
Mr. Francis Garland came this morning to visit me and had much talk with me of Sir E.K.
They have their talk and Garland disappears, from history, it seems.
Who is he? And who are the other “Garland” brothers?
As the final section of this essay will look at in more detail, a“garland” connotes many different things. Apart from what it may mean within Dee’s particular initiatory language, “garland” suggests everything from a crowning wreath of laurels, to a woman’s hat, to the rosary, to a type of small sacred book, to a section of Paris—the clos de garland—just across the Seine from Notre Dame cathedral. It might even point back to a school of thought connected to the medieval English grammarian John of Garland, or Johannes de Garlandia, who took his name from the clos de garland and who is now most famous for coining the term “dictionary.” But first and foremost, “Garland” “brothers” suggests inititatory fratres who are poets, victoriously “crowned” or inspired by the Muse.
From there it’s a fairly easy guess to hypothesize that the “Garlands” are writer/spies, that amorphous group of Renaissance couriers and agent provocateurs drawn mainly from the artisan middle class. Of these the most famous is Christopher Marlowe, whose suspicious death in 1593 and its political connection to competing spy rings and has been explored in detail by Charles Nicolls in The Reckoning. As Nicoll notes:
In the fast-expanding arena of Elizabethan espionage, writers were an obvious source of recruits. They were intelligent, educated, observant young men. They knew the international language, Latin, and the literary tastes of the day gave them a good smattering of French and Italian. They were mobile people: geographically mobile—young men predisposed to travel and see the world—but also socially moble. In a class-ridden society, the literary demi-monde floated free, touching at once the back-streets of London and the heights of nobility. They were also chronically in need of cash. Authorship was becoming a recognizeable profession, rather than a gentleman’s pastime, but it was not one that paid much. A big name like Robert Greene might command a fee of 20 nobles (£6 13s 4d) for a play, but most scribbled for derisory rates. The standard payment for a pamphlet was “forty shillings and an odd pottle of wine,” with not a whiff of copyright thereafter.
With these attitudes, and these needs, it is perhaps not surprising that a number of Elizabethan writers crop up in the files of the intelligence service, both foreign and domestic. They are remembered now as poets, pamphleteers, and playwrights, but down there in the reality of their lives they had to profess other skills if they were to survive.
The higher up the ladder on the espionage food chain, the less records left behind; as we’ll look at in more detail next issue, that means the upper level, the level of the John Dees and Edward Kelleys, is nearly invisible except in their own writing.
Of course, Christopher Marlowe probably isn’t one of Dee’s Garland brothers—we know where Marlowe is many of the times that Garland appears in Dee’s diary, and by the final Garland entry, Marlowe is dead. Not only that, but Marlowes’s most famous play, Dr. Faustus, is in part a thinly-veiled satiric smear aimed at Dee, Kelley, or both, but using Marlowe as a touchstone may be helpful if a researcher wants to look for the possible dates and contacts of other Elizabethan writers whose lives seem to touch both on an invisible college of initiates, and an espionage underworld. Try it yourself—use Robert Greene, or Thomas Kyd, or slightly lesser known Elizabethan poets like George Chapman, Thomas Nashe, Gabriel Harvey, Thomas Watson, Anthony Munday or Matthew Roydon, all men connected in one way or another to gathering information and spinning public opinion—then look for someone you can actually also locate in civic records, but who is missing when the most important Garland, Francis, appears at the castle in Trebona, and who is in England when this same Garland visits Dee at Mortlake, and who is still alive by 1595. Good luck.
If we look for Garlands among writers, Francis being the Garland most attached to Dee, we might simplify our search for this “top Garland” by starting with the man who will crown the era.
Suppose Dee’s “Francis Garland” was the man we now call William Shakespeare.
At first this seems impossible. Or perhaps a joke? Or, in good esoteric tradition, might this whole argument be a blind? At first one is tempted to dismiss the theory simply because it has never been in print, and if it is so obvious and concerns Shakespeare, surely books would have been devoted to this long ago.
Of course, the last forty years have generated an immense amount of speculative scholarship linking John Dee and William Shakespeare, most often with Dee as the model for a character such as Prospero in The Tempest. Finding analyses of echoes of either both folk and Hermetic magic and alchemical symbolism in Shakespeare’s work has become relatively easy. Yet the direct connection between Shakespeare and any magical initiator has only rarely been made, and the few who have made it weren’t really talking about Shakespeare.
For instance, those arguing with Abel Leclerc that “Shakespeare” was really William Stanley, the Earl of Derby, note that Dee was closely connected to the Stanley family, especially after 1600 when Dee moved to Manchester, note the Stanley’s interest in matters occult, and suggest Stanley-as-Shakespeare makes the magical connections plausible because William Stanley knew John Dee. Yet the argument falls apart if one takes a position rather impossible to disprove: that the writer we now call “William Shakespeare” really was a historical person (that is, was William Shakespeare) who spelled his name (and had it spelled) many different ways, from Gulielmus Shaksper to William Shaksper to Will Shakspere, and finally, by the 1623 First Folio, “Mr. William Shakespeare.” His name may have been “shaped” for occult or literary resonance, or the spelling simply standardized, but if we assume he was a real person, and not a cipher—not the creation of William or Ferdinando Stanley, not Francis Bacon, not the Earl of Oxford, not even a miraculously undead Christopher Marlowe, but really a man whose name wound up standardized as William Shakespeare—then it is even harder to prove a direct connection to John Dee, because it is difficult to get much reliable information about Shakespeare at all through 1596.
For now, we must return to the now-commonplace assumption that Shakespeare’s plays and poems show an artist intimately familiar with alchemical symbolism and both folk and Hermetic magic.
Two Hypotheses, and an Initiatory Dilemma
Within that framework, this essay, timeline, and related poetic analysishave all been written to test out two clusters of hypotheses concerning John Dee, Edward Kelley, William Shakespeare, and Francis Garland:
1) That the man now called Shakespeare was working as an English courier/spy through the late 1580s and at least until the early 1590s, and repeatedly visited John Dee and Edward Kelley in Trebona at the height of their alchemical experiments; that he witnessed what he and one other—“Edward Garland”—believed was the grand transmutation; that upon Dee’s return to England in 1589, he carried letters between Dee (in Mortlake) and Kelley (in Prague) at least in 1590, and in 1593-94; that his name, in Dee’s diary, was “Francis Garland.” Comparing dates and places where each man appears, 1577-1596, shows Francis Garland is never mentioned by Dee as being in one place when we can demonstrate that Shakespeare is in another.
2) That Edward Kelley’s poem “Concerning the Philosopher’s Stone,” anthologized by Elias Ashmole in Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum, was written to the man now called Shakespeare; and that Ashmole was aware that a) Dee’s “Francis Garland” and Shakespeare were the same person, and b) Kelley’s poem written to Shakespeare; that as a consequence of this knowledge, Ashmole changed the poem’s dedication and added the title. An explication of the very dense alchemical symbolism and green language allusions within Kelley’s poem accompanies this essay.
