1804 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir Kenelm Digby

Charles Brocken Brown?, "Sir Kenelm Digby" Literary Magazine and American Register [Philadelphia] 2 (December 1804) 670-71.



The celebrated sir Kenelm Digby, having read the writings of Descartes, travelled into Holland for the direct purpose of a personal interview with that ingenious philosopher. Having fallen, by chance, into his company, at Egmond, without knowing each other, they conversed for some time together .... Descartes, who had read some of sir Kenelm's works, exclaimed, on some observation made by the latter, "If I mistake not, sir, you are the celebrated Digby, whose studies have done so much honour to your nation." "And if I mistake not," replied the other, "you are Descartes, whose writings have shed such lustre on your country." They were reciprocally charmed with the conversation of each other. The British knight, in the course of the evening, said he thought the French philosopher would devote his enquiries to better uses, if he could discover the means of prolonging life, instead of wasting the precious moments of it in philosophic speculations, that might be swallowed up in the next fashionable system .... Descartes paused, and assured him, that he had meditated, for some time, on that very subject, and that, if he was as successful in his progress as in his outset, he hoped to arrive at the secret of rendering man immortal in his present state; at least he was certain to recal the longevity of the patriarchs. It is not generally known, that Descartes flattered himself that he had discovered this arcanum, and that the abbe Picot, his disciple and martyr, was so fully assured of it, that he could not believe his master had paid the debt of nature, when that event was announced.