Robert Fludd, or, as he styled himself in Latin, Robertus de Fluctibus, was the second son of Sir Thomas Fludd, treasurer of war to queen Elizabeth, and was born in 1574 at Milgate, in the parish of Bearsted, Kent. He was entered at St John's college, Oxford, in 1591, and, having taken the degrees in arts, AB 3rd February, 1596-7, AM 8th July, 1598, applied himself to medicine, and spent almost six years in travelling through the principal countries of Europe. It was probably during these peregrinations that he imbibed a taste for the Rosicrucian philosophy, of which he was ever after a most strenuous supporter, and indeed almost the only one who became eminent for it in this kingdom.
On his return to England, he accumulated his degrees in physic, proceeding MD as a member of Christchurch 16th May, 1605. He came before the College of Physicians for examination in the early part of 1606. His second examination, 7th February, 1605-6, does not appear to have been altogether satisfactory to the Censors, as is evident from the following memorandum :- "Secundo examinatur, atque etiamsi plenè examinationibus non satisfaceret, tamen judicio omnium visus est non indoctus, permissus est itaque illi medicinam facere." With a large share of egotism and assurance, a strong leaning to chemistry, a contempt of Galenical medicine, and let us hope a sincere belief in the doctrines of the Rosie cross, absurd as these are represented to have been, he seems to have startled the Censors by his answers within the College, no less than by his conduct out of it, and was for some time in constant warfare with the collegiate authorities, and an object of deserved suspicion to his seniors in the profession.
On the 2nd May, 1606, there is the following entry in the Annals:- "Delatum est ad Collegium Dm Fludd multa de se et medicamentis suis chemicis prædicasse, medicos autem Galenicos cum contemptu dejecisse; Censores itaque in hunc diem citari eum jusserunt. Interrogatus an id verum esset, quod objectum est, confidentissimè omnia negabat, et accusatores requirebat; qui quoniam non comparebant dimissus est cum admonitione, ut modestè de se et sentiret et loqueretur; Socios autem Collegii revereatur. Et cùm persolvisset pensionem a statutis præscriptam, admissus est in numerum Permissorum." In the latter part of 1607 he applied to be admitted a Candidate and was thrice examined, viz, 7th August, 9th October, and 22nd December. On the latter day we read, "Dr Fludd, examinatus, censetur dignus qui fiat Candidatus." His evil star, however, again prevailed, as we see from the following:-"21 Mar 1607-8. Dr Fludd, qui jam in Candidatorum numerum erat cooptandus, tam insolenter se gessit, ut omnes offenderentur; rejectus est itaque a Do Præsidente cum admonitione, ut sibi, si sine Licentia practicare pergeret, diligenter caveret." On the 20th September, 1609, he was admitted a Fellow of the College. He was Censor in 1618, 1627, 1633, 1634.
"Dr. Fludd (says Aiken) was a very voluminous writer in his sect, diving into the furthest profundities and most mysterious obscurities of the Rosie-cross, and blending in a most extraordinary manner divinity, chemistry, natural philosophy, and metaphysics. Such a vein of warm enthusiasm runs through his works that we may readily suppose him to have been a believer in the mystical jargon of his system. He is said to have used a kind of sublime unintelligible cant to his patients, which, by inspiring them with greater faith in his skill, might in some cases contribute to their cure. There is no doubt, at least, that it would assist his reputation, and accordingly we find that he was eminent in his medical capacity. His philosophy, however, whether owing to the dawning of a more enlightened period in this island, or a less natural taste for such abstruse speculations in his countrymen, was received with less applause at home than abroad. The celebrated Gassendus had a controversy with him, which shows at least that he was not considered an insignificant writer.
As the Rosicrucian sect is now entirely extinct, I shall not trouble the reader with the long list of his works given by Wood. They were mostly written in Latin, and the largest of them, entitled Nexus utriusque Cosmi, has some extremely singular points in it which are only to be understood by a second-sighted adept (1). Dr Fludd died at his house in Coleman-street, London, 8th September, 1637, whence, attended by an officer or herald of arms, his body was conveyed for burial to his native place, Bearsted, Kent.
His monument (which was after his own design) is just within the communion rails. There is a bust of him reading, and below the following inscription:-
Claris: Doctissq: Viri Roberti Fludd
alias "de Fluctibus" utriusq Medicinæ
Doctoris, qui post aliquot annorum
perigrinationem quam ad recipien-
dum ingenii cultum in transmarinas
regiones fæliciter susceperat, patriæ
tandem restitutus et in celeberrimi
Collegii Medicorum Londinensis
Societatem non immerito electus
vitam morte placidè commutavit
viii die mensis viibris A Dni MDCXXXVII
ætatis suæ LXIII.
Magnificis hæc non sub odoribus urna vaporat
Crypta tegit cineres nec speciosa tuos
Quod mortale minus tibi te committimus unum
Ingenii vivent hic monumenta tui
Nam tibi qui similis scribit moriturq sepulchrum
Pro tota eternum posteritate facit.
Hoc monumentum Thomas Fludd Gore Courte
in Otham apud Cantianos Armiger in felicissimam
charissimi Patrui sui Memoriam erexit die x
Mensis Augusti MDCXXXVIII.
And on the flagstone covering his remains:-
"In Jesu qui mihi omnia in vita resurgam.
Under this stone resteth ye body of Ro-
bert Fludd Doctor of Phisicke who chan-
ged this transitory life for an immortal
the viii day of September AD MDCXXXVII
being LXIII yeares of age, whose monument
is erected in this chancell according
to the form by him prescribed."
There is extant a portrait of Dr Fludd, engraved by Cooper.
[(1) Dr Hamey gives a sketch of this eccentric member of the faculty in the following words:- "Dr Flud, Collegii socius, splendidè satis vixit desiitque Septemb. 8, 1637. Is, præter morem Collegarum, amanuensem domi et pharmacopæum semper aluit; hunc medicamentis interdiu componendis differendisque, illum antelucanis cogitationibus excipiendis; quorum altero invidiam sibi non parvam conflabat: lucubrationibus autem, quas solebat edere profussissimas, semper visus est plus sumere laboris, quàm populares nostri volebant fructum, qui hunc ferè negligebant præ legendi tædio et præjudicio quodam oleum perdendi operamque, ob cabalam, quam scripta ejus dicebantur olere magis quam peripatum; et ob ferventius hominis ingenium in quo plerique requirebant judicium."]