Testing these two hypotheses takes us on quite a journey, through the outline suggested by the “Garland” entries in Dee’s diary to the language of alchemical theater in Kelley’s poetry back to a cluster of manuscripts partially originating in Prague that, via England, somehow wind up in Denmark. We’ll explore how or from whom Elias Ashmole might known much of this story in 1652 . . . and finally, we’ll return to Dee’s particular use of “garland” within his own system of elaborate puns and allusions.
Remember, for a hypothesis to hold, one must simply be able to not disprove it. This essay does not attempt to prove the above two hypotheses, because in this writer’s opinion, such “proof” requires initiatory knowledge of the deepest and most profound sort. This essay only seeks to show these two hypotheses could be possible. More than that would take Liber after Liber, puns intended, and run into the same stumbling block one finds when trying to read and understand works like Dee’s Hieroglyphic Monad, or Propaedeumata aphoristica, or the whole of Dee and Kelley’s Enochian corpus: these are all initiatory texts or (in the case of the Enochian corpus) raw material for initiatory texts we don’t have. Similarly, Kelley’s Theatre of Terrestrial Astronomy and Stone of the Philosophers are initiatory texts, almost totally impenetrable to a reader unschooled in Hermetic magic and alchemy. In ways, it is almost futile to try to understand Kelley’s writings from the 1590s or Dee and Kelley’s angelic workings from the 1580s without first understanding the works of Dee mentioned above, from the 1560s. The problem is, no real (printed) explanation of how John Dee used green language exists, particularly how it works in his most condensed work, the Hieroglyphic Monad, and what earlier traditions the Monad nods back towards.
Scholars who have studied this material and commented on it in print usually find it best to take the path of C.H. Josten, who in the introduction to his 1964 translation of Dee’s Hieroglyphic Monad said that the “specific message which Dee tries to convey by his symbol of the Monad, and by his treatise thereon, is lost. His explanations are sometimes explicitly addresses to a mystae and initiati whose secrets we do not possess.” When Frances Yates made her now-famous assertion that the “secret philosophy” behind the early seventeenth century Rosicrucian manifestos “was the philosophy of John Dee, as summed up in his Monas Hieroglyphica,” she nonetheless didn’t, or couldn’t, try to explain what that secret philosophy was. Few traditional scholars have even attempted to explicate Dee and Kelley’s angelic workings; meanwhile, explanations by esotericists who have spent years studying, experiencing, and “mapping” the Enochian corpus have largely been ignored. Perhaps by the twenty-first century, that gap can finally close.
Understanding the magical system underlying Dee’s writing is likely the best way to connect Dee to Garland; the same is true for connecting Kelley to Garland. If we could show, for instance, that particular Kabbalistic or geometric or mythic or alchemical transformations existed in the Hieroglyphic Monad and later underlies Dee and Kelley’s angelic conversations, and then appears in similar form in some of Shakespeare’s works, then we would have, in this writer’s opinion, the best type of support for the above two hypotheses. That would be quite the proof, indeed. This essay merely attempts to show that the above assertions are possible.
However, if Dee’s courier Francis Garland is the man most now call William Shakespeare, his connection to John Dee and Edward Kelley and their intersecting magical and alchemical circles can help us answer two of the most vexing question in Shakespearian scholarship: first, why is it so difficult to find references to the Bard in his own time? And second, how and why does the work of someone who is all but invisible through 1593 become associated with the plays that for more than two decades dominate Elizabethan and Jacobean drama, and become the most-read and most-performed plays in the English language? As we’ll see next issue, the same spy rings connected to the deaths of Christopher Marlowe and his one-time patron Ferdinando Stanley Lord Strange, and connected to Shakespeare’s sudden rise to prominence, also show very close connections to the circle around John Dee, and the nature of those connections become much more explicable if we assume that “Francis Garland” was William Shakespeare.
It also means we can’t properly understand the Shakespearean corpus without reading the works as initiatory texts whose mythical and political allusions carry automatic references to the Kabbalah, precessional astronomy, geomancy, and sacred geometry, since their “green garland” constantly alludes to Dee’s Monadic system where alchemy and magic are one and the same.
Let’s go back for a moment to our Francis Garland timeline, and see what we know of his activities in 1589, the year John Dee and Edward Kelley parted company and Dee returned to England. We have one entry, from May 26 1589 (Julian)/ June 5 (Gregorian): “Mr Thomas Kelly, his wife, Fr. Garland, Rowles, from Stade toward England.” Francis Garland, whoever he was, returned to England before Dee, then must have left again for Prague shortly after, because by the next March 19 he is delivering Dee letters from Kelley, and a month later is at Dee’s house when Thomas Kelley comes by to pick up letters for his brother:
19 Apr. I delivered my letters to Mr Thomas Kelly, for his brother Sir Edward Kelly Knight at the Emperor’s court at Prague. Francis Garland was by, and Mr Thomas Kelly his wife. God send them well hither and thither again.
This same year, 1589, is the date given on the oldest copy of Edward Kelley’s alchemical verse which Elias Ashmole in his 1652 Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum presents as “Concerning the Philosopher’s Stone,” dedicated to his ““especiall good Friend, G.S., Gent.” The 1589 untitled version, located in the Royal Library in Copenhagen and recently analyzed by Jan Bäcklund as part of a group of manuscripts that connect to an alchemical circle around John Dee and Edward Kelley,bears only the dedication, “The praise of vnity for frendship’s sake made by a stranger/ to further his frende his Conceyts.”
Who in the intervening years added the dedication to “G.S., Gent.”? Does this refer to Gulielmus, a.k.a. “William,” Shakespeare? Referring to William Shakespeare as “G.S.” would not be much of a poetic stretch, especially since Shakespeare’s baptism records in Stratford-upon Avon, from April 26, 1564, list his name as “Gulielmus Shaksper.” In a moment, we’ll track Ashmole’s 1652 poem back to 1589, the year Dee and Kelley parted company, and to the circle around Dee and Kelley that included Francis Garland. . . but first, let’s make sure we can’t find William Shakespeare somewhere else.
Gulielmus the Alchemist, Garland the Spy, and a Hall of Mirrors
This one is easy: no one knows what the Bard was doing at that time. All of the “Francis Garland” entries through 1590 take place during Shakespeare’s so-called “Lost Years.” He could as easily be Dee’s friend “Francis Garland” as anyone else. Of course, so could a myriad of other untraceable people, but almost none of these others are writers. Garland’s later appearances in Dee’s diary also happen at possible times. By 1593, while no one knows Shakespeare’s exact location, most assume he is in London some of the time because his poem Venus and Adonis appears in the Stationer's Register on April 18, 1593, not long after Garland’s March 17 visit to Mortlake. (Incidentally, Venus and Adonis has already been analyzed in detail as an alchemical poem.)
This year, 1593, points us to another recent Shakespeare the Spy argument. In The Shakespeare Conspiracy, Phillips and Keatman, like this writer, argue that Shakespeare was a courier/spy, though they don’t mention Francis Garland and for various reasons suggest his spy name, at least as listed in the Chamber treasurer’s account, was “William Hall.”They note that on August 28, 1593, William Cecil dispatches a letter to his agent Edward Kelley in Prague, and “Cecil’s clerk’s record of the letter names the courier as William Hall.” “William Hall” travels to Prague with a dispatch from Cecil to Edward Kelley. Remembering that we’re dealing with what is possible, not necessarily probable, I’ve put Phillips and Keatman’s dates for Hall on the previously mentioned timeline, and note that their hypotheses, for now, complement rather than contradict those of this essay. They have Hall/Shakespeare leaving England for Prague in August, and my argument has Garland/Shakespeare returning from Prague by the next March 18, when Dee writes, “Mr Fr. Garland brought me Sir Ed. Kelly and his brother’s letters.”
