No. 426. Wednesday, July 9, 1712. Steele.

--Quid non mortalia Pectora cogis Auri sacra fames'

A very agreeable Friend of mine, the other Day, carrying me in his Coach into the Country to Dinner, fell into Discourse concerning the Care of Parents due to their Children, and the Piety of Children towards their Parents. He was reflecting upon the Succession of particular Virtues and Qualities there might be preserved from one Generation to another, if these Regards were reciprocally held in Veneration: But as he never fails to mix an Air of Mirth and good Humour with his good Sense and Reasoning, he entered into the following Relation.

I will not be confident in what Century, or under what Reign it happened, that this Want of mutual Confidence and right Understanding between Father and Son was fatal to the Family of the Valentines in Germany. Basilius Valentinus was a Person who had arrived at the utmost Perfection in the Hermetick Art, and initiated his Son Alexandrinus in the same Mysteries: But as you know they are not to be attained but by the Painful, the Pious, the Chaste, and Pure of Heart, Basilius did not open to him, because of his Youth, and the Deviations too natural to it, the greatest Secrets of which he was Master, as well knowing that the Operation would fail in the Hands of a Man so liable to Errors in Life as Alexandrinus. But believing, from a certain Indisposition of Mind as well as Body, his Dissolution was drawing nigh, he called Alexandrinus to him, and as he lay on a Couch, over-against which his Son was seated, and prepared by sending out Servants one after another, and Admonition to examine that no one over-heard them, he revealed the most important of his Secrets with the Solemnity and Language of an Adept. My Son, said he, many have been the Watchings, long the Lucubrations, constant the Labours of thy Father, not only to gain a great and plentiful Estate to his Posterity, but also to take Care that he should have no Posterity. Be not amazed, my Child; I do not mean that thou shalt be taken from me, but that I will never leave thee, and consequently cannot be said to have Posterity. Behold, my dearest Alexandrinus, the Effect of what was propagated in nine Months: We are not to contradict Nature but to follow and to help her; just as long as an Infant is in the Womb of its Parent, so long are these Medicines of Revification in preparing. Observe this small Phial and this little Gallipot, in this an Unguent, in the other a Liquor. In these, my child, are collected such Powers, as shall revive the Springs of Life when they are yet but just ceased, and give new Strength, new Spirits, and, in a Word, wholly restore all the Organs and Senses of the human Body to as great a Duration, as it had before enjoyed from its Birth to the Day of the Application of these my Medicines. But, my beloved Son, Care must be taken to apply them within ten Hours after the Breath is out of the Body, while yet the Clay is warm with its late Life, and yet capable of Resuscitation. I find my Frame grown crasie with perpetual Toil and Meditation; and I conjure you, as soon as I am dead, to anoint me with this Unguent; and when you see me begin to move, pour into my Lips this inestimable Liquor, else the Force of the Ointment will be ineffectual. By this Means you will give me Life as I have you, and we will from that Hour mutually lay aside the Authority of having bestowed Life on each other, but live as Brethren, and prepare new Medicines against such another Period of Time as will demand another Application of the same Restoratives. In a few Days after these wonderful Ingredients were delivered to Alexandrinus, Basilius departed this Life. But such was the pious Sorrow of the Son at the Loss of so excellent a Father, and the first Transports of Grief had so wholly disabled him from all manner of Business, that he never thought of the Medicines till the Time to which his Father had limited their Efficacy was expired. To tell the Truth, Alexandrinus was a Man of Wit and Pleasure, and considered his Father had lived out his natural Time, his Life was long and uniform, suitable to the Regularity of it; but that he himself, poor Sinner, wanted a new Life, to repent of a very bad one hitherto; and in the Examination of his Heart, resolved to go on as he did with this natural Being of his, but repent very faithfully and spend very piously the Life to which he should be restored by Application of these Rarities, when Time should come, to his own Person.

It has been observed, that Providence frequently punishes the Self-love of Men who would do immoderately for their own Off-spring, with Children very much below their Characters and Qualifications, insomuch that they only transmit their Names to be born by those who give daily Proofs of the Vanity of the Labour and Ambition of their Progenitors.

