Sir Kenelm Digby (11 July 1603 – 11 June 1665) was an English courtier and diplomat. He was also a highly reputed natural philosopher, astrologer and known as a leading Roman Catholic intellectual and Blackloist. For his versatility, he is described in John Pointer's Oxoniensis Academia (1749) as the "Magazine of all Arts and Sciences, or (as one stiles him) the Ornament of this Nation".
Digby was born at Gayhurst, Buckinghamshire, England. He was of gentry stock, but his family's adherence to Roman Catholicism coloured his career. His father, Sir Everard, was executed in 1606 for his part in the Gunpowder Plot. Kenelm was sufficiently in favour with James I to be proposed as a member of Edmund Bolton's projected Royal Academy (with George Chapman, Michael Drayton, Ben Jonson, John Selden and Sir Henry Wotton). His mother was Mary, daughter of William Mushlo. His uncle, John Digby, was the first Earl of Bristol.[ dubious ]
He went to Gloucester Hall, Oxford, in 1618, where he was taught by Thomas Allen, but left without taking a degree.In time Allen bequeathed to Digby his library, and the latter donated it to the Bodleian.
He spent three years on the Continent between 1620 and 1623, where Marie de Medici fell madly in love with him (as he later recounted). He was granted a Cambridge M.A. on the King's visit to the university in 1624.Around 1625, he married Venetia Stanley, whose wooing he cryptically described in his memoirs. He had also become a member of the Privy Council of Charles I of England. Due to his Roman Catholicism being a hindrance in being appointed to government office, he converted to Anglicanism.
Digby became a privateer in 1627.Sailing his flagship, the Eagle (later renamed Arabella ), he arrived off Gibraltar on 18 January and captured several Spanish and Flemish vessels. From 15 February to 27 March he remained at anchor off Algiers due to illness of his men, and extracted a promise from authorities of better treatment of the English ships: he persuaded the city governors to free 50 English slaves. He seized a Dutch vessel near Majorca, and after other adventures gained a victory over the French and Venetian ships in the harbour of Iskanderun on 11 June. His successes, however, brought upon the English merchants the risk of reprisals, and he was urged to depart. He returned to become a naval administrator and later Governor of Trinity House.
His wife Venetia Stanley, a noted beauty, died suddenly in 1633, prompting a famous deathbed portrait by Van Dyck and a eulogy by Ben Jonson. (Digby was later Jonson's literary executor. Jonson's poem about Venetia is now partially lost, because of the loss of the centre sheet of a leaf of papers which held the only copy.) Digby, stricken with grief and the object of enough suspicion for the Crown to order an autopsy (rare at the time) on Venetia's body, secluded himself in Gresham College and attempted to forget his personal woes through scientific experimentation and a return to Catholicism. At Gresham College he held an unofficial post, receiving no payment from the College. Digby, alongside Hungarian chemist Johannes Banfi Hunyades, constructed a laboratory under the lodgings of Gresham Professor of Divinity where the two conducted botanical experiments.
At that period, public servants were often rewarded with patents of monopoly; Digby received the regional monopoly of sealing wax in Wales and the Welsh Borders. This was a guaranteed income; more speculative were the monopolies of trade with the Gulf of Guinea and with Canada. These were doubtless more difficult to police.
Digby married Venetia Stanley in 1625.They had six sons:
In addition, there was a daughter, Margery. Born c. 1625, who married Edward Dudley of Clopton and had at least one child. She is never mentioned by Digby in his writings. She may have been the daughter of Edward Sackville, 4th Earl of Dorset and Venetia Stanley prior to her marriage to Sir Kenelm. The Earl of Dorset settled an annuity on her.There is some controversy and confusion about whether or not Venetia had affairs with both the third and fourth Earls of Dorset and, consequently, which Earl was the father of Margery.
Digby became a Catholic once more in 1635. He went into voluntary exile in Paris, where he spent most of his time until 1660. There he met both Marin Mersenne and Thomas Hobbes.
Returning to support Charles I in his struggle to establish episcopacy in Scotland (the Bishops' Wars), he found himself increasingly unpopular with the growing Puritan party. He left England for France again in 1641. Following an incident in which he killed a French nobleman, Mont le Ros, in a duel,he returned to England via Flanders in 1642, and was jailed by the House of Commons. He was eventually released at the intervention of Anne of Austria, and went back again to France. He remained there during the remainder of the period of the English Civil War. Parliament declared his property in England forfeit.
