Sunday, 28 March 2010

Alchemy or Letters to my sister Gwyneth

4th March 1272
My dear sister Gwyneth,
I have now started my indentures with Master Roger Bacon. I will be forever grateful to father for arranging my place with him. We are so lucky that they knew each other knew each other in Somerset so many years ago. Already I have been set tasks to gather herbs, grind them up and make wondrous cures for many ailments. It is amazing to learn of his friendship with his holiness Pope Clement the IV. I still cannot believe how fortunate I am.
Your loving brother Robert.

17th June 1273
Sister of mine Gwyneth,
Every day is a wonder for me as I witness the genius of my master Roger Bacon. He has shown me such marvellous and mysterious secrets that you would never believe. Just last week he showed me some clear glass smaller than the smallest panes in our church window that being somewhat deformed has the property to enlarge objects when the glass is placed in front of them. As we are now abroad I am having to change the way I speak French as his eminent friends laugh at the way I pronounce words. This I shall do gladly if I can obtain betterment in life.
Your brother in France, Robert

4th May 1274
Gwyneth my loving sister,
It was only yesterday that I was frightened full out of my wits. My Master Roger Bacon has been experimenting with a substance believed to come from Cathay. This powder has a frightening effect when lighted and explodes with such force that surely would frighten all the devils in the world plus many of us believers as well. It is a secret that may be used by the forces of the king against his enemies.
Pray for me my dearest sister, your loving brother Robert

30 November 1274
My precious sister Gwyneth,
I am frightened. My master is experimenting in a little cell to which I do not have access. I am concerned for his safety and of mine. He tells me he is trying to change one substance to another and it would be better if only one of us observed the experiment. Having had my hair and skin singed with his gunpowder a few weeks ago I can but agree with him yet I am not allowed to look at his notes any more. He is becoming very secretive. I am also becoming worried with the amount of clerical visitors we have been having. They clearly are curious about the work he is undertaking.
Give my respects to our father and place a flower on the grave of our mother.
Your ever loving brother Robert

11 August 1275
Dearest Gwyneth,
Today I feel much happier in myself for I have finally discovered the reason for my master's work in his private cell. He is trying to change lead to gold! What a fanciful idea! If only that could be so. I could almost understand him in his failed attempt to change mercury to silver as they both have that lustrous shine. But lead to gold? He is convinced that there is a philosophers stone that will somehow unlock the secret.
You will not recognise me sister for I have finally grown a beard after much jesting from the serving girls who have laughed at my downy face these months past.
A brotherly kiss on your forehead my sister.
Your loving brother Robert

3rd February 1277
Dearest sister,
I am in deep trouble and am writing this in haste. They have arrested my master Roger Bacon. He is accused of heresy against the Church. Apparently the experimentation in Alchemy he has been performing is regarded as indulging in the novelties, meaning the Devil's work. I have fled from this place and told no one of my plans. I will attempt to return home to you but it will be an arduous and dangerous journey. Tell not a soul I beg you.
Please pray that God has mercy on my soul.
A last kiss from your loving brother Robert.

Nothing more is known of Robert de Kemberly. His master Roger Bacon however was released from imprisonment in 1292 and died a few short months later.


  1. Wow old egg, a bit of a history lesson here eh. Things haven't changed much with us humans after all these years, in some respects, have they.

  2. Ahh so inventive and so engaging. Robert draws you in as a novice and mystery surrounds the master. Fantastic work father... and only yesterday you had no idea what you would write.
    This is one of your best.

  3. What a wonderful way to tell us this story. It had such an atmosphere. The letters really made it 'real' and immediate. It had real authenticity. Jae

  4. As the others have already said - this seemed so real. I tried to google Robert and didn't find anything. Was he made up? You're ending made it sound as though he too, existed.

  5. Cleverly and well written piece. A delightful read.

  6. This is so good. A story with a touch of history all presented in an unusual way. Love it!

  7. Wonderful epistolary tale--I love using letters to tell a story, and that business about nothing more being heard about Robert really made me wonder. Beautifully done!

  8. Oh, excellent! I love the epistolary form, and a fascinating look at history, too.

  9. you always write something that is interesting and fun to read....Old Grizz

  10. Well written. I'm a historical fiction addict, so this piece appealed to me. I like your presentation--using letters to tell your story.

  11. What, you didn't write this in Middle English? LOL! This was a fun read, and no, I wouldn't really have preferred to struggle with Chaucerian linguisitics.

  12. You always put just enough detail to make your fiction sound believable...and of course there's that Roger Bacon--all authentic. I love your style of writing.

  13. Thanks for your comment Old eggie.

  14. I loved your use of letter writing to tell your tale. Letter writing is a lost art.

    I don't know a lot about alchemy but I suspect that the ending happened more than not.

    A well written and thoroughly enjoyable tale.

  15. Your letter style and wording is exquisitely believable (dialogue of the day sure helps). Here, you especially reveal a close relationship with your sister. Splendid piece.