The House of Doctor Dee
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This novel centres on the famous 16th-century alchemist and astrologer John Dee. Reputedly a black magician, he was imprisoned by Queen Mary for allegedly attempting to kill her through sorcery. When Matthew Palmer inherits an old house in Clerkenwell, he feels that he has become part of its past.
astrolabe new minted by Thomas Hill in Cheapside. But my true glory lies within my books: printed or anciently written, bound or unbound, there are near four thousand of them. Some are in Greek, some in Latin, some in our native tongue, and yet all found by me, yes, found and gathered even when I was ready to die by false accusation of magic in Queen Mary's reign. Some of these hardly gotten monuments were taken in a manner out of the dunghill, since they were found by me in the corner of
that radicalism and occultism were related to each other, but I think it was only an act of despair. It was a way of pretending to have some secret force at your command, of imagining you had a form of power which could destroy the established powers. But occultism is really a refuge for the weak and the desperate. It's radicalism gone sour.' 'But my father was never weak.' 'No. He wasn't weak. Most occultists work in groups – it helps to bolster their confidence. But your father was different.
small model of the well as it would have looked five hundred years ago. I had not recognized any of this because it was protected by a thick glass window, and was now part of an office development in the street beside St James's Church. There was a small handwritten notice pinned to the bucket, and I crouched down in order to read it: 'There has been a well on this site since the twelfth century, when it was known as the Clerks' Well. Religious plays were performed on this ground during Advent,
lived there after the Reformation. Your house survived.' And what else survived? I could imagine the sacred hills and fields of Clerkenwell but, just as clearly, I recalled every detail of my walk that morning through the streets which now overlaid them. There were so many watchmakers and watch-repairers in the Clerkenwell Road, so many small printers in the lanes leading down to Smithfield and Little Britain: had they chosen this place, or had the place somehow chosen them? Were they like the
For the rest of the morning we talked through everything, and I explained to her what I had discovered about his life in Cloak Lane. She was not in the least surprised by it, and had suspected for a long time that he owned what she called a 'lair'. Even as we talked we became known to each other; it was as if we were strangers who by degrees grew acquainted. It was the oddest feeling: once we saw him clearly, we saw ourselves. 'It was so difficult, Matthew. He was always there, you see. You were