Sebastian Shakespeare

Merlin of Mortlake

The Queen's Conjuror: The Science and Magic of Dr Dee

By

HarperCollins 394pp £15.99 order from our bookshop

John Dee was the most famous scientist of the Elizabethan age. A great mathematician, he introduced Euclid to Englishmen; a brilliant cartographer, he was the guiding spirit behind the sea journeys undertaken by Chancellor, Frobisher and Hawkins; and he invented the concept of the British Empire. His library at Mortlake was the largest in England and Queen Elizabeth I called him ‘my philosopher’. Consulted by princes and emperors throughout Europe, he declined the post of philosopher at the Muscovite court, which would have paid £2,000 a year. But by the end of his life his star had fallen; he was hounded from the Continent and ended up back in Mortlake, living in poverty. He died aged eighty–one, his name besmirched, his books plundered. His crime? Dabbling in magic.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter