1859 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir Kenelm Digby

David Masson, in Life of John Milton (1859-94; 1965) 6:296-97.



A knight since 1623, and of a family in which knighthood had been usual, was Sir Kenelm Digby. Though he was to live on as a Londoner, and even a busy Londoner, for five years after the Restoration, he had already achieved the full sum of his distinctions. Handsome and gigantic in person, of "a wonderful graceful behaviour, a flowing courtesy and civility, and such a volubility of language as surprised and delighted," men thought of him as the hero of the naval fight of Sanderoon against the Venetians in "the drowsy and unactive time" of 1628, as the man who had gone and come for thirty years between England and the Continent and had changed his religion and his politics with his climate, as the romantic husband and romantic widower of the beautiful and frail Venetia Stanley, as the chemist and natural philosopher, the inventor of the powder of sympathy and of other mystic medicines for warts and wounds, the author of many books of subtle theology and metaphysics,

The age's wonder for his noble parts,
Skill'd in six tongues and learn'd in all the arts.