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The Baroque Cycle

The Baroque Cycle

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The Baroque Cycle is a series of novels by American writer Neal Stephenson
Neal Stephenson
Neal Town Stephenson is an American writer known for his works of speculative fiction.Difficult to categorize, his novels have been variously referred to as science fiction, historical fiction, cyberpunk, and postcyberpunk...

. It was published in three volumes containing 8 books in 2003 and 2004. The story follows the adventures of a sizeable cast of characters living amidst some of the central events of the late 17th and early 18th centuries in Europe. Despite featuring a literary treatment consistent with historical fiction, Stephenson has characterized the work as science fiction
Science fiction
Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginary but more or less plausible content such as future settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, aliens, and paranormal abilities...

, due to the presence of some anomalous occurrences and the work's particular emphasis on themes relating to science and technology. The sciences of cryptology and numismatics
Numismatics
Numismatics is the study or collection of currency, including coins, tokens, paper money, and related objects. While numismatists are often characterized as students or collectors of coins, the discipline also includes the broader study of money and other payment media used to resolve debts and the...

 feature heavily in the series.

Books


The Baroque Cycle consists of several novels "lumped together into three volumes because it is more convenient from a publishing standpoint"; Stephenson felt calling the works a trilogy would be "bogus".

Appearing in print in 2003
2003 in literature
The year 2003 in literature involved some significant events and new books.-New books:*Peter Ackroyd - The Clerkenwell Tales*Atsuko Asano - No...

 and 2004
2004 in literature
The year 2004 in literature involved some significant events and new books.-Events:* Canada Reads selects Guy Vanderhaeghe's The Last Crossing to be read across the nation....

, the cycle contains eight books originally published in three volumes:
  • Quicksilver
    Quicksilver (novel)
    Quicksilver is a historical novel by Neal Stephenson, published in 2003. It is the first volume of The Baroque Cycle, his late Baroque historical fiction series, succeeded by The Confusion and The System of the World . Quicksilver won the Arthur C. Clarke Award and was nominated for the Locus...

    , Vol. I of the Baroque Cycle
    Arthur C. Clarke Award
    Arthur C. Clarke Award
    The Arthur C. Clarke Award is a British award given for the best science fiction novel first published in the United Kingdom during the previous year. The award was established with a grant from Arthur C. Clarke and the first prize was awarded in 1987...

     winner, Locus Award
    Locus Award
    The Locus Award is a literary award established in 1971 and presented to winners of Locus magazine's annual readers' poll. Currently, the Locus Awards are presented at an annual banquet...

     nominee, 2004
    • Book 1 – Quicksilver
    • Book 2 – The King of the Vagabonds
    • Book 3 – Odalisque
  • The Confusion, Vol. II of the Baroque Cycle – Locus Award winner
    • Book 4 – Bonanza
    • Book 5 – The Juncto
  • The System of the World
    The System of the World (novel)
    The System of the World, a novel by Neal Stephenson, is the third and final volume in The Baroque Cycle.The title alludes to the third volume of Isaac Newton's Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, which bears the same name....

    , Vol. III of the Baroque Cycle
    – Locus Award winner, Arthur C. Clarke Award nominee, 2005
    • Book 6 – Solomon's Gold
    • Book 7 – Currency
    • Book 8 – The System of the World

Setting


The books travel throughout Early Modern Europe between the Restoration Stuart Monarchy until the beginning of the 18th century. Though most of the focus is in Europe, the adventures of Jack do take him throughout the world and the fledgling British colonies in North America are important to Daniel Waterhouse. Quicksilver takes place mainly in the years between the Restoration
English Restoration
The Restoration of the English monarchy began in 1660 when the English, Scottish and Irish monarchies were all restored under Charles II after the Interregnum that followed the Wars of the Three Kingdoms...

 of the Stuart
House of Stuart
The House of Stuart is a European royal house. Founded by Robert II of Scotland, the Stewarts first became monarchs of the Kingdom of Scotland during the late 14th century, and subsequently held the position of the Kings of Great Britain and Ireland...

 monarchy in England (1660) and the Glorious Revolution
Glorious Revolution
The Glorious Revolution, also called the Revolution of 1688, is the overthrow of King James II of England by a union of English Parliamentarians with the Dutch stadtholder William III of Orange-Nassau...

 of 1688. The Confusion follows Quicksilver without temporal interruption, but ranges geographically from Europe and the Mediterranean through India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 to Manila
Manila
Manila is the capital of the Philippines. It is one of the sixteen cities forming Metro Manila.Manila is located on the eastern shores of Manila Bay and is bordered by Navotas and Caloocan to the north, Quezon City to the northeast, San Juan and Mandaluyong to the east, Makati on the southeast,...

, Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

, and Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

. The System of the World takes place principally in London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 in 1714, about ten years after the events of The Confusion.

Themes


Characters include Isaac Newton
Isaac Newton
Sir Isaac Newton PRS was an English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, alchemist, and theologian, who has been "considered by many to be the greatest and most influential scientist who ever lived."...

, Gottfried Leibniz
Gottfried Leibniz
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was a German philosopher and mathematician. He wrote in different languages, primarily in Latin , French and German ....

, Nicolas Fatio de Duillier
Nicolas Fatio de Duillier
Nicolas Fatio de Duillier was a Swiss mathematician known for his work on the zodiacal light problem, for his very close relationship with Isaac Newton, for his role in the Newton v. Leibniz calculus controversy, and for originating the "push" or "shadow" theory of gravitation...

 and sundry other Europeans of note during the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Also, the books feature considerable sections concerning alchemy
Alchemy
Alchemy is an influential philosophical tradition whose early practitioners’ claims to profound powers were known from antiquity. The defining objectives of alchemy are varied; these include the creation of the fabled philosopher's stone possessing powers including the capability of turning base...

. The principal alchemist of the tale is the mysterious Enoch Root, who, along with the descendants of several characters in this series, is also featured in the Stephenson novel Cryptonomicon
Cryptonomicon
Cryptonomicon is a 1999 novel by American author Neal Stephenson. The novel follows the exploits of two groups of people in two different time periods, presented in alternating chapters...

.

Inspiration


Neal Stephenson was inspired to write The Baroque Cycle when, while working on Cryptonomicon
Cryptonomicon
Cryptonomicon is a 1999 novel by American author Neal Stephenson. The novel follows the exploits of two groups of people in two different time periods, presented in alternating chapters...

, he encountered a statement by George Dyson
George Dyson (science historian)
George Dyson is a scientific historian, the son of Freeman Dyson and Verena Huber-Dyson, brother of Esther Dyson, and the grandson of Sir George Dyson. He is the father of Lauren Dyson. When he was sixteen he went to live in British Columbia in Canada to pursue his interest in kayaking and...

 in Darwin Amongst the Machines that suggests Leibniz was "arguably the founder of symbolic logic
Mathematical logic
Mathematical logic is a subfield of mathematics with close connections to foundations of mathematics, theoretical computer science and philosophical logic. The field includes both the mathematical study of logic and the applications of formal logic to other areas of mathematics...

 and he worked with computing machines." He also had heard considerable discussion of the Leibniz – Newton feud and Newton's work at the treasury during the last 30 years of his life. He found "this information striking when [he] was already working on a book about money and a book about computers." Further research into the period excited Stephenson and he embarked on writing the historical piece that became The Baroque Cycle.

Main characters

  • Daniel Waterhouse, an English natural philosopher
    Natural philosophy
    Natural philosophy or the philosophy of nature , is a term applied to the study of nature and the physical universe that was dominant before the development of modern science...

     and Dissenter
  • Jack Shaftoe
    Jack Shaftoe
    Jack Shaftoe is one of the three primary fictional characters in Neal Stephenson's 2,686-page, Clarke Award-winning epic trilogy, The Baroque Cycle.Born in 1660 to a poor London...

    , an illiterate adventurer of great resourcefulness and charisma
  • Eliza, a girl abducted into slavery, and later freed, who becomes a spy and a financier
    Financier
    Financier is a term for a person who handles typically large sums of money, usually involving money lending, financing projects, large-scale investing, or large-scale money management. The term is French, and derives from finance or payment...

  • Enoch Root, a mysterious and ageless man
  • Bob Shaftoe, a soldier in the service of John Churchill, and brother of Jack Shaftoe

Minor characters



  • Louis Anglesey, Earl of Upnor, best swordsman in England
  • Thomas More Anglesey, Cavalier, Duke of Gunfleet
  • Duc d'Arcachon, French admiral who dabbles in slavery
  • Etienne d'Arcachon, son of the duke; most polite man in France
  • Henry Arlanc (1), Huguenot
    Huguenot
    The Huguenots were members of the Protestant Reformed Church of France during the 16th and 17th centuries. Since the 17th century, people who formerly would have been called Huguenots have instead simply been called French Protestants, a title suggested by their German co-religionists, the...

