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•fbistortcal Sfcetcbes of /IBagic ano Witcbcraft 
in Englano ano Scotlano 


Dreams and the light imaginings of men ' 


3L o u U o n 



The following pages may be regarded as a contribu- 
tion towards that ' History of Human Error ' which 
was undertaken by Mr. Augustine Caxton. I fear 
that many minds will have to devote all their energies 
to the work, if it is ever to be brought to completion ; 
and, indeed, it may plausibly be argued that its 
completion would be an impossibility, since every 
generation adds something to the melancholy record — 
' pulveris exigui parva munera.' However this may 
be, little more remains to be said on the subjects 
which I have here considered from the standpoint of 
a sympathetic though incredulous observer. Alchemy, 
Magic, Witchcraft — how exhaustively they have been 
investigated will appear from the list of authorities 
which I have drawn up for the reader's convenience. 
They have been studied by ' adepts/ and by critics, 
as realities and as delusions ; and almost the last 
word would seem to have been said by Science — 
though not on the side of the adepts, who still con- 
tinue to dream of the Hermetic philosophy, to lose 
themselves in fanciful pictures, theurgic and occult, 
and to write about the mysteries of magic with a 


simplicity of faith which we may wonder at, but are 
bound to respect. 

It has not been my purpose, in the present volume, 
to attempt a general history of magic and alchemy, or 
a scientific inquiry into their psychological aspects. I 
have confined myself to a sketch of their progress in 
England, and to a narrative of the lives of our prin- 
cipal magicians. This occupies the first part. The 
second is devoted to an historical review of witchcraft 
in Great Britain, and an examination into the most 
remarkable Witch- Trials, in which I have endeavoured 
to bring out their peculiar features, presenting much 
of the evidence adduced, and in some cases the so- 
called confessions of the victims, in the original 
language. I believe that the details, notwithstanding 
the reticence imposed upon me by considerations of 
delicacy and decorum, will surprise the reader, and 
that he will readily admit the profound interest 
attaching to them, morally and intellectually. I 
have added a chapter on the ' Literature of Witchcraft, ' 
which, I hope, is tolerably exhaustive, and now offer 
the whole as an effort to present, in a popular and 
readable form, the result of careful and conscientious 
study extending over many years. 

W. H. D. A. 










III. DR. DEE'S diary - - - - - 93 


LILLY ------ 128 




CENTURY ------ 244 





The word x^/" 61 " — from which we derive our English 
word ' chemistry ' — first occurs, it is said, in the 
Lexicon of Suidas, a Greek writer who nourished in 
the eleventh century. Here is his definition of it : 

' Chemistry is the art of preparing gold and silver. The books 
concerning it were sought out and burnt by Diocletian, on account 
of the new plots directed against him by the Egyptians. He 
behaved towards them with great cruelty in his search after the 
treatises written by the ancients, his purpose being to prevent 
them from growing rich by a knowledge of this art, lest, em- 
boldened by measureless wealth, they should be induced to resist 
the Eoman supremacy.' 

Some authorities assert, however, that this art, or 
pretended art, is of much greater antiquity than 
Suidas knew of ; and Scaliger refers to a Greek 
manuscript by Zozomen, of the fifth century, which 
is entitled ' A Faithful Description of the Secret and 
Divine Art of Making Gold and Silver.' We may 
assume that as soon as mankind had begun to set an 
artificial value upon these metals, and had acquired 



some knowledge of chemical elements, their combina- 
tions and permutations, they would entertain a desire 
to multiply them in measureless quantities. Dr. 
Shaw speaks of no fewer than eighty-nine ancient 
manuscripts, scattered through the European libraries, 
which are all occupied with ' the chemical art,' or 
' the holy art,' or, as it is sometimes called, ' the 
philosopher's stone ' ; and a fair conclusion seems to 
be that ' between the fifth century and the taking of 
Constantinople in the fifteenth, the Greeks believed in 
the possibility of making gold and silver,' and called 
the supposed process, or processes, chemistry. 

The delusion was taken up by the Arabians when, 
under their Abasside Khalifs, they entered upon the 
cultivation of scientific knowledge. The Arabians con- 
veyed it into Spain, whence its diffusion over Chris- 
tendom was a simple work of time, sure if gradual. 
From the eleventh to the sixteenth century, alchemy 
was more or less eagerly studied by the scholars of 
Germany, Italy, France, and England ; and the 
volumes in which they recorded both their learning 
and their ignorance, the little they knew and the 
more they did not know, compose quite a considerable 
library. One hundred and twenty-two are enumerated 
in the ' Bibliotheca Chemica Curiosa,' of Mangetus, a 
dry-as-dust kind of compilation, in two huge volumes, 
printed at Geneva in 1702. Any individual who 
has time and patience to expend ad libitum, cannot 
desire a fairer field of exercise than the 'Bibliotheca.' 
One very natural result of all this vain research and 
profitless inquiry was a keen anxiety on the part of 


victims to dignify their labours by claiming for their 
' sciences, falsely so-called,' a venerable and mys- 
terious origin. They accordingly asserted that the 
founder or creator was Hermes Trismegistus, whom 
some of them professed to identify with Chanaan, the 
son of Ham, whose son Mizraim first occupied and 
peopled Egypt. Now, it is clear that any person 
might legitimately devote his nights and days to the 
pursuit of a science invented, or originally taught, 
by no less illustrious an ancient than Hermes 
Trismegistus. But to clothe it with the awe of a 
still greater antiquity, they affirmed that its principles 
had been discovered, engraved in Phoenician char- 
acters, on an emerald tablet which Alexander the 
Great exhumed from the philosopher's tomb. Un- 
fortunately, as is always the case, the tablet was lost ; 
but we are expected to believe that two Latin versions 
of the inscription had happily been preserved. One 
of these may be Englished as hereinunder : 

1. I speak no frivolous things, but only what is 
true and most certain. 

2. What is below resembles that which is above, 
and what is above resembles that which is below, 
to accomplish the one thing of all things most 

3. And as all things proceeded from the medita- 
tion of the One God, so were all things generated 
from this one thing by the disposition of Nature. 

4. Its father is Sol, its mother Luna; it was 
engendered in the womb by the air, and nourished by 
the earth. 



5. It is the cause of all the perfection of things 
throughout the whole world. 

6. It arrives at the highest perfection of powers if 
it be reduced into earth. 

7. Separate the earth from the fire, the subtle from 
the gross, acting with great caution. 

8. Ascend with the highest wisdom from earth 
to heaven, and thence descend again to earth, and 
bind together the powers of things superior and 
things inferior. So shall you compass the glory of 
the whole world, and divest yourself of the abjectness 
of humanity. 

9. This thing has more fortitude than fortitude 
itself, since it will overcome everything subtle and 
penetrate everything solid. 

10. All that the world contains was created by it. 

11. Hence proceed things wonderful which in this 
wise were established. 

12. For this reason the name of Hermes Tris- 
megistus was bestowed upon me, because I am master 
of three parts of the philosophy of the whole world. 

13. This is what I had to say concerning the most 
admirable process of the chemical art. 

These oracular utterances are so vague and obscure 
that an enthusiast may read into them almost any mean- 
ing he chooses ; but there seems a general consensus of 
opinion that they refer to the ' universal medicine ' 
of the earlier alchemists. This, however, is of no 
great importance, since it is certain they were 
invented by some ingenious hand as late as the 
fifteenth century. Another forgery of a similar kind 


is the ' Tractatus Aureus de Lapidis Physici Secretis,' 
also attributed to Hermes ; it professes to describe 
the process of making this ' universal medicine,' or 
1 philosophers stone,' and the formulary is thus 
translated by Thomson : 

' Take of moisture an ounce and a half ; of meridional redness — 
that is, the soul of the sun — a fourth part, that is, half an ounce ; 
of yellow sage likewise half an ounce ; and of auripigmentum 
half an ounce ; making in all three ounces.' 

Such a recipe does not seem to help forward an 
enthusiastic student to any material extent. 


It is in the erudite writings of the great Arabian 
physician, Gebir — that is, Abu Moussah Djafar, sur- 
named Al Soft, or The Wise— that the science of 
alchemy, or chemistry (at first the two were identi- 
cal), first assumes a definite shape. Gebir flourished 
in the early part of the eighth century, and wrote, it 
is said, upwards of five hundred treatises on the 
philosopher's stone and the elixir of life. In reference 
to the latter mysterious potion, which possessed the 
wonderful power of conferring immortal youth on 
those who drank of it, one may remark that it was 
the necessary complement of the philosopher's stone, 
for what would be the use of an unlimited faculty of 
making gold and silver unless one could be sure of 
an immortality in which to enjoy its exercise ? 
Gebir's principal work, the ' Summse Perfections, ' 
containing instructions for students in search of the 
two great secrets, has been translated into several 


European languages ; and an English version, by 
Richard Russell, the alchemist, was published in 

G-ebir lays down, as a primary principle, that all 
metals are compounds of mercury and sulphur. They 
all labour under disease, he says, except gold, which is 
the one metal gifted with perfect health. Therefore, a 
preparation of it would dispel every ill which flesh is 
heir to, as well as the maladies of plants. We may 
excuse his extravagances, however, in consideration 
of the services he rendered to science by his discovery 
of corrosive sublimate, red oxide of mercury, white 
oxide of arsenic, nitric acid, oxide of copper, and 
nitrate of silver, all of which originally issued from 
Gebir's laboratory. 

Briefly speaking, the hypothesis assumed by the 
alchemists was this : all the metals are compounds, 
and the baser contain the same elements as gold, 
contaminated, indeed, with various impurities, but 
capable, when these have been purged away, of assum- 
ing all its properties and characters. The substance 
■ which was to effect this purifying process they 
called the philosopher's stone {lapis philosophorum), 
though, as a matter of fact, it is always described 
as a powder — a powder red-coloured, and smelling 
strongly. Few of the alchemists, however, venture 
on a distinct statement that they had discovered or 
possessed this substance. 

The arch-quack Paracelsus makes the assertion, of 
course ; unblushing mendacity was part of his stock- 
in-trade ; and he pretends even to define the methods 


by which it may be realized. Unfortunately, to 
ordinary mortals his description is absolutely un- 
intelligible. Others there are who affirm that they 
had seen it, and seen it in operation, transmuting 
lead, quicksilver, and other of the inferior metals into 
ruddy gold. One wonders that they did not claim a 
share in a process which involved such boundless 
potentialities of wealth! 

Helvetius, the physician, though no believer in the 
magical art, tells the following wild story in his 
' Vitulus Aureus ' : 

On December 26, 1666, a stranger called upon him, 
and, after discussing the supposed properties of the 
universal medicine, showed him a yellow powder, 
which he declared to be the lapis, and also five large 
plates of gold, which, he said, were the product of its 
action. Naturally enough, Helvetius begged for a 
few grains of this marvellous powder, or that the 
stranger would at least exhibit its potency in his 
presence. He refused, however, but promised that he 
would return in six weeks. He kept his promise, 
and then, after much entreaty, gave Helvetius a pinch 
of the powder — about as much as a rape-seed. The 
physician expressed his fear that so minute a quantity 
would not convert as much as four grains of lead ; 
whereupon the stranger broke off one-half, and 
declared that the remainder was more than sufficient 
for the purpose. During their first conference, 
Helvetius had contrived to conceal a little of the 
powder beneath his thumb-nail. This he dropped into 
some molten lead, but it was nearly all exhaled in 


smoke, and the residue was simply of a vitreous 

On mentioning this circumstance to his visitor, he 
explained that the powder should have been enclosed 
in wax before it was thrown into the molten lead, 
to prevent the fumes of the lead from affecting it. 
He added that he would come back next day, and 
show him how to make the projection ; but as he 
failed to appear, Helvetius, in the presence of his wife 
and son, put six drachms of lead into a crucible, and 
as soon as the lead was melted, flung into it the 
atoms of powder given to him by his mysterious 
visitor, having first rolled them up in a little ball of 
wax. At the end of a quarter of an hour he found 
the lead transmuted (so he avers) into gold. Its 
colour at first was a deep green ; but the mixture, 
when poured into a conical vessel, turned blood -red, 
and, after cooling, acquired the true tint of gold. A 
goldsmith who examined it pronounced it to be 
genuine. Helvetius requested Purelius, the keeper 
of the Dutch Mint, to test its value ; and two 
drachms, after being exposed to aquafortis, were 
found to have increased a couple of scruples in weight — 
an increase doubtlessly owing to the silver, which still 
remained enveloped in the gold, despite the action of 
the aquafortis. 

It is obvious that this narrative is a complete 
mystification, and that either the stranger was a 
myth or Helvetius was the victim of a decep- 

The recipes that the alchemists formulate — those, 


that is, who profess to have discovered the stone, 
or to have known somebody who enjoyed so rare a 
fortune — are always unintelligible or impracticable. 
What is to be understood, for example, of the follow- 
ing elaborate process, or series of processes, which 
are recorded by Mangetus, in his preface to the 
ponderous ' Bibliotheca Chemica ' (to which reference 
has already been made) ? 

1. Prepare a quantity of spirits of wine, so free 
from water as to be wholly combustible, and so 
volatile that a drop of it, if let fall, will evaporate 
before it reaches the ground. This constitutes the 
first menstruum. 

2. Take pure mercury, revived in the usual 
manner from cinnabar ; put it into a glass vessel 
with common salt and distilled vinegar ; shake 
violently, and when the vinegar turns black, pour it 
off, and add fresh vinegar. Shake again, and con- 
tinue these repeated shakings and additions until 
the mercury no longer turns the vinegar black ; 
the mercury will then be quite pure and very 

3. Take of this mercury four parts ; of sublimed 
mercury (mercurii meteoresati — probably corrosive 
sublimate), prepared with your own hands, eight 
parts ; triturate them together in a wooden mortar 
with a wooden pestle, till all the grains of running 
mercury disappear. (This process is truly described 
as ' tedious and rather difficult.') 

4. The mixture thus prepared is to be put into a 
sand-bath, and exposed to a subliming heat, which 


is to be gradually increased until the whole sublimes. 
Collect the sublimed matter, put it again into the 
sand-bath, and sublime a second time ; this process 
must be repeated five times. The product is a very 
sweet crystallized sublimate, constituting the sal 
sapiejitum, or wise men's salt (probably calomel), and 
possessing wonderful properties. 

5. Grind it in a wooden mortar, reducing it to 
powder ; put this powder into a glass retort, and 
pour upon it the spirit of wine (see No. 1) till it 
stands about three finger-breadths above the powder. 
Seal the retort hermetically, and expose it to a very 
gentle heat for seventy -four hours, shaking it several 
times a day ; then distil with a gentle heat, and the 
spirit of wine will pass over, together with spirit of 
mercury. Keep this liquid in a well-stoppered bottle, 
lest it should evaporate. More spirit of wine is to 
be poured upon the residual salt, and after digestion 
must be distilled off, as before ; and this operation 
must be repeated until all the salt is dissolved and 
given off with the spirit of wine. A great work 
will then have been accomplished ! For the mercury, 
having to some extent been rendered volatile, will 
gradually become fit to receive the tincture of gold 
and silver. Now return thanks to God, who has 
hitherto crowned your wonderful work with success. 
Nor is this wonderful work enveloped in Cimmerian 
darkness ; it is clearer than the sun, though preceding 
writers have sought to impose upon us with parables, 
hieroglyphs, fables, and enigmas. 

6. Take this mercurial spirit, which contains our 


magical steel in its belly (sic), and put it into a glass 
retort, to which a receiver must be well and care- 
fully adjusted ; draw off the spirit by a very gentle 
heat, and in the bottom of the retort will remain 
the quintessence or soul of mercury. This is to be 
sublimed by applying a stronger heat to the retort 
that it may become volatile, as all the philosophers 
affirm : 

' Si fixum solvas faciesque volare solutum, 
Et volucrum figas faciet te vivere tutum.' 

This is our luna, our fountain, in which ' the king ' 
and ' the queen ' may bathe. Preserve this precious 
quintessence of mercury, which is exceedingly volatile, 
in a well-closed vessel for further use. 

8. Let us now proceed to the production of common 
gold, which we shall communicate clearly and dis- 
tinctly, without digression or obscurity, in order 
that from this common gold we may obtain our 
philosophical gold, just as from common mercury we 
have obtained, by the foregoing processes, philo- 
sophical mercury. In the name of God, then, take 
common gold, purified in the usual way by antimony, 
and reduce it into small grains, which must be 
washed with salt and vinegar until they are quite 
pure. Take one part of this gold, and pour on it 
three parts of the quintessence of mercury : as philo- 
sophers reckon from seven to ten, so do we also 
reckon our number as philosophical, and begin with 
three and one. Let them be married together, like 
husband and wife, to produce children of their own 
kind, and you will see the common gold sink and 


plainly dissolve. Now the marriage is consum- 
mated ; and two things are converted into one. 
Thus the philosophical sulphur is at hand, as the 
philosophers say : ' The sulphur being dissolved, the 
stone is at hand.' Take then, in the name of God, 
our philosophical vessel, in which the king and 
queen embrace each other as in a bedchamber, and 
leave it till the water is converted into earth ; then 
peace is concluded between the water and the fire — 
then the elements no longer possess anything con- 
trary to each other — because, when the elements are 
converted into earth, they cease to be antagonistic ; 
for in earth all elements are at rest. The philosophers 
say : ' When you shall see the water coagulate, believe 
that your knowledge is true, and that all your opera- 
tions are truly philosophical.' Our gold is no longer 
common, but philosophical, through the processes it 
has undergone : at first, it was exceedingly ' fixed ' 
(Jixum) ; then exceedingly volatile ; and again, ex- 
ceedingly fixed : the entire science depends upon the 
change of the elements. The gold, at first a metal, 
is now a sulphur, capable of converting all metals 
into its own sulphur. And our tincture is wholly 
converted into sulphur, which possesses the energy 
of curing every disease ; this is our universal 
medicine against all the most deplorable ills of the 
human body. Therefore, return infinite thanks to 
Almighty God for all the good things which He hath 
bestowed upon us. 

9. In this great work of ours, two methods of 
fermentation and projection are wanting, without 


which the uninitiated will not readily follow out our 
process. The mode of fermentation : Of the sulphur 
already described take one part, and project it upon 
three parts of very pure gold fused in a furnace. 
In a moment you will see the gold, by the force of 
the sulphur, converted into a red sulphur of an 
inferior quality to the primary sulphur. Take one 
part of this, and project it upon three parts of fused 
gold ; the whole will again be converted into a 
sulphur or a fixable mass ; mixing one part of this 
with three parts of gold, you will have a malleable 
and extensible metal. If you find it so, it is well ; if 
not, add more sulphur, and it will again pass into a state 
of sulphur. Now our sulphur will sufficiently be fer- 
mented, or our medicine brought into a metallic nature. 

10. The method of projection is this : Take of 
the fermented sulphur one part, and project it upon 
two parts of mercury, heated in a crucible, and you 
will have a perfect metal ; if its colour be not suffi- 
ciently deep, fuse it again, and add more fermented 
sulphur, and thus it will gain colour. If it become 
frangible, add a sufficient quantity of mercury, and it 
will be perfect. 

Thus, friend, you have a description of the 
universal medicine, not only for curing diseases and 
prolonging life, but also for transmuting all metals 
into gold. Give thanks, therefore, to Almighty 
God, who, taking pity on human calamities, hath at 
last revealed this inestimable treasure, and made it 
known for the common benefit of all. 

Such is the jargon with which these so-called 


philosophers imposed upon their dupes, and, to some 
extent perhaps, upon themselves. As Dr. Thomson 
points out, the philosopher's stone prepared by this 
elaborate process could hardly have been anything 
else than an amalgam of gold. Chloride of gold it 
could not have contained, because such a prepara- 
tion, instead of acting medicinally, would have 
proved a most virulent poison. Of course, amalgam 
of gold, if projected into melted lead or tin, and 
afterwards cupellated, would leave a portion of gold 
— that is, exactly the amount which existed previously 
in the amalgam. Impostors may, therefore, have 
availed themselves of it to persuade the credulous 
that it was really the philosopher's stone ; but the 
alchemists who prepared the amalgam must have 
known that it contained gold.* 

It is well known that the mediaeval magicians, 
necromancers, conjurers — call them by what name you 
will — who adopted alchemy as an instrument of im- 
position, and by no means in the spirit of philosophical 
inquiry and research which had characterized their 
predecessors, resorted to various ingenious devices in 
order to maintain their hold upon their victims. 
Sometimes they made use of crucibles with false 
bottoms — at the real bottom they concealed a portion 
of oxide of gold or silver covered with powdered 
sulphur, which had been rendered adhesive by a little 
gummed water or wax. When heat was applied the 
false bottom melted away, and the oxide of gold or 

* Cf. Stahl, ' Fundamenta Chimise,' cap. ' De Lapide Philoso- 
phorum '; and Kircher, ' Mundus Subterraneus.' 


silver eventually appeared as the product of the 
operation at the bottom of the crucible. Some- 
times they made a hole in a lump of charcoal, and 
filling it with oxide of gold or silver, stopped up 
the orifice with wax ; or they soaked charcoal in 
a solution of these metals ; or they stirred the mixture 
in the crucible with hollow rods, containing oxide of 
gold or silver, closed up at the bottom with wax. A 
faithful representation of the stratagems to which the 
pseudo-alchemist resorted, that his dupes might not 
recover too soon from their delusion, is furnished by 
Ben Jonson in his comedy of ' The Alchemist,' and his 
masque of ' Mercury vindicated from the Alchemists.' 
The dramatist was thoroughly conversant with the 
technicalities of the pretended science, and also with 
the deceptions of its professors. In the masque he 
puts into the mouth of Mercury an indignant protest : 

' The mischief a secret any of them knows, above the con- 
suming of coals and drawing of usquebagh ; howsoever they may 
pretend, under the specious names of Gebir, Arnold, Lully, or 
Bombast of Hohenheim, to commit miracles in art, and treason 
against nature ! As if the title of philosopher, that creature of 
glory, were to be fetched out of a furnace !' 

But while the world is full of fools, it is too much 
to expect there shall be any lack of knaves to prey 
upon them ! 


The first of the great European alchemists I take 
to have been 

Albertus Magnus or Albertus Teutotiicus {Frater 
Albertus de Colonia and Albertus Grotus, as he is also 


called), a man of remarkable intellectual energy and 
exceptional force of character, who has sometimes, 
and not without justice, been termed the founder of 
the Schoolmen. Neither the place nor the date of his 
birth is authentically known, but he was still in his 
young manhood when, about 1222, he was appointed 
to the chair of theology at Padua, and became a 
member of the Dominican Order. He did not long 
retain the professorship, and, departing from Padua, 
taught with great success in Ratisbon, Koln, Strass- 
burg, and Paris, residing in the last-named city for 
three years, together with his illustrious disciple, 
Thomas Aquinas. In 1260 he was appointed to the 
See of Ratisbon, though he had not previously held 
any ecclesiastical dignity, but soon resigned, on the 
ground that its duties interfered vexatiously with his 
studies. Twenty years later, at a ripe old age, he 
died, leaving behind him, as monuments of his per- 
sistent industry and intellectual subtlety, one-and- 
twenty ponderous folios, which include commentaries 
on Aristotle, on the Scriptures, and on Dionysius the 
Areopagite. Among his minor works occurs a treatise 
on alchemy, which seems to show that he was a 
devout believer in the science. 

From the marvellous stories of his thaumaturgic 
exploits which have come down to us, we may infer 
that he had attained a considerable amount of skill in 
experimental chemistry. The brazen statue which he 
animated, and the garrulity of which was so offensive 
that Thomas Aquinas one day seized a hammer, and, 
provoked beyond all endurance, smashed it to pieces, 


may be a reminiscence of his powers as a ventriloquist. 
And the following story may hint at an effective mani- 
pulation of the camera obscura : Count William of 
Holland and King of the Romans happening to pass 
through Koln, Albertus invited him and his courtiers 
to his house to partake of refreshment. It was mid- 
winter ; but on arriving at the philosopher's resi- 
dence they found the tables spread in the open 
garden, where snowdrifts lay several feet in depth. 
Indignant at so frugal a reception, they were on the 
point of leaving, when Albertus appeared, and by his 
courtesies induced them to remain. Immediately the 
scene was lighted up with the sunshine of summer, a 
warm and balmy air stole through the whispering 
boughs, the frost and snow vanished, the melodies of 
the lark dropped from the sky like golden rain. But 
as soon as the feast came to an end the sunshine 
faded, the birds ceased their song, clouds gathered 
darkling over the firmament, an icy blast shrieked 
through the gibbering branches, and the snow fell in 
blinding showers, so that the philosopher's guests 
were glad to fold their cloaks about them and retreat 
into the kitchen to grow warm before its blazing fire. 
Was this some clever scenic deception, or is the 
whole a fiction ? 

A knowledge of the secret of the Elixir Vita? was 
possessed (it is said) by Alain cle I Isle, or Alanus de 
Insulis ; but either he did not avail himself of it, or 
failed to compound a sufficient quantity of the magic 
potion, for he died under the sacred roof of Citeaux, 
in 1298, at the advanced age of 110. 



Arnold de Vitteneuve, who attained, in the thir- 
teenth century, some distinction as a physician, an 
astronomer, an astrologer, and an alchemist — and was 
really a capable man of science, as science was then 
understood — formulates an elaborate recipe for rejuve- 
nating one's self, which, however, does not seem to 
have been very successful in his own case, since he 
died before he was 70. Perhaps he was as disgusted 
with the compound as (in the well-known epitaph) 
the infant was with this mundane sphere — he ' liked 
it not, and died.' I think there are many who would 
forfeit longevity rather than partake of it. 

' Twice or thrice a week you must anoint your 
body thoroughly with the manna of cassia ; and every 
night, before going to bed, you must place over your 
heart a plaster, composed of a certain quantity (or, 
rather, uncertain, for definite and precise proportions 
are never particularized) of Oriental saffron, red rose- 
leaves, sandal-wood, aloes, and amber, liquefied in oil 
of roses and the best white wax. During the day 
this must be kept in a leaden casket. You must next 
pen up in a court, where the water is sweet and the 
air pure, sixteen chickens, if you are of a sanguine 
temperament ; twenty -five, if phlegmatic ; and thirty, 
if melancholic. Of these you are to eat one a day, 
after they have been fattened in such a manner as to 
have absorbed into their system the qualities which 
will ensure your longevity; for which purpose they 
are first to be kept without food until almost starved, 
and then gorged with a broth of serpents and vinegar, 
thickened with wheat and beans, for at least two 


months. When they are served at your table you 
will drink a moderate quantity of white wine or claret 
to assist digestion.' 

I should think it would be needed ! 

Among the alchemists must be included Pietro 
d' Apono. He was an eminent physician ; but, being 
accused of heresy, was thrown into prison and died 
there. His ecclesiastical persecutors, however, burned 
his bones rather than be entirely disappointed of their 
auto da fe. Like most of the mediaeval physicians, he 
indulged in alchemical and astrological speculations ; 
but they proved to Pietro d' Apono neither pleasurable 
nor profitable. It was reputed of him that he had 
summoned a number of evil spirits ; and, on their 
obeying his call, had shut them up in seven crystal 
vases, where he detained them until he had occasion 
for their services. In his selection of them he seems 
to have displayed a commendably catholic taste and 
love of knowledge ; for one was an expert in poetry, 
another in painting, a third in philosophy, a fourth in 
physic, a fifth in astrology, a sixth in music, and a 
seventh in alchemy. So that when he required in- 
struction in either of these arts or sciences, he simply 
tapped the proper crystal vase and laid on a spirit. 

The story seems to be a fanciful allusion to the 
various acquirements of Pietro d' Apono ; but if in- 
tended at first as a kind of allegory, it came in due 
time to be accepted literally. 

I pass on to the great Spanish alchemist and magi- 
cian, Raymond Lully, or Lulli, who was scarcely inferior 



in fame, or the qualities which merited fame, even to 
Albertus Magnus. He was a man, not only of wide, but 
of accurate scholarship : and the two or three hundred 
treatises which proceeded from his pen traversed the 
entire circle of the learning of his age, dealing with 
almost every conceivable subject from medicine to 
morals, from astronomy to theology, and from alchemy 
to civil and canon law. His life had its romantic 
aspects, and his death (in 1315 ?) was invested with 
something of the glory of martyrdom ; for while he was 
preaching to the Moslems at Bona, the mob fell upon 
him with a storm of stones, and though he was still 
alive when rescued by some Genoese merchants, and 
conveyed on board their vessel, he died of the injuries 
he had received before it arrived in a Spanish port. 

There seems little reason to believe that Lulli 
visited England about 1312, on the invitation of 
Edward II. Dickenson, in his work on ' The Quint- 
essences of the Philosophers,' asserts that his 
laboratory was established in Westminster Abbey — 
that is, in the cloisters — and that some time after his 
return to the Continent a large quantity of gold-dust 
was found in the cell he had occupied. Langlet du 
Fresnoy contends that it was through the interven- 
tion of John Cremer, Abbot of Westminster, a perse- 
vering seeker after the lapis philosophorum,, that he 
came to England, Cremer having described him to 
King Edward as a man of extraordinary powers. 
Robert Constantine, in his ' Nomenclator Scriptorum 
Medicorum ' (1515), professes to have discovered 
that Lulli resided for some time in London, and 


made gold in the Tower, and that he had seen some gold 
pieces of his making, which were known in England 
as the nobles of Raymond, or rose-nobles. But the 
great objections to these very precise statements rests 
on two facts pointed out by Mr. Waite, that the rose- 
noble, so called because a rose was stamped on each 
side of it, was first coined in 1465, in the reign of 
Edward IV., and that there never was an Abbot 
Cremer of Westminster. 

Jean de Meung is also included among the alche- 
mists ; but he bequeathed to posterity in his glorious 
poem of the * Roman de la Rose ' something very 
much more precious than would have been any 
formula for making- gold. In one sense he was in- 
deed an alchemist, and possessed the secret of the 
universal medicine ; for in his poem his genius has 
transmuted into purest gold the base ore of popular 
traditions and legends. 

Some of the stories which Langlet du Fresnoy tells 
of Nicholas Flamel were probably invented long after 
his death, or else we should have to brand him as a 
most audacious knave. One of those amazing narra- 
tives pretends that he bought for a couple of florins 
an old and curious volume, the leaves of which — three 
times seven (this sounds better than twenty-one) in 
number — were made from the bark of trees. Each 
seventh leaf bore an allegorical picture — the first re- 
presenting a serpent swallowing rods, the second a 
cross with a serpent crucified upon it, and the third a 
fountain in a desert, surrounded by creeping serpents. 


Who, think you, was the author of this mysterious 
volume ? No less illustrious a person than Abraham 
the patriarch, Hebrew, prince, philosopher, priest, 
Levite, and magian, who, as it was written in Latin, 
must have miraculously acquired his foreknowledge 
of a tongue which, in his time, had no existence. A 
perusal of its mystic pages convinced Flamel that 
he had had the good fortune to discover a complete 
manual on the art of transmutation of metals, in 
which all the necessary vessels were indicated, and 
the processes described. But there was one serious 
difficulty to be overcome: the book assumed, as a 
matter of course, that the student was already in 
possession of that all-important agent of transmuta- 
tion, the philosopher's stone. 

Careful study led Flamel to the conclusion that the 
secret of the stone was hidden in certain allegorical 
drawings on the fourth and fifth leaves ; but, then, to 
decipher these was beyond his powers. He sub- 
mitted them to all the learned savants and alchemical 
adepts he could get hold of : they proved to be no 
wiser than himself, while some of them actually 
laughed at Abraham's posthumous publication as 
worthless gibberish. Flamel, however, clung fast to 
his conviction of the inestimable value of his ' find,' 
and daily pondered over the two cryptic illustrations, 
which may thus be described : On the first page of 
the fourth leaf Mercury was contending with a figure, 
which might be either Saturn or Time — probably the 
latter, as he carried on his head the emblematical 
hour-glass, and in his hand the not less emblematical 


scythe. On the second stage a flower upon a moun- 
tain-top presented the unusual combination of a blue 
stalk, with red and white blossoms, and leaves of 
pure gold. The wind appeared to blow it about very 
harshly, and a gruesome company of dragons and 
griffins encompassed it. 

Upon the study of these provokingly obscure 
designs Flamel fruitlessly expended the leisure time 
of thrice seven years : after which, on the advice of 
his wife, he repaired to Spain to seek the assistance of 
some erudite Jewish rabbi. He had been wandering 
from place to place for a couple of years, when he 
met, somewhere in Leon, a learned Hebrew physician, 
named Canches, who agreed to return with him to 
Paris, and there examine Abraham's volume. 
Canches was deeply versed in all the lore of the 
Cabala, and Flamel hung with delight on the words 
of wisdom that dropped from his eloquent lips. But 
at Orleans Canches was taken ill with a malady of 
which he died, and Flamel found his way home, a 
sadder, if not a wiser, man. He resumed his study 
of the book, but for two more years could get no clue 
to its meaning. In the third year, recalling some 
deliverance of his departed friend, the rabbi, he per- 
ceived that all his experiments had hitherto proceeded 
upon erroneous principles. He repeated them upon 
a different basis, and in a few months brought them 
to a successful issue. On January 13, 1382, he con- 
verted mercury into silver, and on April 25 into 
gold. Well might he cry in triumph, ' Eureka !' 
The great secret, the sublime magistery was his : he 


had discovered the art of transmuting metals into 
gold and silver, and, so long as he kejot it to himself, 
had at his command the source of inexhaustible 

At this time Nicholas Flamel, it is said, was about 
eighty years old. His admirers assert that he also 
discovered the elixir of immortal life ; but, as he died 
in 1419, at the age (it is alleged) of 116, he must 
have been content with the merest sip of it ! Why 
did he not reveal its ingredients for the general benefit 
of our afflicted humanity ? His immense wealth he 
bequeathed to churches and hospitals, thus making a 
better use of it after death than he had made of it in 
his lifetime. For it is said that Flamel was a usurer, 
and that his philosopher's stone was 'cent per cent.' 
It is true enough that he dabbled in alchemy, and pro- 
bably he made his alchemical experiments useful in 
connection with his usurious transactions. 






It was in the early years of the fourteenth century 
that the two pseudo- sciences of alchemy and astrology, 
the supposititious sisters of chemistry and astronomy, 
made their way into England. At first their pro- 
gress 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 in- 
creased the number of their adherents, and the more 
active intellects of the time embraced the theory 
of astral influences, and were fascinated by the delu- 
sion 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 suffi- 
ciently 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 Parlia- 
ment 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 inde- 
pendent of Parliamentary control. 

In the course of a few years, however, broader and 
more enlightened views prevailed ; and it came to 
be acknowledged that scientific research ought to 
be relieved from legislative interference. In 1455 
Henry VI. issued four patents in succession to certain 
knights, London citizens, chemists, monks, mass- 
priests, and others, granting them leave and license 
to undertake the discovery of the philosopher's stone, 
' to the great benefit of the realm, and the enabling 
the King to pay all the debts of the Crown in real 
gold and silver. ,' On the remarkable fact that these 
patents were issued to ecclesiastics as well as laymen, 
Prynne afterwards remarked, with true theological 
acridity, that they were so included because they 
were ' such good artists in transubstantiating bread 
and wine in the Eucharist, and were, therefore, the 
more likely to be able to effect the transmutation of 


base metals into better.' Nothing came of the 
patents. The practical common-sense of Englishmen 
never took very kindly to the alchemical delusion, 
and Chaucer very faithfully describes the contempt 
with which it was generally regarded. Enthusiasts 
there were, no doubt, who firmly believed in it, and 
knaves who made a profit out of it, and dupes who 
were preyed upon by the knaves ; and so it languished 
on through the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. 
It seems at one time to have amused the shrewd 
intellect of Queen Elizabeth, and at another to have 
caught the volatile fancy of the second Villiers, Duke 
of Buckingham. But alchemy was, in the main, the 
modus vivendi of quacks and cheats, of such im- 
postors as Ben Jonson has drawn so powerfully in his 
great comedy — a Subtle, a Face, and a Doll Common, 
who, in the Sir Epicure Mammons of the time, found 
their appropriate victims. These creatures played 
on the greed and credulity of their dupes with suc- 
cessful audacity, and excited their imaginations by 
extravagant promises. Thus, Ben Jod son's hero runs 
riot with glowing anticipations of what the alchemical 
magisterium can effect. 

' Do you think I fable with you 1 I assure you, 
He that has once the flower of the sun, 
The perfect ruby, which we call Elixir, 
Not only can do that, but, by its virtue, 
Can confer honour, love, respect, long life ; 
Give safety, valour, yes, and victory, 
To whom he will. In eight-and-twent} r days 
I'll make an old man of fourscore a child. . . . 

'Tis the secret 
Of nature naturized 'gainst all infections, 


Cures all diseases coming of all causes ; 

A month's grief in a day, a year's in twelve, 

And of what age soever in a month.' 

The English alchemists, however, with a few ex- 
ceptions, depended for a livelihood chiefly on their 
sale of magic charms, love-philters, and even more 
dangerous potions, and on horoscope- casting, and 
fortune-telling by the hand or by cards. They acted, 
also, as agents in many a dark intrigue and unlawful 
project, being generally at the disposal of the highest 
bidder, and seldom shrinking from any crime. 

The earliest name of note on the roll of the English 
magicians, necromancers and alchemists is that of 


This great man has some claim to be considered the 
father of experimental philosophy, since it was he 
who first laid down the principles upon which phy- 
sical investigation should be conducted. Speaking 
of science, he says, in language far in advance of his 
times : ' There are two modes of knowing — by argu- 
ment and by experiment. Argument winds up a 
question, but does not lead us to acquiesce in, or feel 
certain of, the contemplation of truth, unless the 
truth be proved and confirmed by experience.' To 
Experimental Science he ascribed three differentiating 
characters : ' First, she tests by experiment the grand 
conclusions of all other sciences. Next, she discovers, 
with reference to the ideas connected with other 
sciences, splendid truths, to which these sciences 
without assistance are unable to attain. Her third 
prerogative is, that, unaided by the other sciences, 


and of herself, she can investigate the secrets of 
nature.' These truths, now accepted as trite and 
self-evident, ranked, in Roger Bacon's day, as novel 
and important discoveries. 

He was born at Ilchester, in Somersetshire, in 1214. 
Of his lineage, parentage, and early education we 
know nothing, except that he must have been very 
young when he went to Oxford, for he took orders 
there before he was twenty. Joining the Franciscan 
brotherhood, he applied himself to the study of 
Greek, Latin, Hebrew, and Arabic ; but his genius 
chiefly inclined towards the pursuit of the natural 
sciences, in which he obtained such a mastery that 
his contemporaries accorded to him the flattering 
title of ' The Admirable Doctor.' His lectures 
gathered round him a crowd of admiring disciples ; 
until the boldness of their speculations aroused the 
suspicion of the ecclesiastical authorities, and in 1257 
they were prohibited by the General of his Order. 
Then Pope Innocent IV. interfered, interdicting him 
from the publication of his writings, and placing him 
under close supervision. He remained in this state 
of tutelage until Clement IV., a man of more liberal 
views, assumed the triple tiara, who not only released 
him from his irksome restraints, but desired him to 
compose a treatise on the sciences. This was the origin 
of Bacon's ' Opus Majus,' ' Opus Minus ' and ' Opus 
Tertius,' which he completed in a year and a half, and 
despatched to Rome. In 1267 he was allowed to 
return to Oxford, where he wrote his ■ Compendium 
Studii Philosophise.' His vigorous advocacy of new 


methods of scientific investigation, or, perhaps, his 
unsparing exposure of the ignorance and vices of the 
monks and the clergy, again brought down upon him 
the heavy arm of the ecclesiastical tyranny. His 
works were condemned by the General of his Order, 
and in 1278, during the pontificate of Nicholas III., 
he was thrown into prison, where he was detained for 
several years. It is said that he was not released 
until 1292, the year in which he published his latest 
production, the ' Compendium Studii Theologize.' 
Two years afterwards he died. 

In many respects Bacon was greatly in advance of 
his contemporaries, but his general repute ignores his 
real and important services to philosophy, and builds 
up a glittering fabric upon mechanical discoveries and 
inventions to which, it is to be feared, he cannot lay 
claim. As Professor Adamson puts it, he certainly 
describes a method of constructing a telescope, but 
not so as to justify the conclusion that he himself 
was in possession of that instrument. The invention 
of gunpowder has been attributed to him on the 
strength of a passage in one of his works, which, if 
fairly interpreted, disposes at once of the pretension ; 
besides, it was already known to the Arabs. Burning- 
glasses were in common use ; and there is no proof 
that he made spectacles, although he was probably 
acquainted with the principle of their construction. 
It is not to be denied, however, that in his interesting 
treatise on ' The Secrets of Nature and Art,' # he ex- 

* Epistola Fratris Eogerii Baconis cle Secretis Operibus Artis et 
Naturee et de Nullitate Maerise. 


hibits every sign of a far-seeing and lively intelligence, 
and foreshadows the possibility of some of our great 
modern inventions. But, like so many master-minds 
of the Middle Ages, he was unable wholly to resist 
the fascinations of alchemy and astrology. He believed 
that various parts of the human body were influenced 
by the stars, and that the mind was thus stimulated 
to particular acts, without any relaxation or inter- 
ruption of free will. His ' Mirror of Alchemy,' of 
which a translation into French was executed by ' a 
Gentleman of Dauphine,' and printed in 1507, abso- 
lutely bristles with crude and unfounded theories — as, 
for instance, that Nature, in the formation of metallic 
veins, tends constantly to the production of gold, but 
is impeded by various accidents, and in this way 
creates metals in which impurities mingle with the 
fundamental substances. The main elements, he says, 
are quicksilver and sulphur ; and from these all 
metals and minerals are compounded. Gold he de- 
scribes as a perfect metal, produced from a pure, 
fixed, clear, and red quicksilver ; and from a sulphur 
also pure, fixed, and red, not incandescent and un- 
alloyed. Iron is unclean and imperfect, because 
engendered of a quicksilver which is impure, too 
much congealed, earthy, incandescent, white and red, 
and of a similar variety of sulphur. The ' stone,' or 
substance, by which the transmutation of the imper- 
fect into the perfect metals was to be effected must be 
made, in the main, he said, of sulphur and mercury. 

It is not easy to determine how soon an atmosphere 
of legend gathered around the figure of 'the Admirable 



Doctor ;' but undoubtedly it originated quite as much 
in his astrological errors as in his scientific experi- 
ments. Some of the myths of which he is the tradi- 
tional hero belong to a very much earlier period, as, for 
instance, that of his Brazen Head, which appears in the 
old romance of ' Valentine and Orson,' as well as in 
the history of Albertus Magnus. Gower, too, in his 
' Confessio Amantis,' relates how a Brazen Head was 
fabricated by Bishop Grosseteste. It was customary 
in those days to ascribe all kinds of marvels to men 
who obtained a repute for exceptional learning, and 
Bishop Grosseteste's Brazen Head was as purely a 
fiction as Roger Bacon's. This is Gower's account .: 

' For of the grete clerk Grostest 
I rede how busy that he was 
Upon the clergie an head of brass 
To forge-; and make it fortelle 
Of suche thinges as befelle. 
And seven yeres besinesse 
He laide, but for the lachesse* 
Of half a minute of an hour . . . 
He loste all that he hadde do.' 

Stow tells a story of a Head of Clay, made at 
Oxford in the reign of Edward II., which, at an 
appointed time, spoke the mysterious words, ' Caput 
decidetur — caput elevabitur. Pedes elevabuntur supra 
caput.' Returning to Roger Bacon's supposed in- 
vention, we find an ingenious though improbable 
explanation suggested by Sir Thomas Browne, in his 
' Vulgar Errors ' : 

' Every one,' he says, ' is filled with the story of Friar Bacon, 
that made a Brazen Head to speak these words, " Time is." 

* Laches, oversight. 


Which, though there went not the like relations, is surely too 
literally received, and was but a mystical fable concerning the 
philosopher's great work, wherein he eminently laboured : imply- 
ing no more by the copper head, than the vessel wherein it was 
wrought ; and by the words it spake, than the opportunity to be 
watched, about the tempus ortus, or birth of the magical child, or 
" philosophical King " of Lullius, the rising of the " terra foliata " 
of Arnoldus ; when the earth, sufficiently impregnated with the 
water, ascendeth white and splendent. Which not observed, the 
work is irrecoverably lost. . . . Now letting slip the critical 
opportunity, he missed the intended treasure : which had he 
obtained, he might have made out the tradition of making a 
brazen wall about England : that is, the most powerful defence or 
strongest fortification which gold could have effected.' 

An interpretation of the popular myth which is 
about as ingenious and far-fetched as Lord Bacon's 
expositions of the ' Fables of the Ancients,' of which 
it may be said that they possess every merit but that 
of probability ! 

Bacon's Brazen Head, however, took hold of the 

popular fancy. It survived for centuries, and the 

allusions to it in our literature are sufficiently 

numerous. Cob, in Ben Jonson's comedy of ' Every 

Man in his Humour,' exclaims : ' Oh, an my house 

were the Brazen Head now ! 'Faith, it would e'en 

speak Mo' fools yet /' And we read in Greene's ' Tu 

Quoque ' : 

' Look to yourself, sir ; 
The brazen head has spoke, and I must have you.' 

Lord Bacon used it happily in his ' Apology to the 
Queen,' when Elizabeth would have punished the 
Earl of Essex for his misconduct in Ireland : — 
' Whereunto I said (to the end utterly to divert her), 
" Madam, if you will have me speak to you in this 



argument, I must speak to you as Friar Bacon's head 
spake, that said first, ' Time is,' and then, ' Time was* 
and ' Time would never be,' for certainly " (said I) "it 
is now far too late ; the matter is cold, and hath 
taken too much wind." ' Butler introduces it in his 
'Hudibras': — 'Quoth he, "My head's not made of 
brass, as Friar Bacon's noddle was." ' And Pope, in 
' The Dunciad,' writes : — ' Bacon trembled for his 
brazen head.' A William Terite, in 1604, gave to 
the world some verse, entitled ' A Piece of Friar 
Bacon's Brazen-head's Prophecie.' And, in our own 
time, William Blackworth Praed has written ' The 
Chaunt of the Brazen Head,' which, in his prose 
motto, he (in the person of Friar Bacon) addresses 
as ' the brazen companion of his solitary hours.' 


Towards the end of the sixteenth century, the 
various legends which had taken Friar Bacon as their 
central figure were brought together in a connected 
form, and wrought, along with other stories of magic 
and sorcerjr, into a continuous narrative, which 
became immensely popular. It was entitled, ' The 
Famous Historie of Friar Bacon : Conteyning the 
Wonderful Thinges that he Did in his Life ; also the 
Manner of his Death ; with the Lives and Deaths of 
the Tw t o Conjurers, Bungye and Vandermast,' and has 
been reprinted by Mr. Thorns, in his ' Early English 

According to this entertaining authority, the Friar 
was ' born in the West part of England, and was 


sonne to a wealthy farmer, who put him to the schoole 
to the parson of the towne where he was borne ; not 
with intent that hee should turne fryer (as hee did), 
but to get so much understanding, that he might 
manage the better the wealth hee was to leave him. 
But young Bacon took his learning so fast, that the 
priest could not teach him any more, which made him 
desire his master that he would speake to his father 
to put him to Oxford, that he might not lose that 
little learning that he had gained. . . . The father 
affected to doubt his son's capacity, and designed him 
still to follow the same calling as himself ; but the 
student had no inclination to drive fat oxen or consort 
with unlettered hinds, and stole away to "a cloister" 
some twenty miles off, where the monks cordially 
welcomed him. Continuing the pursuit of knowledge 
with great avidity, he attained to such repute that the 
authorities of Oxford University invited him to repair 
thither. He accepted the invitation, and grew so 
excellent in the secrets of Art and Nature, that not 
England only, but all Christendom, admired him.' 

There, in the seclusion of his cell, he made the 
Brazen Head on which rests his legendary fame. 

'Beading one day of the many conquests of England, he 
bethought himselfe how he might keepe it hereafter from the 
like conquests, and so make himselfe famous hereafter to all 
posterities. This, after great study, hee found could be no way 
so well done as one ; which was to make a head of brasse, and if 
he could make this head to speake, and heare it when it speakes, 
then might hee be able to wall all England about with brasse.* 

* This patriotic sentiment would seem to show that the book 
was written or published about the time of the Spanish Armada. 


To this purpose he got one Fryer Bungey to assist him, who was 
a great scholar and a magician, but not to bee compared to 
Fryer Bacon : these two with great study and paines so framed a 
head of brasse, that in the inward parts thereof there was all 
things like as in a naturall man's head. This being done, they 
were as farre from perfection of the worke as they were before> 
for they knew not how to give those parts that they had made 
motion, without which it was impossible that it should speake : 
many bookes they read, but yet coulde not finde out any hope of 
what they sought, that at the last they concluded to raise a spirit, 
and to know of him that which they coulde not attaine to by 
their owne studies. To do this they prepared all things ready, 
and went one evening to a wood thereby, and after many cere- 
monies used, they spake the words of conjuration ; which the 
Devill straight obeyed, and appeared unto them, asking what 
they would ? " Know," said Fiyer Bacon, " that wee have made 
an artificiall head of brasse, which we would have to speake, to 
the furtherance of which wee have raised thee ; and being raised, 
wee will here keepe thee, unlesse thou tell to us the way and 
manner how to make this head to speake." The Devill told him 
that he had not that power of himselfe. "Beginner of lyes," said 
Fryer Bacon, " I know that thou dost dissemble, and therefore 
tell it us quickly, or else wee will here bind thee to remaine 
during our pleasures." At these threatenings the Devill con- 
sented to doe it, and told them, that with a continual fume of 
the six hottest simples it should have motion, and in one month 
space speak ; the time of the moneth or day hee knew not : also 
hee told them, that if they heard it not before it had done speak- 
ing, all their labour should be lost. They being satisfied, licensed 
the spirit for to depart. 

' Then went these two learned fryers home againe, and pre- 
pared the simples ready, and made the fume, and with continuall 
watching attended when this Brazen Head would speake. Thus 
watched they for three weekes without any rest, so that they were 
so weary and sleepy that they could not any longer refraine from 
rest. Then called Fryer Bacon his man Miles, and told him that 
it was not unknown to him what paines Fryer Bungey and 
himselfe had taken for three weekes space, onely to make and to 
heare the Brazen Head speake, which if they did not, then had 
they lost all their labour, and all England had a great losse 
thereby ; therefore hee intreated Miles that he would watch 


whilst that they slept, and call them if the head speake. " Fear 
not, good master," said Miles, " I will not sleepe, but harken and 
attend upon the head, and if it doe chance to speake, I will call 
you ; therefore I pray take you both your rests and let mee alone 
for watching this head." After Fryer Bacon had given him a 
great charge the second time, Fryer Bungey and he went to 
sleepe, and Miles was lefte alone to watch the Brazen Head. 
Miles, to keepe him from sleeping, got a tabor and pipe, and 
being merry disposed, with his owne musicke kept from sleeping 
at last. After some noyse the head spake these two words, 
"Time is." Miles, hearing it to speake no more, thought his 
master would be angry if hee waked him for that, and therefore 
he let them both sleepe, and began to mocke the head in this 
manner : " Thou brazen-faced Head, hath my master tooke all 
these paines about thee, and now dost thou requite him with two 
words, Time is 1 Had hee watched with a lawyer so long as 
hee hath watched with thee, he would have given him more and 
better words than thou hast yet. If thou canst speake no wiser* 
they shal sleepe till doomes day for me : Time is ! I know Time 
is, and that you shall heare, Goodman Brazen-face. 

' " Time is for some to eate, 

Time is for some to sleepe, 
Time is for some to laugh, 
Time is for some to weepe. 
' " Time is for some to sing, 
Time is for some to pray, 
Time is for some to creepe, 

That have drunken all the day. 
' " Do you tell us, copper-nose, when Time is 1 I hope we 
schollers know our times, when to drink drunke, when to kiss 
our hostess, when to goe on her score, and when to pay it — that 
time comes seldome." After halfe an houre had passed, the 
Head did speake againe, two words, which were these, "Time 
was." Miles respected these words as little as he did the former, 
and would not wake them, but still scoffed at the Brazen Head 
that it had learned no better words, and have such a tutor as his 
master : and in scorne of it sung this song : 

' " Time was when thou, a kettle, 
wert filled with better matter ; 
But Fryer Bacon did thee spoyle 
when he thy sides did batter. 


' " Time was when conscience dwelled 
with men of occupation ; 
Time was when lawyers did not thrive 
so well by men's vexation. 

' " Time was when kings and beggars 
of one poore stuff had being ; 
Time was when office kept no knaves — 
that time it was worth seeing. 

' " Time was a bowle of water 
did give the face reflection ; 
Time was when women knew no paint, 
which now they call complexion. 

' "Time was ! I know that, brazen-face, without your telling; 
I know Time was, and I know what things there was when Time 
was ; and if you speake no wiser, no master shall be waked for 
mee." Thus Miles talked and sung till another halfe-houre was 
gone : then the Brazen Head spake again these words, " Time is 
PAST ;" and therewith fell downe, and presently followed a 
terrible noyse, with strange flashes of fire, so that Miles was halfe 
dead with feare. At this noyse the two Fryers awaked, and 
wondred to see the whole roome so full of smoake ; but that 
being vanished, they might perceive the Brazen Head broken 
and lying on the ground. At this sight they grieved, and called 
Miles to know how this came. Miles, halfe dead with feare, 
said that it fell doune of itselfe, and that with the noyse and fire 
that followed he was almost frighted out of his wits. Fryer Bacon 
asked him if hee did not speake 1 " Yes," quoth Miles, " it spake, 
but to no purpose : He have a parret speake better in that time 
that you have been teaching this Brazen Head." 

' " Out on thee, villaine !" said Fryer Bacon ; " thou hast undone 
us both : hadst thou but called us when it did speake, all England 
had been walled round about with brasse, to its glory and our 
eternal fames. What were the words it spake ?" "Very few," 
said Miles, " and those were none of the wisest that I have heard 
neither. First he said, ' Time is.' " " Hadst thou called us then," 
said Fryer Bacon, " we had been made for ever." " Then," said 
Miles, " half-an-hour after it spake againe, and said, ' Time was.' " 
" And wouldst thou not call us then ?" said Bungey. " Alas !'' 
said Miles, " I thought hee would have told me some long tale, 
and then I purposed to have called you : then half-an-houre after 


he cried, ' Time is past,' and made such a noyse that hee hath 
waked you himself e, mee thinkes." At this Fryer Bacon was in 
such a rage that hee would have beaten his man, but he was 
restrained by Bungey : but neverthelesse, for his punishment, he 
with his art struck him dumbe for one whole month's space. 
Thus the greate worke of these learned fryers was overthrown, to 
their great grief es, by this simple fellow.' 

The historian goes on to relate many instances of 
Friar Bacon's thaumaturgical powers. He captures 
a town which the king had besieged for three months 
without success. He puts to shame a German con- 
juror named Vandermast, and he performs wonders 
in love affairs ; but at length a fatal result to one of 
his magical exploits induces him to break to pieces 
his wonderful glass and doff his conjurer's robe. 
Then, receiving intelligence of the deaths of Vander- 
mast and Friar Bungey, he falls into a deep grief, 
so that for three days he refuses to partake of food, 
and keeps his chamber. 

' In the time that Fryer Bacon kept his Chamber, hee fell into 
divers meditations ; sometimes into the vanity of Arts and 
Sciences ; then would he condemne himselfe for studying of 
those things that were so contrary to his Order soules health ; 
and would say, That magicke made a man a Devill : sometimes 
would hee meditate on divinity ; then would hee cry out upon 
himselfe for neglecting the study of it, and for studying magicke : 
sometime would he meditate on the shortnesse of mans life, then 
would he condemne himselfe for spending a time so short, so ill as 
he had done his : so would he goe from one thing to another, and 
in all condemne his former studies.' 

' And that the world should know how truly he did repent his 
wicked life, he caused to be made a great fire ; and sending for 
many of his friends, schollers, and others, he spake to them after 
this manner : My good friends and fellow students, it is not 
unknown to you, how that through my Art I have attained to 
that credit, that few men living ever had : of the wonders that I 


have clone, all England can speak, both King and Commons : I 
have unlocked the secrets of Art and Nature, and let the world 
see those things that have layen hid since the death of Hermes,* 
that rare and profound philosopher : my studies have found the 
secrets of the Starres ; the bookes that I have made of them do 
serve for precedents to our greatest Doctors, so excellent hath my 
judgment been therein. I likewise have found out the secrets of 
Trees, Plants, and Stones, with their several uses : yet all this 
knowledge of mine I esteeme so lightly, that I wish that I were 
ignorant and knew nothing, for the knowledge of these things (as 
I have truly found) serveth not to better a man in goodnesse, but 
onely to make him proude and thinke too well of himselfe. AVhat 
hath all my knowledge of Nature's secrets gained me 1 Onely 
this, the losse of a better knowledge, the losse of Divine Studies, 
which makes the immortal part of man (his soule) blessed. I have 
found that my knowledge has beene a heavy burden, and has kept 
downe my good thoughts ; but I will remove the cause, which are 
these Bookes, which I doe purpose here before you all to burne. 
They all intreated him to spare the bookes, because in them there 
were those things that after-ages might receive great benefit by. 
He would not hearken unto them, but threw them all into the 
fire, and in that flame burnt the greatest learning in the world. 
Then did he dispose of all his goods ; some part he gave to poor 
sch oilers, and some he gave to other poore folkes : nothing left he 
for himselfe : then caused hee to be made in the Church-Wall a 
Cell, where he locked himselfe in, and there remained till his 
Death. His time hee spent in prayer, meditation, and such Divine 
exercises, and did seeke by all means to perswade men from the 
study of Magicke. Thus lived hee some two years space in that 

* Hermes Trismegistus ('thrice great'), a fabulous Chaldean 
philosopher, to whom I have already made reference. The 
numerous writings which bear his name were really composed by 
the Egyptian Platonists ; but the mediaeval alchemists pretend to 
recognise in him the founder of their art. Gower, in his ' Con- 
fessio Amantis,' says : 

( Of whom if I the names calle, 
Hermes was one the first of alle, 
To whom this Art is most applied.' 
The name of Hermes was chosen because of the supposed magical 
powers of the god of the caduceus. 


Cell, never comming forth : his meat and drink he received in at 
a window, and at that window he had discourse with those that 
came to him ; his grave he digged with his owne nayles, and was 
there layed when he dyed. Thus was the Life and Death of this 
famous Fryer, who lived most part of his life a Magician, and 
dyed a true Penitent Sinner and Anchorite.' 

Upon this popular romance Greene, one of the best 
of the second-class Elizabethan dramatists, founded 
his rattling comedy, entitled ' The Historye of Fryer 
Bacon and Fryer Bungay,' which was written, it 
would seem, in 1589, first acted about 1592, and 
published in 1594. He does not servilely follow the 
old story-book, but introduces an under-plot of his 
own, in which is shown the love of Prince Edward 
for Margaret, the ' Fair Maid of Fressingfield,' whom 
the Prince finally surrenders to the man she loves, 
his favourite and friend, Lacy, Earl of Lincoln. 

Greene's comedy. 

In Scene I., which takes place near Framlingham, 
in Suffolk, we find Prince Edward eloquently expa- 
tiating on the charms of the Fair Maid to an audience 
of his courtiers, one of whom advises him, if he would 
prove successful in his suit, to seek the assistance of 
Friar Bacon, a ' brave necromancer, ' who ' can make 
women of devils, and juggle cats into coster- 
mongers.'* The Prince acts upon this advice. 

Scene II. introduces us to Friar Bacon's cell at 

Brasenose College, Oxford (an obvious anachronism, 

as the college was not founded until long after Bacon's 

time). Enter Bacon and his poor scholar, Miles, 

* That is, costard, or apple, mongers. 


with books under his arm ; also three doctors of 
Oxford : Burden, Mason, and Clement. 

Bacon. Miles, where are you 1 

Miles. Hie stem, dodissime et reverendissime Doctor. (Here I am, 
most learned and reverend Doctor.) 

Bacon. Attulisti nostros libros meos de necromantia ? (Hast thou 
brought my books of necromancy 1) 

Miles. JEcce quam bonum et quam jucundum habitare libros in 
unum I (See how good and how pleasant it is to dwell among 
books together !) 

Bacon. Now, masters of our academic state 
That rule in Oxford, viceroys in your place, 
Whose heads contain maps of the liberal arts, 
Spending your time in depths of learned skill, 
Why flock you thus to Bacon's secret cell, 
A friar newly stalled in Brazen-nose 1 
Say what's your mind, that I may make reply. 

Burden. Bacon, we hear that long we have suspect, 
That thou art read in Magic's mystery : 
In pyromancy,* to divine by flames ; 
To tell by hydromancy, ebbs and tides ; 
By aeromancy to discover doubts, — 
To plain out questions, as Apollo did. 

Bacon. Well, Master Burden, what of all this 1 
Miles. Marry, sir, he doth but fulfil, by rehearsing of these 
names, the fable of the ' Fox and the Grapes ' : that which is 
above us pertains nothing to us. 

Burd. I tell thee, Bacon, Oxford makes report, 
Nay, England, and the Court of Henry says 
Thou'rt making of a Brazen Head by art, 
Which shall unfold strange doubts and aphorisms, 
And read a lecture in philosophy : 
And, by the help of devils and ghastly fiends, 
Thou mean'st, ere many years or days be past, 
To compass England with a wall of brass. 
Bacon. And what of this 1 

Miles. What of this, master ! why, he doth speak mystically ; 
for he knows, if your skill fail to make a Brazen Head, yet 

* See Appendix to the present chapter, p. 58. 

chap, l] Greene's comedy. 45 

Master Waters' strong ale will fit his time to make him have a 
copper nose. . . . 

Bacon. Seeing you come as friends unto the friar, 
Kesolve you, doctors, Bacon can by books 
Make storming Boreas thunder from his cave, 
And dim fair Luna to a dark eclipse. 
The great arch-ruler, potentate of hell, 
Tumbles when Bacon bids him, or his fiends 
Bow to the force of his pentageron.*. . . 
I have contrived and framed a head of brass 
(I made Belcephon hammer out the stuff), 
And that by art shall read philosophj^ : 
And I will strengthen England by my skill, 
That if ten Caesars lived and reigned in Bome, 
With all the legions Europe doth contain, 
They should not touch a grass of English ground : 
The work that Ninus reared at Babylon, 
The brazen walls framed by Semiramis, 
Carved out like to the portal of the sun, 
Shall not be such as rings the English strand 
From Dover to the market-place of Rye. 

In this patriotic resolution of the potent friar the 
reader will trace the influence of the national enthu- 
siasm awakened, only a few years before Greene's 
comedy was written and produced, by the menace of 
the Spanish Armada. 

It is unnecessary to quote the remainder of this 
scene, in which Bacon proves his magical skill at 
the expense of the jealous Burden. Scene III. 
passes at Harleston Fair, and introduces Lacy, Earl 
of Lincoln, disguised as a rustic, and the comely 

* The pentageron, or pentagramma, is a mystic figure pro- 
duced by prolonging the sides of a regular pentagon till they 
intersect one another. It can be drawn without a break in the 
drawing, and, viewed from five sides, exhibits the form of the 
letter A (pent-alpha), or the figure of the fifth proposition in 
Euclid's First Book. 


Margaret. In Scene IV., at Hampton Court, Henry III. 
receives Elinor of Castile, who is betrothed to his son, 
Prince Edward, and arranges with her father, the 
Emperor, a competition between the great German 
magician, Jaques Vandermast, and Friar Bacon, ' Eng- 
land's only flower.' In Scene V. we pass on to 
Oxford, where some comic incidents occur between 
Prince Edward (in disguise) and his courtiers ; and 
in Scene VI. to Friar Bacon's cell, where the friar 
shows the Prince in his ' glass prospective,' or magic 
mirror, the figures of Margaret, Friar Bungay, and 
Earl Lacy, and reveals the progress of Lacy's suit to 
the rustic beauty. Bacon summons Bungay to Ox- 
ford — straddling on a devil's back — and the scene 
then changes to the Recent-house, and degenerates 
into the rudest farce. At Fressingfield, in Scene VIIL, 
we find Prince Edward threatening to slay Earl Lacy 
unless he gives up to him the Fair Maid of Fressing- 
field ; but, after a struggle, his better nature prevails, 
and he retires from his suit, leaving Margaret to 
become the Countess of Lincoln. Scene IX. carries 
us back to Oxford, where Henry III., the Emperor, 
and a goodly company have assembled to witness the 
trial of skill between the English and the German 
magicians — the first international competition on 
record! — in which, of course, Vandermast is put to 

Passing over Scene X. as unimportant, we return, 
in Scene XL, to Bacon's cell, where the great magician 
is lying on his bed, with a white wand in one hand, a 
book in the other, and beside him a lighted lamp. 


The Brazen Head is there, with Miles, armed, keeping 
watch over it. Here the dramatist closely follows 
the old story. The friar falls asleep ; the head speaks 
once and twice, and Miles fails to wake his master. 
It speaks the third time. ' A lightning flashes forth, 
and a hand appears that breaks down the head with a 
hammer.' Bacon awakes to lament over the ruin of 
his work, and load the careless Miles with unavailing 
reproaches. But the whole scene is characteristic 
enough to merit transcription : 

Scene XI. — Friar Bacon's Cell. 

Friar Bacon is discovered lying on a bed, with a white 
stick in one hand, a book in the other, and a lamp lighted 
beside him; and the Brazen Head, and Miles with 
weapons by him. 

Bacon. Miles, where are you ? 

Miles. Here, sir. 

Bacon. How chance you tarry so long 1 

Miles. Think you that the watching of the Brazen Head craves 
no furniture ? I warrant you, sir, I have so armed myself that if 
all your devils come, 1 will not fear them an inch. 

Bacon. Miles, 
Thou know'st that I have dived into hell, 
And sought the darkest palaces of fiends ; 
That with my magic spells great Belcephon 
Hath left his lodge and kneeled at my cell ; 
The rafters of the earth rent from the poles, 
And three-form'd Luna hid her silver looks, 
Tumbling upon her concave continent, 
When Bacon read upon his magic book. 
With seven years' tossing necromantic charms, 
Poring upon dark Hecat's principles, 
I have framed out a monstrous head of brass, 
That, by the enchanting forces of the devil, 
Shall tell out strange and uncouth aphorisms, 
And girt fair England with a wall of brass. 
Bungay and I have wateh'd these threescore days, 


And now our vital spirits crave some rest : 

If Argus lived and had his hundred eyes, 

They could not over-watch Phobetor's* night. 

Now, Miles, in thee rests Friar Bacon's weal : 

The honour and renown of all his life 

Hangs in the watching of this Brazen Head ; 

Therefore I charge thee by the immortal God 

That holds the souls of men within his fist, 

This night thou watch ; for ere the morning star 

Sends out his glorious glister on the north 

The Head will speak. Then, Miles, upon thy life 

Wake me • for then by magic art I'll work 

To end my seven years' task with excellence. 

If that a wink but shut thy watchful eye, 

Then farewell Bacon's glory and his fame ! 

Draw close the curtains, Miles : now, for thy life, 

Be watchful, and . . . (Falls asleep.) 

Miles. So ; I thought you would talk yourself asleep anon ; 
and 'tis no marvel, for Bungay on the days, and he on the nights, 
have watched just these ten and fifty days : now this is the night, 
and 'tis my task, and no more. Now, Jesus bless me, what a 
goodly head it is ! and a nose ! You talk of Nosf autem glori- 
ficare ; but here's a nose that I warrant may be called Nos autem 
popular e for the people of the parish. Well, I am furnished with 
weapons : now, sir, I will set me down by a post, and make it as 
good as a watchman to wake me, if I chance to slumber. I 
thought, Goodman Head, I would call you out of your memenxo.% 
Passion o' God, I have almost broke my pate! (A great noise.) 
Up, Miles, to your task ; take your brown-bill in your hand ; 
here's some of your master's hobgoblins abroad. 

The Brazen Head (speaks). Time is. 

Miles. Time is ! Why, Master Brazen-Head, you have such a 
capital nose, and answer you with syllables, ' Time is "? Is this 
my master's cunning, to spend seven years' study about 'Time 
is '? Well, sir, it may be we shall have some better orations 

* From the Greek (f>6f3os, fear ; cf>6(3r}rpa, bugbears. 

t Bad puns were evidently common on the stage before the 
days of Victorian burlesque. 

J So Shakespeare, ' 1 Hen. IV.,' iii. FalstafF says : 'I make as 
good use of it as many a man doth of a death's head, or a memento 

chap, l] Greene's comedy. 49 

of it anon : well, I'll watch you as narrowly as ever you were 
watched, and I'll play with you as the nightingale with the glow- 
worm ; I'll set a prick against my breast.* Now rest there, 
Miles. Lord have mercy upon me, I have almost killed myself. 
(A great noise.) Up, Miles ; list how they rumble. 

The Brazen Head (loquitur). Time was. 

Miles. Well, Friar Bacon, you have spent your seven years' 
study well, that can make your Head speak but two words at 
once, ' Time was.' Yea, marry, time was when my master was a 
wise man; but that was before he began to make the Brazen 
Head. You shall lie while you ache, an your head speak no 
better. Well, I will watch, and walk up and down, and be a 
peripatetianf and a philosopher of Aristotle's stamp. (A great 
noise.) What, a fresh noise 1 Take thy pistols in hand, Miles. 
(A lightning flashes forth, and a Hand appears that breaks down the 
Head with a hammer.) Master, master, up ! Hell's broken loose ! 
Your Head speaks ; and there's such a thunder and lightning, 
that I warrant all Oxford is up in arms. Out of your bed, and 
take a brownbill in your hand ; the latter day is come. 

Bacon. Miles, I come. (Rises and comes forward.) 

0, passing warily watched ! 
Bacon will make thee next himself in love. 
When spake the Head 1 

Miles. When spake the Head 1 Did you not say that he 
should tell strange principles of philosophy 1 Why, sir, it speaks 
but two words at a time. 

Bacon. Why, villain, hath it spoken oft 1 

Miles. Oft ! ay, marry hath it, thrice ; but in all those three 
times it hath uttered but seven words. 

Bacon. As how ? 

Miles. Marry, sir, the first time he said, 'Time is,' as if Fabius 
Commentator J should have pronounced a sentence ; then he said, 

* So in the ' Passionate Pilgrim': 

' Save the nightingale alone : 
She, poor bird, as all forlorn, 
Leaned her breast uptill a thorn.' 
t A peripatetic, or walking philosopher. Observe the facetious- 
ness in ' Aristotle's stamp.' Aristotle was the founder of the 

X Fabius Cunctator, or the Delayer, so called from the policy of 
delay which he opposed to the vigorous movements of Hannibal. 



' Time was ;' and the third time, with thunder and lightning, as 
in great choler, he said, 'Time is past.' 

Bacon. 'Tis past, indeed. Ah, villain ! Time is past ; 
My life, my fame, my glory, are all past. 

The turrets of thy hope are ruined down, 
Thy seven years' study lieth in the dust : 
Thy Brazen Head lies broken through a slave 
That watched, and would not when the Head did will. 
What said the Head first ? 

Miles. Even, sir, ' Time is.' 

Bacon. Villain, if thou hadst called to Bacon then, 
If thou hadst watched, and waked the sleepy friar, 
The Brazen Head had uttered aphorisms, 
And England had been circled round with brass : 
But proud Asmenoth,* ruler of the North, 
And Demogorgon,! master of the Fates, 
Grudge that a mortal man should work so much. 
Hell trembled at my deep-commanding spells, 
Fiends frowned to see a man their over-match ; 
Bacon might boast more than a man might boast ; 
But now the bravest of Bacon have an end, 

One would suppose that the humour here, such as it is, would 
hardly be perceptible to a theatrical audience. 

