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Digby, Kenelm


Subject Literature » Renaissance Literature

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405194495.2012.x


Sir Kenelm Digby (1603–65), writer, translator, natural philosopher, courtier, and bibliophile, was one of the century's most versatile and flamboyant characters. A prolific author in a variety of genres, referred to in his day as ‘the Mirandola of his age’ and now recognized as a father of modern embryology, he is remembered in literary circles chiefly for his posthumously published cookbook. Digby, the eldest son of Sir Everard Digby (c.1578–1606) and Mary Digby, née Mulsho (c.1581–1653), was born just before Everard's execution for involvement in the Gunpowder Plot. Digby was educated by Jesuits and at the age of 15 entered Gloucester Hall, Oxford, under the tutelage of Thomas Allen, one of the founders of the Bodleian Library and a Catholic sympathizer. In 1630 he converted to Anglicanism, probably in order to hold office, but by 1635 he was Catholic again, and remained a prominent figure in the English Catholic noble community throughout his life. In 1619, Digby completed his education with a grand tour of the Continent, during which he claims to have fended off Marie de' Medici's amorous attentions. He spread rumours of his own death and decamped for Italy, eventually resurfacing in Spain as a participant in the marriage negotiations over Charles, prince of Wales, to the infanta. He was knighted for his role in the ultimately abortive effort in 1623. Upon his return to England, ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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