Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Part the Ist: A Life Most Ordinary

Excerpts from the Diary of Leviathan Cherrychoate:[1]

January the 1st, 1683

Giving thanks to our Lord for my continued life and health into this new year of our Lord 1683, I, Leviathan Cherrycoate, of Oxfordshire do hereby resolve to make a record of my life, per diem.

This new year finds me whole and healthy with my accounts in order and little debt showing me. I am living well in my own, albeit small, rooms at Bodley's Court, King's College, near the Old Lodge. I have proven not to have had the French Pox as I much afeard, being of a passionate nature and much habited with attendance in the houses of bawdies and fallen women. For this most recent deliverance, I am much thankful to the Lord.

I have these three years past obtained my baccalaureate from King’s College, Cambridge and have entered study into those most arcane arts, first under Master E.H.[2] and did obtain the first level of initiation. This autumn past, through the intercession of E.H., I did become apprenticed in the arts to the most illustrious I.N.[3] That good sir is man of much brilliance but little compassion and quite odd eccentricities. He is as want to kick me as not even though I have committed no ill. But I have learned much under his tutelage and do progress well in my studies.
In the country there is much uproar as regards an claimed attempt at the assassination of His Grace, the Duke of York[4], the King’s brother. The foul attempt is said by some to have been instigated by His Grace, the Duke of Monmouth, the King’s bastard, on account of the Duke of York being a thorough Papist and slave to the Roman practices. What ills shall come when once good King Charles dies, one shudders to contemplate. God grant him a long reign.

There is much talk regarding Admiral Penn's son who has departed last year for the New World to establish a paradise there for his Quaking followers. Good riddance believes I. I would hazard that he and his company shall be eat by red Indians afore the year is out.

The plague, which so recently afflicted the Continent, appears to have passed these isles by, Praise be to God.

Across the sea, King Louis[5] of France is said to be readying another bout of trouble for the Germanies. There is much tumult in Holland and Spanish Flanders, there being talk of war betwixt the French King and Leopold, Emperor of the Austrians. There is even talk of the Sultan[6] bestirring himself for yet another try gainst the Polack King[7] who has made a habit of thrashing the Turk. Praise God for the isolation of this happy isle….

January the 19th, A.D. 1683

Mr. I.N. did complain to me of the way in which I had placed the water clock. He took to abusing me most severely, calling me a lazy layabout and filthy Papist, which is the worst appellation in his vocabulary. Spent all evening cleaning vessels in the work room of the experimentations. Despite his occasional odd and vexing behavior, I.N does teach me much and I have great hopes for discovering the secrets of which the Great Hermes Thrice-Blessed did write. Completed the work well after midnight. And so to bed.

February the 2nd, A.D. 1683

Went unto the glassblower on High Street to obtain contract for the casting of glass vessels to the most specific of instructions of I.N. Afterwards, I stopped to speak with a woman of the town. Could not agree to her price and returned, much vexed, to my chamber. I found I.N. working late in the laboratory, once again dressed all about in crimson. When I asked if he required ought of me, he responded by saying, “Have a care Sally, lest your eggs be smashed.” Having received such a response previously I knew better than to inquire further so I left him. And so to bed.

February the 5th, A.D. 1683

Was working at experimentation this day, when I.N. decided to examine me upon my lessons. He does this by skulking up behind me whilest I was working with fulminate and brimstone and then, discharging pistols over my head, shouts his questiones at me in a great voice. Fortunately, I have grown accustom to this manner of examination, thus:
Q: What is the Secret of our Art?
A: Man is the Measure of All Things, for in each of his atoms lies a map of the greater universe. Thus he contains the microcosm of the macrocosm.
Q: How might a man use this to bend the universe to his will?
A: By finding the affinity which ties himself with that which is all around him. Man might thus control the affinities and harmonies of the decans and thereby effect visible matter.
Q: What are the decans?
A: The tenth part of the Spheres, Thirty-Six in all each representing all the varied power and substance of the universe.
Q: Of what is the Universe composed?
A: The Four Realms or Spheres, to wit,
Assiah, the Material Realm where most men slumber
Yitzerah, the Insubstantial Realm, where living and dead might meet with that which nar was born.
Briah, the Iconic Realm where myth is real and on the borders of which the decans flow in purest form
Aziluth, the Perfect Realm where contact might be made with the Prime Mover who dwells beyond the Spheres. It can only be entered by a crossing of the Sword Bridge over the Great Abyss.
"Very well, Master Cherrycoate. I shall allow you to stay one more day."

March the 1st, 1683

Whilst on my way to I.N.’s this morn was accosted by the most violent of harpies. This shrew seized my arm and said she wished a word with me. At first I thought her to be a woman of the town since she was most fair of face and form with hair of the finest red colour, although not richly attired. I offered to meet her post-meridian if she charged a reasonable price. At this she flew into a great rage, calling me a whoremonger and defiler. She said her name was Penruddick and that I had gotten her sister with child. She demanded that I make satisfaction of her sister, a poor orphan whose father was dead and whose mother lies in debtors’ goal.