* In the old German ' Faustbuch,' the title of ' Prince of the 
North ' is given to Beelzebub. 

f Demogorgon, or Demiourgos — the creative principle of evil — 
figures largely in literature. He is first mentioned by Lactantius, 
in the fourth century ; then by Boccaccio, Boiardo, Tasso (' Gieru- 
salemme Liberata '), and Ariosto (' Orlando Furioso '). Marlowe 
speaks, in ' Tamburlaine,' of 'Gorgon, prince of Hell.' Spenser, 
in ' The Faery Queen,' refers to — 

' Great Gorgon, prince of darkness and dead night, 
At which Cocytus quakes, and Styx is put to flight.' 
Milton, in ' Paradise Lost,' alludes to ' the dreaded name of 
Demogorgon.' Dryden says : ' When the moon arises, and 
Demogorgon walks his round.' And he is one of the dramatis 
personce- of Shelley's ' Prometheus Unbound ': ' Demogorgon, a 
tremendous gloom. ... A mighty Darkness, filling the seat of 

| Boasts. So in Peele's 'Edward I': 'As thou to England 
brought'st thy Scottish braves.' 

chap, i.] greene's comedy. 5 J 

Europe's conceit of Bacon hath an end, 
His seven years' practice sorteth to ill end : 
And, villain, sith my glory hath an end, 
I will appoint thee to some fatal end.* 
Villain, avoid ! get thee from Bacon's sight ! 
Vagrant, go, roam and range about the world, 
And perish as a vagabond on earth ! 

Miles. Why, then, sir, you forbid me your service 1 

Bacon. My service, villain, with a fatal curse, 
That direful plagues and mischief fall on thee. 

Miles. 'Tis no matter, I am against you with the old proverb, 
1 The more the fox is cursed, the better he fares.' God be with 
you, sir : I'll take but a book in my hand, a wide-sleeved gown 
on my back, and a crowned capf on my head, and see if I can 
merit promotion. 

Bacon. Some fiend or ghost haunt on thy weary steps, 
Until they do transport thee quick to Hell ! 
For Bacon shall have never any day. 
To lose the fame and honour of his Head. 

. [Exeunt. 

Scene XII. passe^fflVmng nfe&yj^^ourt, and the 

royal consent is o/fen to Earl Lacy's^marriage with 

the Fair Maid, wmch is ff^ea to^take place on the 
\J° * J- 

same day as Prince jEi^ward's marriage/tfo the Princess 
Elinor. In Scene XIIlTw^ agai lTgo back to Bacon's 
cell. The friar is bewailing the destruction of his 
Brazen Head to Friar Bungay, when two young gentle- 
men, named Lambert and Sealsby, enter, in order to 
look into the ' glass prospective,' and see how their 
fathers are faring. Unhappily, at this very moment, 
the elder Lambert and Sealsby, having quarrelled, are 
engaged ' in combat hard by Fressingfield,' and stab 
each other to the death, whereupon their sons imme- 

* This reiteration of the same final word, for the sake of 
emphasis, is found in Shakespeare, 
f A corner or college cap. 



diately come to blows, with a like fatal result. Bacon, 
deeply affected, breaks the magic crystal which has 
been the unwitting cause of so sad a catastrophe, 
expresses his regret that he ever dabbled in the un- 
holy science, and announces his resolve to spend the 
remainder of his life 'in pure devotion.' 

At Fressingfield, in Scene XIV., the opportune 
arrival of Lacy and his friends prevents Margaret 
from carrying out her intention of retiring to the 
munnery at Framlingham, and with obliging readiness 
she consents to marry the Earl. Scene XV. shifts to 
Bacon's cell, where a devil complains that the friar 
hath raised him from the darkest deep to search about 
the world for Miles, his man, and torment him in 
punishment for his neglect of orders. 

Miles makes his appearance, and after some comic 
dialogue, intended to tickle the ears of the ground- 
lings, mounts astride the demon's back, and goes off 

to ! In Scene XVI., and last, we return to the 

Court, where royalty makes a splendid show, and the 
two brides — the Princess Elinor and the Countess 
Margaret — display their rival charms. Of course the 
redoubtable friar is present, and in his concluding 
speech leaps over a couple of centuries to make a 
glowing compliment to Queen Elizabeth, which seems 
worth quotation : 

' I find by deep prescience of mine art, 
Which once I tempered in my secret cell, 
That here where Brute did build his Troynovant,* 

* An allusion to the old legend that Brut, or Brutus, great- 
grandson of .iEneas, founded New Troy (Troynovant), or 

chap, i.] Greene's comedy. 53 

From forth the royal garden of a King 

Shall flourish out so rich and fair a bud, 

Whose brightness shall deface proud Phoebus' flower, 

And overshadow Albion with her leaves. 

Till then Mars shall be master of the field, 

But then the stormy threats of war shall cease : 

The horse shall stamp as careless of the pike, 

Drums shall be turned to timbrels of delight ; 

With wealthy favours Plenty shall enrich 

The strand that gladded wandering Brute to see, 

And peace from heaven shall harbour in these leaves 

That gorgeous beautify this matchless flower : 

Apollo's heliotropian* then shall stoop, 

And Venus' hyacinthf shall vail her top ; 

Juno shall shut her gilliflowers up, 

And Pallas' bay shall 'bash her brightest green ; 

Ceres' carnation, in consort with those, 

Shall stoop and wonder at Diana's rose. J 

So much for Greene's comedy of ' Friar Bacon and 
Friar Bungay ' — not, on the whole, a bad piece of 

Among the earlier English alchemists I may next 
name, in chronological order, George Ripley, canon 
of Bridlington, who, in 1471, dedicated to King Ed- 
ward III. his once celebrated ' Compound of Alchemy ; 
or, The Twelve Gates leading to the Discovery of the 
Philosopher's Stone.' These ' gates,' each of which 
he describes in detail, but with little enlightenment to 
the uninitiated reader, are : — 1. Calcination; 2. Solu- 
tion ; 3. Separation ; 4. Conjunction ; 5. Putrefac- 

* Probably the reference is to the sunflower. 

t The classic writers usually identify the hyacinth with 

X The rose, that is, of the Virgin Queen — an English Diana — 
Elizabeth. In Shakespeare's ' Midsummer Night's Dream' (Act iv., 
scene 1) we read of ' Diana's bud.' 


tion ; 6. Congelation : 7. Cibation ; 8. Sublimation : 
9. Fermentation; 10. Exaltation; 11. Multiplication; 
and 12. Projection. In his old age Ripley learned 
wisdom, and frankly acknowledged that he had wasted 
his life upon an empty pursuit. He requested all 
men, if they met with any of the tive-and-twenty 
treatises of which he was the author, to consign them 
to the flames as absolutely vain and worthless. 

Yet there is a wild story that he actually discovered 
the ' magisterium,' and was thereby enabled to send a 
gift of £100,000 to the Knights of St. John, to assist 
them in their defence of Rhodes against the Turks. 

Thomas Norton, of Bristol, w T as the author of ' The 
Ordinall of Alchemy ' (printed in London in 1652). 
He is said to have been a pupil of Ripley, under 
whom (at the age of 28) he studied for forty days, 
and in that short time acquired a thorough know- 
ledge of ' the perfection of chemistry.' Ripley, how- 
ever, refused to instruct so young a man in the 
master-secret of the great science, and the process 
from ' the white ' to ' the red powder,' so that Norton 
was compelled to rely on his own skill and industry. 
Twice in his labours a sad disappointment overtook 
him. On one occasion he had almost completed the 
tincture, when the servant whom he employed to 
look after the furnace decamped with it, supposing 
that it was fit for use. On another it was stolen by 
the wife of William Canning, Mayor of Bristol, who 
immediately sprang into immense wealth, and as some 
amends, I suppose, for his ill-gotten gains, built the 


beautiful steeple of the church of St. Mary, Redcliffe 
— the church afterwards connected with the sad story 
of Chatterton. As for Norton, he seems to have lived 
in poverty and died in poverty (1477). 

The ' Ordinall of Alchemy ' is a tedious panegyric 
of the science, interspersed with a good deal of the 
vague talk about white and red stones and the philo- 
sophical magnesia in which ' the adepts ' delighted. 

To Norton we owe our scanty knowledge of Thomas 
Dalton, who flourished about the middle of the 
fifteenth century. He had the reputation of being a 
devout Churchman until he was accused by a certain 
Debois of possessing the powder of projection. Debois 
roundly asserted that Norton had made him a thousand 
pounds of gold (lucky man !) in less than twelve hours. 
Whereupon Dalton simply said, ' Sir, you are for- 
sworn.' His explanation was that he had received 
the powder from a canon of Lichfield, on undertaking 
not to use it until after the canon's death ; and that 
since he had been so troubled by his possession of it, 
that he had secretly destroyed it. One Thomas Her- 
bert, a squire of King Edward, waylaid the unfortu- 
nate man, and shut him up in the castle of Gloucester, 
putting heavy pressure upon him to make the coveted 
tincture. But this Dalton would not and could not 
do ; and after a captivity of four years, Herbert 
ordered him to be brought out and executed in his 
presence. He obeyed the harsh summons with great 
delight, exclaiming, ' Blessed art Thou, Lord Jesus ! 
I have been too long absent from Thee. The science 


Thou gavest me I have kept without ever abusing it ; 
I have found no one fit to be my heir ; wherefore, 
sweet Lord, I will restore Thy gift to Thee again.' 

' Then, after some devout prayer, with a smiling 
countenance he desired the executioner to proceed. 
Tears gushed from the eyes of Herbert w r hen he 
beheld him so willing to die, and saw that no 
ingenuity could wrest his secret from him. He gave 
orders for his release. His imprisonment and threat- 
ened execution w r ere contrived without the King's 
knowledge to intimidate him into compliance. The 
iniquitous devices having failed, Herbert did not dare 
to take away his life. Dalton rose from the block 
w 7 ith a heavy countenance, and returned to his abbey, 
much grieved at the further prolongation of his 
earthly sojourn. Herbert died shortly after this 
atrocious act of tyranny, and Debois also came to an 
untimely end. His father, Sir John Debois, was slain 
at the battle of Tewkesbury, May 4, 147.1 ; and two 
days after, as recorded in Stow 7 's "Annales," he himself 
(James Debois) w r as taken, with several others of the 
Lancastrian party, from a church where they had fled 
for sanctuary, and was beheaded on the spot.' 


The ancient magic included various kinds of divination, of 
which the principal may here be catalogued : 

Aeromancy, or divination from the air. If the wind blew from 
the east, it signified good fortune (which is certainly not the 
general opinion !) ; from the west, evil ; from the south, calamity ; 
from the north, disclosure of what was secret ; from all quarters 
simultaneously (!}, hail and rain. 


Axinomancy, practised by the Greeks, more particularly for the 
purpose of discovering criminals. An axe poised upon a stake, or 
an agate on a red-hot axe, was supposed by its movement to 
indicate the offender. Or the names of suspected persons were 
called out, and the movement of the axe at a particular name was 
understood to certify guilt. 

Belomancy, in use among the Arabs, was practised by means of 
arrows, which were shot off, with written labels attached to them; 
and the inscription on the arrow first picked up was accepted as 

Bibliomancy, divining by means of the Bible, survived to a 
comparatively recent period. The passage which first caught the 
eye, on a Bible being opened haphazard, was supposed to indi- 
cate the future. This was identical with the Sortes Virgiliance, 
the only difference being that in the latter, Virgil took the 
place of the Bible. Everybody ktiows in connection with the 
Sortes the story of Charles I. and Lord Falkland. 

Botanomancy, divining by means of plants and flowers, can 
hardly be said to be extinct even now. In Goethe's ' Faust,' 
Gretchen seeks to discover whether Faust returns her affection 
by plucking, one after another, the petals of a star-flower (stern- 
blume, perhaps the china-aster), while she utters the alternate 
refrains, ' He loves me !' ' He loves me not !' as she plucks the 
last petal, exclaiming rapturously, ' He loves me !' According to 
Theocritus, the Greeks used the poppy-flower for this purpose. 

Capnomancy, divination by smoke, the ancients practised in two 
ways : they threw seeds of jasmine or poppy in the fire, watching 
the motion and density of the smoke they emitted, or they 
observed the sacrificial smoke. If the smoke was thin, and shot 
up in a straight line, it was a good omen. 

Cheiromancy (or Palmistry), divination by the hand, was worked 
up into an elaborate system by Paracelsus, Cardan, and others. 
It has long been practised by the gipsies, by itinerant fortune-tellers, 
and other cheats ; and recently an attempt has been made to 
give it a fashionable character. 

Coscinomancy was practised by means of a sieve and a pair of 
shears or forceps. The forceps or shears were used to suspend a 
sieve, which moved (like the axe in axinomancy) when the name 
of a guilty person was mentioned. 

Crystallomancy, divining by means of a crystal globe, mirror, or 
beryl. Of this science of prediction, Dr. Dee was the great 



English professor ; but the reader will doubtless remember the 
story of the Earl of Surrey and his fair ' Geraldine.' 

Geomancy, divination by casting pebbles on the ground. 

Hydromancy, divination by water, in which the diviner showed 
the figure of an absent person. ' In this you conjure the spirits 
into water; there they are constrained to show themselves, as 
Marcus Varro testifieth, when he writeth how he had seen a boy 
in the water, who announced to him in a hundred and fifty verses 
the end of the Mithridatic war.' 

Oneirornancy, divination by dreams, is still credited by old 
women of both sexes. Absurdly baseless as it is, it found be- 
lievers in the old time among men of culture and intellectual 
force. Archbishop Laud attached so much importance to his 
dreams that he frequently recorded them in his diary ; and even 
Lord Bacon seems to have thought that a prophetic meaning 
was occasionally concealed in them. 

Onychomancy, or Onymancy, divination by means of the nails of 
an unpolluted boy. 

Pyromancy, divination by fire. ' The wife of Cicero is said, 
when, after performing sacrifice, she saw a flame suddenly leap 
forth from the ashes, to have prophesied the consulship to her 
husband for the same year.' Others resorted to the blaze of a 
torch of pitch, which was painted with certain colours. It was a 
good omen if the flame ran into a point ; bad when it divided. 
A thin-tongued flame announced glory ; if it went out, it signified 
danger ; if it hissed, misfortune. 

Rabclomancy, divination by the rod or wand, is mentioned by 
Ezekiel. The use of a hazel-rod to trace the existence of water 
or of a seam of coal seems a survival of this practice. But 
enough of these follies : 

' Necro T , pyro-, geo-, hydro-, cheiro-, coscinomancy, 
With other vain and superstitious sciences.' 

Tomkis, ' Albumazar,' ii. 3. 




The world must always feel carious to know the 
exact moment when its great men first drew the 
breath of life ; and it is satisfactory, therefore, to be 
able to state, on the weighty authority of Dr. Thomas 
Smith, that Dr. John Dee, the famous magician and 
' philosopher,' was born at forty minutes past four 
o'clock on the morning of July 13, 1527. Accord- 
ing to the picturesque practice of latter-day biographers, 
here I ought to describe a glorious summer sunrise, 
the golden light spreading over hill and pasture, the 
bland warm air stealing into the chamber where lay 
the mother and her infant ; but I forbear, as, for all I 
know, this particular July morning may have been 
cloudy, cold, and wet ; besides, John, the son of 
Rowland Dee, was born in London. From like want 
of information I refrain from comments on Master 
Dee's early bringing-up and education. But it is re- 
ported that he gave proof of so exceptional a capacity, 
and of such a love of letters, that, at the early age of 
fifteen, he was sent to the University of Cambridge, to 
study the classics and the old scholastic philosophy. 


There, for three years, he was so vehemently bent, he 
says, on the acquisition of learning, that he spent 
eighteen hours a day on his books, reserving two only 
for his meals and recreation, and four for sleep — an 
unhealthy division of time, which probably over- 
stimulated his cerebral system and predisposed him to 
delusions and caprices of the imagination. Having 
taken his degree of B.A., he crossed the seas in 1547 
' to speak and confer ' with certain learned men, chiefly 
mathematicians, such as Gemma Frisius, G-erardus 
Mercator, Gaspar a Morica, and Antonius Gogara ; of 
whom the only one now remembered is Mercator, as 
the inventor of a method of laying down hydro- 
graphical charts, in which the parallels and meridians 
intersect each other at right angles. After spending 
some months in the Low Countries he returned home, 
bringing with him ' the first astronomer's staff of 
brass that was made of Gemma Frisius' devising, the 
two great globes of Gerardus Mercator' s making, and 
the astronomer's ring of brass (as Gemma Frisius had 
newly framed it).' 

Returning to the classic shades of Granta, he began 
to record his observations of ' the heavenly influences 
in this elemental portion of the world :' and I suppose 
it was in recognition of his scientific scholarship that 
Henry VIII. appointed him to a fellowship at Trinity 
College, and Greek under-reader. In the latter 
capacity he superintended, in 1548, the performance 
of the 'Eiprjvj? of Aristophanes, introducing among 
' the effects ' an artificial scarabaaus, which ascended, 
with a man and his wallet of provisions on its back, 



to Jupiter's palace. This ingenious bit of mechanism 
delighted the spectators, but, after the manner of the 
time, was ascribed to Dee's occultism, and he found it 
convenient to retire to the Continent (1548), residing 
for awhile at Louvain, and devoting himself to hermetic 
researches, and afterwards at Paris (1580), where he 
delivered scientific lectures to large and distinguished 
audiences. ' My auditory in Rhemes Colledge,' he 
says, { was so great, and the most part older than my 
selfe, that the mathematicall schooles could not hold 
them ; for many were faine, without the schooles, at 
the windowes, to be auditors and spectators, as they 
best could help themselves thereto. I did also dictate 
upon every proposition, beside the first exposition. 
And by the first foure principall definitions represent- 
ing to the eyes (which by imagination onely are 
exactly to be conceived), a greater wonder arose among 
the beholders, than of my Aristophanes Scarabseus 
mounting up to the top of Trinity-hall in Cambridge.' 
The accomplishments of this brilliant scientific 
mountebank being noised abroad over all Europe, the 
wonderful story reached the remote Court of the 
Muscovite, who offered him, if he would take up his 
residence at Moscow, a stipend of £2,000 per annum, 
his diet also to be allowed to him free out of ' the 
Emperor's own kitchen, and his place to be ranked 
amongst the highest sort of the nobility there, and of 
his privy councillors/ Was ever scholar so tempted 
before or since ? In those times, the Russian Court 
seems to have held savants and scholars in as 
much esteem as nowadays it holds prima-donnas and 


ballerines. Dee also received advantageous proposals 
from four successive Emperors of Germany (Charles V., 
Ferdinand, Maximilian II., and Rudolph II.), but the 
Muscovite's outbade them all. A residence in the 
heart of Russia had no attraction, however, for the 
Oxford scholar, who, in 1551, returned to England 
with a halo of fame playing round his head (to speak 
figuratively, as Dee himself loved to do), which 
recommended him to the celebrated Greek professor 
at Cambridge, Sir John Cheke. Cheke introduced 
him to Mr. Secretary Cecil, as well as to Edward VI., 
who bestowed upon him a pension of 100 crowns per 
annum (speedily exchanged, in 1553, for the Rectory 
of Upton-upon- Severn). At first he met with favour 
from Queen Mary ; but the close correspondence he 
maintained with the Princess Elizabeth, who ap- 
preciated his multifarious scholarship, exposed him 
to suspicion, and he was accused of practising against 
the Queen's life by divers enchantments. Arrested 
and imprisoned (at Hampton Court), he was subjected 
to rigorous examinations, and as no charge of treason 
could be proved against him, was remitted to Bishop 
Bonner as a possible heretic. But his enemies failed 
a^ain in their malicious intent, and in 1555 he received 
his liberty. Imprisonment and suffering had not 
quenched his activity of temper, and almost imme- 
diately upon his release he solicited the Queen's assent 
to a plan for the restoration and preservation of 
certain precious manuscripts of classical antiquity. 
He solicited in vain. 

When Elizabeth came to the throne, Dee, as a 


proficient in the occult arts, was consulted by Dudley 
(afterwards Earl of Leicester) as to the most suit- 
able and auspicious day for her coronation. She 
testified to her own belief in his skill by employing 
him, when her image in wax had been discovered in 
Lincoln's Inn Fields, to counteract the evil charm. 
But he owed her favour, we may assume, much 
more to his learning, which was really extensive, 
than to his supposed magical powers. He tells us 
that, shortly before her coronation, she summoned 
him to Whitehall, remarking to his patrons, Dudley 
and the Earl of Pembroke, ' Where my brother hath 
given him a crown, I will give him a noble.' She 
was certainly more liberal to Dee than to many of 
her servants who were much more deserving. In 
December, 1564, she granted him the reversion of 
the Deanery of Gloucester. Not long afterwards 
his friends recommended him for the Provostship of 
Eton College. ' Favourable answers ' were returned, 
but he never received the Provostship. He ob- 
tained permission, however, to hold for ten years the 
two rectories of Upton and Long Ledenham. Later 
in her reign (July, 1583), when two great nobles 
invited themselves to dine with him, he was com- 
pelled to decline the honour on account of his poverty. 
The Queen, on being apprised of this incident, sent 
him a present of forty angels of gold. We shall come 
upon other proofs of her generosity. 

Dee was travelling on the Continent in 1571, and 
on his way through Lorraine was seized with a 
dangerous sickness ; whereupon the Queen not only 


sent ' carefully and with great speed ' two of her 
physicians, but also the honourable Lord Sidney 
' in a manner to tend on him,' and 'to discern how 
his health bettered, and to comfort him from her 
Majesty with divers very pithy speeches and gracious, 
and also with divers rarities to eat, to increase his 
health and strength.' Philosophers and men of letters, 
when they are ailing, meet with no such pleasant 
attentions nowadays ! But the list of Elizabeth's 
bounties is not yet ended. The much-travelling 
scholar, who saw almost as much of cities and men 
and manners as Odysseus himself, had wandered 
into the farthest parts of the kingdom of Bohemia ; 
and that no evil might come to him, or his com- 
panion, or their families, she sent them her most 
princely and royal letters of safe-conduct. After 
his return home, a little before Christmas, 1589, 
hearing that he was unable to keep house as liberally 
as became his position and repute, she promised to 
assist him with the gift of a hundred pounds, and 
once or twice repeated the promise on his coming 
into her presence. Fifty pounds he did receive, 
with which to keep his Christmas merrily, but what 
became of the other moiety he was never able to 
discover. A malignant influence frequently inter- 
posed, it would seem, between the Queen's benevolence 
in intention and her charity in action ; and the un- 
fortunate doctor was sometimes tantalized with 
promises of good things which failed to be realized. 
On the whole, however, I do not think he had much 
to complain of; and the reproach of parsimony so 


often levelled at great Grloriana would certainly not 
apply to her treatment of Dr. Dee. 

She honoured him with several visits at Mortlake, 
where he had a pleasant house close by the river- 
side, and a little to the westward of the church — 
surrounded by gardens and green fields, with bright 
prospects of the shining river. Elizabeth always 
came down from Whitehall on horseback, attended 
by a brave retinue of courtiers ; and as she passed 
along, her loyal subjects stood at their doors, or 
lined the roadside, making respectful bows and 
curtseys, and cr}nng, ' God save the Queen !' One 
of these royal visits w T as made on March 10, 1675, 
the Queen desiring to see the doctor's famous 
library ; but learning that he had buried his wife 
only four hours before, she refused to enter the 
house. Dee, however, submitted to her inspection 
his magic crystal, or ' black stone,' and exhibited 
some of its marvellous properties ; her Majesty, for 
the better examination of the same, being taken down 
from her horse ' by the Earl of Leicester, by the 
Church wall of Mortlack.' 

She was at Dr. Dee's again on September 17, 
1580. This time she came from Richmond in her 
coach, a wonderfully cumbrous vehicle, drawn by 
six horses ; ' and when she was against my garden 
in the fielde/ says the doctor, ' her Majestie staide 
there a good while, and then came into the street at 
the great gate of the field, where her Majestie 
espied me at my dore, making reverent and dutiful! 
obeysance unto her, and with her hand her Majestie 



beckoned for me to come to her, and I came to her 
coach side ; her Majestie then very speedily pulled 
off her glove, and gave me her hand to kiss ; and 
to be short, her Majestie wished me to resort 
oftener to her Court, and by some of her Privy 
Chamber to give her Majestie to wete (know) when I 
came there.' 

Another visit took place on October 10, 1580 : — 
' The Queenes Majestie to my great comfort (hora 
quintd) came with her train from the Court, and at 
my dore graciously calling me unto her, on horseback 
exhorted me briefly to take my mother's death 
patiently ; and withal told me, that the Lord 
Treasurer had greatly commended my doings for her 
title royall, which he had to examine. The which 
title in two rolls of velome parchment his Honour 
had some houres before brought home, and delivered 
to Mr. Hudson for me to receive at my coming from 
my mother's buriall at church. Her Majestie re- 
membered also then, how at my wives buriall it was 
her fortune likewise to call upon me at my house, as 
before is noted.' 

Dee's library — as libraries went then — was not 
unworthy of royal inspection. Its proud possessor 
computed it to be worth £2,000, which, at the 
present value of money, would be equal, I suppose, 
to £10,000. It consisted of about 4,000 volumes, 
bound and unbound, a fourth part being MSS. He 
speaks of four ' written books ' — one in Greek, two 
in French, and one in High Dutch — as having cost 
him £533, and inquires triumphantly what must 


have been the value of some hundred of the best of 
all the other written books, some of which were the 
autographic/, of excellent and seldom-heard-of authors \ 
He adds that he spent upwards of forty years in 
collecting this library from divers places beyond 
the seas, and with much research and labour in 

Of the ' precious books ' thus collected, Dee does 
not mention the titles ; but he has recorded the rare 
and exquisitely made ' instruments mathematical ' 
which belonged to him : An excellent, strong, and 
fair quadrant, first made by that famous Richard 
Chancellor who boldly carried his discovery-ships 
past the Icy Cape, and anchored them in the White 
Sea. There was also an excellent radius astro- 
nomicus, of ten feet in length, the staff and cross 
very curiously divided into equal parts, after Richard 
Chancellor's quadrant manner. Item, two globes of 
Mercator's best making : on the celestial sphere Dee, 
with his own hand, had set down divers comets, 
their places and motions, according to his individual 
observation. Item, divers other instruments, as 
the theorie of the eighth sphere, the ninth and 
tenth, with an horizon and meridian of copper, made 
by Mercator specially for Dr. Dee. Item, sea-com- 
passes of different kinds. Item, a magnet-stone, 
commonly called a loadstone, of great virtue. 
Also an excellent watch-clock, made by one Dibbley, 
' a notable workman, long since dead,' by which the 
time might sensibly be measured in the seconds of 
an hour — that is, not to fail the 360th part of an 



hour. We need not dwell upon his store of docu- 
ments relating to Irish and Welsh estates, and of 
ancient seals of arms ; but my curiosity, I confess, 
is somewhat stirred by his reference to ' a great 
bladder,' with about four pounds weight of ' a very 
sweetish thing,' like a brownish gum, in it, arti- 
ficially prepared by thirty times purifying, which the 
doctor valued at upwards of a hundred crowns. 

While engaged in learned studies and corre- 
spondence with learned men, Dee found time to 
indulge in those wild semi- mystical, transcendental 
visions which engaged the imagination of so many 
mediaeval students. The secret of ' the philosopher's 
stone ' led him into fascinating regions of specula- 
tion, and the ecstasies of Rosicrucianism dazzled him 
with the idea of holding communication with the 
inhabitants of the other world. How far he was 
sincere in these pursuits, how far he imparted into 
them a spirit of charlatanry, I think it is impossible 
to determine. Perhaps one may venture to say 
that, if to some small extent an impostor, he was, to 
a much larger extent, a dupe ; that if he deceived 
others, he also deceived himself ; nor is he, as 
biography teaches, the only striking example of the 
credulous enthusiast who mingles with his enthu- 
siasm, more or less unconsciously, a leaven of 
hypocrisy. As early as 1571 he complains, in the 
preface to his ' English Euclid,' that he is jeered at 
by the populace as a conjurer. By degrees, it is 
evident, he begins to feel a pride in his magical 


attainments. He records with the utmost gravity 
his remarkable dreams, and endeavours to read the 
future by them. He insists, moreover, on strange 
noises which he hears in his chamber. In those 
days a favourite method of summoning the spirits 
was to bring them into a glass or stone which had 
been prepared for the purpose ; and in his diary, 
under the date of May 25, 1581, he records — for the 
first time — that he had held intercourse in this way 
with supra-mundane beings. 

Combining with his hermetico-magical speculations 
religious exercises of great fervour, he was thus en- 
gaged, one day in November, 1582, when suddenly 
upon his startled vision rose the angel Uriel ' at the 
west window of his laboratory,' and presented him 
with a translucent stone, or crystal, of convex shape, 
possessing the wonderful property of introducing its 
owner to the closest possible communication with the 
world of spirits. It was necessary at times that this 
so-called mirror should be turned in different posi- 
tions before the observer could secure the right focus ; 
and then the spirits appeared on its surface, or in 
different parts of the room by reason of its action. 
Further, only one person, whom Dee calls the skryer, 
or seer, could discover the spirits, or hear and inter- 
pret their voices, just as there can be but one medium, 
I believe, at a spiritualistic seance of the present day. 
But, of course, it was requisite that, while the medium 
was absorbed in his all-important task, some person 
should be at hand to describe what he saw, or pro- 
fessed to see, and commit to paper what he heard, or 


professed to hear ; and a seer with a lively imagina- 
tion and a fluent tongue could go very far in. both 
directions. This humbler, secondary position Dee re- 
served for himself. Probably his invention was not 
sufficiently fertile for the part of a medium, or else he 
was too much in earnest to practise an intentional 
deception. As the crystal showed him nothing, he 
himself said so, and looked about for someone more 
sympathetic, or less conscientious. His choice fell at 
first on a man named Barnabas Saul, and he records 
in his diary how, on October 9, 1581, this man 'was 
strangely troubled by a spiritual creature about mid- 
night.' In a MS. preserved in the British Museum, 
he relates some practices which took place on 
December 2, beginning his account with this state- 
ment : ' I willed the skryer, named Saul, to looke into 
my great crystalline globe, if God had sent his holy 
angel Azrael, or no.' But Saul was a fellow of small 
account, with a very limited inventive faculty, and on 
March 6, 1582, he was obliged to confess 'that he neither 
heard nor saw any spiritual creature any more.' Dee 
and his inefficient, unintelligent skryer then quarrelled, 
and the latter was dismissed, leaving behind him an 
unsavoury reputation. 


Soon afterwards our magician made the acquaint- 
ance of a certain Edward Kelly (or Talbot), who was 
in every way fitted for the mediumistic role. He was 
clever, plausible, impudent, unscrupulous, and a 
most accomplished liar. A native of Worcester, 


where he was born in 1555, he was bred up, accord- 
ing to one account, as a druggist, according to 
another as a lawyer ; but all accounts agree that he 
became an adept in every kind of knavery. He was 
pilloried, and lost his ears (or at least was condemned 
to lose them) at Lancaster, for the offence of coining, 
or for forgery ; afterwards retired to Wales, assumed 
the name of Kelly, and practised as a conjurer and 
alchemist. A story is told of him which illustrates the 
man's unhesitating audacity, or, at all events, the 
notoriety of his character: that he carried with him 
one night into the park of Walton-le-Dale, near 
Preston, a man who thirsted after a knowledge of the 
future, and, when certain incantations had been com- 
pleted, caused his servants to dig up a corpse, in- 
terred only the day before, that he might comj)el it to 
answer his questions. 

How he got introduced to Dr. Dee I do not profess 
to know ; but I am certainly disinclined to accept the 
wonderful narrative which Mr. Waite renders in so 
agreeable a style — that Kelly, during his Welsh 
sojourn, was shown an old manuscript which his 
landlord, an innkeeper, had obtained under peculiar 
circumstances. ' It had been discovered in the tomb 
of a bishop who had been buried in a neighbouring 
church, and whose tomb had been sacrilegiously up- 
torn by some fanatics/ in the hope of securing the 
treasures reported to be concealed within it. They 
found nothing, however, but the aforesaid manuscript, 
and two small ivory bottles, respectively containing a 
ponderous white and red powder. ' These pearls 


beyond price were rejected by the pigs of apostasy : 
one of them was shattered on the spot, and its 
ruddy, celestine contents for the most part lost. The 
remnant, together with the remaining bottle and the 
unintelligible manuscript, were speedily disposed of 
to the innkeeper in exchange for a skinful of wine.' 
The innkeeper, in his turn, parted with them for one 
pound sterling to Master Edward Kelly, who, be- 
lieving he had obtained a hermetic treasure, hastened 
to London to submit it to Dr. Dee. 

This accomplished and daring knave was engaged 
by the credulous doctor as his skryer, at a salary of 
£50 per annum, with 'board and lodging,' and all ex- 
penses paid. These were liberal terms ; but it must be 
admitted that Kelly earned them. Now, indeed, the 
crystal began to justify its reputation ! Spirits 
came as thick as blackberries, and voices as numerous 
as those of rumour ! Kelly's amazing fertility of 
fancy never failed his employer, upon whose confi- 
dence he established an extraordinary hold, by judici- 
ously hinting doubts as to the propriety of the work 
he had undertaken. How could a man be other than 
trustworthy, when he frankly expressed his sus- 
picions of the mala fides of the spirits who responded 
to the summons of the crystal ? It was impossible— 
so the doctor argued — that so candid a medium 
could be an impostor, and while resenting the impu- 
tations cast upon the ' spiritual creatures,' he came to 
believe all the more strongly in the man who 
slandered them. The difference of opinion gave rise, 
of course, to an occasional quarrel. On one occasion 


(in April, 1582) Kelly specially provoked his em- 
ployer by roundly asserting that the spirits were 
demons sent to lure them to their destruction ; and 
by complaining that he was confined in Dee's house 
as in a prison, and that it would be better for him to 
be near Cotsall Plain, where he might walk abroad 
without danger. 

Some time in 1583 a certain ' Lord Lasky,' that is, 
Albert Laski or Alasco, prince or waiwode of Siradia 
in Poland, and a guest at Elizabeth's Court, made 
frequent visits to Dee's house, and was admitted to 
the spirit exhibitions of the crystal. It has been sug- 
gested that Kelly had conceived some ambitious pro- 
jects, which he hoped to realize through the agency 
of this Polish noble, and that he made use of the 
crystal to work upon his imagination. Thence- 
forward the spirits were continually hinting at great 
European revolutions, and uttering vague predictions 
of some extraordinary good fortune which was in pre- 
paration for Alasco. On May 28 Dee and Kelly 
were sitting in the doctor's study, discussing the 
prince's affairs, when suddenly appeared — perhaps it 
was an optical trick of the ingenious Kelly — ' a 
spiritual creature, like a pretty girl of seven or nine 
years of age, attired on her head, with her hair rowled 
up before, and hanging down very long behind, with 
a gown of soy, changeable green and red, and with a 
train ; she seemed to play up and down, and seemed 
to go in and out behind my books, lying in heaps ; 
and as she should ever go between them, the books 
seemed to give place sufficiently, dividing one heap 


from the other while she passed between them. 
And so I considered, and heard the diverse reports 
which E. K. made unto this pretty maid, and I said, 
" Whose maiden are you ?" ' Here follows the con- 
versation — inane and purposeless enough, and yet 
deemed worthy of preservation by the credulous 
doctor : 


She. Whose man are you 1 

Dee. I am the servant of God, both by my bound duty, and 
also ('I hope) by His adoption. 

A Voice. You shall be beaten if you tell. 

She. Am not I a fine maiden 1 give me leave to play in your 
house ; my mother told me she would come and dwell here. 

(She went up and down with most lively gestures of a young 
girl playing by herself, and divers times another spake 
to her from the corner of my study by a great perspective 
glasse, but none was seen beside herself) 

She. Shall 1 1 I will. (Now she seemed to answer me in the 
foresaid corner of my study.) I pray you let me tarry a little 1 
(Speaking to me in the foresaid corner.) 

Dee. Tell me what you are. 

She. I pray you let me play with you a little, and I will tell 
you who I am. 

Dee. In the name of Jesus then, tell me. 

She. I rejoice in the name of Jesus, and I am a poor little 
maiden ; I am the last but one of my mother's children ; I have 
little baby children at home. 

Dee. Where is your home 1 

She. I dare not tell you where I dwell, I shall be beaten. 

Dee. You shall not be beaten for telling the truth to them that 
love the truth ; to the Eternal Truth all creatures must be 

She. I warrant you I will be obedient ; my sisters say they 
must all come and dwell with you. 

Dee. I desire that they who love God should dwell with me, 
and I with them. 

She. I love you now you talk of God. 


Dee. Your eldest sister — her name is Esimeli. 

She. My sister is not so short as you make her. 

Dee. 0, 1 cry you mercy ! she is to be pronounced Esimili ! 

Kelly. She smileth ; one calls her, saying, Come away, 

She. I will read over my gentlewomen first ; my master Dee 
will teach me if I say amiss. 

Dee. Read over your gentlewomen, as it pleaseth you. 

She. I have gentlemen and gentlewomen ; look you here. 

Kelly. She bringeth a little book out of her pocket. She 
pointeth to a picture in the book. 

She. Is not this a pretty man 1 

Dee. What is his name 1 

She. My (mother) saith his name is Edward: look you, he 
hath a crown upon his head ; my mother saith that this man was 
Duke of York. 

And so on. 

The question here suggests itself, Was this passage 
of nonsense Dr. Dee's own invention ? And has he 
compiled it for the deception of posterity ? I do not 
believe it. It is my firm conviction that he recorded 
in perfect good faith — though I own my opinion is 
not very complimentary to his intelligence — the ex- 
travagant rigmarole dictated to him by the arch- 
knave Kelly, who, very possibly, added to his many 
ingenuities some skill in the practices of the ventrilo- 
quist. No great amount of artifice can have been 
necessary for successfully deceiving so admirable a 
subject for deception as the credulous Dee. It is 
probable that Dee may sometimes have susjoected he 
was being imposed upon ; but we may be sure he 
was very unwilling to admit it, and that he did his 
best to banish from his mind so unwelcome a sus- 
picion. As for Kelly, it seems clear that he had con- 



ceived some widely ambitious and daring scheme, 
which, as I have said, he hoped to carry out through 
the instrumentality of Alasco, whose interest he 
endeavoured to stimulate by flattering his vanity, and 
representing the spiritual creature as in possession of 
a pedigree which traced his descent from the old 
Norman family of the Lacys. 

With an easy invention which would have done 
credit to the most prolific of romancists, he daily 
developed the characters of his pretended visions.* 
Consulting the crystal on June 2, he professed to 
see a spirit in the garb of a husbandman, and this 
spirit rhodomontaded in mystical language about 
the great work Alasco was predestined to accomplish 
in the conversion and regeneration of the world. 
Before this invisible fictionist retired into his former 
obscurity, Dee petitioned him to use his influence on 
behalf of a woman who had committed suicide, and 
of another who had dreamed of a treasure hidden in a 
cellar. Other interviews succeeded, in the course of 
which much more was said about the coming purifi- 
cation of humanity, and it was announced that a new 
code of laws, moral and religious, would be entrusted 

* ' Adeo viro prae creclulo errore jam factus sui impos et 
mente captus, et Dsemones, quo arctius horrendis hisce Sacris 
adhserescent illius ambitioni vanae summee potestatis in Patria 
adipiscendse spe et expectatione lene euntis ilium non solius 
Poloniae sed alterius quoque regni, id est primo Poloniae, deinde 
alterius, viz. Moldavia? Kegem fore, et sub quo magnse universi 
mundi mutationes incepturas esse, Judasos convertendos, et ab illo 
Sarsemos et Ethnicos vexillo crucis superandos, facili ludifi- 
carentur.' — Dr. Thomas Smith, ' Vitas Eruditissimorum ac lllus- 
trium Yirorum,' London, 1707. 'Vita Joannis Dee,' p. 25. 


to Dee and his companions. What a pity that this 
code was never forthcoming ! A third spirit, a 
maiden named Galerah, made her appearance, all 
whose revelations bore upon Alasco, and the great- 
ness for which he was reserved : ' I say unto thee, his 
name is in the Book of Life. The sun shall not passe 
his course before he be a king. His counsel shall 
breed alteration of his State, yea, of the whole world. 
What wouldst thou know of him ?' 

' If his kingdom shall be of Poland,' answered Dee, 
' in what land else ?' 

' Of two kingdoms,' answered Galerah. 
' Which ? I beseech you.' 

' The one thou hast repeated, and the other he 
seeketh as his right.' 

' God grant him,' exclaimed the pious doctor, 
' sufficient direction to do all things so as may please 
the highest of his calling.' 

' He shall want no direction,' replied Galerah, 'in 
anything he desireth.' 

Whether Kelly's invention began to fail him, or 
whether it was a desire to increase his influence over 
his dupe, I will not decide ; but at this time he 
revived his pretended conscientious scruples against 
dealing with spirits, whom he calumniously declared 
to be ministers of Satan, and intimated his intention 
of departing from the unhallowed precincts of Mort- 
lake. But the doctor could not bear with equanimity 
the loss of a skryer who rendered such valuable service, 
and watched his movements with the vigilance of 
alarm. It was towards the end of June, the month 


made memorable by such important revelations, that 
Kelly announced, one day, his design of riding from 
Mortlake to Islington, on some private business. 
The doctor's fears were at once awakened, and he fell 
into a condition of nervous excitement, which, no 
doubt, was exactly what Kelly had hoped to pro- 
voke. ' I asked him,' says Dee, ' why he so hasted to 
ride thither, and I said if it were to ride to Mr. 
Henry Lee, I would go thither also, to be acquainted 
with him, seeing now I had so good leisure, being 
eased of the book writing. Then he said, that one 
told him, the other day, that the Duke (Alasco) did 
but flatter him, and told him other things, both 
against the Duke and me. I answered for the Duke 
and myself, and also said that if the forty pounds' 
annuity which Mr. Lee did offer him was the chief 
cause of his minde setting that way (contrary to 
many of his former promises to me), that then I 
would assure him of fifty pounds yearly, and would 
do my best, by following of my suit, to bring it to 
pass as soon as I possibly could, and thereupon did 
make him promise upon the Bible. Then Edward 
Kelly again upon the same Bible did sweare unto me 
constant friendship, and never to forsake me ; and, 
moreover, said that unless this had so fallen out, he 
would have gone beyond the seas, taking ship at 
Newcastle within eight days next. And so we plight 
our faith each to other, taking each other by the 
hand upon these points of brotherly and friendly 
■ fidelity during life, which covenant I beseech God 
to turn to His honour, glory, and service, and the 


comfort of our brethren (His children) here on 

This concordat, however, was of brief duration. 
Kelly, who seems to have been in fear of arrest,* still 
threatened to quit Dee's service ; and by adroit 
pressure of this kind, and by unlimited promises to 
Alasco, succeeded in persuading his two confederates 
to leave England clandestinely, and seek an asylum 
on Alasco's Polish estates. Dee took with him his 
second wife, Jane Fromond, to whom he had been 
married in February, 1578, his son Arthur (then 
about four years old), and his children by his first 
wife. Kelly was also accompanied by his wife and 

On the night of September 21, 1583, in a storm 
of rain and wind, they left Mortlake by water, 
and dropped down the river to a point four or five 
miles below Gravesend, where they embarked on 
board a Danish ship, which they had hired to take 
them to Holland. But the violence of the gale was 
such that they were glad to transfer themselves, after 
a narrow escape from shipwreck, to some fishing- 
smacks, which landed them at Queenborough, in the 
Isle of Sheppey, in safety. There they remained until 
the gale abated, and then crossed the Channel to 
Brill on the 30th. Proceeding through Holland and 
Friesland to Embden and Bremen, they thence made 
their way to Stettin, in Pomerania, arriving on 
Christmas Day, and remaining until the middle of 

* He was suspected of coining false money, but Dr. Dee 
declares he was innocent. (June, 1583.) 


Meanwhile, Kelly was careful not to intermit those 
revelations from the crystal which kept alive the 
flame of credulous hope in the bosom of his two 
dupes, and he was especially careful to stimulate the 
ambition of Alasco, whose impoverished finances 
could ill bear the burden imposed upon them of 
supporting so considerable a company. They reached 
Siradia on February 3, 1584, and there the spirits 
suddenly changed the tone of their communications ; 
for Kelly, having unexpectedly discovered that 
Alasco's resources were on the brink of exhaustion, 
was accordingly prepared to fling him aside with- 
out remorse. The first spiritual communication 
was to the effect that, on account of his sins, he 
would no longer be charged with the regeneration of 
the world, but he was promised possession of the 
Kingdom of Moldavia. The next was an order to 
Dee and his companions to leave Siradia, and repair 
to Cracow, where Kelly hoped, no doubt, to get rid 
of the Polish prince more easily. Then the spirits 
began to speak at shorter intervals, their messages 
varying greatly in tone and purport, according, I 
suppose, as Alasco's pecuniary supplies increased or 
diminished ; but eventually, when all had suffered 
severely from want of money, for it would seem that 
their tinctures and powders never yielded them as 
much as an ounce of gold, the spirits summarily 
dismissed the unfortunate Alasco, ordered Dee and 
Kelly to repair to Prague, and entrusted Dee with a 
Divine communication to Rudolph II., the Emperor 
of Germany. 


Quarrels often occurred between the two adepts 
during the Cracow period. In these Kelly was 
invariably the prime mover, and his object was 
always the same : to confirm his influence over the 
man he had so egregiously duped. At Prague, Dee 
was received by the Imperial Court with the distinc- 
tion due to his well-known scholarship ; but no 
credence was given to his mission from the spirits, 
and his pretensions as a magician were politely 
ignored. Nor was he assisted with any pecuniary 
benevolences ; and the man who through his crystal 
and his skryer had apparently unlimited control over 
the inhabitants of the spiritual world could not count 
with any degree of certainty upon his daily bread. 
He failed, moreover, to obtain a second interview 
with the Emperor. On attending at the palace, he 
was informed that the Emperor had gone to his 
country seat, or else that he had just ridden forth to 
enjoy the pleasures of the chase, or that his imperfect 
acquaintance with the Latin tongue prevented him 
from conferring with Dee personally ; and eventually, 
at the instigation of the Papal nuncio, Dee was ordered 
to depart from the Imperial territories (May, 1586). 

The discredited magician then betook himself to 
Erfurt, and afterwards to Cassel. He would fain 
have visited Italy, where he anticipated a cordial 
welcome at those Courts which patronized letters 
and the arts, but he was privately warned that at 
Rome an accusation of heresy and magic had been 
preferred against him, and he had no desire to fall 
into the fangs of the Inquisition. In the autumn 



of 1586, the Imperial prohibition having apparently 

been withdrawn, he followed Kelly into Bohemia ; 

and in the following year we find both of them 

installed as guests of a wealthy nobleman, named 

Rosenberg, at his castle of Trebona. Here they 

renewed their intercourse with the spirit world, and 

their operations in the transmutation of metals. 

Dee records how, on December 9, he reached the 

point of projection ! Cutting a piece out of a brass 

warming-pan, he converted it — by merely heating it 

in the fire, and pouring on it a few drops of the 

magical elixir — a kind of red oil, according to some 

authorities — into solid, shining silver. And there 

goes an idle story that he sent both the pan and the 

piece of silver to Queen Elizabeth, so that, with her 

own eyes, she might see how exactly they tallied, 

and that the piece had really been cut out of the 

pan ! About the same time, it is said, the two 

magicians launched into a profuse expenditure, — 

Kelly, on one of his maid-servants getting married, 

giving away gold rings to the value of £4,000. Yet, 

meanwhile, Dee and Kelly were engaged in sharp 

contentions, because the spirits fulfilled none of the 

promises made by the latter, who, his invention 

(I suppose) being exhausted, resolved, in April, 

1587, to resign his office of ' skryer,' and young 

Arthur Dee then made an attempt to act in his 


The conclusion I have arrived at, after studying 
the careers and characters of our two worthies, is 
that they were wholly unfitted for each other's 


society ; a barrier of ' incompatibility ' rose straitly 
between them. Dee was in earnest ; Kelly was 
practising a sham. Dee pursued a shadow which 
he believed to be a substance ; Kelly knew that the 
shadow was nothing more than a shadow. Dee was 
a man of rare scholarship and considerable intel- 
lectual power, though of a credulous and supersti- 
tious temper ; Kelly was superficial and ignorant, 
but clever, astute, and ingenious, and by no means 
prone to fall into delusions. The last experiment 
which he made on Dee's simple-mindedness stamps 
the man as the rogue and knave he was ; while it 
illustrates the truth of the preacher's complaint that 
there is nothing new under the sun. The doctrine 
of free marriage propounded by American enthusiasts 
was a remanet from the ethical system of Mr. Edward 

Kelly had long been on bad terms with his wife, 
and had conceived a passionate attachment towards 
Mrs. Dee, who was young and charming, graceful in 
person, and attractive in manner. To gratify his 
desires, he resorted to his old machinery of the 
crystal and the spirits, and soon obtained a revela- 
tion that it was the Divine pleasure he and Dr. Dee 
should exchange partners. Demoralized and abased 
as Dee had become through his intercourse with 
Kelly, he shrank at first from a proposal so contrary 
to the teaching and tenor of the religion he pro- 
fessed, and suggested that the revelation could 
mean nothing more than that they ought to live on 



a footing of cordial friendship. But the spirits 
insisted on a literal interpretation of their com- 
mand. Dee yielded, comparing himself with much 
unction to Abraham, who, in obedience to the Divine 
will, consented to the sacrifice of Isaac. The parallel, 
however, did not hold good, for Abraham saved his 
son, whereas Dr. Dee lost his wife ! 

It was then Kelly's turn to affect a superior 
morality, and he earnestly protested that the spirits 
could not be messengers from heaven, but were 
servants of Satan. Whereupon they then declared that 
he was no longer worthy to act as their interpreter. 
But why dwell longer on this unpleasant farce ? By 
various means of cajolery and trickery, Kelly con- 
trived to accomplish his design. 

This communistic arrangement, however, did not 
long work satisfactorily — at least, so far as the ladies 
were concerned ; and one can easily understand that 
Mrs. Dee would object to the inferior position she 
occupied as Kelly's paramour. However this may be, 
Dee and Kelly parted company in January, 1589 ; the 
former, according to his own account, delivering up to 
the latter the mysterious elixir and other substances 
which they had made use of in the transmutation of 
metals. Dee had begun to turn his eyes wistfully 
towards his native country, and welcomed with un- 
feigned delight a gracious message from Queen Eliza- 
beth, assuring him of a friendly reception. In the 
spring he took his departure from Trebona ; and it 
is said that he travelled with a pomp and circum- 
stance worthy of an ambassador, though it is difficult 


to reconcile this statement with his constant com- 
plaints of poverty. Perhaps, after all, his three 
coaches, with four horses to each coach, his two or 
three waggons loaded with baggage and stores, 
and his hired escort of six to twenty-four soldiers, 
whose business it was to protect him from the 
enemies he supposed to be lying in wait for him, 
existed only, like the philosopher's stone, in the 
imagination ! He landed at Gravesend on Decem- 
ber 2, was kindly received by the Queen at Richmond 
a day or two afterwards, and before the year had run 
out was once more quietly settled in his house ' near 
the riverside ' at Mortlake. 

Kelly, whom the Emperor Maximilian II. had 
knighted and created Marshal of Bohemia, so strong 
a conviction of his hermetic abilities had he impressed 
on the Imperial mind, remained in Germany. But 
the ingenious, plausible rogue was kept under such 
rigid restraint, in order that he might prepare an 
adequate quantity of the transmuting stone or 
powder, that he wearied of it, and one night en- 
deavoured to escape. Tearing up the sheets of his 
bed, he twisted them into a rope, with which to 
lower himself from the tower where he was confined. 
But he was a man of some bulk : the rope gave way 
beneath his weight, and falling to the ground, he 
received such severe injuries that in a few days he 
expired (1593). 

Dee's later life was, as Godwin remarks, 'bound 
in shallows and miseries.' He had forfeited the 


respect of serious-minded men by his unworthy con- 
federacy with an unscrupulous adventurer. The 
Queen still treated him with some degree of con- 
sideration, though she had lost all faith in his 
magical powers, and occasionally sent him assistance. 
The unfortunate man never ceased to weary her with 
the repetition of his trials and troubles, and strongly 
complained that he had been deprived of the income 
of his two small benefices during his six years' 
residence on the Continent. He related the sad tale 
of the destruction of his library and apparatus by 
an ignorant mob, which had broken into his house 
immediately after his departure from England, ex- 
cited by the rumours of his strange magical practices. 
He enumerated the expenses of his homeward 
journey, arguing that, as it had been undertaken by 
the Queen's command, she ought to reimburse him. 
At last (in 1592) the Queen appointed two members 
of her Privy Council to inquire into the particulars 
of his allegations. These particulars he accordingly 
put together in a curious narrative, which bore the 
long-winded title of : 

' The Compendious Rehearsall of John Dee, his dutiful Declara" 
cion and Proof of the Course and Eace of his Studious Lyfe, for 
the Space of Halfe an Hundred Yeares, now (by God's Favour and 
Helpe) fully spent, and of the very great Injuries, Damages, and 
Indignities, which for those last nyne Years he hath in England 
sustained (contrary to Her Majesties very gracious Will and 
express Commandment), made unto the Two Honourable Com- 
missioners, by Her Most Excellent Majesty thereto assigned, 
according to the intent of the most humble Supplication of the 
said John, exhibited to Her Most Gracious Majestie at Hampton 
Court, Anno 1592, November 9.' 


It has been remarked that in this ' Compendious 
Rehearsal ' he alludes neither to his magic crystal, 
with its spiritualistic properties, nor to the wonderful 
powder or elixir of transmutation. He founds his 
claim to the Queen's patronage solely upon his 
intellectual eminence and acknowledged scholarship. 
Nor does he allude to his Continental experiences, 
except so far as relates to his homeward journey. 
But he is careful to recapitulate all his services, and 
the encomiastic notices they had drawn from various 
quarters, while he details his losses with the most 
elaborate minuteness. The quaintest part of his 
lamentable and most fervent petition is, however, its 
conclusion. Having shown that he has tried and ex- 
hausted every means of raising money for the support 
of his family, he concludes : 

' Therefore, seeing the blinded lady, Fortune, doth not governe 
in this commonwealth, but justitia and prudentia, and that in better 
order than inTullie's "Republica," or bookes of offices, they are laied 
forth to be followed and performed, most reverently and earnestly 
(yea, in manner with bloody teares of heart), I and my wife, our 
seaven children, and our servants (seaventeene of us in all) do this 
day make our petition unto your Honors, that upon all godly, 
charitable, and just respects had of all that, which this day you 
have seene, heard, and perceived, you will make such report unto 
her Most Excellent Majestie (with humble request for speedy 
reliefes) that we be not constrained to do or suffer otherwise than 
becometh Christians, and true, and faithfull, and obedient subjects 
to doe or suffer ; and all for want of due mainteynance.' 

The main object Dee had in view was the master- 
ship of St. Cross's Hospital, which Elizabeth had 
formerly promised him. This he never received ; 
but in December, 1594, he was appointed to the 


Chancellorship of St. Paul's Cathedral, which in the 
following year he exchanged for the wardenship of 
the College at Manchester. He still continued his 
researches into supernatural mysteries, employing 
several persons in succession as ' skryers ' ; but he 
found no one so fertile in invention as Kelly, and the 
crystal uttered nothing more oracular than answers 
to questions about lovers' quarrels, hidden treasures, 
and petty thefts — the common stock-in-trade of the 
conjurer. In 1602 or 1604, he retired from his 
Manchester appointment, and sought the quiet and 
seclusion of his favourite Mortlake. His renown as 
' a magician ' had greatly increased — not a little, it 
would seem, to his annoyance; for on June 5, 1604, 
we find that he presented a petition to James I. at 
Greenwich, soliciting his royal protection against the 
wrong done to him by enemies who mocked him as 
1 a conjurer, or caller, or invocator of devils,' and 
solemnly asserting that ' of all the great number of 
the very strange and frivolous fables or histories 
reported and told of him (as to have been of his 
doing) none were true.' It is said that the treat- 
ment Dee experienced at this time was the primary 
cause of the Act passed against personal slander 
(1604) — a proof of legislative wisdom which drew 
from Dee a versified expression of gratitude — in 
which, let us hope, the sincerity of the gratitude is 
not to be measured by the quality of the verse. It is 
addressed to ' the Honorable Members of the 
Commons in the Present Parliament,' and here is a 
specimen of it, which will show that, though Dee's 


crystal might summon the spirits, it had no control 
over the Muses : 

1 The honour, due unto you all, 
And reverence, to you each one 
I do first yield most spe-ci-all ; 

Grant me this time to heare my mone. 

' Now (if you will) full well you may 

Fowle sclaundrous tongues for ever tame ; 
And helpe the truth to beare some sway 
In just defence of a good name.' 

Thenceforward Dee sinks into almost total ob- 
scurity. His last years were probably spent in great 
tribulation ; and the man who had dreamed of con- 
verting, Midas-like, all he touched into gold, seems fre- 
quently to have wanted bread. It was a melancholy 
ending to a career which might have been both useful 
and brilliant, if his various scholarship and mental 
energy had not been expended upon a delusion. Un- 
fortunately for himself, Dee, with all his excellent 
gifts, wanted that greatest gift of all, a sound judgment. 
His excitable fancy and credulous temper made him 
the dupe of his own wishes, and eventually the tool 
of a knave far inferior to himself in intellectual power, 
but surpassing him in strength of will, in force of 
character, in audacity and inventiveness. Both 
knave and dupe made but sorry work of their lives. 
Kelty, as we have seen, broke his neck in attempting 
to escape from a German prison, and Dee expired in 
want and dishonour, without a friend to receive his 
last sigh. 

He died at Mortlake in 1608, and was buried in 


the chancel of Mortlake Church, where, long after- 
wards, Aubrey, the gossiping antiquary, was shown 
an old marble slab as belonging to his tomb. 

His son Arthur, after acting as physician to the 
Czar of Russia and to our own Charles I., established 
himself in practice at Norwich, where he died. 
Anthony Wood solemnly records that this Arthur, in 
his boyhood, had frequently played with quoits of 
gold, which his father had cast at Prague by means 
of his ' stone philosophical.' How often Dee must 
have longed for some of those ' quoits ' in his last sad 
days at Mortlake, when he sold his books, one by 
one, to keep himself from starvation! 

After Dee's death, his fame as a magician under- 
went an extraordinary revival; and in 1659, when 
the country was looking forward to the immediate 
restoration of its Stuart line of kings, the learned 
Dr. Meric Casaubon thought proper to publish, in 
a formidable folio volume, the doctor's elaborate re- 
port of his — or rather Kelly's — supposed conferences 
with the spirits — a notable book, as being the initial 
product of spiritualism in English literature. In 
his preface Casaubon remarks that, though Dee's 
' carriage in certain respects seemed to lay in works of 
darkness, yet all was tendered by him to kings and 
princes, and by all (England alone excepted) was 
listened to for a good while with good respect, and by 
some for a long time embraced and entertained.' 
And he adds that ' the fame of it made the Pope 
bestir himself, and filled all, both learned and un- 
learned, with great wonder and astonishment. . . . 


As a whole, it is undoubtedly not to be paralleled in 
its kind in any age or country.' 


In the curious 'Apologia' published by Dee, in 1595, in the 
form of a letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury, ' containing a 
most briefe Discourse Apologeticall, with a plaine Demonstration 
and formal Protestation, for the lawfull, sincere, very faithfull 
and Christian course of the Philosophicall studies and exercises of 
a certaine studious Gentleman, an ancient Servant to her most 
excellent Maiesty Eoyall,' he furnishes a list of 'sundry Bookes 
and Treatises ' of which he was the author. The best known of 
his printed works is the ' Monas Hieroglyphica, Mathematice, 
Anagogice que explicata ' (1564), dedicated to the Emperor 
Maximilian. Then there are 'Propse deumata Aphoristica ;' 
' The British Monarchy,' otherwise called the ' Petty Navy 
Eoyall : for the politique security, abundant wealth, and the 
triumphant state of this kingdom (with God's favour) procuring ' 
(1576) ; and ' Paralaticse Commentationis, Praxcosque Nucleus 
quidam ' (1573). His unpublished manuscripts range over a wide 
field of astronomical, philosophical, and logical inquiry. The 
most important seem to be ' The first great volume of famous and 
rich Discoveries,' containing a good deal of speculation about 
Solomon and his Ophirian voyage ; ' Prester John, and the first 
great Cham;' 'The Brytish Complement of the perfect Art of 
Navigation ;' ' The Art of Logicke, in English ;' and ' De Hominis 
Corpore, Spiritu, et Anima : sive Microcosmicum totius Philo 
sophise Naturalis Compendium.' 

The character drawn of Dr. Dee by his learned biographer, Dr. 
Thomas Smith, by no means confirms the traditional notion of 
him as a crafty and credulous practiser in the Black Art. It is, 
on the contrary, the portrait of a just and upright man, grave in 
his demeanour, modest in his manners, abstemious in his habits ; 
a man of studious disposition and benevolent temper ; a man held 
in such high esteem by his neighbours that he was called upon to 
arbitrate when any differences arose between them ; a fervent 
Christian, attentive to all the offices of the Church, and zealous in 
the defence of her faith. 

Here is the original : ' Si mores exterioremque vitse cultum 
contemplemur, non quicquam ipsi in probrum et ignominium verti 


possit; ut pote sobrius, probus, affectibus sedatis, compositisque 
moribus, ab omni luxu et gula liber, justi et sequi studiosis- 
simus, erga pauperes beneficus, vicinis facilis et benignus, 
quorum lites, atrisque partibus contendentium ad ilium tanquam 
ad sapientum arbitrum appellantibus, moderari et desidere solebat : 
in publicis sacris coetibus et in orationibus frequens, articulorum 
Christiana? fidei, in quibus omnes Orthodoxi conveniunt, strenuus 
assertor, zelo in hsereses, a primitiva Ecclesia damnatas, flagrans, 
inqui Peccorum, qui virginitatem B. Maria? ante partum Christi 
in dubium vocavit, accerime invectus : licet de controversiis inter 
Romanenses et Reformatos circa reliqua doctrinse capita non adeo 
semperose solicitus, quin sibi in Polonia et Bohemia, ubi religio 
ista dominatur, Missae interesse et communicare licere putaverit, 
in Anglia, uti antea, post redditum, omnibus Ecclesise Anglicanae 
ritibus conformis.' It must be admitted that Dr. Smith's Latin is 
not exactly ' conformed ' to the Ciceronian model. 

chap, in.] dr. dee's diary. 93 



I am not prepared to say, with its modern editor, 
that Dr. Dee's Diary* sets the scholar magician's 
character in its true light more clearly than anything 
that has yet been printed; but I concede that it 
reveals in a very striking and interesting manner the 
peculiar features of his character — his superstitious 
credulity, and his combination of shrewdness and 
simplicity — as well as his interesting habits. I shall 
therefore extract a few passages to assist the reader in 
forming his opinion of a man who was certainly in 
many respects remarkable. 

(i.) I begin with the entries for 1577: 

' 1577, January 16th.— The Erie of Leicester, Mr. Philip Sidney, 
Mr. Dyer,f etc., came to my house (at Mortlake). 

' 1577, January 22nd. — The Erie of Bedford came to my house. 

1 1577, March 11th. — My fall uppon my right nuckel bone, hora 
9 fere mane, wyth oyle of Hypericon {Hypericum, or St. John's 
Wort) in twenty-four howers eased above all hope : God be 
thanked for such His goodness of (to 1) His creatures. 

* 'The Private Diary of Dr. John Dee,' edited by J. 0. Halliwell 
(Phillipps) for the Camden Society, 1842. 

f This was Sir Edward Dyer, the friend of Spenser and Sidney, 
remembered by his poem ' My Mind to me a Kingdom is.' 


'1577, March 24th. — Alexander Simon, the Ninevite, came to 
me, and promised me his service into Persia. 

' 1577, May 1st. — I received from Mr. William Harbut of 
St. Gillian his notes uppon my " Monas."* 

' 1577, May 2nd. — I understode of one Vincent Murfryn his 
abbominable misusing me behinde my back ; Mr. Thomas Besbich 
told me his father is one of the cokes of the Court. 

'1577, May 20th. — I hyred the barber of Cheswik, Walter 
Hooper, to kepe my hedges and knots in as good order as he saw 
them then, and that to be done with twice cutting in the yere at 
the least, and he to have yerely five shillings, meat and drink. 

' 1577, June 26th. — Elen Lyne gave me a quarter's warning. 

'1577, August 19. — The " Hexameron Brytanicum " put to 
printing. (Published in 1577 with the title of " General and 
Rare Memorials pertayning to the perfect Art of Navigation. ") 

' 1577, November 3rd. — William Rogers of Mortlak about 7 of 
the clok in the morning, cut his own throte, by the fiende his 

' 1577, November 6th. — Sir Umfrey Gilbertt cam to me to 

' 1577, November 22nd. — I rod to Windsor to the Q. Majestie. 

' 1577, November 25th. — I spake with the Quene hora quintet, ; 
I spoke with Mr. Secretary Walsingham. \ I declared to the 
Quene her title to Greenland, Estotiland, and Friesland. 

'1577, December 1st. — I spoke with Sir Christopher Hatton ; 
he was made Knight that day. 

' 1577, December -th. — I went from the Courte at Wyndsore. 

' 1577, December 30th. — Inexplissima ilia calumnia de R. 
Edwardo, iniquissima aliqua ex parte in me denunciebatur : ante 
aliquos elapsos diro, sed . . . sua sapientia me innocentem.' 

I cannot ascertain of what calumny against 
Edward VI. Dee had been accused ; but it is to be 
hoped that his wish was fulfilled, and that he was 
acquitted of it before many days had elapsed. 

I have omitted some items relating to moneys 

* The 'Monas Hieroglyphica.' 

f The celebrated navigator, whose heroic death is one of our 
worthiest traditions. 

\ A warm and steady friend to Dr. Dee. 

chap, in.] dr. dee's diary. 95 

borrowed. It is sufficiently plain, however, that Dee 
never intended his Diary for the curious eyes of the 
public, and that it mainly consists of such memoranda 
as a man jots down for his private and personal use. 
Assuredly, many of these would never have been re- 
corded if Dee had known or conjectured that an 
inquisitive antiquarian, some three centuries later, 
would exhume the confidential pages, print them in 
imperishable type, and expose them to the world's 
cold gaze. It seems rather hard upon Dr. Dee that 
his private affairs should thus have become every- 
body's property ! Perhaps, after all, the best thing a 
man can do who keeps a diary is to commit it to the 
flames before he shuffles off his mortal coil, lest some 
laborious editor should eventually lay hands upon it, 
and publish it to the housetops with all its sins upon it ! 
But as in Dr. Dee's case the offence has been committed, 
I will not debar my readers from profiting by it. 
(ii.) 1578-1581. 

' 1578, June 30th.— I told Mr. Daniel Rogers, Mr. Hackluyt of 
the Middle Temple being by, that Kyng Arthur and King Maty, 
both of them, did conquer Gelindia, lately called Friseland, which 
he so noted presently in his written copy of Mon . . . thensis (?), 
for he had no printed boke thereof.' 

What a pity Dr. Dee has not recorded his authority 
for King Arthur's Northern conquests ! The Mr. 
Hackluyt here mentioned is the industrious compiler 
of the well-known collection of early voyages. 

Occasionally Dee relates his dreams, as on Sep- 
tember 10, 1579: 'My dream of being naked, and 
my skyn all overwrought with work, like some kinde 
of tuft mockado, with crosses blue and red ; and on 


my left arme, about the arme, in a wreath, this word 
I red — sine me nihil potestis facere.' 

Sometimes he resorts to Greek characters while 
using English words : 

1 1579, December 9th. — Qig viyr //./ vuup dpi^id 6ar on xa/u, to \p 
avd rowyzh 'ep, saivy, " Miorpsg Ass, you ap xovxuved op ^/^5, hog vafis 
fiv6r /3s Zayapiag ; fii op yob X S P S > s <raA - &° vvz ^- as @'S dot) !" 

4 1579, December 28th. — I reveled to Roger Coke the gret 
secret of the elixir of the salt o<p axsriXg, on virirov a wdpsd.' 

Other entries refer to this Mr. Roger Coke, or 
Cooke, who seems to have been Dee's pupil or appren- 
tice, and at one time to have enjoyed his confidence. 
They quarrelled seriously in 1581. 

'1581, September 5th. — Eoger Cook, who had byn with me 
from his 14 years of age till 28, of a melancholik nature, pycking 
and devising occasions of just cause to depart on the suddayn, 
about 4 of the clok in the afternone requested of me lycense to 
depart, wheruppon rose whott words between us ; and he, imagin- 
ing with himself that he had, the 12 of July, deserved my great 
displeasure, and finding himself barred from view of my philo- 
sophicall dealing with Mr. Henrik, thought that he was utterly 
recast from intended goodness toward him. Notwithstanding 
Roger Cook his unseamely dealing, I promised him, if he used 
himself toward me now in his absens, one hundred pounds as 
sone as of my own clene hability I myght spare so much ; and 
moreover, if he used himself well in life toward God and the 
world, I promised him some pretty alchimicall experiments, 
whereuppon he might honestly live.' 

' 1581, September 7th. — Roger Cook went for altogether from 

In February, 1601, however, this quarrel was 
made up. 

(iii.) Of the learned doctor's colossal credulit}^ the 

Diary supplies some curious proofs : 

' 1581, March 8th. — It was the 8 day, being "Wensday, hora 
noctis 10-11, the strange noyse in my chamber of knocking ; and 

chap, in.] dr. dee's diary. 97 

the voyce, ten times repeted, somewhat like the shriek of an owle, 
bat more longly drawn, and more softly, as it were in my 

'1581, August 3rd. — All the night very strange knocking and 
rapping in my chamber. August 4th, and this night likewise. 

•' 1581, October 9th. — Barnabas Saul, lying in the . . . hall, 
was strangely trubled by a spirituall creature about mydnight. 

: 1582, May 20th. — Robertus Gardinerus Salopiensis lactum 
mihi attulit minimum de materia lapidis, divinitus sibi revelatus 
de qua. 

' 1582, May 23rd. — Robert Gardiner declared unto me hora 4 \ 
a certeyn great philosophicall secret, as he had termed it, of a 
spirituall creature, and was this day willed to come to me and 
declare it, which was solemnly done, and with common prayer. 

'1590, August 22nd. — Ann, my nurse, had long been tempted 
by a wycked spirit : but this day it was evident how she was 
possessed of him. God is, hath byn, and shall be her protector 
and deliverer ! Amen. 

' 1590, August 25th. — Anne Frank was sorowful, well com- 
forted, and stayed in God's mercyes acknowledging. 

' 1590, August 26th. — At night I anoynted (in the name of 
Jesus) her brest with the holy oyle. 

' 1590, August 30th. — In the morning she required to be 
anoynted, and I did very devoutly prepare myself, and pray for 
virtue and powr, and Christ his blessing of the oyle to the expul- 
sion of the wycked, and then twyce anoynted, the wycked one 
did rest a while.' 