    , friend of Jack Shaftoe.
  • Henry Arlanc (2), Son of Henry Arlanc (1), porter of Royal Society
  • Mrs. Arlanc, wife of Henry (2)
  • Gomer Bolstrood, dissident agitator, future legendary furniture maker
  • Clarke, English alchemist, boards young Isaac Newton
  • Charles Comstock, son of John Comstock
  • John Comstock, Earl of Epsom and Lord Chancellor
  • Roger Comstock, Marquis of Ravenscar, Whig Patron of Daniel Waterhouse
  • Will Comstock, Earl of Lostwithiel
  • Dappa, Nigerian linguist aboard Minerva
  • Moseh de la Cruz, galley slave, Spanish Jew
  • Vrej Esphanian, galley slave, Armenian Trader
  • Mr. Foot, galley slave, erstwhile bar-owner from Dunkirk
  • Édouard de Gex, Jesuit fanatic, court priest at Versailles
  • Gabriel Goto, galley slave, Jesuit priest from Japan
  • Lothar von Hacklheber, German banker obsessed with alchemy
  • Thomas Ham, of Ham Bros Goldsmiths, half-brother-in-law of Daniel Waterhouse
  • Otto van Hoek, galley slave, Captain of the Minerva

  • Jeronimo, galley slave, a high-born Spaniard
    Spain
    Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

     with Tourette's Syndrome
  • Mr. Kikin, Russian diplomat in London
  • Nyazi, galley slave, camel-trader of the Upper Nile
  • Norman Orney, London shipbuilder and Dissenter
  • Danny Shaftoe, son of Jack Shaftoe
    Jack Shaftoe
    Jack Shaftoe is one of the three primary fictional characters in Neal Stephenson's 2,686-page, Clarke Award-winning epic trilogy, The Baroque Cycle.Born in 1660 to a poor London...

  • Jimmy Shaftoe, son of Jack Shaftoe
  • Mr. Sluys, Dutch merchant and traitor
  • Mr. Threader, Tory
    Tory
    Toryism is a traditionalist and conservative political philosophy which grew out of the Cavalier faction in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. It is a prominent ideology in the politics of the United Kingdom, but also features in parts of The Commonwealth, particularly in Canada...

     money-scrivener
  • Drake Waterhouse, Puritan father of Daniel Waterhouse
  • Faith Waterhouse, wife of Daniel Waterhouse
  • Godfrey Waterhouse, son of Daniel Waterhouse
  • Mayflower Waterhouse, half-sister of Daniel Waterhouse, wife of Thomas Ham
  • Raleigh Waterhouse, half-brother of Daniel Waterhouse
  • Sterling Waterhouse, half-brother of Daniel Waterhouse
  • Charles White, Tory, Captain of the King's Messengers, who has the habit of biting off people's ears
  • Yevgeny the Raskolnik, Russian heretic, whaler and anti-tsarist rebel
  • Peter Hoxton (Saturn), horologist
  • Colonel Barnes, peg-legged commander of dragoons
  • Queen Kottakkal, sovereign of the Malabar
    Travancore
    Kingdom of Travancore was a former Hindu feudal kingdom and Indian Princely State with its capital at Padmanabhapuram or Trivandrum ruled by the Travancore Royal Family. The Kingdom of Travancore comprised most of modern day southern Kerala, Kanyakumari district, and the southernmost parts of...

     pirates.
  • Teague Partry, distant relative of the Shaftoes in Connaught, Ireland


Historical figures who appear as characters



  • Caroline of Ansbach
    Caroline of Ansbach
    Caroline of Brandenburg-Ansbach was the queen consort of King George II of Great Britain.Her father, John Frederick, Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach, was the ruler of a small German state...

  • Jean Bart
    Jean Bart
    Jean Bart was a Flemish sailor who primarily served the French crown as naval commander and privateer.-Early life:...

  • Catherine Barton
    Catherine Barton
    Catherine Barton was Isaac Newton's half-niece, probable mistress of Charles Montague and later, the wife of John Conduitt.-Early life:...

  • Henry St John, 1st Viscount Bolingbroke
    Henry St John, 1st Viscount Bolingbroke
    Henry St John, 1st Viscount Bolingbroke was an English politician, government official and political philosopher. He was a leader of the Tories, and supported the Church of England politically despite his atheism. In 1715 he supported the Jacobite rebellion of 1715 which sought to overthrow the...

  • Robert Boyle
    Robert Boyle
    Robert Boyle FRS was a 17th century natural philosopher, chemist, physicist, and inventor, also noted for his writings in theology. He has been variously described as English, Irish, or Anglo-Irish, his father having come to Ireland from England during the time of the English plantations of...

