De Lisle (ca. 1710)
De Lisle was a French alchemist. Both Lenglet du Fresnoy,
in his Histoire de la Philosophie Hérmetique (ca. 1742), and nineteenth-century
alchemist G. Louis Figuier wrote about De
Lisle; neither supplied his first name or his date and place of
birth. Some believe he was a Provençal.
De Lisle was known to have been active during the first decade
of the eighteenth century, so it may be assumed that he
was born toward the close of the previous century. He seems at
an early age to have entered the service of a scientist who apparently
was a pupil of the alchemist Lascaris. This unnamed
scientist got into trouble of some sort, probably because of his
predilection for the occult. He left Provence and set out for
Switzerland, taking with him his young pupil, De Lisle. On the
way the youth murdered his patron and employer and took all
his alchemistic property, notably some precious transmuting
powder. Then, about the year 1708, he returned to his native
France, where he soon attracted attention by supposedly
changing masses of lead and iron into silver and gold.
Noble and influential people now began to seek his company
and his scientific services, and he soon found himself safely
and comfortably housed in the castle of La Palud. There he received
many visitors and demonstrated his skill before them.
He eventually grew weary of this and began an affair with a
Madame Alnys, a married woman. He traveled with her from
place to place, and a son was eventually born to the pair. Madame
Alnyss husband was still alive, but that did not prevent
De Lisle from continuing to elicit patronage and favor from the
rich and famous.
For example, in 1710, at the Château de St. Auban, he performed
a curious experiment in the presence of a Monsieur St.
Maurice, then president of the royal mint. Going into the
grounds of the château one evening, De Lisle showed St. Maurice
a basket sunk in the ground and had him bring it into the
dining hall, where it was opened, revealing some earth of a
blackish color. After distilling a yellow liquid from the earth, De
Lisle projected this on hot quicksilver and quickly produced
three ounces of gold, later also succeeding in concocting a
quantity of silver. Some of the gold was sent to Paris to be refined.
Three medals were struck from it; one, bearing the inscription
Aurum Arte Factum, was placed in the cabinet of the
As a result of the incident at St. Auban, De Lisle was invited
to visit the court in Paris, but he declined, saying the southern
climate in which he lived was necessary to the success of his exEncyclopedia
of Occultism & Parapsychology 5th Ed. De Lisle
periments, since the preparations he worked with were purely
vegetable. It is probable that, having been successful in impressing
his clientèle so far, he felt it wise to refrain from further
endeavors that might prove futile and destroy his reputation.
Nothing is written of De Lisle later than 1760, so presumably
he died about that time. His son by Madame Alnys, however,
seems to have inherited some of his fathers predilections
and a fair amount of his skill. Wandering for many years
through Italy and Germany, Alnys was reported to have affected
transmutations successfully before various petty nobles. In
Vienna he attracted the attention of the Duc de Richelieu, then
acting as French ambassador to the Viennese court. Richelieu
afterward assured the Abbé Lenglet that he not only saw the operation
of gold making performed, but did it himself by carrying
out instructions given him by the alchemist.
Alnys latter gradually acquired great wealth, but, falling
under suspicion, he was imprisoned for a time at Marseilles. He
ultimately escaped to Brussels. There he continued, not altogether
unsuccessfully, to engage in alchemy.
It was in Brussels that he became acquainted with Percell,
the brother of Lenglet du Fresnoy, to whom he is said to have
confided some valuable scientific secrets. Eventually the mysterious
death of one Grefier, known to have been working in
Alnyss laboratory, made the Brussels authorities suspicious
about Alnyss character, so he left the town stealthily, never to
be heard from again.
Waite, Arthur Edward. The Secret Tradition in Alchemy. London,
De Lisle (ca. 1710)