The holy oil, however, proved of no effect. The 
poor creature was insane. On September 8 she made 
an attempt to drown herself, but was prevented. On 
the 29th she eluded the dexterity of her keeper, and 
cut her throat. 

(iv.) Occasionally we meet with references to 
historic events and names, but, unfortunately, they 
are few : 

' 1581, February 23rd. — I made acquayntance with Joannes 
Bodonius, in the Chamber of Presence at Westminster, the 
ambassador being by from Monsieur.' 



Bodonius, or Bodin, was the well-known writer 
upon witchcraft. 

'1581, March 23rd.— At Mortlak came to me Hugh Smyth, 
who had returned from Magellan strayghts and Vaygatz. 

'1581, July 12th.— The Erie of Leicester fell fowly out with 
the Erie of Sussex, Lord Chamberlayn, calling each other trayter, 
whereuppon both were commanded to kepe theyr chamber at 
Greenwich, wher the court was.' 

This was the historic quarrel, of which Sir Walter 
Scott has made such effective use in his ' Kenil- 

'1583, January 13th. — On Sonday, the stage at Paris Garden 
fell down all at once, being full of people beholding the bear- 
bayting. Many being killed thereby, more hurt, and all amased. 
The godly expownd it as a due plage of God for the wickedness 
ther used, and the Sabath day so profanely spent.' 

This popular Sabbatarian argument, which occa- 
sionally crops up even in our own days, had been 
humorously anticipated, half a century before, by Sir 
Thomas More, in his 'Dyalogue' (1529): 'At Beverley 
late, much of the people being at a bear-baiting, 
the church fell suddenly down at evening-time, and 
overwhelmed some that were in it. A good fellow 
that after heard the tale told — " So," quoth he, " now 
you may see what it is to be at evening prayers when 
you should be at the bear-baiting !" ' 

The Paris Garden Theatre at Bankside had been 
erected expressly for exhibitions of bear-baiting. 
The charge for admission was a penny at the gate, a 
penny at the entry of the scaffold or platform, and a 
penny for 'quiet standing.' During the Common- 
wealth this cruel sport was prohibited ; but it was 

chap, in.] dr. dee's diary. 99 

revived at the Restoration, and not finally suppressed 
until 1835. 

' 1583, January 23rd. — The Ryght Honorable Mr. Secretary 
Walsingham came to my howse, where by good luk he found Mr. 
Adrian Gilbert (of the famous Devonshire family of seamen), and 
so talk was begonne of North West Straights discovery. 

' 1583, February 1 1th. — The Quene lying at Richmond went to 
Mr. Secretary Walsingham to dinner ; she coming by my dore, 
graciously called me to her, and so I went by her horse side, as 
far as where Mr. Hudson dwelt. Ep fiaisert a^ih fit ofiyexvpsXi o<p 
/Aovvffuvpig otuts : cS/^s (3ia8avaroc spir. 

'1583, March 6th.— I, and Mr. Adrian Gilbert and John 
Davis (the Arctic discoverer), did mete with Mr. Alderman 
Barnes, Mr. Tounson, Mr. Young and Mr. Hudson, about the 
N. W. voyage. 

' 1583, April 18th. — The Quene went from Richmond toward 
Greenwich, and at her going on horsbak, being new up, she called 
for me by Mr. Rawly (Sir Walter Raleigh) his putting her in 
mynde, and she sayd, " quod defertur non aufertur," and gave me 
her right hand to kiss. 

'1590, May 18th.— The two gentlemen, the unckle Mr 
Richard Candish (Cavendish), and his nephew, the most famous 
Mr. Thomas Candish, who had sayled round about the world, did 
visit me at Mortlake. 

' 1590, December 4th. — The Quene's Majestie called for me at 
my dore, circa 3| a meridie as she passed by, and I met her at 
Est Shene gate, where she graciously, putting down her mask, did 
say with mery chere, "I thank thee, Dee; there wus never 
promisse made, but it was broken or kept." I understode her 
Majesty to mean of the hundred angels she promised to have 
sent me this day, as she yesternight told Mr. Richard Candish. 

' 1595, October 9th. — I dyned with Sir Walter Rawlegh at 
Durham House.' 

(v.) Some of the entries which refer to Dee's con- 
nection with Lasco and Kelly are interesting : 

'1583, March 18th.— Mr. North from Poland, after he had 
byn with the Quene he came to me. I received salutation from 
Alaski, Palatine in Poland. 

' 1583, May 13th. — I became acquaynted with Albertus Laski 



at 7J at night, in the Erie of Leicester his chamber, in the court 
at Greenwich. 

'1583, May 18th. — The Prince Albertus Laski came to me at 
Mortlake, with onely two men. He came at afternone, and 
tarryed supper, and after sone set. 

' 1583, June 15th. — About 5 of the clok cum the Polonian 
prince, Lord Albert Lasky, down from Bisham, where he had 
lodged the night before, being returned from Oxford, whither he 
had gon of purpose to see the universityes, wher he was very 
honorably used and enterteyned. He had in his company Lord 
Russell, Sir Philip Sydney, and other gentlemen : he was rowed 
by the Quene's men, he had the barge covered with the Quene's 
cloth, the Quene's trumpeters, etc. He came of purpose to do 
me honour, for which God be praysed ! 

' 1583, September 21st. — We went from Mortlake, and so the 
Lord Albert Lasky, I, Mr. E. Kelly, our wives, my children and 
familie, we went toward our two ships attending for us, seven or 
eight myle below Gravesende. 

' 1586, September 14th. — Trebonam venimus. 

' 1586, October 18th. — E. K. recessit a Trebona versus Pragam 
curru delatus ; mansit hie per tres hebdomadas. 

' 1586, December 19th. — Ad gratificandam Domino Edouardo 
Garlando, et Francisco suo fratri, qui Edouardus nuncius mihi 
missus erat ab Imperatore Moschorise ut ad ilium venirem, E. K. 
fecit proleolem (?) lapidis in proportione unius . . . gravi arense 
super quod vulgaris oz. et | et producta est optime auri oz. fere : 
quod aurum post distribuimus a crucibolo una dedimus Edouardo. 

'1587, January 18th. — Eediit E. K. a Praga. E. K. brought 
with him from the Lord Rosenberg to my wyfe a chayne and 
juell estemed at 300 duckettes ; 200 the juell stones, and 100 the 

' 1587, September 28th.— I delivered to Mr. Ed. Kelley 
(earnestly requiring it as his part) the half of all the animall 
which was made. It is to weigh 20 oz. ; he wayed it himself in 
my chamber : he bowght his waights purposely for it. My lord 
had spoken to me before for some, but Mr. Kelly had not 

' 1587, October 28th and 29th. — John Carp did begyn to make 
furnaces over the gate, and he used of my rownd bricks, and for 
the yron pot was contented now to use the lesser bricks. 60 to 
make a furnace. 


' 1587, November 8th. — E, K. terribilis expostulatio, accusatio, 
etc., hora tertia a meridie. 

' 1587, December 12th. — Afternone somewhat, Mr. Ed. Kelly 
[did] his lamp overthrow, the spirit of wyne long spent to nere, 
and the glas being not stayed with buks about it, as it was Avont 
to be ; and the same glass so flitting on one side, the spirit was 
spilled out, and burnt all that was on the table where it stode, 
lynnen and written bokes, —as the bok of Zacharias, with the 
" Alkanor " that I translated out of French, for some by [boy 1] 
spirituall could not ; " Rowlaschy," his third boke of waters 
philosophicall ; the boke called " Angelicum Opus ;" all in 
pictures of the work from the beginning to the end ; the copy of 
the man of Badwise " Conclusions for the Transmution of 
Metalls ;" and 40 leaves in 4to., entitled " Extractiones Dunstat," 
which he himself extracted and noted out of Dunstan his boke, 
and the very boke of Dunstan was but cast on the bed hard by 
from the table.' 

This so-called ' Book of St. Dunstan ' was one 
which Kelly professed to have bought from a Welsh 
innkeeper, who, it was alleged, had found it among 
the ruins of Glastonbury. 

' 1588, February 8th. — Mr. E. K., at nine of the clok, afternone, 
sent for me to his laboratory over the gate to see how he distilled 
sericon, according as in tyme past and of late he heard of me out 
of Ripley. God lend his heart to all charity and virtue ! 

' 1588, August 24th. — Vidi divinam aquam demonstratione 
magnifici domini et amici mei incomparabilis D[omini] Ed. Kelii 
ante meridiem tertia hora. 

' 1588, December 7th. — ypsar <pp$vdxiT TpopiGid pop pavi, av8 rvvo 
ouvxig <pop 8s dmy.'* 

* This Diary, written in a very small and illegible hand on the 
margins of old almanacs, was discovered by Mr. W. H. Black in 
the Ashmolean Library at Oxford. 




The secrecy, the mystery, and the supernatural pre- 
tensions associated with the so-called occult sciences 
necessarily recommended them to the knave and 
the cheat as instruments of imposition. If some of 
the earlier professors of Hermeticism, the first seekers 
after the philosophical stone, were sincere in their 
convictions, and actuated by pure and lofty motives, 
it is certain that their successors were mostly dis- 
honest adventurers, bent upon turning to their 
personal advantage the credulous weakness of their 
fellow- creatures. With some of these the chief object 
was money ; others may have craved distinction and 
influence ; others may have sought the gratification 
of passions more degrading even than avarice or 
ambition. At all events, alchemy became a synonym 
for fraud : a magician was accepted as, by right of 
his vocation, an impostor ; and the poet and the 
dramatist pursued him with the whips of satire, 
invective, and ridicule, while the law prepared for 
him the penalties usually inflicted upon criminals. 
These penalties, it is true, he very frequently con- 


trived to elude ; in many instances, by the exercise of 
craft and cunning ; in others, by the protection of 
powerful personages, to whom he had rendered ques- 
tionable services ; and again in others, because the 
agent of the law did not care to hunt him down so 
long as he forbore to bring upon himself the glare of 
publicity. Thus it came to pass that generation after 
generation saw the alchemist still practising his un- 
wholesome trade, and probably he retained a good deal 
of his old notoriety down to as late a date as the 
beginning of the eighteenth century. It must be 
admitted, however, that his alchemical pursuits 
gradually sank into obscurity, and that it was more 
in the character of an astrologer, and as a manufac- 
turer of love-potions and philtres, of charms and 
waxen images — not to say as a pimp and a bawd — 
that he looked for clients. In the Spectator, for in- 
stance, that admirable mirror of English social life in 
the early part of the eighteenth century, you will find 
no reference to alchemy or the alchemist ; but in the 
Guardian Addison's light humour plays readily enough 
round the delusions or deceptions of the astrologer. 
The reader will remember the letter which Addison 
pretends to have received with great satisfaction from 
an astrologer in Moorfields. And in contemporary 
literature generally, it will be found that the august 
inquirer into the secrets of nature, who aimed at the 
transmutation of metals and the possession of im- 
mortal youth, had by this time been succeeded by an 
obscure and vulgar cheat, who beguiled the ignorant 
and weak by his jargon about planetary bodies, and 


his cheap stock-in-trade of a wig and a gown, a 
wand, a horoscope or two, and a few coloured vials. 
This ' modern magician ' is, indeed, a common char- 
acter in eighteenth -century fiction. 

But a century earlier the magician retained some 
little of the ' pomp and circumstance ' of the old 
magic, and was still the confidant of princes and 
nobles, and not seldom the depository of State secrets 
involving the reputation and the honour of men and 
women of the highest position. So much as this 
may be truly asserted of Simon Form an, who 
flourished in the dark and criminal period of the 
reign of James I., when the foul practices of mediaeval 
Italy were transferred for the first and last time to an 
English Court. Forman was born at Quidham, a 
village near Wilton, in Wilts, in 1552. Little is 
known of his early years ; but he seems to have 
received a good education at the Sarum Grammar 
School, and afterwards to have been apprenticed to a 
druggist in that ancient city. Endowed with con- 
siderable natural gifts and an ambitious temper, he 
made his way to Oxford, and was entered at Magda- 
lene College, but owing to lack of means was unable 
to remain as a student for more than two years. To 
improve his knowledge of astrology, astronomy, and 
medicine, he visited Portugal, the Low Countries, 
and the East. 

On his return he began to practise as a physician 
in Fhilpot Lane, London ; but, as he held no 
diploma, was four times imprisoned and fined as a 
quack. Eventually he found himself compelled to 


take the degree of M.D. at Cambridge (June 27, 
1603) ; after which he settled in Lambeth, and carried 
on the twofold profession of physician and astrologer. 
In his comedy of ' The Silent Woman,' Ben Jonson 
makes one of his characters say : ' I would say thou 
hadst the best philtre in the world, and could do 
more than Madam Medea or Doctor Forman,' whence 
we may infer that the medicines he compounded were 
not of the orthodox kind or approved by the faculty. 
Lovers resorted to him for potions which should 
soften obdurate hearts ; beauties for powders and 
washes which might preserve their waning charms ; 
married women for drugs to relieve them of the 
reproach of sterility ; rakes who desired to corrupt 
virtue, and impatient heirs who longed for immediate 
possession of their fortunes, for compounds which 
should enfeeble, or even kill. Such was the character 
of Doctor Forman's sinister ' practice.' Among those 
who sought his unscrupulous assistance was the in- 
famous Countess of Essex, though Forman died 
before her nefarious schemes reached the stage of 

His death, which took place on the 12th of Sep- 
tember, 1611, was attended (it is said) by remark- 
able circumstances. The Sunday night previous, ' his 
wife and he being at supper in their garden-house, 
she being pleasant, told him she had been informed 
he could resolve whether man or wife should die 
first. "Whether shall I," quoth she, "bury you or 
no V " Oh, Truais," for so he called her, " thou shalt 
bury me, but thou wilt much repent it." " Yea, but 


how long first ?" " I shall die," said he, " on Thurs- 
day night." Monday came ; all was well. Tuesday 
came, he not sick. Wednesday came, and still he 
was well, with which his impertinent wife did much 
twit him in his teeth. Thursday came, and dinner 
was ended, he very well ; he went down to the water- 
side, and took a pair of oars to go to some buildings 
he was in hand with in Puddle Dock. Being in the 
middle of the Thames, he presently fell down, only 
saying, " An impost, an impost," and so died. A 
most sad storm of wind immediately following.' 

It seems as if these men could never die without 
bringing clown upon the earth a grievous storm or 
tempest ! The preceding story, however, partakes 
too much of the marvellous to be very easily accepted. 

According to Anthony Wood, this renowned 
magician was 'a person that in horary questions, 
especially theft, was very judicious and fortunate ' 
(in other words, he was well served by his spies and 
instruments) ; ' so, also, in sickness, which was 
indeed his masterpiece ; and had good success in 
resolving questions about marriage, and in other 
questions very intricate. He professed to his wife 
that there would be much trouble about Sir Robert 
Carr, Earl of Somerset, and the Lady Frances, his 
wife, who frequently resorted to him, and from whose 
company he would sometimes lock himself in his 
study one whole day. He had compounded things 
upon the desire of Mrs. Anne Turner, to make the 
said Sir Robert Carr calid quo ad hanc, and Robert, 
Earl of Essex frigid quo ad hanc ; that his, to his wife 


the Lady Frances, who had a mind to get rid of him 
and be wedded to the said Sir Robert. He had also 
certain pictures in wax, representing Sir Robert and 
the said Lady, to cause a love between each other, 
with other such like things.' 


Lady Frances Howard, second daughter of the 
Earl of Suffolk, was married, at the age of thirteen, 
to Robert, Earl of Essex, who was only a year older. 
The alliance was dictated by political considerations, 
and had been recommended by the King, who did 
not fail to attend the gorgeous festivities that cele- 
brated the occasion (January 5th, 1606). As it was 
desirable that the boy-bridegroom should be separated 
for awhile from his child- wife, the young Earl was sent 
to travel on the Continent, and he did not return to 
claim his rights as a husband until shortly after 
Christmas, 1609, when he had just passed his 
eighteenth birthday. In the interval his wife had 
developed into one of the most beautiful, and, unfor- 
tunately, one of the most dissolute, women in 
England. Naturally impetuous, self-willed, and un- 
scrupulous, she had received neither firm guidance nor 
wise advice at the hands of a coarse and avaricious 
mother. Nor was James's Court a place for the cul- 
tivation of the virtues of modesty and self-restraint. 
The young Countess, therefore, placed no control upon 
her passions, and had already become notorious for her 
disregard of those obligations which her sex usuallv 
esteem as sacred. At one time she intrigued with 


Prince Henry, but he dismissed her in angry disgust 
at her numerous infidelities. Finally, she crossed 
the path of the King's handsome favourite, Sir Robert 
Carr, and a guilty passion sprang up between them. 
It is painful to record that it was encouraged by her 
great-uncle, Lord Northampton, who hoped through 
Carr's influence to better his position at Court ; and 
it was probably at his mansion in the Strand that the 
plot was framed of which I am about to tell the issue. 
But the meetings between the two lovers sometimes 
took place at the house of one of Carr's agents, a 
man named Coppinger. 

At first, when Essex returned, the Countess re- 
fused to live with him ; but her parents ultimately 
compelled her to treat him as her husband, and even 
to accompany him to his country seat at Chartley. 
There she remained for three years, wretched with an 
inconceivable wretchedness, and animated with wild 
dreams of escape from the husband she hated to the 
paramour she loved. 

For this purpose she sought the assistance of Mrs. 
Anne Turner, the widow of a respectable physician, 
and a woman of considerable personal charms, who 
had become the mistress of Sir Arthur Mainwaring.* 
Mrs. Turner introduced her to Dr. Simon Forman, 
and an agreement was made that Forman should 

* This woman has a place in the records of fashion as intro- 
ducer of the novelty of yellow-starching the extensive ruffs 
which were then generally worn. When Lord Chief Justice 
Coke sentenced her to death (as we shall hereafter see) for her 
share in the murder of Overbury, he ordered that ' as she was the 
person who had brought yellow-starched ruffs into vogue, she 


exercise his magical powers to fix young Carr's affec- 
tions irrevocably upon the Countess. The intercourse 
between the astrologer and the ladies became very 
frequent, and the former exercised all his skill to 
carry out their desires. At a later period, Mrs. 
Forman deposed in court ' that Mrs. Turner and her 
husband would sometimes be locked up in his study 
for three or four hours together,' and the Countess 
learned to speak of him as her ' sweet father.' 

The Countess next conceived the most flagitious 
designs against her husband's health ; and, to carry 
them out, again sought the assistance of her un- 
scrupulous quack, who accordingly set to work, 
made waxen images, invented new charms, supplied 
drugs to be administered in the Earl's drinks, and 
washes in which his linen was to be steeped. These 
measures, however, did not prove effectual, and 
letters addressed by the Countess at this time to 
Mrs. Turner and Dr. Forman complain that ' my lord 
is very well as ever he was,' while reiterating the sad 
story of her hatred towards him, and her design to 
be rid of him at all hazards. In the midst of the 
intrigue came the sudden death of Dr. Forman, who 
seems to have felt no little anxiety as to his share in 
it, and, on one occasion, as we have seen, professed 
to his wife ' that there would be much trouble about 
Carr and the Countess of Essex, who frequently 
resorted unto him, and from whose company he would 

should be hanged in that dress, that the same might end in shame 
and detestation.' As the hangman was also adorned with yellow 
ruffs, it is no wonder that Coke's prediction was amply fulfilled. 


sometimes lock himself in his study a whole day.' 
Mrs. Forman, when, at a later date, examined in 
court, deposed 'that Mrs. Turner came to her house 
immediately after her husband's death, and did de- 
mand certain pictures which were in her husband's 
study, namely, one picture in wax, very mysteriously 
apparelled in silk and satin ; as also another made in 
the form of a naked woman, spreading and laying 
forth her hair in a glass, which Mrs. Turner did con- 
fidently affirm to be in a box, and she knew in what 
part of the room in the study they were.' We also 
learn that Forman, in reply to the Countess's re- 
proaches, averred that the devil, as he was informed, 
had no power over the person of the Earl of Essex. 
The Countess, however, was not to be diverted from 
her object, and, after Forman's death, employed two 
or three other conjurers — one Gresham, and a Doctor 
Lavoire, or Savory, being specially mentioned. 

What followed has left a dark and shameful stain 
on the record of the reign of James I. The King 
personally interfered on behalf of his favourite, and 
resolved that Essex should be compelled to surrender 
his wife. For this purpose the Countess was in- 
structed to bring against him a charge of conjugal 
incapacity ; and a Commission of right reverend pre- 
lates and learned lawyers, under the presidency- — one 
blushes to write it — of Abbot, Archbishop of Canter- 
bury, was appointed to investigate the loathsome 
details. A jury of matrons was empanelled to deter- 
mine the virginity of Lady Essex, and, as a pure 
youno - girl was substituted in her place, their verdict 


was, of course, in the affirmative ! As for the Com- 
mission, it decided, after long debates, by a majority 
of seven to five, that the Lady Frances was entitled 
to a divorce — the majority being obtained, however, 
only by the King's active exercise of his personal influ- 
ence (September, 1613). The lady having thus been 
set free from her vows by a most shameless intrigue, 
James hurried on a marriage between her and his 
favourite, and on St. Stephen's Day it was cele- 
brated with great splendour. In the interval Carr 
had been raised to the rank and title of Earl of 
Somerset, and his wife had previously been made 
Viscountess Rochester. 

A strenuous opponent of these unhallowed nuptials 
had been found in the person of Sir Thomas Over- 
bury, a young man of brilliant parts, who stood 
towards Somerset in much the same relation that 
Somerset stood towards the King. At the outset he 
had looked with no disfavour on his patron's intrigue 
with Lady Frances, but had actually composed the 
love-letters which went to her in the Earl's name ; 
but, for reasons not clearly understood, he assumed a 
hostile attitude when the marriage was proposed. As 
he had acquired a knowledge of secrets which would 
have made him a dangerous witness before the Divorce 
Commission, the intriguers felt the necessity of getting 
him out of the way. Accordingly, the King pressed 
upon him a diplomatic appointment on the Continent, 
and when this was refused committed him to the 
Tower. There he lingered for some months in failing 
health until a dose of poison terminated his sufferings 


on September 13, 1613, rather more than three months 
before the completion of the marriage he v had striven 
ineffectually to prevent. This poison was unquestion- 
ably administered at the instigation of Lady Essex, 
though under what circumstances it is not easy to 
determine. The most probable supposition seems to 
be that an assistant of Lobell, a French apothecary 
who attended Overbury, was bribed to administer the 
fatal drug. 

For two years the murder thus foully committed 
remained unknown, but in the summer of 1615, when 
James's affection for Somerset was rapidly declining, 
and a new and more splendid favourite had risen in 
the person of George Villiers, some information of the 
crime was conveyed to the King by his secretary, 
Winwood. How Winwood obtained this information 
is still a mystery ; but we may, perhaps, conjecture 
that he received it from the apothecary's boy, who, 
being taken ill at Flushing, may have sought to 
relieve his conscience by confession. A few weeks 
afterwards, Helwys, the Lieutenant of the Tower, 
under an impression that the whole matter had been 
discovered, acknowledged that frequent attempts had 
been made to poison Overbury in his food, but that 
he had succeeded in defeating them until the apothe- 
cary's boy eluded his vigilance. Who sent the poison 
he did not know. The only person whose name he 
had heard in connection with it was Mrs. Turner, and 
the agent employed to convey it was, he said, a 
certain Richard Weston, a former servant of Mrs. 
Turner, who had been admitted into the Tower as a 


keeper, and entrusted with the immediate charge of 

On being examined, Weston at first denied all 
knowledge of the affair ; but eventually he confessed 
that, having been rebuked by Helwys, he had thrown 
away the medicaments with which he had been en- 
trusted ; and next he accused Lady Somerset of 
instigating him to administer to Overbury a poison, 
which would be forwarded to him for that purpose. 
Then one Rawlins, a servant of the Earl, gave infor- 
mation that he had been similarly employed. As 
soon as Somerset heard that he was implicated, he 
wrote to the King protesting his innocence, and de- 
claring that a conspiracy had been hatched against 
him. But many suspicious particulars being dis- 
covered, he was committed to the custody of Sir 
Oliver St. John ; while Weston, on October 23, was 
put on his trial for the murder of Overbury, and 
found guilty, though no evidence was adduced against 
him which would have satisfied a modern jury. 

On November 7 Mrs. Turner was brought before 
the Court. Her trial excited the most profound 
curiosity, and Westminster Hall was crowded by an 
eager multitude, who shuddered with superstitious 
emotion when the instruments employed by Forman 
in his magical rites were exposed to view.* It would 

* Arthur Wilson, in his ' Memoirs,' furnishes a strange account 
of the practices in which Lady Essex, Mrs. Turner, and the con- 
jurer took part. ' The Countess of Essex,' he says, ' to strengthen 
her designs, finds out one of her own stamp, Mrs. Turner, a doctor 
of physic's widow, a woman whom prodigality and looseness had 
brought low ; yet her pride would make her fly any pitch, rather 


seem that Mrs. Turner, when arrested, immediately 
sent her maid to Forman's widow, to urge her to 

than fall into the jaws of Want. These two counsel together how 
they might stop the current of the Earl's affection towards his 
wife, and make a clear passage for the Viscount in his place. To 
effect which, one Dr. Forman, a reputed conjurer (living at 
Lambeth) is found out ; the women declare to him their grievances ; 
he promises sudden help, and, to amuse them, frames many little 
pictures of brass and wax — some like the Viscount and Countess, 
whom he must unite and strengthen, others like the Earl of Essex, 
whom he must debilitate and weaken ; and then with philtrous 
powders, and such drugs, he works upon their persons. And to 
practise what effects his arts would produce, Mrs. Turner, that 
loved Sir Arthur Manwaring (a gentleman then attending the 
Prince), and willing to keep him to her, gave him some of the 
powder, which wrought so violently with him, that through a 
storm of rain and thunder he rode fifteen miles one dark night 
to her house, scarce knowing where he was till he was there. 
Such is the devilish and mad rage of lust, heightened with art 
and fancy. 

'These things, matured and ripened by this juggler Forman, 
gave them assurance of happy hopes. Her courtly incitements, 
that drew the Viscount to observe her, she imputed to the 
operation of those drugs he had tasted ; and that harshness and 
stubborn comportment she expressed to her husband, making 
him (weary of such entertainments) to absent himself, she thought 
proceeded from the effects of those unknown potions and powders 
that were administered to him. So apt is the imagination to take 
impressions of those things we are willing to believe. 

' The good Earl, finding his wife nurseled in the Court, and seeing 
no possibility to reduce her to reason till she were estranged from the 
relish and taste of the delights she sucked in there, made his con- 
dition again known to her father. The old man, being troubled with 
his daughter's disobedience, embittered her, being near him, with 
wearisome and continued chidings, to wean her from the sweets 
she doted upon, and with much ado forced her into the country. 
But how harsh was the parting, being sent away from the place 
where she grew and flourished ! Yet she left all her engines and 
imps behind her : the old doctor and his confederate, Mrs. Turner, 
must be her two supporters. She blazons all her miseries to them 


burn — before the Privy Council sent to search her 
house — a ny of her husband's papers that might con- 
tain dangerous secrets. She acted on the advice, but 
overlooked a few documents of great importance, in- 
cluding a couple of letters written by Lady Essex to 
Mrs. Turner and Forman. The various articles 
seized in Forman's house referred, however, not to 
the murder of Overbury, but to the conjurations em- 
ployed against the Earls of Somerset and Essex. 
' There was shewed in Court,' says a contemporary 
report, ' certaine pictures of a man and a woman made 
in lead, and also a moulde of brasse wherein they 
were cast, a blacke scarfe alsoe full of white crosses, 
which Mrs. Turner had in her custody/ besides ' in- 
chanted paps and other pictures.' There was also a 
parcel of Forman's written charms and incantations. 
' In some of those parchments the devill had par- 
ticular names, who were conjured to torment the lord 
Somersett and Sir Arthur Mannering, if theire loves 

at her depart, and moistens the way with her tears. Chartley 
was an hundred miles from her happiness ; and a little time thus 
lost is her eternity. When she came thither, though in the 
pleasantest part of the summer, she shut herself up in her 
chamber, not suffering a beam of light to peep upon her dark 
thoughts. If she stirred out of her chamber, it was in the dead 
of the night, when sleep had taken possession of all others but 
those about her. In this implacable, sad, and discontented 
humour, she continued some months, always murmuring against, 
but never giving the least civil respect to, her husband, which the 
good man suffered patiently, being loth to be the divulger of his 
own misery ; yet, having a manly courage, he would sometimes 
break into a little passion to see himself slighted and neglected ; 
but having never found better from her, it was the easier to bear 
with her.' 



should not contynue, the one to the Countesse, the 
other to Mrs. Turner.' Visions of a dingy room 
haunted by demons, who had been summoned from 
the infernal depths by Forman's potent spells, stimu- 
lated the imagination of the excited crowd until they 
came to believe that the fiends were actually there in 
the Court, listening in wrath to the exposure of their 
agents ; and, behold ! in the very heat and flush of 
this extravagant credulity, a sudden crack was heard 
in one of the platforms or scaffolds, causing ' a great 
fear, tumult, and commotion amongst the spectators 
and through the hall, every one fearing hurt, as if the 
devil had been present and grown angry to have his 
workmanship known by such as were not his own 
scholars.' The narrator adds that there was also a 
note showed in Court, made by Dr. Forman, and 
written on parchment, signifying what ladies loved 
what lords ; but the Lord Chief Justice would not 
suffer it to be read openly. This ■ note,' or book, was a 
diary of the doctor's dealings with the persons named ; 
and a scandalous tradition affirms that the Lord Chief 
Justice would not have it read because his wife's name 
was the first which caught his eye when he glanced 
at the contents. 

Mrs. Turner's conviction followed as a matter of 
course upon Weston's. There was no difficulty in 
proving that she had been concerned in his pro- 
ceedings, and that if he had committed a crime she 
was particeps criminis. Both she and Weston died 
with an acknowledgment on their lips that they 
were justly punished. Her end, according to all 


accounts, was sufficiently edifying. Bishop Good- 
man quotes the narrative of an eye-witness, one 
Mr. John Castle, in which we read that, ' if detesta- 
tion of painted pride, lust, malice, powdered hair, 
yellow bands, and the rest of the wardrobe of Court 
vanities ; if deep sighs, tears, confessions, ejacula- 
tions of the soul, admonitions of all sorts of 
people to make God and an unspotted conscience 
always our friends ; if the protestation of faith and 
hope to be washed by the same Saviour and the like 
mercies that Magdalene was, be signs and demon- 
strations of a blessed penitent, then I will tell you 
that this poor broken woman went a cruce ad 
gloriam, and now enjoys the presence of her and our 
Redeemer. Her body being taken down by her 
brother, one Norton, servant to the Prince, was in a 
coach conveyed to St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, where, 
in the evening of the same day, she had an honest 
and a decent burial.' Her sad fate seems to have 
appealed strongly to public sympathy, and to have 
drawn a veil of oblivion over the sins and follies 
of her misspent life. A contemporary versifier 
speaks of her in language worthy of a Lucretia : 

' how the cruel cord did misbecome 
Her comely neck ! and yet by Law's just doom 
Had been her death. Those locks, like golden thread, 
That used in youth to enshrine her globe-like head, 
Hung careless down ; and that delightful limb, 
Her snow-white nimble hand, that used to trim 
Those tresses up, now spitefully did tear 
And rend the same ; nor did she now forbear 
To beat that breast of more than lily-white, 
Which sometime was the bed of sweet delight. 


From those two springs where joy did whilom dwell, 
Grief's pearly drops upon her pale cheek fell.' 

The next to suffer was an apothecary named 
Franklin, from whom the poison had been procured. 
' Before he was executed, he threw out wild hints of 
the existence of a plot far exceeding in villainy that 
which was in course of investigation. He tried to 
induce all who would listen to him to believe that 
he knew of a conspiracy in which many great lords 
were concerned ; and that not only the late Prince 
[Henry] had been removed by unfair means, but that 
a plan had been made to get rid of the Electress 
Palatine and her husband. As, however, all this 
was evidently only dictated by a hope of escaping the 
gallows, he was allowed to share with the others a 
fate which he richly deserved.' 

After the execution of these smaller culprits, some 
months elapsed before Bacon, as Attorney-General, 
was directed to proceed against the greater. It was 
not until May 24, 1616, that the Countess of 
Somerset was put upon her trial before the High 
Steward's Court in Westminster Hall. Contem- 
porary testimony differs strangely as to her behaviour. 
One authority says that, whilst the indictment was 
being read, she turned pale and trembled, and when 
Weston's name was mentioned hid her face behind 
her fan. Another remarks : ' She won pity by her 
sober demeanour, which, in my opinion,' he adds, 
' was more curious and confident than was fit for a 
lady in such distress, yet she shed, or made show of 


some tears, divers times.' The evidence against her 
was too strong to be confuted, and she pleaded guilty. 
When the judge asked her if she had anything to 
say in arrest of judgment, she replied, in low, 
almost inaudible tones, that she could not extenuate 
her fault. She implored mercy, and begged that 
the lords would intercede with the King on her 
behalf. Sentence was then pronounced, and the 
prisoner sent back to the Tower, to await the King's 

On the following day the Earl was tried. Bacon 
again acted as prosecutor, and in his opening speech 
he said that the evidence to be brought forward by 
the Government would prove four points : I. That 
Somerset bore malice against Overbury before the 
latter's imprisonment ; 2. That he devised the plan 
by which that imprisonment was effected ; 3. That 
he actually sent poisons to the Tower ; 4. That 
he had made strenuous efforts to conceal the proofs 
of his guilt. He added that he himself would 
undertake the management of the case on the first 
two points, leaving his subordinates, Montague and 
Crew, to deal with the third and fourth. 

Bacon had chosen for himself a comparatively easy 
task. The ill-feeling that had existed between 
Overbury and his patron was beyond doubt ; while 
it was conclusively shown, and, indeed, hardly dis- 
puted, that Somerset had had a hand in Overbury's 
imprisonment, and in the appointment of Helwys 
and Weston as his custodians. Passages from Lord 
Northampton's letters to the Earl proved the exist- 


ence of a plot in which both were mixed up, and 
that Helwys had expressed an opinion that Over- 
bury' s death would be a satisfactory termination of 
the imbroglio. But he might probably have based 
this opinion on the fact that Overbury was seriously 
ill, and his recovery more than doubtful. 

When Bacon had concluded his part of the case, 
Ellesmere, who presided, urged Somerset to confess 
his guilt. ' No, my lord/ said the Earl calmly, 
' I came hither with a resolution to defend myself.' 

Montague then endeavoured to demonstrate that 
the poison of which Overbury died had been adminis- 
tered with Somerset's knowledge. But he could 
get no further than this : that Somerset had been 
in the habit of sending powders, as well as tarts and 
jellies, to Overbury ; but he did not, and could not 
prove that the powders were poisonous. Nor was 
Serjeant Crew able to advance the case beyond the 
point reached by Bacon ; he could argue only on the 
assumption of Somerset's guilt, which his colleagues 
had failed to establish. 

In our own day it would be held that the case for 
the prosecution had completely broken down ; and I 
must add my conviction that Somerset was in no 
way privy to Overbury's murder. He had assented 
to his imprisonment, because he was weary of his 
importunity ; but he still retained a kindly feeling 
towards him, and was evidently grieved at the 
serious nature of his illness. As a matter of fact, 
it was not proved even that Overbury died of 
poison, though I admit that this is put beyond 


doubt by collateral circumstances. Somerset's posi- 
tion, however, before judges who were more or legs 
hostilely disposed, with the agents of the Crown bent 
on obtaining his conviction, and he himself without 
legal advisers, was both difficult and dangerous. He 
was embarrassed by the necessity of keeping back 
part of his case. He was unable to tell the whole 
truth about Overbury's imprisonment. He could 
not make known all that had passed between Lady 
Essex and himself before marriage, or that Over- 
bury had been committed to the Tower to prevent 
him from giving evidence which would have certainly 
quashed Lady Essex's proceedings for a divorce. 
And, in truth, if he mustered up courage to tell 
this tale of shame, he could not hope that the peers, 
most of whom were his enemies, would give credence 
to it, or that, if they believed it, they would refrain 
from delivering an adverse verdict. 

Yet he bore himself with courage and ability, 
when, by the flickering light of torches, for the day 
had gone down, he rose to make his defence. Ac- 
knowledging that he had consented to Overbury's 
imprisonment in order that he might throw no 
obstacles in the way of his marriage with Lady 
Essex, he firmly denied that he had known anything 
of attempts to poison him. The tarts he had sent 
were wholesome, and of a kind to which Overbury 
was partial ; if any had been tampered with, he was 
unaware of it. The powders he had received from 
Sir Eobert Killigrew, and simply sent them on ; and 
Overbury had admitted, in a letter which was before 


the Court, that they had done him no mischief. 
Here Crew interrupted : The three powders from 
Killigrew had been duly accounted for ; but there 
was a fourth powder, which had not been accounted 
for, and had (it was assumed) contained poison. 
Now, it was improbable that the Earl could re- 
member the exact history of every powder sent to 
Overbury two years before, and, besides, it was a 
mere assumption on the part of the prosecution that 
this fourth powder was poison. But Somerset's 
inability to meet this point was made the most of, 
and gave the peers a sufficient pretext for declaring 
him guilty. The Earl received his sentence with 
the composure he had exhibited throughout the 
arduous day, which had shown how a nature 
enervated by luxury and indulgence can be braced 
up by the chill air of adversity, and contented him- 
self with expressing a hope that the Court would 
intercede with the King for mercy. 

I have dwelt at some length on the details of this 
celebrated trial because it is the last (in English 
jurisprudence) in which men and women of rank 
have been mixed up with the secret practices of the 
magician ; though, for other reasons, it is one of 
very unusual interest. In briefly concluding the 
recital, I may state that James was greatly relieved 
when the trial was over, and he found that nothing 
damaging to himself had been disclosed. It is 
certain that Somerset was in possession of some 
dark secret, the revelation of which was much 
dreaded by the King ; so that precautions had even 

CHAP. IV.] DR. LAMBE. 123 

been taken, or at all events meditated, to remove 
him from the Court if he entered upon the dangerous 
topic, and to continue the trial in his absence. He 
would probably have been silenced by force. The 
Earl, however, refrained from hazardous disclosures, 
and James could breathe in peace. 

On July 13, the King pardoned Lady Somerset, 
who was certainly the guiltiest of all concerned. 
The Earl was left in prison, with sentence of death 
suspended over him for several years, in order, no 
doubt, to terrify him into silence. A few months 
before his death, James appears to have satisfied 
himself that he had nothing to fear, and ordered the 
Earl's release (January, 1622). Had he lived, he 
would probably have restored him to his former in- 
fluence and favour.* 


A worthy successor to Simon Forman appeared in 
Dr. Lambe, or Lamb, who, in the first two Stuart 
reigns, attained a wide celebrity as an astrologer and 
a quack doctor. A curious story respecting his pre- 
tended magical powers is related by Richard Baxter 
in his < Certainty of the World of Spirits ' (1691). 
Meeting two acquaintances in the street, who 
evidently desired some experience of his skill in the 
occult art, he invited them home with him, and 

* See ' The State Trials ;' ' The Carew Letters f Spedding, 
1 Life and Letters of Lord Bacon ;' Amos, ' The Grand Oyer of 
Poisoning ;' and S. K. Gardiner, ' History of England,' vol. iv., 


ushered them into an inner chamber. There, to their 
amazement, a tree sprang up before their eyes in the 
middle of the floor. Before they had ceased to 
wonder at this sight surprising, three diminutive men 
entered, with tiny axes in their hands, and, nimbly 
setting to work, soon felled the tree. The doctor 
then dismissed his guests, who went away with a 
conviction that he was as potent a necromancer as 
Roger Bacon or Cornelius Agrippa. 

That same night a tremendous gale arose, so that 
the house of one of Lambe's visitors rocked to and 
fro, threatening to topple over with a crash, and bury 
the man and his wife in the ruins. In great terror 
his wife inquired, ' Were you not at Dr. Lambe's 
to-day?' The husband acknowledged that it was so. 
' And did you bring anything away from his house ?' 
Yes: when the dwarfs felled the tree, he had been 
foolish enough to pick up some of the chips, and put 
them in his pocket. Here was the cause of the hurri- 
cane ! With all speed he got rid of the chips ; the 
storm immediately subsided, and the remainder of the 
night was spent in undisturbed repose. 

Lambe was notorious for the lewdness of his life 
and his evil habits. But his supposed skill and 
success as a soothsayer led to his being frequently 
consulted by George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, 
with the result that each helped to swell the volume 
of the other's unpopularity. The Puritans were 
angered at the Duke's resort to a man of Lambe's 
character and calling ; the populace hated Lambe as 
the tool and instrument of the Duke. In 1628 the 

CHAP. IV.] DR. LAMBE. 125 

brilliant favourite of Charles I. was the best-hated 
man in England, and every slander was hurled at 
him that the resources of political animosity could 
supply. The ballads of the time — an indisputably 
satisfactory barometer of public opinion — inveighed 
bitterly and even furiously against his luxuriousness, 
his love of dress, his vanity, his immorality, and his 
proved incompetence as soldier and statesman. He 
was accused of having poisoned Lords Hamilton, 
Lennox, Southampton, Oxford, even James I. him- 
self. He had sat in his boat, out of the reach of 
danger, while his soldiers perished under the guns of 
Ee. He had corrupted the chastest women in England 
by means of the love-philtre which Dr. Lambe con- 
cocted for him. In a word, the air was full of the 
darkest and dreadest accusations. 

Lambe's connection with the Duke brought on a 
catastrophe which his magical art failed to foresee or 
prevent. He was returning, one summer evening — it 
was June 13 — from the play at the Fortune Theatre, 
when he was recognised by a company of London 
prentices. With a fine scent for the game, they 
crowded round the unfortunate magician, and hooted 
at him as the Duke's devil, hustling him to and fro, 
and treating' him with cruel roughness. To save 
himself from further violence, he hired some sailors 
to escort him to a tavern in Moorgate Street, where 
he supped. On going forth again, he found that 
many of his persecutors lingered about the door ; and, 
bursting into a violent rage, he threatened them with 
his vengeance, and told them ' he would make them 


dance naked.' Still guarded by his sailors, he 
hurried homeward, with the mob close at his heels, 
shouting and gesticulating, and increasing every 
minute both in numbers and fury. In the Old 
Jewry he turned to face them with his protectors ; 
but this movement of defence, construed into one of 
defiance, stimulated the passions of the populace to an 
ungovernable pitch; they made a rush at him, from 
which he took refuge in the Windmill tavern. A 
volley of stones smashed against pane and door ; and 
with shouts, screams, and yells, they demanded that 
he should be given up. But the landlord, a man of 
courage and humanity, would not throw the poor 
wretch to his pursuers as the huntsman throws the 
captured fox to the fangs of his hounds. He detained 
him for some time, and then he provided him with a 
disguise before he would suffer him to leave. The 
precaution was useless, for hate is keen of vision: 
the man was recognised ; the pursuit was resumed, 
and he was hunted through the streets, pale and 
trembling with terror, his dress disordered and soiled, 
until he again sought an asylum. The master of this 
house, however, fell into a paroxysm of alarm, and 
dismissed him hastily, with four constables as a body- 
guard. But what could these avail against hundreds? 
They were swept aside — the doctor, bleeding and 
exhausted, was flung to the ground, and sticks and 
stones rained blows upon him until he was no longer 
able to ask for mercy. One of his eyes was beaten 
out of its socket ; and when he was rescued at length 
by a posse of constables and soldiers, and conveyed to 

CHAP. IV.] DR. LAMBE. 127 

the Compter prison, it was a dying man who was 
borne unconscious across its threshold. 

Such was the miserable ending of Dr. Lambe. 
Charles I. was much affected when he heard of it ; 
for he saw that it was a terrible indication of the 
popular hostility against Lambe's patron. The 
murderers had not scrupled to say that if the Duke 
had been there they would have handled him worse ; 
they would have minced his flesh, so that every one 
of them might have had a piece. Summoning to his 
presence the Lord Mayor and Aldermen, the King 
bade them discover the offenders ; and when they 
failed in what was an impossible task, he imposed 
a heavy fine upon the City. 

The ballad -writers of the day found in the magi- 
cian's fate an occasion for attacking Buckingham : 
one of them, commenting on his supposed contempt 
for Parliament, puts the following arrogant defiance 
into his mouth: 

1 Meddle with common matters, common wrongs, 
To th' House of Commons common things belong. . . 
Leave him the oar that best knows how to row 
And State to him that the best State doth know. . . 
Though Lambe be dead, I'll stand, and you shall see 
I'll smile at them that can but bark at me.' 





' Lilly was a prominent, and, in the opinion of many of his 
contemporaries, a very important personage in the most eventful 
period of English history. He was a principal actor in the 
farcical scenes which diversified the bloody tragedy of civil war ; 
and while the King and the Parliament were striving for mastery 
in the field, he was deciding their destinies in the closet. The 
weak and the credulous of both parties who sought to be 
instructed in " destiny's dark counsels," flocked to consult the 
" wily Archimagus," who, with exemplary impartiality, meted out 
victory and good fortune to his clients, according to the extent of 
their faith and the weight of their purses. A few profane 
Cavaliers might make his name the burthen of their malignant 
rhymes — a few of the more scrupulous among the saints might 
keep aloof in sanctified abhorrence of the "Stygian sophister" — 
but the great majority of the people lent a willing and reverential 
ear to his prophecies and prognostications. Nothing was too high 
or too low, too mighty or too insignificant, for the grasp of his 
genius. The stars, his informants, were as communicative on the 
most trivial as on the most important subjects. If a scheme was 
set on foot to rescue the King, or to retrieve a stray trinket ; to 
restore the royal authority, or to make a frail damsel an honest 
woman ; to cure the nation of anarchy, or a lap-dog of a surfeit 
— William Lilly was the oracle to be consulted. His almanacks 
were spelled over in the tavern, and quoted in the Senate ; they 
nerved the arm of the soldier, and rounded the period of the 
orator. The fashionable beauty, dashing along in her calash from 


St. James's or the Mall, and the prim starched dame from Watling 
Street or Bucklersbury, with a staid foot-boy, in a plush jerkin, 
plodding behind her — the reigning toast among " the men of wit 
about town," and the leading groaner in a tabernacle concert — 
glided alternately into the study of the trusty wizard, and poured 
into his attentive ear strange tales of love, or trade, or treason. 
The Roundhead stalked in at one door, whilst the Cavalier was 
hurried out at the other. 

' The confessions of a man so variously consulted and trusted, 
if written with the candour of a Cardan or a Eousseau, would 
indeed be invaluable. The " Memoirs of William Lilly, though 
deficient in this particular, yet contain a variety of curious and 
interesting anecdotes of himself and his contemporaries, which, 
when the vanity of the writer or the truth of his art is not con- 
cerned, may be received with implicit credence. 

' The simplicity and apparent candour of his narrative might 
induce a hasty reader of this book to believe him a well-meaning 
but somewhat silly personage, the dupe of his own speculations — 
the deceiver of himself as well as of others. But an attentive 
examination of the events of his life, even as recorded by himself, 
will not warrant so favourable an interpretation. His systematic 
and successful attention to his own interest, his dexterity in 
keeping on "the windy side of the law," his perfect political 
pliability, and his presence of mind and fertility of resources 
when entangled in difficulties, indicate an accomplished impostor, 
not a crazy enthusiast. It is very possible and probable that, at 
the outset of his career, he was a real believer in the truth and 
lawfulness of his art, and that he afterwards felt no inclination 
to part with so pleasant and so profitable a delusion. . . Of his 
success in deception, the present narrative exhibits abundant proofs. 
The number of his dupes was not confined to the vulgar and illiter- 
ate, but included individuals of real worth and learning, of hostile 
parties and sects, who courted his acquaintance and respected his 
predictions. His proceedings were deemed of sufficient import- 
ance to be twice made the subject of a Parliamentary inquiry ; 
and even after the Restoration — when a little more scepticism, if 
not more wisdom, might have been expected — we find him 
examined by a Committee of the House of Commons respecting 
his foreknowledge of the Great Fire of London. We know not 
whether it "should more move our anger or our mirth" to see 
our assemblage of British Senators — the contemporaries of 



Hampden and Falkland, of Milton and Clarendon, in an age 
which moved into action so many and such mighty energies — 
gravely engaged in ascertaining the cause of a great national 
calamity from the prescience of a knavish fortune-teller, and 
puzzling their wisdoms to interpret the symbolical flames which 
blazed in the misshapen woodcuts of his oracular publications. 

'As a set-off against these honours may be mentioned the 
virulent and unceasing attacks of almost all the party scribblers 
of the day ; but their abuse he shared in common with men 
whose talents and virtues have outlived the malice of their con- 
temporaries. ' — Retrospective Review. 

William Lilly was born at Diseworth, in Leicester- 
shire, on May 1, 1602. He came of an old and re- 
putable family of the yeoman class, and his father 
was at one time a man of substance, though, from 
causes unexplained, he fell into a state of great im- 
poverishment. William from the first was intended 
to be a scholar, and at the age of eleven was sent to 
the grammar-school at Ashby-de-la-Zouch, where he 
made a fair progress in his classical studies. In his 
sixteenth year he began to be much troubled in his 
dreams regarding his chances of future salvation, and 
felt a large concern for the spiritual welfare of his 
parents. He frequently spent the night in weeping 
and praying, and in an agony of fear lest his sins 
should offend Grod. That in this exhibition of early 
piety he was already preparing for his career of self- 
hypocrisy and deception, I will not be censorious 
enough to assert; but in after-life his conscience was 
certainly much less sensitive, and he ceased to trouble 
himself about the souls of any of his kith and kin. 

He was about eighteen when the collapse of his 
father's circumstances compelled him to leave school. 


He had used his time and opportunities so well that 
he had gained the highest form, and the highest place 
on that form. He spoke Latin as readily as his 
native tongue: could improvise verses upon any 
theme — all kinds of verses, hexameter, pentameter, 
phalenciac, iambic, sapphic — so that if any ingenious 
youth came from remote schools to hold public dis- 
putations, Lilly was alwaj^s selected as the Ashby-de- 
la-Zouch champion, and in that capacity invariably 
won distinction. ' If any minister came to examine 
us,' he said, ' I was brought forth against him, nor 
would I argue with him unless in the Latin tongue, 
which I found few could well speak without breaking 
Priscian's head; which, if once they did, I would 
complain to my master, If on bene intelliget linguare 
Latinam, nee prorsus loquitur. In the derivation of 
words, I found most of them defective ; nor, indeed, 
were any of them good grammarians. All and every 
of those scholars who were of my form and stand- 
ing went to Cambridge, and proved excellent divines ; 
only I, poor William Lilly, was not so happy; 
fortune then frowning upon my father's present con- 
dition, he not in any capacity to maintain me at the 

The res angustce domi pressing heavily upon the 
quick-witted, ingenious, and active young fellow, he 
set forth — as so many Dick Whittingtons have done 
before and since — to make his fortune in London 
City. His purse held only 20s., with which he pur- 
chased a new suit — hose, doublets, trunk, and the 
like — and with a donation from his friends of 10s., he 



took leave of his father (' then in Leicester gaol for 
debt ') on April 4th, and tramping his way to London, 
in company with ' Bradshaw the carrier,' arrived 
there on the 9th. When he had gratified the carrier 
and his servants, his capital was reduced to 7s. 6d. 
in money, a suit of clothes on his back, two shirts, 
three bands, one pair of shoes, and as many stockings. 
The master to whom he had been recommended — 
Leicestershire born, like himself — a certain Gilbert 
Wright, received him kindly, purchasing for him a 
new cloak — a welcome addition to Lilly's scanty 
wardrobe; and Lilly then settled down, contentedly 
enough, to his laborious duties, though they were 
hardly of a kind to gratify the tastes of an earnest 
scholar. ' My work,' he says, ' was to go before my 
master to church ; to attend my master when he 
went abroad ; to make clean his shoes ; sweep the 
street ; help to drive bucks when he washed ; fetch 
water in a tub from the Thames (I have helped to 
carry eighteen tubs of water in one morning) ; weed 
the garden ; all manner of drudgeries I willingly per- 
formed ; scrape trenchers,' etc. 

In 1624 his mistress (he says) died of cancer in 
the breast, and he came into possession — by way of 
legacy, I suppose — of a small scarlet bag belonging 
to her, which contained some rare and curious things. 
Among others, several sigils, amulets, or charms : 
some of Jupiter in trine, others of the nature of 
Venus ; some of iron, and one of gold — pure angel 
gold, of the bigness of a thirty-shilling piece of King 


James's coinage. In the circumference, on one side, 

was engraven, Vicit Leo de tribu Judos Tetragram,- 

maton, and within the middle a holy lamb. In the 

circumference on the obverse side were Amraphel and 

three + + + , and in the centre, Sanctus Petrus Alpha 

et Omega. 

According to Lilly, this sigil was framed under the 

following circumstances : 

f His mistress's former husband travelling into Sussex, happened 
to lodge in an inn, and to lie in a chamber thereof, wherein, not 
many months before, a country grazier had lain, and in the night 
cut his own throat. After this night's lodging he was per- 
petually, and for many years, followed by a spirit, which vocally 
and articulately provoked him to cut his throat. He was used 
frequently to say, " I defy thee, I defy thee," and to spit at the 
spirit. This spirit followed him many years, he not making any- 
body acquainted with it ; at last he grew melancholy and discon- 
tented, which being carefully observed by his wife, she many 
times hearing him pronounce, "I defy thee," desired him to 
acquaint her with the cause of his distemper, which he then did. 
Away she went to Dr. Simon Forman, who lived then in Lambeth, 
and acquaints him with it ; who having framed this sigil, and 
hanged it about his neck, he wearing it continually until he died, 
was never more molested by the spirit. I sold the sigil for 
thirty-two shillings, but transcribed the words verbatim as I have 

Lilly continued some time longer in the service 
of Master Gilbert Wright. When the plague broke 
out in London in 1625, he, with a fellow-servant, 
was left in charge of his employer's house. He seems 
to have taken things easily enough, notwithstanding 
the sorrow and suffering that surrounded him on 
every side. Purchasing a bass-viol, he hired a master 
to instruct him in playing it ; the intervals he spent 
in bowling in Lincoln's Inn Fields, with Wat the 


Cobbler, Dick the Blacksmith, and such -like com- 
panions. ' We have sometimes been at our work at 
six in the morning, and so continued till three or 
four in the afternoon, many times without bread or 
drink all that while. Sometimes I went to church 
and heard funeral sermons, of which there was then 
great plenty. At other times I went early to St. 
Antholin's, in London, where there was every morn- 
ing a sermon. The most able people of the whole 
city and suburbs were out of town ; if any remained, 
it were such as were engaged by parish officers to 
remain ; no habit of a gentleman or woman con- 
tinued ; the woeful calamity of that year was 
grievous, people dying in the open fields and in open 
streets. At last, in August, the bills of mortality so 
increased, that very few people had thoughts of 
surviving the contagion. The Sunday before the 
great bill came forth, which was of five thousand and 
odd hundreds, there was appointed a sacrament at 
Clement Danes' ; during the distributing whereof I 
do very well remember we sang thirteen parts of the 
119th Psalm. One Jacob, our minister (for we had 
three that day, the communion was so great), fell sick 
as he was giving the sacrament, went home, and was 
buried of the plague the Thursday following.' 

Having been led by various circumstances to apply 
himself to the study of astrology, he sought a guide 
and teacher in the person of one Master Evans, whom 
he describes as poor, ignorant, boastful, drunken, and 
knavish ; he had a character, or reputation, however, 
for erecting a figure (or horoscope) predicting future 


events, discovering secrets, restoring stolen goods, 
and even for raising spirits, when it so pleased him. 
Of this crafty cheat he relates an extraordinary story. 
Some time before Lilly became acquainted with him, 
Lord Bothwell and Sir Kenelm Digby visited him at 
his lodgings in the Minories, in order that they 
might enjoy what is nowadays called a spiritualistic 
seance.' The magician drew the mysterious circle, 
and placed himself and his visitors within it. He 
began his invocations ; but suddenly Evans was 
caught up from the others, and transferred, he knew 
not how, to Battersea Fields, near the Thames. Next 
morning a countryman discovered him there, fast 
asleep, and, having roused him, informed him, in 
answer to his inquiries, where he was. Evans in the 
afternoon sent a messenger to his wife, to acquaint 
her with his safety, and dispel the apprehensions she 
might reasonably entertain. Just as the messenger 
arrived, Sir Kenelm Digby also arrived, not un- 
naturally curious to learn the issue of the preceding 
day's adventure. This monstrous story Evans told 
to Lilly, who, I suppose, affected to believe it, and 
asked him how such an issue chanced to attend on 
his experiment. Because, the knave replied, in per- 
forming the invocation rites, he had carelessly 
omitted the necessary suffumigation, and at this 
omission the spirit had taken offence. It is evident 
that the spirits insist on being treated with due 
regard to etiquette. 

Lilly, by the way, records some quaint biographical 
particulars respecting the astrologers of his time ; 


they are not of a nature, however, to elevate our 
ideas of the profession. One would almost suppose 
that free intercourse with the inhabitants of the 
unseen world had an exceptionally bad effect on the 
morals and manners of the mortals who enjoyed it ; 
or else the spirits must have had a penchant for low 
society. Lilly speaks of one William Poole, who 
was a nibbler at astrological science, and, in addition, 
a gardener, an apparitor, a drawer of lime, a plas- 
terer, a bricklayer ; in fact, he bragged of knowing no 
fewer than seventeen trades — such was the versatility 
of his genius ! It is pleasant to know that this won- 
derfully clever fellow could condescend to * drolling,' 
and even to writing poetry (heaven save the mark !), 
of which Lilly, in his desire to astonish posterity, has 
preserved a specimen. Master Poole's rhymes, how- 
ever, are much too offensively coarse to be transferred 
to these pages. 

This man of many callings died about 1651 or 
1652, at St. Mary Overy's, in Southwark, and Lilly 
quotes a portion of his last will and testament : 

' Item. I give to Dr. Arder all my books, and one manuscript 
of my own, worth one hundred of Lilly's Introduction. 

' Item. If Dr. Arder gives my wife anything that is mine, I 
wish the D — 1 may fetch him body and soul.' 

Terrified at this uncompromising malediction, the 
doctor handed over all the deceased conjurer's books 
and goods to Lilly, who in his turn handed them 
over to the widow ; and in this way Poole's curse 
was eluded, and his widow got her rights. 

The true name of this Dr. Arder, it seems, was 


Richard Delahay. He had originally practised as an 
attorney ; but falling into poverty, and being driven 
from his Derbyshire home by the Countess of Shrews- 
bury, he turned to astrology and physic, and looked 
round about him for patients, though with no very 
great success. He had at one time known a Charles 
Sledd, a friend of Dr. Dee, ' who used the crystal, 
and had a very perfect sight ' — in modern parlance, 
was a good medium. 

Dr. Arder often declared to Lilly that an angel 
had on one occasion offered him a lease of life for a 
thousand years, but for some unexplained reasons he 
declined the valuable freehold. However, he out- 
lived the Psalmist's span, dying at the ripe old age 
of eighty. 

A much more famous magician was John Booker, 
who, in 1632 and 1633, gained a great notoriety by 
his prediction of a solar eclipse in the nineteenth 
degree of Aries, 1633, taken out of ' Leuitius de Magnis 
Conjunctionibus/ namely, ' Reges et Principes,' etc., 
both the King of Bohemia and Gustavus, King of 
Sweden, dying during ' the effects of that eclipse.' 

John Booker was born at Manchester, of good 
parentage, in 1601. In his youth he attained a very 
considerable proficiency in the Latin tongue. From 
his early years we may take it that he was destined 
to become an astrologer — he showed so great a 
fancy (otherwise inexplicable !) for poring over old 
almanacks. In his teens he was despatched to 
London to serve his apprenticeship to a haberdasher 


in Lawrence Lane. But whether he contracted a 
distaste for the trade, or lacked the capital to start 
on his own account, he abandoned it on reaching 
manhood, and started as a writing-master at Hadley, 
in Middlesex. It is said that he wrote singularly 
well, ' both Secretary and Roman.' Later in life he 
officiated as clerk to Sir Christopher Clithero, Alder- 
man of London, and Justice of the Peace, and also to 
Sir Hugh Hammersley, Alderman, and in these 
responsible positions became well known to many 
citizens who, like Cowper's John Gilpin, were ' of 
credit and renown.' 

In star- craft this John Booker was a past master ! 
His verses upon the months, framed according to their 
different astrological significations, ' being blessed 
with success, according to his predictions/ made him 
known all over England. He was a man of ' great 
honesty,' abhorring any deceit in the art he loved and 
studied. So says Lilly ; but it is certain that if an 
astrologer be in earnest, he must deceive himself, if 
he do not deceive others. This Booker had much 
good fortune in detecting thefts, and was not less an 
adept in resolving love-questions. His knowledge of 
astronomy was by no means limited ; he understood 
a good deal of physic ; was a great advocate of the 
antimonial cup, whose properties were first dis- 
covered by Basil Valentine ; not unskilled in chemis- 
try, though he did not practise it. He died in the 
sweet odour of a good reputation in 1667, leaving 
behind him a tolerable library (which was purchased 
by Elias Ashmole, the antiquary), a widow, four 


children, and the MSS. of his annual prognostica- 
tions. During the Long Parliament period he pub- 
lished his ' Bellum Hibernicale,' which is described 
as ' a very sober and judicious book,' and, not long 
before his death, a small treatise on Easter Day, 
wherein he displayed a laudable erudition. 

Lilly has also something to say about a Master 
Nicholas Fiske, licentiate in physic, who came of a 
good old family, and was born near Framlingham, in 
Suffolk. He was educated for the University, but 
preferred staying at home, and studying astrology 
and medicine, which he afterwards practised at Col- 
chester, and at several places in London. 

'He was a person very studious, laborious, of good appre- 
hension, and had by his own industry obtained both in astrology, 
physic, arithmetic, astronomy, geometry, and algebra, singular 
judgment : he would in astrology resolve horary questions very 
soundly, but was ever diffident of his own abilities. He was ex- 
quisitely skilful in the art of directions upon nativities, and had 
a good genius in performing judgment thereupon ; but very un- 
happy he was that he had no genius in teaching his scholars, for 
he never perfected any. His own son Matthew hath often told 
me that when his father did teach any scholars in his time, they 
would principally learn of him. He had Scorpio ascending (/), and 
was secretly envious to those he thought had more parts than 
himself. However, I must be ingenuous, and do affirm that by 
frequent conversation with him I came to know which were the 
best authors, and much to enlarge my judgment, especially in the 
art of directions : he visited me most days once after I became 
acquainted with him, and would communicate his most doubtful 
questions unto me, and accept of my judgment therein rather 
than his own.' 

Resuming his own life-story, Lilly records an 
important purchase which he made in 1634 — the 


great astrological treatise, the ' Ars Notaria,' a large 
parchment volume, enriched with the names and 
pictures of those angels which are thought and be- 
lieved by wise men to teach and instruct in all the 
several liberal sciences — as if heaven were a scientific 
academy, with the angels giving lectures as professors 
of astrology, medicine, mathematics, and the like ! 
Next he describes how he sought to extend his fame 
as a magician by attempting the discovery of a 
quantity of treasure alleged to have been concealed 
in the cloister of Westminster Abbey ; and having 
obtained permission from the authorities, he repaired 
thither, one winter night, accompanied by several 
gentlemen, and by one John Scott, a supposed expert 
in the use of the Mosaical or divining rods. The 
hazel rods were duly played round about the cloister, 
and on the west side turned one over the other, a 
proof that the treasure lay there. The labourers, 
after digging to a depth of six feet, came upon a 
coffin ; but as it was not heavy, Lilly refrained from 
opening it, an omission which he afterwards regretted. 
From the cloister they proceeded to the Abbey 
Church, where, upon a sudden, so fierce, so high, so 
blustering and loud a wind burst forth, that they 
feared the west end of the church would fall upon 
them. Their rods would not move at all ; the 
candles and torches, all but one, were extinguished, 
or burned very dimly. John Scott, Lilly's partner, 
was amazed, turned pale, and knew not what to think 
or do, until Lilly gave command to dismiss the 
demons. This being done, all was quiet again, and the 


party returned home about midnight. ' I could never 
since be induced,' says Master Lilly, with sublime 
impertinence, ' to join with any in such-like actions. 
The true miscarriage of the business,' he adds, ' was 
by reason of so many people being present at the 
operation ; for there were about thirty, some laughing, 
others deriding, so that if we had not dismissed the 
demons, I believe most part of the Abbey Church had 
been blown down ! Secrecy and intelligent operators,' 
he adds, ' with a strong confidence and knowledge of 
what they are doing, are best for this work.' They 
are, at all events, for conspiracy and collusion. 

In reading a narrative like this, one finds it not 
easy to satisfy one's self how far it has been written in 
good faith, or how far it is compounded of credulity 
or of conscious deception — how far the writer has 
unwittingly imposed upon himself, or is knowingly 
imposing upon the reader. That Lilly should gravely 
transmit to posterity such a record, if aware that it 
was an audacious invention, seems hardly credible ; 
and yet it is still less credible that a man so shrewd 
and keen-witted should believe in the operations of 
demons, and in their directing a blast of wind against 
the Abbey Church because they resented his search 
for a hidden treasure, to which they at least could have 
no claim ! As great wit to madness nearly is allied, 
so is there a dangerous proximity between credulity 
and imposture, and the man who begins by being a 
dupe often ends by becoming a knave. Perhaps 
there are times when the axiom should be reversed. 
Lilly's astrological pursuits appear to have affected 


his health : he grew lean and haggard, and suffered 
much from hypochondria ; so that, at length, he 
resolved to try the curative effects of country air, 
and removed, in the spring of 1636, to Hersham, a 
quiet and picturesque hamlet, near Walton-on-the- 
Thames. He did not give up his London house, 
however, until thirty years later (1665), when he 
finally settled at Hersham as a country gentleman, 
and a person of no small consideration. 

Having recovered his health in his rural quarters, 
our great magician returned to London, and practised 
openly his favourite art. But a secret intelligence 
apprising him that he was not sufficiently an adept, 
he again withdrew into the country, where he 
remained for a couple of years, immersed, I suppose, 
in occult studies. We may take it that he really 
entered on a professional career in 1644, when a 
' happy thought ' inspired him to bring out the first 
yearly issue of his prophetical almanac, or ' Merlinus 
Anglicus Junior.' In his usual abrupt and dis- 
jointed style he gives the following account of 
his publication : ' I had given, one day, the copy 
thereof unto the then Mr. [afterwards Sir Bul- 
strode] Whitlocke, who by accident was reading 
thereof in the House of Commons. Ere the Speaker 
took the chair, one looked upon it, and so did many, 
and got copies thereof; which, when I heard, I 
applied myself to John Booker to license it, for then 
he was licenser of all mathematical books. . . . He 
wondered at the book, make many impertinent obli- 
terations, formed many objections, swore it was not 


possible to distinguish betwixt King and Parliament 
[0 shrewd John Booker !] ; at last licensed it accord- 
ing to his own fancy. I delivered it unto the printer, 
who being an arch Presbyterian, had five of the 
ministry to inspect it, who could make nothing of it, 
but said that it might be printed, for in that I 
meddled not with their Dagon. The first impression 
was sold in less than one week. When I presented 
some [copies] to the members of Parliament, I com- 
plained of John Booker, the licenser, who had defaced 
my book ; they gave me order forthwith to reprint it 
as I would, and let me know if any durst resist me 
in the reprinting or adding what I thought fit : so 
the second time it came forth as I would have it.' 

In June, 1644, Lilly published his ' Supernatural 
Sight,' and also ' The White King's Prophecy,' of 
which, in three days, eighteen hundred copies were 
sold. He issued the second volume of his ' Pro- 
phetical Merlin,' in which he made use of the King's 
nativity, and discovering that his ascendant was 
approaching to the quadrature of Mars about June, 
1645, delivered himself of this oracular utterance, 
as ambiguous as any that every fell from the lips of 
the Pythian priestess : 

' If now we fight, a victory stealeth upon us — ' 

which he afterwards boasted to be a clear prediction of 
the defeat of Charles I. at Naseby, and, of course, would 
equally well have served to have explained a royal 
victory. Whitlocke, in his ' Memorials of Affairs in 
his own Times,' states that he met the astrologer in 


the spring of 1645, and jestingly asking him what 
events were likely to take place, Lilly repeated this 
prophecy of a victory. He remarks that in 1648 
some of Lilly's prognostications ' fell out very 
strangely, particularly as to the King's fall from his 
horse about this time.' But it would have been 
strange if a man so well informed of public affairs, 
and so shrewd, as William Lilly, had never been 
right in his forecasts. And a lucky coincidence will 
set an astrologer up in credit for a long time, his 
numerous failures being forgotten. 

In this same memorable and eventful year he pub- 
lished his ' Starry Messenger,' with an interpretation 
of three mock suns, or parhelia, which had been 
seen in London on the 29th of May, 1644, King 
Charles II. 's birthday. Complaint was immediately 
made to the Parliamentary Committee of Examina- 
tion that it contained treasonable and scandalous 
matter. Lilly was summoned before the Committee, 
but several of his friends were upon it, and voted the 
charges against him frivolous — as, indeed, they were — 
so that he met with his usual good fortune, and came 
off with flying colours. 

All the English astrologers of the old school seem 
to have been startled and confounded by the inno- 
vations of this dashing young magician, with his 
yearly almanacks and political predictions and self- 
advertisement, especially a certain Mr. William 
Hodges, who lived near Wolverhampton, and can- 
didly confessed that Lilly did more by astrology than 
he himself could do by the crystal, though he under- 


stood its use as well as any man in England. Though 
a strong royalist, he could never strike out any good 
fortune for the King's party — the stars in their 
courses fought against Charles Stuart. The angels 
whom he interviewed by means of the crystal were 
Kaphael, Grabriel, and Ariel ; but his life was wanting 
in the purity and holiness which ought to have been 
conspicuous in a man who was favoured by communi- 
cations from such high celestial sources. 

A proof of his skill is related by Lilly on the 
authority of Lilly's partner, John Scott. 

Scott had some knowledge of surgery and physic ; 
so had Will Hodges, who had at one time been a 
schoolmaster. Having some business at Wolver- 
hampton, Scott stayed for a few weeks with Hodges, 
and assisted him in dressing wounds, letting blood, 
and other chirurgical matters. When on the point 
of returning to London, he asked Hodges to show 
him the face and figure of the woman he should 
marry. Hodges carried him into a field near his 
house, pulled out his crystal, bade Scott set his foot 
against his, and, after a pause, desired him to look 
into the crystal, and describe what he saw there. 

' I see,' saith Scott, ' a ruddy -complexioned wench, 
in a red waistcoat, drawing a can of beer.' 

' She will be your wife/ cried Hodges. 

'You are mistaken, sir,' rejoined Scott. 'So soon 
as I come to London, I am engaged to marry a tall 
gentlewoman in the Old Bailey.' 

' You will marry the red gentlewoman,' replied 
Hodges, with an air of imperturbable assurance. 



On returning to London, Scott, to his great 
astonishment, found that his tall gentlewoman had 
jilted him, and taken to herself another husband. 
Two years afterwards, in the course of a Kentish 
journey, he refreshed himself at an inn in Canter- 
bury ; fell in love with its ruddy-complexioned bar- 
maid ; and, when he married her, remembered her 
red waistcoat, her avocation, and Mr. Hodges ' his 

An amusing story is told of this man Hodges. 