Dee’s 1594 and 1595 Garland entries also take place at times that don’t conflict with what we know about Shakespeare’s whereabouts: as mentioned, Dee writes of a Garland visit in March 1594, and by May 19, Shakespeare's The Rape of Lucrece is entered in the Stationer's Register. Francis Garland goes again to Prague, and returns in time for Dee to write, on November 23, “Francis Garland came to England from Prague. Just five years past I came to England from Breme &c. as Francis Garland came now: but the Stade fleet stayed at Harwich.” That December, “Will Shakespeare”, Will Kempe, and Richard Burbage are listed as servants to the lord chamberlain and paid for “several comedies” acted before the Queen.
After this, it becomes easy to find references to Shakespeare’s plays, though not necessarily the location of Shakespeare himself. We can also find one reference to an actor named Iohn (John) Garland-- in 1598, perhaps because of the plague, several members of the Queen’s Men are given money from the York treasury to “depart this Citty ¬ to play.” Another Shakespearian scholar has looked at how that reference might also be connected back to a loan that he associates with the break-up of the Pembroke’s Men in 1595, and uses to analyze how different theater companies reorganized during the plague years of 1592-1594. But neither scholar tries to identify the “John Garland” listed as a player for the “Queen’s Men,” though all of the others in the list are at least tentatively identified. John Garland, and his 1595 connection in particular, may be worth looking at more closely.
March 1595 is Dee’s last reference to Francis Garland, and that November 25 he enters information we now know was incorrect: “News that Sir Edward Kelley was slain.”
Did John Dee know that Kelley was still alive but have a reason to have those close to him think differently? (Take for example this simple mind game which may explain much in terms of Dee’s diary entries: he writes as if the audience is only himself, but expects that others will read what he says there. But he further expects that if they read his notes, they will not want him to know they have done so, or they will have no further access. So in the above case, this “reader” would not be able to ask Dee where the information was from, because that person is not supposed to have read his diary. And isn’t it curious that, while entries before and after this tell where the information comes from, this “news” is anonymous.)
The Long and Winding Poem
Our second hypothesis concerns Edward Kelley’s poem “Concerning the Philosopher’s Stone,” which first appeared in printed form in Elias Ashmole’s 1652 Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum. As mentioned earlier, Kelley’s poem, in Ashmole’s collection, appears with the dedication, “written to his especiall good Friend, G.S. Gent.” The same poem, with the exception of a few words spelled differently, appears with the manuscripts from the Royal Library in Copenhagen that Jan Bäcklund associates with an alchemical circle around Dee and Kelley. That earlier poem has no title, and the dedication reads, “The praise of vnity for frendship’s sake made by a stranger/ to further his frende his Conceyts.”
As I explain in my analysis of this poem, its dense language offers, among other things, instructions for an “author” about the proper subject matter for chemical theater. The combination of “Author” in both poems and the word “Conceyts” in the 1589 dedication suggests the poem is written to someone whose creative endeavors connect to both alchemy (alchemical emblems being a particular type of poetic conceit), written arts, and the “School” of the poem’s last line.
The need to understand Shakespearean drama as shaped by alchemical symbolism has drawn more attention in recent years. In his work The Chemical Theater, which focuses particularly upon the alchemical symbolism in part of King Lear, Charles Nicolls comments that, “In a sense, the bizarre and nebulous language of alchemy is all that is left us today, the archaeological remains of a buried philosophy. But it is more than mere debris, for even when it lived and prospered alchemy was as much a literary phenomenon as a practiced ‘science.’” As he analyzes the Twelve Keys of Basel Valentine as a precursor to analyzing alchemical poetry and drama, he adds:
There is in all this an element of code, the ‘cloudie voyce’ as a veil against the impure and uninitiated. But there is also a tremendous quality of drama, an envisioning a chemical action as a series of internecine struggles, predatory feedings, phantasmagoric copulations, deaths, entombments, and rebirths. All these took place within a vessel which could become a castle, a bed, a sea, a garden, an oven, or a grave, according to the chemical events within it. In certain texts, these highly charged readings were elaborated into alchemical “parables,” expounding the entire opus as a continuous allegorical narrative.
Kelley’s poem seems to be telling “G.S.” instructions on how to write such a narrative. So to review: whoever re-titled the poem understood the subject matter well enough to title it “Concerning the Philosopher’s Stone,” knew who it was dedicated to, and chose to render that person’s name as “G.S., Gent.” In adding that identifier, that person also took out the word “Conceyts” from the earlier dedication. If one wants to make “stranger” an allusion to a group of initiates/writers/actors still connected to Ferdinando Stanley Lord Strange, then we notice that word, too, is gone. (Remember, Marlowe wrote and acted for “Lord Strange’s Men” by the 1590s, and many people assume, because of the similarity in word choice between some of Marlowe’s writing and some early works by Shakespeare, that Shakespeare was there, too.) In other words, the poem seems to nod to those who already know the story—“yes, Kelley did know Shakespeare and Shakespeare was connected to Lord Strange”—while taking away some of the evidence that would allow a non-initiate to figure out that this was addressed to a poet or playwright in the first place.
The final bit of evidence concerns this “G.S.” being “Gent.,” gentle or a gentleman, or both. That would likely not have applied to the Francis Garland/ Gulielmus Shaksper of 1589. Most would have referred to Elizabethan writer/spies as anything but that. If “G.S.” refers to Shakespeare, “Gent.,” as Kelley’s “especiall friend,” the word “Gent.” shows the dedication was added (as it seems to have been) a generation later, when even Ben Johnson called the Bard “my gentle Shakespeare.” As Arthur Gray notes, “the tradition was common after his death. Sucking (before 1641) speaks of him as “my friend” William Shakespeare, though he could have had no acquaintance with him, and styles him “gentle Shakespeare.” Upon Shakespeare’s death in 1616, the register at Holy Trinity Church records the burial of “Will Shakspere gent.” Shakespeare’s family coat of arms (the right to bear Arms being the mark of a gentleman) was not granted until 1596, nor recorded until 1602, and its description itself and approval are themselves so curious that we’ll return to them next issue. For now, it's enough to note that Shakespeare would commonly be referred to as gentle or a gentleman by Ashmole’s time, but not in 1589. We can’t even locate where he is in 1589.
Elias Ashmole must have re-titled the poem and changed the dedication: but wouldn’t he had known Shakespeare would not have been considered “gentle,” nor a “gentleman,” in 1589? Why would he add an anachronistic dedication line?