  • Charles II of England
    Charles II of England
    Charles II was monarch of the three kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland.Charles II's father, King Charles I, was executed at Whitehall on 30 January 1649, at the climax of the English Civil War...

  • John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough
    John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough
    John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, Prince of Mindelheim, KG, PC , was an English soldier and statesman whose career spanned the reigns of five monarchs through the late 17th and early 18th centuries...

  • D'Artagnan
  • Nicolas Fatio de Duillier
    Nicolas Fatio de Duillier
    Nicolas Fatio de Duillier was a Swiss mathematician known for his work on the zodiacal light problem, for his very close relationship with Isaac Newton, for his role in the Newton v. Leibniz calculus controversy, and for originating the "push" or "shadow" theory of gravitation...

  • John Flamsteed
    John Flamsteed
    Sir John Flamsteed FRS was an English astronomer and the first Astronomer Royal. He catalogued over 3000 stars.- Life :Flamsteed was born in Denby, Derbyshire, England, the only son of Stephen Flamsteed...

  • Benjamin Franklin
    Benjamin Franklin
    Dr. Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. A noted polymath, Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat...

     (as a young boy)
  • Eleanor Erdmuthe Louise, widow of John Frederick
    Johann Friedrich, Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach
    John Frederick, Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach succeeded his father Albrecht V as margrave in 1667. He married his second wife Eleonore Erdmuthe of Saxe-Eisenach on 4 November 1681. Their daughter Wilhelmine Charlotte Caroline, Margravine of Brandenburg-Ansbach married George II of Great...

  • George I of Great Britain
    George I of Great Britain
    George I was King of Great Britain and Ireland from 1 August 1714 until his death, and ruler of the Duchy and Electorate of Brunswick-Lüneburg in the Holy Roman Empire from 1698....

  • George II of Great Britain
    George II of Great Britain
    George II was King of Great Britain and Ireland, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg and Archtreasurer and Prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire from 11 June 1727 until his death.George was the last British monarch born outside Great Britain. He was born and brought up in Northern Germany...

    , the Prince of Wales
  • Mother Goose
    Mother Goose
    The familiar figure of Mother Goose is an imaginary author of a collection of fairy tales and nursery rhymes which are often published as Mother Goose Rhymes. As a character, she appears in one "nursery rhyme". A Christmas pantomime called Mother Goose is often performed in the United Kingdom...

  • George Frideric Handel
    George Frideric Handel
    George Frideric Handel was a German-British Baroque composer, famous for his operas, oratorios, anthems and organ concertos. Handel was born in 1685, in a family indifferent to music...

  • Robert Hooke
    Robert Hooke
    Robert Hooke FRS was an English natural philosopher, architect and polymath.His adult life comprised three distinct periods: as a scientific inquirer lacking money; achieving great wealth and standing through his reputation for hard work and scrupulous honesty following the great fire of 1666, but...

  • Christiaan Huygens
  • James Stuart
    James II of England
    James II & VII was King of England and King of Ireland as James II and King of Scotland as James VII, from 6 February 1685. He was the last Catholic monarch to reign over the Kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland...

    , James II and the Duke of York
  • George Jeffreys
    George Jeffreys, 1st Baron Jeffreys
    George Jeffreys, 1st Baron Jeffreys of Wem, PC , also known as "The Hanging Judge", was an English judge. He became notable during the reign of King James II, rising to the position of Lord Chancellor .- Early years and education :Jeffreys was born at the family estate of Acton Hall, near Wrexham,...

  • Johann Georg IV
    John George IV, Elector of Saxony
    John George IV was Elector of Saxony from 1691 to 1694.He was the eldest son of the Elector John George III and Anna Sophie of Denmark.-First years as elector:...

    , Elector of Saxony

  • Jack Ketch
    Jack Ketch
    John Ketch was an infamous English executioner employed by King Charles II. An immigrant of Irish extraction, he became famous through the way he performed his duties during the tumults of the 1680s, when he was often mentioned in broadsheet accounts that circulated throughout the Kingdom of...

  • Gottfried Leibniz
    Gottfried Leibniz
    Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was a German philosopher and mathematician. He wrote in different languages, primarily in Latin , French and German ....

  • Louis XIV of France
    Louis XIV of France
    Louis XIV , known as Louis the Great or the Sun King , was a Bourbon monarch who ruled as King of France and Navarre. His reign, from 1643 to his death in 1715, began at the age of four and lasted seventy-two years, three months, and eighteen days...