A neighbour of his,, who had lost his horse, re- 
covered the animal by acting upon the astrologer's 
advice. Some years afterwards he unluckily conceived 
the idea of playing upon the wise man a practical joke, 
and obtained the co-operation of one of his friends. 
He had certainly recovered his horse, he said, in the 
way Hodges had shown him, but it was purely a 
chance, and would not happen again. ' So come, let 
us play him a trick. I will leave some boy or other 
at the town's end with my horse, and we will then 
call on Hodges and put him to the test.' 

This was done, and Hodges said it was true the 
horse was lost, and would never be recovered. 

' I thought what fine skill you had,' laughed the 
gentleman ; my horse is walking in a lane at the 
town's end.' 

Whereupon Hodges, with an oath, as was his evil 
habit, asserted that the horse was gone, and that his 
owner would never see him again. Ridiculing the 
wise man without mercy, the gentleman departed, 
and hastened to the town's end, and there, at the 


appointed place, the boy lay stretched upon the 
ground, fast asleej), with the bridle round his arm, 
but the horse was gone ! 

Back to Hodges hurried the chap-fallen squire, 
ashamed of his incredulity, and eagerly seeking 
assistance. But no ; the conjurer swore freely — ' Be 
gone — be gone about your business ; go and look for 
your horse.' He went and he looked, east and west, 
and north and south, but his horse saw never more. 

Let us next hear what Lilly has to tell us of 
Dr. Napper, the parson of Great Lindford, in Buck- 
inghamshire, the advowson of which parish belonged 
to him. He sprang from a good old stock, according 
to the witness of King James himself. For when his 
brother, Robert Napper, an opulent Turkey merchant, 
was to be made a baronet in James's reign, some 
dispute arose whether he could prove himself a gen- 
tleman for three or more descents. ' By my soul,' 
exclaimed the King, ' I will certify for JSTapper, that 
he is of above three hundred years' standing in his 
family ; all of them, by my soul, gentlemen !' The 
parson was legitimately and truly master of arts ; 
his claim to the title of doctor, however, seems to 
have been dubious. Miscarrying one day in the pulpit, 
he never after ventured into it, but all his lifetime 
kept in his house some excellent scholar to officiate 
for him, allowing him a good salary. Lilly speaks 
highly of his sanctity of life and knowledge of medi- 
cine, and avers that he cured the falling sickness by 
constellated rings, and other diseases by amulets. 



The parents of a niaicl who suffered severely from 
the falling sickness applied to him, on one occasion, 
for a cure. He fashioned for her a constellated ring, 
upon wearing of which she completely recovered. 
Her parents chanced to make known the cure to some 
scrupulous divines, who immediately protested that 
it was done by enchantment. ' Cast away the ring,' 
they said ; ' it's diabolical ! God cannot bless you, if 
you do not cast it away.' The ring was thrown into 
a well, and the maid was again afflicted with her 
epilepsy, enduring the old pain and misery for a 
weary time. At last the parents caused the well to 
be emptied, and regained the ring, which the maid 
again made use of, and recovered from her fits. Thus 
things went on for a year or two, until the Puritan 
divines, hearing that she had resumed the ring, in- 
sisted with her parents until they threw the ring away 
altogether ; whereupon the fits returned with such 
violence that they betook themselves to the doctor, told 
their story, acknowledged their fault, and once more 
besought his assistance. But he could not be per- 
suaded to render it, observing that those who despised 
God's mercies were not capable or not worthy of 
enjoying them. 

We do not dismiss this story as entirely apocryphal, 
knowing that, in the cure or mitigation of nervous 
diseases, the imagination exercises a wonderful in- 
fluence. There are well-authenticated instances of 
'faith healing' not a whit less extraordinary than 
this case described by Lilly of the maiden and the 
ring. It would be trivial, perhaps, to hint that a 


good many maidens have been cured of some, at 
least, of their ailments by a ring. 

In 1646 Lilly printed a collection of prophecies, 
with the explanation and verification of ' Aquila ; or. 
The White King's Prophecy,' as also the nativities 
of Archbishop Laud and the Earl of Strafford, and a 
learned speech, which the latter intended to have 
spoken on the scaffold. In the following year he 
completed his ' Introduction unto Astrology,' or 
' Christian Astrology,' and was summoned, along 
with John Booker, to the head-quarters of Fairfax, 
at Windsor. They were conveyed thither in great 
pomp and circumstance, with a coach and four 
horses, welcomed in hearty fashion, and feasted in 
a garden where General Fairfax lodged. In the 
course of their interview with the general he said to 
them : 

* That God had blessed the army with many signal victories, 
and yet their work was not finished. He hoped God would go 
along with them until His work was done. They sought not 
themselves, but the welfare and tranquillity of the good people 
and whole nation ; and, for that end, were resolved to sacrifice 
both their lives and their own fortunes. As for the art that Lilly 
and Booker studied, he hoped it was lawful and agreeable to 
God's Word : he himself understood it not, but doubted not they 
both feared God, and therefore had a good opinion of them both.' 

Lilly replied : 

' My lord, I am glad to see you here at this time. Certainly, 
both the people of God, and all others of this nation, are very 
sensible of God's mercy, love, and favour unto them, in directing 
the Parliament to nominate and elect you General of their armies, 
a person so religious, so valiant. 


' The several unexpected victories obtained under your Excel- 
lency's conduct will eternize the same unto all posterity. 

'We are confident of God's going along with you and your 
army until the great work, for which He ordained you both, is 
fully perfected, which we hope will be the conquering and sub- 
version of your and the Parliament's enemies ; and then a quiet 
settlement and firm peace over all the nation unto God's glory, 
and full satisfaction of tender consciences. 

' Sir, as for ourselves, we trust in God ; and, as Christians, we 
believe in Him. We do not study any art but what is lawful 
and consonant to the Scriptures, Fathers, and antiquity, which 
we humbly desire you to believe.' 

They afterwards paid a visit to Hugh Peters, the 
famous Puritan ecclesiastic, who had lodgings in the 
Castle. They found him reading ' an idle pamphlet,' 
which he had received from London that morning. 
' Lilly, thou art herein,' he exclaimed. ' Are not you 
there also ?' ' Yes, that I am,' he answered. 

The stanza relating to Lilly ran as follows : 

'From th' oracles of the Sibyls so silly, 
The curst predictions of William Lilly, 
And Dr. Sibbald's Shoe-Lane Philly, 

Good Lord, deliver me.' 

After much conference with Hugh Peters, and 
some private discourse betwixt the two ' not to be 
divulged,' they parted, and Master Lilly returned to 

In 1647 he published ' The World's Catastrophe,' 
* The Prophecies of Ambrose Merlin ' (both or which 
were translated by Elias Ashmole), and ' Trithemius 
of the Government of the World, by the Presiding 
Angels ' — all three tracts in one volume. 

Not withstanding his services to the Parliamentary 
cause, Lilly secretly retained a strong attachment 


towards Charles I., and he was consulted by Mrs. 
Whorwood, a lady who enjoyed the royal confidence, 
as to the best place for the concealment of the King, 
when he escaped from Hampton Court. After the 
usual sham of ' erecting a figure ' had been gone 
through, Lilly advised that a safe asylum might be 
found in Essex, about twenty miles from London. 
' She liked my judgment very well,' he says, and 
being herself of sharp judgment, remembered a place 
in Essex about that distance, where was an excellent 
house, and all conveniences for his reception. But, 
either guided by an irresistible destiny, or misled by 
Ashburnham, whose good faith has been sometimes 
doubted, he went away in the night-time westward, 
and surrendered himself to Colonel Hammond, in the 
Isle of Wight. 

With another unfortunate episode in the King's 
later career, Lilly was also connected. During the 
King's confinement at Carisbrooke the Kentishmen, 
in considerable numbers, rose in arms, and joined 
with Lord Goring ; at the same time many of the 
best ships revolted, and a movement on behalf of the 
King was begun among the citizens of London. 
' His Majesty then laid his design to escape out of 
prison by sawing the iron bar of his chamber 
window ; a small ship was provided, and anchored 
not far from the Castle, to bring him into Sussex ; 
horses were provided ready to carry him through 
Sussex into Kent, so that he might be at the head of 
the army in Kent, and from thence to march imme- 
diately to London, where thousands then would have 


armed for him.' Lilly was brought acquainted with 
the plot, and employed a locksmith in Bow Lane to 
make a saw for cutting asunder the iron bar, and 
also procured a supply of aqua fortis. But, as every- 
body knows, the King was unable to force his body 
through the narrow casement, even after the removal 
of the bar, and the plot failed. 

When the Parliament sent Commissioners into the 
Island to negotiate with Charles the terms of a con- 
cordat, of whom Lord Saye was one, Lady Whorwood 
again sought Lilly's assistance and advice. After 
perusing his ' figure,' he told her the Commissioners 
would arrive in the Island on such a date ; elected a 
day and hour when the King would receive the Com- 
missioners and their propositions ; and as soon as 
these were read, advised the King to sign them, and in 
all haste to accompany the Commissioners to London. 
The army being then far removed from the capital, 
and the citizens stoutly enraged against the Parlia- 
mentary leaders, Charles promised he would do so. 
But, unfortunately, he allowed Lord Saye to dis- 
suade him from signing the propositions, on the 
assurance that he had a powerful party both in the 
House of Lords and the House of Commons, who 
would see that he obtained more favourable condi- 
tions. Thus was lost almost his last chance of 
retaining his crown, and baffling the designs of his 

Whilst the King, in his last days, was at Windsor 
Castle, on one occasion, when he was taking the air 
upon the leads, he looked through Captain Wharton's 


' Almanack.' ' My book,' saith he, ' speaks well as 
to the weather.' A Master William Allen, who was 
standing by, inquired, ' What saith his antagonist, 
Mr. Lilly ?' ' I do not care for Lilly,' remarked his 
Majesty, 'he has always been against me,' infusing 
some bitterness into his expressions. ' Sir,' observed 
Allen, 'the man is an honest man, and writes but 
what his art informs him.' ' I believe it,' said his 
Majesty, ' and that Lilly understands astrology as 
well as any man in Europe.' 

In 1648 the Council of State acknowledged Lilly's 
services with a grant of £50, and a pension of £100 
a year, which, however, he received for two years 

In the following January, while the King lay at 
St. James's House, Lilly began his observations, he 
tells us, in the following oracular fashion : 

' 1 am serious, I beg and expect justice ; either fear 
or shame begins to question offenders. 

' The lofty cedars begin to divine a thundering 
hurricane is at hand ; God elevates man contempt- 

' Our demigods are sensible, we begin to dislike 
their actions very much in London ; more in the 

' Blessed be God, who encourages His servants, 
makes them valiant, and of undaunted spirit to go on 
with His decrees : upon a sudden, great expectations 
arise, and men generally believe a quiet and calm 
time draws nigh.' 


Our garrulous and egotistical conjurer, who seems 
really to have believed that he exercised a considerable 
influence upon the course of events, though his posi- 
tion was no more important than that of the fly upon 
the wheel, evidently wished to connect these com- 
monplaces with the execution of Charles I. : 

1 In Christmas holidays,' he writes, ' the Lord Gray 
of Grroby, and Hugh Peters, sent for me to Somerset 
House, with directions to bring them two of my 
almanacks. I did so. Peters and he read January's 
observations. " If we are not fools and knaves," 
saith he, " we shall do justice." Then they whispered. 
/ understood not their meaning until his Majesty was 
beheaded. They applied what I wrote of justice to 
be understood of his Majesty, which was contrary to 
my intention ; for Jupiter, the first day of January, 
became direct; and Libra is a sign signifying justice. 
I implored for justice generally upon such as had 
cheated in their places, being treasurers and such-like 
officers. I had not then heard the least intimation of 
bringing the King unto trial, and yet the first day 
thereof I was casually there, it being upon a Saturday. 
For going to Westminster every Saturday in the 
afternoon, in these times, at Whitehall I casually met 
Peters. " Come, Lilly, wilt thou go hear the King 
tried?" "When?" said I. "Now — just now; go 
with me." I did so, and was permitted by the guard 
of soldiers to pass up to the King's Bench. Within 
one quarter of an hour came the judges ; presently 
his Majesty, who spoke excellently well, and majes- 
tically, without impediment in the least when he 


spoke. I saw the silver top of his staff unexpectedly 
fall to the ground, which was took up by Mr. Rush- 
worth ; and then I heard Bradshaw, the judge, say to 
his Majesty: "Sir, instead of answering the Court, 
you interrogate their power, which becomes not one 
in your condition.'' These words pierced my heart 
and soul, to hear a subject thus audaciously to re- 
prehend his Sovereign, who ever and anon replied with 
great magnanimity and prudence.' 

Lilly tells us that during the siege of Colchester he 
and his fellow-astrologer, Booker, were sent for, to 
encourage the soldiers by their vaticinations, and in 
this they succeeded, as they assured them the town 
would soon be surrendered — which was actually the 
case. Our prophet, however, if he could have ob- 
tained leave to enter the town, would have carried all 
his sympathies, and all his knowledge of the condi- 
tion of affairs in the Parliament's army, to Sir Charles 
Lucas, the Royalist Governor. He had a narrow 
escape with his life during his sojourn in the camp of 
the besiegers. A couple of guns had been placed so 
as to command St. Mary's Church, and had done 
great injury to it. One afternoon he was standing in 
the redoubt and talking with the cannoneer, when 
the latter cried out for everybody to look to himself, 
as he could see through his glass that there was a 
piece in the Castle loaded and directed against his 
work, and ready to be discharged. Lilly ran in hot 
haste under an old ash-tree, and immediately the 
cannon-shot came hissing over their heads. ' No 
danger now,' said the gunner, ' but begone, for there 


are five more loading !' And so it was. Two 
hours later those cannon were fired, and unluckily 
killed the cannoneer who had given Lilly a timely 

The practice of astrology must have been exceed- 
ingly lucrative, for Lilly is known to have acquired a 
considerable fortune. In 1651 he expended £1,030 in 
the purchase of fee-farm rents, equal in value to £120 
per annum. And in the following year he bought 
his house at Hersham, with some lands and buildings, 
for £950. In the same year he published his ' Annus 
Tenebrosus,' a title which he chose not ' because of the 
great obscurity of the solar eclipse,' but in allusion to 
' those underhand and clandestine counsels held in 
England by the soldiery, of which he would never, 
except in generals, give information to any Parliament 
man.' Unfortunately, Lilly's knowledge was always 
embodied ' in generals,' and the misty vagueness of 
his vaticinations renders it impossible for the reader 
to pin them down to any definite meaning. You 
may apply them to all events — or to none. Their 
elastic indications of things good and evil may be 
made to suit the events of the nineteenth century 
almost as well as those of the seventeenth. 

Many characters Mr. William Lilly must be owned 
to have represented with great success. But that all- 
essential one — if we desire to secure the confidence of 
our contemporaries, and the respect of posterity — of 
an honest man, I fear he was never able to personate 
successfully. Of the craft and cunning he could at 
times display he records a striking illustration— 


evidently with entire satisfaction to himself, and 
apparently never suspecting that it might not be so 
favourably regarded by others, and especially by 
those plain, commonplace people who make no pre- 
tensions to hermetic learning or occult knowledge, 
but have certain unsophisticated ideas as to the laws 
of morality and fair dealing. 

In his 1651 ' Almanack ' he asserted that the Par- 
liament stood upon tottering foundations, and that 
the soldiery and commonalty would combine against 
it — a conclusion at which every intelligent onlooker 
must by that time have arrived, without ' erecting a 
figure ' or consulting the starry heavens. 

This previous attempt at forecasting the future ' lay 
for a whole week,' says its author, ' in the Parliament 
House, much criticised by the Presbyterians ; one 
disliking this sentence, another that, and others dis- 
liking the whole. In the end a motion was made 
that it should be examined by a Committee of the 
House, with instructions to report concerning its 

' A messenger attached me by a warrant from that 
Committee. I had private notice ere the messenger 
came, and hasted unto Mr. Speaker Lenthall, ever my 
friend. He was exceeding glad to see me, told me 
what was done, called for " Anglicus," marked the 
passages which tormented the Presbyterians so highly. 
I presently sent for Mr. Warren, the printer, an 
assured cavalier, obliterated what was most offensive, 
put in other more significant words, and desired only 
to have six amended against next morning, which 


very honestly he brought me. I told him my design 
was to deny the book found fault with, to own only 
the six books. I told him I doubted he would be 
examined. "Hang them!" said he; "they are all 
rogues. I'll swear myself to the devil ere they shall 
have an advantage against you, by my oath." 

' The day after, I appeared before the Committee. 
At first they showed me the true " Anglicus," and 
asked if I wrote and printed it.' 

Lilly, after pretending to inspect it, denied all 
knowledge of it, asserting that it must have been 
written with a view to do him injury by some 
malicious Presbyterian, at the same time producing 
the six amended copies, to the great surprise and per- 
plexity of the Committee. The majority, however, 
were inclined to send him to prison, and some had 
proposed Newgate, others the Gate House, when one 
Brown, of Sussex, who had been influenced to favour 
Lilly, remarked that neither to Newgate nor the Gate 
House were the Parliament accustomed to send their 
prisoners, and suggested that the most convenient 
and legitimate course would be for the Sergeant-at- 
Arms to take this Mr. Lilly into custody. 

' Mr. Strickland, who had for many years been the 
Parliament's ambassador or agent in Holland, when 
he saw how they inclined, spoke thus : 

' " I came purposely into the Committee this day 
to see the man who is so famous in those parts where 
I have so long continued. I assure you his name is 
famous over all Europe. I come to do him justice. 
A book is produced by us, and said to be his ; he 


denies it ; we have not proved it, yet will commit 
him. Truly this is great injustice. It is likely he 
will write next year, and acquaint the whole world 
with our injustice, and so well he may. It is my 
opinion, first to prove the book to be his ere he be 

' Another old friend of mine spoke thus : 
' " You do not know the many services this man 
hath done for the Parliament these many years, or 
how many times, in our greatest distresses, on ap- 
plying unto him, he hath refreshed our languishing 
expectations ; he never failed us of comfort in our 
most unhappy distresses. I assure you his writings 
have kept up the spirits both of the soldiery, the 
honest people of this nation, and many of us Parlia- 
ment men ; and at last, for a slip of his pen (if it were 
his), to be thus violent against him, I must tell you, 
I fear the consequence urged out of the book will 
prove effectually true. It is my counsel to admonish 
him hereafter to be more wary, and for the present to 
dismiss him." 

' Notwithstanding anything that was spoken on 
my behalf, I was ordered to stand committed to the 
Sergeant -at -Arms. The messenger attached my 
person said I was his prisoner. As he was carrying 
me away, he was called to bring me again. Oliver 
Cromwell, Lieutenant- General of the army, having 
never seen me, caused me to be produced again, when 
he steadfastly beheld me for a good space, and then I 
went with the messenger; but instantly a young 
clerk of that Committee asks the messenger what he 


did with Hie. Where is the warrant? Until that is 
signed you cannot seize Mr. Lilly, or shall [not]. 
Will you have an action of false imprisonment against 
you? So I escaped that night, but next day stayed 
the warrant. That night Oliver Cromwell went to 

Mr. R , my friend, and said : " What, never a man 

to take Lilly's cause in hand but yourself ? None to 
take his part but you? He shall not be long there." 
Hugh Peters spoke much in my behalf to the Com- 
mittee, but they were resolved to lodge me in the 
Sergeant's custody. One Millington, a drunken 
member, was much my enemy, and so was Cawley 
and Chichester, a deformed fellow, unto whom I had 
done several courtesies. 

' First thirteen days I was a prisoner, and though 
every day of the Committee's sitting I had a petition 
to deliver, yet so many churlish Presbyterians still 
appeared I could not get it accepted. The last day 
of the thirteen, Mr. Joseph Ash was made chairman, 
unto whom my cause being related, he took my peti- 
tion, and said I should be bailed in despite of them 
all, but desired I would procure as many friends as I 
could to be there. Sir Arthur Haselrig and Major 
Galloway, a person of excellent parts, appeared for me, 
and many more of my old friends came in. After two 
whole hours' arguing of my cause by Sir Arthur and 
Major Galloway, and other friends, the matter came 
to this point: I should be bailed, and a Committee 
nominated to examine the printer. The order of the 
Committee being brought afterwards to him who 
should be Chairman, he sent me word, do what I 


would, he would see all the knaves hanged, or he 
would examine the printer. This is the truth of the 
story. ' 

Lilly's biographer, however anxious he may be to 
imitate biographers generally, and whitewash his 
hero, feels that in this episode of his life the great 
seer fell miserably below the heroic standard, and 
was guilty of pusillanimous as well as unveracious 
and dishonourable conduct. Yet Lilly is evidently 
unaware of the unfavourable light in which he has 
shown himself, and ambles along in an easy and 
well-satisfied mood, as if to the sound of universal 

On February 26, 1654, Lilly lost his second wife, 
and I regret to say he seems to have borne the loss 
with astonishing equanimity. On April 20 Crom- 
well expelled from the House our astrologer's great 
enemies, the Parliament men, and thereby won his 
most cordial applause. He breaks out, indeed, into a 
burst of devotional praise — Gloria Patri — as if for 
some special and never-to-be-forgotten mercy. A 
German physician, then resident in London, sent to 
him the following epigram : 

Strophe Alcaica: Generoso Domino Gulielmo Lillio Astrologo, de 
dissoluto super Parliamento : 

' Quod calculasti Sydere prsevio, 
Miles peregit numine conscio ; 
Gentis videmus nunc Senatum 
Marti togaque gravi leviatum.' 

His widower's weeds, if he ever wore them, he 
soon discarded, marrying his third wife in October, 



eight months after the decease of his second. This, 
his latest partner and helpmate, was signified in his 
nativity, he says, by Jupiter in Libra, which seems 
to have been a great comfort to him, and perhaps to 
his wife also. ' Jupiter in Libra ' sounds as well, 
indeed, as ' that blessed word, Mesopotamia.' 

In reference to the restoration of Charles II., in 
1660, Lilly unearths an old prophecy attributed to 
Ambrose Merlin, and written, he says, 990 years 

1 He calls King James the Lion of Righteousness, 
and saith, when he died, or was dead, there would 
reign a noble White King ; this was Charles I. 
The prophet discovers all his troubles, his flying 
up and down, his imprisonment, his death, and 
calls him Aquila. What concerns Charles II. is,' 
says Lilly, ' the subject of our discourse ; in the Latin 
copy it is thus : 

' Deinde ab Austro veniet cum Sole super ligneos equos, 
et super spumantem inundationem maris, Pidlus Aquilce 
navigans in Britanniam. 

' Et applicans statim tunc altam domum Aquilce 
sitiens, et cito aliam sitiet. 

' Deinde Pullus Aquilo3 nidificabit in summa rupe 
totius Britannice : necjuvenis occidet, nee aclsenem vivet.' 

This, in an old copy, is Englished thus : 

' After then shall come through the south with 
the sun, on horse of tree, and upon all waves of the 
sea, the Chicken of the Eagle, sailing into Britain, 
and arriving anon to the house of the Eagle, he shall 
show fellowship to these beasts. 


' After, the Chicken of the Eagle shall nestle in the 
highest rock of all Britain : nay, he shall nought be 
slain young ; nay, he nought come old.' 

Master William. Lilly then supplies an explana- 
tion, or, as he calls it, a verification, of these vener- 
able predictions. We shall give it in his own 
words : 

' His Majesty being in the Low Countries when 
the Lord-General had restored the secluded members, 
the Parliament sent part of the royal navy to bring 
him for England, which they did in May, 1660. 
Holland is east from England, so he came with the 
sun ; but he landed at Dover, a port in the south 
part of England. Wooden horses are the English 

' Tunc nidificabit in summo rupium. 

' The Lord-General, and most of the gentry in 
England, met him in Kent, and brought him unto 
London, then to White-hall. 

' Here, by the highest Rooch (some write Rock) 
is intended London, being the metropolis of all 

' Since which time, unto this very day, I write this 
story, he hath reigned in England, and long may he 
do hereafter.' (Written on December 20, 1667.) 

Lilly quotes a prophecy, printed in 1588, in Greek 
characters, which exactly deciphered, he says, the 
long troubles the English nation endured from 1641 
to 1660, but he omits to tell us where he saw it, or 
who was its author. It ended in the following 
mysterious fashion : 



'And after that shall come a dreadful dead man, 
and with him a royal Gr ' (it is gamma, T, in the 
Greek, intending C in the Latin, being the third 
letter in the alphabet), ' of the best blood in the 
world, and he shall have the crown, and shall set 
England in the right way, and put out all heresies.' 

To a man who could read the secrets of the stars, 
and divine the events of the future, there was, of 
course, nothing mysterious or obscure in these lines, 
and their meaning he had no difficulty in determin- 
ing. Monkery having been extinguished above 
eighty or ninety years, and the Lord-General's name 
being Monk, what more clear than that he must be 
the ' dead man ' ? And as for the royal T, or C, who 
came of the best blood of the world, it was evident 
that he could be no other than Charles II. ? The 
unlearned reader, who has neither the stars nor 
the crystal to assist him, will, nevertheless, arrive at 
the conclusion that if prophecies can be interpreted 
in this liberal fashion, there is nothing to prevent 
even him from assuming the role of an interpreter ! 

But let it be noted that, according to our brilliant 
magicians, ' these two prophecies were not given 
vocally by the angels, but by inspection of the crystal 
in types and figures, or by apparition, the circular 
way, where, at some distance, the angels appear, 
representing by forms, shapes, and motions, what is 
demanded. It is very rare, yea, even in our days, 
for any operator or master to have the angels speak 
articulately ; when they do speak, it is like the Irish, 
much in the throat.' 


In June, 1660, Lilly was summoned before a 
Committee of the House of Commons to answer to 
an inquiry concerning the executioner employed to 
behead Charles I. Here is his account of the 
examination : 

' God's providence appeared very much for me that 
day, for walking in Westminster Hall, Mr. Richard 
Pennington, son to my old friend, Mr. William 
Pennington, met me, and inquiring the cause of my 
being there, said no more, but walked up and down 
the Hall, and related my kindness to his father unto 
very many Parliament men of Cheshire and Lancashire, 
Yorkshire, Cumberland, and those northern counties, 
who numerously came up into the Speaker's chamber, 
and bade me be of good comfort ; at last he meets 
Mr. Weston, one of the three [the two others were 
Mr. Prinn and Colonel King] unto whom my matter 
was referred for examination, who told Mr. Penning- 
ton that he came purposely to punish me, and would 
be bitter against me ; but hearing it related, namely, 
my singular kindness and preservation of old Mr. 
Pennington's estate, to the value of £6,000 or 
£7,000, "I will do him all the good I can," says he. 
" I thought he had never done any good ; let me see 
him, and let him stand behind me where I sit." I 
did so. At my first appearance, many of the young 
members affronted me highly, and demanded several 
scurrilous questions. Mr. Weston held a paper 
before his mouth ; bade me answer nobody but Mr. 
Prinn ; I obeyed his command, and saved myself 
much trouble thereby ; and when Mr. Prinn put any 


difficult or doubtful query unto me, Mr. Weston 
prompted me with a fit answer. At last, after 
almost one hour's tugging, I desired to be fully heard 
what I could say as to the person who cut Charles I.'s 
head off. Liberty being given me to speak, I related 
what follows, viz. : 

' That the next Sunday but one after Charles I. 
was beheaded, Robert Spavin, Secretary unto Lieu- 
tenant- General Cromwell at that time, invited himself 
to dine with me, and brought Anthony Peirson and 
several others along with him to dinner: that their 
principal discourse all dinner-time was only w T ho it 
was that beheaded the King. One said it was the 
common hangman ; another, Hugh Peters ; others 
also were nominated, but none concluded. Robert 
Spavin, so soon as dinner was done, took me by the 
hand, and carried me to the south window : saith he, 
■' These are all mistaken, they have not named the 
man that did the fact: it was Lieutenant- Colonel 
Joyce. I was in the room when he fitted himself for 
the work, stood behind him when he did it; when 
done, went in again with him. There is no man 
knows this but my master, namely, Cromwell, Com- 
missary Ireton, and myself." " Doth not Mr. Rush- 
worth know it?" said I. " No, he doth not know it," 
saith Spavin. The same thing Spavin since had 
often related unto me when we were alone. Mr. 
Prinn did, with much civility, make a report hereof 
in the House; yet Norfolk, the Serjeant, after my 
discharge, kept me two days longer in arrest, pur- 
posely to get money of me. He had six pounds, and 


his messenger forty shillings ; and yet I was attached 
but upon Sunday, examined on Tuesday, and then 
discharged, though the covetous Serjeant detained me 
until Thursday. By means of a friend, I cried quit- 
tance with Norfolk, which friend was to pay him his 
salary at that time, and abated Norfolk three pounds, 
which he spent every penny at one dinner, without 
inviting the wretched Serjeant ; but in the latter end 
of the year, when the King's Judges were arraigned 
at the Old Bailey, Norfolk warned me to attend, 
believing I could give information concerning Hugh 
Peters. At the Sessions I attended during its con- 
tinuance, but was never called or examined. There 
I heard Harrison, Scott, Clement, Peters, Harker, 
Scroop, and others of the King's Judges, and Cook 
the Solicitor, who excellently defended himself; I 
say, I did hear what they could say for themselves, 
and after heard the sentence of condemnation pro- 
nounced against them by the incomparably modest 
and learned Judge Bridgman, now Lord Keeper of 
the Great Seal of England.' 

In spite of Spavin's circumstantial statement, as 
recorded by Lilly, it is now conclusively established 
that the executioner of Charles I. was Richard 
Brandon, the common executioner, who had previ- 
ously beheaded the Earl of Strafford. It is said that 
he was afterwards seized with poignant remorse for 
the act, and died in great mental suffering. His 
body was carried to the grave amid the execrations of 
an excited and angry populace. 

Though our astrologer, as we have seen, was at 


heart a Royalist, his services towards the Parlia- 
mentary cause were sufficiently conspicuous to ex- 
pose him after the Restoration to a good deal of 
persecution ; and he found it advisable to sue out his 
pardon under the Great Seal, which cost him, as he 
takes care to tell us, £13 6s. 8d. 

He claimed to have foreseen the Restoration, and 
all the good things which flowed — or were expected 
to have flowed — from that ' auspicious event.' In 
page 111 of his ' Prophetical Merlin,' published in 
1644, dwelling upon three sextile aspects of Saturn 
and Jupiter made in 1659 and 1660, he says: ' This, 
their friendly salutation, comforts us in England : 
every man now possesses his own vineyard ; our 
young youth grow up unto man's estate, and our old 
men live their full years ; our nobles and gentlemen 
rest again ; our yeomanry, many } 7 ears disconsolated, 
now take pleasure in their husbandry. The merchant 
sends out ships, and hath prosperous returns ; the 
mechanic hath quick trading ; here is almost a new 
world ; new laws, new lords. Now any county of 
England shall shed no more tears, but rejoice with 
and in the many blessings God gives or affords her 

He also wrote, he says, to Sir Edward Walker, 
Garter King-at-Arms in 1659, when, by the way, the 
restoration of Charles II. was an event that loomed in 
the near future, and was anticipated by every man of 
ordinary political sagacity : ' Tu, Dominusque vester 
videbitis Angliam, infra duos annis ' (Youjmd your 
Lord shall see England within two years). ' For 


in 1662,' adds the arch impostor, in his strange 
astrological jargon, ' his moon came by direction to 
the body of the sun.' 

' But he came in upon the ascendant directed unto the 
trine of Sol and antiscion of Jupiter.' 1 

No doubt he did. Who would presume to contra- 
dict our English Merlin? 

In 1663 and 1664 he served as churchwarden — 
surely the first and last astrologer who filled that re- 
spectable office — of Walton-upon- Thames, settling as 
well as he could the affairs of that ' distracted parish ' 
upon his own charges. 

An absurdly frivolous accusation was brought 
against him in the year 1666. He was once more sum- 
moned before a Committee of the House of Commons, 
because in his book, ' Monarchy or No Monarchy,' 
published in 1651, he had introduced sixteen plates, 
of which the eighth represented persons digging 
graves, with coffins and other emblems of mortality, 
and the thirteenth a city in flames. Hence it was 
inferred that he must have had something to do with 
the Great Fire which had destroyed so large a part of 
London, if not with the Plague, which had almost 
depopulated it. The chairman, Sir Robert Burke, 
on his coming into the Committee's presence, ad- 
dressed him thus : 

' Mr. Lilly, this Committee thought fit to summon 
you to appear before them this day, to know if you 
can say anything as to the cause of the late Fire, or 
whether there might be any design therein. You 
are called the rather hither, because in a book of 


yours, long since printed, you hinted some such 
thing by one of your hieroglyphics.' 

Whereto Mr. Lilly replied, with a firm assumption 
of superior wisdom and oracular knowledge: 

' May it please your Honours, — After the behead- 
ing of the late King, considering that in the three 
subsequent years the Parliament acted nothing which 
concerned the settlement of the nation in peace ; and 
seeing the generality of people dissatisfied, the 
citizens of London discontented, the soldiery prone 
to mutiny, I was desirous, according to the best 
knowledge God had given me, to make inquiry by 
the art I studied, what might from that time happen 
unto the Parliament and nation in general. At last, 
having satisfied myself as well as I could, and per- 
fected my judgment therein, I thought it most con- 
venient to signify my intentions and conceptions 
thereof in Forms, Shapes, Types, Hieroglyphics, etc., 
without any commentary, that so my judgment might 
be concealed from the vulgar, and made manifest only 
unto the wise. I herein imitating the examples of 
many wise philosophers who had done the like.' 

' Sir Robert,' saith one, ' Lilly is yet sub vestibuloJ 

' Having found, sir,' continued Lilly, ' that the 
city of London should be sadly afflicted with a great 
plague, and not long after with an exorbitant Fire, I 
framed those two hieroglyphics as represented in the 
book, which in effect have proved very true.' 

' Did you foresee the year ?' inquired a member of 
the Committee. 

' I did not,' said Lilly, ' nor was desirous ; of that 


I made no scrutiny. Now, sir,' he proceeded, 
' whether there was any design of burning the 
city, or any employed to that purpose, I must deal 
ingenuously with you, that since the Fire, I have 
taken much pains in the search thereof, but can- 
not or could not give myself any the least satisfac- 
tion therein. I conclude, that it was the only finger 
of God; but what instruments he used thereunto, I 
am ignorant.' 

In 1665 Lilly finally left London, and settling 
down at Hersham, applied himself to the study of 
medicine, in which he arrived at so competent a 
degree of knowledge, assisted by diligent observation 
and experiment, that, in October, 1670, on a testi- 
monial from two physicians of the College in London, 
he obtained from the Archbishop of Canterbury a 
license to practise. In his new profession this clever, 
plausible fellow was, of course, successful. Every 
Saturday he rode to Kingston, whither the poorer 
sort flocked to him from all the countryside, and he 
dispensed his advice and prescriptions freely and 
without charge. From those in a better social 
position he now and then took a shilling, and some- 
times half a crown, if it were offered to him ; but he 
never demanded a fee. And, indeed, his charity 
towards the poor seems to have been real and 
unaffected. He displayed the greatest care in con- 
sidering and weighing their particular cases, and in 
applying proper remedies for their infirmities — a line 
of conduct which gained him deserved popularity. 


Gifted with a robust constitution, he enjoyed good 
health far on into old age. He seems to have had no 
serious illness until he was past his seventy-second 
birthday, and from this attack he recovered com- 
pletely. In November, 1675, he was less fortunate, 
a severe attack of fever reducing him to a condition 
of great physical weakness, and so affecting his eye- 
sight that thenceforward he was compelled to employ 
the services of an amanuensis in drawing up his 
annual astrological budget. After an attack of 
dysentery, in the spring of 1681, he became totally 
blind ; a few weeks later he was seized with paralysis ; 
and on June 9 he passed away, ' without any show 
of trouble or pangs.' 

He was buried, on the following evening, in the 
chancel of Walton Church, where Elias Ashmole, a 
month later, placed a slab of fair black marble ('which 
cost him six pounds four shillings and sixpence '), 
with the following epitaph, in honour of his departed 
friend: ' Ne Oblivione conteretur Urna Gulielmi 
Lillii, Astrologi Peritissimi Qui Fatis cessit, Quinto 
Idus Junii, Anno Christi Juliano, mdclxxxi, Hoc 
illi posuit amoris Monumentum Elias Ashmole, 
Armiger.' There is a pagan flavour about the 
phrases ' Qui Fatis cessit,' and ' Quinto Idus Junii,' and 
they read oddly enough within the walls of a Chris- 
tian church. 

There are two sides to every shield. As regards 
our astrologer, the last of the English magicians who 
held a position of influence, let us first take the silver 
side, as presented in the eulogistic verse of Master 


George Smalridge, scholar at Westminster. Thus 

it is that he describes his hero's capacity and 

potentiality. ' Our prophet's gone,' he exclaims in 

lugubrious tones — 

'No longer may our ears 
Be charmed with musick of th' harmonious spheres : 
Let sun and moon withdraw, leave gloomy night 
To show their Nuncio's fate, who gave more light 
To th' erring world, than all the feeble rays 
Of sun or moon ; taught us to know those days 
Bright Titan makes ; followed the hasty sun 
Through all his circuits ; knew the unconstant moon, 
And more constant ebbings of the flood ; 
And what is most uncertain, th' factious brood, 
Flowing in civil broils : by the heavens could date 
The flux and reflux of our dubious state. 
He saw the eclipse of sun, and change of moon 
He saw ; but seeing would not shun his own : 
Eclipsed he was, that he might shine more bright, 
And only changed to give a fuller light. 
He having viewed the sky, and glorious train 
Of gilded stars, scorned longer to remain 
In earthly prisons : could he a village love 
Whom the twelve houses waited for above f 

The other side of the shield is turned towards us 

by Butler, who, in his ' Hudibras,' paints Lilly with 

all the dark enduring colours which a keen wit could 

place at the disposal of political prejudice. When 

Hudibras is unable to solve ' the problems of his 

fate,' Ralpho, his squire, advises him to apply to the 

famous thaumaturgist. He says : 

' Not far from hence doth dwell 
A cunning man, hight Sidrophel, 
That deals in Destiny's dark counsels, 
And sage opinions of the Moon sells ; 
To whom all people, far and near, 
On deep importances repair : 


When brass and pewter hap to stray, 
And linen slinks out o' the way ; 
When geese and pullen are seduced, 
And sows of sucking pigs are choused ; 
When cattle feel indisposition, 
And need th' opinion of physician ; 
When murrain reigns in hogs or sheep, 
And chickens languish of the pip ; 
When yeast and outward means do fail, 
And have no pow'r to work on ale ; 
When butter does refuse to come, 
And love proves cross and humoursome ; 
To him with questions, and with urine, 
They for disco v'ry flock, or curing.' 

After this humorous reductio ad absurdum of Lilly's 
pretensions as an astrologer, the satirist proceeds to 
allude to his dealings with the Puritan party : 

' Do not our great Eeformers use 
This Sidrophel to forebode news ; 
To write of victories next year, 
And castles taken, yet i' th' air 1 
Of battles fought at sea, and ships 
Sunk, two years hence, the last eclipse V 

The satirist then devotes himself to a minute 
exposure of Lilly's pretensions : 

' He had been long t'wards mathematics, 
Optics, philosophy, and statics ; 
Magic, horoscopy, astrology, 
And was old dog at physiology ; 
But as a dog that turns the spit 
Bestirs himself, and plies his feet 
To climb the wheel, but all in vain, 
His own weight brings him down again, 
And still he's in the self-same place 
Where at his setting out he was ; 
So in the circle of the arts 
Did he advance his nat'ral parts . . . 


Whate'er he laboured to appear, 
His understanding still was clear ; 
Yet none a deeper knowledge boasted, 
Since old Hodge Bacon and Bob Grosted.' 

(Robert Grostete, Bishop of Lincoln [temp. 

Henry III.], whose learning procured him among 

the ignorant the reputation of being a conjurer.) 

' He had read Dee's prefaces before 
The Dev'l and Euclid o'er and o'er ; 
And all th' intrigues 'twixt him and Kelly, 
Lascus, and th' Emperor, would tell ye ; 
But with the moon was more familiar 
Than e'er was almanack well-wilier; 
Her secrets understood so clear, 
That some believed he had been there; 
Knew when she was in fittest mood 
For cutting corns or letting blood . . .' 

Continuing his enumeration of the conjurer's 
various and versatile achievements, the poet says 
he can — 

' Cure warts and corns with application 

Of med'cines to th' imagination ; 

Fright agues into dogs, and scare 

With rhymes the toothache and catarrh ; 

Chase evil spirits away by dint 

Of sickle, horse-shoe, hollow flint ; 

Spit fire out of a walnut-shell, 

Which made the Roman slaves rebel ; 

And fire a mine in China here 

With sympathetic gunpowder. 

He knew whats'ever's to be known, 

But much more than he knew would own . . . 

How many difPrent specieses 

Of maggots breed in rotten cheese ; 

And which are next of kin to those 

Engendered in a chandler's nose ; 

Or those not seen, but understood, 

That live in vinegar and wood.' 


In the course of the long dialogue that takes place 
between Hudibras and the astrologer, Butler con- 
trives to introduce a clever and trenchant exposure 
of the follies and absurdities, the impositions and 
assumptions, of the art of magic. With reference to 
the pretensions of astrologers, he observes that — 

' There's but the twinkling of a star 
Between a man of peace and war, 
A thief and justice, fool and knave, 
A huffing officer and a slave, 
A crafty lawyer and pick-pocket, 
A great philosopher and a blockhead, 
A formal preacher and a player, 
A learn'd physician and man-slayer ; 
As if men from the stars did suck 
Old age, diseases, and ill-luck, 
Wit, folly, honour, virtue, vice, 
Trade, travel, women, claps, and dice ; 
And draw, with the first air they breathe, 
Battle and murder, sudden death. 
Are not these fine commodities 
To be imported from the skies, 
And vended here among the rabble, 
For staple goods and warrantable 1 
Like money by the Druids borrowed 
In th' other world to be restored.' 

The character of Lilly is to some extent a problem, 
and I confess it is not one of easy or direct solution. 
As I have already hinted, it is always difficult to draw 
the line between conscious and unconscious imposture 
— to determine w T hen a man who has imposed upon 
himself begins to impose upon others. But was 
Lilly self-deceived ? Or was he openly and knowingly 
a fraud and a cheat ? For myself I cannot answer 
either question in the affirmative. I do not think he 


was entirely innocent of deception, but I also believe 
that he was not wholly a rogue. I think he had a 
lingering confidence in the reality of his horoscopes, 
his figures, his stellar prophecies ; though at the 
same time he did not scruple to trade on the credulity 
of his contemporaries by assuming to himself a power 
and a capacity which he did not possess, and knew 
that he did not possess. Despite his vocation, he 
seems to have lived decently, and in good repute. 
The activity of his enemies failed to bring against him 
any serious charges, and we know that he enjoyed 
the support of men of light and leading, who would 
have stood aloof from a common charlatan or a vulgar 
knave. He was, it is certain, a very shrewd and 
quick observer, with a keen eye for the signs of the 
times, and a wide knowledge of human nature ; and 
his success in his peculiar craft was largely due to 
this alertness of vision, this practical knowledge, and 
to the ingenuity and readiness with which he made 
use of all the resources at his command. 


Horace Walpole gives an amusing account of Kelly's famous 
crystal, and of the useful part it played in a burglary committed 
at his house in Arlington Street in the spring of 1771. At the 
time, he was taking his ease at his Strawberry Hill villa, near Ted- 
dington, when a courier brought him news of what had occurred. 
Writing to his friend, Sir Horace Mann, March 22, he says : 

' I was a good quarter of an hour before I recollected that it 
was very becoming to have philosophy enough not to care about 
what one does care for ; if you don't care, there is no philosophy 
in bearing it. I despatched my upper servant, breakfasted, fed 
the bantams as usual, and made no more hurry to town than 
Cincinnatus would if he had lost a basket of turnips. I left in 



my drawers £270 of bank bills and three hundred guineas, not 
to mention all my gold and silver coins, some inestimable 
miniatures, a little plate, and a good deal of furniture, under no 
guard but that of two maidens. . . . 

' When I arrived, my surprise was by no means diminished. I 
found in three different chambers three cabinets, a large chest, and 
a glass case of china wide open, the locks not picked, but forced, 
and the doors of them broken to pieces. You will wonder that 
this should surprise me, when I had been prepared for it. Oh, 
the miracle was that I did not find, nor to this time have found, 
the least thing missing ! In the cabinet of modern medals there 
were, and so there are still, a series of English coins, with down- 
right John Trot guineas, half-guineas, shillings, sixpences, and 
every kind of current money. Not a single piece was removed. 
Just so in the Eoman and Greek cabinet, though in the latter 
were some drawers of papers, which they had tumbled and 
scattered about the floor. A great exchequer desk, that belonged 
to my father, was in the same room. JSTot being able to force the 
lock, the philosophers (for thieves that steal nothing deserve the 
title much more than Cincinnatus or I) had wrenched a great 
flapper of brass with such violence as to break it into seven 
pieces. The trunk contained a new set of chairs of French 
tapestry, two screens, rolls of prints, and a suit of silver stuff 
that I had made for the King's wedding. All was turned topsy- 
turvy, and nothing stolen. The glass case and cabinet of shells 
had been handled as roughly by these impotent gallants. Another 
little table with drawers, in which, by the way, the key was left, 
had been opened too, and a metal standish, that they ought to 
have taken for silver, and a silver hand-candlestick that stood 
upon it, were untouched. Some plate in the pantry, and all 
my linen just come from the wash, had no more charms for them 
than gold or silver. In short, I could not help laughing, especially 
as the only two movables neglected were another little table with 
drawers and the money, and a writing-box with the bank-notes, 
both in the same room where they made the first havoc. In 
short, they had broken out a panel in the door of the area, and 
unbarred and unbolted it, and gone out at the street-door, which 
they left wide open at five o'clock in the morning. A passenger 
had found it so, and alarmed the maids, one of whom ran naked 
into the street, and by her cries waked my Lord Eomney, who 
lives opposite. The poor creature was in fits for two days, but at 

CHAP, v.] NOTE. 179 

first, finding my coachmaker's apprentice in the street, had sent 
him to Mr. Conway, who immediately despatched him to me 
before he knew how little damage I had received, the whole 
of which consists in repairing the doors and locks of my cabinets 
and coffers. 

' All London is reasoning on this marvellous adventure, and not 

one argument presents itself that some other does not contradict. 

I insist that I have a talisman. You must know that last winter, 

being asked by Lord Vere to assist in settling Lady Betty 

Germaine's auction, I found in an old catalogue of her collection 

this article, " The Black Stone into which Dr. Dee used to call his 

spirits." Dr. Dee, you must know, was a great conjurer in the 

days of Queen Elizabeth, and has written a folio of the dialogues 

he held with his imps. I asked eagerly for this stone; Lord Vere 

said he knew of no such thing, but if found, it should certainly 

be at my service. Alas, the stone was gone ! This winter I was 

again employed by Lord Frederick Campbell, for I am an absolute 

auctioneer, to do him the same service about his father's (the 

Duke of Argyll's) collection. Among other odd things, he 

produced a round piece of shining black marble in a leathern 

case as big as the crown of a hat, and asked me what that possibly 

could be ? I screamed out, "Oh, Lord ! I am the only man in 

England that can tell you! ... It is Dr. Dee's 'Black Stone.' ; ' 

It certainly is; Lady Betty had formerly given away or sold, 

time out of mind, for she was a thousand years old, that part of 

the Peterborough collection Avhich contained natural philosophy. 

So, or since, the Black Stone had wandered into an auction, for 

the lotted paper was still on it. The Duke of Argyll, who 

bought everything, bought it. Lord Frederick [Campbell] gave 

it to me ; and if it was not this magical stone, which is only of 

high-polished coal, that preserved my chattels, in truth I cannot 

guess what did.'* 

At the great Strawberry Hill sale, in 1842, which dispersed the 
Walpole Collection, it was described in the catalogue as 'a singularly 
interesting and curious relic of the superstition of our ancestors 
— the celebrated Speculum of Kennel Goal, highly polished, in a 
leathern case. It is remarkable for having been used to deceive 
the mob (!) by the celebrated Dr. Dee, the conjurer, in the reign 
of Queen Elizabeth,' etc. 

* Horace Walpole (Earl of Orford), ' Letters,' v. 290, et sea. 



The authorities of the British Museum purchased this ' relic of 
the superstition of our ancestors ' for the sum of twelve guineas. 
It is neither more nor less than what it has been described, a 
polished piece of cannel-coal, and thus explains the allusion in 
Butler's ' Hudibras ' : 

' Kelly did all his feats upon 
The devil's looking-glass — a stone.' 




It is not very easy to trace the origin of the Rosicru- 
cian Brotherhood. It is not easy, indeed, to get at 
the true derivation of the name ' Rosicrucian.' Some 
authorities refer it to that of the ostensible founder of 
the society, the mysterious Christian Rosenkreuse, but 
who can prove that such an individual ever existed ? 
Others borrow it from the Latin word ros, dew, and 
crux, a cross, and explain it thus : c Dew,' of all 
natural bodies, was esteemed the most powerful 
solvent of gold ; and ' the cross,' in the old chemical 
language, signified light, because the figure of a cross 
exhibits at the same time the three letters which form 
the word. lux. ' Now, lux is called the seed, or 
menstruum, of the red dragon; or, in other words, 
that gross and corporeal light, which, when properly 
digested and modified, produces gold.' So that, 
according to this derivation, a Rosicrucian is one who 
by the intervention and assistance of the ' dew ' seeks 
for ' light ' — that is, the philosopher's stone. But such 
an etymology is evidently too fanciful, and assumes 
too much to be readily accepted, and we try a third 


derivation, namely, from rosa and crux ; in support 
of which may be adduced the oldest official docu- 
ments of the brotherhood, which style it the ' Broe- 
derschafft des Eoosen Creutzes,' or Rose- Crucians, or 
' Fratres Rosatse Crucis ;' while the sj^mbol of the 
order is ' a red rose on a cross.' Both the rose and 
the cross possess a copious emblematic history, and 
their choice by a secret society, which clothed its 
beliefs and fancies in allegorical language, is by no 
means difficult to understand. ' The rose,' says 
Eliphas Levi, in his ' Histoire de la Magie,' ' which 
from time immemorial has been the symbol of beauty 
and life, of love and pleasure, expressed in a mystical 
manner all the protestations of the Renaissance. It 
was the flesh revolting against the oppression of the 
spirit; it was Nature declaring herself to be, like 
Grace, the daughter of God ; it was Love refusing to 
be stifled by celibacy ; it was Life desiring to be no 
longer barren ; it was Humanity aspiring to a natural 
religion, full of love and reason, founded on the reve- 
lation of the harmonies of existence of which the rose 
was for initiates the living and blooming symbol. . . . 
The reunion of the rose and the cross — such was the 
problem proposed by supreme initiation, and, in effect, 
occult philosophy, being the universal synthesis, 
should take into account all the phenomena of Being. 
It may be doubted, however, whether this ingenious 
symbolism has anything at all to do with Rosicru- 
cianism ; but it is not the less a fact that the rose 
and the cross were chosen because they were recog- 
nised emblems. And probably because the rose typi- 


fied secrecy, while the cross was a protest against the 
tyranny and superstition of the Papacy. 

We hear nothing of Rosicrucianisrn until the 
beginning of the seventeenth century. The earlier 
alchemists knew nothing of its theosophic doctrines ; 
and the earlier Rosicrucians did not dabble in alchemy. 
The connection between the two was established at a 
later date ; when the quest of the ' elixir of life ' and the 
' philosopher's stone ' was grafted upon the mysticism 
which had taken up the ancient teaching of the 
Alexandrian Platonists, combining with it much of 
the allegorical jargon of Paracelsus, and something 
of the theology of Luther and the German Reformers. 
The antiquity claimed for the brotherhood in the 
' Fama Fraternitatis ' is purely a myth. For my 
own part, I must regard as its virtual founder — 
though he may not have been its actual initiator — 
the celebrated Johann Valentine Andreas, who with 
wide and profound learning united a lively imagina- 
tion, and was, moreover, a man of pure and lofty 
purpose. The regeneration of humanity, the extirpa- 
tion of the vices and follies which had sprung up in 
the dark shadow of the mediaeval Church, was the 
dream of his life ; and it is beyond doubt that he 
hoped to realize it by secret societies bound together 
for the purpose of reforming the morals of the age 
and inspiring men with a love of wisdom. This is 
proved by three of his acknowledged works, namely, 
' ReipublicaB Christianapolitanaa Descriptio,' ' Turris 
Babel, sive Judiciorum de Fraternitate Rosaceae 
Crucis Chaos/ and 'Christianas Societatis Idea'; and 


I venture to think, though Mr. Waite will not have 
it so, that the author of these works was also the 
author of the 'Fama,' as well as of the ' Confessio 
Fraternitatis ' and the ' Nuptas Chymicse,' in which he 
gathered up all the floating dreams and traditions 
bearing on his subject, and gave to them a certain 
form and order, infusing into them a fascinating 
poetical colouring, and inspiring them with his own 
idealistic speculations. 

' Akin to the school of the ancient Fire-Believers,' 
says Ennemoser, 'and of the magnetisls of a later 
period, of the same cast as those speculators and 
searchers into the mysteries of Nature, drawing from 
the same well, are the theosophists of the sixteenth 
and seventeenth centuries. These practised chemistry, 
by which they asserted they could explore the pro- 
foundest secrets of Nature. As they strove, above all 
earthly knowledge, after the Divine, and sought the 
Divine light and fire, through which all men can 
acquire the true wisdom, they were called the Fire- 
Philosophers {philosophi per ignem). 1 They were 
identical with the Rosicrucians, and in the books of 
the later Rosicrucians we meet with the same mys- 
ticism and transcendental philosophy as in theirs. 

Whether we agree in accepting Andreas as the 
founder of the order, or as simply its hierophant, we 
must admit that the rise of Rosicrucianism dates from 
the publication of the ' Fama ' and the ' Confessio 
Fraternitatis.' They produced an immense sensation, 
passed through several editions, and were devoured 
by multitudes of eager readers. ' In the library at 


Gottingen,' says De Quincey (adapting from Professor 
Buhle), 'there is a body of letters addressed to the 
imaginary order of Father Rosy Cross, from 1614 to 
1617, by persons offering themselves as members. 
. . . As certificates of their qualifications, most of 
the candidates have enclosed specimens of their skill 
in alchemy and cabalism. . . . Many other literary 
persons there were at that day who forbore to write 
letters to the society, but threw out small pamphlets 
containing their opinions of the order, and of its place 
of residence.' 

It is not my business, however, to write a history 
of Rosicrucianism. I have desired simply to say so 
much about its origin as will serve as a preface to 
my account of the principal English members of the 
brotherhood. The reader who would know more 
about its origin and extension, its pretensions and 
professors, may consult Heckethorn's ' Secret Socie- 
ties of all Ages and Countries,' Ennemoser's ' History 
of Magic,' Thomas de Quincey's essay on ' Rosicrucians 
and Freemasons,' and Arthur Edward Waite's ' Real 
History of the Rosicrucians.' * 

The greatest English Rosicrucian, and most dis- 
tinguished of the disciples of Paracelsus, was Robert 
Fludd (or Flood, or De Fluctibus), a man of singular 
erudition, of great though misdirected capacity, and 
of a vivid and fertile imagination. 

The second son of Sir Thomas Flood, Treasurer 

of War to Queen Elizabeth, he was born at Milgate 

* See also Louis Figuier's ' L'Alchimie et les Alchimistes,' a 
popular and agreeable survey ; and the more erudite work of Pro- 
fessor Buhle. 


House, in the parish of Bersted, Kent, in the year 
1574. At the age of seventeen he was entered of 
St. John's College, Oxford. His father had originally 
intended him for a military life, but finding that his 
inclinations led him into the peaceful paths of scholar- 
ship, he forbore to oppose them, and the youth entered 
upon a particular study of medicine, which drew him, 
no doubt, into a pursuit of alchemy and chemistry. 
Having graduated both in the arts and sciences, he 
went abroad, and for six years travelled over France, 
Germany, Italy, and Spain, making the acquaintance 
of the principal Continental scholars, as well as of the 
enthusiasts who belonged to the theosophic school of 
the divine Paracelsus, and the adepts who dabbled in 
the secrets of the Cabala. Returning to England in 
1605, he became a member of the College of Physicians, 
and settled down to practise in Coleman Street, London, 
where, about 1616, he was visited by the celebrated 
German alchemist, Michael Maier. 

His active imagination stimulated by his know- 
ledge of the Rosicrucian doctrines, he resolved on 
revealing to his countrymen the true light of science 
and wisdom. He had already, as a believer in the 
theory of magnetism, introduced into England the 
celebrated ' weapon salve ' of Paracelsus, which healed 
the severest wound by sympathy — not being applied 
to the wound itself, but to the weapon or instrument 
that had caused it. The recipe, as formulated by 
Paracelsus, would hardly be approved by modern 
practitioners : ' Take of moss growing on the head of 
a thief who has been hanged and left in the air, of 


real mummy, of human blood still warm, one ounce 
each ; of human suet, two ounces ; of linseed-oil, tur- 
pentine, and Armenian bole, of each two drachms. 
Mix together thoroughly in a mortar, and keep the 
salve in a narrow oblong urn.' This, or, I presume, 
some similar compound, Fludd tried with success in 
several cases, and no wonder ; for while the sword 
was anointed and put away, the wound was well 
washed and carefully bandaged — a process which has 
been known to succeed in our own day without the 
intervention of any salve whatever ! Fludd contended 
that every disease might be cured by the magnet if it 
were properly applied ; but that as every man had, 
like the earth, a north pole and a south, magnetism 
could be produced only when his body occupied a 
boreal position. The salve, at all events, grew into 
instant favour. Among other believers in its virtues 
was Sir Kenelm Digby, who, however, converted the 
salve into a powder, which he named ' the powder of 
sympathy.' But it had its incredulous opponents, of 
whom the most strenuous was a certain Pastor Foster, 
who published an invective entitled ' Hyplocrisma 
Spongus ; or, A Sponge to Wipe Away the Weapon 
Salve,' and affirmed that it was as bad as witchcraft 
to use or recommend such an unguent, that its in- 
ventor, the devil, would at the Last Day claim 
every person who had meddled with it. ' The devil,' 
he said, 'gave it to Paracelsus, Paracelsus to the 
Emperor, the Emperor to a courtier, the courtier to 
Baptista Porta, and Baptista Porta to Doctor Fludd, 
a doctor of physic, yet living and practising in the 


famous city of London, who now stands tooth and 
nail for it.' Tooth and nail Dr. Fludd met his ad- 
versary, and the public were infinitely amused by the 
vehemence of his style in his pamphlet, ' The Spung- 
ing of Parson Foster's Spunge ; wherein the Spunge- 
carrier's immodest Carriage and Behaviour towards 
his Brethren is detected ; the bitter Flames of his 
Slanderous Reports are, by the sharp Vinegar of 
Truth, corrected and quite extinguished ; and, lastly, 
the Virtuous Validity of his Spunge in wiping away 
the Weapon Salve, is crushed out and clean abolished.' 
In all the dreams of the mediaeval philosophy — in 
the philosopher's stone and the stone philosophic, in 
the universal alkahest, in the magical ' elixir vitas ' — 
Dr. Fludd was a serious believer. It was a favourite 
hypothesis of his that all things depended on two 
principles — condensation, or the boreal principle, and 
rarefaction, the southern or austral. The human 
body, he averred, was governed by a number of 
demons, whom he distributed over a rhomboidal 
figure. Further, he taught that every disease had 
its own particular demon, the evil influence of which 
could be neutralized only by the assistance of the 
demon placed opposite to it in the rhomboid. The 
doctrines of the Rosicrucian brotherhood he defended 
with a charming enthusiasm, and when they had 
been attacked by Libavius and others, he set them 
forth in what he conceived to be their true light in his 
' Apologia Compendiaria Fraternitatem de Rosea- 
Cruce suspicionis et infamiaa Maculis Aspersam,' etc. 
(published at Leyden in 1616) — a work which entitles 


him to be regarded as the high-priest of their mysteries. 
It was severely criticised, however, by contemporary 
men of science, as by Kepler, Gassendus (in his 
1 Epistolica Exercitatio '), and Mersenne, whose search- 
ing analysis of the pretensions of the fraternity pro- 
voked from Fludd an elaborate reply, entitled ' Sum- 
mum Bonum, quod est Magiaa, Cabalas, Alchemiae, 
Fratrum Roseae-Crucis verorum, et adversus Mer- 
senium Calumniatorem.'* 

In addition to the fo rejoin 2; works, Fludd ffave to 
the world : 

1. ' Utriusque Cosmi, Majoris et Minoris, Technica 
Historia,' 2 vols., folio, Oppenheim, 1616; 2. ' Trac- 
tatus Apologeticus Integritatem Societatis de Rosea- 
Cruce Defendens,' Ley den, 1617; 3. ' Monochordon 
Mundi Symphoniacum, seu Replicatio ad Apologiam 
Johannis Kepleri,' Frankfort, 1620; 4. 'Anatomise 
Amphitheatrum effigie triplici Designatum,' Frank- 
fort, 1623 ; 5. ' Philosophia Sacra et vere Christiana, 
seu Meteorologica Cosmica,' Frankfort, 1626; 6. 
' Medicina Catholica, seu Mysterium Artis Medicandi 
Sacrarium/ Frankfort, 1631 ; 7. 'Integrum Morborum 
Mysterium,' Frankfort, 1631 ; 8. ' Clavis Philosophiae 
et Alchymiae,' Frankfort, 1633; 9. 'Philosophia 
Mosaica,' Goudac, 1638; and 10. ; Pathologia Dsemo- 
niaca,' Goudac, 1640. 

The last two treatises were posthumous publications. 

* This is sometimes ascribed to Joachim Fritz, but no one can 
cloubt that virtually it is Fludd's, who accompanied it with a 
defence of his general philosophical teaching, entitled 'Sophiae 
cum Moria Certamen.' But whose was ' the Wisdom,' and whose 
; the Folly ' ? 


Fludd died in London in 1637, and was buried in 
Bersted Church, where an imposing monument per- 
petuates his memory. It represents him seated, with 
his hand on a book, from the perusal of which his 
head has just been lifted. Just below are two volumes 
(there were eight originally) in marble, inscribed 
respectively, ' Mysterium Cabalisticum ' and ' Philo- 
sophia Sacra.' The epitaph runs as follows : ' viii. 
Die Mensis vii. A D ni , m.d.c.xxxvii. Odoribvs vana 
vaporat crypta tegit cineres nee speciosa tros qvod 
mortale minvs tibi. Te committimvs vnvm ingenii 
vivent hie monvmenti tvi nam tibi qvi similis scribit 
moritvrqve sepvlchrvm pro tota eternvm posteritate 
facit. Hoc monvmentvm Thomas Flood Gore Courti 
in-coram apud Cantianos armiger infoelicissimum in 
charissimi patrvi svi memoriam erexit die Mensis 
Avgvsti, m.d.c.xxxvii.' 

I shall not weary the reader with an analysis of 
any of Fludd's elaborately mystical productions. 
They are as dead as anything can be, and no power 
that I know of could breathe into them the breath of 
life. But I may quote a few specimen or sample 
sentences, so to speak, which will afford an idea of 
their style and tone : 

' Particulars are frequently fallible, but universal 
never. Occult philosophy lays bare Nature in her 
complete nakedness, and alone contemplates the wis- 
dom of universals by the eyes of intelligence. Accus- 
tomed to partake of the rivers which flow from the 
Fountain of Life, it is unacquainted with grossness 
and with clouded waters.' 


In reference to Music, which he says stands in the 
same relation to arithmetic as medicine to natural 
philosophy, he revives the Pythagorean idea of the. 
harmony of the universe : ' What is this music (of 
men) compared with that deep and true music of the 
wise, whereby the proportions of natural things are 
investigated, the harmonical concord and the qualities 
of the whole world are revealed, by which also con- 
nected things are bound together, peace established 
between conflicting elements, and whereby each star 
is perpetually suspended in its appointed place by its 
weight and strength, and by the harmony of its 
herent spirit.' 

Light. — ' Nothing in this world can be accom- 
plished without the mediation or divine act of light.' 

Magic. — ' That most occult and secret department 
of physics, by which the mystical properties of 
natural substances are extracted, we term Natural 
Magic. The wise kings who (led by the new star 
from the east) sought the infant Christ, are called 
Magi, because they had attained a perfect knowledge 
of natural things, whether celestial or sublunar. This 
branch of the Magi also includes Solomon, since he 
was versed in the arcane virtues and properties of 
all substances, and is said to have understood the 
nature of every plant, from the cedar to the hyssop. 
Magicians who are proficient in the mathematical 
division construct marvellous machines by means of 
their geometrical knowledge ; such were the flying 
dove of Archytas, and the brazen heads of Roger 
Bacon and Albertus Magnus, which are said to have 

192 witch, warlock:, x\.nd magician, [book i. 

spoken. Venefic magic is familiar with potions, 
philtres, and with the various preparations of poisons; 
it is, in a measure, included in the natural division, 
because a knowledge of the properties of natural 
things is requisite to produce its results. Necromantic 
magic is divided into Goetic, maleficent, and theurgic. 
The first consists in diabolical commerce with un- 
clean spirits, in rites of criminal curiosity, in illicit 
songs and invocations, and in the invocation of the 
souls of the dead. The second is the adjuration of 
the devils by the virtue of Divine names. The third 
pretends to be governed by good angels and the 
Divine will, but its wonders are most frequently 
performed by evil spirits, who assume the names of 
God and of the angels. This department of necro- 
mancy can, however, be performed by natural powers, 
definite rites and ceremonies, whereby celestial and 
Divine virtues are reconciled and drawn to us ; the 
ancient Magi formulated in their secret books many 
rules of this doctrine. The last species of magic is 
the thaumaturgic, begetting illusory phenomena ; by 
this art the Magi produced their phantasms and other 

The Creation. — ' According to Fludd's philosophy,' 
says Mr. Waite, ■ the whole universe was fashioned 
after the pattern of an archetypal world which existed 
in the Divine ideality, and was framed out of unity 
in a threefold manner. The Eternal Monad or Unity, 
without any regression from His own central pro- 
fundity, compasses complicitly the three cosmical 
dimensions, namely, root, square, and cube. If we 


multiply unity as a root, in itself, it will produce 
only unity for its square, which being again multi- 
plied in itself, brings forth a cube, which is one with 
root and square. Thus we have three branches 
differing in formal progression, yet one unity in 
which all things remain potentially, and that after a 
most abstruse manner. The archetypal world was 
made by the egression of one out of one, and by the 
regression of that one, so emitted into itself by 
emanation. According to this ideal image, or 
archetypal world, our universe was subsequently 
fashioned as a true type and exemplar of the Divine 
Pattern ; for out of unity in His abstract existence, 
viz., as it was hidden in the dark chaos, or potential 
mass, the bright flame of all formal being did shine 
forth, and the spirit of wisdom, proceeding from 
them both, conjoined the formal emanation with the 
potential matter, so that by the union of the divine 
emanation of light, and the substantial darkness, 
which was water, the heavens were made of old, and 
the whole world.'* 


Another English Rosicrucian to whom allusion 
must briefly be made is Thomas Yaughan, who in 
his writings assumes the more classical appellation of 
Eugenius Philalethes ('truth-lover'), and in his 
travels was known as Carnobius in Holland, and 
Doctor Zheil in America. He was born about 
1612 ; was educated at Oxford ; wandered afterwards 
* Waite, ' History of the Bosicrucians,' p. 385. 



through many countries ; embraced the delusions of 
alchemy and the Rosy Cross ; accreted round his per- 
sonality a number of wild and extravagant stories; and 
finally disappeared into such complete oblivion that 
the time and place of his death are alike unknown. 

The writings attributed to him are : 1. ' Anthro- 
posophia Magica ; or, A Discourse of the Nature of 
Man and his State after Death ; ' and ' Anima 
Magica Absconclita ; or, A Discourse of the Cniver- 
sail Spirit of Nature,' London, 1650. 2. ' Magia 
Adamica ; or, The Antiquities of Magic,' same place 
and date. 3. ' The Man-Mouse taken in a Trap ;' 
a reply to Henry More, who had criticised his 
' Anthroposophia Magica.' 4. ' Lumen de Lumine ; 
or, A New Magicall Light discovered and communi- 
cated to the World,' London, 1651. 5. ' The Second 
Wash ; or, The Moor Scoured Once More, being a 
charitable Cure for the Distractions of Abazonomastix ' 
[Henry More], London, 1651. 6. ' The Fame and 
Confession of the Fraternity of R. C, with a Preface 
annexed thereto, and a short declaration of their 
physicall work,' London, 1652. 7. 'Euphrates; or, 
The Waters of the East, being a Short Discourse of 
that Great Fountain whose water flows from Fire, 
and carries in it the beams of the Sun and Moon,' 
London, 1656. 8. 'A Brief Natural History,' Lon- 
don, 1669. And 9. ' Introitus Apertus ad Occlu- 
sum Regis Palatium. Philalethse Tractatus Tres : 
i. Metallorum Metamorphosis ; ii. Brevis Manductio 
ad Rubrium Coelestem ; hi. Fons Chymicse Veritatis,' 
London, 1678. 


Yaughan seems to have led a wandering life, and 
to have fallen ' often into great perplexities and 
dangers from the mere suspicion that he possessed 
extraordinary secrets.' The suspicion, I should say, 
was abundantly justified, since he made gold at will, 
and knew the composition of the wonderful elixir ! 
On one occasion, he tells us, he went to a goldsmith, 
desiring to sell him twelve hundred marks' worth of 
gold ; but the goldsmith at first sight pronounced 
that it had never come out of any mine, but was the 
production of art, seeing that it was not of the 
standard of any known kingdom. Vaughan adds 
that he was so confounded at this statement — though, 
surely, he must have expected it — that he at once 
departed, leaving . the gold behind him. But the 
strangest part of his history is, that a writer in 1749 
speaks of him as living then, at the respectable old 
age of 137. 'A person of great credit at Nuremberg, 
in Germany, affirms that he conversed with him but 
a year or two ago. Nay, it is further asserted that 
this very individual is the president of the Illum- 
inated in Europe, and that he sits as such in all their 
annual meetings.' Mayhap he is sitting at them 
still ! Only if he have discovered, not only the secret 
of the transmutation of metals, but that of the inde- 
finite prolongation of life, is it not cruelly selfish of 
him to withhold it — we will not say from the world 
at large, which deserves to be punished for its 
scepticism and incredulity, but from the members 
of his own fraternity ? 




The English Rosicrucians are few in number — rari 
gurgite in vasto nantes — and when I have added John 
Heydon to Vaughan and Fludd, I shall have named 
the most distinguished. Heydon was the author of 
c The Wise Man's Crown; or, The Glory of the Rosie 
Cross' (1664); 'The Holy Guide, leading the Way 
to Unite Art and Nature, with the Rosie Cross Un- 
covered ' (1662) ; and ' A New Method of Rosicrucian 
Physic; by John Heydon, the Servant of God and 
the Secretary of Nature ' (1658). In the last-named 
he describes himself as an attorney — who will not pity 
his clients, if he had any ? — practising at Westminster 
Hall all term times as long as he lived, and in the 
vacations devoting himself to alchemical and Rosi- 
crucian speculation. His introduction (' An Apologue 
for an Epilogue ') is full of such outrageous non- 
sense as to suggest suspicion of his sanity. He 
speaks of Moses, Elias, and Ezekiel as the prophets 
and founders of Rosicrucianism. Its present believers, 
he says, may be few in number, but their position is 
incomparably glorious. They are the eyes and ears 
of the great King of the universe, seeing all things 
and hearing all things ; they are seraphically illumin- 
ated ; they belong to the holy company of em- 
bodied souls and immortal angels ; they can assume 
any shape at will, and possess the power of working 
miracles. They can walk in the air, banish epidemics 
from stricken cities, pacify the most violent storms, 
heal every disease, and tarn all metals into gold. 


