Alchemists sought to convert base metals into gold. Wilson (319) says that in 1605 Henry Percy, a son of the earl of Northumberland, was imprisoned in the Tower for his role in the Gunpowder Plot. He practiced alchemy, astrology, and philosophy. He also spent much time in concocting medicines and potions. All this esoteric activity led to his being dubbed “The Wizard Earl.” Perhaps he was in part the inspiration for Colonel Fairfax. (See the definition of “Alchemy” in the Princess Ida.)

Act I
Sketch of an Alchemist