Having been acquainted with many country girls round about, I could not gainsay her although I could not remember any lass by the name of Pendruddick, not that I inquired o’er much into the matter of names at such times. Nevertheless, I immediately flew from this shrew and in my haste did knock o’er a market stall of river fish upon which the malevolent harpy slipp’d and fell. I ran, her angry words following me.

Much to my vexation, the entire scene was observed by I.N.'s other prentice, F. De D[8]. De D. is a foul toady and a Switzer, to boot. Many is the time I was sure he had interfered with my experimentations for shear malice towards me. I.N., normally not subject to such weaknesses, is taken in by DeD.'s toadying and flattery.

Worked all day and all my experimentations failed. I am sure that De D. did spat into one of my crucibles but could not prove it. As the foul Switzer was leaving, he asked if I had an assignation with the lovely Mistress Penruddick who proclaimed her admiration for me so loudly this morn. I did not answer but, after he had gone, did draw up much mucous from my throat and spat it well and good into all of his crucibles. And so to bed.

March the 3rd, A.D.1683

Arrived late at the house of I.N. this day since Mistress Penrucddick lay in wait for me upon King's Parade all morn. I was able to proceed only when she went off a way, no doubt even an unnaturally vicious she-bitch as she must needs to piss like any other mortal creature.

Worked late this evening when I heard unusual noises coming from I.N.’s chamber. Didst enter in a rush to find the Master in his teaching gown but no stocking and shoes and bearing his whipping rod. Also within was de.D. sitting upon a stool and dressed only in his night shirt and Dunce’s cap. I.N. appeared most embarrassed and gave me a gold sovereign and told me to go to town and get myself supper.

I went to Mrs. Hopewell’s and was much merry. And so to bed.

March the 4th, A.D. 1683

Mr. I.N. most constrained this morning, avoiding my eyes and most circumspect. At last, he blurted out that he and Master de D. had made a most interesting discovery last evening. I said I had presumed they had at which I.N. became most flustered and made some comment in regard to the celestial calculus and then asked if I had a good supper. I said I had a most wondrous supper and would like to have it again this evening but could not for want of money. I then asked if he and M. de D. would be working late again tonight.

At this I.N. replied most coolly that, no, they would not be working such anymore but that I might still take my supper in the town and he most grudgingly it seemed gave to me another sovereign.

I went first to Mrs. Hopewell’s but that virago Mistress Penruddick lay in wait for me there, no doubt to make a capon of me given half the chance.

I went instead to Mr. Bracegirdle’s and sported with two of his girls and we were all most merry. But became most terribly foxed and had trouble finding my way to my rooms but did so, not knowing what time I arrived.

And so to bed.

March the 5th, A.D. 1683

Awoke this morn with a grievous headache and sour belly. Arrived at the laboratory late to find I.N. most vigorous and shouting where the devil had I been. Before I could answer he waived a letter in front of my face, shouting it had come from Sandorius and shouting that this Sandorius must have it. Before I could ask who this Sandorius was and what “it” was which he had, and not caring about the answer to either question, I.N. shouted that I must go and fetch it.

In his own due time, I.N. explained that Doctor Sandorius was another great Alchymist, a Transylvanian by birth currently residing in London. He was known to have studied the lost language of the Angels. From which, I.N. added, might be obtained the Words of Power which our Lord uttered at the Creation. Dr. John Dee, in the time of the Great Virgin, E.R., was said to have known this language and had writ a great lexicon of the language. And the world still speaks of the mighty powers of Dr. Dee. This Sandorius had writ to I.N. on a question most arcane regarding the lineage of one of the ancient Hebrew kings, a study at which I.N. was most expert. It was such a question, I.N. informed me, that only he who knew the lost tongue might ask. No doubt, this Sandorius had found Dr. Dee's lost lexicon.

My aching head reeled from I.N.'s exposition as well as from the previous nights adventures. I ejaculated without thinking, "What has this sausage-eater to do with me?" I.N. looked at me most vexed. Finally, he spoke with some spirit, "You, Cherrycoate, shall be my messenger. I shall answer his query in writing and you shall take it to him. But once there, you shall obtain for me the lexicon! By hook or by crook."

I was greatly discomfited by this demand. I sputtered my refusal with some heat. In the end, however, I was perforce required to make the expedition. As an initiate, I was sworn to blind obedience to the Masters placed above me. The alternative was that I should be cast out of the Brotherhood, fate which distressed me more than death. Well, almost more than death.

At least I would be free for a time from the harping of Mistress Penruddick

And so I set my steps towards the great city and towards a meeting with the most mysterious Doctor Sandorius…
[1] All excerpts are taken from the original MS of the diary currently housed in the Bodleian Library, Oxford.
[2] Sir Edmund Halley
[3] Sir Isaac Newton
[4] Later King James II
[5] King Loius XIV
[6] Sultan Mehmet IV "the Hunter"
[7] King John III Sobieski
[8] Fatio De Dulier, early associate of Isaac Newton and some theorize homosexual lover.

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