Maybe this article’s identification of “G.S.” as Shakespeare is wrong and we can find a “G.S.” somewhere in the manuscripts among which the 1589 version of the poem was found? It seems not—not one of the many names swirling around the manuscripts in Denmark have these initials. They do, however, contain our only other known reference to a “Garland” in primary texts associated with Dee and Kelley. But in less we opt for something that sounds rather reverse-engineered, like making “G.S.” stand for “Garland the Spy,” we find no connection to these initials in the Copenhagen manuscripts. . . and as stated, if we did find a G.S. among the cloak-and-dagger world where alchemy and espionage intersected, we likely wouldn’t call that person “gentle” or a “gentleman.”
Ashmole gives a dedication that, if to William Shakespeare, doesn’t quite match the situation that the poem came from. As we’ll see when we look at other information Ashmole provides about John Dee and Edward Kelley, giving information that is “almost” but not quite correct on face value seems one of his favorite alchemical blinds.
Next we must return to Bäcklund’s analysis of the manuscripts in Denmark, and what they suggest about “Garland” rather than our hypothesized Garland-Shakespeare. Several of the names which appear in these documents are familiar to us from John Dee’s diary— for instance, Dee’s “John Carpio” is probably the “John Carpe” and “Johannis Carpionis de Kaprstein” mentioned in these manuscripts,likely the alchemist Jan Kapr, a friend of Sendigovius. A group manuscript folios seems associated with an “R.K.,” and Bäcklund speculates who this might be:
. . . It is clear, however, that the unidentified scribe R. K. must have been in relatively close contact with Edward Kelley or the alchemical circle around him in Prague, as he has obviously had access to Kelley’s papers.
As far as I can see, what appears to be the same hand has also written part of Old Royal Coll. 1723 4o, dated 1612 and 1613, with the signatures “Ex libro Johannis Carpionis de Kaprstein / Martis 28 Anno 1612” (Plate 20) and “Reliqua verô antecedentia ex manuscripto libro magna vetustissimo (et omnio de rebus vel operibus Raym. Lullij) scripsi, apud Amicorum optimum D. Johannem C Pragæ Anno nostrae Salutatis 1613 Martis 28” (Plate 21), confirming that this scribe was active in Prague, and furthermore “apud amicorum Johannem C [arpionem]”, i.e. John Carpe, with whom Kelley travelled several times to Prague. The last historically established trace of Carpe is the previously mentioned entry in Dee’s diary [Feb. 16 1589], recording the departure of Kelley, Garland, and Carpe to Prague. After the John Carpe signature there is an erased name which very well could be read as “Rogero Kock”, a Germanized spelling of Dee’s laboratory assistant Roger Cook (b. 1553). Cook worked with Dee from 1567 to 1581, then left him after a violent quarrel, but eventually returned to Dee’s service in Manchester in 1600, and in 1606 he was building a still-house for the Earl of Northumberland. Especially interesting in our connection is that he is probably to be identified as the Roger Cock who was assisting Cornelius Drebbel as an alchemist at the court of Rudolph II up to the time of the Emperor’s death. Not irrelevant in this connection is that it appears that the “John Carpe” signatures in the manuscript were added some years later by the same hand (which could explain why both are dated the 28 March, but of different years). This does not necessarily mean that the dating is inaccurate. In any case, this signature (John Carpe in Prague 1612 and/or 1613) as well as the, in my opinion, identical English hand do in fact strongly suggest that the production of English alchemical manuscripts stemming from a circle around Dee and Kelley in Prague did continue up to the year of the Emperor’s death in 1612. As we have seen, John Carpe was with Francis Garland and Edward Kelley in Prague in the years 1588-89, and, though Dee’s correspondence with Burleigh, Garland, Carpe and others with links to Prague seems to have ceased by 1595, the alchemical activities intimately connected to Kelley’ s activities there obviously continued a good many years after 1595.
Other names suggest more connections to Dee’s circle. As Bäcklund notes, the “Mr. Digges” whose name appears on two documents may be Dee’s mathematical protégé Thomas Digges, and the name “Brickman,” (the English spelling for “Birckmann”) and a reference to “the Birckmanns in Cologne” from whom one of the copies came, likely refers to the Birckmann booksellers, from whom Dee bought many manuscripts, and who I’ve suggested elsewhere were part of Dee’s continental “Family of Love” connections. One of the manuscripts bears Dee’s Hieroglyphic Monad symbol on its spine. A group of the manuscripts are associated with an “R.K.” who seems familiar with Dee’s methods of annotating books, including, in two of the folios, “R.K.’s” use of a flower sign in the margin first pointed out by Roberts and Watson.
The manuscripts contain much other fascinating data—names, recipes, alchemical tracts, a probable sample of Kelley’s handwriting, the poem mentioned already—and significantly, the name “Garland.” One of the folios in which the name appears—Old Royal Coll. 1727 4o—bears the dates 1593 to 1596. Bäcklund says
This manuscript contains 27 items, all in English [. . .] , mainly from English philosophers (Thomas Charnock, George Ripley, and Roger Bacon among others) and, among other anonymous tracts and translations of Arnold Villanova, an English translation of Isaac Hollandus [. . . ] But the most interesting feature of this manuscript is not the tracts but the long passages of notes, recipes, booklists and other memoranda and idle scribblings, i.e. items 2, 4-7, and 27. These parts of the manuscript contain a number of names, unfortunately often erased or crossed out so that they are practically illegible, and when not illegible seemingly written in code. [. . .] But other names, like “Garland”, “Digges”, “Hill”, and of course “Dee” on fol. 132, do suggest that this manuscript stands in some relation to English alchemists active in Europe. It is well within the bounds of possibility that the “Garland” mentioned mainly on fols. 15v-I8 is identical with the friend of Kelley and Dee whose name frequently appears in Dee’s diaries (or with his brother).
These documents also strongly suggest, via the names written in code, that they likely had some connection to espionage, connections we’ll analyze next issue. A “mr Garland” is referred to in another of the folios Bäcklund analyzes, Old Royal Coll. 1727 4o. On the cover of these manuscripts, it says, “left to [?]/ mr Garland the 12th of Aprill 1595.”While some of the manuscripts Bäcklund, associates with an alchemical circle around Dee and Kelley, such as those mentioned involving “R.K.,” date later than 1595, all of those associated with “mr Garland” come from 1593-1595.
Finally, if we notice the list of alchemists mentioned, it seems quite significant that one of them, Ripley, is the writer to whom Kelley’s alchemical symbolism seems most indebted, and another, Roger Bacon, is the philosopher alchemist Dee most admired. In fact, the alchemists referred to—George Ripley, Raymond Lull, Thomas Charnock, John Dastin—cover large portion of the non-anonymous tracts anthologized by or mentioned by those anthologized by Ashmole. I am not suggesting that Elias Ashmole ever saw the manuscripts in Denmark, which is highly unlikely, but simply noting that the overlap of interests between this “Garland” and Ashmole is rather pronounced.
The Path to Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum
And surprise, Elias Ashmole does mention a Garland, Francis Garland, in his notes to Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum. This mention stands out in part because most of Ashmole’s comments concern the subject matter of chemical poetry itself, not the lives of those who wrote the poems. He usually tells us nothing, except to mention occasionally that this or that person learned from a Master who of course goes unnamed. But then, when we get to his notes concerning the very short entries by Edward Kelley and John Dee, Ashmole gives us five dense small-type pages of commentary, more than half of which concerns their actions on the European continent. Ashmole says:
And thus much concerning these two famous men in severall; now shall I give the Reader an Account of their joynt Actions abroad, as also what relates to Doctor Dee after his returne into England : which I shall doe from an unquestionable Authority, even Doctor Dee’s Diary, all written with his owne hand; where I shall take the larger Field to walke in, because I move upon so certaine ground: some of which passages may please (if not concerne) the Reader. For I think it not fit to suffer such Eminent lights longer to lie in Obscurity, without bringing them forth to the view of the World. [. . .]
