Dr M E J Hughes, Fellow in English and Pepys Librarian, has written a guest post for the Royal College of Physicians blog to link in with their exhibition ‘Scholar, Courtier and Magician: the Lost Library of John Dee‘.
The current RCP exhibition on John Dee reminds us of how prevalent an interest in the occult arts was, and how it lasted well into the seventeenth century. It sat alongside the new sciences of Hooke, Newton and Boyle and perhaps unexpectedly, the juxtaposition was not always uncomfortable. Pepys certainly did not believe everything he heard or read of popular superstition: but he did not dismiss it all either, seeing its power to be both political and psychological. The sudden thunderstorm at the Coronation of Charles II intrigued him; and he acknowledged the tricks the suggestible mind can play: after an evening of hearing ghost stories from his host during a visit away from home in 1661, Pepys somewhat sheepishly recorded how an encounter with a dislodged pillow sitting up at the end of the bed made him ‘much afeared’.
Read the full post on the Royal College of Physicians blog!