Queen Henrietta Maria had fled England in 1644, and he became her Chancellor. He was then engaged in unsuccessful attempts to solicit support for the English monarchy from Pope Innocent X. His son, also called Kenelm, was killed at the Battle of St Neots, 1648. Following the establishment of the Protectorate under Oliver Cromwell, who believed in freedom of conscience,[ citation needed ] Digby was received by the government as a sort of unofficial representative of English Roman Catholics, and was sent in 1655 on a mission to the Papacy to try to reach an understanding.[ citation needed ] This again proved unsuccessful.
At the Restoration, Digby found himself in favour with the new regime due to his ties with Henrietta Maria, the Queen Mother. However, he was often in trouble with Charles II, and was once even banished from Court. Nonetheless, he was generally highly regarded until his death at the age of 62 from "the stone", likely caused by kidney stones.
Digby published a work of apologetics in 1638, A Conference with a Lady about choice of a Religion.In it he argued that the Catholic Church, possessing alone the qualifications of universality, unity of doctrine and uninterrupted apostolic succession, is the only true church, and that the intrusion of error into it is impossible.
Digby was regarded as an eccentric by contemporaries, partly because of his effusive personality, and partly because of his interests in scientific matters. Henry Stubbe called him "the very Pliny of our age for lying".He lived in a time when scientific enquiry had not settled down in any disciplined way. He spent enormous time and effort in the pursuits of astrology, and alchemy which he studied in the 1630s with Van Dyck.
Notable among his pursuits was the concept of the powder of sympathy. This was a kind of sympathetic magic; one manufactured a powder using appropriate astrological techniques, and daubed it, not on the injured part, but on whatever had caused the injury. His book on this mythical salve went through 29 editions.Synchronising the effects of the powder, which allegedly caused a noticeable effect on the patient when applied, was actually suggested in 1687 as a means of solving the longitude problem.
In 1644 he published together two major philosophical treatises, The Nature of Bodies and On the Immortality of Reasonable Souls.The latter was translated into Latin in 1661 by John Leyburn. These Two Treatises were his major natural-philosophical works, and showed a combination of Aristotelianism and atomism.
He was in touch with the leading intellectuals of the time, and was highly regarded by them; he was a founding member of the Royal Societyand a member of its governing council from 1662 to 1663. His correspondence with Fermat contains the only extant mathematical proof by Fermat, a demonstration, using his method of descent, that the area of a Pythagorean triangle cannot be a square. His Discourse Concerning the Vegetation of Plants (1661) proved controversial among the Royal Society's members. It was published in French in 1667. Digby is credited with being the first person to note the importance of "vital air", or oxygen, to the sustenance of plants. He also came up with a crude theory of photosynthesis.
Digby is known for the publication of a cookbook, The Closet of the Eminently Learned Sir Kenelme Digbie Kt. Opened,but it was actually published by a close servant, from his notes, in 1669, several years after his death. It is currently considered an excellent source of period recipes, particularly for beverages such as mead. He tried out many of his recipes on his wife, Venetia, one of which was capons fed on the flesh of vipers.
Digby is also considered the father of the modern wine bottle. During the 1630s, Digby owned a glassworks and manufactured wine bottles which were globular in shape with a high, tapered neck, a collar, and a punt. His manufacturing technique involved a coal furnace, made hotter than usual by the inclusion of a wind tunnel, and a higher ratio of sand to potash and lime than was customary. Digby's technique produced wine bottles which were stronger and more stable than most of their day, and which due to their translucent green or brown color protected the contents from light. During his exile and prison term, others claimed his technique as their own, but in 1662 Parliament recognised his claim to the invention as valid.
Digby and his wife are the subjects of the 2014 literary novel Viper Wine by Hermione Eyre.
He is mentioned in Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel The Scarlet Letter . In the chapter titled "The Leech", the narrator describes the antagonist, Chillingworth, as having an impressive knowledge of medicine, remarking that Chillingworth claims to have been a colleague of Digby "and other famous men" in the study of natural philosophy. Digby's "scientific attainments" are called "hardly less than supernatural".
The 17th century was the century that lasted from January 1, 1601, to December 31, 1700. It falls into the Early Modern period of Europe and in that continent was characterized by the Baroque cultural movement, the latter part of the Spanish Golden Age, the Dutch Golden Age, the French Grand Siècle dominated by Louis XIV, the Scientific Revolution, the world's first public company and megacorporation known as the Dutch East India Company, and according to some historians, the General Crisis. The greatest military conflicts were the Thirty Years' War, the Great Turkish War, Mughal–Safavid Wars (Mughal–Safavid War, Mughal–Safavid War ), Mughal-Maratha Wars, and the Dutch-Portuguese War. It was during this period also that European colonization of the Americas began in earnest, including the exploitation of the silver deposits, which resulted in bouts of inflation as wealth was drawn into Europe.