He had known, he says, two illustrious brethren, 
named Williams and Walford, and had seen them per- 
form miracles — a statement which brands him either 
as a knave or a dupe. ' I desired one of them to tell 
me/ he says, ' whether my complexion w T ere capable 
of the society of my good genius. "When I see you 
again," said he (which was when he pleased to come 
to me, for I knew not where to go to him), " I will 
tell you." When I saw him afterwards, he said: 
" You should pray to God : for a good and holy man 
can offer no greater or more acceptable service to 
God than the oblation of himself — his soul." He said 
also, that the good genii were the benign eyes of God, 
running to and fro in the world, and with love and 
pity beholding the innocent endeavours of harmless 
and single-hearted men, ever ready to do them good 
and to help them.' 

Heydon advocated, without enforcing his precepts 
by example, the Rosicrucian dogma, that men could 
live without eating and drinking, affirming that all 
of us could exist in the same manner as the singular 
people dwelling near the source of the Ganges, 
described by his namesake, Sir Christopher Heydon* 
(but certainly by no other traveller), who had no 
mouths, and therefore could not eat, but lived by the 
breath of their nostrils — except when they went on a 
far journey, and then, to recuperate their strength, they 
inhaled the scent of flowers. He dilated on the ' fine 
foreign fatness' which characterized really pure air — the 

* Author of 'A Defence of Judiciall Astrologie,' printed at 
Cambridge in 1603. 


air being impregnated with it by the sunbeams — and 
affirmed that it should suffice for the nourishment of 
the majority of mankind. He was not unwilling, 
however, that people with gross appetites should eat 
animal food, but declared it to be unnecessary for 
them, and that a much more efficacious mode would 
be to use the meat, nicely cooked, as a plaster on the 
pit of the stomach. By adopting this external treat- 
ment, they would incur no risk of introducing 
diseases, as they did by the broad and open gate of 
the mouth, as anyone might see by the example of 
drink ; for so long as a man sat in water, he knew 
no thirst. He had been acquainted — so he declared 
— with many Rosicrucians who, by using wine as a 
bath, had fasted from solid food for several years. 
And, as a matter of fact, one might fast all one's life, 
though prolonged for 300 years, if one ate no meat, 
and so avoided all risk of infection by disease. 

Growing confidential in reference to his imaginary 
fraternity, he states that its chiefs always carried 
about with them their symbol, the R.C., an ebony 
cross, flourished and decked with roses of gold ; the 
cross typifying Christ's suffering for the sins of man- 
kind, and the golden roses the glory and beauty of His 
Resurrection. This symbol was carried in succession 
to Mecca, Mount Calvary, Mount Sinai, Haran, and 
three other places, which I cannot pretend to identify 
— Casele, Apamia, and Chaulateau Yiciosa Caunuch : 
these were the meeting-places of the brotherhood. 

' The Rosie Crucian Physick or Medicines,' says 
this bravely-mendacious gentleman, ' I happily and 


unexpectedly light upon in Arabia, which will 
prove a restoration of health to all that are afflicted 
with sickness which we ordinarily call natural,, 
and all other diseases. These men have no small 
insight into the body : Walford, Williams, and 
others of the Fraternity now living, may bear up in 
the same likely equipage with those noble Divine 
Spirits their Predecessors ; though the unskilfulness 
in men commonly acknowledges more of supernatural 
assistance in hot, unsettled fancies, and perplexed 
melancholy, than in the calm and distinct use of 
reason; yet, for mine own part, I look upon these 
Rosie Crucians above all men truly inspired, and 
more than any that professed themselves so this 
sixteen hundred years, and I am ravished with admi- 
ration of their miracles and transcendant mechanical 
inventions, for the solving the Phenomenon of the 
world. I may, without offence, therefore, compare 
them with Bezaliel, Aholiab, those skilful workers of 
the Tabernacle, who, as Moses testifies, were filled 
with the Spirit of God, and therefore w T ere of an ex- 
cellent understanding to find out all manner of 
curious work.' 

The plain fact is that Heydon's books are fictions — 
purely imaginative work, based on some rough and 
ready knowledge of the old alchemy and the new 
magic ; partly allegorical and mystical, such as a 
quick invention might readily conceive under the 
influence of theosophic study, and partly borrowed 
from Henry More, and other writers of the same 
stamp. The island inhabited by Rosicrucians, which 
he describes in the introduction to ' The Holy Guide,' 


was evidently suggested by Sir Thomas More's 
' Utopia,' and Bacon's ' New Atlantis.' It would be 
easy to point out his obligations elsewhere. 

I may add, in bringing this chapter to a close, that 
Dr. Edmund Dickenson, one of Charles II. 's physi- 
cians, professed to be a member of the brotherhood, 
and wrote a book upon one of their supposed 
doctrines, entitled ' De Quinta Essentia Philoso- 
phorum,' which was printed at Oxford in 1686. 

Whatever may be our opinion of Rosicrucianism, 
which, I believe, still finds some believers and adepts 
in this country, we must acknowledge that the litera- 
ture of poetry and fiction is indebted to it consider- 
ably. The machinery of Pope's exquisite poem, 
' The Rape of the Lock,' was borrowed from Para- 
celsus and Jacob Bohmen — not directly, it is true, 
but through the medium of the Abbe de Yillars' 
sparkling romance, ' Le Comte de Gabalis.' ' Accord- 
ing to those gentlemen,' says Pope, ' the four elements 
are inhabited by spirits, which they call sylphs, 
gnomes, nymphs, and salamanders.' 

The Rosicrucian water-nymph supplied La Motte 
Fouque with the idea of that graceful and lovely 
creation, ' Undine,' and Sir Walter Scott has invested 
his ' White Lady of Avenel ' with some of her attri- 

William Godwin's romance of ' St. Leon ' turns on 
the Rosicrucian fancy of immortal life ; while Lord 
Lytton's ' Zanoni ' is practically a Rosicrucian fiction. 
The influence of the Rosicrucian writers is also appa- 
rent in the same author's ' A Strange Story.' 







To various conspicuous and easily intelligible causes 
the witch and the warlock, like the necromancer and 
the astrologer, owed their power with the multitude. 
First, there was the eager desire which humanity not 
unnaturally feels to tear aside the veil of Isis, and 
obtain some knowledge of that Other World which is 
hidden so completely from it. Next must be taken 
into account man's greed for temporal advantages, 
his anxiety to direct the course of events to his 
personal benefit; and, lastly, his malice against his 
fellows. Thus we see that the influence enjoyed by 
the sorcerer and the magician had its origin in the 
unlawful passions of humanity, in whose history the 
pages that treat of witches and witchcraft are painful 
and humiliating reading. 

To define the limit between the special functions of 
the magician and the witch is somewhat difficult, 
more especially as the position of the witch gradually 
decreased in reputation and importance. There is a 
great gulf between the witch of Endor, or the witch 
of classical antiquity, or the witch of the Norse Sagas, 


or the witch of the Saxons, and the English or 
Scottish witch of the sixteenth and seventeenth cen- 
turies. The former were surrounded with an atmo- 
sphere of dread and mystery ; the latter was the 
creature of vulgar and commonplace traditions. In 
the early age of witchcraft, the witch, like the magi- 
cian, summoned spirits from the vasty deep, dis- 
covered the hiding-places of concealed treasures, 
struck down men or beasts by her spells, or covered 
the heavens with clouds and let loose the winds of 
destruction and desolation. Both could blight the 
promise of the harvest, baffle the plans of their 
enemies, or wither the health of their victims. But 
while the magician was frequently a man of ability 
and learning, and belonged to the cultured classes, 
the witch was almost always a woman of the lower 
orders, ignorant and uneducated, though occasionally 
ladies of high rank, and even ecclesiastics, have been 
accused of practising withcraft. 

While witchcraft was a power in the land, the 
witch, or warlock, was popularly supposed to be the 
direct instrument, and, indeed, the bond-slave, of the 
Evil One, fulfilling his behests in virtue of a com- 
pact, written in letters of blood, by which the witch 
made over her soul to the Infernal Power in return 
for the enjoyment of supernatural prerogatives for a 
fixed period. This treaty having been concluded, 
the witch received a mark on some part of the body, 
which was thenceforward insensible of pain — the 
stigma or devil's mark, by which he might know his 
own again. A familiar imp or spirit was assigned to 


her, generally in the form of an animal, and more 
particularly in that of a black cat or dog. Round 
this general idea were gathered a number of horrible 
and unclean conceptions, on which, happily, it will not 
be necessary to enlarge. The devil, it was said, re- 
sorted to carnal communication with his servants, 
being denominated succubus when the favourite was 
a female, and incubus when a male was chosen. It 
was alleged, too, that on certain occasions the devil, 
with his familiars, and the great company of witches 
and warlocks whose souls he had bought, assembled 
in the dead of night in some remote and savage 
wilderness, to hold that frightful carnival of the 
Witches' Sabbat which Goethe has depicted so power- 
fully in the second part of ' Faust.' The human 
imagination has not invented, I think, any scene 
more horrible, more degrading, or more bestial. We 
may suppose, however, that it was not conceived by 
any single mind, or even people, or in any single 
generation, but that it gradually took up additional 
details from different nations, at different times, until 
it was developed into the terrible whole presented by 
the mediaeval writers. 

This wild and awful revel was called the Sabbat 
because it took place after midnight on Friday ; that 
is, on the Jewish Sabbath — a curious illustration of 
the popular antipathy against the Jews. 

The spot where it was held never bloomed again 
with flower or herb ; the burning feet of the demons 
blighted it for ever. 

Witch or warlock who failed to obey the summons 


of the master was lashed by devils with rods made of 
scorpions or serpents, in chastisement of his or her 

The guests repaired thither, according to the belief 
entertained in France and England, upon broom- 
sticks ; but in Spain and Italy it was thought that 
the devil himself, in the shape of a goat, conveyed 
them on his back, which he contracted or elongated 
according to the number he carried. The witch, 
when starting on her aerial journey, would not quit 
her house by door or window ; but astride on her 
broomstick made her exit by the chimney. During her 
absence, to prevent the suspicions of her neighbours 
from being aroused, an inferior demon assumed the 
semblance of her person, and lay in her bed, pre- 
tending to be ill or asleep. 

A curious story may here be introduced. In 
April, 1611, a Provencal cure, named Gaurifidi, was 
accused of sorcery before the Parliament of Aix. In 
the course of trial much was said in proof of the 
power of the demons. Several witnesses asserted 
that Gaurifidi, after rubbing himself with a magic 
oil, repaired to the Sabbat, and afterwards returned 
to his chamber down the chimney. One day, when 
this sort of thing was exciting the imagination of the 
judges, an extraordinary noise was heard in the 
chimney of the hall, terminating suddenly in the 
apparition of a tall black man, who shook his head 
vigorously. The judges, thinking the devil had 
come in person to the rescue of his servant, took to 
their heels, with the exception of one Thorm, the 


reporter, who was so hemmed in by his desk that he 
was tmable to move. Terror-stricken at the sight before 
him, with his body all of a tremble, and his eyes 
starting from his head, he made repeated signs of the 
cross, until the supposed fiend was equally alarmed, 
since he could not understand the cause of the 
reporter's evident perturbation. On recovering from 
his embarrassment he made himself known — he 
was a sweep, who had been operating on a chimney 
on the roof above, but, when ready to return, had 
mistaken the entrance, and thus unwillingly intruded 
himself into the chamber of the Parliament. 

The unclean ceremonies of the Witches' Sabbat 
were 'inaugurated' by Satan, who, in his favourite 
assumption of a huge he-goat (a suggestion, no 
doubt, from Biblical imagery), with one face in front, 
and another between his haunches, took his place 
upon his throne. After all present had done homage 
by kissing him on the posterior face, he appointed a 
master of the ceremonies, and, attended by him, made 
a personal examination of any guest to ascertain if he 
or she bore the stigma, which indicated his right of 
ownership. Any who were found without it received 
the mark at once from the master of the ceremonies, 
while the devil bestowed on them a nickname. 
Thereafter all began to dance and sing with wild 
extravagance — 

' There is no rest to-night for anyone : 
When one dance ends another is begun ' — 

until some neophyte arrived, and sought admission 
into the circle of the initiated. Silence prevailed 


while the newcomer went through the usual form of 
denying her salvation, spitting upon the Bible, kissing 
the devil, and swearing obedience to him in all things. 
The dancing then renewed its fury, and a hoarse chorus 

went up of — 

1 Alegremos, alegremos, 
Que gente va tenemos !' 

When spent with the violent exercise, they sat 
down, and, like the witches in ' Macbeth,' related 
the evil things each had done since the last Sabbat, 
those who had not been sufficiently active being 
chastised by Satan himself until they were drenched 
in blood. A dance of toads was the next entertain- 
ment. They sprang up out of the earth by thousands, 
and danced on their hind-legs while Satan played on 
the bagpipes or the trumpet, after which they solicited 
the witches to reward them for their exertions by 
feeding them with the flesh of unbaptized babes. Was 
there ever a more curious mixture of the grotesque 
and the horrible? At a stamp from the devil's foot 
they returned to the earth whence they came, and a 
banquet was served up, the nature of which the reader 
may be left to imagine! Dancing was afterwards 
resumed, while those who had no partiality for the 
pastime found amusement in burlesquing the sacra- 
ment of baptism, the toads being again summoned 
and sprinkled with holy water, while the devil made 
the sign of the cross, and the witches cried out in 
chorus : ' In nomine Patrica, Aragueaco Patrica, 
agora, agora! Yalentia, jurando gome guito goustia!' 
that is, ' In the name of Patrick, Patrick of Aragon 
now, now, all our ills are over!' 


Sometimes the devil would cause the witches to 
strip themselves, and dance before him in their 
nakedness, each with a cat tied round her neck, and 
another suspended from her body like a tail. At 
cockcrow the whole phantasmagoria vanished. 

One cannot help wondering who first conceived 
the idea of these horrid saturnalia. Did it spring 
from the diseased imagination of some half-mad monk, 
brooding in the solitude of his silent cell, who 
gathered up all these unclean and grim images and 
worked them into so ghastly a picture ? They are 
partly heathen, partly Christian ; partly classical, 
partly Teutonic — a strange and unwholesome com- 
pound, as ' thick and slab ' as the hell-broth mixed by 
the hag's on ' the blasted heath ' ! 

In these pages I am concerned only with our own 
' tight little island,' into which the superstition was 
most certainly introduced by the northern invaders. 
It would derive strength and consistency from the 
teaching of the Old Testament, which distinctly 
recognises the existence of witchcraft. ' Let not a 
witch live !' is the command given in Exodus 
(chapter xxii.) ; and similar threats against witches, 
wizards and the like frequently occur in the books 
of Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Says Sir William 
Blackstone : ' To deny the possibility, nay, the actual 
existence of witchcraft and sorcery, is at once flatly 
to contradict the revealed Word of God in various 
passages of the Old and New Testaments, and the 
thing itself is a truth to which every nation in the 
world hath, in its turn, borne testimony, either by 



example seemingly well attested, or by prohibitory 
laws, which at least suppose the possibility of a 
commerce with evil spirits.' The Church at a very 
early period admitted its existence, and fulminated 
against all who practised it. The fourth canon of the 
Council of Auxerre, in 525, stringently prohibited all 
resort to sorcerers, diviners, augurs, and the like. A 
canon of the Council held at Berkhampstead in 696 
condemned to corporal punishment, or mulcted in a 
fine, every person who made sacrifices to the evil 
spirits. Under the name of sortilegium, the offence 
was treated eventually as a kind of heresy, for which, 
on the first occasion, the offender, if penitent, was 
punished by the Ecclesiastical Courts ; but if there 
were no abjuration, or a relapse after abjuration, she 
was handed over to the secular power to be executed 
by authority of the writ de heretico comburendo. At a 
later date, statutes against witchcraft were enacted 
by Parliament, and the offence was both tried and 
punished by the civil power. Such statutes were 
passed in the reigns of Henry VIII., Elizabeth, and 
James I. Legislation derives its chief support from 
public opinion ; and these statutes are a proof that 
the existence of witchcraft was generally believed in. 
' For centuries in this country,' says Mr. Inderwick, 
' strange as it may now appear, a denial of the exist- 
ence of such demoniacal agency was deemed equal to 
a confession of atheism, and to a disbelief in the 
Holy Scriptures themselves. Not only did Lord 
Chancellors, Lord Keepers, benches of Bishops, and 
Parliament after Parliament attest the truth and the 


existence of witchcraft, but Addison, writing as late 
as 1711, in the pages of the Spectator, after describing 
himself as hardly pressed by the arguments on both 
sides of this question, expresses his own belief that 
there is, and has been, witchcraft in the land.' At 
the same time, it is pleasant to remember that there 
have almost always been a few minds, bolder and more 
enlightened than the rest, to protest against a credulity 
which led to acts of the greatest inhumanity, and 
fostered a grotesque and dangerous superstition. 

It is in the twelfth century that we first obtain, in 
England, any distinct indications of the nature of 
this superstition, and it is then we first meet with 
the written compact between the devil and his victim. 
The story of the old woman of Berkeley, with which 
Southey's ballad has made everybody familiar, is 
related by William of Malmesbury, on the authority 
of a friend who professed to have been an eye-witness 
of the facts. When the devil, we read, announced to 
the witch that the term of her compact had nearly 
expired, she summoned to her presence the monks of 
the neighbouring monastery and her children, con- 
fessed her sins, acknowledged her criminal compact, 
and displayed a curious anxiety lest Satan should 
secure her body as well as her soul. ' Sew me in a 
stag's hide,' she said, ' and, placing me in a stone 
coffin, shut me in with lead and iron. Load this 
with a heavy stone, and fasten down the whole with 
three iron chains. Let fifty psalms be sung by night, 
and fifty masses be said by day, to bafne the power 
of the demons, and if you can thus protect my body 



for three nights, on the fourth day you may safely 
bury it in the ground.' These precautions, though 
religiously observed, proved ineffectual. On the first 
night the monks bravely resisted the efforts of the 
fiends, who, however, on the second night, renewed 
the attack with increased vehemence, burst open the 
gates of the monastery, and rent asunder two of the 
chains which held down the coffin. On the third 
night, so terrible was the hurly-burly, that the 
monastery shook to its foundations, and the terror- 
stricken priests paused, aghast, in the midst of their 
ministrations. Then the doors flew apart, and into 
the sacred place stalked a demon, who rose head and 
shoulders above his fellows. Stopping at the coffin, 
he, in a terrible voice, commanded the dead to rise. 
The woman answered that she was bound by the 
third chain : whereupon the demon put his foot on the 
coffin, the chain snapped like a thread, the coffin-lid 
fell off, the witch arose, and was hurried to the church- 
door, where the demon, mounting a huge black horse, 
swung his victim on to the crupper, and galloped 
away into the darkness with the swiftness of an arrow, 
while her shrieks resounded through the air. 

There are many allusions in the old monastic 
chronicles which illustrate the development of public 
opinion in reference to witches and their craft. Thus, 
John of Salisbury describes the nocturnal assemblies 
of the witches, the presence of Satan, the banquet, 
and the punishment or reward of the guests according 
to the failure or abundance of their zeal. William of 
Malmesbury tells us that on the highroad to Rome 


dwelt a couple of beldams, of ill repute, who enticed 
the weary traveller into their wretched hovel, and by 
their incantations transformed him into a horse, a 
dog, or some other animal — similar to the transforma- 
tions we read of in Oriental tales — and that this 
animal they sold to the first comer, in this way 
picking up a tolerable livelihood. One day, a 
jongleur, or mountebank, asked for a night's lodging, 
and when he disclosed his vocation to the two hags, 
they informed him that they had an ass of remarkable 
capacity, which, indeed, could do everything but speak, 
and that they were willing to sell it. The sum asked 
was large, but the ass displayed such wonderful in- 
telligence that the jongleur gladly paid it, and de- 
parted, taking with him the ass and a piece of advice 
from the old women — not to let the ass go near run- 
ning water. For some time all went well, the ass 
became an immense attraction, and the jongleur was 
growing passing rich, when, in one of his drunken 
fits, he allowed the animal to escape. Running directly 
to the nearest stream, it plunged in, and immediately 
resumed its original shape as a handsome young man, 
who explained that he had been transformed by the 
spells of the two crones. 

The first trial for witchcraft in England occurred 
in the tenth year of King John, when, as recorded in 
the l Abbreviatio Placitorum,' Agnes, wife of Ado the 
merchant, accused one Gideon of the crime ; but he 
proved his innocence by the ordeal of red-hot iron. 
The first trial which has been reported with any 
degree of particularity belongs to the year 1324. 


Some citizens of Coventry, it would appear, had 
suffered severely at the hands of the prior, who had 
been supported in his exactions by the two Despensers, 
Edward II. 's unworthy favourites. In revenge, they 
plotted the death of the prior, the favourites, and the 
King. For this purpose they sought the assistance 
of a famous magician of Coventry, named Master 
John of Nottingham, and his man, Robert Marshall 
of Leicester. The conspiracy was revealed by the 
said Robert Marshall, probably because his pecuniary 
reward was unsatisfactory, and he averred that John 
of Nottingham and himself, having agreed to carry 
out the desire of the citizens, the latter, on Sunday, 
March 13, brought an instalment of the stipulated 
fee, together with seven pounds of wax and two 
yards of canvas ; that with this wax he and his 
master made seven images, representing respectively 
the King (with his crown), the two Despensers, the 
prior, his caterer, and his steward, and one Richard 
de Lowe — the last named being introduced merely 
as a lay-figure on which to test the efficacy of the 

The two wizards retired to an old ruined house at 
Shorteley Park, about half a league from Coventry, 
where they remained at work for several days, and 
jib out midnight on the Friday following Holy Cross 
Day, the said Master John gave to the said Robert a 
sharp-pointed leaden branch, and commanded him to 
insert it about two inches deep in the forehead of the 
image representing Richard de Lowe, this being 
intended as an experiment. It was done, and next 


morning Master John sent his servant to Lowe's 
house to inquire after his condition, who found him 
screaming and crying 'Harrow!' He had lost his 
memory, and knew no one, and in this state he con- 
tinued until dawn on the Sunday before Ascension, 
when Master John withdrew the branch from the 
forehead of the image and thrust it into the heart. 
There it remained until the following Wednesday, 
when the unfortunate man expired. Such was Robert 
Marshall's fable, as told before the judges ; but ap- 
parently it met with little credence, and the trial, after 
several adjournments, fell to the ground. 

Wonderful stories are told by the later chroniclers 
of a certain Eudo cle Stella, who had acquired great 
notoriety as a sorcerer. William of Newbury says 
that his ' diabolical charms ' collected a large com- 
pany of disciples, whom he carried with him from 
place to place, adding to their number wherever he 
stopped. At times he encamped in the heart of a 
wood, where sumptuous tables were^suddenly spread 
with all kinds of dainty dishes and fragrant wines, 
and every wish breathed by the meanest guest was im- 
mediately fulfilled. Some of Eudo's followers, however, 
confided to our authority that there was a strange 
want of solidity in these magically-supplied viands, and 
that though they ate of them continually, they were 
never satisfied. But it appears that whoever once 
tasted of the sorcerer's meats, or received from him a 
gift, thereby became enrolled among his followers. 
And the chronicler supplies this irrefutable proof: A 
knight of his acquaintance paid a visit to the wizard, 


and endeavoured to turn him from his evil practices. 
When he departed, Eudo presented his squire with 
a handsome hawk, which the knight, observing, 
advised him to cast away. Not so the squire: he 
rejoiced in his high-mettled bird ; but they had 
scarcely got out of sight of the wizard's camp before 
the hawk's talons gripped him more and more 
closely, and at last it flew away with him, and he was 
never more heard of. 

The trial of Dame Alicia Kyteler, or Le Poer, 
takes us across the seas, but it furnishes too many 
interesting particulars to be entirely ignored. 
Hutchinson informs us that, in 1324, Bishop de 
Ledrede, of Ossory, in the course of a visitation of 
his diocese, came to learn that, in the city of Kil- 
kenny, there had long resided certain persons 
addicted to various kinds of witchcraft ; and that the 
chief offender among them was a Dame Alicia 
Kyteler. As she w r as a woman of considerable 
wealth, which might prove of great benefit to the 
Church, the episcopal zeal blazed up strongly, and 
she and her accomplices were ordered to be put upon 
their trial. 

The accusation against them was divided into 
seven distinct heads : 

First : That, in order to give effect to their sorcery, 
they were wont altogether to deny the faith of Christ 
and of the Church for a year or month, according as 
the object to be attained was greater or less, so that 
during this longer or shorter period they believed in 
nothing that the Church believed, and abstained from 


worshipping Christ's body, from entering a church, 
from hearing Mass, and from participating in the 
Sacrament. Second: That they propitiated the 
demons with sacrifices of living animals, which they 
tore limb from limb, and offered, by scattering them 
in cross-roads, to a certain demon, Robert Artisson 
{films Artis), who was ' one of the poorer class of 
hell/ Third: That by their sorceries they sought 
responses and oracles from demons. Fourth : That 
they used the ceremonies of the Church in their 
nocturnal meetings, pronouncing, with lighted 
candles of wax, sentence of excommunication even 
against the persons of their own husbands, naming 
expressly every member, from the sole of the foot to 
the top of the head, and at length extinguishing the 
candles with the exclamation, 'Fi! fi! fi ! Amen!' 
Fifth: That with the intestines and other inner 
parts of cocks sacrificed to the demons, with ' certain 
horrible worms.' various herbs, the nails of dead men, 
the hair, brains, and clothes of children who had died 
unbaptized, and other things too disgusting to 
mention, boiled in the skull of a certain robber who 
had been beheaded, on a fire made of oak-sticks, 
they had invented powders and ointments, and also 
candles of fat boiled in the said skull, with certain 
charms, which things were to be instrumental in ex- 
citing love or hatred, and in killing or torturing the 
bodies of faithful Christians, and for various other 
unlawful purposes. Sixth: That the sons and 
daughters of the four husbands of the same Dame 
Alice had made their complaint to the Bishop, that 


she, by such sorcery, had procured the death of her 
husbands, and had so beguiled and infatuated them, 
that they had given all their property to her and her 
son [by her first husband, William Outlawe], to the 
perpetual impoverishment of their own sons and heirs : 
insomuch that her present [and fourth] husband, Sir 
John Le Poer, was reduced to a most miserable con- 
dition of body by her ointments, powders, and other 
magical preparations ; but, being warned by her 
maidservant, he had forcibly taken from his wife the 
keys of her house, in which he found a bag filled 
with the ' detestable ' articles above mentioned, which 
he had sent to the Bishop. Seventh: That there 
existed an unholy connection between the said Lady 
Alice and the demon called Robert Artisson, who 
sometimes appeared to her in the form of a cat, 
sometimes in that of a black shaggy dog, and at 
others in the form of a black man, with two tall 
companions as black as himself, each carrying in his 
hand a rod of iron. Some of the old chroniclers 
embroider upon this charge the fanciful details that 
her offering to the demon was nine red cocks' and 
nine peacocks' eyes, which were paid on a certain 
stone bridge at a cross-road ; that she had a magical 
ointment,* which she rubbed upon a coulter or 

* So in Duclerq's ' Memoires ' (' Collect, du Pantheon '), p. 141, 
we read of a case at Arras, in which the sorcerers were accused of 
using such an ointment: 'D'ung oignement que le diable leur 
avoit bailie, ils oindoient une vergue de bois bien petite, et leurs 
palmes et leurs mains, puis mectoient celle virguelte entre leurs 
jambes, et tantost ils s'en volvient ou ils voullvient estre, pur- 
desseures bonnes villes, bois et cams; et les portoit le diable 
au lieu oil ils debvoient faire leur assembled. ' 


plough handle, in order that the said coulter might 
carry her and her companions whithersoever they 
wished to go ; that in her house was found a conse- 
crated wafer, with the devil's name written upon it ; 
and that, sweeping the streets of Kilkenny between 
complin and twilight, she raked up all the ordure 
towards the doors of her son, William Outlawe, 
saying to herself: 

' To the house of William my son, 
Hie all the wealth of Kilkenny town.' 

The lady, rejoicing in powerful friends and 
advisers, defied the Bishop and all his works. She 
was excommunicated, and her son summoned to 
appear before the Bishop for the offence of harbouring 
and concealing her ; but Dame Alice's friends re- 
taliated by throwing the Bishop into prison for 
several days. He revenged himself by placing the 
whole diocese under an interdict, and again summon- 
ing William Outlawe to appear on a certain day ; but 
before the day arrived, he in his turn was cited before 
the Lord Justice, to answer for having imposed an 
interdict on his diocese, and to defend himself against 
accusations submitted by the seneschal. The Bishop 
pleaded that it was unsafe for him to travel ; but the 
plea was not allowed, and, to save himself from further 
molestation, he recalled the interdict. 

The quarrel was not yet fought out. On the 
Monday following the octave of Easter, the seneschal, 
Arnold de la Poer, held his judicial court in the 
Assize Hall at Kilkenny. Thither repaired the 
Bishop, and, though refused admission, he forced his 


way in, robed in full pontificals, carrying in his hand 
the Host in pyx of gold, and attended by a numerous 
train of friars and clergy. But he was received with 
a storm of insults and reproaches, which compelled 
him to retire. Upon his repeated protests, however, 
and at the intercession of some influential personages, 
his return was permitted. Being ordered to take 
his stand at the criminal's bar, he exclaimed that 
Christ had never been treated so before, since He 
stood at the bar before Pontius Pilate ; and he loudly 
called upon the seneschal to order the arrest of the 
persons accused of sorcery, and their deliverance into 
his hands. When the seneschal abruptly refused, 
he opened the book of the decretals, and saith, ' You, 
Sir Arnold, are a knight, and instructed in letters, 
and that you may not have the excuse of ignorance, 
we are prepared to prove by these decretals that you 
and your officials are bound to obey our order in this 
matter, under heavy penalties.' 

' Go to the church with your decretals,' replied the 
seneschal, ' and preach there, for none of us here will 
listen to you.' 

In the Bishop's character there must have been a 
fine strain of perseverance, for all these rebuffs failed 
to baffle him, and he actually succeeded, after a suc- 
cession of disappointments and a constant renewal of 
difficulties, in obtaining permission to bring the 
alleged offenders to trial. Most of them suffered 
imprisonment ; but Dame Alice escaped him, being 
secretly conveyed to England. Of all concerned in 
the affair, only one was punished Petronella of 


Meath, who was selected as a scapegoat, probably 
because she had neither friends nor means of de- 

By order of the Bishop she was six times flogged, 
after which the poor tortured victim made a confes- 
sion, in which she declared not only her own guilt, 
but that of everybody against whom the Bishop had 
proceeded. She affirmed that in all Britain, nay, 
indeed, in the whole world, was no one more skilled 
in magical practices than Dame iUice Kyteler. She 
was brought to admit the truth — though in her heart 
she must have known its absolute falsehood* — of 
the episcopal indictment, and pretended that she had 
been present at the sacrifices to the Evil One — that 
she had assisted in making the unguents with the 
unsavoury materials already mentioned, and that 
with these unguents different effects were produced 
upon different persons — the faces of certain ladies, 
for instance, being made to appear horned like goats ; 
that she had been present at the nocturnal revelries, 
and, with her mistress's assistance, had frequently 
pronounced sentence of excommunication against her 
own husband, with all due magical rites ; that she 
had attended Dame Alice in her assignations with 
the demon, Robert Artisson, and had seen acts of an 
immorality so foul that I dare not allude to it pass 

* That is, of sacrificing to the Evil One, of meeting the demon 
Robert Artisson, and so on ; though it is quite possible that 
strange unguents were made and administered to different persons, 
and that Dame Alice and her companions played at being sorcerers. 
Some of the so-called witches, as we shall see, encouraged the 
deception on account of the influence it gave them. 


between thern. Having been coerced and tortured 
into this amazingly wild and fictitious confession, 
the poor woman was declared guilty, sentenced, and 
burned alive, the first victim of the witchcraft delu- 
sion in Ireland. 

It is worthy of observation that the mind of the 
public was roused to a much stronger feeling of 
hostility against witchcraft than against magic. 
Alchemists, astrologers, fortune-tellers, diviners, and 
the like, might incur suspicion, and sometimes punish- 
ment ; but, on the whole, they were treated with 
tolerance, and even with distinction. For this 
inequality of treatment two or three reasons suggest 
themselves. In the crime of witchcraft the central 
feature was the compact with the demon, and it was 
natural that men should resent an act which entailed 
the eternal loss of the soul. Again, witchcraft, much 
more frequently than magic, was the instrument of 
personal ill-feeling, and was more generally directed 
against the lower classes. The magician seldom used 
his power except when liberally paid by an employer ; 
the witch, it was thought, exercised her skill for the 
gratification of her own malice. However this may 
be, an imputation of witchcraft became, in the fifteenth 
century, a formidable affair, ensuring the death or 
ruin of the unfortunate individual against whom it 
was made. There was no little difficulty in defend- 
ing one's self; and in truth, once made, it clung to 
its victim like a Nessus's shirt, and with a result as 


Its value as a political ' move ' was shown in the 
persecution of the Knights Templars, and, in our 
own history, in Cardinal Beaufort's intrigue against 
Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, who governed Eng- 
land as Protector during the minority of Henry YI. 

The Cardinal struck at the Duke through his 
beautiful wife, Eleanor Cobham. In July, 1441, two 
ecclesiastics, Roger Bolingbroke, and Thomas South- 
well, a canon of St. Stephen's Chapel, were arrested 
on a charge of high treason ; ' for it was said that 
the said Master Roger should labour to consume the 
King's person by way of necromancy ; and that the 
said Master Thomas should say masses upon certain 
instruments with the which the said Master Roger 
should use his said craft of necromancy.' Bolingbroke 
was a scholar, an adept in natural science, and an 
ardent student of astronomy : William of Worcester 
describes him as one of the most famous clerks of 
the world. One Sunday, after having undergone 
rigorous examination, he was conveyed to St. Paul's 
Cross, where he was mounted ' on a high stage above 
all men's heads in Paul's Churchyard, whiles the 
sermon endured, holding a sword in his right hand 
and a sceptre in his left, arrayed in a marvellous 
array, wherein he was wont to sit when he wrought 
his necromancy.' 

The Duchess of Gloucester, meanwhile, perceiving 
that her ruin was intended, fled to sanctuary at 
Westminster. Before the King's Council Boling- 
broke was brought to confess that he had plied his 
magical trade at the Duchess's instigation, ' to know 


what should fall of her, and to what estate she should 
come.' In other words, he had cast her horoscope, 
a proceeding common enough in those days, and one 
which had no treasonable complexion. The Cardinal's 
party, however, seized upon Bolingbroke's confession, 
and made such use of it that the unfortunate lady 
was cited to appear before an ecclesiastical tribunal 
composed of Chicheley, Archbishop of Canterbury, 
Cardinal Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester, Cardinal 
Kemp, Archbishop of York, and Ayscough, Bishop 
of Salisbury, on July 2, ' to answer to divers articles 
of necromancy, of witchcraft or sorcery, of heresy, and 
of treason.' Bolingbroke was brought forward as a 
witness, and repeated that the Duchess 'first stirred 
him to labour in his necromancy.' 

After this, he and Southwell were indicted as prin- 
cipals of treason, and the Duchess as accessory, 
though, if his story were true, their positions should 
have been reversed. At the same time, a woman 
named Margery Goodman, and known as the ' Witch 
of Eye,' was burned at Smithfield because in former 
days she had given potions and philtres to Eleanor 
Cobham, to enable her to secure the Duke of Glouces- 
ter's affections. Eoger Bolingbroke w r as hung, drawn, 
and quartered, according to the barbarous custom of 
the age ; Southwell escaped a similar fate by dying 
in the Tower before the day appointed for his trial. 
The charge of high treason brought against them 
rested entirely on the allegation that, at the Duchess's 
request, they had made a w T axen image to resemble 
the King, and had placed it before a fire, that, as 


it gradually melted, so might the King gradually 
languish away and die. As for the Duchess, she was 
sentenced to do penance, which she fulfilled ' right 
meekly, so that the more part of the people had her 
in great compassion,' on Monday, November 13, 
1441, walking barefoot, with a lighted taper in her 
hand, from Temple Bar to St. Paul's, where she 
offered the taper at the high altar. She repeated the 
penance on the Wednesday and Friday following, 
walking to St. Paul's by different routes, and on each 
occasion was accompanied by the Lord Mayor, the 
sheriffs, and the various guilds, and by a multitude 
of people, whom the repute of her beauty and her 
sorrows had attracted, so that what was intended for 
a humiliation became really a triumph. She was 
afterwards imprisoned in Chester Castle, and thence 
transferred to the Isle of Man. 

The charge of sorcery which Richard III. brought 
against Lord Hastings, accusing him of having wasted 
his left arm, though from his birth it had been fleshless, 
dry, and withered, is made the basis of an effective 
scene in Shakespeare's ' Eichard III/ His brother's 
widow, Queen Elizabeth Woodville, was included in 
the charge, and Jane Shore was named as her accom- 
plice. This frail beauty was brought before the 
Council, and accused of having ' endeavoured the ruin 
and destruction of the Protector in several ways,' and 
particularly ' by witchcraft had decayed his body, 
and with the Lord Hastings had contrived to assas- 
sinate him.' The indictment, however, was not sus- 



tained, and her offence was reduced to that of lewd 
living. Whereupon she was handed over to the 
Bishop of London to do public penance for her sin 
on Sunday morning in St. Paul's Cathedral church. 
Clothed in a white sheet, with a wax taper in her 
hand, and a cross borne before her, she was led in 
procession from the episcopal palace to the cathedral, 
where she made open confession of her fault. The 
moral effect of this exhibition seems to have been 
considerably marred by the beauty of the penitent, 
which produced upon the multitude an impression 
similar to that which the bared bosom of Phryne 
produced upon her judges in the days of old. 

In 1480 Pope Innocent VIII. issued a Bull en- 
joining the detection, trial, and punishment (by burn- 
ing) of witches. This was the first formal recognition 
of witchcraft by the head of the Church. In England 
the first Act of Parliament levelled at it was passed 
in 1541. Ten years later two more statutes were 
enacted, one relating to false prophecies, and the 
other to conjuration, witchcraft and sorcery. But in 
no one of these was witchcraft condemned qua witch- 
craft ; they were directed against those who, by means 
of spells, incantations, or compacts with the devil, 
threatened the lives and properties of their neigh- 
bours. When, in 1561, Sir Edward Waldegrave, one 
of Mary Stuart's councillors, was arrested by order of 
Secretary Cecil as ' a mass-monger,' the Bishop of 
London, to whom he was remitted, felt no disposi- 
tion to inflict a heavy penalty for hearing or saying 
of mass ; but, on inquiry, he discovered that the 


officiating priest had been concerned in concocting ' a 
love-philtre,' and he then decided that sorcery would 
afford a safer ground for process. He applied, there- 
fore, to Chief Justice Catlin, to learn what might be 
the law in such cases, and was astonished when he 
was told that no legal provision had been made for 
them. Previously they came before the Church 
Courts ; but these had been deprived of their powers 
by the Reformation, and the only precedent he could 
find for moving in the matter belonged to the reign 
of Edward III., and was thus entered on the roll : 

'Ung homme fut prinse en Southwark avec ung teste et ung 
visaige dung homme morte avec ung lyvre de sorcerie en son 
male et fut amesn6 en banke du Roy devant Knyvet Justice, mais 
nulle indictment fut vers lui, por qui les clerkes luy fierement 
jurement que jamais ne feroit sorcerie en apres, et fut delyvou 
del prison, et le teste et les lyvres furent arses a Totehyll a les 
costages du prisonnier.' (That is : A man was taken in South- 
wark, with a dead man's skull and a book of sorcery in his 
wallet, and was brought up at the King's Bench before Knyvet 
Justice ; but no indictment was laid against him, for that the 
clerks made him swear he would meddle no more with sorcery, 
and the head and the books were burnt at Tothill Fields at the 
prisoner's charge.) 

But in the following year Parliament passed an 
Act which defined witchcraft as a capital crime, 
whether it was or was not exerted to the injury of the 
lives, limbs, and possessions of the lieges. Thence- 
forward the persecution of witches took its place 
among English institutions. During the latter years 
of Elizabeth's reign several instances occurred. Thus, 
on July 25, 1589, three witches were burnt at Chelms- 
ford. The popular mind was gradually familiarized 
with the idea of witchcraft, and led to concentrate its 



attention on the individual marks, or characteristics, 
which were supposed to indicate its professors. Even 
among the higher classes a belief in its existence 
became very general, and it is startling to find a man 
like the learned and pious Bishop Jewell, in a sermon 
before Queen Elizabeth, saying : ' It may please your 
Grace to understand that witches and sorcerers within 
these last four years are marvellously increased within 
this your Grace's realm. Your Grace's subjects pine 
away even unto the death ; their colour fadeth ; their 
flesh rotteth ; their speech is benumbed ; their senses 
are bereft ! I pray God they may never practise further 
than upon the subject !' (1598). 

The witches in ' Macbeth ' — those weird sisters 
who met at midnight upon the blasted heath, and in 
their caldron brewed so deadly a ' hell-broth ' — par- 
take of the dignity of the poet's genius, and belong 
to the vast ideal world of his imagination. No such 
midnight hags crossed the paths of ordinary mortals. 
The Elizabethan witch, who scared her neighbours in 
town and village, and flourished on their combined 
ignorance and superstition, appears, however, in ' The 
Merry Wives of Windsor,' where Master Ford de- 
scribes ' the fat woman of Brentford ' as ' a witch, a 
quean, an old cozening quean !' He adds : ' Have I 
not forbid her my house ? She comes of errands, 
does she ? We are simple men ; we do not know 
what's brought to pass under the profession of for- 
tune-telling. She works by charms, by spells, by 
the figure ; and such daubery as this is beyond our 



element.' Most of Master Ford's contemporaries, I 
fear, were, in this matter, ' simple men.' Even per- 
sons of rank and learning, of position and refinement, 
were as credulous as their poorer, more ignorant, and 
more vulgar neighbours ; were just as ready to believe 
that an untaught village crone had made a compact 
with the devil, and bartered her soul for the right of 
straddling across a broom or changing herself into a 
black cat ! 

Near Warboise, in Huntingdonshire, in 1593, lived 
two gentlemen of good estate — Mr. Throgmorton and 
Sir Samuel Cromwell. The former had five daughters, 
of whom the eldest, Joan, was possessed with a lively 
imagination, which busied itself constantly with ghosts 
and witches. On one occasion, when she passed the 
cottage of an old and infirm woman, known as Mother 
Samuel, the good dame, with a black cap on her head, 
was sitting at her door knitting. Mistress Joan ex- 
claimed that she was a witch, hurried home, went into 
convulsions, and declared that Mother Samuel had 
bewitched her. In due course, her sisters followed 
her example, and they too laid the blame of their fits 
on Mother Samuel. The parents, not less infatuated 
than the children, lent ready ears to their wild tales, 
and carried them to Lady Cromwell, who, as a friend 
of Mrs. Throgmorton, took the matter up right 
earnestly, and resolved that the supposed witch 
should be put to the ordeal. Sir Samuel was by 
no means unwilling; and the children, encouraged 
by this prompt credulity, let loose their fertile inven- 


tions. They declared that Mother Samuel sent a 
legion of evil spirits to torment them incessantly. 
Strange to say, these spirits had made known their 
names, which, though grotesque, had nothing of a 
demoniac character about them — ' First Smack/ 
'Second Smack,' 'Third Smack,' 'Blue,' 'Catch,' 
' Hardname,' and ' Pluck ' — names invented, of course, 
by the young people themselves. 

At length the aggrieved Throgmorton, summoning 
all his courage, repaired to Mother Samuel's humble 
residence, seized upon the unhappy old crone, and 
dragged her into his own grounds, where Lady Crom- 
well and Mrs. Throo-morton and her children thrust 
long pins into her body to see if they could draw 
blood. With unmeasured violence, Lady Cromwell 
tore the old woman's cap from her head, and plucked 
out a handful of her gray hair, which she gave to 
Mrs. Throgmorton to burn, as a charm that would 
jDrotect her from all further evil practices. Smarting 
under these injuries, the poor old woman, in a moment 
of passion, invoked a curse upon her torturers — a 
curse afterwards remembered against her, though at 
the time she was allowed to depart. For more than 
a year her life was made miserable by the incessant 
persecution inflicted upon her by the two hostile 
families, who, on their part, declared that her demons 
brought upon them all kinds of physical ills, pre- 
vented their ewes and cows from bearing, and turned 
the milk sour in the dairy-pans. It so happened 
that Lady Cromwell was seized with a sudden illness, 
of which she died, and though some fifteen months 


had elapsed since the utterance of the curse, on poor 
Mother Samuel was placed the responsibility. Sir 
Samuel Cromwell, therefore, felt called upon to punish 
her for her ill- doing. 

By this time the old woman, partly through listen- 
ing to the incessant repetition of the charges against 
her, and partly, perhaps, from a weak delight in the 
notoriety she had attained, had come to believe, or to 
think she believed, that she was really the witch 
everybody declared her to be — -just as a young 
versifier is sometimes deluded into a conviction of 
his poetic genius through unwisely crediting the 
eulogies of an admiring circle of friends and relatives. 
On one occasion, she was forcibly conveyed into Mrs. 
Throgmorton's house when Joan was in one of her 
frequently-recurring fits, and ordered to exorcise the 
demon that was troubling the maid, with the formula : 
' As I am a witch, and the causer of Lady Cromwell's 
death, I charge thee, fiend, to come out of her!' The 
poor creature did as she was told, and confessed, 
besides, that her husband and her daughter were her 
associates in witchcraft, and that all three had sold 
their souls to the devil. On this confession the whole 
family were arrested, and sent to Huntingdon Gaol. 
Soon afterwards they were tried before Mr. Justice 
Fenner, and put to the torture. 

In her agony the old woman confessed anything 
that was required of her — she was a witch, she had 
bewitched the Throgmortons, she had caused the 
death of Lady Cromwell. Her husband and her 
daughter, stronger-minded, resolutely asserted their 


innocence. Ignorance, however, would not be denied 
its victims ; all three were sentenced to be hanged, 
and to have their bodies burned. The daughter, who 
was young and comely, was regarded compassionately 
by many persons, and advised to gain at least a 
respite by pleading pregnancy. She indignantly 
refused to sacrifice her good name. They might 
falsely call her a witch, she exclaimed, but they 
should not be able to say that she had acknowledged 
herself to be a harlot. Her old mother, however, 
caught at the idea, and openly asserted that she was 
with child, the court breaking out into loud laughter, 
in which she fatuously joined. The three victims 
suffered on April 7, 1595. 

Out of the confiscated property of the Samuels, Sir 
Samuel Cromwell, as lord of the manor, received a 
sum of £4:0. which he converted into an annual rent- 
charge of 40s. for the endowment of an annual sermon 
or lecture on the iniquity of witchcraft, to be delivered 
by a D.D. or B.D. of Queen's College, Cambridge. 
This strange memorial of a shameful and ignorant 
superstition was discontinued early in the eighteenth 

In 1594, Ferdinando, Earl of Derby, died in and 
from the firm conviction that he was mortally be- 
witched, though he had no knowledge of the person 
who had so bewitched him. 

About the same time there lived in an obscure part 
of Lancashire, not far from Pendle, two families of 
the names of Dundike and Chattox respectively, who 


both pretended to enjoy supernatural privileges, and 
were therefore as bitterly antagonistic as if they had 
belonged to different political factions. Their neigh- 
bours, however, seem to have believed in the superior 
claims of the head of the Dundike family, Mother 
Dundike, who pretended that she had enjoyed her 
unhallowed powers for half a century. The year in 
which occurred the incidents I am about to describe 
was, so to speak, her jubilee. 

Mother Dundike must have been a woman of lively 
imagination, if we may form conclusions from her 
graphic account of the circumstances attending her 
initiation into the great army of ' the devil's own.' One 
day, when returning from a begging expedition, she 
was accosted by a boy, dressed in a parti-coloured gar- 
ment of black and white, who proved to be a demon, 
or evil spirit, and promised her that, in return for the 
gift of her soul, she should have anything and every- 
thing she desired. On inquiring his name, she was 
told it was Tib; and here I may note that the 
* princes and potentates ' of the nether world seem to 
have had a great predilection for monosyllabic names, 
and names of a vulgar and commonplace character. 
The upshot of the conversation between Tib and the 
woman was the surrender of her soul on the liberal 
conditions promised, and for the next five or six years 
the said devil frequently appeared unto her ' about 
daylight-gate ' (near evening), and asked what she 
would have or do. With wonderful unselfishness she 
replied, ' Nothing.' Towards the end of the sixth 
year, on a quiet Sabbath morning, while she lay 


asleep, Tib came in the shape of a brown dog, forced 
himself to her knee, and, as she wore no other gar- 
ment than a smock, succeeded in drawing blood. 
Awaking suddenly, she exclaimed, ' Jesu, save my 
child !' but had not the power to say, ' Jesu, save me I 1 
Whereupon the brown dog vanished, and for a space 
of eight weeks she was ' almost stark mad.' 

The matter-of-fact style which distinguishes Mother 
Dundike's confession may also be traced in the state- 
ments of her children and grandchildren, who all 
speak as if witchcraft were an everyday reality, and 
as if evil spirits in various common disguises went to 
and fro in the land with edifying regularity. Let us 
turn to the evidence, if such it may be called, of 
Alison Device, a girl of about thirteen or fourteen 
years of age. Incriminating her grandmother with- 
out scruple, she declared that when they were on the 
tramp, the old woman frequently persuaded her to 
allow a devil or ' familiar ' to suck at some part of her 
body, after which she might have and do what she 
would — though, strange to say, neither she nor any- 
one else ever availed themselves of their powers to 
improve their material condition, but lingered on in 
poverty and privation. James Device, one of Mother 
Dundike's grandsons, said that on Shrove Tuesday 
she bade him go to church to receive the sacrament — 
not, however, to eat the consecrated bread, but to 
bring, it away, and deliver it to ' such a Thing ' as 
should meet him on his way homeward. But he dis- 
obeyed the injunction, and ate the sacred bread. On 
his way home, when about fifty yards from the 


church, he was met by a ' Thing in the shape of a 
hare,' which asked him whether he had brought the 
bread according to his grandmother's directions. He 
answered that he had not; and therefore the Thing 
threatened to rend him in pieces, but he got rid of it 
by calling upon God. 

Some few days later, hard by the new church in 
Pendle, a Thing appeared to him like to a brown dog, 
asked him for his soul, and promised in return that 
he should be avenged on his enemies. The virtuous 
youth replied, somewhat equivocatingly, that his soul 
was not his to give, but belonged to his Saviour Jesus 
Christ ; as much as was his to give, however, he was 
contented to dispose of. Two or three days later 
James Device had occasion to go to Cave Hall, where 
a Mrs. Towneley angrily accused him of having stolen 
some of her turf, and drove him from her door with 
violence. When the devil next appeared — this time 
like a black dog — he found James Device in the right 
temper for a deed of wickedness. He was instructed 
to make an image of clay like Mrs. Towneley ; which 
he did, and dried it the same night by the fire, and 
daily for a week crumbled away the said image, and 
two days after it was all gone Mrs. Towneley died ! 
In the following Lent, one John Duckworth, of the 
Launde, promised him an old shirt ; but when young 
Device went to his house for the gift, he was denied, 
and sent away with contumely. The spirit ' Dandy ' 
then appeared to him, and exclaimed : ' Thou didst 
touch the man Duckworth,' which he, James Device, 
denied; but the spirit persisted: ' Yes; thou didst 


touch him, and therefore he is in my power.' Device 
then agreed with the demon that the said Duckworth 
should meet with the same fate as Mrs. Towneley, 
and in the following week he died. 

It is a curious fact that the old woman Chattox, the 
head of the rival faction of practitioners in witchcraft, 
accused Mother Dundike of having inveigled her into 
the ranks of the devil's servants. This was about 1597 
or 1598. To Mrs. Chattox the Evil One appeared — as 
he has appeared to too many of her sex — in the shape 
of a man. Time, midnight; place, Elizabeth Dun- 
dike's tumble-down cottage. He asked, as usual, for 
her soul, which she at first refused, but afterwards, at 
Mother Dundike's advice and solicitation, agreed to 
part with. ' Whereupon the said wicked spirit then 
said unto her, that he must have one part of her body 
for him to suck upon ; the which she denied then to 
grant unto him ; and withal asked him, what part of 
her body he would have for that use; who said, he 
would have a place of her right side, near to her ribs, 
for him to suck upon ; whereunto she assented. And 
she further said that, at the same time, there was a 
Thing in the likeness of a spotted bitch, that came 
with the said spirit unto the said Dundike, which did 
then speak unto her in Anne Chattox' s hearing, and 
said, that she should have gold, silver, and worldly 
wealth at her will ; and at the same time she saith 
there was victuals, viz., flesh, butter, cheese, bread, 
and drink, and bid them eat enough. And after their 
eating, the devil called Fancy, and the other spirit 


calling himself Tib carried the remnant away. And 
she saith, that although they did eat, they were never 
the fuller nor better for the same ; and that at their 
said banquet the said spirits gave them light to see 
what they did, although they had neither fire nor 
candle-light; and that there be both she-spirits and 
(he-) devils.' 

In a later chapter I shall have occasion to refer 
to the confessions of the various persons impli- 
cated in this ' Great Oyer ' of witchcraft. What 
comes out very strongly in them is the hostility 
which existed between the Chattoxes and the Dun- 
dikes, and their respective adherents. In Pendle 
Forest there were evidently two distinct parties, one 
of which sought the favour and sustained the pre- 
tensions of Mother Dundike, the other being not les* 
steadfast in allegiance to Mother Chattox. As to 
these two beldams, it is clear enough that they 
encouraged the popular credulity, resorted to many 
ingenious expedients for the purpose of supporting 
their influence, and unscrupulously employed that 
influence in furtherance of their personal aims. They 
knowingly played at a sham game of commerce with 
the devil, and enjoyed the fear and awe with which 
their neighbours looked up to them. It flattered 
their vanity; and perhaps they played the game so 
long as to deceive themselves. ' Human passions are 
always to a certain degree infectious. Perceiving 
the hatred of their neighbours, they began to think 
that they were worthy objects of detestation and 
terror, that their imprecations had a real effect, and 


their curses killed. The brown horrors of the forest 
were favourable to visions, and they sometimes almost 
believed that they met the foe of mankind in the 
night.' To the delusions of the imagination, especi- 
ally "when suggested by pride and vanity, there are no 
means of putting a limit ; and it is quite possible that 
in time these women gave credence to their own absurd 
inventions, and saw a demon or familiar spirit in 
every hare or black or brown dog that accidentally 
crossed their path. 

For awhile the witches created a reign of terror in 
the forest. But the interlacing animosities which 
gradually sprang up between its inhabitants were the 
fertile source of so much disorder that, at length, a 
county magistrate of more than ordinary energy, 
Roger ISTowell, Esq., described as a very honest and 
religious gentleman, conceived the idea that, by sup- 
pressing them, he should do the State good service. 
Accordingly he ordered the arrest of Dundike and 
Chattox, Alison Device, and Anne Redfern, and each, 
in the hope of saving her life, having made a full 
confession, he committed them to Lancaster Castle, 
on April 2, 1612, to take their trials at the next 

No attempt was made, however, to search Malkin 
Tower. This lonely ruin was regarded with super- 
stitious dread by the peasantry, who durst never 
approach it, on account of the strange unearthly 
noises and the weird creatures that haunted its wild 
recesses. James Device, when examined afterwards 
by JSTowell, deposed that about a month before his 


arrest, as he was going towards his mother's house in 
the twilight, he met a brown dog coming from it, 
and, of course, a brown dog was the disguise of an 
evil spirit. About two or three nights after, he 
heard a great number of children shrieking and 
crying pitifully in the same uncanny neighbourhood ; 
and at a later date his ears were shocked by a loud 
yelling, ' like unto a great number of cats.' We 
have heard the same sounds ourselves, at night, in 
places which did not profess to be haunted ! It is 
very possible that Dame Dundike, who was obviously 
a crafty old woman, with much knowledge of human 
nature, had something to do with these noises and 
appearances, for it was to her interest to maintain 
the eerie reputation of the Tower, and prevent the 
intrusion of inquisitive visitors. With all her little 
secrets, it was natural enough she should say, ' Procul 
este, profanij while she would necessarily seize every 
opportunity of extending and strengthening her 

It was the general belief that the Malkin Tower 
was the place where the witches annually kept their 
Sabbath on Good Friday, and in 1612, after Dame 
Dundike' s arrest, they met there as usual, in excep- 
tionally large numbers, and, after the usual feasting, 
conferred together on ' the situation ' — to use a slang 
phrase of the present day. Elizabeth Device pre- 
sided, and asked their advice as to the best method 
of obtaining her mother's release. There must have 
been some daring spirits among those old women ; 
for it was proposed — so runs the record — to kill 


Lovel, the gaoler of Lancaster Castle, and another 
man of the name of Lister, accomplish an informal 
' gaol -delivery,' and blow up the prison ! Even with 
the help of their familiars, they would have found this 
a difficult and dangerous enterprise, and we do not 
wonder that the proposal met with general disfavour. 
Seldom, if ever, do conspirators meet without a 
traitor in their midst ; and on this occasion there 
was a traitor in Malkin Tower in the person of 
Janet Device, the youngest daughter of Alison 
Device, and grand-daughter of the unfortunate old 
woman who was lying ill and weak in Lancaster 
Gaol. A girl of only nine years of age, she was an 
experienced liar and thoroughly unscrupulous ; and 
having been bribed by Justice Nowell, she informed 
against the persons present at this meeting, and 
secured their arrest. The number of prisoners at 
Lancaster was increased to twelve, among whom were 
Elizabeth Device, her son James, and Alice Nutter, of 
Rough Lea, a lady of good family and fair estate. 
There is good reason to believe that the last-named 
was in no way implicated in the doings of the so- 
called witches, but that she was introduced by Janet 
Device to gratify the greed of some of her relatives — 
who, in the event of her death, would inherit her 
property — and the ill-feeling of Justice Nowell, 
whom she had worsted in a dispute about the 
boundary of their respective lands. The charges 
against her were trivial, and amounted to no more 
than that she had been present at the Malkin Tower 
convention, and had joined with Mother Dundike and 


Elizabeth Device in bewitching to death an old man 
named Mitton. The only witnesses against her were 
Janet and Elizabeth Device, neither of whom was 
worthy of credence. 

Blind old Mother Dundike escaped the terrible 
penalty of an unrighteous law by dying in prison 
before the day of trial. But justice must have been 
well satisfied with its tale of victims. Foremost 
among them was Mother Chattox, the head of the 
anti-Dundike faction — ' a very old, withered, spent, 
and decrepit creature,' whose sight was almost gone, 
and whose lips chattered with the meaningless babble 
of senility. When judgment was pronounced upon 
her, she uttered a wild, incoherent prayer for Divine 
mercy, and besought the judge to have pity upon 
Anne Redfern, her daughter. The next person for 
trial was Elizabeth Device, who is described as 
having been branded ' with a preposterous mark in 
nature, even from her birth, which was her left eye 
standing lower than the other ; the one looking 
down, the other looking up ; so strangely deformed 
that the best that were present in that honourable 
assembly and great audience did affirm they had not 
often seen the like.' When this woman discovered 
that the principal witness against her was her own 
child, she broke out into such a storm of curses and 
reproaches that the proceedings came to a sudden 
stop, and she had to be removed from the court 
before her daughter could summon up courage to 
repeat the fictions she had learned or concocted. 
The woman was, of course, found guilty, as were 



also James and Alison Device, Alice Nutter, Anne 
Redfern, Katherine Hewit, John and Jane Balcock, 
all of Pendle, and Isabel Roby, of Windle, most of 
whom strenuously asserted their innocence to the last. 
On August 13, the day after their trial, they were 
burnt ' at the common place of execution, near to 
Lancaster ' — the unhappy victims of the ignorance, 
superstition, and barbarity of the age. 

Janet Device, as Kings evidence, obtained a par- 
don, though she acknowledged to have taken part in 
the practices of her parents, and confessed to having 
learned from her mother two prayers, one to cure the 
bewitched, and the other to get drink. The former, 
which is obviously a pasticcio of the old Roman 
Catholic hymns and traditional rhymes, runs as 
follows : 

' Upon Good Friday, I will fast while I may 

Untill I heare them knell 

Our Lord's owne bell. 

Lord in His messe 

With His twelve Apostles good, 

What hath He in His hand 1 

Ligh in leath wand : 

What hath He in His other hand 1 

Heaven's door key. 

Open, open, Heaven's door keys ! 

Stark, stark, hell door. 

Let Criznen child 

Goe to its mother mild ; 

What is yonder that crests a light so farrndly ? 

Thine owne deare Sonne that's nailed to the Tree. 

He is naild sore by the heart and hand, 

And holy harne panne. 

Well is that man 

That Fryday spell can, 

His child to learne ; 


A crosse of blew and another of red, 

As good Lord was to the Roode. 

Gabriel laid him downe to sleepe 

Upon the ground of holy weepe ; 

Good Lord came walking by. 

Sleep'st thou, wak'st thou, Gabriel ? 

No, Lord, I am sted with sticks and stake 

That I can neither sleepe nor wake : 

Rise up, Gabriel, and goe with me, 

The stick nor the stake shall never dure thee. 

Sweet Jesus, our Lord. Amen ! 

The other prayer consisted only of the Latin 
phrase : ' Crucifixus hoc signum vitam seternam. 

* Thomas Pott's 'Wonderful Discoverie of Witches in the 
Countie of Lancashire' (1615), reprinted by the Chetham 
Society, 1845. 





The accession of James L, a professed demonologist, 
and an expert in all matters relating to witchcraft, 
gave a great impulse to the persecution of witches in 
England. ' Poor old women and girls of tender age 
were walked, swum, shaved, and tortured ; the 
gallows creaked and the fires blazed.' In accordance 
with the well-known economic law, that the demand 
creates the supply, it was found that, in proportion 
as trials and tortures increased, so did the number 
of witches, until half the old hags in England sup- 
posed themselves, or w r ere supposed by others, to 
have made compacts with the devil. Legislation 
then augmented its severity, and Parliament, in com- 
pliance with the wishes of the new King, passed an 
Act by which sorcery and witchcraft were made 
felony, without benefit of clergy. For some years 
the country was witch-ridden, and it is appalling to 
think of the hundreds of hapless, ignorant, and 
innocent creatures who were cruelly done to death 
under the influence of this extraordinary mania. 


A remarkable case tried at King's Lynn in 1606 
is reported in Howell's ' State Trials.' I avail myself 
of the summary furnished by Mr. Inderwick. 

,Marie, wife of Henry Smith, grocer, confessed, 
under examination, that, being indignant with some 
of her neighbours because they prospered in their 
trade more than she did, she oftentimes cursed them ; 
and that once, while she was thus engaged, the devil 
appeared in the form of a black man, and willed that 
she should continue in her malice, envy, and hatred, 
banning and cursing, and then he would see that she 
was revenged upon all to whom she wished evil. 
There was, of course, a compact insisted upon : that 
she should renounce Grod, and embrace the devil and 
all his works. After this he appeared frequently — 
once as a mist, once as a ball of fire, and twice he 
visited her in prison with a pair of horns, advising 
her to make no confession, but to rely upon him. 

The evidence of the acts of witchcraft was as 
follows : 

John Oakton, a sailor, having struck her boy, she 
cursed him roundly, and hoped his fingers would rot 
off, which took place, it was said, two years after- 

She quarrelled with Elizabeth Hancock about a 
hen, alleging that Elizabeth had stolen it. "When the 
said Elizabeth denied the; theft, she bade her go in- 
doors, for she would repent it ; and that same night 
Elizabeth had pains all over her body, and her bed 
jumped up and down for the space of an hour or 
more. Elizabeth then consulted her father, and was 


taken by him to a wizard named Drake, who taught 
her how to concoct a witch-cake with all the nastiest 
ingredients imaginable, and to apply it, with certain 
words and conjurations, to the afflicted parts. For 
the time Elizabeth was cured ; but some time after- 
wards, when she had been married to one James 
Scott, a great cat began to go about her house, and 
having done some harm, Scott thrust it twice 
through with his sword. As it still ran to and fro, 
he smote it with all his might upon its head, but 
could not kill it, for it leaped upwards almost a yard, 
and then crept down. Even when put into a bag, 
and dragged to the muck-hill, it moved and stirred, 
and the next morning was nowhere to be found. 
And this same cat, it was afterwards sworn, sat on 
the chest of Cicely Balye, and nearly suffocated her, 
because she had quarrelled with the witch about her 
manner of sweeping before her door ; and the said 
witch called the said Cicely ' a fat-tailed sow,' and 
said her fatness would shortly be abated, as, indeed, 
it was. 

Edmund Newton swore that he had been afflicted 
with various sicknesses, and had been banged in the 
face with dirty cloths, because he had undersold 
Marie Smith in Dutch cheeses. She also sent to him 
a person clothed in russet, with a little bush beard 
and a cloven foot, together with her imps, a toad, and 
a crab. One of his servants took the toad and put 
it into the fire, when it made a groaning noise for a 
quarter of an hour before it was consumed, ' during 
which time Marie Smith, who sent it, did endure (as 


was reported) torturing pains, testifying the grief 
she felt by the outcries she then made.' 

Upon this evidence — such as it was — and upon her 
own confession, Marie Smith was convicted and sen- 
tenced to death. On the scaffold she humbly acknow- 
ledged her sins, prayed earnestly that God might 
forgive her the wrongs she had done her neighbours, 
and asked that a hymn of her own choosing — ' Lord, 
turn not away Thy face ' — might be sung. Then 
she died calmly. It is, no doubt, a curious fact — if, 
indeed, it be a fact, but the evidence is by no means 
satisfactory — that she confessed to various acts of 
witchcraft, and to having made a compact with the 
devil ; but even this alleged confession cannot receive 
our credence when we reflect on the inherent absurdity 
and impossibility of the whole affair. 

In 1619, Joan Flower and her two daughters, 
Margaretta and Philippa, formerly servants at Belvoir 
Castle, were tried before Judges Hobart and Bromley, 
on a charge of having bewitched to death two sons 
of the sixth Earl of Rutland, and found guilty. The 
mother died in prison ; the two daughters were 
executed at Lincoln. 


My chronological survey next brings me to the 
famous case of the Lancashire witches. 

I have already told the story of the Dundikes and 
the Chattoxes, and their exploits in Pendle Forest. 
In the same locality, two-and-twenty years later, 


lived a man of the name of Robinson, to whom it 
occurred that the prevalent belief in witchcraft 
might be turned to account against his neighbours. 
In this design he made his son — a lad about eleven 
years old— his instrument. After he had been 
properly trained, he was instructed by his father, on 
February 10, 1633, to go before two justices of the 
peace, and make the following declaration : 

That, on All Saints' Day, while gathering wild 
plums in Wheatley Lane, he saw a black greyhound 
and a brown scamper across the fields. They came 
up to him familiarly, and he then discovered that 
each wore a collar shining like gold. As no one 
accompanied them, he concluded that they had 
broken loose from their kennels ; and as at that 
moment a hare started up only a few paces from him, 
he thought he would set them to hunt it, but his 
efforts were all in vain ; and in his wrath he took the 
strings that hung from their collars, tied both to a 
little bush, and then whipped them. Whereupon, in 
the place of the black greyhound, started up the wife 
of a man named Dickinson, and in that of the brown 
a little boy. In his amazement, young Robinson (so 
he said) would have run away, but he was stayed by 
Mistress Dickinson, who pulled out of her pocket ' a 
piece of silver much like untoafine shilling,' and offered 
it to him, if he promised to be silent. But he refused, 
exclaiming: * Nay, thou art a witch!' Whereupon, 
she again put her hand in her pocket, and drew forth 
a string like a jingling bridle, which she put over the 
head of the small bo}^, and, behold, he was turned 


into a white horse, with a change as quick as that of 
a scene in a pantomime. Upon this white horse the 
woman placed, by force, young Robinson, and rode 
with him as far as the Hoar- Stones — a house at 
which the witches congregated together — where 
divers persons stood about the door, while others 
were riding towards it on horses of different colours. 
These dismounted, and, having tied up their horses, 
all went into the house, accompanied by their friends, 
to the number of threescore. At a blazing fire some 
meat was roasting, and a young woman gave Robin- 
son flesh and bread upon a trencher, and drink in a 
glass, which, after the first taste, he refused, and 
would have no more, saying it was nought. Pre- 
sently, observing that certain of the company re- 
paired to an adjoining barn, he followed, and saw six 
of them on their knees, pulling at six several ropes 
which were fastened to the top of the house, with the 
result that joints of meat smoking hot, lumps of 
butter, and milk ' syleing,' or straining from the said 
ropes, fell into basins placed underneath them. When 
these six were weary, came other six, and pulled 
right lustily ; and all the time they were pulling they 
made such foul faces that they frightened the peep- 
ing lad, so that he was glad to steal out and run 

No sooner was his escape discovered than a party 
of the witches, including Dickinson's wife, the wife of 
a man named Loynds, and Janet Device, took up the 
pursuit, and over field and scaur hurried headlong, 
nearly overtaking him at a spot called Boggard Hole, 


when the opportune appearance of a couple of horse- 
men induced them to abandon their quarry. But 
young Robinson was not yet ' out of the wood.' In 
the evening he was despatched by his father to bring 
home the cattle, and on the way, in a field called the 
Oilers, he fell in with a boy who picked a quarrel 
with him, and they fought together until the blood 
flowed from his ears, when, happening to look down, 
he saw that his antagonist had cloven feet, and, much 
affrighted, set off at full speed to execute his commis- 
sion. Perceiving a light like that of a lantern, he 
hastened towards it, in the belief it was carried by a 
neighbour ; but on arriving at the place of its shining 
he found there a woman whom he recognised as the 
wife of Loynds, and immediately turned back. Falling 
in again with the cloven-footed boy, he thought it 
prudent to take to his heels, but not before he had 
received a blow on the back which pained him sorely. 

In support of this extraordinary story, the elder 
Robinson deposed that he had certainly sent his son 
to bring in the kine ; that, thinking he was away too 
long, he had gone in search of him, and discovered 
him in such a distracted condition that he knew 
neither his father nor where he was, and so continued 
for very nearly a quarter of an hour before he came 
to himself. 

The persons implicated by the boy Robinson were 
immediately arrested, and confined in Lancaster 
Castle. Some of them — for he told various stories, 
and in each introduced new characters — he did not 
know by name, but he protested that on seeing them 


he should recognise them, and for this purpose he 
was carried about to the churches in the surrounding 
district to examine the congregations. The method 
adopted is thus described by Webster : ' It came to 
pass that this said boy was brought into the church 
of Kildwick, a large parish church, where I (being 
then curate there) was preaching in the afternoon, 
and was set upon a stall (he being but about ten or 
eleven years old) to look about him, which moved 
some little disturbance in the congregation for awhile. 
And, after prayers, I inquiring what the matter was, 
the people told me it was the boy that discovered 
witches, upon which I went to the house where he 
was to stay all night, where I found him and two 
very unlikely persons that did conduct him and 
manage his business. I desired to have some dis- 
course with the boy in private, but they utterly 
refused. Then, in the presence of a great many 
people, I took the boy near me and said: " Good boy, 
tell me truly, and in earnest, didst thou see and hear 
such strange things of the meeting of witches as is 
reported by many that thou dost relate, or did not 
some person teach thee to say such things of thy- 
self ?" But the two men, not giving the boy leave to 
answer, did pluck him from me, and said he had been 
examined by two able justices of the peace, and they 
did never ask him such a question ; to whom I replied, 
the persons accused therefore had the more wrong.' 

