Monthly Archives: March 2014

A Sound Dutch Beating for Fraudulent German Alchemy

Writing for the Amsterdam stage, David Lingelbach (b. 1641)—himself the son of a German expatriate and artist—published a play entitled The Converted Alchemist, or: The Betrayed Fraud in 1680. It is but one out of eleven plays he wrote under the banner of Nil Volentibus Arduum (‘Nothing is arduous for the willing’), a literary society active between 1669 and 1687 to spread the ideals of French classicist theatre in the Low Countries and otherwise known primarily for lack of talent. Thirty-four years later (1714), the self-appointed literary heir to Nil Volentibus Arduum, Ysbrand Vincent (d. 1718), published an improved, second edition that added greater poignancy to an intriguing intercultural encounter less explicit in the original printing: it tells the story of a Dutch widower, Govert, ‘naïve and unskilled in alchemy’, and his encounter with Squire Goudschalk (literally, ‘gold jester’), ‘a German, fraud and pretended alchemist of great experience’.[1] And by the same token it provides us with a glimpse of some associations alchemy carried in early eighteenth-century Amsterdam.

De bekeerde alchimist_web

While not exactly on a par with Molière (d. 1673), The Converted Alchemist (1680/1714) is a brief, entertaining comedy that culminates in a sound beating for the fraudulent German alchemist. In the background, a well-stocked alchemical laboratory can be seen. Author’s photograph; courtesy of University of Amsterdam, Special Collections (OTM: O 63-5575).

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