Punch, 23 (1852), 223.
Letters of the Dead to the Living
Alchemy, Government, Politics, Agriculture, Political Economy, Charlatanry
Kenelm Digby , William Lilly
Subtitled 'Paracelsus the Alchemist to Benjamin Disraeli the Financier', pursues Punch's ongoing identification of Disraeli, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as a cunning wizard. Believes Disraeli has inherited his tremendous skill at transmuting 'the base dross of Protection at will / To the Gold of Free Trade' from himself. The author traces his skill in deluding 'half Europe' to a 'long line of sages', but warns Disraeli that he has inherited some of the more dangerous qualities of these sages, including 'too fluent a speech' from Pythagoras of Samos. Believes Disraeli has inherited 'All the tact that ever distinguished our race' and gives him much advice about economics, including promising 'vaguely, and wildly, and grandly, but still / Promise on, leaving Fortune our words to fulfil'. Compares Disraeli's financial work to that of alchemists pursuing chimeras. For example, he tells Disraeli that 'when your fine spirit racks / Its wits in preparing a budget or tax, / It recalls [...] The days when it sought the philosopher's stone', and reassures him that the spirit which enabled him to stop the 'Burgher of Lubeck' stealing his principle of making gold, can be used to defend himself against the statesmen Lord John Russell and Joseph Hume, who might accuse him of stealing their 'measure'.
© Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical Project, Universities of Leeds and Sheffield, 2005-07
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