1603 (MDCIII) was a common year starting on Wednesday of the Gregorian calendar and a common year starting on Saturday of the Julian calendar, the 1603rd year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 603rd year of the 2nd millennium, the 3rd year of the 17th century, and the 4th year of the 1600s decade. As of the start of 1603, the Gregorian calendar was 10 days ahead of the Julian calendar, which remained in localized use until 1923.
1665 (MDCLXV) was a common year starting on Thursday of the Gregorian calendar and a common year starting on Sunday of the Julian calendar, the 1665th year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 665th year of the 2nd millennium, the 65th year of the 17th century, and the 6th year of the 1660s decade. As of the start of 1665, the Gregorian calendar was 10 days ahead of the Julian calendar, which remained in localized use until 1923.
Benjamin Jonson was an English playwright and poet, whose artistry exerted a lasting impact upon English poetry and stage comedy. He popularised the comedy of humours. He is best known for the satirical plays Every Man in His Humour (1598), Volpone, or The Fox, The Alchemist (1610) and Bartholomew Fair (1614) and for his lyric and epigrammatic poetry. "He is generally regarded as the second most important English dramatist, after William Shakespeare, during the reign of James I."
This article presents lists of the literary events and publications in 1665.
William Chillingworth was a controversial English churchman.
Sir Everard Digby was a member of the group of provincial English Catholics who planned the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605. Although he was raised in a Protestant household, and married a Protestant, Digby and his wife were converted to Catholicism by the Jesuit priest John Gerard. In the autumn of 1605, he was part of a Catholic pilgrimage to the shrine of St Winefride's Well in Holywell. About this time he met Robert Catesby, a religious fanatic who planned to blow up the House of Lords with gunpowder, killing James I. Catesby then planned to incite a popular revolt, during which a Catholic monarch would be restored to the English throne.
Venetia Anastasia Digby was a celebrated beauty of the Stuart period and the wife of a prominent courtier and scientist, Kenelm Digby. She was a granddaughter of Henry Percy, 8th Earl of Northumberland.
Arbella or Arabella was the flagship of the Winthrop Fleet on which Governor John Winthrop, other members of the Company, and Puritan emigrants transported themselves and the Charter of the Massachusetts Bay Company from England to Salem between April 8 and June 12, 1630, thereby giving legal birth to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. John Winthrop is reputed to have given the famous "A Model of Christian Charity" sermon aboard the ship. Also on board was Anne Bradstreet, the first European female poet to be published from the New World, and her family.
Thomas May was an English poet, dramatist and historian of the Renaissance era.
The Caroline era refers to the period in English and Scottish history named for the 24-year reign of Charles I (1625–1649). The term is derived from Carolus, the Latin for Charles. The Caroline era followed the Jacobean era, the reign of Charles's father James I & VI (1603–1625), overlapped with the English Civil War (1642–1651), and was followed by the English Interregnum until The Restoration in 1660. It should not be confused with the Carolean era which refers to the reign of Charles I's son King Charles II.
Events from the year 1665 in England.
Events from the 1600s in England. This decade marks the end of the Elizabethan era with the beginning of the Jacobean era and the Stuart period.
Walter Montagu was an English courtier, secret agent and Benedictine abbot.
John Webster (1610–1682), also known as Johannes Hyphastes, was an English cleric, physician and chemist with occult interests, a proponent of astrology and a sceptic about witchcraft. He is known for controversial works.
Sir Kenelm Digby (1603–1665) was an English courtier, diplomat, natural philosopher, Roman Catholic intellectual and Blackloist.
Kenelm Digby was an English MP and High Sheriff.
The Great Tew Circle was a group of clerics and literary figures who gathered in the 1630s at the manor house of Great Tew, Oxfordshire in southern England, and in London. Lord Clarendon referred to the Circle as "A college situate in a purer air", referring to its pursuit of truth away from the partisan passions of the town. The quote is referenced by John Buchan in his story "Fullcircle", though he misquotes it as "clearer air". The house was the property of the noble Cary family, and the circle was brought together by Lucius Cary, who became 2nd Viscount Falkland on the death of his father in 1633. The most prominent of those taking part was Edward Hyde, the future 1st Earl of Clarendon, who after 1660 would become known as a leading statesman, and then a historian.
Joseph Rutter was an English poet and translator.
William Moulsoe was the father of Mary Moulsoe Digby, who married the Gunpowder Plot conspirator Sir Everard Digby, and gave birth to Sir Kenelm Digby, noted English courtier, diplomat, natural philosopher, Roman Catholic intellectual, and founding member of the Royal Society. Moulsoe's spouse is listed on a memorial site as Alice Brian Moulsoe, which would make her roughly 100 years his senior.
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