  • Thomas Newcomen
    Thomas Newcomen
    Thomas Newcomen was an ironmonger by trade and a Baptist lay preacher by calling. He was born in Dartmouth, Devon, England, near a part of the country noted for its tin mines. Flooding was a major problem, limiting the depth at which the mineral could be mined...

  • Isaac Newton
    Isaac Newton
    Sir Isaac Newton PRS was an English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, alchemist, and theologian, who has been "considered by many to be the greatest and most influential scientist who ever lived."...

  • Henry Oldenburg
    Henry Oldenburg
    Henry Oldenburg was a German theologian known as a diplomat and a natural philosopher. He was one of the foremost intelligencers of Europe of the seventeenth century, with a network of correspondents to rival those of Fabri de Peiresc, Marin Mersenne and Ismaël Boulliau...

  • William Penn
    William Penn
    William Penn was an English real estate entrepreneur, philosopher, and founder of the Province of Pennsylvania, the English North American colony and the future Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. He was an early champion of democracy and religious freedom, notable for his good relations and successful...

  • Samuel Pepys
    Samuel Pepys
    Samuel Pepys FRS, MP, JP, was an English naval administrator and Member of Parliament who is now most famous for the diary he kept for a decade while still a relatively young man...

  • Peter the Great
    Peter I of Russia
    Peter the Great, Peter I or Pyotr Alexeyevich Romanov Dates indicated by the letters "O.S." are Old Style. All other dates in this article are New Style. ruled the Tsardom of Russia and later the Russian Empire from until his death, jointly ruling before 1696 with his half-brother, Ivan V...

     traveling incognito as Peter Romanov
  • Bonaventure Rossignol, a French cryptanalyst
  • James Scott, Duke of Monmouth
    James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth
    James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth, 1st Duke of Buccleuch, KG, PC , was an English nobleman. Originally called James Crofts or James Fitzroy, he was born in Rotterdam in the Netherlands, the eldest illegitimate son of Charles II and his mistress, Lucy Walter...

  • John III Sobieski
    John III Sobieski
    John III Sobieski was one of the most notable monarchs of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, from 1674 until his death King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania. Sobieski's 22-year-reign was marked by a period of the Commonwealth's stabilization, much needed after the turmoil of the Deluge and...

    , King of Poland
  • Solomon
    Solomon
    Solomon , according to the Book of Kings and the Book of Chronicles, a King of Israel and according to the Talmud one of the 48 prophets, is identified as the son of David, also called Jedidiah in 2 Samuel 12:25, and is described as the third king of the United Monarchy, and the final king before...

     (anachronistic), traveling incognito as Solomon Kohan
  • Sophia of Hanover
    Sophia of Hanover
    Sophia of the Palatinate was an heiress to the crowns of England and Ireland and later the crown of Great Britain. She was declared heiress presumptive by the Act of Settlement 1701...

  • Sophia Charlotte of Hanover
    Sophia Charlotte of Hanover
    Sophia Charlotte of Hanover was the Queen consort of Prussia as wife of Frederick I of Prussia. She was the daughter of Ernst August, Elector of Hanover, and Sophia of the Palatinate...

  • Edward "Blackbeard" Teach
    Blackbeard
    Edward Teach , better known as Blackbeard, was a notorious English pirate who operated around the West Indies and the eastern coast of the American colonies....

  • Elizabeth Villiers
  • John Wilkins
    John Wilkins
    John Wilkins FRS was an English clergyman, natural philosopher and author, as well as a founder of the Invisible College and one of the founders of the Royal Society, and Bishop of Chester from 1668 until his death....

  • William III of England
    William III of England
    William III & II was a sovereign Prince of Orange of the House of Orange-Nassau by birth. From 1672 he governed as Stadtholder William III of Orange over Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Guelders, and Overijssel of the Dutch Republic. From 1689 he reigned as William III over England and Ireland...

    , Prince of Orange
  • Christopher Wren
    Christopher Wren
    Sir Christopher Wren FRS is one of the most highly acclaimed English architects in history.He used to be accorded responsibility for rebuilding 51 churches in the City of London after the Great Fire in 1666, including his masterpiece, St. Paul's Cathedral, on Ludgate Hill, completed in 1710...



Critical response


Robert Wiersem of The Toronto Star called The Baroque Cycle a "sublime, immersive, brain-throttlingly complex marvel of a novel that will keep scholars and critics occupied for the next 100 years".

External links