The Queen’s Conjuror, subtitled “The Life and Magic of Dr. Dee” by Benjamin Woolley is a book about, well, Dr. John Dee. And it’s really true to the subtitle, as the whole volume tracks no only the life of the famous occultist and alchemyst, but we have also a chance to glimpse into the other spirit world through his adventures with skrying with the help of other famous person in this venture, Edward Kelley. Or do we?
This book has caught my eye some time ago, and although I am not a follow of occultism or stuff like that, there are some borderline areas Dr. Dee pops in and out ocassionally, so after devouring a volume about the life and career of the Queen Elizabeth I.’s spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham, I’d decided to give this one a chance.
By the way…how that all came about? Well, there is a nice series of documentaries about the mysterious and secret beginnings of America, where Sir Francis Walsingham was mentioned. Not only him (the series is quite full of persons and places worth of researching), but also Sir Francis Bacon and – surprise, surprise – Dr. John Dee himself as well! OK, quite a lot (if not everything) in those documentaries might be a pure speculation, but at least you know the trajectory I’ve taken.
Yes, so after that biography of Sir Francis Walsingham, for whom Dee might have served as a spy, the time was indeed ripe for this little volume.
The book could be roughly divided in two parts – the historical one and the part describing his experiences in sessions invoking spirits through skrying. Personally, I’ve preferred the former better, as I am already familiar with that historical period and the struggle between Catholics and newborn Reformation/Protestantism (and to this end the biography of Walsingham was quite excellent). To the author’s credit, Woolley didn’t try to go the way many sensationalist authors would with wild exaggerations and made-up conclusions about the spirit world. That’s why the book is at times dry.
For me, the story presented was interesting. As I am currently residing in the United Kingdom, some places mentioned I am familiar with and the same goes for Dee’s travels in Bohemia (what is now Czech Republic). One might feel the urge to visit those places just to follow the spirit of the old magus.
Anyway, Benjamin Woolley did a great job bringing Dr. Dee from his relative obscurity to the knowledge of the masses. His meddling with the spirit world has certainly not brought him any favourable light in the scientific circles, nevertheless, he has a firm place in those circles.
For any history buff and a fan of occult/alchemy stuff, The Queen’s Conjuror might be well recommended.
Get it from Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Queens-Conjuror-Magic-Science-Dr-Dee/dp/0006552021/