And whether they found it [Kelley’s elixir] at Glastenbury (as is aforesaid) or howsoever else they came by it, ‘tis certain they had it: for at Trebona in Bohemia (whither they were come to dwell) Sir Edward Kelley made Projection with one small Graine thereof (in proportion no bigger then the least graine of Sand) upon one Ounceand a Quarter of Common Mercury, and it produced almost an Ounceof most pure Gold. This was done to gratifie Master Edward Garlandand his Brother Francis, and in their presences which Edward was lately come to Trebona, being sent thither to Doctor Dee, from the Emperour of Muscovia, according to some Articles before brought, by one Thomas Symkinson. I also finde this Note of Doctor Dee’s, Jan.5.1586.Donum Dei 2. ounces. E.K. Moreover, for nearer and later Testimony, I have received it from a credible Person, that one Broomfield and Alexander Roberts, told him they had often seen Sir Ed : Kelley make Projection…
Let’s look over this again and see where Ashmole gets his information: from an “unquestionable Authority,” one even more believable than Dee’s diary, which incidentally wasn’t yet in print. That source, Thomas Simkinson, has apparently shown him some papers, though we don’t know what they were. Nor do we know who Simkinson, Roberts, and Broomfield are: for all we know, “Broomfield” with one letter changed could be the author of the near-anonymous poem “Bloomfield’s Blossoms” which uses alchemical symbolism similar to Kelley. Yet since Dee’s diary also tells us that “Mr Edward Garland came to Trebona to me from the Emperor of Muscovia, according to the articles before sent unto me by Thomas Simkinson” (see timeline), and Ashmole mentions Simkinson, the story sounds credible without being traceable in any way, as Ashmole must know, since he has a copy of the diary. If one compares Ashmole’s dates to those in Dee’s diary, one will see they disagree in particular cases: Ashmole has Edward and Francis Garland view Kelley’s demonstration of the philosopher’s stone on December 9, 1586, but Dee writes December 19, 1586. Dates not involving Garland occasionally match: Ashmole says Dee and Kelley arrive in Trebona on September 14, 1586, giving the same date as Dee’s diary, so we can’t attribute the 10 day difference to the difference in calendars. But when Ashmole next gives a date involving a Garland, it again is off by ten days: Ashmole, using language almost identical to Dee’s diary, says that on December 8, 1587, “Master Simkinson and Master Francis Garland’s brother Robert came to Trebon from England.” Dee gives the date as December 18, 1587.
Perhaps Ashmole is just being sloppy, but that doesn’t match his meticulous records, which seem about as obsessive yet filled with uncommented absences as those of Dee himself. More likely, we’re seeing a familiar technique of initiatory writing—a “blind” that gives information that is almost, but not quite, correct, and suggests just by that slight “off-ness” that something significant is left unsaid, or the “correct” version may be hiding something. Ashmole’s dates for the Garlands are off every time he gives one; that may be his way of telling an initiated reader that this story is not quite what it appears. Its within this framework that Ashmole tells us that Dee, after returning to England, maintained a “Correspondency” between “him and Sir Edward Kelley, in Letters sent by Mr. Francis Garland.” It may also be within this framework that Ashmole changes the dedication on Kelley’s poem to “G.S., Gent.,” even though Shakespeare never went by those initials after becoming a “gentleman,” though the sensibilities alluded to in the poem are indeed “gentle.”
Though scholars are just becoming aware of this (or, those leaving written records are just becoming aware of this), Ashmole seemed to have access to all kinds of information that we don’t have. For instance, he tells us:
While they lived at Trebona, Sir Edward Kelley went divers times to Prague, and the 15 of Jan. 1587, he went into Poland, but returned the 9 of Febr. after, And ‘tis probable these Journeys were made in quest after some famous Chemists.
Neither Dee, nor anyone else I’m aware of, gives any record of Kelley taking this trip to Poland, but the detail might strike most as irrelevant anyway. Except for one little thing: we know now that in 1587, his brother Thomas married Ludmilla z Pisnice, “daughter of a Bohemian knight and sister to Jinrich z Piznice who rose to become deputy Chancellor of the realm.” Lumilla was from Poland, according to Czech sources. If we assume that Kelley attended his brother’s wedding, which was also attended by other “Chemists,” and/or that the two parties of a “chymical wedding” would surely themselves be “chemists,” would it looks like Ashmole knew more than many people realized, and was having great fun with this line. It also adds a different dimension to Francis Garland and Ludmilla and Thomas Kelley visiting Dee in Mortlake and these Kelleys going back and forth to Prague when we realize that this Kelley has married into the rising Bohemian middle class.
One could recount other several other examples of information Ashmole must have had access to that scholars are only now rediscovering, but this essay will pick just one more. Consider the first long quote above, where Ashmole tells us that Dee and Kelley took their “Wives, children and families” along when they left England, a comment often considered a mistake until recently. For almost three hundred years most writers assumed Kelley had no children. Now, while we doubt that Kelly’s children were along on the initial voyage to the continent, we know that they joined their step-father in Prague at some point: his stepdaughter Elizabeth Jane Weston became the Latin poet “Westonia” and his son or step-son William, in this writer’s opinion, is likely is the same “William Kelley” who wrote letters home to the Talbots.
Susan Bassnet has written about the “striking absence in Dee’s writing to the Kelley’s step-children,” especially since they likely were at the castle in Trebona and possibly tutored along with Dee’s children: for instance, Dee’s diary say he employs a “John Hammond” for “services” on August 7, 1588, and this same “John Hammond” he records as leaving “for Stade” on August 1589. Bassnett suggests this is likely the same man as the Johannes Hammonius that Westonia praises as her Latin “Master.” That makes the most likely scenario that, at the same time that Edward Dyer, Frances Garland, Rowles, Kelley’s brother Thomas, Thomas’ wife Ludmilla, Joan Kelley’s brother William Cooper, and the many others also mentioned in Dee’s diary (John Carpio, Edmund Hilton, Thomas Simkinson, Hans of Glotz, and even Heinrich Khunradt, to name a few) are coming and going from the castle in Trebona, the Dee’s and Kelley’s children are being tutored together by, among others, John Hammond.
So while Dee had a habit of omitting many significant details from his diary, “Francis Garland” was present at a time where there was much coming and going and many other people who would have met him and carried knowledge of who he was, or perhaps who he became, on to the next generations – particularly the children who were likely present for all of these comings and goings. The oldest from each family, Arthur Dee and Elizabeth Jane Weston, later became very accomplished in their own rights and both moved about in alchemical circles. Elias Ashmole knew of these children, even if he got the story only partially right. . . or if that comment too was considered a blind, but later centuries covered the “correct” information to check it against.
