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Foxcroft [née Whichcote], Elizabethlocked

(1600–1679)
  • Sarah Hutton

Foxcroft [née Whichcote], Elizabeth (1600–1679), theosophist, was born at Stoke, Shropshire, the daughter of Christopher Whichcote of Whichcote Hall, Stoke, and his wife, Elizabeth, née Fox. Some time before 1629 she married George Foxcroft, London merchant and subsequently agent for the East India Company at Fort St George. It was through her brother, Benjamin Whichcote (1609–1683), sometime provost of King's College, Cambridge, and her son Ezekiel [see below] that she became acquainted with Henry More, a leading member of the group known as the Cambridge Platonists. It was probably through More that she came to know the philosopher Lady Anne Conway (1631–1679). During the absence of her husband in India, from 1666 to 1672, Elizabeth Foxcroft lived with Anne Conway as companion and amanuensis, residing at the Conway home, Ragley Hall, Warwickshire. Her correspondence with More and with John Worthington (1618–1671), husband of her niece Mary, shows that she shared Anne Conway's interests, especially in religious matters. It was probably for her that More wrote his treatise on the thought of the German mystic Jakob Boehme, his Philosophiae Teutonicae censura. Worthington bequeathed to her his books on Boehme and the Flemish prophet Hendrik Niclaes. A few letters to her survive, but, as far as is known, no writings by her. She died in 1679 and was buried at Clapham on 25 August 1679.

Ezekiel Foxcroft (bap. 1629, d. 1674), mathematician and alchemist, son of George and Elizabeth Foxcroft, was born in London and baptized at St Stephen, Coleman Street on 29 October 1629. He was educated at Eton College and matriculated at King's College, Cambridge, in 1649. He graduated BA in 1652/3, was elected fellow of King's in 1652, and proceeded MA in 1656. He lectured in mathematics at King's College, and served as senior proctor of the university in 1673.

Foxcroft was affiliated to the circle of the Cambridge Platonists, whom he came to know through his uncle, Benjamin Whichcote, and through John Worthington, who bequeathed books to Foxcroft as well as to his mother. Foxcroft knew Robert Boyle, and as 'a great Chymist' was linked to the circle of Samuel Hartlib. His main claim to fame is his masterly translation of Johann Valentin Andreae's Chymische Hochzeit (1616) which was published posthumously with the English title of The Hermetick Romance, or, The Chemical Wedding (1690). Foxcroft's translation of this Rosicrusian text links him with the educational aims of the Hartlib circle, as well as with the Platonic and religious ideals of the Cambridge Platonists. His interest in Rosicrusianism may be linked with his mother's interest in Boehme. In 1666 Foxcroft witnessed and defended the cures effected by the Irish healer Valentine Greatrakes. He was also one of the likely sources for Isaac Newton's knowledge of alchemy. Foxcroft did not marry, and remained in Cambridge until his death in 1674.

Sources

  • The diary and correspondence of Dr John Worthington, ed. J. Crossley and R. C. Christie, 2 vols. in 3, Chetham Society, 13, 36, 114 (1847–86)
  • J. W. Montgomery, Cross and crucible: Johann Valentin Andreae (1586–1654), phoenix of the theologians, 2 vols. (1973)
  • W. Sterry, ed., The Eton College register, 1441–1698 (1943) [Ezekiel Foxcroft]
  • B. J. T. Dobbs, The foundations of Newton’s alchemy, or, The hunting of the greene lyon (1975) [Ezekiel Foxcroft]
  • IGI [Ezekiel Foxcroft]

Archives

  • TNA: PRO, SP 29/177/61
  • BL, Harley MS 6486
  • BL, More, Add. MS 23216
J. Venn & J. A. Venn, , 2 pts in 10 vols. (1922–54); repr. in 2 vols. (1974–8)
, Church of Jesus Christ of the Latterday Saints