"It was in the early years of the fourteenth century that the two pseudosciences of alchemy and astrology, the supposititious sisters of chemistry and astronomy, made their way into England. At first their progress was by no means so rapid as it had been on the Continent; for in England, as yet, there was no educated class prepared to give their leisure to the work of experimental investigation. A solitary scholar here and there lighted his torch at the altar-fire which the Continental philosophers kept burning with so much diligence and curiosity, and was generally rewarded for his heterodox enthusiasm by the persecution of the Church and the prejudice of the vulgar. But by degrees the new sciences increased the number of their adherents, and the more active intellects of the time embraced the theory of astral influences, and were fascinated by the delusion of the philosopher’s stone. Many a secret furnace blazed day and night with the charmed flames which were to resolve the metals into their original elements, and place the pale student in possession of the coveted magisterium, or ‘universal medicine.’ At length the alchemists became a sufficiently numerous and important body to draw the attention of the Government, which regarded their proceedings with suspicion, from a fear that the result might injuriously affect the coinage. In 1434 the Legislature enacted that the making of gold or silver should be treated as a felony. But the Parliament was influenced by a very different motive from that of the King and his Council, its patriotic fears being awakened lest the Executive, enabled by the new science to increase without limit the pecuniary resources of the Crown, should be rendered independent of Parliamentary control."