Where would Ashmole have gotten his semi-correct information about Kelley’s family, information that it took modern researchers another three hundred years to rediscover? For starters, Ashmole edited Fasciculus chemicus, an alchemical work by Dee’s son Arthur, and published it under the editorial pseudonymn/anagram “James Hasolle” in 1650. Something seems to have interested Ashmole enough to undertake this process. Of all of the children in the castle at Trebona, Arthur, as the oldest and the only one mentioned as being involved in the angelic conversations (Dee at one point tried to use Arthur as a scryer), would likely have had many stories to tell. Like Ashmole himself, Arthur Dee was heir to a tradition that communicated most of its lore orally rather than through written records, and those records, when written, were encoded in the extreme.
One could suggest this connection: Arthur Dee, besides being Dee’s son and Dyer’s godson, was in later years a friend of Sir Thomas Browne who was a friend of Ashmole’s. But something still feels a bit off about all of this. Ashmole corresponded with Arthur Dee after editing the work mentioned above, and their correspondence doesn’t really tell us much, and comes to late in influence Theatrum. What made Ashmole interested to begin with? The subject matter obviously made him wary enough that he at first published Arthur Dee’s work under a different name.
Another connection we might look towards is Elias Ashmole’s adopted “father” and alchemical “initiator,” William Backhouse. A diary keeper himself, Ashmole wrote in 1651 that, “Mr. Backhouse told me I must now needs be his son, because he had communicated so many secrets to me.” Later Ashmole says Backhouse communicated to him the secret of the philosopher’s stone, though inconveniently he neglects to say what it is. We’re told Backhouse left Ashmole many manuscripts, but this is, at the earliest, only a year before the publication of Theatrum. Ashmole’s personal connection to the material must have come earlier. It might make more sense to look at his “adoption” by Backhouse as the culmination of what he was looking for—initiation into the mysteries both Dees wrote about—rather than the source of the original legends he may have grown up hearing about.
Perhaps we can look to his own autobiography for a clue: his father, Simon Ashmole, “spent many Yeares abroad,” traveling in 1599 to Ireland with the ill-fated Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, then twice later to the Palatinate with the Earl’s son, Robert the 3rd Earl of Essex.The older Robert, executed for treason in 1601, was in the early 1590s still the Queen’s favorite and at the top of one of the competing spy rings; he and his friend the Earl of Southampton (to whom Shakespeare dedicated both Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece) were strong advocates of the theatre. When Shakespeare’s Richard II was performed at the Globe Theatre on the eve of the Essex rebellion in 1601, Elizabeth was reputed to have said, “know you not that I am Richard?”
With Simon Ashmole’s personal connection to the Essex tragedy, and travels to the Palatinate with the more famous Earl’s son, we might imagine his son would eventually want an insiders version of the story. Essex knew Dee well and publicly championed his cause for a national library; he also married the daughter of Francis Walsingham, Dee’s neighbor. One of the seven dances Ashmole records learning as a boy was “The Earl of Essex.”
This writer suspects that Ashmole’s interest in alchemy came from this personal connection, and his desire to collect and edit manuscripts from an attempt to find out what had brought about the demise of someone admired by his family, and perhaps caused his father’s reported ill humor and frequent anger. One suspects that Simon Ashmole’s trips to the Palatinate with the 3rd Earl of Essex may have involved Rosicrucian or “proto-Rosicrucian” connections, since this is the place where (to use Frances Yates' term) the "Palatinate publisher" and engraver Johann Theodore De Bry published the works of Robert Fludd and Michael Maier.
Whatever his reasons, by the early 1640s Ashmole learned to write in cipher, and apparently one of the texts he practiced on was Thomas Tymme’s introduction to the Hieroglyphic Monad. If we look at another of Ashmole’s ciphers and translations as presented by C.H. Josten, we’ll see some familiar players. As plate 1 of his biographical introduction to Ashmole, Josten presents us with a photo of unrecognizable text, and writes:
[This is] an example of Ashmole’s cipher writing, being a note appended to a longhand transcript entitled “The coppy of a Dutch Cypher found inclosed in leade & wrapped within many foulds of velvet descyphered by Sir S[amuel]: B[ackhouse]: translated out of Dutch by Cornelius Dreble [i.e. Drebbel]” (MS. Ashm. 490, f. 353-353v.) Ashmole’s cipher note (ibid., f. 353v) reads:
Sir Ed : Dyer having bought the house and all the goods where an old chymist died / caused the same to he pulled down and in the foundations found this piece/ He carried it into Germany to have it deciphered (for it was nothing but a continued number of figures,) but could not/ Then he brought it to [blank] who was secretary to the Earl of Essex / but he could not open it / Then Sir S : Back[ho]us[e] did decipher it / and finding it to be written in Dutch / Cornelius Dreble was gotten to translate it/
This Samuel Backhouse was the biological father of Ashmole’s alchemical father, William Backhouse, had connections to both Dee and Kelley, and likely knew one or both personally. As mentioned above by Backlund, Cornelius Drebble was in Prague at the same time as Dee’s one-time assistant Roger Cook, and may be the source of story that Emporer Rudolph II witnessed Kelley’s gold-making; he’s also a Dutch-speaking alchemist who dies in England. By now we’ve run into Dyer many times, and have at last come full circle to where we began: stories of Edward Kelley and the philosopher’s stone, especially the demonstration made to Edward and Francis Garland.
Now we can even try out one final hypothesis about that story, given another of Ashmole’s comments in Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum. After writing of Kelley's trip to Poland in 1587 to find "famous Chemists," Ashmole adds that by this time, "Queene Elizabeth had notice given her of their [Dee and Kelley's] Actions". Suppose that Sir Edward Dyer did not have permission to be in Trebona; or, that in the complex web of events leading up to the Spanish Armada, which by the end of 1586 included the trial but not yet the execution of Mary Queen of Scots, he had the blessings of some factions and not others. Dyer himself was a poet of no small talent; he could easily be the “Edward Garland” of our opening quote. By the time Dee records “Edward Dyer” coming to Trebona, in 1587 no doubt with official permission, “Edward Garland” is gone, never to reappear. It is only Francis who keeps coming and going, and as noted earlier, he appears most often with Sir Edward Dyer. Sir Edward Dyer also appears in the sub-genre of literary criticism, “persons claimed to really be Shakespeare,” though much further down on the list than Francis Bacon or the Earl of Oxford.
It is within the realm of possibility that through this tangled net of oral lore and initiatory blinds, young Elias Ashmole heard a legend about Francis and Edward Garland, especially if the Garland lesser known in the 1580s later became rather famous, and especially since more than seventy years later, accounts were still circulating about Edward Kelley’s red (or black) powder from Wales (or Italy), and how he performed the grand transmutation. Ashmole records two versions of how Edward Kelley came into possession of the red (in one version) or black (in the other) powder; not surprisingly, one of these versions comes from William Backhouse, who says he was told it by someone who knew Kelley. Perhaps one of the most unexpected accounts, to modern minds anyway, is the story told by none other than Robert Boyle, who claimed (in 1670) that he had heard the story from Kelley’s kin, and spent a fair amount of time trying to produce something similar on his own.
