The name John Dee evokes visions of magic, alchemy, dark bubbling secrets and heavy tomes of forbidden words. But what lies behind the image of John Dee that has made his name so well-known, and what is the truth of the man behind that name? Born in 1527, John Dee died in 1609, so spanned the last of the Tudors and in particular the life and reign of Elizabeth I.
I found this a most interesting read, but not an easy one. Getting your head around Dee’s work and life was a read which required concentration and dedication; just trying to work out exactly what Dee was doing made me have to stop and think back quite a few times. But it was most definitely a worthwhile read. Placing Dee’s life and works in a context which coincided with England’s religious upheavals over the later Tudor reigns means that it allows the reader to understand how Dee and his genius could so easily be misunderstood; was he doing ‘magic’ or was it ‘science’? The author has succeeded wonderfully in placing Dee also within the context of the wider Tudor court; the views of Elizabeth I in particular, and her courtiers with the mythical and magical world of conjuring and the like means the reader is left with a much better understanding of how such things were viewed in the broader Tudor environment.
This is a long-awaited and much needed balanced biography of a much maligned and greatly misunderstood man, who lived and worked in a world that is so far removed from our own that it takes a rare scholar to be able to convey it to us. This the author has succeeded wonderfully in doing, without being disbeliving or patronising of the Elizabeth worldview. I think it will be a long time indeed before this biography of John Dee could possibly be surpassed or any new information brought to light on the man and his times.