In all, some eighteen women, married and single — 
the charge was generally made against women, as 
probably less capable of self-defence, and more im- 


pressionable than men — were brought to trial at Lan- 
caster Assizes. There was really no evidence against 
them but the boy Robinson's, and to sustain it his 
unfortunate victims were examined for the stigmata, 
or devil-marks, which, of course, were found in ample 
quantity. Against seventeen a verdict of guilty was 
returned, one or two being convicted on their own 
confessions — the most perplexing incident in the 
whole case, for as these confessions were unquestion- 
ably false, they who made them were really lying 
away their own lives. By what impulse of morbid 
vanity, or diseased craving for notoriety, or strange 
mental delusion, were they inspired ? And whence 
came the wild and even foul ideas which formed the 
staple of their delirious narratives ? How did these 
quiet, stolid, unlettered Lancashire peasant-women 
become possessed of inventions worthy of the grimmest 
of German tales of diablerie ? It is easier to ask these 
questions than to answer them ; but when the witch 
mania was once kindled in a neighbourhood it seems, 
like a pestilential atmosphere, to have stricken with 
disease every mind that was predisposed to the recep- 
tion of unwholesome impressions. 

The confession of Margaret Johnson, made on 
March 9, 163 3, has been printed before, but it has so 
strong a psychological interest that I cannot omit it 
here. It may be taken as a type of the confessions 
made by the victims of credulity under similar cir- 
cumstances : 

' Betweene seven or eight yeares since, shee being in her house 
at Marsden in greate passion and anger, and discontented, and 


withall oppressed with some want, there appeared unto her a 
spirit or devill in the similitude and proportion of a man, 
apparelled in a suite of black, tied about with silke pointes, whoe 
offered her, yff shee would give him her soule, hee would supply- 
all her wantes, and bring to her whatsoever shee wanted or 
needed, and at her appointment would helpe her to kill and 
revenge her either of men or beastes, or what she desired ; and, 
after a solicitation or two, shee contracted and condicioned with 
the said devill or spiritt for her soule. And the said devill bad 
her call him by the name of Memiilion, and when shee called 
hee would bee ready to doe her will. And she saith that in all 
her talke and conference shee called the said Memiilion her god. 

'And shee further saith that shee was not at the greate 
meetinge of the witches at Hare-stones in the forest of Pendle 
on All Saintes Day last past, but saith shee was at a second 
meetinge the Sunday after All Saintes Day at the place aforesaid, 
where there was at that time betweene thirty and forty witches, 
which did all ride to the same meetinge. And thead of the said 
meetinge was to consult for the killing and hunting of men and 
beastes ; and that there was one devill or spiritt that was more 
greate and grand devill than the rest, and yff anie witch desired 
to have such an one, they might have such an one to kill or hurt 
anie body. And she further saith, that such witches as have sharpe 
boanes are generally for the devill to prick them with which have no 
papps nor duggs, but raiseth blood from the place pricked with the 
boane, which witches are more greate and grand ivitches than they ivhich 
have pappjs or dugs (/). And shee being further asked what 
persons were at their last meetinge, she named one Carpnell and 
his wife, Rason and his wife, Pickhamer and his wife, Duffy and 
his wife, and one Jane Carbonell, whereof Pickhamer's wife is the 
most greate, grand, and anorcyent witch; and that one witch alone 
can kill a beast, and yf they bid their spiritt or devill to goe and 
pricke or hurt anie man in anie particular place, hee presently will 
doe it. And that their spiritts have usually knowledge of their 
bodies. And shee further saith the men witches have women 
spiritts, and women witches have men spiritts ; that Good 
Friday is one of their constant daies of their generall meetinge, 
and that on Good Friday last they had a meetinge neere Pendle 
water-side ; and saith that their spirit doeth tell them where 
their meetinge must bee, and in what place ; and saith that if a 
witch desire to be in anie place upon a soddaine, that, on a dogg, 


or a tod, or a catt, their spiritt will presently convey them 
thither, or into anie room in anie man's house. 

' But shee saith it is not the substance of their bodies that 
doeth goe into anie such roomes, but their spiritts that assume 
such shape and forme. And shee further saith that the devill, 
after hee begins to sucke, will make a papp or a dug in a short 
time, and the matter hee sucketh is blood. And further saith 
that the devill can raise f oule wether and stormes, and soe hee did 
at their meetinges. And shee further saith that when the devill 
came to suck her pappe, he came to her in the likeness of a catt, 
sometimes of one collour, and sometimes of another. And since 
this trouble befell her, her spirit hath left her, and shee never saw 
him since.' 

Happily, the judge who presided at the trial of 
these deluded and persecuted unfortunates was dis- 
satisfied with the evidence, and reprieved them until 
he had time to communicate with the Privy Council, 
by whose orders Bridgman, Bishop of Chester, pro- 
ceeded to examine into the principal cases. Three of 
the supposed criminals, however, had died of anxiety 
and suffering before the work of investigation began, 
and a fourth was sick beyond recovery. The cases 
into which the Bishop inquired were those of Margaret 
Johnson, Frances Dicconson, or Dickinson, Mary 
Spencer, and Mrs. Hargrave. Margaret Johnson the 
good Bishop describes as a widow of sixty, who was 
deeply penitent. ' I will not add,' she said, ' sin to sin. 
I have already done enough, yea, too much, and will 
not increase it. I pray God I may repent.' This 
victim of hallucination had confessed herself to be a 
witch, as we have seen, and was characterized by the 
Bishop as ' more often faulting in the particulars of 
her actions.' Frances Dicconson, however, and Mary 
Spencer, absolutely denied the truth of the accusa- 


tions brought against them. Frances, according to 
the boy Robinson, had changed herself into a dog ; 
but it transpired that she had had a quarrel with the 
elder Robinson. Mary Spencer, a young woman of 
twenty, said that Robinson cherished much ill-feeling 
against her parents, who had been convicted of witch- 
craft at the last assizes, and had since died. She 
repeated the Lord's Prayer and the Apostles' Creed, 
and declared that she defied the devil and all his 
works. A story had been set afloat that she used to 
call her pail to follow her as she ran. The truth was 
that she often trundled it down -hill, and called to it 
in jest to come after her if she outstripped it. She 
could have explained every circumstance in court, 
' but the wind was so loud and the throng so great, 
that she could not hear the evidence against her! 

This last touch, as Mr. S. R. Gardiner remarks, 
completes the tragedy of the situation. ' History,' as 
he says, ' occupies itself perforce mainly with the 
sorrows of the educated classes, whose own peers 
have left the records of their wrongs. Into the 
sufferings of the mass of the people, except when 
they have been lashed by long-continued injustice 
into frenzy, it is hard to gain a glimpse. For once 
the veil is lifted, and we see, as by a lightning flash, 
the forlorn and unfriended girl, to whom the inhuman 
laws of her country denied the services of an advocate, 
baffled by the noisy babble around her in her efforts 
to speak a word on behalf of her innocence. The 
very Bishop who examined her was under the influ- 
ence of the legal superstition that every accused 


person was the enemy of the King. He had heard, 
he said, that the father of the boy Robinson had 
offered, for forty shillings, to withdraw his charge 
against Frances Dicconson, " but such evidence being, 
as the lawyers speak, against the King," he " thought 
it not meet without further authority to examine." 

The Bishop, however, like the judge, was dis- 
satisfied with the evidence; and the accused persons 
were eventually sent up to London, where they were 
examined by the King's physicians, the Bishops, the 
Privy Council, aud by King Charles himself. Some 
medical men and midwives reported that Margaret 
Johnson was deceived in her idea that she bore on 
her body a sign or mark that her blood had been 
sucked. Doubts as to the truth of the boy Robinson's 
story being freely entertained, he was separated from 
his father, and he then revealed the whole invention 
to the King's coachman. He had heard stories told 
of witches and their doings, and out of these had 
concocted his ghastly fiction to save himself a whip- 
ping for having neglected to bring home his mother's 
cows. His father, perceiving at once how much might 
be made out of the tale, took it up and expanded it ; 
manipulated it so as to serve his feelings of revenge or 
avarice, and then taught the boy how to repeat the en- 
larged and improved version. It was all a lie — from 
beginning to end. The day on which he pretended to 
have been carried to the Witches' Sabbath at the Hoar- 
Stones, he was a mile distant, gathering plums in a 
farmer's orchard. The accused were then admitted 
to the King's presence, and assured that their lives 


were safe. Further than this Charles seems to have 
been unable to go; for as late as 1636 these innocent 
and ill-treated persons were still lying in Lancaster 
Castle. It is satisfactory to state, however, that both 
the boy Robinson and his father were thrown into 

Fresh cases of witchcraft sprang up in the Pendle 
district, and early in 1636 four more women were 
condemned to death at the Lancaster Assizes. Bishop 
Bridgman, who was again directed to make inquiries, 
found that two of them had died in gaol, and that of 
the two others, one had been convicted on a mad- 
man's evidence, and that of a woman of ill fame; 
while the only proof alleged against the other was 
that a fleshy excrescence of the size of a hazel-nut 
grew on her right ear, and the end of it, being bloody, 
was supposed to have been sucked by a familiar 
spirit. The two women seem to have been pardoned ; 
but, as in the former case, public opinion set too 
strongly against them to admit of their being released. 


The singular circumstances connected with the 
supposed outbreak of witchcraft in Pendle Forest 
have, to a great extent, obscured the strange case of 
the witches of Salmesbury, though it presents several 
features worthy of consideration. 

Three persons were accused — Jennet Bierley, Ellen 
Bierley, and Jane Southworth — and their supposed 
victim was one Grace Sowerbutts. In the language 



of Mr. Thomas Potts, they were led into error by 
' a subtle practice and conspiracy of a seminary priest, 
or Jesuit, whereof this county of Lancaster hath good 
store, who by reason of the general entertainment 
they find, and great maintenance they have, resort 
hither, being far from the eye of Justice, and, there- 
fore, procul a fulmme. 1 At their trial, which took 
place before Mr. Justice Bromley at Lancaster, on 
Wednesday, August 19, the evidence of Grace Sower- 
butts was to the following effect : 

That for the space of some years ]jast (at the time 
of the trial she was only fourteen) she had been 
haunted and vexed by four women, namely, Jennet 
Bierley, her grandmother, Ellen Bierley, wife to 
Henry Bierley, Jane Southworth, and a certain Old 
Dorwife. Lately, these four women drew her by the 
hair of her head, and laid her on the top of a hay- 
mow in the said Henry Bierley's barn. Not long 
after, Jennet Bierley met her near her house, first 
appearing in her own likeness, and after that as a 
black dog, and when she, Grace Sowerbutts, went 
over a stile, she picked her off. However, she was 
not hurt, and, springing to her feet, she continued 
her way to her aunt's at Osbaldeston. That evening 
she told her father what had occurred. On Saturday, 
April 4, going towards Salmesbury Butt to meet her 
mother, she fell in, at a place called the Two Briggs, 
with Jennet Bierley, first in her own shape, and after- 
wards in the likeness of a two-legged black dog- ; and 
this dog kept close by her side until they came to a 
pool of water, when it spake, and endeavoured to 


persuade her to drown herself therein, saying it 
was a fair and an easy death. Whereupon, she 
thought there came to her one in a white sheet, and 
carried her away from the pool, and in a short space 
of time both the white thing and the black dog de- 
parted; but after Grace had crossed two or three 
fields, the black dog re-appeared, and conveyed her 
into Hugh Walshman's barn close at hand, laid her 
upon the floor, covered her with straw on her body 
and hay on her head, and lay down on the top of the 
straw — for how long a time Grace was unable to 
determine; because, she said, her speech and senses 
were taken from her. When she recovered her con- 
sciousness, she was lying on a bed in Walshman's 
house, having been removed thither by some friends 
who had found her in the barn within a few hours of 
her having been taken there. As it was Monday 
night when she came to her senses, she had been in 
her trance or swoon, according to her marvellous 
story, for about forty-eight hours. 

On the following day, Tuesday, her parents fetched 
her home ; but at the Two Briggs Jennet and Ellen 
Bierley appeared in their own shapes, and she fell 
down in another trance, remaining unable to speak or 
walk until the following Friday. 

All this was remarkable enough, but Grace Sower- 
butts — or the person who had tutored her — felt it was 
not sufficiently grim or gruesome to make much 
impression on a Lancashire jury, accustomed in witch 
trials to much more harrowing details. She pro- 
ceeded, therefore, to recall an incident of a more 



attractive character. A good while, she said, before the 
trance business occurred, she accompanied her aunt, 
Ellen Bierley, and her grandmother, Jennet Bierley, to 
the house of one Thomas Walshman. It was night, 
and all the household were asleep, but the doors flew 
open, and the unexpected visitors entered. Grace 
and Ellen Bierley remained below, while Jennet 
made her way to the sleeping-room of Thomas 
Walshman and his wife, and thence brought a little 
child, which, as Grace supposed, must have been in 
bed with its father and mother. Having thrust a 
nail into its navel, she afterwards inserted a quill, 
and sucked for a good while (!); then replaced the 
child with its parents, who, of course, had never 
roused from their sleep. The child did not cry when 
it was thus abused, but thenceforth languished, and 
soon afterwards died. And on the night after its 
burial, the said Jennet and Ellen Bierley, taking 
Grace Sowerbutts with them, went to Salniesbury 
churchyard, took up the body, and carried it to 
Jennet's house, where a portion of it was boiled in a 
pot, and a portion broiled on the coals. Of both 
portions Jennet and Ellen partook, and would have 
had Grace join them in the ghoul-like repast, but she 
refused. Afterwards Jennet and Ellen seethed the 
bones in a pot, and with the fat that came from them 
said they would anoint their bodies, so that they 
might sometimes change themselves into other 

The next story told by this abandoned girl is too 
foul and coarse for these pages, and we pass on to the 


conclusion of her evidence. On a certain occasion, 
she said, Jane Southworth, a widow, met her at the 
door of her father's house, carried her to the loft, and 
laid her upon the floor, where she was found by 
her father unconscious, and unconscious she remained 
till the next day. The widow Southworth then 
visited her again, took her out of bed, and placed her 
upon the top of a hayrick, three or four yards from 
the ground. She was discovered in this position by 
a neighbour's wife, and laid in her bed again, but 
remained speechless and senseless as before for two or 
three days. A week or so after her recovery, Jane 
Southworth paid her a third visit, took her away 
from her home, and laid her in a ditch near the house, 
with her face downwards. The usual process 
followed : she was discovered and put to bed, but 
continued unconscious — this time, however, only for 
a day and a night. And, further, on the Tuesday 
before the trial, the said Jane Southworth came again 
to her father's house, took her and carried her into 
the barn, and thrust her head amongst ' a company of 
boards ' which were standing there, where she was 
soon afterwards found, and, being again placed in a 
bed, remained in her old fit until the Thursday night 

After Grace Sowerbutts had finished her evidence, 
Thomas Walshman was called, who proved that his 
child died when about a year old, but of what disease 
he knew not ; and that Grace Sowerbutts had been 
found in his father's barn, and afterwards carried into 
his house, where she lay till the Monday night ' as if 


she had been dead.' Then one John Singleton's 
deposition was taken: That he had often heard his 
old master, Sir John Southworth, say, touching the 
widow Southworth, that she was, as he thought, an 
evil woman and a witch, and that he was sorry for 
her husband, who was his kinsman, for he believed 
she would kill him. And that the said Sir John, in 
coming or going between Preston and his own house 
at Salmesbury, mostly avoided passing the old wife's 
residence, though it was the nearest way, entirely 
out of fear of the said ivife. (Brave Sir John !) 

This evidence, it is clear, failed to prove against 
the prisoners a single direct act of witchcraft ; but so 
credulous were judge and jury in matters of this 
kind, that, notwithstanding the vague and suspicious 
character of the testimony brought forward, it would 
have gone hard with the accused, but for an acci- 
dental question which disclosed the fact that the girl, 
Grace Sowerbutts, had been prompted in her inco- 
herent narrative, and taught to sham her fits of 
unconsciousness, by a Eoman priest or Jesuit, named 
Thompson or Southworth, who was actuated by 
motives of fanaticism. 

' How well this project,' exclaims the indignant 
Potts, ' to take away the lives of these innocent poor 
creatures by practice and villainy, to induce a young 
scholar to commit perjury, to accuse her own grand- 
mother, aunt, etc., agrees either with the title of a 
Jesuit or the duty of a religious Priest, who should 
rather profess sincerity and innocency than practise 
treachery. But this was lawful, for they are heretics 


accursed, to leave the company of priests, to frequent 
churches, hear the word of God preached, and profess 
religion sincerely.' The horrors which he taught 
his promising pupil, Thompson probably gathered 
from the pages of Bodin and Delrio, or some of the 
other demonologists. Potts continues : 

' Who did not condemn these women upon this 
evidence, and hold them guilty of this so foul and 
horrible murder ? But Almighty God, who in His 
providence had provided means for their deliverance, 
although the priest, by the help of the Devil, had 
provided false witnesses to accuse them ; yet God 
had prepared and placed in the seat of justice an 
upright judge to sit in judgment upon their lives, 
who after he had heard all the evidence at large 
against the prisoners for the King's Majesty, demanded 
of them what answer they could make. They humbly 
upon their knees, with weeping tears, desired him 
for God's cause to examine Grace Sowerbutts, who 
set her on, or by whose means this accusation came 
against them.' 

The countenance of Grace Sowerbutts immediately 
underwent a great change, and the witnesses began 
to quarrel and accuse one another. The judge put 
some questions to the girl, who, for the life of her, 
could make no direct or intelligible answer, saying, 
with obvious hesitation, that she was put to a master 
to learn, but he had told her nothing of this. 

' But here,' continues Potts, ' as his lordship's care 
and pains was great to discover the practices of those 
odious witches of the Forest of Pendle, and other 


places, now upon their tribunal before him; so was 
he desirous to discover this damnable practice to 
accuse these poor women and bring their lives in 
danger, and thereby to deliver the innocent. 

' And as he openly delivered it upon the bench, in 
the hearing of a great audience : That if a Priest or 
Jesuit had a hand in one end of it, there would 
appear to be knavery and practice in the other end 
of it. And that it might better appear to the whole 
world, examined Thomas Sowerbutts what [the] 
Master taught his daughter: in general terms, he 
denied all. 

' The wench had nothing to say, but her Master 
told her nothing of this. In the end, some that were 
present told his lordship the truth, and the prisoners 
informed him how she went to learn with one 
Thompson, a Seminary Priest, who had instructed 
and taught her this accusation against them, because 
they were once obstinate Papists, and now came to 
Church. Here is the discovery of this Priest, and of 
his whole practice. Still this fire increased more and 
more, and one witness accusing another, all things 
were laid open at large. 

' In the end his lordship took away the girl from 
her father, and committed her to Mr. Leigh, a very 
religious preacher, and Mr. Chisnal, two Justices of 
the Peace, to be carefully examined.' 

The examination was as follows : 

' Being demanded whether the accusation she laid 
upon her grandmother, Jennet Bierley, Ellen Bierley, 
and Jane Southworth, of witchcraft, namely, of the 


killing of the child of Thomas Walshman with a nail 
in the navel, the boiling, eating, and oiling, thereby 
to transform themselves into divers shapes, was true ; 
she doth utterly deny the same : or that ever she saw 
any such practices done by them. 

' She further saith, that one Master Thompson, 
which she taketh to be Master Christopher South- 
worth, to whom she was sent to learn her prayers, 
did persuade, counsel, and advise her, to deal as 
formerly hath been said against her said Grandmother, 
Aunt, and Southworth's wife. 

' And further she confesseth and saith, that she 
never did know, or saw any Devils, nor any other 
Visions, as formerly by her hath been alleged and 

' Also she confesseth and saith, that she was not 
thrown or cast upon the hen-ruff and hay-mow in 
the barn, but that she went up upon the Mow herself 
by the wall- side. 

' Being further demanded whether she ever was at 
the Church, she saith, she was not, but promised here- 
after to go to the Church, and that very willingly.' 

The three accused were also examined, and declared 
their belief that Grace Sowerbutts had been trained 
by the priest to accuse them of witchcraft, because 
they 'would not be dissuaded from the Church.' 

' These examinations being taken, they were brought 
into the Court, and there openly in the presence of 
this great audience published and declared to the 
jury of life and death ; and thereupon the gentlemen 
of their jury required to consider of them. For 


although they stood upon their Trial, for matter of 
fact of witchcraft, murther, and much more of the 
like nature: yet in respect all their accusations did 
appear to be practice, they were now to consider of 
them and to acquit them. Thus were these poor 
innocent creatures, by the great care and pains of this 
honourable Judge, delivered from the danger of this 
conspiracy; this bloody practice of the Priest laid 
open : of whose fact I may lawfully say, Etiam si ego 
tacuero clamabunt lapides. 

' These are but ordinary with Priests and Jesuits : 
no respect of blood, kindred, or friendship can move 
them to forbear their conspiracies ; for when he had 
laboured treacherously to seduce and convert them, 
and yet could do no good, then devised he this 

' God of His great mercy deliver us all from them 
and their damnable conspiracies : and when any of his 
Majesty's subjects, so free and innocent as these, shall 
come in question, grant them as honourable a trial, 
as reverend and worthy a judge to sit in judgment 
upon them, and in the end as speedy a deliverance. 

' And for that which I have heard, of them, seen with 
my eyes, and taken pains to read of them, my humble 
prayer shall be to God Almighty, Vt convertantur 
ne pereant. Aut confundantur ne noceant?* 

I pass on to a remarkable trial for witchcraft which 
took place at Taunton Assizes in August, 1626, one 

* Potts, ' Wonderful Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of 
Lancaster' (1613). 


Edward Ball and Joan Greedie being charged with 
having practised upon a certain Edward Dinham. 

It seems that the complainant, when under the 
witch-spell, possessed no fewer than three voices — 
namely, his own natural voice, and two artificial 
voices, of which one was shrill and pleasant, the 
other deadly and hollow. These two voices belonged 
respectively to the good and evil spirits which 
alternately prevailed over him. As it is said that 
they spoke without any movement of the lips or 
tongue, it is probable the man was a natural ventrilo- 
quist, and made use of his gift to imperil the lives of 
Ball and Greedie, against whom he may have enter- 
tained a hostile feeling. He gave the following 
specimen of the conversation which took place 
between him and his spirits : 

Good Spirit. How comes this man to be thus tormented 1 

Bad Spirit. He is bewitched. 

Good. Who hath done it 1 

Bad. That I may not tell. 

Good. Aske him agayne. 

Dinham. Come, come, prithee, tell me who hath bewitched me 

Bad. A woman in greene cloathes and a black hatt, with a 
large poll ; and a man in a gray suite, with blue stockings. 

Good. But where are they 1 

Bad. She is at her house, and hee is at a taverne in Yeohall 
[Youghal] in Ireland. 

Good. But what are their names 1 

Bad. Nay, that I will not tell. 

Good. Then tell half of their names. 

Bad. The one is Johan, and the other Edward. 

Good. Nowe tell me the other half. 

Bad. That I may not. 

Good. Aske him agayne. 

Dinham. Come, come, prithee, tell me the other half. 

Bad. The one is Greedie, and the other Ball. 


This information having been obtained, a messenger 
is sent to a certain house, where the unfortunate Joan 
is straightway arrested. The conversation, if this 
absurd rigmarole can be so called, was afterwards 
resumed, the man conveniently going into one of his 
'fits ' for the purpose: 

Good. But are these witches ? 

Bad. Yes ; that they are. 

Good. Howe came they to bee soe 1 

Bad. By discent. 

Good. But howe by discent 1 

Bad. From the grandmother to the mother, and from the 
mother to the children. 

Good. But howe aree they soe 1 

Bad. They aree bound to us, and wee to them. 

Good. Lett mee see the bond. 

Bad. Thou shalt not. 

Good. Lett mee see it, and if I like I will seale alsoe. 

Bad. Thou shalt, if thou wilt not reveale the contentes 

Good. I will not. 

As usual, the Good Spirit gets its way, and the 
bond is produced, drawing from the Good Spirit an 
exclamation of anguish : ' Alas ! oh, pittifull, pitti- 
full, pittifull ! What ? eight seales, bloody seales — 
four dead, and four alive ? Ah, miserable !' 

Dinham. Come, come, prithee, tell me, Why did they bewitch 

Bad. Because thou didst call Johane Greedie witche. 

Dinham. Why, is shee not a witche ? 

Bad. Yes ; but thou shouldest not have said soe. 

Good. But why did Ball be witche him 1 

Bad. Because Greedie was not stronge enough. 

A messenger is now sent after Ball ; but on reach- 
ing his hiding-place, he finds that the poor man has 


just escaped, and he meets with people who had seen 
his flight. Dinham and his voices then join in a 
discourse, from which it appears that before they 
bewitched Dinham they had been guilty of various 
' evil practices,' and had compassed the death of, at 
least, one of their victims. Six days afterwards 
Dinham has another ' fit,' and a second unsuccessful 
effort is made to track and arrest Ball. Disgusted 
with this failure, the Good Spirit strenuously oj)poses 
the Evil Spirit in his resolve to secure Dinham's 

Bad. I will have him, or else I will torment him eight tymes 

Good. Thou shalt not have thy will in all thinges ; thou shalt 
torment him but four times more. 

Bad. I will have thy soule. 

Good. If thou wilt answer me three questions, I will seale and 
goe with thee. 

Bad. I will. 

Good. Who made the world 1 

Bad. God. 

Good. Who created mankynde % 

Bad. God. 

Good. Wherefore was Christ Jesus His precious blood shed 1 

Bad. He no more of that. 

Here the patient was seized with the most violent 
convulsions, foaming at the mouth, and struggling 
with clenched hands and contorted limbs. 

Another fit came off a few days afterwards, and in 
this Dinham was exposed to a double temptation : 

Bad. If thou wilt give me thy soule, I will give thee gold 

Good. Thy gold will scald my fingers. 


Bad. If thou wilt give me thy soule, I will give thee dice, and 
thou shalt winne infinite somes of treasure by play. 

Good. If thou canst make every letter in this booke [a Prayer- 
book which Dinham held in his hand] a die, I will. 

Bad. That I cannott. 

Good. Laudes, laudes, laudes ! 

Bad. Thou shalt have ladies enough — ladies, ladies, ladies ! . . . 

Good. If thou canst make every letter in this book a ladie, I will. 

Here the Bad Spirit made an attempt to cast away 
the book, but, after a violent struggle, was defeated ; 
and then the Good Spirit celebrated his victory in 
' the sweetest musicke that ever was heard.' Even- 
tually Ball was captured, and Dinham then declared 
that his c two voices ' ceased to trouble him. Greedie 
and Ball were both committed for trial, but no record 
exists of their execution, and we may hope that they 
were acquitted of charges supported by such absurd 
and fallacious evidence. 

Edward Fairfax, a man of ability and culture — the 
refined and melodious translator of Tasso's Christian 
epic — prosecuted six of his neighbours at York 
Assizes, in 1622, for practising witchcraft on his 
children. The grand jury found a true bill against 
them, and the accused were brought to trial. But 
the judge, who had been privately furnished with a 
certificate of their ' sober behaviour,' contrived so to 
influence the jury as to obtain a verdict of acquittal. 
The poet afterwards published an elaborate defence 
of his conduct. His folly may be excused, per- 
haps, since even such men as Raleigh and Bacon 
inclined towards a belief in witchcraft ; and the 
judicious Evelyn makes it one of his principal com- 


plaints against solitude that it created witches. 
Hobbes, in his ' Leviathan,' takes, however, a more 
enlightened view: 'As for witches,' he says, 'I 
think not that their witchcraft is any real power ; but 
yet that they are justly punished for the false belief 
they have that they can do such mischief, joined 
with their purpose to do it if they can.' 

Even the stir and tumult of the Civil War did not 
suspend the persecuting activity of a degraded super- 
stition. In 1644 eig'ht witches of Mannino;tree, in 
Essex, were accused of holding witches' meetings 
every Friday night ; were searched for teats and 
devils' marks, convicted, and, with twenty-nine of 
their fellows, hung. In the following year there 
were more hanoino-s in Essex ; and in Norfolk a 
score of witches suffered. In 1650 a woman was 
hung at the Old Bailey as a witch. ' She was found 
to have under her armpits those marks by which 
witches are discovered to entertain their familiars.' 
In April, 1652, Jean Peterson, the witch of Wapping, 
was hung at Tyburn ; and in July of the same year 
six witches perished at Maidstone. 

In 1653 Alice Bodenham, a domestic servant, was 
tried at Salisbury before Chief Justice Wilde, and 
convicted. It is not certain, however, that she was 

In 1658 Jane Brooks was executed for practising 
witchcraft on a boy of twelve, named Henry James, 
at Chard, in Somersetshire; in 1663 Julian Cox, at 
Taunton, for a similar offence. 



The severe legislation against witchcraft had thus 
the effect — which- invariably attends legislation when 
it becomes unduly repressive — of increasing the 
offence it had been designed to exterminate. It was 
attended, also, by another result, which is equally 
common — bringine: to the front a number of informers 
who, at the cost of many innocent lives, turned it to 
their personal advantage. Of these witch-finders, the 
most notorious was Matthew Hopkins, of Manning- 
tree, in Essex. When he first started his infamous 
trade, I cannot ascertain, but his success would seem 
to have been immediate. His earliest victims he 
found in his own neighbourhood. But, as his reputa- 
tion grew, he extended his operations over the whole 
of Essex ; and in a very short time, if any case of 
supposed witchcraft occurred, the neighbours sent for 
Matthew Hopkins as an acknowledged expert, whose 
skill would infalliby detect the guilty person. 

His first appearance at the assizes was in the spring 
of 1645, when he accused an unfortunate old woman, 
named Elizabeth Clarke. To collect evidence against 
her, he watched her by night in a room in a 
Mr. Edwards's house, in which she was illegally 
detained. At her trial he had the audacity to affirm 
that, on the third night of his watching, after he had 
refused her the society of one of her imps, she con- 
fessed to him that, some six or seven years before, she 
had given herself over to the devil, who visited her in 
the form of ' a proper gentleman, with a hazel beard.' 


Soon after this, he said, a little dog came in — fat, 
short-legged, and with sandy spots besprinkled on the 
white ground-colour of its tub-like body. When he 
prevented it from aj)proaching the woman — who 
declared it was Jacmara, one of her imps — it straight- 
way vanished. Next came a greyhound, which she 
called Vinegar Tom ; and next a polecat. Improving 
in fluent and fertile mendacity, Hopkins went on to 
assert that, on returning home that night, about ten 
of the clock, accompanied by his own greyhound, he 
saw his dog give a leap and a bound, and hark 
away as if hunting a hare ; and on following him, he 
espied a little white animal, about the size of a 
kitten, and observed that his greyhound stood aloof 
from it in fright ; and by-and-by this imp or kitten 
danced about the dog, and, as he supposed, bit a piece 
from its shoulder, for the greyhound came to him 
shrieking and crying, and bleeding from a great 
wound. Hopkins further stated that, going into his 
yard that same night, he saw a Black Thing, shaped 
like a cat, but thrice as big, sitting in a strawberry -bed; 
with its eyes fixed upon him. When he approached 
it, the Thing leaped over the pale towards him, as 
he thought, but, on the contrary, ran quite through 
the yard, with his greyhound after it, to a great gate, 
which was underset ' with a pair of tumbril strings,' 
threw it wide open, and then vanished, while his dog 
returned to him, shaking and trembling exceedingly. 

In these unholy vigils of his, Hopkins was accom- 
panied by one ' John Sterne, of Manningtree, gentle- 
man,' who, as a matter of course, confirmed all his 



statements, and added the interesting detail that the 

third imp was called Sack-and- Sugar. The two 

wretches forced their way into the house of another 

woman, named Rebecca West, from whom they 

extracted a confession that the first time she saw the 

devil, he came to her at night, told her he must be 

her husband, and finally married her ! The cruel 

tortures to which these and so many other unhappy 

females were exposed must undoubtedly have told on 

their nervous systems, producing a condition of 

hysteria, aDd filling their minds with hallucinations, 

which, perhaps, may partly have been suggested by the 

' leading questions ' of the witch-finders themselves. 

It is to be observed that their confessions wore a 

striking similarity, and that all the names mentioned of 

the so-called imps or familiars were of a ludicrous 

character, such as Prick - ear, Frog, Robin, and 

Sparrow. Then the excitement caused by these trials 

so wrought on the public mind that witnesses were 

easily found to testify — apparently in good faith — to 

the evil things done by the accused, and even to 

swear that they had seen their familiars. Thus one 

man declared that, passing at daybreak by the house 

of a certain Anne West, he was surprised to find her 

door open. Looking in, he descried three or four 

Things, like black rabbits, one of which ran after him. 

He seized and tried to kill him, but in his hands the 

Thing seemed a mere piece of wool, which extended 

lengthwise without any apparent injury. Full speed 

he made for a neighbouring spring, in which he tried 

to drown him, but as soon as he put the Thing in the 


water, he vanished from his sight. Returning to the 
house, he saw Anne West standing at the door ' in 
her smock,' and asked her why she sent her imp 
to trouble him, but received no answer. 

His experiments having proved successful, Hopkins 
took up witch-finding as a vocation, one which pro- 
vided him with the means of a comfortable livelihood, 
while it gratified his ambition by making him the 
terror of many and the admiration of more, investing 
him with just that kind of power which is delightful 
to a marrow and commonplace mind. Assuming the 
title of ■ Witch -finder-General,' and taking with him 
John Sterne, and a woman, whose business it was 
to examine accused females for the devil's marks, 
he travelled through the counties of Essex, Norfolk, 
Huntingdon, and Sussex. 

He was at Bury, in Suffolk, in August, 1645, and 
there, on the 27th, no fewer than eighteen witches 
were executed at once through his instrumentality. 
A hundred and twenty more were to have been tried, 
but the approach of the royal troops led to the 
adjournment of the Assize. In one year this whole- 
sale murderer caused the death of sixty poor creatures. 
The ' test ' he generally adopted was that of ■ swim- 
ming,' which James I. recommends with much 
unction in his 'DemonoWie.' The hands and feet of 
the accused were tied together crosswise, the thumb of 
the right hand to the big toe of the left foot, and vice 
versa. She was then wrapped up in a large sheet or 
blanket, and laid upon her back in a pond or river. 
If she sank, she was innocent, but established her 



innocence at the cost of her life ; if she floated, which 
was generally the case, as her clothes afforded a 
temporary support, she was pronounced guilty, and 
hanged with all possible expedition. 

Another ' test ' was the repetition of the Lord's 
Prayer, which, it was believed, no witch could 
accomplish. Woe to the unfortunate creature who, 
in her nervousness, faltered over a syllable or stumbled 
at a word ! Again she was forced into some awkward 
and painful attitude, bound with cords, and kept food- 
less and sleepless for four-and-twenty hours. Or she 
was walked continuously up and down a room, an 
attendant holding each arm, until she dropped with 
fatigue. Sometimes she was weighed against the 
church Bible, obtaining her deliverance if she proved 
to be heavier. But this last-named test was too 
lenient for the Witch-finder- General, who preferred 
the swimming ordeal. 

One of his victims at Bury was a venerable clergy- 
man, named Lowes, who had been Vicar of Brandes- 
ton, near Framlingham, for fifty years. ' After he was 
found with the marks,' says Sterne, ' in his con- 
fession' — when made, to whom, or under what cir- 
cumstances, we are not informed — ' he confessed that 
in pride of heart to be equal, or rather above God, 
the devil took advantage of him, and he covenanted 
w r ith the devil, and sealed it with his blood, and had 
those familiars or spirits which sucked on the marks 
found on his body, and did much harm both by sea 
and land, especially by sea ; for he confessed that he, 
being at Lungar Fort [Landguard Fort], in Suffolk, 


where he preached, as he walked upon the wall or 
works there, he saw a great sail of ships pass by, and 
that, as they were sailing by, one of his three imps, 
namely, his yellow one, forthwith appeared to him, 
and asked him what he should do, and he bade him go 
and sink such a ship, and showed his imp a new ship 
among the middle of the rest (as I remember), one 
that belonged to Ipswich ; so he confessed the imp 
went forthwith away, and he stood still and viewed 
the ships on the sea as they were a-sailing, and per- 
ceived that ship immediately to be in more trouble 
and danger than the rest ; for he said the water was 
more boisterous near that than the rest, tumbling up 
and down with waves, as if water had been boiled in 
a pot, and soon after (he said), in a short time, it 
sunk directly clown into the sea as he stood and 
viewed it, when all the rest sailed down in safety ; 
then he confessed he made fourteen widows in one 
quarter of an hour. Then Mr. Hopkins, as he told 
me (for he took his confession), asked him if it did 
not grieve him to see so many men cast away in a 
short time, and that he should be the cause of so 
many poor widows on a sudden ; but he swore by 
his Maker he was joyful to see what power his imps 
had : and so likewise confessed many other mischiefs, 
and had a charm to keep him out of the jail and 
hanging, as he paraphrased it himself; but therein 
the devil deceived him, for he was hanged that Michael- 
mas time, 1645, at Bury St. Edmunds.' Poor old 
man ! This so-called confession has a very dubious 
air about it, and reads as if it had been invented by 


Matthew Hopkins, who, as Sterne naively acknow- 
ledges, ' took the confessions,' apparently without 
any witness or reporter being present. 

The Witch-finder-General, when on his expedi- 
tions of inquiry, assumed the style of a man of 
fortune. He put up always at the best inns, and 
lived in the most luxurious fashion, which he could 
well afford to do, as, when invited to visit a town, 
he insisted on payment of his expenses for board and 
lodging, and a fee of twenty shillings. This sum he 
claimed under any circumstances; but if he succeeded 
in detecting any witches, he demanded another fee of 
twenty shillings for each one brought to execution. 
Generally his pretensions were admitted without 
demur ; but occasionally he encountered a sturdy 
opponent, like the Rev. Mr. Gaul, of Great Staughton, 
in Huntingdonshire, who attacked him in a briskly- 
written pamphlet as an intolerable nuisance. Hopkins 
replied by an angry letter to one of the magistrates 
of the town, in which he said : ' I am to come to 
Kimbolton this week, and it shall be ten to one but I 
will come to your town first ; but I would certainly 
know afore whether your town affords many sticklers 
for such cattle [i.e. witches], or [is] willing to give 
and afford us good welcome and entertainment, as 
other where I have been, else I shall waive your 
shire (not as yet beginning in any part of it myself), 
and betake me to such places where I do and may 
persist without control, but with thanks and recom- 

Neither Mr. Gaul nor the magistrates of Great 


Staughton showed any anxiety in regard to the witch- 
finder's threat. On the contrary, Mr. Gaul returned to 
the charge in a second pamphlet, entitled ' Select Cases 
of Conscience touching Witches and Witchcraft,' in 
which, while admitting the existence of witches — for 
he was not above the superstition of his age and 
country — he vigorously attacked Hopkins for accus- 
ing persons on insufficient evidence, and denounced 
the atrocious cruelties of which he and his associates 
were guilty. I have no doubt that this manly 
language helped to bring about a wholesome change 
of public opinion. In the eastern counties so bitter a 
feeling of resentment arose, that Hopkins found it 
advisable to seek fresh woods and pastures new. In 
the spring of 1647 he was at Worcester, where four un- 
fortunates were condemned on the evidence of himself 
and his associates. But the indignation against him 
deepened and extended, and he hastily returned to 
his native town, trembling for his wretched life. 
There he printed a defence of his conduct, under the 
title of ' The Discovery of Witches, in answer to 
several queries lately delivered to the Judge of Assize 
for the county of Norfolk ; published by Matthew 
Hopkins, witch-finder, for the benefit of the whole 
kingdom.' His death occurred shortly afterwards. 
According to Sterne, he died the death of a righteous 
man, having ' no trouble of conscience for what he 
had done, as was falsely reported for him.' But the 
more generally accepted account is an instance of 
'poetical justice' — of Nemesis satisfied — which 1 
heartily hope is authentic. It is said that he was 


surrounded by a mob in a Suffolk village, and accused 
of being himself a wizard, and of having, by his 
tricks of sorcery, cheated the devil out of a memoran- 
dum-book, in which were entered the names of all the 
witches in England. ' Thus,' cried the populace, 
'you find out witches, not by God's name, but by 
the devil's.' He denied the charge ; but his accusers 
determined that he should be subjected to his 
favourite test. He was stripped; his thumbs and toes 
were tied together ; he was wrapped in a blanket, and 
cast into a pond. Whether he was drowned, or 
whether he floated, was taken up, tried, sentenced, 
and executed, authorities do not agree; but they 
agree that he never more disturbed the peace of the 
realm as a witch-finder. 

Butler has found a niche for this knave, among 
other knaves, in his ' Hudibras ' : 

' Hath not this present Parliament 
A lieger to the Devil sent, 
Fully empowered to set about 
Finding revolted witches out 1 
And has he not within a year 
Hanged threescore of them in one shire ? 
Some only for not being drowned, 
And some for sitting above ground 
Whole days and nights upon their breeches, 
And, feeling pain, were hanged for witches. . . 
Who proved himself at length a witch, 
And made a rod for his own breech ' — 

the engineer hoist with his own petard — happily a by 
no means infrequent mode of retribution. 

Sterne, the witch-finder's colleague, not unnaturally 
shared in the public disfavour, and in defence of him- 


self and his deceased partner gave to the world a 
' Confirmation and Discovery of Witchcraft,' in which 
he acknowledges to have been concerned in the detec- 
tion and condemnation of some 200 witches in the 
counties of Essex, Suffolk, Northampton, Huntingdon, 
Bedford, Norfolk and Cambridge, and the Isle of Ely. 
He adds that ' in many places I never received penny 
as yet, nor any like, notwithstanding I have bonds 
for satisfaction, except I should sin ; but many rather 
fall upon me for what hath been received, but I hope 
such suits will be disannulled, and that when I have 
been out of moneys for towns in charges and otherwise, 
such course will be taken that I may be satisfied and 
paid with reason.' One can hardly admire sufficiently 
the brazen effrontery of this appeal ! 

The number of persons imprisoned on suspicion of 
witchcraft grew so large as to excite the alarm of the 
Government, who issued stringent orders to the 
country magistrates to commit for trial persons 
brought before them on this charge, and forbade 
them to exercise summary jurisdiction. Eventually 
a commission was given to the Earl of Warwick, and 
others, to hold a gaol-delivery at Chelmsford. Lord 
Warwick, who had done good service to the State as 
Lord High Admiral, was sagacious and fair-minded. 
But with him went Dr. Edmund Calamy, the eminent 
Puritan divine, to see that no injustice was done to 
the parties accused. This proved an unfortunate 
choice; for Calamy, who, in his sermon before the 
judges, had enlarged on the enormity of the sin of 


witchcraft, sat on the bench with them, and unhappily 
influenced their deliberations in the direction of 
severity. As a result, sixteen persons were hanged 
at Yarmouth, fifteen at Chelmsford, besides some 
sixty at various places in Suffolk. 

Whitlocke, in his ' Memorials,' speaks of many 
' witches ' as having been put upon their trial at 
Newcastle, through the agency of a man whom he 
calls ' the Witch-finder.' Another of the imitators of 
Hopkins, a Mr. Shaw, parson of Kusock, came to 
condign humiliation (1660). Having instigated some 
bucolic barbarians to put an old woman, named Joan 
Bibb, to the water-ordeal, she swam right vigorously 
in the pool, and struggled with her assailants so 
strenuously that she effected her escape. Afterwards 
she brought an action against the parson for insti- 
gating the outrage, and obtained £20 damages. 

In 1664, Elizabeth Styles, of Bayford, Somerset- 
shire, was convicted and sentenced to death, but 
died in prison before the day fixed for her execution. 
It is said that she made a voluntary confession — ■ 
without inducement or torture — in the presence of 
the magistrates and [several divines — another case 
(if it be true) of the morbid self-delusion which in 
times of popular excitement makes so many victims. 

One feels the necessity of speaking with some 
degree of moderation respecting the credulity of the 
ignorant and uneducated classes, when one finds so 


sound a lawyer and so admirable a Christian as Sir 
Matthew Hale infected by the mania. No other blot, 
I suppose, is to be found on his fame and character ; 
and that he should have incurred this indelible stain, 
and fallen into so pitiable an error, is a problem by 
no means easy of solution. 

At the Lent Assize, in 1664, at Bury St. Edmunds, 
two aged women, named Rose Cullender and Amy 
Duny were brought before him on a charge of having 
bewitched seven persons. The nature of the evidence 
on which it was founded the reader will appreciate 
from the following examples : 

Samuel Pacey, of Lowestoft, a man of good repute 
for sobriety and other homely virtues, having been 
sworn, said : That on Thursday, October 10 last, his 
younger daughter Deborah, about nine years old, fell 
suddenly so lame that she could not stand on her 
feet, and so continued till the 17th, when she asked 
to be carried to a bank which overlooked the sea, and 
while she was sitting there, Amy Duny came to the 
witness's house to buy some herrings, but was denied. 
Twice more she called, but being always denied, went 
away grumbling and discontented. At this instant 
of time the child was seized with terrible fits ; com- 
plained of a pain in her stomach, as if she were being- 
pricked with pins, shrieking out ' with a voice like a 
whelp/ and thus continuing until the 30th. This 
witness added that Amy Duny, being known as a 
witch, and his child having, in the intervals of her 
fits, constantly exclaimed against her as the cause of 
her sufferings, saying that the said Amy did appear 


to her and frighten her, he began to suspect the said 
Amy, and accused her in plain terms of injuring his 
child, and got her ' set in the stocks.' Two days 
afterwards, his daughter Elizabeth was seized with 
similar fits ; and both she and her sister complained 
that they were tormented by various persons in the 
town of bad character, but more particularly by 
Amy Duny, and by another reputed witch, Rose 

Another witness deposed that she had heard the 
two children cry out against these persons, who, they 
said, threatened to increase their torments tenfold if 
they told tales of them. ' At some times the children 
would see Things run up and down the house in the 
appearance of mice ; and one of them suddenly 
snapped one with the tongs, and threw it in the fire, 
and it screeched out like a bat. At another time, the 
younger child, being out of her fits, went out of doors 
to take a little fresh air, and presently a little Thing 
like a bee flew upon her face, and would have gone 
into her mouth, whereupon the child ran in all haste 
to the door to get into the house again, shrieking out 
in a most terrible manner; whereupon this deponent 
made haste to come to her, but before she could reach 
her, the child fell into her swooning fit, and, at last, 
with much pain and straining, vomited up a twopenny 
nail with a broad head ; and after that the child had 
raised up the nail she came to her understanding, and 
being demanded by this deponent how she came by 
this nail, she answered that the bee brought this nail 
and forced it into her mouth.' 


Such evidence as this failing to satisfy Serjeant 
Keeling, and several magistrates who were present, 
of the guilt of the accused, it was resolved to resort 
to demonstration by experiment. The persons be- 
witched were brought into court to touch the two 
old women; and it was observed (says Hutchinson) 
that when the former were in the midst of their fits, 
find to all men's apprehension wholly deprived of all 
sense and understanding, closing their fists in such a 
manner as that the strongest man could not force 
them open, yet, at the least touch of one of the 
supposed witches — Rose Cullender, by name — they 
Avould suddenly shriek out, opening their hands, 
which accident would not happen at any other 
person's touch. ' And lest they might privately see 
when they were touched by the said Rose Cullender, 
they were blinded with their own aprons, and the 
touching took the same effect as before. There was 
an ingenious person that objected there might be a 
great fallacy in this experiment, and there ought noc 
to be any stress put upon this to convict the parties, 
for the children might counterfeit this their dis- 
temper, and, perceiving what was done to them, they 
might in such manner suddenly alter the erection 
and gesture of their bodies, on purpose to induce 
persons to believe that they were not natural, but 
wrought strangely by the touch of the prisoners. 
Wherefore, to avoid this scruple, it was privately 
desired by the judge that the Lord Cornwallis, Sir 
Edmund Bacon, and Mr. Serjeant Keeling, and some 
other gentleman then in court, would attend one of 


the distempered persons in the farthest part of the 
hall whilst she was in her fits, and then to send for 
one of the witches to try what would then happen, 
which they did accordingly ; and Amy Duny was 
brought from the bar, and conveyed to the maid. 
They then put an apron before her eyes ; and then 
one other person touched her hand, which produced 
the same effect as the touch of the witch did in the 
court. Whereupon the gentlemen returned, openly 
protesting that they did believe the whole transaction 
of the business was a mere imposture.' As, in truth, 
it was. 

It is remarkable that Sir Matthew Hale was still 
unconvinced. He invited the opinion of Sir Thomas 
Browne, a man of great learning and ability — the 
author of the ' Religio Medici,' and other justly 
famous works — who admitted that the fits were 
natural, but thought them ' heightened by the devil 
co-operating with the malice of the witches, at whose 
instance he did the villanies.' Sir Matthew then 
charged the jury. There were, he said, two questions 
to be considered : First, whether or not these 
children were bewitched ? And, second, whether 
the prisoners at the bar had been guilty of bewitching 
them ? That there were such creatures as witches, he 
did not doubt; and he appealed to the Scriptures, 
which had affirmed so much, and also to the wisdom 
of all nations, which had enacted laws against such 
persons. Such, too, he said, had been the judgment 
of this kingdom, as appeared by that Act of Parlia- 
ment which had provided punishment proportionable 


to the quality of the offence. He desired them to 
pay strict attention to the evidence, and implored the 
great God of heaven to direct their hearts in so 
weighty a matter ; for to condemn the innocent, and 
set free the guilty, was ' an abomination to the 

After a charge of this description, the jury 
naturally brought in a verdict of ' Guilty.' Sentence 
of death was pronounced ; and the two poor old 
women, protesting to the last their innocence, suffered 
on the gallows. Who will not regret the part played 
by Sir Matthew Hale in this judicial murder ? It is 
no excuse to say that he did but share in the popular 
belief. One expects of such a man that he will rise 
superior to the errors of ordinary minds ; that he 
will be guided by broader and more enlightened 
views — by more humane and generous sympathies. 
Instead of attempting an apology which no act can 
render satisfactory, it is better to admit, with Sir 
Michael Foster, that ' this great and good man was 
betrayed, notwithstanding the rectitude of his inten- 
tions, into a great mistake, under the strong bias of 
early prejudices.' 

Gradually, however, a disbelief in witchcraft grew 
up in the public mind, as intellectual inquiry widened 
its scope, and the relations of man to the Unseen 
World came to be better understood. Among the 
educated classes the old superstition expired much 
more rapidly than among the poorer ; and so we find 
that though convictions became rarer, committals and 
trials continued tolerably frequent until the closing 


years of the eighteenth century. To the ghastly roll 
of victims, however, additions continued to be made. 
Thus in August, 1682, three women, named Temper- 
ance Lloyd, Susannah Edwards, and Mary Trembles, 
were tried at Exeter before Lord Chief Justice North 
and Mr. Justice Raymond, convicted of various acts 
of witchcraft, and sentenced to death. Before their 
trial they had confessed to frequent interviews with 
the devil, who appeared in the shape of a black man 
as long (or as short) as a man's arm ; and one of 
them acknowledged to have caused the death of 
four persons by witchcraft. Some portion of these 
monstrous fictions they recanted under the gallows ; 
but even on the brink of the grave they persisted in 
claiming the character of witches, and in asserting 
that they had had personal intercourse with the 

In March, 1684, Alicia Welland was tried before 
Chief Baron Montague at Exeter, convicted, and 

To estimate the extent to which the belief in 
witchcraft, during the latter part of the seventeenth 
century, operated against the lives of the accused, 
Mr. Inderwick has searched the records of the 
Western Circuit, from 1670 to 1712 inclusive, and 
ascertained that out of fifty-two persons tried in that 
period on various charges of witchcraft, only seven 
were convicted, and one of these seven w r as reprieved. 
' What occurred on the Western,' he remarks, ' pro- 
bably went on at each of the several circuits into 
which the country was then divided ; and one cannot 


doubt that in Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Huntingdon, 
and Lancashire, where the witches mostly abounded, 
the charges and convictions were far more numerous 
than in the West. The judges appear, however, not 
to have taken the line of Sir Matthew Hale, but, as 
far as possible, to have prevented convictions. 
Indeed, Lord Jeffreys— who, when not engaged on 
political business, was at least as good a judge as 
any of his contemporaries — and Chief Justice Herbert, 
tried and obtained acquittals of witches in 1685 and 
1686 at the very time that they were engaged on the 
Bloody Assize in slaughtering the participators in 
Monmouth's rebellion. It is also a remarkable fact 
that, from 1686 to 1712, when charges of witchcraft 
gradually ceased, charges and convictions of malicious 
injury to property in burning haystacks, barns, and 
houses, and malicious injuries to persons and to 
cattle, increased enormously, these being the sort of 
accusations freely made against the witches before 
this elate.' 

I think there can be little doubt that many evil- 
disposed persons availed themselves of the prevalent 
belief in witchcraft as a cover for their depredations 
on the property of their neighbours, diverting sus- 
picion from themselves to the poor wretches who, 
through accidental circumstances, had acquired 
notoriety as the devil's accomplices. It would also 
seem probable that not a few of the reputed witches 
similarly turned to account their bad reputation. It 
is not impossible, indeed, that there may be a certain 
degree of truth in the tales told of the witches' 



meetings, and that in some rural neighbourhoods the 
individuals suspected of being witches occasionally 
assembled at an appointed rendezvous to consult 
upon their position and their line of operations. 
The practices at these gatherings may not always 
have been kept within the limits of decency and 
decorum ; and in this way the loathsome details with 
which every account of the witches' meetings are 
embellished may have had a real foundation. 

That the judges at length began persistently to 
discourage convictions for witchcraft is seen in the 
action of Lord Chief Justice Holt at the Bury St. 
Edmunds Assize in 1694. An old woman, known as 
Mother Munnings, of Harks, in Suffolk, was brought 
before him, and the witnesses against her retailed the 
village talk — how that her landlord, Thomas Purnel, 
who, to get her out of the house she had rented from 
him, had removed the street-door, was told that ' his 
nose should lie upward in the churchyard ' before the 
following Saturday ; and how that he was taken ill 
on the Monday, died on the Tuesday, and was buried 
on the Thursday. How that she had a familiar in 
the shape of a polecat, and how that a neighbour, 
peeping in at her window one night, saw her take 
out of her basket a couple of imps — the one black, 
the other white. And how that a woman, named 
Sarah Wager, having quarrelled with her, was 
stricken dumb and lame. All this tittle-tattle was 
brushed aside in his charge by the strong common- 
sense of the judge ; and the jury, under his direction, 


returned a verdict of ' Not guilty.' Dr. Hutchinson 
remarks : ' Upon particular inquiry of several in or 
near the town, I find most are satisfied that it is a 
very right judgment. She lived about two years 
after, without doing any known harm to anybody, 
and died declaring her innocence. Her landlord was 
a consumptive-spent man, and the words not exactly 
as they swore them, and the whole thing seventeen 
years before. . . . The white imp is believed to have 
been a lock of wool, taken out of her basket to 
spin ; and its shadow, it is supposed, was the black 

In the same year (1694) a woman, named 
Margaret Elmore, was tried at Ipswich ; in 1695 one 
Mary Gay at Launceston ; and in 1696 one Elizabeth 
Hume at Exeter ; but in each case, under the 
direction of Chief Justice Holt, a verdict of acquittal 
was declared. Thus the seventeenth centurv went 
its way in an unaccustomed atmosphere of justice 
and humanity. 

19 — 2 




The honour of discouraging prosecutions for witch- 
craft belongs in the first place to France, which 
abolished them as. early as 1672, and for some years 
previously had refrained from sending any victims to 
the scaffold or the stake. In England, the same effect 
was partly clue, perhaj)s, to the cynical humour of the 
Court of Charles II., where many, who before ventured 
only to doubt, no longer hesitated to treat the subject 
with ridicule. ' Although,' says Mr. Wright, ' works 
like those of Baxter and Glanvil had still their 
weight with many people, yet in the controversy 
which was now carried on through the instrumentality 
of the press, those who wrote against the popular 
creed had certainly the best of the argument. Still, it 
happened from their form and character that the books 
written to expose the absurdity of the belief in 
sorcery were restricted in their circulation to the 
more educated classes, while popular tracts in defence 
of witchcraft and collections of cases were printed in a 
cheaper form, and widely distributed among that class 
in society where the belief was most firmly rooted. The 


effect of these popular publications has continued in 
some districts clown to the present day. Thus the 
press, the natural tendency of which was to enlighten 
mankind, was made to increase ignorance by pandering 
to the credulity of the multitude.' 

I have spoken of the seventeenth century as going 
out in an atmosphere of justice and humanity. But 
an ancient superstition dies hard, and the eighteenth 
century, when it dawned upon the earth, found the 
belief in witchcraft still widely extended in England. 
Even men of education could not wholly surrender 
their adhesion to it. We read with surprise Addi- 
son's opinion in The Spectator, ' that the arguments 
press equally on both sides,' and see him balancing 
himself between the two aspects of the subject in a 
curious state of mental indecision. 'When I hear the 
relations that are made from all parts of the world/ he 
says, ' I cannot forbear thinking that there is such an 
intercourse and commerce with evil spirits, as that 
which we express by the name of witchcraft. But 
when 1 consider,' he adds, ' that the ignorant and 
credulous parts of the world abound most in these 
relations, and that the persons among us who are 
supposed to engage in such an infernal commerce are 
people of a weak understanding and crazed imagina- 
tion, and at the same time reflect upon the many 
impostures and delusions of this nature that have 
been detected in all ages, I endeavour to suspend my 
belief till I hear more certain accounts than any which 
have yet come to my knowledge.' And then he 
comes to a halting and unsatisfactory conclusion, 


which will seem almost grotesque to the reader of the 
preceding pages, with their details of succabi and 
incubi, imps and familiars, black cats, pole-cats, goats, 
and the like : ' In short, when I consider the ques- 
tion, whether there are such persons in the world as 
we call witches, my mind is divided between two 
opposite opinions, or, rather (to speak my thoughts 
freely), I believe in general that there is, and has 
been, such a thing as witchcraft, but, at the same time, 
can give no credit to any particular instance of it.' 

Addison goes on to draw the picture of a witch of 
the period, ' Moll White,' who lived in the neighbour- 
hood of Sir Roger de Coverley, ' a wrinkled hag, with 
age grown double.' This old woman had the reputa- 
tion of a witch all over the country; her lips were 
observed to be always in motion, and there was not a 
switch about her house which her neighbours did not 
believe had carried her several hundreds of miles. 
' If she chanced to stumble, they always found sticks 
or straws that lay in the figure of a cross before her. 
If she made any mistake at church, and cried Amen 
in a wrong place, they never failed to conclude that 
she was saying her prayers backwards. There was 
not a maid in the parish that would take a pin of her, 
though she should offer a bag of money with it. . . . 
If the dairy- maid does not make her butter to come 
so soon as she would have it, Moll White is at the 
bottom of the churn. If a horse sweats in the stable, 
Moll White has been upon his back. If a hare makes 
an unexpected escape from the hounds, the huntsman 
curses Moll White. . . . 



' I have been the more particular in this account,' 
says Addison, ' because I know there is scarce a 
village in England that has not a Moll White in it. 
When an old woman begins to dote, and grow 
chargeable to a parish, she is generally turned into a 
witch, and fills the whole country with extravagant 
fancies, imaginary distempers, and terrifying dreams. 
In the meantime, the poor wretch that is the innocent 
occasion of so many evils begins to be frighted at 
herself, and sometimes confesses secret commerces and 
familiarities that her imagination forms in a delirious 
old age. This frequently cuts off charity from the 
greatest objects of compassion, and inspires peoj^le 
with a malevolence towards those poor decrepit parts 
of our species in whom human nature is defaced by 
infirmity and dotage.' 

On March 2, 1703, one Richard Hathaway, apprentice 
to Thomas Wiling, a blacksmith in Southwark, was 
tried before Chief Justice Holt at the Surrey Assizes, 
as a cheat and an impostor, having pretended that he 
had been bewitched by Sarah Morduck, wife of a 
Thames waterman, so that he had been unable to eat 
or drink for the space of ten weeks together; had 
suffered various pains; had constantly vomited nails 
and crooked pins; had at times been deprived of 
speech and sight, and all through the wicked cunning 
of Sarah Morduck ; further, that he was from time to 
time relieved of his ailments by scratching the said 
Sarah, and drawing blood from her. On these charges 
Sarah had been committed by the magistrates, and was 


tried as a witch at the Guildford Assizes in February, 
1701. It was then proved in her defence that 
Dr. Martin, minister, of the parish of South wark, 
hearing of Hathaway' s troubles and method of obtain- 
ing relief, had resolved to put the matter to a fair 
test; and repairing to Hatha way's room, in one of his 
semi-conscious and wholly blind intervals, had, in the 
presence of many witnesses, pretended to give to the 
supposed sufferer the arm of Sarah Morduck, when it 
was really that of a woman whom he had called in 
from the street. Hathaway, in ignorance of the trick 
played upon him, scratched the wrong arm, and 
immediately professed to recover his sight and senses. 
On finding his deception discovered, Hathaway looked 
greatly ashamed, and attempted no defence or excuse, 
when Dr. Martin severely reproached him for his conduct. 
The populace, however, remained unconvinced, and 
when Dr. Martin and his friends had departed, accom- 
panied Hathaway to the house of Sarah Morduck, 
whom they savagely ill-treated. They then declared 
that the woman who had lent herself as a subject for 
experiment was also a witch, and loaded her with 
contumely, while her husband gave her a beating. It 
further appeared that, on one occasion, when Hathaway 
alleged he had been vomiting crooked pins and nails, 
he had been searched, and hundreds of packets of 
pins and nails found in his pockets, and on his hands 
being tied behind him, the vomiting immediately 
ceased. Eventually the jury acquitted Sarah Mor- 
duck, and branded Hathaway as a cheat and an 
impostor. The lower classes, however, received the 


verdict with, contempt, mobbed Dr. Martin, and 
raised a collection for Hathaway as for a man of 
many virtues whom fortune had ill-treated. A magis- 
trate, Sir Thomas Lane, who sided with the mob, sum- 
moned Sarah Morduck before him, and after she had 
been scratched by Hathaway in his presence, ordered 
her to be examined for devil-marks by two women 
and a doctor. Though none could be detected, his 
prejudice was so extreme that he committed her as a 
witch to the Wood Street Compter, refusing bail to the 
extent of £500. Dr. Martin, with other gentlemen, 
again came to her assistance, and ultimately she was 
released on reasonable surety. 

The Government now thought it time to support 
the cause of justice, and, carrying out the verdict of 
the Guildford jury, indicted Hathaway as a cheat, 
and himself and his friends for assaulting Sarah 
Morduck. In addition to the evidence previously 
adduced, it was shown that, being in bad health, he 
had been placed in the custody of a Dr. Kenny, a 
surgeon, who, desiring to test the truth of his fasting, 
made holes in the partition wall of his compartment, 
and watched his proceedings for about a fortnight, 
during which period, while pretending to fast, he was 
observed to feed heartily on the food conveyed to 
him, and once, having received an extra allowance of 
whisky, he got tipsy, played a tune on the tongs, and 
danced before the fire. At the trial a Dr. Hamilton 
was called for the defence ; but, Balaam-like, he 
banned rather than blessed, for having affirmed that 
the man's fasting was the chief evidence of witchcraft, 


' Doctor,' said the Chief Justice, ' do you think it 
possible for a man to fast a fortnight?' 'I think 
not,' he replied. ' Can all the devils in hell help a 
man to fast so long?' 'No, my lord,' said the 
doctor ; ' I think not.' These answers were con- 
clusive; and without leaving the box, the jury found 
Hathaway guilty, and he was sentenced by Chief 
Justice Holt to pay a fine of one hundred marks, to 
stand in the pillory on the following Sunday for two 
hours at Southwark, the same on the Tuesday at the 
Royal Exchange, the same on the Wednesday at 
Temple Bar, the next day to be whipped at the 
House of Correction, and afterwards to be imprisoned 
with hard labour for six months. 

Two reputed witches, Eleanor Shaw and Mary 
Phillips, were executed at Northampton on March 17, 
1705 ; and on July 22, 1712, five Northamptonshire 

witches, Agnes Brown, Helen Jenkinson, A Bill, 

Joan Yaughan, and Mary Barber, suffered at the same 

It is generally believed that the last time an 
English jury brought in a verdict of guilty in a case 
of witchcraft was in 1712, when a poor Hertfordshire 
peasant woman, named Jane Wenham, w T as tried 
before Mr. Justice Powell, sixteen witnesses, includ- 
ing three clergymen, supporting the accusation. The 
evidence was absurd and frivolous ; but, in spite of 
its frivolousness and absurdity, and the poor woman's 
fervent protestations of innocence, and the judge's 
strong summing-up in her favour, a Hertfordshire 
jury convicted her. The judge was compelled by the 



law to pronounce sentence of death, but lie lost no 
time in obtaining from the Queen a pardon for the 
unfortunate woman. But, on emerging from her 
prison, she was treated by the mob with savage 
ferocity ; and, to save her from being lynched, 
Colonel Plumer, of Gilson, took her into his service, 
in which she continued for many years, earning and 
preserving the esteem of all who knew her. 

But there is a record of an execution for witchcraft, 
that of Mary Hicks and her daughter, taking place in 
1716 (July 28) ; and though it is not indubitably 
established, I do not think its authenticity can well 
be doubted. 

In January, 1736, an old woman of Frome, re- 
puted to be a witch, was dragged from her sick-bed, 
put astride on a saddle, and kept in a mill-pond for 
nearly an hour, in the presence of upwards of 200 
people. The story goes that she swam like a cork, 
but on being taken out of the water expired imme- 
diately. A coroner's inquest was held on the body, 
and three persons were committed for trial for man- 
slaughter ; but it is probable that they escaped punish- 
ment, as nobody seems to have been willing to appear 
in the witness-box against them. 

Among the vulgar, indeed, the superstition was 
hard to kill. In the middle of the last century, a 
poor man and his wife, of the name of Osborne, each 
about seventy years of age, lived at Tring, in Hert- 
fordshire. On one occasion, Mother Osborne, as she 
was commonly called, went to a dairyman, appropri- 
ately named Butterfield, and asked for some butter- 


milk ; but was harshly repulsed, and informed that he 
had scarcely enough for his hogs. The woman replied 
with asperity that the Pretender (it was in the '45 that 
this took place) would soon have him and his hogs. It 
was customary then to connect the Pretender and the 
devil in one's thoughts and aspirations ; and the 
ignorant rustics soon afterwards, when Butterfield's 
calves sickened, declared that Mother Osborne had 
bewitched them, with the assistance of the devil. 
Later, when Butterfield, who had given up his farm 
and taken to an ale-house, suffered much from fits, 
Mother Osborne was again declared to be the cause 
(1751), and he was advised to send to Northampton- 
shire for an old woman, a white witch, to baffle her 
spells. The white witch came, confirmed, of course, 
the popular prejudice, and advised that six men, armed 
with staves and pitchforks, should watch Butterfield's 
house by day and night. The affair would here, per- 
haps, have ended ; but some persons thought they 
could turn it to their pecuniary advantage, and, 
accordingly, made public notification that a witch 
would be ducked on April 22. On the appointed 
day hundreds flocked to the scene of entertainment. 
The parish officers had removed the two Osbornes 
for safety to the church ; and the mob, in revenge, 
seized the governor of the workhouse, and, collecting 
a heap of straw, threatened to drown him, and set 
fire to the town, unless they were given up. In a 
panic of fear the parish officers gave way, and the two 
poor creatures were immediately stripped naked, their 
thumbs tied to their toes, and, each being wrapped 


in a coarse sheet, were dragged a couple of miles, and 
then flung into a muddy stream. Colley, a chimney- 
sweep, observing that the woman did not sink, 
stepped into the pool, and turned her over several 
times with a stick, until the sheet fell off, and her 
nakedness was exposed. In this miserable state — 
exhausted with fatigue and terror, sick with shame, 
half choked w r ith mud — she was flung upon the 
bank ; and her persecutors — alas for the cruelty of 
ignorance! — kicked and beat her until she died. 
Her husband also sank under his barbarous maltreat- 
ment. It is satisfactory to know that Colley, as the 
worst offender, was brought to trial on a charge of 
wilful murder, found guilty, and most righteously 
hanged. The crowd, however, who witnessed his 
execution, lamented him as a martyr, unjustly 
punished for having delivered the world from one of 
Satan's servants, and overwhelmed with execrations 
the sheriff whose duty it was to see that the behests 
of the law were carried out. 

In February. 1759, Susannah Hannaker, of 
Wingrove, Wilts, was put to the ordeal of 
weighing, but fortunately for herself outweighed 
the church Bible, against which she was tested. 
In June, 1760, at Leicester; in June, 1785, at 
Northampton ; and in April, 1829, at Monmouth, 
persons were tried for ducking supposed witches. 
Similar cases have occurred in our own time. On 
September 4, 1863, a paralytic Frenchman died of 
an illness induced by his having been ducked as a 
wizard in a pond at Castle Hedingham, in Essex. 


And an aged woman, named Anne Turner, reputed 
to be a witch, was killed by a man, partially insane, 
at the village of Long Compton, in Warwickshire, on 
September 17, 1875. But the reader needs no further 
illustrations of the longevity of human error, or the 
terrible vitality of prejudice, especially among the 
uneducated. The thaumaturgist or necromancer, 
with his wand, his magic circle, his alembics and 
crucibles, disappeared long ago, because, as I have 
already pointed out, his support depended upon a 
class of society whose intelligence was rapidly 
developed by the healthy influences of literature 
and science ; but the sham astrologer and the pseudo- 
witch linger still in obscure corners, because they 
find their prey among the credulous and the ignorant. 
The more widely we extend the bounds of knowledge, 
the more certainly shall we prevent the recrudescence 
of such forms of imposture and aspects of delusion as 
in the preceding pages I have attempted to describe. 




Among the people of Scotland, a more serious-minded 
and imaginative race than the English, the super- 
stition of witchcraft was deeply rooted at an early 
period. Its development was encouraged not only 
by the idiosyncrasies of the national character, but 
also by the nature of the country and the climate in 
which they lived. The lofty mountains, with their 
misty summits and shadowy ravines — their deep 
obscure glens — were the fitting homes of the wildest 
fancies, the eeriest legends; and the storm crashing 
through the forests, and the surf beating on the rocky 
shore, suggested to the ear of the peasant or the 
fisherman the voices of unseen creatures — of the 
dread spirits of the waters and the air. To men who 
believed in kelpie and wraith and the second sight, 
a belief in witch and warlock was easy enough. And 
it was not until the Calvinist reformers imported 
into Scotland their austere and rigid creed, with its 
literal interpretation of Biblical imagery, that witch- 
craft came to be regarded as a crime. It was not 
until 1563 that the Parliament of Scotland passed a 


statute constituting ' witchcraft and dealing 1 with 
witches ' a capital offence. It is true that persons 
accused of witchcraft had already suffered death — as 
the Earl of Mar, brother of James III., who was 
suspected of intriguing with witches and sorcerers in 
order to compass his brother's death, and Lady 
Glamis, in 1532, charged with a similar plot against 
James V.— -but in both these cases it was the treason 
which was punished rather than the sorcery. 