When Ashmole anthologizes a poem by Kelley “Concerning the philosopher’s stone,” and likely adds the dedication to “G.S. Gent,” chances are very good that he also knew who these initials stood for. Possibly, especially considering his “off” references to the Garlands in this post-script, he knew this same person was the man John Dee called Francis Garland.
We’ll end with one other bit of coincidental information: in his diary, Ashmole records the hour and day of his first sale of Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum. The buyer? Philip Herbert, the 5th Earl of Pembroke: grandson of Dee’s friend Philip Sydney’s sister, Mary Sidney Herbert the Countess of Pembroke, and son of Philip the 4th Earl, who died in 1650. The elder Philip is best known as one of the “incomparable pair of brethren” to whom William Shakespeare’s First Folio is dedicated.
John Dee’s Green Garland
We’ve weaved our way through Dee’s diary, Kelley’s poetry, forgotten manuscripts in Denmark, and Elias Ashmole’s possible blinds. Francis Garland could have been John Dee’s name for the man later known as Shakespeare; Edward Kelley’s poem could be dedicated to the same man; Elias Ashmole could have known this history when he rewrote the dedication and made it to “G.S., Gent.,” which could refer to Gulielmus Shaksper or William Shakespeare. These things are all possible: whether they are probable or not takes more study.
I've suggested already that the kind of study it would take to show that these hypotheses are more than just possible would be initiatory study and experience; particularly a deep understanding of the system of correspondences and transformations that Dee and Kelley’s initiatory symbolism, or “green language,” plays against.
A quick run-through of common historical usages of “garland” as listed in the Oxford English Dictionary shows it can mean a wreath, a chaplet, a crown of distinction, the wreath signifying victory in the Olympic Games, a thing most prized, a circle, a ring, a prize, a target.
But in English poetry, medieval and Renaissance “garlands” can cause a bit of confusion among modern readers, because it often means a book of poems or songs, often called a chaplet. This might mean a “chap-book” sold by chapmen, or merchants and traders. . . or it might be a “chapelet,” from “chapel” or place of worship. A “chapelet” would be a little chapel, or personal shrine, oratory, or sacred place; as a “little book” it then means “little sacred book.” For instance, the Libellus Veneri Nigro Sacer, attributed to Dee, could be translated the way Nancy Turner and I did, as The Consecrated Little Book of Black Venus,” but had we wanted to be more obscure and use Renaissance English, it could have become The Chaplet of Black Venus or The Garland of Black Venus.
Consider the problem in titling John Skeleton’s long astrological and alchemical narrative, often called the book, crown, or garland of Laurel, and rarely viewed as sacred writing. One titling possibility, following the symbolism of the poem, might actually be An Elaborately Worked and Very Expensive Hat of Laurel; though for some reason no translators have chosen that one. Like most medieval and early Renaissance poems, it had no title, but a series of running phrases that read, to paraphrase, “A Right Delectable Treatise upon a Goodly Garlande or Chapelet of Laurel composed by Master Skelton Poet Laureate.” By 1843, an editor condensed this to The Garlande of Laurell then it became the Garlande or Chapelet of Laurell, then The Crown of Lawrelthen finally, by 1990, the Book of the Laurel.
Unfortunately, to modern readers, neither “book” nor “little book” carry the implicit meaning that said “book,” itself is sacred, nor that of the “book” itself a sacred space, as is implicit in Hebrew sepher, Greek biblion, or Latin liber. This is not an idea that modern English speakers can even allude to in one word—especially not if that speaker wants the allusion to carry a further reference to a writing tablet, a crown, or a letter of the sacred alphabet, and the “peace that passeth understanding.” But if John Dee is referring to that idea in referring to different “Garland brothers” as writer/initiates, he is also suggesting that what they write are sacred texts.
We can look for a grammar of sounds with garland, for Dee certainly would have. Gar-land. A gar is a fish; the reader can no doubt find other resonances there. But let’s skip instead to the language lore Dee love to collect. In northern dialects, “gar” was a verb, meaning to do, to make, or to cause things to happen.
Meanwhile, in old English, “gar” means. . . “spear.”
It also carried poetic resonance to the Danes—in Beowulf, the Gardeneor spear-Danes were simply the Danes referred to poetically. Gar is also a cognate with Breton ger and Welsh gair, which both mean “word.”
These combine perfectly to match the odd statement on the garland of the Hieroglyphic Monad frontispice, especially the line best translated as “Mercury becomes parent and the king of all planets when perfected by stable, pointed Stilbon.” As Alan Moore and I discussed in more detail in our explanation of this frontispiece, “Stilbon” refers the reader both to Mercury and suggests a sharp, pointed implement for writing, thus suggesting Thoth/Hermes, stylus in hand, and the Emerald Tablet.
“Gar-land”— a “spear”, or a “word” become the stylus, “gar.” “Land” means—land—but could also be the tablet written upon, because like most words it carries other resonances—something solid, as opposed to air, sea, or fire; sometimes a reference to the element Earth, and poetically, the body, especially a women’s body, as when Shakespeare writes in The Rape of Lucrece of “Her bare breast, the heart of all her land.”
Another Renaissance meaning of “garland,” was an elaborate hat, often expressed as “tyre” or “tire,” as in “attire,” to dress someone up or adorn them. Its also a term in falconry, in this case a verb, describing when hawks or falcons “pull or tear with the beak at a tough morsel given to it that it may exercise itself in this way,” as an artist might “tear” at the hidden meanings of words.
Shakespeare’s family coat of arms, approved in 1596, included a falcon with spread wings and a gold spear with a silver tip. It seems that by 1596 his family is no longer the Shakspers or Shagspers, but the Shake-speares.
Of course all this word-play may mean nothing at all to most people now, but such punny connections were Shakespeare’s stock and trade. “Garland,” to Dee, would also point towards a particular alchemical tradition associated with his ideal philosopher, Roger Bacon, and with the section of Paris just across the Seine from Notre Dame cathedral, the clos de garland, and a 12th century English grammarian and alchemist, John of Garland, who took his name from there.
Incidentally, this Garland gave us our word for dictionary. John of Garland’s Dictionarius was not a dictionary in our modern sense, but on the surface a mnemonic device to teach medieval Parisian schoolboys Latin. In the text, the teacher, Master John, takes the reader for a stroll through 13th century Paris and the clos de garland, now called the Latin quarter. John teaches Latin by naming off words and giving their etymologies: first body parts, the parts of the city, then those who hawk different sorts of goods, then he moves to the countryside and some fantastic animals (camels in the cattle fields, phoenixes and parrots lured in to a fowler’s net, lions and tigers among the deer and squirrels), then back to his home and the garments in his closet, then to his garden, to memories of travel and a shipwreck. The Dictionarius may strike a modern green language aficionado as nothing so much as a guide to allusive Hermetic language, and how to recognize wordplays between French, Latin, and Greek. But it presents itself as an entertaining word memorization for boys.
This John took his name from the clos de garland, or “Garlandia,” a word which in some quarters became synonymous with a medieval university, for the walls around the garland were around the University of Paris, the same place where three hundred years later John Dee would give his lectures on Euclid. “Parisius vici cum sit garlandia nomen/ Agnomen florens contulit illa mihi,” wrote this Englishman, “Paris, because the name of my street is Garlandia,/ Has bestowed on me this flowery surname.”