It happened thus in the Family of Basilius; for Alexandrinus began to enjoy his ample Fortune in all the Extremities of Houshold Expence, Furniture, and insolent Equipage; and this he pursued till the Day of his own Departure began, as he grew sensible, to approach. As Basilius was punished with a Son very unlike him, Alexandrinus was visited with one of his own Disposition. It is natural that ill Men should be suspicious, and Alexandrinus, besides that Jealousie, had Proofs of the vitious Disposition of his Son Renatus, for that was his Name.

Alexandrinus, as I observed, having very good Reasons for thinking it unsafe to trust the real Secret of his Phial and Gallypot to any Man living, projected to make sure Work, and hope for his Success depending from the Avarice, not the Bounty of his Benefactor.

With this Thought he called Renatus to his Bed-side, and bespoke him in the most pathetick Gesture and Accent. As much, my Son, as you have been addicted to Vanity and Pleasure, as I also have been before you, you nor I could escape the Fame, or the good Effects of the profound Knowledge of our Progenitor, the Renowned Basilius. His Symbol is very well known in the Philosophick World, and I shall never forget the venerable Air of his Countenance, when he let me into the profound Mysteries of the Smaragdine Table of Hermes. It is true, said he, and far removed from all Colour of Deceit, That which is Inferior is like that which is Superior, by which are acquired and perfected all the Miracles of a certain Work. The Father is the Sun, the Mother the Moon: the Wind is the Womb, the Earth is the Nurse of it, and Mother of all Perfection. All this must be received with Modesty and Wisdom. The Chymical People carry in all their Jargon a whimsical sort of Piety, which is ordinary with great Lovers of Money, and is no more but deceiving themselves, that their Regularity and Strictness of Manners for the Ends of this World, has some Affinity to the Innocence of Heart which must recommend them to the next. Renatus wondered to hear his Father talk so like an Adept, and with such a Mixture of Piety, while Alexandrinus observing his Attention fixed, proceeded: This Phial, Child, and this little Earthen-Pot will add to thy Estate so much, as to make thee the richest Man in the German Empire. I am going to my Long Home, but shall not return to common Dust. Then he resumed a Countenance of Alacrity, and told him, That if within an Hour after his Death he anointed his whole Body, and poured down his Throat that Liquor which he had from old Basilius, the Corps would be converted into pure Gold. I will not pretend to express to you the unfeigned Tendernesses that passed between these two extraordinary Persons; but if the Father recommended the Care of his Remains with Vehemence and Affection, the Son was not behind-hand in professing that he would not cut the least Bit off him, but upon the utmost Extremity, or to provide for his younger Brothers and Sisters.

Well, Alexandrinus died, and the Heir of his Body (as our Term is) could not forbear in the Wantonness of his Heart, to measure the Length and Breadth of his beloved Father, and cast up the ensuing Value of him before he proceeded to Operation. When he knew the immense Reward of his Pains, he began the Work: But lo! when he had anointed the Corps all over, and began to apply the Liquor, the Body stirred, and Renatus, in a Fright, broke the Phial. [1]

[Footnote 1: This tale is from the Description of the memorable Sea and Land Travels through Persia to the East Indies, by Johann Albrecht von Mandelslo, translated from the German of Olearius, by J. B. B. Bk v. p. 189. Basil Valentine, whom it makes the hero of a story after the manner of the romances of Virgil the Enchanter, was an able chemist (in those days an alchemist) of the sixteenth century, who is believed to have been a Benedictine monk of Erfurth, and is not known to have had any children. He was the author of the Currus Triumphalis Antimonii, mentioned in a former note. His name was familiar through several books in French, especially 'L'Azoth des Philosophes, avec les 12 Clefs de Philosophie' (Paris, 1660), and a 'Testament de Basile Valentine' (London, 1671).]

Translation of motto:
VIRG. AEn. iii. 56.
'O cursed hunger of pernicious gold!
What bands of faith can impious lucre hold.'