In the Scottish criminal records the first person 
who suffered death for the practice of witchcraft was 
a Janet Bowman, in 1572. No particulars of her 
offence are given ; and against her name are written 
only the significant words, 'convict and byrnt.' 

A remarkable case, that of Bessie Dunlop, belongs 
to 1576.* She was the wife of an Ayrshire peasant, 
Andrew Jack. According to her own statement, she 
was going one day from her house to the yard of 
Monkcastle, driving her cows to the pasture, and 
greeting over her troubles — for she had a milch-cow 
nigh sick to death, and her husband and child were 
lying ill, and she herself had but recently risen from 
childbed — when a strange man met her, and saluted her 
with the words, ' Gude day, Bessie !' She answered 
civilly, and, in reply to his questions, acquainted him 
with her anxieties ; whereupon he informed her that 
her cow, her two sheep, and her child would die, but 
that her gude man would recover. She described 
this stranger in graphic language as ' an honest, wele- 

* Pitcairn, ' Criminal Trials,' i. 49-58. This chapter is mainly 
founded on the reports in Pitcairn. 


elderlie man, gray bairdit, and had ane gray coat 
with Lumbar t slevis of the auld fassoun ; ane pair of 
gray brekis and quhyte schankis, gartaurt above the 
knee; ane black bonnet on his heid, cloise behind 
and plane before, with silkin laissis drawin throw the 
lippis thairof; and ane quhyte wand in his hand.' 
He told Bessie that his name was Thomas Beid, and 
that he had been killed at the Battle of Pinkie. 
Extraordinary as was this information, it did not 
seem improbable to her when she noted the manner 
of his disappearance through the yard of Monkcastle : 
' I thocht he gait in at ane narroware hoill of the 
dyke [wall], nor ony erdlie man culd haif gaun 
throw; and swa I was sumthing fleit [terrified].' 

Thomas Reid's sinister predictions were duly ful- 
filled. Soon afterwards, he again met Bessie, and 
boldly invited her to deny her religion, and the faith 
in which she was christened, in return for certain 
worldly advantages. But Bessie steadfastly refused. 
This visitor of hers was under no fear of the 
ordinance which is supposed to limit the mundane 
excursions of ' spiritual creatures ' to the hours 
between sunset and cockcrow; for he generally made 
his appearance at mid-day. It is not less singular 
that he made no objection to the presence of humanity. 
On one occasion he called at her house, where she sat 
conversing with her husband and three tailors, and, 
invisible to them, plucked her by the apron, and led 
her to the door, and thence up the hill-end, where he 
bade her stand, and be silent, whatever she might 
hear or see. And suddenly she beheld twelve 



persons, eight women and four men ; the men clad 
in gentlemen's clothing, and the women with plaids 
round about them, very seemly to look at. Thomas 
was among them. They bade her sit down, and 
said : ' Welcome, Bessie ; wilt thou go with us ?' But 
she made no answer, and after some conversation 
among themselves, they disappeared in a hideous 

When Thomas returned, he informed her that the 
persons she had seen were the ' good wights,' who 
dwell in the Court of Faery, and he brought her an 
invitation to accompany them thither — an invitation 
which he repeated with much earnestness. She 
answered, with true Scotch caution : ' She saw no 
profit to gang that kind of gates, unless she knew 

' Seest thou not me,' he rejoined, ' worth meat and 
worth clothes, and good enough like in person ?' 

The prospect, however, could not beguile her ; and 
she continued firm in her simple resolve to dwell 
with her husband and bairns, whom she had no wish 
to abandon. Off went Thomas in a storm of anger ; 
but before long he recovered his temper, and 
resumed his visits, showing himself willing to ' fetch 
and carry ' at her request, and always treating her 
with the deference due to a wife and mother. The 
only benefit she derived from this friendship was, she 
said, the means of curing diseases and recovering 
stolen property, so that her witchcraft was of the 
simplest, innocentest kind. There was no compact 
with the devil, and it injured nobody— except doctors 


and thieves. Yet for yielding to this hallucination — 
the product of a vivid imagination, stimulated, we 
suspect, by much solitary reverie — Bessie Dunlop 
was ' convyct and byrnt.' Mayhap, as she was led 
to the death-fire, she may have dreamed that she had 
done better to have gone with Thomas Reid to the 
Court of Faery ! 

The combination of the fairy folklore with the 
gloomier inventions of witchcraft occurs again in the 
case of Alison Pierson (1588). There was a certain 
William Simpson, a great scholar and physician, and 
a native of Stirling. While but a child, he was 
taken away from his parents ' by a man of Egypt, a 
giant,' who led him away to Egypt with him, ' where 
he remained by the space of twelve years before he 
came home again.' On his return, he made the 
acquaintance of Alison, who was a near relative, and 
cured her of certain ailments ; but soon afterwards, 
less fortunate in treatino- himself, he died. Some 
months had passed when, one day as Alison was 
lying on her bed, sick and alone, she was suddenly 
addressed by a man in green clothes, who told her 
that, if she would be faithful, he would do her good. 
In her first alarm, she cried for help, but no one hear- 
ing, she called upon the Divine Name, when her 
visitor immediately disappeared. Before long, he 
came to her again, attended by many men and 
women ; and compelling her to accompany them, they 
set off in a gay procession to Lothian, where they 
found puncheons of wine, with drinking-cups, and 



enjoyed themselves right heartily. Thenceforward 
she was on the friendliest terms with the ' good neigh- 
bours,' even visiting the Fairy Queen at her court, 
where, according to her own account, she was made 
much of, was treated, indeed, as ' one of themselves,' 
and allowed to see them compounding wonderful 
healing- salves in miniature pans over tiny fires. 

It would seem that this woman had acquired a con- 
siderable knowledge of ' herbs and simples,' and that 
the medicines she made up effected remarkable cures. 
No doubt it was for the purpose of enhancing the 
value of her concoctions that she professed to have 
obtained the secret of them from the fairies. So great 
was her repute for medicinal skill, that the Archbishop 
of St. Andrews sought her advice in a dangerous 
illness, and, by her directions, ate ' a sodden food,' 
and at two draughts absorbed a quart of good claret 
wine, which she had previously medicated, greatly 
benefiting thereby. 

Alison had a fertile fancy and a fluent tongue, and 
told stories of the fairies and their doings which did 
credit to her invention. It does not appear that she 
injured anybody, except, perhaps, by her drugs, but, 
then, even the faculty sometimes do that! But, like 
Bessie Dunlo}}, she was convicted of witchcraft, and 
burned. The surprising thing about this and similar 
cases is, that the poor woman should have assisted in 
her own condemnation by devising such extraordinary 
fictions. What was the use of them ? A prisoner on 
a charge which, if proved against her, meant a terrible 
death, what object did she expect to gain ? Was it 


all done for the sake of the temporary surprise and 
astonishment her tale created? that she might be 
the heroine of an hour ? — Men have, we know, their 
strange ambitions, but if this were Alison Pierson's, 
it was one of the very strangest. 

In the next case I shall bring forward, that of 

Dame Fowlis, we come upon the trail of actual crime. 

Dame Fowlis, second wife of the chief of the clan 

Munro, was by birth a Roise or Ross, of Balnagown. 

To effect the aggrandisement of her own family, she 

plotted the death of Robert, her husband's eldest son, 

in order to marry his wealthy widow to her brother, 

George Roise or Ross, laird of Balnagown ; but as 

he, too, was married, it was necessary to get rid of his 

wife also. For this ' double event,' she employed, with 

little attempt at concealment, three 'notorious witches' 

— Agnes Roy, Christian Roy, and Marjory Nayre 

MacAllister, alias Loskie Loncart — besides one William 

MacGillivordam, and several other persons of dubious 

reputation. About Midsummer, 1576, Agnes Roy 

was despatched to bring Loskie Loncart into Dame 

Fowlis' presence. The result of this interview was 

soon apparent. Clay images of the two doomed 

individuals were made, and exposed to the usual 

sorceries ; while MacGillivordam obtained a supply of 

poison from Aberdeen, which the cook was bribed to 

put into a dish intended for the lady of Balnagown' s 

table. It did not prove mortal, as anticipated, but 

afflicted the unfortunate lady with a long and severe 

illness. Dame Fowlis, however, felt no remorse, but 


continued her plots, gradually widening their scope 
until she resolved to kill all her husband's children by 
his first wife, in order to secure the inheritance for 
her own. In May, 1577, she instructed Macgilli- 
vordam to procure a large quantity of poison. He 
refused, unless his brother was made privy to the 
transaction. I suppose this was done, as the poison 
was obtained, and proved to be so deadly in its nature 
that two persons — a woman and a boy — were killed 
by accidentally tasting of it. 

Foiled in her scheme, Dame Fowlis resorted to the 
practices of witchcraft, and bought, in June, for five 
shillings, ' an elf arrow-head ' — that is, a rude flint 
implement — belonging to the neolithic age. On 
July 2, she and her accomplices met together in 
secret conclave ; and having made an image of butter 
to resemble Robert Munro, they placed it against the 
wall ; and then, with the elf arrow-head, Loskie 
Loncart shot at it for eight times, but each time with- 
out success, a proof that the familiars of the devil, 
like their master, could not always hit the mark. 
Meeting a second time for the same purpose, they 
made an image of clay, at which Loskie shot twelve 
times in succession, invariably missing, to the great 
disappointment of all concerned. The failure was 
ascribed to the elf arrow-head, and in August another 
was procured ; two figures of clay were also made, for 
Robert Munro and for Lady Balnagown, respectively ; 
at the latter Dame Fowlis shot twice, and at the 
former Loskie Loncart shot thrice ; but the shooting 
was no better than before, and the two images being 


accidentally broken, the charm was destroyed. It 
was proposed to try poison again, but by this time 
the authorities had gained information of what was 
going on, and towards the end of November, Christian 
Roy, who had been present at the third meeting, was 
arrested. Being put to the torture, she confessed 
everything, and, together with some of her con- 
federates, was convicted of witchcraft and burnt. 
Dame Fowlis, who assuredly was not the least guilty 
person, escaped to Caithness, but, after remaining in 
concealment for nine months, was allowed to return to 
her home. In 1588, her husband died, and was 
succeeded in his estates by Robert Munro, who 
revived the charge of witchcraft against his step- 
mother, and obtained a commission for her examina- 
tion and that of her surviving accomplices. Dame 
Fowlis was put on her trial on July 22, 1590 ; but she 
had money and friends, and contrived to obtain a ver- 
dict of acquittal. 

It is one of the most remarkable features of this re- 
markable case that, as soon as her acquittal was pro- 
nounced, a new trial was opened, in which the defendant 
w T as her other stepson, Hector Munro,* who had been, 
only an hour before, the principal witness against her. 
The allegations against him were: first, that, during the 
sore sickness of his brother, in the summer of 1588, he 
had consulted with ' three notorious and common 
witches' respecting the best means of curing him, and 
had sheltered them for several days, until compelled by 
his father to send them about their business; and, 
* Pitcairn, ut ante, i. 192, 202, 285. 


second, that falling ill himself, in January, 1559, he 
had caused a certain Marion Maclngaruch, ' one of the 
most notorious and rank witches in the whole realm,' 
to be brought to him, and who, after administering 
three draughts of water out of three stones which she 
carried with her, declared that his sole chance of 
recovery lay in the sacrifice of ' the principal man of 
his blood.' After due consultation, they decided that 
this vicarious sufferer must be George Munro, his 
step - brother, the eldest son of Dame Fowlis. 
Messengers were accordingly sent in search of him. 
Apprehending no evil, he obeyed the call, and five 
days afterwards arrived at the house of Hector 
Munro. Following the directions of the witch, 
Hector received his brother in silence, giving him his 
left hand, and taking him by the right hand, and 
uttering no word of greeting until he had spoken. 
George, astounded by the dullness of his reception, 
which he could not but contrast with the warmth of 
the invitations, remained in his brother's sick-room an 
hour without speaking. At last he asked Hector how 
he felt. ' The better that you have come to visit 
me,' replied Hector, and then was again silent, for so 
the witch had ordained. An hour after midnight 
appeared Marion Maclngaruch, with several assist- 
ants ; and, arming themselves with spades, they re- 
paired to a nook of ground at the sea-side, situated 
between the boundaries of the estates of the two 
lairds, and there, removing the turf, they dug a grave 
of the size of the invalid. 

Marion returned to the house, and gave directions 


to her confederates as to the parts they were to play 
in the startling scene which was yet to be enacted. 
It was represented to her that if George died 
suddenly suspicions would be aroused, with a result 
dangerous to all concerned ; and she thereupon under- 
took that he should be spared until April 17 next 
thereafter. Hector was then wrapped up in a couple 
of blankets, and carried to the grave in silence. In 
silence he was deposited in it, and the turf lightly 
laid upon him, while Marion stationed herself by his 
side. His foster-mother, one Christiana Neill Day- 
zell, then took a young lad by the hand, and ran the 
breadth of nine ridges, afterwards inquiring of the 
witch ' who might be her choice,' and receiving for 
answer, ' That Hector was her choice to live, and his 
brother George to die for him.' This ceremony was 
thrice repeated, and the sick man was then taken 
from the grave, and carried home, the most absolute 
silence still being maintained. 

Such an experience on a bitter January night 
might well have proved fatal to the subject of it ; 
but, strange to say, Hector Munro recovered — 
probably from the effect on his imagination of rites 
so peculiar and impressive ; whereas, in the month 
■of April, George Munro was seized with a grievous 
illness, of which, in the following June, he died. 
Grateful for the cure she had effected, Hector received 
the witch Marion into high favour, installing her at 
his uncle's house of Kildrummadyis, entertaining her 
' as if she had been his spouse, and giving her such 
pre-eminence in the county that none durst offend 


her.' But it is the nature of such UDhallowed con- 
federacies to surrender, sooner or later, their dark, 
dread secrets. Whispers spread abroad, gradually 
shaping themselves into a connected story which 
invited judicial investigation. A warrant was issued 
for the arrest of Marion Maclngurach ; but for some 
time Hector Munro contrived to conceal her, until 
Dame Fowlis discovered and made known that she 
was lying in the house at Fowlis. She was arrested ; 
and, making a full confession of her actions, was 
sentenced to death, and burnt. Hector Munro. 
however, was more fortunate, and obtained his 


These, and other cases of witchcraft which, as the 
mania extended, occurred in various parts of the 
country, attracted the attention of King James, and 
made a profound impression upon him. Taking up 
the study of the subject with enthusiasm, he inquired 
into the clemonology of France and Germany, where 
it had been matured into a science ; and this so 
thoroughly that he became, as . already stated, an 
expert, and was really entitled to pronounce authori- 
tative decisions. His exanrple, however, had a dis- 
astrous effect, confirming and deepening the popular 
credulity to such an extent that the common people, 
for a time, might have been divided into two great 
classes — witches and witch-finders. That in such 
circumstances many acts of cruelty should be per- 
petrated was inevitable. So complete was the de- 


moralization, that the most trivial physical or mental 
peculiarity was held to be an indubitable witch-mark, 
and young and old were hurried to the stake like 
sheep to the slaughter. 

In August, 1589, King James was married, by 
proxy, to Princess Anne of Denmark ; and the im- 
patient monarch was eagerly awaiting the arrival of 
his bride from Copenhagen, when the unwelcome 
intelligence reached him that the vessels conveying 
her and her suite had been overtaken by a storm, 
and, after a narrow escape from destruction, had put 
into the port of Upsal, in Norway, with the intention 
of remaining there until the following spring. The 
eager bridegroom, summoning up all his courage — 
he had no love for the sea — resolved to go in search 
of his queen, and, having found her, to conduct her 
to her new home. At Upsal the marriage was duly 
solemnized; and husband and wife then voyaged to 
Copenhagen, where they spent the winter. The 
homeward voyage was not undertaken until the 
following spring ; and it was on May Day, 1590, 
that James and his Queen landed at Leith, after an 
experience of the sea which confirmed James's dis- 
taste for it. 

The political disorder of the country, and the hold 
which the new superstition had obtained upon the 
minds of the people, encouraged the circulation of 
dark mysterious rumours in connection with the 
King's unfavourable passage ; and a general belief 
soon came to be established that the tempestuous 
weather which had so seriously affected it was due to 


the intervention of supernatural powers, at the in- 
stigation of human treachery. Suspicion fixed at 
length upon the Earl of Bothwell, who was arrested 
and committed to prison; but in June, 1591, con- 
trived to make his escape, and conceal himself in the 
remote recesses of the Highlands. Not long 1 after- 
wards, some curious circumstances attending certain 
cures which a servant girl — Geillis, or Gillies, 
Duncan — had performed, led to her being suspected 
of witchcraft ; and this suspicion opened up a series 
of investigations, which revealed the existence of an 
extraordinary conspiracy against the King's life. 

Geillis Duncan was in the employment of David 
Seton, deputy-bailiff of the small town of Tranent, 
in Haddingtonshire. Unlike the witch of English 
rural life, she was young, comely, and fair-com- 
plexioned ; and the only ground on which the idea 
of witchcraft was associated with her was the 
wonderful quickness with which she had cured some 
sick and diseased persons, the fact being that she was 
well acquainted with the healing properties of herbs. 
When her master severely interrogated her, she at 
once denied all knowledge of the mysteries of the 
black art. He then, without leave or license, put 
her to the torture ; she still continued to protest her 
innocence. It was a popular conviction that no 
witch would confess so long as the devil-mark on 
her body remained undiscovered. She was subjected 
to an indecent examination — the stigma was found 
(said the examiners) on her throat; she was again 
subjected to the torture. The outraged girl's forti- 


tilde then gave way ; she acknowledged whatever her 
persecutors wished to learn. Yes, she was a witch ! 
She had made a compact with the devil ; all her 
cures had been effected by his assistance — quite a 
new feature in the character of Satan, who has not 
generally been suspected of any compassionate feeling 
towards suffering humanity. That she had done 
good instead of harm availed the unfortunate Geillis 
nothing. She was committed to prison ; and the 
torture being a third time applied, made a fuller 
confession, in which she named her accomplices or 
confederates, some forty in number, residing in 
different parts of Lothian. Their arrest and ex- 
amination disclosed the particulars of one of the 
strangest intrigues ever concocted. 

The principal parties in it were Dr. Fian, or Frain, 
a reputed wizard, also known as John Cunningham ; 
a grave matron, named Agnes Sampson ; Euphemia 
Macalzean, daughter of Lord Cliftonhall ; and 
Barbara Napier. Fian, or Cunningham, was a 
schoolmaster of Tranent, and a man of ability and 
education ; but his life had been evil — he was a 
vendor of poisons — and, though innocent of the pre- 
posterous crimes alleged against him, had dabbled in 
the practices of the so-called sorcery. When a 
twisted cord was bound round his bursting temples, 
he would confess nothing ; and, exasjDerated by his 
fortitude, the authorities subjected him to the terrible 
torture of ' the boots.' Even this he endured in 
silence, until exhausted nature came to his relief 
with an interval of unconsciousness. He was then 


released ; restoratives were applied ; and, while lie 
hovered on the border of sensibility, he was induced 
to sign ' a full confession.' Being; remanded to his 
prison, he contrived, two days afterwards, to escape; 
but was recaptured, and brought before the High 
Court of Justiciary, King James himself being 
present. Fian strenuously repudiated the so-called 
confession which had been foisted upon him in his 
swoon, declaring that his signature had been obtained 
by a fraud. Whereupon King James, enraged at 
what he conceived to be the man's stubborn wilful- 
ness, ordered him again to the torture. His finger- 
nails were torn out with pincers, and long needles 
thrust into the quick ; but the courageous man made 
no sign. He was then subjected once more to the 
barbarous ' boots,' in which he continued so long, 
and endured so many blows, that ' his legs were 
crushed and beaten together as small as might be, 
and the bones and flesh so bruised, that the blood 
and marrow spouted forth in great abundance, 
whereby they were made unserviceable for ever.' 

As ultimately extorted from the unfortunate Fian, 
his confession shows a remarkable mixture of impos- 
ture and self-deception — a patchwork of the false- 
hoods he believed and those he invented. Singularly 
grotesque is his account of his introduction to the 
devil: He was lodging at Tranent, in the house of 
one Thomas Trumbill, who had offended him by 
neglecting to ' sparge ' or whitewash his chamber, as 
he had promised ; and, while lying in his bed, medi- 
tating how he might be revenged of the said Thomas, 


the devil, clothed in white raiment, suddenly appeared, 
and said : ' Will ye be my servant, and adore me 
and all my servants, and ye shall never want?' 
Never want ! The bribe to a poor Scotch dominie 
was immense; Fian could not withstand it, and at 
once enlisted among ' the Devil's Own.' As his first 
act of service, he had the pleasure of burning down 
Master Trumbill's house. The next night Beelzebub 
paid him another visit, and put his mark upon him 
with a rod. Thereafter he was found lying in his 
chamber in a trance, during which, he said, he was 
carried in the spirit over many mountains, and 
accomplished an aerial circumnavigation of the globe. 
In the future he attended all the nightly conferences 
of witches and fiends held throughout Lothian, dis- 
playing so much energy and capacity that the devil 
appointed him to be his ' registrar and secretary.' 

The first convention at which he was present 
assembled in the parish church of North Berwick, a 
breezy, picturesque seaport at the mouth of the Forth, 
about sixteen miles from Preston Pans. Satan occu- 
pied the pulpit, and delivered ' a sermon of doubtful 
speeches,' designed for their encouragement. His 
servants, he said, should never want, and should ail 
nothing, so long as their hairs were on, and they let- 
no tears fall from their eyes. He bade them spare 
not to do evil, and advised them to eat, drink, and 
be merry: after which edifying discourse they did 
homage to him in the usual indecent manner. Fian, 
as I have said, was an evil-living man, and needed 
no exhortation from the devil to do wicked things. 


In the course of his testimony he invented, as was so 
frequently the strange practice of persons accused of 
witchcraft, the most extravagant fictions — as, for 
instance : One night he supped at the miller's, a few- 
miles from Tranent; and as it was late when the 
revel ended, one of the miller's men carried him home 
on horseback. To light them on their way through 
the dark of night, Fian raised up four candles on the 
horse's ears, and one on the staff which his guide 
carried; their great brightness made the midnight 
appear as noonday; but the miller's man was so 
terrified by the phenomenon that, on his return home, 
he fell dead. 

Let us next turn to the confession of Agnes 
Sampson, ' the wise wife of Keith,' as she was 
popularly called. She was charged with having 
done grave injury to persons who had incurred her 
displeasure ; but she seems, when all fictitious details 
are thrust aside, to have been simply a shrewd and 
sagacious old Scotchwoman, with much force of 
character, who made a decent living as a herb-doctor. 
Archbishop Spottiswoode describes her as matronly 
in appearance, and grave of demeanour, and adds 
that she was composed in her answers. Yet were 
those answers the wildest and most extraordinary 
utterances imaginable, and, if they be truly recorded, 
they convict her of unscrupulous audacity and un- 
failing ingenuity. 

She affirmed that her service to the devil began 
after her husband's death, when he appeared to her 
in mortal likeness, and commanded her to renounce 


Christ, and obey him as her master. For the sake of 
the riches he promised to herself and her children, 
she consented ; and thereafter he came in the guise of 
a dog, of which she asked questions, always receiving 
appropriate replies. On one occasion, having been 
summoned by the Lady Edmaston, who was lying 
sick, she went out into the garden at night, and 
called the devil by his terrestrial or mundane alias 
of Elva. He bounded over the stone wall in the 
likeness of a dog, and approached her so close that 
she was frightened, and charged him by ' the law he 
believed in ' to keep his distance. She then asked 
him if the lady would recover ; he replied in the 
negative. In his turn he inquired where the gentle- 
women, her daughters, were; and being informed 
that they were to meet her in the garden, said that 
one of them should be his leman. ' Not so,' 
exclaimed the wise wife undauntedly; and the devil 
then went away howling, like a whipped schoolboy, 
and hid himself in the well until after supper. The 
young gentlewomen coming into the bloom and per- 
fumes of the garden, he suddenly emerged, seized the 
Lady Torsenye, and attempted to drag her into the 
well; but Agnes gripped him firmly, and by her 
superior strength delivered her from his clutches. 
Then, with a terrible yell, he disappeared. 

Yet another story: Agnes, with Geillis Duncan 
and other witches, desiring to be revenged on the 
deputy bailiff, met on the bridge at Fowlistruther, 
and dropped a cord into the river, Agnes Sampson 
crying, ' Hail ! Holloa !' Immediately they felt the 



end of the cord dragged down by a great weight ; 
and on drawing it up, up came the devil along with 
it ! He inquired if they had all been good servants, 
and gave them a charm to blight Seton and his 
property ; but it was accidentally diverted in its opera- 
tion, and fell upon another person — a touch of realism 
worthy of Defoe ! 

Euphemia Macalzean, a lady of high social position, 
daughter and heiress of Lord Cliftonhall (who was 
eminent as lawyer, statesman, and scholar), seems to 
have been involved in this welter of intrigue, con- 
spiracy, and deception, through her adherence to 
Both well's faction, and her devotion to the Roman 
communion. Her confession was as grotesque and 
unveracious as that of any of her associates. She was 
made a witch (she said) through the agency of an 
Irishwoman ' with a fallen nose,' and, to perfect her- 
self in the craft, had paid another witch, who resided 
in St. Ninian's Row, Edinburgh, for ' inaugurating ' 
her with ' the girth of ane gret bikar,' revolving it 
' oft round her head and neck, and ofttimes round her 
head.' She was accused of having administered poison 
to her husband, her father-in-law, and some other 
persons ; and whatever may be thought of the allega- 
tions of sorcery and witchcraft, this heavier charge 
seems to have been well-founded. Euphemia said 
that her acquaintance with Agnes Sampson began 
with her first accouchement, when she applied to her 
to mitigate her pains, and she did so by transferring 
them to a dog. At her second accouchement, Agnes 
transferred them to a cat. 


As a determined enemy of the Protestant religion, 
Satan was inimical to King James's marriage with a 
Protestant princess, and to break up an alliance which 
would greatly limit his power for evil, he determined 
to sink the ship that carried the newly-married couple 
on their homeward voyage. His first device was to 
hang over the sea a very dense mist, in the hope that 
the royal ship would miss her course, and strike on 
some dangerous rock. When this device failed, 
Dr. Fian was ordered to summon all the witches to 
meet their master at the haunted kirk of North 
Berwick. Accordingly, on All-Hallow-mass Eve, 
they assembled there to the number of two hundred ; 
and each one embarking in ' a riddle,' or sieve,* they 
sailed over the ocean 'very substantially,' carrying 
with them flagons of wine, and making merry, 
and drinking ' by the way.' After sailing about for 
some time, they met with their master, bearing in 
his claws a cat, which had previously been drawn 
nine times through the fire. Handing it to one of 
the warlocks, he bade him cast it into the sea, and 
shout ' Hola !' whereupon the ocean became con- 
vulsed, and the waters seethed, and the billows rose 
like heaving mountains. On through the storm 
sailed this eerie company until they reached the 
Scottish coast, where they landed, and, joining hands, 
danced in procession to the kirk of North Berwick, 
Geillis Duncan going before them, playing a reel 
upon her Jew's-harp, or trump — formerly a favourite 

* So the witch in ' Macbeth ' (Act I., sc. 3) says : 
' In a sieve I'll thither sail.' 



musical instrument with the Scotch peasantry — and 

singing- : 

' Cummer, go ye before ; cummer, go ye ; 
Gif ye will not go before, cummer, let me !' 

Having arrived at their rendezvous, they danced 
round it ' withershins ' — that is, in reverse of the 
apparent motion of the sun. Dr. Fian then blew 
into the keyhole of the door, which opened im- 
mediately, and all the witches and warlocks entered 
in. It was pitch-dark ; but Fian lighted the tapers 
by merely blowing on them, and their sudden blaze 
revealed the devil in the pulpit, attired in a black 
gown and hat. The description given of the fiend 
reveals the stern imagination of the North, and is 
characteristic of the ' weird sisters ' of Scotland, 
who form, as Dr. Burton remarks, so grand a con- 
trast to ' the vulgar grovelling parochial witches of 
England.' His body was hard as iron ; his face 
terrible, with a nose like an eagle's beak ; his eyes 
glared like fire : his voice was gruff as the sound of 
the east wind ; his hands and legs were covered with 
hair, and his hands and feet were armed with long 
claws. On beholding him, witches and warlocks, 
with one accord, cried : ' All hail, master !' He then 
called over their names, and demanded of them 
severally whether they had been good and faithful 
servants, and what measure of success had attended 
their operations against the lives of King James and 
his bride — which surely he ought to have known ! 
Gray Malkin, a foolish old warlock, who officiated as 
beadle or janitor, heedlessly answered, That nothing 


ailed the King yet, God be thanked ! At which the 
devil, in a fury, leaped from the pulpit, and lustily 
smote him on the ears. He then resumed his 
position, and delivered his sermon, commanding 
them to act faithfully in their service, and do all the 
evil they could. Euphemia Macalzean and Agnes 
Sampson summoned up courage enough to ask him 
whether he had brought an image or picture of the 
King, that, by pricking it with pins, they might 
inflict upon its living pattern all kinds of pain and 
disease. The devil was fain to acknowledge that he 
had forgotten it, and was soundly rated by Euphemia 
for his carelessness, Agnes Sampson and several 
other women seizing the opportunity to load him 
with reproaches on their respective accounts. 

On another occasion, according to Agnes Sampson, 
she, Dr. Fian, and a wizard of some energy, named 
Robert Grierson, with several others, left Grierson's 
house at Preston Pans in a boat, and went out to sea 
to ' a tryst.' Embarking on board a ship, they 
drank copiously of good wine and ale, after which 
they sank the ship and her crew, and returned home. 
And again, sailing from North Berwick in a boat like 
a chimney, they saw the devil — in shape and size 
resembling a huge hayrick — rolling over the great 
waves in front of them. They went on board a 
vessel called The Grace of God, where they enjoyed, 
as before, an abundance of wine and ' other good 
cheer.' On leaving it, the devil, who was under- 
neath the ship, raised an evil wind, and it perished. 

Some of these stories proved to be too highly 


coloured even for the credulity of King James ; and 
he rightly enough exclaimed that the witches were, 
like their master, 'extraordinary liars.' It is said, 
however, that he changed his opinion after Agnes 
Sampson, in a private conference which he accorded 
to her, related the details of a conversation between 
himself and the Queen that had taken place under 
such circumstances as to ensure inviolable secrecy. 
It is curious that a very similar story is told of 
Jeanne Dare — whom oar ancestors burned as a witch 
— and King Charles VI. of France. 

Despite the machinations of the devil and the 
witches, King James and Queen Anne, as we know, 
escaped every peril, and reached Leith in safety. The 
devil sourly remarked that James was ' a man of 
God,' and was evidently inclined to let him alone 
severely ; but the Preston Pans conspirators, in- 
stigated, perhaps, by some powerful personages who 
kept prudently in the background, resolved on 
another attempt against their sovereign's life. On 
Lammas Eve (July 31, 1590), nine of the ring- 
leaders, including Dr. Fian, Agnes Sampson, 
Euphemia Macalzean, and Barbara Napier, with some 
thirty confederates, assembled at the New Haven, 
between Musselburgh and Preston Pans, at a spot 
called the Fairy Holes, where they were met by the 
devil in the shape of a black man, which was 
' thought most meet to do the turn for the which 
they were convened.' Agnes Sampson at once pro- 
posed that they should make a final effort for the 
King's destruction. The devil took an unfavourable 


view of the prospects of their schemes ; but he 
promised them a waxen image, and directed them 
to hang up and roast a toad, and to lay its drippings 
— mixed with strong wash, an adder's skin, and ' the 
thing" on the forehead of a new-foaled foal ' — in 
James's path, or to suspend it in such a position 
that it might drip upon his body. This precious 
injunction was duly obeyed, and the toad hung up 
where the dripping would fall upon the King, 
' during his Majesty's being at the Brig of Dee, the 
day before the common bell rang, for fear the Earl 
Bothwell should have entered Edinburgh.' But the 
devil's foreboding was fulfilled, and the conspirators 
missed their aim, the King happening to take a 
different route to that by which he had been ex- 

It is useless to repeat more of these wild and 
desperate stories, or to inquire too closely into their 
origin. Fact and fiction are so mixed up in them, 
and the embellishments are so many and so bold, 
that it is difficult to get at the nucleus of truth ; but, 
setting aside the witch or supernatural element, we 
seem driven to the conclusion that these persons had 
combined together for some nefarious purpose. 
Whether they intended to compass the King's death 
by the superstitious practices which the credulity of 
the age supposed to be effective, or whether these 
practices were intended as a cover for surer means, 
cannot now be determined. ISTor can we pretend to 
say whether all who were implicated in the plot by 
the confession of Geillis Duncan were really guilty. 


Dr. Fian, at all events, protested his innocence to the 
last ; and with regard to him and others, the 
evidence adduced was painfully inadequate. But 
they were all convicted and sentenced to death. In 
the case of Barbara Napier, the majority of the jury 
at first acquitted her on the principal charges ; but 
the King was highly indignant, and threatened them 
with a trial for ' wilful error upon an assize.' To 
avoid the consequences, they threw themselves upon 
the King's mercy, and were benevolently ' pardoned.' 
Poor Barbara Napier was hanged. So was Dr. 
Fian, on Castle Hill, Edinburgh (in January, 1592), 
and burned afterwards. So were Agnes Sampson, 
Agnes Thomson, and their real or supposed con- 
federates. The punishment of Euphemia Macalzean 
was exceptionally severe. Instead of the ordinary 
sentence, directing the criminal to be first strangled 
and then burnt, it was ordered that she should be 
' bound to a stake, and burned in ashes, quick to the 
death.' This fate befell her on June 25, 1591. 

It was an unhappy result of this remarkable trial 
that it confirmed King James in his belief that he 
possessed a rare faculty for the detection of witches 
and the discovery of witchcraft. Continuing his in- 
vestigation of the subject with fanatical zeal, he 
published in Edinburgh, in 1597, the outcome ot his 
researches in his ' Daemonologie ' — an elaborate 
treatise, written in the form of a dialogue, the spirit 
of which may be inferred from its author's prefatory 
observations : ' The fearful abounding,' he says, ' at 
this time and in this country, of these detestable 


slaves of the devil, the witches or enchanters, hath 
moved me (beloved reader) to despatch in post this 
following treatise of mine, not in any wise (as I 
protest) to serve for a show of mine own learning 
and ingene, but only (moved of conscience) to press 
thereby, so far as I can, to resolve the doubting 
hearts of many, both that such assaults of Satan are 
most certainly practised, and that the instrument 
thereof merits most severely to be punished, against 
the damnable opinions of two, principally in our 
age ; whereof the one called Scot, an Englishman, is 
not ashamed in public print to deny that there can 
be such thing as witchcraft, and so maintains the 
old error of the Sadducees in denying of spirits. 
The other, called Wierus, a German physician, sets 
out a public apology for all these crafts-folks, where- 
by procuring for them impunity, he plainly betrays 
himself to have been one of that profession.' 

Not only is King James fully convinced of the 
existence of witchcraft, but he is determined to treat 
it as a capital crime. 'Witches,' he affirms, 'ought to 
be put to death, according to the laws of God, the 
civil and imperial law, and the municipal law of all 
Christian nations ; yea, to spare the life, and not 
strike whom God bids strike, and so severely punish 
so odious a treason against God, is not only unlawful, 
but, doubtless, as great a sin in the magistrate as was 
Saul's sparing Agag.' Conscious that the evidence 
brought against the unfortunate victims was generally 
of the weakest possible character, he contends that 
because the crime is generally abominable, evidence in 


proof of it may be accepted which would be refused 
in other offences ; as, for example, that of young 
children who are ignorant of the nature of an oath, 
and that of persons of notoriously ill-repute. And 
the sole chance of escape which he offers to the 
accused is that of the ordeal. ' Two good helps,' he 
says, ' may be used: the one is the finding of their 
marks, and the trying the insensibleness thereof; the 
other is their floating on the water, for, as in a secret 
murther, if the dead carcase be at any time thereafter 
handled by the murtherer, it will gush out of blood, 
as if the blood were raging to the Heaven, for revenge 
of the murtherer (God having appointed that secret 
supernatural sign for trial of that secret unnatural 
crime), so that it appears that God hath appointed 
(for a supernatural sign of the monstrous impiety 
of witches), that the water shall refuse to receive 
them in her bosom that have shaken off them the 
sacred water of baptism, and wilfully refused the 
benefit thereof ; no, not so much as their eyes are 
able to shed tears at every light occasion when they 
will ; yea, although it Avere dissembling like the 
crocodiles, God not permitting them to dissemble 
their obstinacy in so horrible a crime.' 

Encouraged by the practice and teaching of their 
sovereign, the people of Scotland, whom the anthro- 
pomorphism of their religious creed naturally pre- 
disposed to believe in the personal appearances of the 
devil, undertook a regular campaign against those ill- 
fated individuals whom malice or ignorance, or their 


own mental or physical peculiarities, or other causes, 
branded as his bond-slaves and accomplices. Religious 
animosity, moreover, was a powerful factor in stimu- 
lating and sustaining the mania ; and the Scotch 
Calvinist enjoyed a double gratification when some 
poor old woman was burned both as a witch and a 
Roman Catholic. It has been calculated that, in the 
period of thirty-nine years, between the enactment of 
the Statute of Queen Mary and the accession of James 
to the English throne, the average number of persons 
executed for witchcraft was 200 annually, making an 
aggregate of nearly 8,000. For the first nine years 
about 30 or 40 suffered yearly ; but latterly the annual 
death-roll mounted up to 400 and 500. James at 
last grew alarmed at the prevalence of witchcraft 
in his kingdom, and seems to have devoted no small 
portion of his time to attempts to detect and ex- 
terminate it. 

In 1591 the Earl of Bothwell was imprisoned for 
having conspired the King's death by sorcery, in 
conjunction with a warlock named Richie Graham. 
Graham was burned on March 8, 1592. Bothwell 
was not brought to trial until August 10, 1593, 
when several witches bore testimony against him, 
but he obtained an acquittal. 

In 1597, on November 12, four women were tried by 
the High Court of Justiciary, in Edinburgh, on various 
charges of witchcraft. Their names are recorded as 
Christina Livingstone, Janet Stewart, Bessie Aikin, 
and Christina Sadler. Their trials, however, present 
no special features of interest. 


Passing over half a century, we come to the recru- 
descence of the witch-mania, which followed on the 
restoration of Charles II. Mr. R. Burns Begg has 
recently edited for the Society of Antiquaries of 
Scotland a report of various witch trials in Forfar 
and Kincardineshire, in the opening years of that 
monarch's reign, which supplies some further illus- 
trations of the characteristics of Scottish witchcraft. 
Here we meet with the strange word ' Covin ' or 
' Coven ' (apparently connected with ' Covenant ' or 
' Convention') as applied to an organization or guild 
of witches. In 1662 the Judge-General-Depute for 
Scotland tried thirteen ' Coviners,' who had been 
detected by the efforts of a committee consisting of 
the ministers and schoolmasters of the district, 
together with the ' Laird of Tullibole.' Of these 
thirteen unfortunate victims only one was a man. 
All were found guilty by the jury, and sentenced to 
death. Eleven suffered at the stake ; one died before 
the day of execution, and one was respited on account 
of her pregnancy. The evidence was of the usual 
extraordinary tenor, and the so-called ' confessions ' 
of the accused were not less puzzling than in other 
cases. In Mr. Begg's opinion, which seems to me 
well founded, there really was in and around the 
Crook of Devon a local Covin, or regularly organized 
band of so-called witches who acted under the direc- 
tion of a person whom they believed to be Satan. 
He suggests that at this period there would be many 
wild and unscrupulous characters, disbanded soldiers, 
and others, who found their profit in the ' blinded 


allegiance' of the witches and warlocks. The diffi- 
culty is, what was this profit ? The witches do not 
seem to have paid anything in money or in kind. 
There are allusions which point to acts of immorality, 
and in several instances one can understand that 
personal enmities were gratified ; but on the whole 
the personators of Satan had scant reward for all their 
trouble. And how was it that they were never 
denounced by any of their victims ? How was it 
that the vigilance which detected the witches never 
tripped up their master ? How are we to explain 
the diversity of Satan's appearances ? At one time he 
was ' ane bonnie lad ;' at another, an ' unco-like man, 
in black-coloured clothes and ane blue bonnet ;' at 
another, a ' black iron-hard man ;' and yet again, 
'ane little man in rough gray clothes.' Occasionally 
he brought with him a piper, and the witches danced 
together, and the ground under them was all fire- 
flaughts, and Andrew Watson had his usual staff in 
his hand, and although he is a blind man, yet danced 
he as nimbly as any of the company, and made also 
great merriment by singing his old ballads ; and 
Isabel Shyrrie did sing her song called ' Tinkletum, 
Tankletum.' Alas, that no obliging pen has trans- 
mitted ' Tinkletum, Tankletum ' to posterity ! One 
could point to a good many songs which the world 
could have better spared. ' Tinkletum, Tankletum ' 
— there is something amazingly suggestive in the 
words ; possibilities of humour, perhaps of satire ; 
humour and satire which might have secured for 
Isabel Shyrrie a place among Scottish poetesses, 


whereas now she conies before us in no more attrac- 
tive character than that of a Coviner — a deluded or 
self- deluding witch. 

Let us next betake ourselves to the East Coast, 
and make the acquaintance of Isabel Growdie, whose 
' confessions ' are among the most extraordinary 
documents to be met with even in the records o 
Scottish witchcraft. It is impossible, I think, to 
overrate their psychological interest. The first is, 
perhaps, the most curious ; and as no summary or 
condensation would do justice to its details, I shall 
place it before the reader in extenso, with no other 
alteration than that of Englishing the spelling. It 
was made at Auldearn on April 13, 1662, in presence 
of the parish minister, the sheriff- depute of Nairn, 
and nine lairds and farmers of good position : 

'As I was going betwixt the towns (z.e.,farm stead- 
ings) of Drumdeevin and The Heads, I met with the 
Devil, and there covenanted in a manner with him ; 
and I promised to meet him, in the night-time, in the 
Kirk of Auldearn, # which I did. And the first thing 
I did there that night, I denied my baptism, and did 
put the one of my hands to the crowm of my head, 
and the other to the sole of my foot, and then 
renounced all betwixt my two hands over to the 

* It is a singular circumstance, as Pitcairn remarks, that in 
almost all the confessions of witches, or at least of the Scottish 
witches, their initiation, and many of their meetings, are said to 
have taken place within churches, churchyards, and consecrated 
ground ; and a certain ritual, in imitation, or mockery, of the 
forms of the Church, is uniformly said to have been gone through. 


Devil. He was in the Reader's desk, and a black book 
in his hand. Margaret Brodie, in Auldearn, held me 
up to the Devil to be baptized by him, and he marked 
me in the shoulder, and sucked out my blood at that 
mark, and spouted it in his hand, and, sprinkling it 
on my head, said, " I baptize thee, Janet, in my own 
name !" And within awhile we all removed. The 
next time that I met with him was in the New 
Wards of Inshoch. ... He was a mickle, black, 
rough [hirsute] man, very cold; and I found his 
nature all cold within me as spring- wall- water.* 
Sometimes he had boots, and sometimes shoes on 
his feet; but still his feet are forked and cloven. He 
would be sometimes with us like a deer or a roe. 
John Taylor and Janet Breadhead, his wife, in 
Belmakeith, . . . Douglas, and I myself, met in the 
kirkyard of Nairn, and we raised an unchristened 
child out of its grave ; and at the end of Bradley's 
cornfieldland, just opposite to the Mill of Nairn, we 
took the said child, with the nails of our fingers and 
toes, pickles of all sorts of grain, and blades of kail 
[colewort], and hacked them all very small, mixed 
together; and did put a part thereof among the 
muck-heaps, and thereby took away the fruit of his 
corns, etc., and we parted it among two of our Covins. 
When we take corns at Lammas, we take but about 
two sheaves, when the corns are full ; or two stalks of 
kail, or thereby, and that gives us the fruit of the 
corn-land or kail-yard, where they grew. And it 

* In the Forfarshire reports, alluded to on p. 332, the witches 
always speak of the devil's body and kiss as deadly cold. 


may be, we will keep it until Yule or Pasche, and 
then divide it amongst us. There are thirteen persons 
[the usual number] in my Covin. 

' The last time that our Covin met, we, and another 
Covin, were dancing at the Hill of Earlseat ; and 
before that, betwixt Moynes and Bowgholl; and 
before that w r e were beyond the Mickle-burn ; and the 
other Covin being at the Downie-hills, we went from 
beyond the Mickle-burn, and went beside them, to the 
houses at the Wood-End of Inshoch ; and within a 
while went home to our houses. Before Candlemas 
we went be-east Kinloss, and there we yoked a plough 
of paddocks [frogs]. The Devil held the plough, and 
John Young, in Mebestown, our Officer, did drive 
the plough. Paddocks did draw the plough as oxen ; 
quickens wor sowmes [dog-grass served for traces] ; a 
riglon's [ram's] horn was a coulter, and a piece of a 
riglon's horn was a sock. We went two several times 
about; and all we of the Covin went still up and 
down with the plough, praying to the Devil for the 
fruit of that land, and that thistles and briars might 
grow there. 

' When we go to any house, we take meat and 
drink ; and w T e fill up the barrels with our own .... 
a^ain ; and we put besoms in our beds with our 
husbands, till we return again to them. We were in 
the Earl of Moray's house in Darnaway, and we got 
enough there, and did eat and drink of the best, and 
brought part w r ith us. We went in at the windows. 
I had a little horse, and would say, " Horse and 
Hattock, in the Devil's name !" And then we would 


fly away, where we would, like as straws would fly 
upon a highway. We will fly like straws where we 
please ; wild straws and corn-straws will be horses to 
us, and we put them betwixt our feet and say, 
" Horse and Hattock, in the Devil's name !" And 
when any see these straws in a whirlwind, and do 
not sanctify themselves, we may shoot them dead at 
our pleasure. Any that are shot by us, their souls 
will go to Heaven, but their bodies remain with us, 
and will fly as horses to us, as small as straws.* 

' I was in the Downie Hills, and got meat there from 
the Queen of Fairy, more than I could eat. The 
Queen of Fairy is heavily clothed in white linen, and 
in white and lemon clothes, etc. ; and the King of 
Fairy is a brave man, well favoured, and broad-faced, 
etc. There were elf-bulls, routing and skirling up 
and down there, and they affrighted me. 

' When we take away any cow's milk, we pull the 
tail, and twine it and plait it the wrong way, in the 
Devil's name; and we draw the tedder (so made) in 
betwixt the cow's hinder-feet, and out betwixt the 
cow's fore-feet, in the Devil's name, and thereby take 
with us the cow's milk. We take sheep's milk even 
so [in the same manner]. The way to take or give 
back the milk again, is to cut that tedder. When we 
take away the strength of any person's ale, and give 

* Pitcairn remarks, with justice, that the above details are, 
perhaps, in all respects the most extraordinary in the history of 
witchcraft of this or of any other country. Isabel Gowdie must 
have been a woman with a powerful and rank imagination, who, 
had she lived in the present day, might, perhaps, have produced 
a work of fiction of the school of Zola. 



it to another, we take a little quantity out of each 
barrel or stand of ale, and put it in a stoop in the 
Devil's name, and in his name, with our own hands, 
put it amongst another's ale, and give her the strength 
and substance and "heall" of her neighbour's ale. 
And to keep the ale from us, that we have no power 
over it, is to sanctify it well. We get all this power 
from the Devil; and when we seek it from him, we 
will him to be " our Lord." 

' John Taylor, and Janet Bread head, his wife, in 
Belmakeith, Bessie Wilson in Aulderne, and Margaret 
Wilson, spouse to Donald Callam in Aulderne, and I, 
made a picture of clay, to destroy the Laird of Park's 
male children. John Taylor brought home the clay 
in his plaid nook [the corner of his plaid] ; his wife 
broke it very small, like meal, and sifted it with a 
sieve, and poured in water among it, in the Devil's 
name, and wrought it very sure, like rye-bout [a stir- 
about made of rye-flour] ; and made of it a picture of 
the laird's sons. It had all the parts and marks of a 
child, such as head, eyes, nose, hands, feet, mouth, 
and little lips. It wanted no mark of a child, and 
the hands of it folded down by its sides. It was like 
a pow [lump of dough], or a flayed egrya [a sucking- 
pig, which has been scalded and scraped]. We laid 
the face of it to the fire, till it strakned [shrivelled], 
and a clear fire round about it, till it was red like a 
coal. After that, we would roast it now and then ; 
each other day there would be a piece of it well 
roasted. The Laird of Park's whole male children 
by it are to suffer, if it be not gotten and brokin, as 


well as those that are born and dead already. It was 
still put in and taken out of the fire in the Devil's 
name. It was hung up upon a crock. It is yet in 
John Taylor's house, and it has a cradle of clay about 
it. Only John Taylor and his wife, Janet Bread- 
head, Bessie and Margaret Wilson in Aulderne, and 
Margaret Brodie, these, and I, were only at the 
making of it. All the multitude of our number of 
witches, of all the Covins, kent [kenned, knew] all of 
it, at our next meeting after it was made. And the 
witches yet that are overtaken have their own powers, 
and our powers which we had before we were taken, 
both. But now I have no power at all. 

1 Margaret Kyllie, in .... is one of the other 
Covin : Meslie Hirdall, spouse to Alexander Ross, in 
Loanhead, is one of them ; her skin is fiery. Isabel 
Nicol, in Lochley, is one of my Covin. Alexander 
Elder, in Earlseat, and Janet Finlay, his spouse, are 
of my Covin. Margaret Haslum, in Moynes, is one ; 
Margaret Brodie, in Aulderne, Bessie and Margaret 
Wilson there, and Jane Martin there, and Elspet 
Mshie, spouse to John Mathew there, are of my 
Covin. The said Jane Martin is the Maiden of our 
Covin. John Young, in Mebestown, is Officer to 
our Covin. 

' Elspet Chisholm, and Isabel More, in Aulderne, 
Maggie Brodie .... and I, went into Alexander 
Cumling's litt-house [dye-house], in Aulderne. I 
went in, in the likeness of a ken [jackdaw] ; the said 
Elspet Chisholm was in the shape of a cat. Isabel 
More was a hare, and Maggie Brodie a cat, and .... 



We took a thread of each colour of yarn that was on 
the said Alexander Cumling's litt-fatt [dyeing-vat], 
and did cast three knots on each thread, in the Devil's 
name, and did put the threads in the vat, wither sones 
about in the vat in the Devil's name, and thereby 
took the whole strength of the vat away, that it 
could litt [dye] nothing but only black, according to 
the colour of the Devil, in whose name we took away 
the strength of the right colours that were in the vat.' 

The second confession, made at Aulderne, on May 3, 
1662, is not less remarkable than the foregoing : 

' . . . . After that time there would meet but some- 
times a Covin [i.e., thirteen], sometimes more, some- 
times less ; but a Grand Meeting would be about the 
end of each Quarter. There is thirteen persons in each 
Covin; and each of us has one Sprite to wait upon us, 
when we please to call upon him. I remember not all 
the Sprites' names, but there is one called Swin, which 
waits upon the said Margaret Wilson in Aulderne; he 
is still [ever] clothed in grass-green ; and the said 
Margaret Wilson has a nickname, called " Pickle 
nearest the wind." The next Sprite is called " Rosie," 
who waits upon Bessie Wilson, in Aulderne; he is 
still clothed in yellow; and her nickname is "Through 
the cornyard." . . . The third Sprite is called " The 
Roaring Lion," who waits upon Isabel Nicol, in 
Lochlors ; and [he is still clothed*] in sea-green ; 
her nickname is "Bessie Rule." The fourth Sprite is 

* There are mutilations in the original manuscript, and the 
bracketed words are conjectural. 


called " Mak Hector," who [waits upon Jane*] 
Martin, daughter to the said Margaret Wilson ; he is a 
young-like devil, clothed still in grass-green. [Jane 
Martin is*] Maiden to the Covin that I am of; and 
her nickname is " Over the dyke with it," because the 
Devil [always takes the*] Maiden in his hand nix 
time we damn " Gillatrypes ;" and when he would leap 
from . . .* he and she will say, "Over the dyke with 
it!" The name of the fifth Sprite is "Robert the 
[Rule," and he is still clothed in # ] sad-dun, and seems 
to be a Commander of the rest of the Sprites ; and 
he waits upon Margaret Brodie, in Aulderne. [The 
name of the saxt Sprite] is called " Thief of Hell 
wait upon Herself;" and he waits also on the said 
Bessie Wilson. The name of the seventh [Sprite is 
called] " The Read Reiver;" and he is my own Spirit, 
that waits on myself, and is still clothed in black. 
The eighth Spirit [is called] " Robert the Jackis," still 
clothed in dun, and seems to be aged. He is a 
glaiked, glowked Spirit ! The woman's [nickname] 
that he waits on is "Able and Stout !" [This was 
Bessie Hay.] The ninth Spirit is called " Laing," 
and the woman's nickname that he waits upon is 
"Bessie Bold" [Elspet Nishie]. The tenth Spirit is 
named " Thomas a Fiarie," etc. There will be many 
other Devils, waiting upon [our] Master Devil; but 
he is bigger and more awful than the rest of the 
Devils, and they all reverence him. I will ken 

* There are mutilations in the original manuscript, and the 
bracketed words are conjectural. 


them all, one by one, from others, when they appear 
like a man. 

' When we raise the wind, we take a rag of cloth, 
and wet it in water ; and we take a beetle and knock 
the rag on a stone, and we say thrice over: 

; " I knock this rag upon this stane, 

To raise the wind, in the Devil's name ;, 
It shall not lie until I please again !" 

When we would lay the wind, we dry the rag, and 
say (thrice over) : 

' " We lay the wind in the Devil's name, 

[It shall not] rise while we [or I] like to raise it again !" 

And if the wind will not lie instantly [after we say 
this], we call upon our Spirit, and say to him : 

' " Thief ! Thief ! conjure the wind, and cause it to [lie ? . . .]" 

We have no power of rain, but we will raise the wind 
when we please. He made us believe [ . . .] that 
there was no God beside him. 

' As for Elf arrow-heads, the Devil shapes them 
with his own hand [and afterwards delivers them ?] 
to Elf-boys, who " whyttis and dightis " [shapes and 
trims] them with a sharp thing like a packing-needle ; 
but [when I was in Elf- land?] I saw them whytting 
and dioditino; them. When I was in the Elves' 
houses, they will have very . . . them whytting and 
dighting ; and the Devil gives them to us, each of us 
so many, when . . . Those that dightis them are 
little ones, hollow, and boss-backed [humped-backed]. 
They speak gowstie [roughly] like. When the 
Devil gives them to us, he says : 


" ' Shoot these in my name, 

And they shall not go heall hame !" 

And when we shoot these arrows (we say) : 

" ' I shoot you man in the Devil's name, 
He shall not win heall hame ! 
And this shall be always true ; 
There shall not be one bit of him on lieiw " [on life, alive], 

' We have no bow to shoot with, but spang [jerk] 
them from the nails of our thumbs. Sometimes we 
will miss ; but if they twitch [touch], be it beast, or 
man, or woman, it will kill, tho' they had a jack [a 
coat of armour] upon them. "When we go in the 
shape of a hare, we say thrice over : 

' " I shall go into a hare, 

With sorrow, and such, and mickle care ; 
And I shall go in the Devil's name, 
Ay, until I come home [again !]." 

And instantly we start in a hare. And when we 
would be out of that shape, we will say : 

' " Hare ! hare ! God send thee care ! 
I am in a hare's likeness just now, 
But I shall be in a woman's likeness even [now]." 

When we would go in the likeness of a cat, we say 
thrice over : 

1 " I shall go [intill ane cat], 

[With sorrow, and such, and a black] shot ! 
And I shall go in the Devil's name, 
Ay, until I come home again !" 

And if we [would go in a crow, then] we say thrice 


' " I shall go intill a crow, 

With sorrow, and such, and a black [thraw ! 
And I shall go in the Devil's name,] 
Ay, until I come home again !" 

And when we would be out of these shapes, we say : 

' " Cat, cat [or crow, crow], God send thee a black shot [or black 
thraw !] 

I was a cat [or crow] just now, 
But I shall be [in a woman's likeness even now]. 
Cat, cat" [as supra"]. 

If we go in the shape of a cat, a crow, a hare, or 
any other likeness, etc., to any of our neighbours' 
houses, being witches, we will say : 

' " [I (or we) conjure] thee go with us [or me] " ! 

And presently they become as we are, either cats, 
hares, crows, etc., and go [with us whither we would. 
When] we would ride, we take windle- straws, or 
been-stakes [bean-stalks], and put them betwixt our 
feet, and say thrice : 

' " Horse and Hattock, horse and go, 
Horse and pellatris, ho ! ho !" 

And immediately we fly away wherever we would ; 
and lest our husbands should miss us out of our beds, 
we put in a besom, or a three-legged stool, beside 
them, and say thrice over : 

' " I lay down this besom [or stool] in the Devil's name, 
Let it not stir till I come home again !" 

And immediately it seems a woman, by the side of our 


' We cannot turn in[to] the likeness of [a lamb or 
a dove ?] When my husband sold beef, I used to 
put a swallow's feather in the head of the beast, and 
[say thrice], 

' " [I] put out this beef in the Devil's name, 

That mickle silver and good price come hame !" 

' I did even so [whenever I put] forth either horse, 
nolt [cattle], webs [of cloth], or any other thing to 
be sold, and still put in this feather, and said the 
[same words thrice] over, to cause the commodities 
sell well, and .... thrice over — 

' " Our Lord to hunting he [is gone] 

marble stone, 

He sent word to Saint Knitt . . ." 

' When we would heal any sore or broken limb, 
we say thrice over .... 

' " He put the blood to the blood, till all up stood ; 
The lith to the lith, Till all took nith ; 
Our Lady charmed her dearly Son, With her tooth and her 

And her ten fingers — 
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost !" 

' And this we say thrice over, stroking the sore, 
and it becomes whole. 2ndlie. For the Bean- Shaw 
[bone-shaw, i.e., the sciatica], or pain in the haunch: 
" We are here three Maidens charming for the bean- 
shaw; the man of the Midle-earth, blew beaver, land- 
fever, maneris of stooris, the Lord fleigged (terrified) 
the Fiend with his holy candles and yard foot-stone ! 
There she sits, and here she is gone ! Let her never 


come here again !" 3rdli. For the fevers, we say 
thrice over, " I forbid the quaking-fevers, the sea- 
fevers, the land-fevers, and all the fevers that God 
ordained, out of the head, out of the heart, out of the 
back, out of the sides, out of the knees, out of the 
thighs, from the points of the fingers to the nibs of 
the toes ; net fall the fevers go, [some] to the hill, 
some to the heep, some to the stone, some to the 
stock. In St. Peter's name, St. Paul's name, and all 
the Saints of Heaven. In the name of the Father, 
the Son, and of the Holy Ghost !" And when we 
took the fruit of the fishes from the fishers, we went 
to the shore before the boat would come to it ; and 
we would say, on the shore-side, three several times 
over : 

' " The fishers are gone to the sea, 

And they will bring home fish to me ; 

They will bring tbem home intill the boat, 

But they shall get of them but the smaller sort !" 

So we either steal a fish, or buy a fish, or get a fish 
from them [for naught], one or more. And with 
that we have all the fruit of the whole fishes in the 
boat, and the fishes that the fishermen themselves will 
have will be but froth, etc. 

' The first voyage that ever I went with the rest of 
our Covins was [to] Ploughlands ; and there we shot 
a man betwixt the plough-stilts, and he presently 
fell to the ground, upon his nose and his mouth ; and 
then the Devil gave me an arrow, and caused me 
shoot a woman in that field; which I did, and she fell 


down dead.* In winter of 1660, when Mr. Harry 
Forbes, Minister at Aulderne, was sick, we made a 
bag of the galls, flesh, and guts of toads, pickles of 
barley, parings of the nails of fingers and toes, the 
liver of a hare, and bits of clouts. We steeped all 
this together, all night among water, all hacked (or 
minced up) through other. And when we did put it 
among the water, Satan was with us, and learned us 
the words following, to say thrice over. They are 
thus : 

' 1st. " He is lying in his bed ; he is lying sick and sore ; 

Let him lie intill his bed two months and [three] days 
more ! 
' 2nd. " Let him lie intill his bed ; let him lie intill it sick and 
sore ; 
Let him lie intill his bed months two and three days 
more ! 
' 3rd. " He shall lie intill his bed, he shall lie in it sick and sore ; 
He shall lie intill his bed two months and three days 
more !" 

' When we had learned all these words from the 
Devil, as said is, we fell all down upon our knees, 
with our hair down over our shoulders and eyes, and 
our hands lifted up, and our eyes [upon] the Devil, 
and said the foresaid words thrice over to the Devil, 
strictly, against [the recovery of] Master Harry 
Forbes [from his sickness]. In the night time we 
came in to Mr. Harry Forbes's chamber, where he 
lay, with our hands all smeared, out of the bag, to 
swing it upon Mr. Harry, when he was sick in his 

* These, it is needless to say, were pure inventions, and by no 
means amusing ones. 


bed ; and in the daytime [one of our] number, who 
was most familiar and intimate with him, to wring or 
swing the bag [upon the said Mr. Harry, as we 
could] not prevail in the night time against him, 
which was accordingly done. Any of ... . comes in 
to your houses, or are set to do you evil, they will look 
uncouth - like, thrown .... hurly - like, and their 
clothes standing out. The Maiden of our Covin, 
Jane Martin, was [...-. We] do no great matter 
without our Maiden. 

'And if a child be forespoken [bewitched], we take 
the cradle .... through it thrice, and then a dog 
through it; and then shake the belt above the fire 
[. . . . and then cast it] down on the ground, till a 
dog or cat go over it, that the sickness may come 
[. . . . upon the dog or cat].' 

With these extended quotations the reader will 
probably be satisfied, and in concluding my account 
of Isabel Growdie, I must now adopt a process of 

Among other freaks and fancies of a disordered 
imagination, Isabel declared that she merited to be 
stretched upon a rack of iron, and that if torn to 
pieces by wild horses, the punishment would not 
exceed the measure of her iniquities. These iniquities 
comprehended every act attributed by the superstition 
of the time to the servants of the devil, which had 
been carefully gathered up by this monomaniac from 
contemporary witch-tradition. The cruellest thing 
was, that she involved so large a number of innocent 


persons in the peril into which she herself had reck- 
lessly plunged, naming nearly fifty women, and I for- 
get how many men, as her associates or accomplices. 
She affirmed that they dug up from their graves the 
bodies of unbaptized infants, and having dismembered 
them, made use of the limbs in their incantations. 
That when they wished to destroy an enemy's crops, 
they yoked toads to his plough ; and on the following 
night the devil, with this strange team, drove furrows 
into the land, and blasted it effectually. The devil, 
it would seem, was so long and so incessantly occu- 
pied with high affairs in Scotland, that surely the 
rest of the world must have escaped meanwhile the 
evils of his interference ! Witches, added Isabel, were 
able to assume almost any shape, but their usual 
choice was that of a hare, or perhaps a cat. There 
was some risk in either assumption. Once it hap- 
pened that Isabel, in her disguise of a hare, was hotly 
pursued by a pack of hounds, and narrowly escaped 
with her life. When she reached her cottage- door 
she could feel the hot breath of her pursuers on her 
haunches ; but, contriving to slip behind a chest, she 
found time to speak the magic words which alone 
could restore her to her natural shape, namely : 

' " Hare ! hare ! God send thee care ! 
I am in a hare's likeness now ; 
But I shall be a woman e'en now. 
Hare ! hare ! God send thee care !" 

If witches, while wearing the shape of hare or cat, 
were bitten by the dogs, they always retained the 


marks on their human bodies. When the devil 
called a convention of his servants, each proceeded 
through the air — like the witches of Lapland aud 
other countries — astride on a broomstick [or it 
might be on a corn or bean straw], repeating as they 
went the rhyme : 

1 Horse and paddock, horse and go, 
Horse and pellatris, ho ! ho !' 

They - usually left behind them a broom, or three- 
legged stool, which, properly charmed and placed in 
bed, assumed a likeness to themselves until they 
returned, and prevented suspicion. This seems to 
have been the practice of witches everywhere. 
Witches specially favoured by their master were pro- 
vided with a couple of imps as attendants, who 
boasted such very mundane names as ' The Roaring 
Lion,' ' Thief of Hell,' ' Ranting Roarer,' and 'Care for 
Nought ' — a great improvement on the vulgar mono- 
syllables worn by the English imps — and were dressed, 
as already described, in distinguishing liveries : sea- 
green, pea-green, grass-green, sad-dun, and yellow. 
The witches were never allowed — at least, not in the 
infernal presence — to call themselves, or one another, 
by their baptismal names, but were required to use 
the appellations bestowed on the devil when he re- 
baptized them, such as 'Blue Kail,' 'Raise the Wind,' 
1 Batter-them-down Maggie,' and ' Able and Stout.' 
The reader will find in the reports of the trial much 
more of this grotesque nonsense — the vapourings of 
a distempered brain. The judges, however, took it 


seriously, and Isabel Gowdie, or Gilbert, and many of 
her presumed accomplices, were duly strangled and 
burned (in April, 1662). 


The case of Janet Wishart, wife of John Leyis, 
carries us away to the North of Scotland. It presents 
some peculiar features, and therefore I shall put it 
before the reader, with no more abridgment than is 
absolutely needful. It is of much earlier date than 
the preceding.* 

'i. In the month of April, or thereabout, in 1591, 
in the "gricking" of the day, [that is, in the dawn,] 
Janet Wishart, on her way back from the blockhouse 
and Fattie, where she had been holding conference 
with the devil, pursued Alexander Thomson, mariner, 
coming forth of Aberdeen to his ship, ran between 
him and Alexander Fidler, under the Castle Hill, as 
swift, it appeared to him, as an arrow could be shot 
forth of a bow, going betwixt him and the sun, and 
cast her " cantrips" in his way. Whereupon, the said 
Alexander Thomson took an immediate " fear and 
trembling," and was forced to hasten home, take to 
his bed, and lie there for the space of a month, so 
that none believed he would live; — one half of the 
day burning in his body, as if he had been roasting 
in an oven, with an extreme feverish thirst, " so that 
he could never be satisfied of drink," the other half of 
the day melting away his body with an extra- 
ordinarily cold sweat. And Thomson, knowing she 

* From the ' Kecords of the Burgh of Aberdeen,' printed for the 
Spalding Club, 1841. 


had cast this kind of witchcraft upon him, sent his 
wife to threaten her, that, unless she at once relieved 
him, he would see that she was burnt. And she, 
fearing lest he should accuse her, sent him by the two 
women a certain kind of beer and some other drugs 
to drink, after which Thomson mended daily, and re- 
covered his former health.' 

It is to be noted that Janet flatly denied the 
coming of Mrs. Thomson on any such errand. 

' ii. Seven years before, on St. Bartholomew's Day, 
when Andrew Ardes, webster [weaver], in his play, 
took a linen towel, and put it about the said Janet's 
neck, not fearing any evil from her, or that she would 
be offended, Janet, "in a devilish fury and wodnes " 
[madness], exclaimed, "Why teasest thou me? 
Thou shalt die! I shall give bread to my bairns 
this towmound [twelvemonth], but thou shalt not 
bide a month with thine to give them bread." And 
immediately after the said Andrew's departure from 
her, he took to his bed for the space of eight days : 
the one half of the clay roasting in his whole body as 
in a furnace, and the other half with a vehement 
sweat melting away ; so that, by her cruel murther 
and witchcraft, the said Andrew Ardes died within 
eight days. And the day after his departure, his 
widow, " contracting a high displeasure," took to her 
bed, and within a month deceased ; so that all their 
bairns are now begging their meat.' 

This was testified to be true by Elspeth Ewin, 
spouse to James Mar, mariner, but was denied by 
the accused. 


' iii. Twenty-four years ago, in the month of May, 
when she dwelt on the School Hill, next to Adam 
Mair's, she was descried by Andrew Brabner the 
younger, John Leslie, of the Gallowgate, Robert 
Sanders, wright, Andrew Simson, tailor, and one 
Johnson, who were then schoolboys, stealing forth 
from the said Adam Mair's yard, at two in the morn- 
ing, "greyn growand bear"; and instantly, being 
pointed out by the said scholars to the wife of the 
said Adam, she, in her fury, burst forth upon the 
scholars: "Well have ye schemed me, but I shall 
gar the best of you repent!" And she added that, 
ere four in the afternoon, she would make as many 
wonder at them as should see them. Upon the same 
day, between two and three in the afternoon, the said 
scholars passed to the Old Watergang iu the Links to 
wash themselves ; and after they had done so, and 
dried, the said John Leslie and Johnson took a race 
beside the Watergang, and desperately threw them- 
selves into the midst of the Watergang, and were 
drowned, through the witchcraft which Janet had 
cast upon them. And thus, as she had promised, she 
did murder them.' 

This was testified by Robert Sanders and Andrew 
Simson, but was denied by the accused. 