In Garland’s time, the first translation of Euclid into medieval Latin was just being made; another was translated directly from Arabic into Hebrew. He came of age just at the end of the Cathar genocide, and recounts the death of Simon of Montfort in his Dictionarius. Like John Dee, whose language use suggests a more heretical tradition but whose public persona was Protestant father, John of Garland’s language always suggests he is something different from what he appears. He was sent as a teacher to Toulouse just after the siege there ended, and his lectures were full of the language of Grail legends on the one hand, and orthodoxy on the other. He likely was also the same John of Garland, born in England, who was a music theorist; he was friends with yet another John, of London, and both are often connected to Roger Bacon.
We know he was an alchemist, though it is not clear what all of his alchemical writings were. In Dee’s lifetime, he was anthologized in several works whose main author was Roger Bacon, and according to Robert Schuler, he gave a “particularly clear exposition” of the Emerald Tablet in the English translation of Bacon’s Mirror of Alchemy. Albert Magnus also cites Garland’s Tablet.
If Francis Garland were indeed Shakespeare, and to stretch things even further, if for a very short time he acted as the “John Garland” mentioned much earlier in this essay, its fairly easy to see why that name would have been quickly abandoned. It was too famous in Hermetic circles, though unknown to most others.
John Dee, meanwhile, would have another, more political, reason to refer to the Garland brothers the way he does, assuming he means they are writing sacred texts. The Latin rosarium, or a garland of roses, most easy becomes rosary in English, and so carries rather obvious Catholic connotations to the non-initiated, even though a myriad of other classical and alchemical allusions exist. The Rosarium philosophorum, or rose garden of the philosophers, was one of the most famous Latin alchemica treatises. The ancient Greek word for rose, rhodakantha, signified Aphrodite, or Latin Venus, the goddess of love. By the end of the century, the movement Yates calls the Rosicrucian enlightenment would draw on similar “rose” associations. But while Dee can call Francis Garland that name and have no one notice it much in print for four hundred years, I suspect that this would not be the case had he called his fraters Edward and Francis Rosary.
What else might “garland” mean, in the works of John Dee and Edward Kelley?
With just a few more twists and turns, “garland” will becomes both a symbol of the philosopher’ stone, and a cluster of meanings pointing towards some “advanced student” understandings of what this might be.
First, let’s go earlier in Dee’s career and see what he might mean mathematically by “garland,” based on how he uses the word below, in his introduction to “The Mathematicall Praeface to Elements of Geometrie of Euclid of Megara.” (Beware, this may strike modern readers as somewhat dry.) Dee writes:
Of Mathematicall thinges, are two principall kindes: namely, Number, and Magnitude. Number. Number, we define, to be, a certayne Mathematicall Sume, of Vnits. And, an Vnit, is that thing Mathematicall, Indiuisible, by participation of some likenes of whose property, any thing, which is in deede, or is counted One, may resonably be called One. We account an Vnit, a thing Mathematicall, though it be no Number.
In the margin, Dee adds: “the worde, Vnit, to expresse the Greke Monas, & not Vnitie: as we haue all, commonly, till now, vsed.” After defining magnitudes as solid bodies, planes, or lines, using the same geometric conceits as in the Hieroglyphic Monad, he launches into a definition of Arithmetic, then says:
Now will we further, by the wise and valiant Capitaine, be certified, what helpe he hath, by the Rules of Arithmetike: in one of the Artes to him appertaining: And of the Grekes named ?a?t???, that is, the Skill of Ordring Souldiers in Battell ray after the best maner to all purposes.” This Art so much dependeth vppon Numbers vse, and the Mathematicals, that Ælianus (the best writer therof,) in his worke, to the Emperour Hadrianus, by his perfection, in the Mathematicals, (beyng greater, then other before him had,) thinketh his booke to passe all other the excellent workes, written of that Art, vnto his dayes. For, of it, had written Æneas: Cyneas of Thessaly: Pyrrhus Epirota: and Alexander his sonne: Clearchus: Pausanias: Euangelus: Polybius, familier frende to Scipio: Eupolemus: Iphicrates, Possidonius: and very many other worthy Capitaines, Philosophers and Princes of Immortall fame and memory: Whose fayrest floure of their garland (in this feat) was Arithmetike: and a litle perceiuerance, in Geometricall Figures.
Here Dee’s garland is basically a mathematical grammar one uses to order other bodies or figures, that follow naturally from the conception of a unit or monad. Recalling that garland also means “tyre,” we’ll move on to Theorem XVII of the Hieroglyphis Monad, which is the source of the analysis of the keyword used by many modern occultists (for instance, it appears in the Golden Dawn Adeptus Minor Ritual. In that theorem, Dee tells “Thus we recommend to cabbalistic Tyrians that they scrutinize this same” number, 252, which by the final theorem he will equate with the philosopher’s stone. Upon closer analysis, he equates Tyr with the stone as well. When Nancy Turner and I retranslated this theorem, including its “misspelled” Latin word, Tyronibus, we said:
Josten translates it as “beginner,” which makes grammatical sense (tiro + ibus) if one assumes Dee “misspells” tiro. But we’ve found no other case of inexplicable misspelling, and it makes no sense for beginners in cabala to study a teaching Dee equates with the philosopher’s stone. We suggest that the spelling is intentionally distorted to nod at several different meanings of Tyr. It is perhaps a reference to the ancient Phoenician city of Tyre/Tyros, whose name means “rock” and which was the legendary birthplace of Europa and Elissa (Dido). Tyre was reknowned for its purple dye; hence the Tyrian dye referred to repeatedly in the Turba Philosophorum; Tyr can be a poetic term for Theban (since Cadmus, the founder of Thebes and Grandfather of Dionysis, was from Tyre.) Týr is also the Old Norse God whom Latin writers identify with Mars and from whence comes our “Tuesday.” In Old Norse, his name meant simply “God.” Týr also was a Viking name for Polaris, the North Star; the rune Tyr is an arrow pointed upwards. Finally, Tyronibus could be a pun on Tyr + omnibus (for all, or that rock, Tyr, which contains all).
Put more simply and less allusively, the INRI/LVX transformation this theorem leads to what, by the end of the Hieroglyphic Monad, Dee will equate with the the Tyrian, or Philosopher’s, Stone. Its also a tire, a tyre, a garland, a circle. Unfortunately, what is simplest to say—that the true garland of the philosophers or stone of the wise is an alchemy of light that regenerates Nature-- may not mean much in terms of practical alchemy or magic, unless one has worked one’s way through many different associations up to this point.. Fortunately, Dee sets up the Hieroglyphic Monad so if one that is persistent enough, and understands his allusions, one can do that.
What if we moved on to John Dee and Edward Kelley's angelic workings . . . what would a "garland" mean in terms of understanding these conversations with angels? Francis Garland started appearing when they were in the midst of some sort of large-scale working that may or may not have involved the received Enochian corpus . . . what were those workings; do they have a "garland;" and can we find any evidence of "Enochian" or "Ophanic" referents in the plays of Shakespeare?
That, it seems, is would be another, and very long, story.
Next month, we'll look again at the Garland brothers through the combined lens of espionage and magic.