1893 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir Kenelm Digby

Henry Craik, in English Prose (1893) 2:291.



Amongst the many strange personalities of the 17th century, there are few whose character it is more difficult to gauge than that of Kenelm Digby. He played his part as courtier, man of fashion, romancer, critic, soldier, virtuoso, and philosopher; and although he was distinguished in each, there was no sphere in which some suspicion of charlatanism did not attach to him. It is indeed difficult to avoid the conclusion that an element of madness entered into his composition, or at least that his versatility was united to an abnormal eccentricity, which, if it partly relieves him of the worst charges, yet explains how small his influence was in any single sphere of activity. His vanity was prodigious, and is naturally most conspicuous where his writings (as is frequently the case) relate to his own actions.