Note: Cornelius Agrippa

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The Mortal Immortal by Mary Shelley, Edited by Michael Eberle-Sinatra

Cornelius Agrippa (1486-1535), German cabalist, author of De Occulta Philosophia Libri Tres (1529).

Samuel William Henry Ireland attaches a note to his poem 'Miscellaneous Writers' in which he writes:

Cornelius Agrippa, early in the sixteenth century, rendered himself famous for his deep research into occult philosophy: upon which science he wrote a very elaborate treatise. Agrippa had a very favourite dog, which had been tutored to perform many anticks at the command of his master; upon which account it was affirmed that the animal was no other than a familiar spirit, which had assumed the canine resemblance in order to attend upon and obey his pleasure. (294)

Ireland was also the author of poem called 'Of Foolish Alchemists' (1807) in which he also includes a note referring to Agrippa.

The story of Agrippa's disobedient apprentice is narrated in Robert Southey's poem 'Cornelius Agrippa'.

Cornelius Agrippa is also a major early influence on Victor Frankenstein, who declares:

When I was thirteen years of age, we all went on a party of pleasure to the baths near Thonon: the inclemency of the weather obliged us to remain a day confined to the inn. In this house I chanced to find a volume of the works of Cornelius Agrippa. I opened it with apathy; the theory which he attempts to demonstrate, and the wonderful facts he relates, soon changes this feeling into enthusiasm. A new light seemed to dawn upon my mind . . . (21).

Hearing about Victor's interest in Agrippa's work, Victor's father disregards it in those terms: do not waste your time upon this; it is sad trash." (21) Victor's discovery of electricity, and his father's experiments, results in his turning away from the works of Cornelius Agrippa: "This last stroke completed the overthrow of Cornelius Agrippa, Albertus Magnus, and Paracelsus, who had long reigned the lords of my imagination." (23)

With regards the elixir of life in 'The Mortal Immortal', one may note that, during the first lecture that Victor Frankenstein attends in Ingolstadt, the professor Waldman states that

The ancient teachers of this science [modern chemistry] . . . promised impossibilities, and performed nothing. The modern masters promise very little; they know that metals cannot be transmuted, and that the elixir of life is a chimera. (27)

Published @ RC

September 1997

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