'iv. Sixteen years since, or thereby, she [the accused] 
and Malcolm Carr's wife, having fallen at variance 
and discord, she openly vowed that the latter should 
be confined to her bed for a year and a day, and 
should not make for herself a single cake : immedi- 
ately after which discord, the said Malcolm's wife 



went to her own house, sought her bed, and lay half 
a year bed-stricken by the witchcraft Janet had cast 
upon her, according to her promise ; one half of the 
day burning up her whole body as in a fiery furnace, 
the other half melting away her body with an extra- 
ordinary sweat, with a congealed coldness.' 

v. She was also accused of lending to Meryann 
Nasmith a pair of head-sheets in childbed, into which 
she put her witchcraft : which sheets, as soon as she 
knew they had taken beat about the woman's head, 
immediately she went and took them from her ; and 
before she [Janet] was well out of the house, Mery- 
ann went out of her mind, and was bound hand and 
foot for three days. 

vi. Three years since, or thereby, James Ailhows, 
having been a long time in her service, Janet desired 
him to continue with her, and on his refusing, ' Gang 
where you please,' she said, ' I will see that you do 
not earn a single cake of bread for a year and a day.' 
And as soon as he quitted her service, he was seized 
with an extremely heavy sickness and (wodnes) 
delirium, with a continual burning heat and cold 
sweating, and lay bedfast half a year, according to 
her promise, through the devilish witchcraft she had 
cast upon him. So that he was compelled to send to 
Benia for another witch to take the witchcraft from 
him : who came to this town and washed him in 
water running south, and put him through a girth, 
with some other ceremonies that she used. And he 
paid her seventeen marks, and by her help recovered 
health again. 


vii. For twenty years past she continually and 
nightly, after eleven o'clock, when her husband and 
servants had] gone to their beds, put on a great fire, 
and kept it up all night, and sat before it using 
witchcraft, altogether contrary to the nature of well- 
living persons. And on those nights when she did 
not make up the fire, she went out of the house, and 
stayed away all night where she pleased. 

viii. She caused . . . ., then in her service, and 
lately shepherd to Mr. Alexander Fraser, to take 
certain drugs of witchcraft made by her, such as old 
shoon, and cast them in the fire of John Club, stabler, 
her neighbour ; since which time, through her witch- 
craft, the said John Club has become completely im- 

ix. She and Janet Patton having fallen into 
variance and discord, Janet Patton called the witch 
1 Karling,' to whom she answered that she would 
give her to understand if she was a witch, and would 
try her skill upon her. And immediately afterwards, 
Janet Patton [like everybody else concerned in these 
mysterious doings] took to her bed, with a vehement, 
great, and extraordinary sickness, for one half the day, 
from her middle up, burning as in a fiery furnace, 
with an insatiable drought, which she could not slake ; 
the other half-day, melting away with sweat, and from 
her middle down as cold as ice, so that through the 
witchcraft cast upon her she died within a month. 

x. The particulars given of the case of James 
Lowe, stabler, are almost the same. He refused to 
lend his kill and barn, and on the same day he was 



seized with this remarkable sickness — half a day- 
burning hot, and half a day ice-cold. On his death- 
bed he accused Janet Wishart of being the cause of 
his misfortune, saying, " That if he had lent to her 
his kill and kilbarn, he wald haf bene ane lewand 
man." His wife and only son died of the same kind 
of disease, and his whole gear, amounting to more 
than £3,000, was altogether wracked and thrown away, 
so that there was left no memory of the said James, 
succession of his body, nor of their gear. 

xi. John Pyet, stabler, is named as another victim. 

xii. There is an air of novelty about the next case, 
that of John Allan, cutler, Janet Wishart's son-in-law. 
Quarrelling with his wife, he ' dang ' her, ' where- 
upon Mistress Allan complained to her mother, who 
immediately betook herself to her son-in-law's house, 
' bostit 7 him, and promised to gar him repent that 
ever he saw or kent her. Shortly afterwards, either 
she or the devil her master, in the likeness of a brown 
tyke, came nightly for five or six weeks to his 
window, forced it open, leaped upon the said John, 
dang and buffeted him, while always sparing his 
wife, who lay in bed with him, so that the said John 
became half-wod and furious. And this persecution 
continued, until he threatened to inform the ministry 
and kirk-session. 

xiii. The next case must be given verbatim, it is 
so striking an example of ignorant prejudice : 

' Four years since, or thereby, she came in to Walter 
Mealing's dwelling-house, in the Castlegate of Aber- 
deen, to buy wool, which they refused to sell. There- 


after, she came to the said Walter's bairn, sitting on 
her mother's knee, and the said Walter played with 
her. And she said, " This is a comely child, a fine 
child," without any further words, and would not 
say " God save her!" And before she reached the 
stair-foot, the bairn, by her witchcraft, in presence of 
both her father and mother, " cast her gall," changed 
her colour like dead, and became as weak as " ane 
pair of glwms," and melted continually away with an 
extraordinary sweating and extreme drought, which 
that same day eight days, at the same hour, she came 
in first, and then the bairn departed. And for no 
request nor command of the said Walter, nor others 
whom he directed, she would not come in again to 
the house to " visie " the bairn, although she was oft 
and divers times sent for, both by the father and 
mother of the bairn, and so by her witchcraft she 
murdered the bairn.' 

xiv. On Yule Eve, in '94, at three in the morning, 
Janet, remaining in Gilbert Mackay's stair in the 
Broadgate, perceived Bessie Schives, spouse of Robert 
Blinschell, going forth of her own house to the 
dwelling-house of James Davidson, notary, to his 
wife, who was in travail. She came down the stair, 
and cast her cantrips and witchcraft in her way, and 
the said Bessie being in perfect health of body, and 
as blithe and merry as ever she was in her days, 
when she went out of the same James Davidson's 
house, or ever she could win up her own stair, took a 
great fear and trembling that she might scarcely win 
up her own stair, and immediately after her up- 


coming, went to her naked bed, lay continually for 
the space of eighteen weeks fast bed- sick, bewitched 
by Janet Wishart, the one half-day roasting as in a 
fiery furnace, with an extraordinary kind of drought, 
that she could not be slaked, and the other half-day 
in an extraordinary kind of sweating, melting, and 
consuming her body, as a white burning candle, 
which kind of sickness is a special point of witch- 
craft ; and the said Bessie Schives saw none other 
but Janet only, who is holden and reputed a common 

xv. At Midsummer was a year or thereby, Elspeth 
Reid, her daughter-in-law, came into her house at 
three in the morning, and found her sitting, mother 
naked as she was born, at the fireside, and another 
old wife siclike mother naked, sitting between her 
shoulders [ !], making their cantrips, whom the said 
Elspeth seeing, after she said ' God speed,' immedi- 
ately went out of the house ; thereafter, on the same 
day, returned again, and asked of her, what she was 
doing with that old wife ? To whom she answered, 
that she was charming her. And as soon as the said 
Elspeth went forth again from Janet Wishart' s house, 
immediately she took an extraordinary kind of sick- 
ness, and became ' like a dead senseless fool,' and so 
continued for half a year. 

xvi. She [Janet] and her daughter, Violet Leyis, 
desired .... her woman to go with her said 
daughter, at twelve o'clock at night, to the gallows, 
and cut down the dead man hanging thereon, and 
take a part of all his members from him, and burn 


the corpse, which her servant would not do, and, 
therefore, she was instantly sent away. 

xvii. The following deposition is, however, the 
most singular of all : 

Twelve years since, or thereby, Janet came into 
Katherine Eattray's, behind the Tolbooth, and while 
she was drinking in the said Katherine's cellar, 
Katherine reproved her for drinking in her house, 
because, she said, she was a witch. Whereupon, she 
took a cup full of ale, and cast it in her face, and said 
that if she were indeed a witch, the said Katherine 
should have proof of it ; and immediately after she 
had quitted the cellar, the barm of the said Katherine's 
ale all sank to the bottom of the stand, and no had abaid 
[a bead] thereon during the space of sixteen weeks. 
And the said Katherine finding herself ' skaithit,' 
complained to her daughter, Katherine Ewin, who 
was then in close acquaintance with Janet, that she 
had bewitched her mother's ale ; and immediately 
thereafter the said Katherine Ewin called on Janet, 
and said, ' Why bewitched you my mother's ale ?' and 
requested her to help the same again. Which Janet 
promised, if Katherine Ewin obeyed her instructions 
.... to rise early before the sun, without com- 
mending herself to God, or speaking, and neither 
suining herself nor her son sucking on her breast ; to 
go, still without speaking, to the said Katherine 
Rattray's house, and not to cross any water, nor 
wash her hands; and enter into the said Katherine 
Rattray's house, where she would find her servant 
brewing, and say to her thrice, ' I to God, and thou 


to the devil!' and to restore the same barm where it 
was again ; ' and to take up thrie dwattis on the 
southt end of the gauttreyis, and thair scho suld find 
ane peice of claithe, fowr newikit, with greyn, red, 
and blew, and thrie corss of clewir girss, and cast the 
same in the fyir; quhilk beand cassin in, her barm 
suld be restorit to hir againe, lyik as it was restorit 
in effect.' And the said Katherine Ewin, when 
cracking [gossiping] with her neighbours, said she 
could learn them a charm she had gotten from Janet 
Wishart, which when the latter heard, she promised 
to do her an evil turn, and immediately her son, suck- 
ing on her breast, died. And at her first browst, or 
brewing, thereafter, the whole wort being played and 
put in ' lumes,' the doors fast, and the keys at her 
own belt, the whole wort was taken away, and the 
haill lumes fundin dry, and the floor dry, and she 
could never get trial where it yird to. And when the 
said Katherine complained to the said Janet Wishart, 
and dang herself and her good man both, for injuries 
done to her by taking of her son's life and her wort 
[which Katherine seems to have thought of about 
equal value], she promised that all should be well, 
giving her her draff for payment. And the said 
Katherine, with her husband Ambrose Gordon, being 
in their beds, could not for the space of twenty days 
be quit of a cat, lying nightly in their bed, between 
the two, and taking a great bite out of Ambrose's 
arm, as yet the place testifies, and when they gave up 
the draff, the cat went away. 

Some fourteen more charges were brought against 



her. She was tried on February 17, 1596, before the 
Provost and Baillies of Aberdeen, and found guilty 
upon eighteen counts of being a common witch and 
sorcerer. Sentence of death by burning was recorded 
against her, and she suffered on the same day as 
another reputed witch, Isabel Cocker. The expenses 
of their execution are preserved in the account-books 
of the Dean of Guild, 1596-1597, and prove that 
witch-burning was a luxury scarcely within the reach 
of the many. 


Item. For twentie loades of peattes to burne 

thame xls/i. 

Item. For ane Boile of Coillis xxiiiisA. 

Item. For four Tar barrellis xxvisA. yiiid. 

Item. For fyr and Iron barrellis xvish. wind. 

Item. For a staik and dressing of it ... ... xvish. 

Item. For four fudoms [fathoms 1] of Towis . . . iiiish. 

Item. For careing the peittis, coillis, and barrellis 

to the Hill \iiish. iiiid 

Item. To on Justice for their execution . . . xiiis/i. iiiit?. 


On several occasions commissions were issued by 
the King, in favour of the Provost and some of the 
Baillies of the burgh, and the Sheriff of the county, 
for the purpose of ' haul ding Justice Courtis on 
Witches and Sorceraris.' These commissioners gave 
warrants in their turn to the minister and elders of 
each parish in the shire, to examine parties suspected 
of witchcraft, and to frame a ' dittay ' or indictment 
against such persons. It was an inevitable result that 


all the scandalous gossip of the community was 
assiduously collected ; while any individual who had 
become, from whatsoever cause, an object of jealousy 
or dislike to her neighbours, was overwhelmed by a 
mass of hearsay or fictitious evidence, and by the 
conscious or unconscious exaggerations of ignorance, 
credulity, or malice. 

As an example of the kind of stuff stirred up by 
this parochial inquisition, I shall take the return 
furnished to the commissioners by Mr. John Ross, 
minister of Lumphanan : 

' i. Elspet Strathauchim, in Wartheil, is indicted to 
have charmed Maggie Clarke, spouse to Patrick 
Bunny, for the fevers, this last year, with " ane sleipth 
arid ane thrum " [a sleeve and thread]. She is indicted, 
this last Hallow e'en, to have brought forth of the 
house a burning coal, and buried the same in her own 
yard. She is indicted to have bewitched Adam 
Gordon, in Wark, and to have been the cause of his 
death, and that because, she coming out of his service 
without his leave, he detained some of her gear, which 
she promised to do ; and after his death wanted [to 
have it believed] that she had gotten " assythment " of 
him. She is indicted to have said to Marcus Gillam, 
at the Burn of Camphil, that none of his bairns 
should live, because he would not marry her ; which 
is come to pass, for two of them are dead. She is 
indicted continually to have resorted to Margaret 
Baine her company. 

' ii. Isabel Forbes. — She is indicted to have 
bewitched Gilbert Makim, in Glen Mallock, with a 


spindle, a "rok," and a ''foil ;" as Isabel Ritchie like- 
wise testified. 

' iii. James Og is indicted to have passed on Rud- 
day, five years since, through Alexander Cobain's 
corn, and have taken nine stones from his "avine rig " 
[corn-rick], and cast on the said Alexander's "rig," 
and to have taken nine "lokis" [handfuls] of meal 
from the said Alexander's " rig," and cast on his own. 
He is indicted to have bewitched a cow belonging to 
the said Alexander, which he bought from Kristane 
Burnet, of Cloak ; this cow, though his wife had 
received milk from her the first night, and the morn- 
ing thereafter, gave no milk from that time forth, but 
died within half a year. He is indicted to have 
passed, five years since, on Lammas-Day, through 
the said Alexander's corn, and having " gaine nyne 
span," to have struck the corn with nine strokes of a 
white wand, so that nothing grew that year but 
" fichakis." He is indicted that, in the year aforesaid 
or thereabouts, having corn to dry, he borrowed fire 
from his neighbour, haining of his avine them 
presently ; and took a " brine " of the corn on his 
back, and cast it three times " woodersonis " [or 
" withersonis," ut supra, that is, west to east, in the 
direction contrary to the sun's course] above the 
" kill." He is indicted that, three years since, 
Alexander Cobaine being in Leith, with the Laird 
of Cors, his " wittual," he came up early one morn- 
ing, at the back of the said Alexander's yard, with 
a dish full of water in his hand, and to have cast the 
water in the gate to the said Alexander's door, and 


then perceiving that David Duguid, servant to the 
said Alexander, was beholding him, to have fled 
suddenly ; which the said David also testifies. 

'iv. Agnes Frew. — She is indicted to have taken 
three hairs out of her own cow's tail, and to have cut 
the same in small pieces, and to have put them in her 
cow's throat, which thereafter gave milk, and the 
neighbours' none. Also, she is indicted that [she 
took] William Browne's calf in her axter, and 
charmed the same, as, also, she took the clins [hoofs] 
from forefeitt aff it, with a piece of " euerry bing," 
and caused the said William's wife to " yeird " the 
same ; which the said William's wife confessed, albeit 
not in this manner. Also, she took up Alexander 
Tailzier's calf, lately [directly] after it was calved, and 
carried it three times about the cow. Also, she was 
seen casting a horse's fosser on a cow. 

' v. Isabel Roby. — She is indicted to have bidden her 
gudeman, when he went to St. Fergus to buy cattle, 
that if he bought any before his home-coming, he should 
go three times " woodersonis " about them, and then 
take three " ruggis " off a dry hillock, and fetch home 
to her. Also, that dwelling at Ardmair, there came in 
a poor man craving alms, to whom she offered milk, 
but he refused it, because, as he then presently said, 
she had three folks' milk and her own in the pan ; and 
when Elspet Mackay, then present, wondered at it, 
he said, " Marvel not, for she has thy farrow k}^e's 
milk also in her pan." Also, she is commonly seen 
in the form of a hare, passing through the town, for 
as soon as the hare vanishes out of sight, she appears.' 


' vi. Margaret Rianch, in Green Cottis, was seen in 
the dawn of the day by James Stevens embracing 
every nook of John Donaldson's house three times, 
who continually thereafter was diseased, and at last 
died. She said to John Ritchie, when he took a tack 
[a piece of ground] in the Green Cottis, that his gear 
from that day forth should continually decay, and so 
it came to pass. Also, she cast a number of stones 
in a tub, amongst water, which thereafter was seen 
dancing. When she clips her sheep, she turns the 
bowl of the shears three times in their mouth. Also, 
James Stevens saw her meeting John Donaldson's 
" hoggs " [sheep a year old] in the burn of the Green 
Cottis, and casting the water out between her feet 
backward, in the sheep's face, and so they all died. 
Also she confessed to Patrick Gordon, of Kincragie, 
and James Gordon, of Drumgase, that the devil was in 
the bed between her and William Ritchie, her harlot, 
and he was upon them both, and that if she happened 
to die for witchcraft, that he [Ritchie] should also die, 
for if she was a devil, he was too. 

'There are three of these persons, Elspeet Strath- 
auchim, James Og, and Agnes Frew, whose accusa- 
tions the Presbytery of Kincardine, within whose 
bounds they dwell, counted insufficient, having duly 
considered the whole circumstances, always remitted 
them to the trial of an assize, if the judges thought it 

' [Signed] Mr. Jhone Ros, 

' Minister at Lumphanan.' 


It would not be easy to find a more painful exhibi- 
tion of clerical ignorance and incapacity. Probably 
many of the allegations which Mr. John Ross records 
are true, as the practice of charms was common 
enough among the peasantry both of Scotland and 
England, and is even yet not wholly extinct ; but, 
taken altogether, they did not amount to witchcraft, the 
very essence of which was a compact with the devil, 
and in no one of the preceding cases is such a compact 
mentioned. And one must take the existence of the 
gross superstition and credulity which is here 
disclosed to be irrefutable testimony that, as a pastor 
and teacher, Mr. John Ross was a signal failure at 

I have already alluded to those pathetic instances of 
self-delusion in which the reputed witch has been her 
own enemy, and furnished the evidence needed for her 
condemnation in her own confession — a confession of 
acts which she must have known had never occurred; 
building up a strange fabric of fiction, and perishing 
beneath its weight. It would seem as if some of 
these unfortunate women came to believe in them- 
selves because they found that others believed in 
them, and assumed that they really possessed the 
powers of witchcraft because their neighbours insisted 
that it was so. Nor will this be thought such an 
improbable explanation when it is remembered that 
history affords more than one example of prophets 
and founders of new religions whom the enthusiastic 
devotion of their followers has persuaded into a 


belief in the authenticity of the credentials which 
they themselves had originally forged, and the truth 
of the revelations which they had invented. 

From this point of view a profound interest 
attaches to the official ' dittay ' or accusation against 
one Helen Fraser, who was convicted and sentenced to 
death in April, 1597, since it shows that she was 
condemned principally upon the evidence which she 
herself supplied : 

' i. John Ramsay, in Newburght, being sick of a 
consuming disease, sent to her house, in Aikinshill, 
to seek relief, and was told by her that she would do 
what lay in her power for the recovery of his health ; 
but bade him keep secret whatever she spake or did, 
because the world was evil, and spoke no good of 
such mediciners. She commanded the said John to 
rise early in the morning, to eat " sourrakis " about 
sunrise, while the dew was still upon them ; also to eat 
" valcars," and to make "lavrie " kale and soup. More- 
over, to sit down in a door, before the fowls flew to their 
roost, and to open his breast, that when the fowls flew 
to the roost over him he might receive the wind of 
their wings about his breast, for that was very profit- 
able to loose his heart-pipes, which were closed. But 
before his departure from her, she made him sit down, 
bare-headed, on a stool, and said an orison thrice upon 
his head, in which she named the Devil. 

' ii. Item. — The said Helen publicly confessed in 
Foverne, after her apprehension, that she was a 
common abuser of the people; and that, further, to 
sustain' herself and her bairns, she pretended know- 


ledge which she had not, and undertook to do things 
which she could not. This was her answer, when she 
was accused by the minister of Foverne, for that she 
abused the people, and when he inquired the cause of 
her evil report throughout the whole country. This 
she confessed upon the green of Foverne, before the 
laird, the minister, and reader of Foverne, Patrick 
Findlay in Newburght, and James Menzies at the 
New Mills of Foverne. 

' iii. Item. — Janet Ingram, wife to Adam Finnie, 
dwelling for the time at the West burn, in Balhelueis, 
being sick, and affirming herself to be bewitched, for 
she herself was esteemed by all men to be a witch, she 
sent for the said Helen Frazer to cure her. The said 
Helen came, and tarried with her till her departure 
and burial, and at her coming assured the said Janet 
that within a short time she would be well enough. 
But the sickness of the said Janet increased, and was 
turned into a horrible fury and madness, in such sort 
that she always and incessantly blasphemed, and 
pressed at all times to climb up the wall after the 
" heillis" and scraped the wall with her hands. After 
that she had been grievously vexed for the space of 
two days from the coming of Helen Frazer, her 
mediciner, to her, she departed this life. Being dead, 
her husband went to charge his neighbours to convey 
her burial, but before his returning, or the coming of 
any neighbour to the carryiug of the corpse, the said 
Helen Frazer, together with two or three daughters of 
the said Janet (whereof one yet living, to wit, Malye 
Finnie, in the Blairtoun of Balhelueis, is counted a 


witch), had taken up the corpse, and had carried her, 
they alone, the half of the distance to the kirk, until 
they came to the Moor of Cowhill ; when the said 
Adam and others his neighbours came to them, and at 
their coming the said Helen fled away through the 
moss to Aikinshill, and went no further towards the 

' iv. Item. — A horse of Duncan Alexander, in New- 
burcht, being bewitched, the said Helen translated 
the sickness from the horse to a young cow of 
the said Duncan ; which cow died, and was cast 
into the burn of the Newburcht, for no man would 
eat her. 

'v. Item. — 'The said Helen made a compact with 
certain laxis fishers of the Newburcht, at the kirk of 
Foverne, in Mallie Skryne's house, and promised to 
cause them to fish well, and to that effect received of 
them a piece of salmon to handle at her pleasure for 
accomplishing the matter. Upon the morrow she 
came to the Newburcht, to the house of John 
Ferguson, a laxis fisher, and delivered unto him in a 
closet four cuts of salmon with a penny ; after that 
she called him out of his own house, from the com- 
pany that was there drinking with him, and bade him 
put the same in the horn of his coble, and he should 
have a dozen of fish at the first shot ; which came to 

' vi. Item. — The said Helen, by witchcraft, enticed 
Gilbert Davidson, son to William Davidson, in 
Lytoune of Meanye, to love and marry Margaret 
Strauthachin (in the Hill of Balgrescho) directly 



against the will of his parents, to the utter wreck 
of the said Gilbert. 

'vii. Item. — At the desire of the said Margaret 
Strauthachin, by witchcraft, the said Helen made 
Catherine Fetchil, wife to William Davidson, furious, 
because she was against the marriage, and took 
the strength of her left side and arm from her ; in 
the which fury and feebleness the said Catherine 

' viii. Item. — The said Helen, at the desire of the 
foresaid Margaret Strauthachin, bewitched William 
Hill, dwelling for the time at the Hill of Balgrescho, 
through which he died in a fury [i.e., a fit of 
delirium] . 

' ix. Moreover, at the desire foresaid, the said Helen 
by witchcraft slew an ox belonging to the said William ; 
for while Patrick Hill, son to the said William, and 
herd to his father, called in the cattle to the fold, at 
twelve o'clock, the said Helen was sitting in the yeite, 
and immediately after the outcoming of the cattle out . 
of the fold, the best ox of the whole herd instantly died. 

' x. Item — The said Helen counselled Christane 
Henderson, vulgarly called mickle Christane, to put 
one hand to the crown of her head, and the other to 
the sole of her foot, and so surrender whatever was 
between her hands, and she should want nothing that 
she could wish or desire. 

' xi. Item. — The said Christane Henderson, being 
henwife in Foverne, the young fowls died thick ; for 
remedy whereof, the said Helen bade the said 
Christane take all the chickens or young fowls, and 


draw them through the link of the crook, and take 
the hindmost, and slay with a fiery stick, which thing 
being practised, none died thereafter that year. 

' xii. Item. — When the said Helen was dwelling- in 
the Moorhill of Foverne, there came a hare betimes, 
and sucked a milch cow pertaining to William 
Findlay, at the Mill of the Newburght, whose house 
was directly afornent the said Helen's house, on the 
other side of the Burn of Foverne, wherethrough the 
cow pined away, and gave blood instead of milk. 
This mischief was by all men attributed to the said 
Helen, and she herself cannot deny but she was 
commonly evil spoken of for it, and affirmed, after her 
apprehension at Foverne, that she was so slandered. 

' xiii. Item. — When Alexander Hardy, inAikinshill, 
departed this life, it grieved and troubled his con- 
science very mickle, that he had been a defender of the 
said Helen, and especially that he, accompanied with 
Malcolm Forbes, travailed, against their conscience, 
with sundry of the assessors when she suffered an 
assize, and especially with the Chancellor of the 
Assize, in her favour, he knowing evidently her to be 
guilty of death. 

' xiv. Item. — The said Helen being a domestic in 
the said Alexander Hardy's house, disagreed with 
one of the said Alexander's servants, named Andrew 
Skene, and intending to bewitch the said servant, the 
evil fell upon Alexander, and he died thereof. 

' xv. Item. — When Robert Goudyne, now in 
Balgrescho, was dwelling in Blairtoun of Balhe- 
luies, a discord fell out betwixt Elizabeth Dempster, 



nurse to the said Robert for the time, and Chris tane 
Henderson, one of the said Helen's familiars, as her 
own confession aforesaid purports, and the country 
well knows. Upon the which discord, the said 
Christane threatened the said Elizabeth with an evil 
turn, and to the performing thereof, brought the said 
Helen Frazer to the said Robert's house, and caused 
her to repair oft thereto. After what time, immedi- 
ately both the said Elizabeth and the infant to whom 
she gave suck, by the devilry of the said Helen, fell 
into a consuming sickness, whereof both died. And 
also Elspet Cheyne, spouse to the said Robert, fell into 
the selfsame sickness, and was heavily diseased thereby 
for the space of two years before the recovery of his 

' xvi. Item. — By witchcraft the said Helen abstracted 
and withdrew the love and affection of Andrew Tilli- 
duff of Rainstoune, from his spouse Isabel Cheyne, to 
Margaret Neilson, and so mightily bewitched him, 
that he could never be reconciled with his wife, or 
remove his affection from the said harlot ; and when 
the said Margaret was begotten with child, the said 
Helen conveyed her away to Cromar to obscure the 

' xvii. Item. — Wherever the said Helen is known, or 
has repaired there many years bygone, she has been, 
and is reported by all, of whatsoever estate or sex, to 
be a common and abominable witch, and to have 
learned the same of the late Maly Skene, spouse to 
the late Cowper Watson, with whom, during her life- 
time, the said Helen had continual society. The 


said Maly was bruited to be a rank witch, and her 
said husband suffered death for the same crime. 

' xviii. Item. — When Robert Merchant, in the New- 
brucht, had contracted marriage, and holden house 
for the space of two years with the late Christane 
White, it happened to him to pass to the Moorhill of 
Foverne, to sow corn to the late Isabel Bruce, the 
relict of the late Alexander Frazer, the said Helen 
Frazer being familiar and actually resident in the 
house of the said Isabel, she was there at his coming : 
from the which time forth the said Robert found his 
affection violently and extraordinarily drawn away from 
the said Christane to the said Isabel, a great love being 
betwixt him and the said Christane always thereto- 
fore, and no break of love, or discord, falling out or 
intervening upon either of their parts, which thing 
the country supposed and spake to be brought about 
by the unlawful travails of the said Helen. 

'[Signed] Thomas Tilideff, 

' Minister, at Fovern, with my hand. 

' Item. — A common witch by open voice and com- 
mon fame.' 

I have given this ' dittay ' in full, from a convic- 
tion that no summary would do justice to its terrible 
simplicity. Upon the evidence which it afforded, 
Helen Frazer was brought before the Court of 
Justiciary, in Aberdeen, on April 21, 1597, and 
found guilty in ' fourteen points of witchcraft and 


The burning of witches went merrily on, so that 
the authorities of Aberdeen were compelled to get in 
an adequate stock of fuel. We note in the municipal 
accounts, under the date of March 10, that there 
was ' bocht be the comptar, and laid in be him in 
the seller in the Chappell of the Castel hill, ane 
chalder of coillis, price thairof, with the bieing and 
metting of the same, xvi/$. iiiis/j.' As is usually the 
case, the frequency of these sad exhibitions whetted at 
first the public appetite for them ; it grew by what it 
fed on. One of the items of expense in the execution 
of a witch named Margaret Clerk, is for carrying of 
' four sparris, to withstand the press of the pepill, 
quhairof thair was twa broken, viiis. viiid.' 

Among the victims committed to the flames in 
1596-97, we read the names of Katherine Fergus and 
[Sculdr], Issobel Richie, Margaret Og, Helene Rodger, 
Elspet Hendersoun, Katherine Gerard, Christin Reid, 
Jenet Grant, Helene Frasser, Katherine Ferrers, Helene 
Gray, Agnes Vobster, Jonat Douglas, Agnes Smelie, 
Katherine Alshensur, and ane other witche, callit 
. . . .' — seventeen in all. That during their im- 
prisonment they were treated with barbarous rigour, 
may be inferred from the following entries : 

Item. To Alexander Eeid, smyth, for twa pair of 

scheckellis to the Witches in the Stepill . . . xxxiis^. 

Item. To John Justice, for burning vpon the cheik 
of four seurerall personis suspect of witchcraft 
and baneschit ... ... ... ... ... xxvish. viiid. 

Item. Givin to Alexander Home for macking of 
joggis, stapittis, and lockis to the witches, during 
the haill tynie forsaid ... ... ... ... xlvis/t. viiid 

Expense on Witches ... ... aucht-score, xMili. xviish. iiiie?. 


On September 21, 1597, the Provost, Baillies 
and Council of Aberdeen considered the faithfulness 
shown by William Dun, the Dean of Guild, in the 
discharge of his duty, ' and, besides this, his extra- 
ordinarily taking pains in the burning of the great 
number of the witches burnt this year, and on the four 
pirates, and bigging of the port on the Brig of Dee, 
repairing of the Grey Friars kirk and steeple thereof, 
and thereby has been abstracted from his trade of 
merchandise, continually since he was elected in the 
said office. Therefore, in recompense of his extra- 
ordinary pains, and in satisfaction thereof (not to 
induce any preparative to Deans of Guild to crave a 
recompense hereafter), but to encourage others to 
travail as diligently in the discharge of their office, 
granted and assigned to him the sum of forty-seven 
pounds three shillings and fourpence, owing by him 
of the rest of his compt of the unlawis [fines] of the 
persons convict for slaying of black fish, and dis- 
charged him thereof by their presents for ever.' 

At length a wholesome reaction took place; the 
public grew weary of the number of executions, and, 
encouraged by this changes of sentiment, person 
accused of witchcraft boldly rebutted the charge, and 
laid complaints against their accusers for defamation 
of character. In official circles, it is true, a belief in 
the alleged crime lingered long. As late as 1669, 
' the new and old Councils taking into their serious 
consideration that many malefices were committed 
and done by several persons in this town, who are 
mala fama, and suspected guilty of witchcraft upon 


many of the inhabitants of this town, several ways, 
and that it will be necessary for suppressing the like 
in time coining, and for punishing the said persons 
who shall be found guilty ; therefore they do unanim- 
ously conclude and ordain that any such person, who 
is suspect of the like malefices, may be seized upon, 
and put in prisoun, and that a Commission be sent 
for, for putting of them to trial, that condign justice 
may be executed upon them, as the nature of the 
offence does merit.' No more victims, however, were 
sacrificed ; nor does it appear that any accusation of 
witchcraft was preferred. 

According to Sir Walter Scott, a woman was burnt 
as a witch in Scotland as late as 1722, by Captain 
Ross, sheriff-depute of Sutherland ; but this was, 
happily, an exceptional barbarity, and for some years 
previously the pastime of witch-burning had practically 
been extinct. It is a curious fact that educated Scotch- 
men, as I have already noted, retained their super- 
stition long after the common people had abandoned 
it. In 1730, Professor Forbes, of Glasgow, published 
his ' Institutes of the Law of Scotland,' in which he 
spoke of witchcraft as ' that black art whereby strange 
and wonderful things are wrought by power derived 
from the devil,' and added: ' Nothing seems plainer to 
me than that there may be and have been witches, 
and that perhaps such are now actually existing.' 
Six years later, the Seceders from the Church of 
Scotland, who professed to be the true representatives 
of its teaching, strongly condemned the repeal of the 
laws against witchcraft, as ' contrary,' they said, ' to 


the express letter of the law of Grod.' But they were 
hopelessly behind the time; public opinion, as the 
result of increased intelligence, had numbered witch- 
craft among the superstitions of the past, and we may 
confidently predict that its revival is impossible. 




It should teach us humility when we find a belief in 
witchcraft and demonology entertained not only by 
the uneducated and unintelligent classes, but also by 
the men of light and leading, the scholar, the 
philosopher, the legislator, who might have been 
expected to have risen above so degrading a super- 
stition. It would be manifestly unfair to direct our 
reproaches at the credulous prejudices of the multitude 
when Francis Bacon, the great apostle of the experi- 
mental philosophy, accepts the crude teaching of his 
royal master's ' Demonologie/ and actually discusses 
the ingredients of the celebrated 'witches' ointment,' 
opining that they should all be of a soporiferous 
character, such as henbane, hemlock, moonshade, 
mandrake, opium, tobacco, and saffron. The weak- 
ness of Sir Matthew Hale, to which reference has been 
made in a previous chapter, we cannot very strongly 
condemn, when we know that it was shared by Sir 
Thomas Browne, who had so keen an eye for the 
errors of the common people, and whose fine and 
liberal genius throws so genial a light over the pages 


of the ' Religio Medici.' In his ' History of the 
World,' that consummate statesman, poet, and scholar, 
Sir Walter Raleigh, gravely supports the vulgar 
opinions which nowadays every Board School 
alumnus would reject with disdain. Even the 
philosopher of Malmesbury, the sagacious author of 
' The Leviathan,' Thomas Hobbes, was infected by 
the prevalent delusion. Dr. Cudworth, to whom we 
owe the acute reasoning of the treatises on ' Moral 
Good and Evil,' and ' The True Intellectual System 
of the Universe,' firmly holds that the guilt of a 
reputed witch might be determined by her inability 
or unwillingness to repeat the Lord's Prayer. 
Strangest of it all is it to find the pure and lofty 
spirit of Henry More, the founder of the school of 
English Platonists, yielding to the general super- 
stition. With large additions of his own, he re- 
published the Rev. Joseph Glanvill's notorious work, 
' Sadducismus Triumphatus ' — a pitiful example of 
the extent to which a fine intellect may be led 
astray, though Mr. Lecky thinks it the most power- 
ful defence of witchcraft ever published. And the 
sober and fair-minded Robert Boyle, in the midst of 
his scientific researches, found time to listen, with 
breathless interest, to 'stories of witches at Oxford, 
and devils at Muston.' 

Among the Continental authorities on witchcraft, 
the chief of those who may be called its advocates 
are, Martin Antonio Delrio (1551-1608), who pub- 
lished, in the closing years of the sixteenth century, 
his ' Disquisitionarum Magicarum Libri Sex,' a for- 


midable folio, brimful of credulity and ingenuity, 
which was translated into French by Duchesne in 
1611, and has been industriously pilfered from by 
numerous later writers. Delrio has no pretensions 
to critical judgment ; he swallows the most monstrous 
inventions with astounding facility. 

Reference must also be made to the writings of 
Remigius, included in Pez' ' Thesaurus Anecdotorum 
Novissimus,' and to the great work by H. Institor 
and J. Sprenger, ' Malleus Maleficarum/ as well as to 
Basin, Molitor (' Dialogus de Lamiis '), and other 
authors, to be found in the 1582 edition of ' Mallei 
quorundam Maleficarum,' published at Frankfort. 

On the same side we find the great philosophical 
lawyer and historian John Bodin (1530-1596), the 
author of the ' Republics,' and the ' Methodus ad 
facilem Historiarum Cognitionem.' In his ' Demono- 
manie des Sorcius ' he recommends the burning of 
witches and wizards with an earnestness which should 
have gone far to compensate for his heterodoxy on 
other points of belief and practice. He informs us 
that from his thirty-seventh year he had been attended 
by a familiar spirit or demon, which touched his ear 
whenever he was about to do anything of which his 
conscience disapproved ; and he quotes passages from 
the Psalms, Job, and Isaiah, to prove that spirits 
indicate their presence to men by touching and even 
pulling their ears, and not only by vocal utterances. 

Also, Thomas Erastus (1524-1583), physician and 
controversialist, who took so busy a part in the 
theological dissensions of his time. In 1577 he 


published a tract (' De Lamiis ') on the lawfulness of 
putting witches to death. It is strange that he should 
have been mastered by the gross imposture of witch- 
craft, when he could expose with trenchant force the 
pretensions of alchemists, astrologers, and Rosi- 

Happily, the cause of humanity, truth and toler- 
ance was not without its eager and capable defenders. 
The earliest I take to have been the Dutch physician, 
Wierus, who, in his treatise ' De Prasstigiis,' pub- 
lished at Basel in 1564, vigorously attacked the cruel 
prejudice that had doomed so many unhappy creatures 
to the stake. He did not, however, deny the existence 
of witchcraft, but demanded mercy for those who 
practised it on the ground that they were the devil's 
victims, not his servants. That he should have 
been wholly devoid of credulity would have been 
more than one could rightly have expected of a 
disciple of Cornelius Agrippa. 

A stronger and much more successful assailant 
appeared in Reginald Scot (died 1599), a younger 
son of Sir John Scot, of Scot's Hall, near Smeeth, who 
published his celebrated ' Discoverie of Witchcraft ' in 
1584 — a book which, in any age, would have been 
remarkable for its sweet humanity, breadth of view, 
and moderation of tone, as well as for its literary 
excellencies. One wonders where this quiet Kentish 
gentleman, whose chief occupations appear to have 
been gardening and planting, accumulated his eru- 
dition, and how, in the face of the superstitions of 
his contemporaries, he arrived at such large and 


liberal conclusions. The scope of his great work is 
indicated in its lengthy title: ' The Discoverie 
of Witchcraft, wherein the lewd dealing of Witches 
and Witchmongers is notablie detected, the knaverie 
of conjurers, the impietie of enchanters, the follie of 
sooth saiers, the impudent falsehood of couseners, the 
infidelitie of atheists, the pestilent practices of Pytho- 
nists, the curiositie of figure-casters [horoscope- 
makers], the vanitie of dreamers, the beggarlie art 
of Alcumystrie, the abhomination of idolatrie, the 
horrible art of poisoning, the vertue and power of 
naturall magike, and all the conveyances of Legierde- 
main and juggling are deciphered : and many other 
things opened, which have long lain hidden, howbeit 
verie necessarie to be knowne. Heerevnto is added a 
treatise upon the Nature and Substance of Spirits and 
Devils, etc. : all latelie written by Reginald Scot, 
Esquire. 1 John iv. 1 : " Believe not everie spirit, 
but trie the spirits, whether they are of God; for 
many false prophets are gone out into the world." 

From a book so well known — a new edition has 
recently appeared — it is needless to make extracts ; 
but I transcribe a brief passage in illustration of the 
vivacity and manliness of the writer : 

' I, therefore (at this time), do only desire you to 
consider of my report concerning the evidence that is 
commonly brought before you against them. See first 
wmether the evidence be not frivolous, and whether 
the proofs brought against them be not incredible, 
consisting of guesses, presumptions, and impossi- 
bilities contrary to reason, Scripture, and nature. See 
also what persons complain upon them, whether they 


be not of the basest, the unwisest, and the most faith- 
less kind of people. Also, may it please you, to weigh 
what accusations and crimes they lay to their charge, 
namely: She was at my house of late, she would have 
had a pot of milk, she departed in a chafe because she 
had it not, she railed, she cursed, she mumbled and 
whispered; and, finally, she said she would be even 
with me: and soon after my child, my cow, my sow, 
or my pullet died, or was strangely taken. Nay (if it 
please your Worship), I have further proof: I was 
with a wise woman, and she told me I had an ill 
neighbour, and that she would come to my house ere 
it was long, and so did she; and that she had a mark 
about her waist, and so had she: God forgive me, 
my stomach hath gone against her a great while. 
Her mother before her was counted a witch ; she hath 
been beaten and scratched by the face till blood was 
drawn upon her, because she hath been suspected, and 
afterwards some of those persons were said to amend. 
These are the certainties that I hear in their evidences. 
'Note, also, how easily they may be brought to 
confess that which they never did, nor lieth in the 
power of man to do ; and then see whether I have 
cause to write as I do. Further, if you shall see that 
infidelity, popery, and many other manifest heresies 
be backed and shouldered, and their professors ani- 
mated and heartened, by yielding to creatures such 
infinite power as is wrested out of God's hand, and 
attributed to witches: finally, if you shall perceive 
that I have faithfully and truly delivered and set 
down the condition and state of the witch, and also 
of the witchmonger, and have confuted by reason and 


law, and by the Word of God itself, all mine adversary's 
objections and arguments ; then let me have your 
countenance against them that maliciously oppose 
themselves against me. 

' My greatest adversaries are young ignorance and 
old custom. For what folly soever tract of time hath 
fostered, it is so superstitiously pursued of some, as 
though no error could be acquainted with custom. 
But if the law of nations would join with such 
custom, to the maintenance of ignorance and to the 
suppressing of knowledge, the civilest country in 
the world would soon become barbarous. For as 
knowledge and time discovereth errors, so doth super- 
stition and ignorance in time breed them.' 

In another fine passage Scot says : 

' God that knoweth my heart is witness, and 
you that read my book shall see, that my drift 
and purpose in this enterprise tendeth only to 
these respects. First, that the glory and power of 
God be not so abridged and abused, as to be thrust 
into the hand or lip of a lewd old woman, whereby 
the work of the Creator should be attributed to the 
power of a creature. Secondly, that the religion of 
the Gospel may be seen to stand without such peevish 
trumpery. Thirdly, that lawful favour and Christian 
compassion be rather used towards these poor souls 
than rigour and extremity. Because they which are 
commonly accused of witchcraft are the least sufficient 
of all other persons to speak for themselves, as having 
the most base and simple education of all others ; the 
extremity of their age giving them leave to dote, their 


poverty to beg, their wrongs to chide and threaten 
(as being void of any other way of revenge), their 
humour melancholical to be full of imaginations, from 
whence chiefly proceedeth the vanity of their con- 
fessions, as that they can transform themselves and 
others into apes, owls, asses, dogs, cats, etc. ; that 
they can fly in the air, kill children with charms, 
hinder the coming of butter, etc. 

' And for so much as the mighty help themselves 
together, and the poor widow's cry, though it reach 
to heaven, is scarce heard here upon earth, I thought 
good (according to my poor ability) to make inter- 
cession, that some part of common rigour and some 
points of hasty judgment may be advised upon. For 
the world is now at that stay (as Brentius, in a most 
godly sermon, in these words amrmeth), that even, as 
Avhen the heathen persecuted the Christians, if any 
were accused to believe in Christ, the common people 
cried Ad leonem ; so now, of any woman, be she never 
so honest, be she accused of witchcraft, they cry Ad 
ignem. ' 

Scot's attack upon the credulity of his contempo- 
raries, strenuous and capable as it was, did not bear 
much fruit at the time ; while it exposed him to 
charges of Atheism and Sadduceeism from several 
small critics, who were supported by the authority of 
James I., and, at a later date, of Dr. Meric Casaubon. 
He found a fellow-labourer, however, in his work of 
humanity, in the Rev. George Gifford, of Maid on, 
Essex, who in 1593 published 'A Dialogue concern- 



ing Witches and Witchcraft, in which ' is layed open 
how craftily the Divell deceiveth not only the Witches 
but Many other, and so leadeth them awaie into 
Manie Great Errours.' It will be seen from the title 
that the writer does not adopt the uncompromising 
line of Reginald Scot, but inclines rather to the 
standpoint of Wierus. There is, however, a good 
deal of ability in his treatment of the question ; and 
some account of the ' Dialogue' reprinted by the Percy 
Society in 1842, should be interesting, I think, to the 

The interlocutors are named Samuel, Daniel, 
Samuel's wife, M. B., a schoolmaster, and the good- 
wife R. 

The dialogue opens with Samuel and Daniel, the 
former of whom is a fanatical believer in witches. 
' These evil-favoured old witches,' he says, ' do trouble 
me.' He repeats the common rumour that there is 
scarcely a town or village in the shire but has one or 
two witches in it. ' In good sooth,' he adds, ' I may 
tell it to you as to my friend, when I go but into 
my closes, I am afraid, for I see now and then a hare, 
which my conscience giveth me is a witch, or some 
witch's spirit, she stareth so upon me. And sometime 
I see an ugly weasel run through my yard; and there 
is a foul, great cat sometimes in my barn, which I 
have no liking unto.' Having introduced his friend, 
who is less credulous than himself, to his wife and 
his home, he promotes an argument between him and 
another friend, M. B., a schoolmaster, on this qucestio 


M. B. starts with a good deal of fervour : 

' The word of God doth show plainly that there be witches, 
and commandeth they should be put to death. Experience hath 
taught too many what harms they do. And if any have the gift 
to minister help against them, shall we refuse it V 

But after some discussion he agrees, at Daniel's 
instance, to consider the subject in a spirit of sober 
argument ; and the first question they take up is : 
' Are there witches that work by the Devil ?' The 
conversation then proceeds as follows : 

Daniel. It is so evident by the Scriptures, and in all experience, 
that there be witches which work by the devil, or rather, I may 
say, the devil worketh by them, that such as go about to prove 
the contrary, do show themselves but cavillers. 

M. B. I am glad we agree on that point ; I hope we shall in 
the rest. What say you to this ? That the witches have their 
spirits. Some hath one ; some hath more, as two, three, four, or 
five. Some in one likeness and some in another, as like cats, 
weasels, toads, or mice, whom they nourish with milk or with a 
chicken, or by letting them suck now and then a drop of blood, 
whom they call if they be offended with any, and send them to 
hurt them in their bodies, yea, to kill them, and to kill their 

Daniel. Here is great deceit, and great illusion ; here the 
Devil leadeth the ignorant people into foul errors, by which he 
draweth them headlong into many grievous sins. 

M. B. Nay, then, I see you are awry, if you deny these things, 
and say they be but illusions. ... I did dwell in a village within 
these five years where there was a man of good wealth, and sud- 
denly, within ten days' space, he had three kine died, his gelding, 
worth ten pounds, fell lame, he was himself taken with a great 
pain in his back, and a child of seven years old died. He sent to 
the woman at R. H., and she said he was plagued by a witch, 
adding, moreover, that there were three women witches in that 
town, and one man witch, willing him to look whom he most 
suspected. He suspected an old woman, and caused her to be 
carried before a justice of peace and examined. With much ado 
at the last she confessed all, which was this in effect — that she 



had three spirits, one like a cat, which she called Lightfoot; another 
like a toad, which she called Lunch ; the third like a weasel, 
which she called Makeshift This Lightfoot, she said, one Mother 
Bailey, of W., sold her above sixteen years ago, for an oven-cake, 
and told her the cat would do her good service ; if she would, she 
might send her of her errands. This cat was with her but a 
while, but the weasel and the toad came and offered their service. 
The cat would kill kine, the weasel would kill horses, the toad 
would plague men in their bodies. She sent them all three (as 
she confessed) against this man. She was committed to the 
prison, and there she died before the assizes. 

Daniel then strikes into the conversation, enlarging 
on the Scriptural description of devils as ' mighty and 
terrible spirits, full of rage and power and cruelty' — 
principalities and powers, the rulers of the darkness 
of this world — and forcibly insisting that if spirits so 
awful and potential as these assumed the shapes of 
such paltry vermin as cats, mice, toads, and weasels, 
it must be out of subtilty to cover and hide the 
mighty tyranny and power which they exercise over 
the hearts of the wicked. And he argues that such 
spirits would never deign to be a witch's servant or 
to do her bidding. M. B. contends, however, that, 
although he be lord, yet is he content to serve her 
turn ; and the witches confess, he says, that they call 
forth their demons, and send them on what errands 
they please, and hire them to hurt in their bodies and 
their cattle those against whom they cherish angry 
and revengeful feelings. ' I am sorry,' says Daniel 
mildly, ' you are so far awry ; it is a pity any man 
should be in such error, especially a man that hath 
learning, and should teach others knowledge.' 

After some further disputation, M. B. is brought to 


admit that God giveth the devils power to plague and 
seduce because of man's wickedness; but he asks 
whether a godly, faithful man or woman may not be 
bewitched. We see, he says, that the devil had 
power given him of old, as over Job. But Daniel 
w T ill not admit that this is a case in point, because it 
is not said that the devil dealt with Job through 
the agency of witches. Thereupon Samuel, perceiv- 
ing the drift of his argument to be that the devil has 
no need to act by instruments so mean and even 
degraded, and would assuredly never be at their com- 
mand ; that, consequently, there can be no witchcraft, 
because there is no necessity for it, suddenly inter- 
poses : 

'With your leave, M. B., I would ask two or three questions of 
my friend. There was but seven miles hence, at W. H., one M. ; 
the man was of good wealth, and well accounted of among his 
neighbours. He pined away with sickness half a year, and at 
last died. After he was dead, his wife suspected ill-dealing. She 
went to a cunning man, who told her that her husband died of 
witchery, and asked her if she did not suspect any. Yes, there 
was one woman she did not like, one Mother W. ; her husband 
and she fell out, and he fell sick within two days after, and never 
recovered. He showed her the woman as plain in a glass as we 
see one another, and taught her how she might bring her to 
confess. Well, she followed his counsel, went home, caused her 
to be apprehended and carried before a justice of peace. He 
examined her so wisely that in the end she confessed she killed 
the man. She was sent to prison, she was arraigned, condemned, 
and executed ; and upon the ladder she seemed very penitent, 
desiring all the world to forgive her. She said she had a spirit in 
the likeness of a yellow dun cat. This cat came unto her, as she 
said, as she sat by the fire, when she was fallen out with a 
neighbour of hers, and wished that the vengeance of God might 
light upon him and his. The cat bade her not be afraid; she 
would do her no harm. She had served a dame five years in 


Kent that was now dead, and, if she would, she would be her 
servant. " And whereas," said the cat, " such a man hath mis- 
used thee, if thou wilt I will plague him in his cattle." She 
sent the cat ; she killed three hogs and one cow. The man, 
suspecting, burnt a fig alive, and, as she said, her cat would never 
go thither any more. Afterward she fell out with that M. She 
sent her cat, who told her that she had given him that which he 
should never recover ; and, indeed, the man died. Now, do you 
not think the woman spoke the truth in all this 1 Would the 
woman accuse herself falsely at her death ? Did not the cat 
become her servant 1 Did not she send her? Did she not 
plague and kill both man and beast 1 What should a man think 
of this 1 

Daniel. You propound a particular example, and let us 
examine everything in it touching the witch. You say the cat 
came to her when she was in a great rage with one of her 
neighbours, and did curse, wishing the vengeance of God to fall 
upon him and his. 

Sam. She said so, indeed. I heard her with my own ears, for 
I was at the execution. 

Dan. Then tell me who set her in such a devilish rage, so to 
curse and ban, as to wish that the vengeance of G-od might light 
upon him and his 1 Did not the cat 1 

Sam. Truly I think that the devil wrought that in her. 

Dan. Very well. Then, you see, the cat is the beginning of 
this play. 

Sam. Call you it a play 1 It was no play to some. 

Dan. Indeed, the witch at last had better have wrought hard 
than been at her play. But I mean Satan did play the juggler ; 
for doth he not offer his service 1 Doth he not move her to send 
him to plague the man 1 Tell me, is she so forward to send, as 
he is to be sent 1 Or do you not take it that he ruleth in her 
heart, and even wholly directeth it to this matter ? 

Sam. I am fully persuaded he ruleth her heart. 

Dan. Then was she his drudge, and not he her servant. He 
needeth not to be hired and entreated ; for if her heart were to 
send him anywhere, unto such as he knoweth he cannot hurt, nor 
seeth how to make any show that he hurteth them, he can 
quickly turn her from that. Well, the cat goeth and killeth the 
man, certain hogs, and a cow. How could she tell that the cat 
did it 1 


Sam. How could she tell 1 Why, he told her, man, and she 
saw and heard that he lost his cattle. 

Dan. The cat would lie — would she not 1 for they say such 
cats are liars. 

Sam. I do not trust the cat's words, but because the thing fell 
out so. 

Dan. Because the hogs and the cow died, are you sure the cat 
did kill them % Might they not die of some natural causes, as 
you see both men and beasts are well, and die suddenly ? 

In this way the dialogue proceeds, with a good deal 
of ingenuity and some degree of dramatic spirit ; and 
though the reasoning is not without its fallacies, yet 
it is sufficiently clear and forcible, on the whole, as a 
protest on the side of liberality and tolerance. 

The next branch of the subject taken up for con- 
sideration is ' the help and remedy ' that is sought for 
against witches ' at the hands of cunning men ;' 
Daniel contending that, if the cunning men can 
render any assistance, it must be through the devil's 
instrumentality, and, therefore, Christian men are not 
justified in availing themselves of it. The alleged 
cures performed by witches, Daniel refers to the 
influence of the imagination ; and in this category he 
tells an amusing story. ' There was a person in 
London,' he say, ' acquainted with the magician Fento. 
Now, this Fento had a black dog, whom he called 
Bomelius. This party afterwards had a conceit that 
Bomelius was a devil, and that he felt him within 
him. He was in heaviness, and made his moan to 
one of his acquaintances, who had a merry head, and 
told him he had a friend could remove Bomelius. 
He bade him prepare a breakfast, and he would bring 
him. Then this was the cure : he (the friend) made 


hiin be stripped naked and stand by a good fire, and 
though he were fat enough of himself, basted him all 
over with butter against the fire, and made him wear a 
sleek-stone next his skin under his belly, and the man 
had immediate relief, and gave him afterwards great 

'The conceit, or imagination, does much,' continues 
Daniel, ' even when there is no apparent disease. A 
man feareth he is bewitched ; it troubleth all the 
powers of his mind, and that distempereth his body, 
making great alterations in it, and bringeth sundiy 
griefs. Now, when his mind is freed from such 
imaginations, his bodily griefs, which flew from the 
same, are eased. And a multitude of Satan's is of 
the same character.' 

The conversation next turns upon the danger of 
shedding innocent blood, which is inseparable from 
the execution of alleged witches ; while juries, says 
Daniel, must become guilty of shedding innocent 
blood b} r condemning as guilty, and that upon their 
solemn oath, such as be suspected upon vain sur- 
mises, and imaginations, and illusions, rising from 
blindness and infidelity, and fear of Satan which is 
in the ignorant sort. 

M. B. If you take it that this is one craft of Satan to bring many 
to be guilty of innocent blood, and even upon their oaths, which 
is horrible, what would you have the judges and juries to do, 
when they are arraigned of suspicion to be witches 1 

Dan. What would I have them do 1 I would wish them to be 
most wary and circumspect that they be not guilty of innocent 
blood. And that is, to condemn none but upon sure ground, and 
infallible proof ; because presumptions shall not warrant or excuse 
them before God, if guiltless blood be shed. 


Replying to observations made by the school- 
master, Daniel continues : 

' You bring two reasons to prove that in convicting witches 
likelihoods and presumptions ought to be of force more than 
about thieves or murderers. The first, because their dealing is 
secret ; the other, because the devil will not let them confess. 
Indeed, men, imagining that witches do work strange mischiefs, 
burn in desire to have them hanged, as hoping then to be free ; 
and then, upon such persuasions as you mention, they suppose it 
is a very good work to put to death all which are suspected. 
But, touching thieves and murderers, let men take heed how 
they deal upon presumptions, unless they be very strong ; for we 
see that juries sometimes do condemn such as be guiltless, which 
is a hard thing, especially as they are upon their oath. And in 
witches, above all other, the people had need to be strong, because 
there is greater sleight of Satan to pursue the guiltless into death 
than in the other. Here is special care and wisdom to be used. 
And so likewise for their confessing. Satan doth gain more by 
their confession than by their denial, and therefore rather be- 
wrayeth them himself, and forceth them unto confession oftener 
than unto denial.' 

Samuel at first is reluctant to accept this state- 
ment. It has alwaj^s been his belief that the devil is 
much angered when witches confess and betray 
matters ; and in confirmation of this belief, or at 
least as some excuse for it, he relates an anecdote. 
Of course, one woman had suspected another to be a 
witch. She prevailed upon a gentleman to send for 
the suspected person, and having accused her in his 
presence, left him to admonish her with due severity, 
and to persuade her to renounce the devil and all his 
works. While he was thus engaged, and she was 
stoutly denying the accusation brought against her, 
a weasel or lobster suddenly made its appearance. 
' Look,' said the gentleman, ' yonder is thy spirit.' 


' Ah, master !' she replied, ' that is a vermin ; there 
be many of them everywhere.' Well, as they went 
towards it, it vanished out of sight ; by-and-by it re- 
appeared, and looked upon them. ' Surely,' said the 
gentleman, 'it is thy spirit;' but she still denied, 
and with that her mouth was drawn awry. Then he 
pressed her further, and she confessed all. She con- 
fessed she had hurt and killed by sending her spirit. 
The gentleman, not being a magistrate, allowed her 
to go home, and then disclosed the affair to a justice. 
When she reached home another witch accosted her, 
and said : ' Ah, thou beast, what hast thou done ? 
Thou hast betrayed us all. What remedy now ?' said 
she. ' What remedy ?' said the other ; ' send thy 
spirit and touch him.' She sent her spirit, and of a 
sudden the gentleman had, as it were, a flash of fire 
about him : he lifted up his heart to God, and felt no 
hurt. The spirit returned, and said he could not 
hurt him, because he had faith. ' What then,' said 
the other witch, ' hath he nothing that thou mayest 
touch ?' ' He hath a child,' said the other. ' Send 
thy spirit,' said she, " and touch the child.' She sent 
her spirit ; the child was in great pain, and died. 
The witches were hanged, and confessed. 

Daniel, by an ingenious analysis, soon dismisses this 
absurd story, which, like all such stories, he takes 
to be further evidence of Satan's craft, and no dis- 
proof at all of the argument he has laid down. 
' Then,' says Samuel, ' I will tell you of another thing 
which was done of late. 

' A woman suspected of being a witch, and of 


having done harm among the cattle, was examined 
and brought to confess that she had a spirit, which 
resided in a hollow tree, and spoke to her out of a 
hole in the trunk. And whenever she was offended 
with any persons she went to that tree and sent her 
spirit to kill their cattle. She was persuaded to 
confess her faults openly, and to promise that she 
would utterly forsake such ungodly ways : after she 
had made this open confession, the spirit came unto 
her, being alone. " Ah !" said he, "thou hast confessed 
and betrayed all. I could turn it to rend thee in 
pieces :" with that she was afraid, and went away, 
and got her into company. Within some few weeks 
after she fell out greatly into anger against one man. 
Towards the tree she goeth, and before she came at 
it — "Oh!" said the spirit, "wherefore comest thou ? 
Who hath angered thee ?" " Such a man," said the 
witch. " And what wouldest thou have me do ?" 
said the spirit. "He hath," saith she, "two horses 
going yonder ; touch them, or one of them." Well, I 
think even that night one of the horses died, and the 
other was little better. Indeed, they recovered again 
that one which was not dead, but in very evil case. 
Now methinketh it is plain : he was angry that she 
had betrayed all. And yet when she came to the 
tree he let go all displeasure and went readily.' 

There is much common-sense, as we should nowa- 
days call it, in Daniel's comments on this extra- 
ordinarily wild story. ' Do you think,' he is repre- 
sented as saying, 'that Satan lodgeth in a hollow 
tree ? Is he become so lazy and idle ? Hath he 


left off to be as a roaring lion, seeking -whom he may 
devour ? Hath he put off the bloody and cruel 
nature of the fiery dragon, so that he mindeth no 
harm but when an angry woman entreats him to go 
kill a cow or a horse ? Is he become so doting with 
age that man shall espy his craft — yea, be found 
craftier than he is ?' 

And now for the winding-up of Parson Gifford's 
' Dialogue.' 'Tis to be wished that all the parsons 
of his time had been equally sensible and courageous. 

M. B. I could be content to hear more in these matters ; I see 
how fondly I have erred. But seeing you must be gone, I hope 
we shall meet here again at some other time. God keep you ! 

Sam. I am bound to give you great thanks. And, I pray you, 
when occasion serveth, that you come this way. Let us see you 
at my house. 

M. B. I thought there had not been such subtle practices of 
the devil, nor so great sins as he leadeth men into. 

Sam. It is strange to see how many thousands are carried 
away, and deceived, yea, many that are very wise men. 

M. B. The devil is too crafty for the wisest, unless they have 
the light of God's Word. 

Samuel's Wife. Husband, yonder cometh the goodwife B. 

Sam, I wish she had come sooner. 

Goodwife B. Ho, who is within, by your leave 1 

Samuel's Wife. I would you had come a little sooner ; here 
was one even now that said you were a witch. 

Goodwife B. Was there one said I am a witch? You do 
but jest. 

Samuel's Wife. Nay, I promise you he was in good earnest. 

Goodwife B. I a witch 1 I defy him that saith it, though 
he be a lord. I would all the witches in the land were hanged, 
and their spirits by them. 

M. B. Would you not be glad, if their spirits were hanged 
up with them, to have a gown furred with some of their skins 1 

Goodwife B. Out upon them. There were few ! 

Sam. Wife, why didst thou say that the goodwife B. is a 
witch 1 He did not say so. 


Samuel's Wife. Husbaud, I did mark his words well enough ; 
he said she is a witch. 

Sam. He doth not know her, and how could he say she is a 
witch ? 

Samuel's Wife. What though he did not know her 1 Did he 
not say that she played the witch that heated the spit red hot, 
and thrust it into her cream when the butter would not come ? 

Sam. Indeed, wife, thou sayest true. He said that was a 
thing taught by the devil, as also the burning of a hen, or of a 
hog alive, and all such like devices. 

Goodwife R. Is that witchcraft ? Some Scripture man hath 
told you so. Did the devil teach it 1 Nay, the good woman at 
R. H. taught it my husband : she doth more good in one year 
than all those Scripture men will do so long as they live. 

M. B. Who do you think taught it the cunning woman at 
R. H. 1 

Goodwife R. It is a gift which God hath given her. I 
think the Holy Spirit of God doth teach her. 

M. B. You do not think, then, that the devil doth teach her 1 ? 

Goodwife R. How should I think that the devil doth teach 
her? Did you ever hear that the devil did teach any good 
thing 1 

M. B. Do you know that was a good thing 1 

Goodwife R. Was it not a good thing to drive the evil spirit 
out of any man 1 

M. B. Do you think the devil was afraid of your spit 1 

Goodwife R. I know he was driven away, and we have been 
rid of him ever since. 

M. B. Can a spit hurt him 1 

Goodwife R. It doth hurt him, or it hurteth the witch : one 
of them, I am sure : for he cometh no more. Either she can get 
him come no more, because it hurteth him : or else she will let 
him come no more, because it hurteth her. 

M. B. It is certain that spirits cannot be hurt but with 
spiritual weapons : therefore your spit cannot fray nor hurt the 
devil. And how can it hurt the witch 1 You did not think she 
was in your cream, did you 1 

Goodwife R. Some think she is there, and therefore when 
they thrust in the spit they say : ' If thou beest here, have at 
thine eye.' 

M. B. If she were in your cream, your butter was not very 


Goodwife R. You are merrily disposed, M. B. I know you 
are of my mind, though you put these questions to me. For I 
am sure none hath counselled more to go to the cunning folk 
than you. 

M. B. I was of your mind, but I am not now, for I see how 
foolish I was. I am sorry that 1 offended so grievously as to 
counsel any for to seek unto devils. 

Goodwife R. Why, M. B., who hath schooled you to-day? 
I am sure you were of another mind no longer agone than yester- 

Samuel's Wife. Truly, goodwife R, I think my husband is 
turned also : here hath been one reasoning with them three or 
four hours. 

Goodwife R. Is your husband turned, tool I would you 
might lose all your hens one after another, and then I would 
she would set her spirit upon your ducks and your geese, and 
leave you not one alive. Will you come to defend witches 1 . . . 

M. B. You think the devil cau kill men's cattle, and lame both 
man and beast at his pleasure: you think if the witch entreat 
him and send him, he will go, and if she will not have him go, he 
will not meddle. And you think when he doth come, you can 
drive him away with a hot spit, or with burning a live hen or a 


Goodwife R. Never tell me I think so, for you yourself have 

thought so ; and let them say what they can, all the Scripture 

men in the world shall never persuade me otherwise. 

M. B. I do wonder, not so much at your ignorance as at this, 
that I was ever of the same mind that you are, and could not see 
mine own folly. 

Goodwife R. Folly ! how wise you are become of a sudden ! 
I know that their spirits lie lurking, for they foster them ; and 
when anybody hath angered them, then they call them forth and 
send them. And look what they bid them do, or hire them to 
do, that shall be done : as when she is angry, the spirit will ask 
her, ' What shall I do V ' Such a man hath misused me,' saith 
she ; ' go, kill his cow ' ; by-and-by he goeth and doeth it. ' Go, 
kill such a woman's hens ' ; down go they. And some of them 
are not content to do these lesser harms ; but they will say, ' Go, 
make such a man lame, kill him, or kill his child.' Then are 
they ready, and will do anything ; and I think they be happy 
that can learn to drive them away. 


M. B. If I should reason with you out of the words of God, 
you should see that all this is false, which you say. The devil 
cannot kill nor hurt anything ; no, not so much as a poor hen. 
If he had power, who can escape him 1 Would he tarry to be 
sent or entreated by a woman ? He is a stirrer up unto all 
harms and mischiefs. 

Goodwife R. What will you tell me of God's word 1 Doth 
not God's word say there be witches 1 and do not you think God 
doth suffer bad people ? Are you a turncoat 1 Fare you well ; I 
will no longer talk with you. 

M. B. She is wilful indeed. I will leave you also. 

Samuel. I thank you for your good company. 

About the same time that Gifford was endeavour- 
ing to teach his countrymen a more excellent way of 
dealing with the vexed questions of demonology and 
witchcraft, a Dutch minister, named Bekker, scandal- 
ized the orthodox by a frank denial of all power 
whatsoever to the devil, and, consequently, to the 
witches and warlocks who were supposed to be at one 
and the same time his servants and yet his employers. 
His ' Monde Enchante ' (originally written in Dutch) 
consists of four ponderous volumes, remarkable for 
prolixity and repetition, as well as for a certain 
originality of argument. There was no just ground, 
however, as Hallam remarks, for throwing imputa- 
tions on the author's religious sincerity. He shared, 
however, the opprobrium that attaches to all who 
deviate in theology from the orthodox path ; and it 
must be admitted that his Scriptural explanations in 
the case of the demoniacs and the like are more 
ingenious than satisfactory. 

A violent trumpet-note on the side of intolerance 
was blown by King James I. in 1597 in his famous 


' Dsemonolooia.' It is written in the form of a 
dialogue, and numbers about eighty closely- printed 
pages. James, as the reader has seen, had had ample 
personal experience of witches and their ' cantrips,' 
and had ' got up ' the subject with a commendable 
amount of thoroughness. He divides witches into 
eight classes, who severally work their evil designs 
against mankind ; then he subdivides into white and 
black witches, of whom the former are the more 
dangerous; and again into l acted ' and ' pacted ' 
witches, the former depending for their power on 
their supernatural gifts, and the latter having made a 
compact with Satan contrary to ' all rules and orders 
of nature, art or grace.' Further, the demons have a 
classification of their own ; some of the higher ranks 
of the demon archy looking down contemptuously 
enough on those of the inferior grades, who consist 
of ' the damned souls of departed conjurers.' These 
'damned souls' discharge all kinds of mean and 
servile offices — bringing fire from heaven for the 
convenience of their employers ; conveying bodies 
through the air; conjuring corn from one field into 
another ; imparting a show of life to dead bodies ; 
and raising the wind for witches to sell to their 
nautical customers — who received pieces of knotted 
rope, and, untying the first knot, secured a favourable 
breeze, for the second a moderate wind, and for the 
third a violent gale. 

After describing the rites in vogue on the con- 
clusion of a compact between witch and devil, King 
James enlarges on other points of ceremonial, such 


as the making of various magic circles — sometimes 
round, sometimes triangular, sometimes quadrangular ; 
the use of holy water and crosses in ridicule of the 
papists ; and the offer to the demons of some living 
animal. He adds that the great witches' meetings 
frequently took place in churches : and he says that 
the witches mutter and hurriedly mumble through 
their conjurations ' like a priest despatching a hunt- 
ing masse ' ; and that if they step out of a circle in a 
sudden alarm at the horrible appearance assumed by 
the demon, he flies off with them body and soul. 

The royal expert proceeds to indicate the means 
by which you may detect a witch. ' There are two 
good helpes that may be used for their trials ; the 
one is the finding of their marke and the trying the 
insensibility thereof. The other is their fleeting on 
the water : for as in a secret murther, if the dead 
carkasse be at any time thereafter handled by the 
murtherer, it will gush out of blood, as if the blood 
were crying to the heaven for revenge of the 
murtherer, God having appoynted that secret super- 
natural signe for triale of that secret unnaturale 
crime, so it appears that God hath appoynted (for a 
supernaturale signe of the monstrous impietie of 
witches) that the water shall refuse to receive them 
in her bosome that have shaken off them the sacred 
water of Baptism and willingly refused the benefit 
thereof: no, not so much as their eies are able to 
shed teares (threaten and torture them as you please) 
while first they repent (God not permitting them to 
dissemble their obstinacie in so horrible a crime), 



albeit the womenkind especially be able otber waies 
to shed teares at every light occasion when they will, 
yea altho' it were dissemblingly like the crocodiles.' 

Incidentally, our witch-hunting King offers an 
explanation of a peculiarity which, no doubt, our 
readers have already noted — the great numerical 
superiority of witches over warlocks. ' The reason 
is easie,' he says ; 'for as that sex is frailer than 
man is, so is it easier to be intrapped in the grosse 
snares of the devil, — as was over well prooved to be 
true by the serpente deceiving of Eva at the begin- 
ning, which makes him the homelier with that sex 
sensine [ever since].' 

As regards the external appearance of witches, he 
remarks that they are not generally melancholic ; 
1 but some are rich and worldly wise, some are fat 
and corpulent, and most part are given over unto the 
pleasures of the flesh ; and further experience daily 
proves how loth they are to confess without torture, 
which witnesseth their guiltinesse.' He concludes 
by asking, ' Who is safe ?' and replies that the only 
safe person is the magistrate, when assiduously em- 
ployed in bringing witches to justice. One Reginald 
Scot, Esq., however, hop-grower and brewer of 
Smeeth, in Kent, a persistent disbeliever in and 
ridiculer of witchcraft, who had the courage to break 
lances with the King and the bench of Bishops in 
contemjoorary pamphlets, and is called by the King 
an ' Englishman of damnable opiniones,' irreverently 
answered this question by saying that the only safe 
person was the King himself, as his sex prevented 


his being taken for a witch, and the whole kingdom 
was satisfied that he was no conjurer. 

In 1616, John Cotta, a Northampton physician, 
published a forcibly written attack on the vulgar 
delusion, under the title of ' The Trial of Witchcraft,' 
which reached a second (and enlarged) edition in 
1624. Cotta was also the author of a fierce blast 
against quacks — ' Discovery of the Dangers of 
ignorant Practisers of Physick in England/ 1612; 
and of a not less vehement attack on the aurwn 
potabile of the chemists, entitled, ' Cotta contra 
Antonium, or An Ant. Anthony/ 1623. 

There is a lively work by John Gaul, preacher of 
the Word at Great Haughton, in the county of 
Huntingdon — ' Select Cases of Conscience touching 
Witches and Witchcraft/ 1646, which is worth 
looking into. Gaul was a courageous and persevering 
opponent of the great witch-finder, Hopkins. 

The unhappy victims of popular prejudice found a 
strenuous champion also in Sir Robert Filmer, who, 
in 1653, published his ' Advertisement to the Jury- 
men of England, touching Witches, together with a 
Difference between an English and Hebrew Witch.' 
Filmer is best known to students by his ' Patriarcha,' 
an apology for the paternal government of kings, 
which does violence to all constitutional principles, 
but has at least the negative merit of obvious sincerity 
on the part of its writer. It is somewhat surprising 
to find a mind like Filmer's, fettered as it was by so 



many prejudices and a slavish adherence to prescrip- 
tion, openly urging the cause of tolerance and 
enlightenment, and vigorously demolishing the sham 
arguments by which the believers in witchcraft 
endeavoured to support their grotesque theories. 

Three years later followed on the same side a 
certain Thomas Ady, M.A., who, with considerable 
vivacity, fulminated against the witch-mongers and 
witch-torturers in his tractate, ' A Candle in the 
Dark ; or, A Treatise concerning the Nature of 
Witches and Witchcraft : being Advice to Judges, 
Sheriffs, Justices of the Peace, and Grand Jurymen, 
what to do before they pass sentence on such as are 
arraigned for their lives as Witches.' The quaintly- 
worded dedication ran as follows : 

' To the Prince of the Kings of the Earth. It is 
the manner of men, heavenly King, to dedicate 
their books to some great men, thereby to have their 
works protected and countenanced among them ; but 
Thou only art able by Thy Holy Spirit of Truth, to 
defend Tlry Truth, and to make it take impression in 
the heart and understanding of men. Unto Thee 
alone do I dedicate this work, entreating Thy Most 
High Majesty to grant that, whoever shall open this 
book, Thy Holy Spirit may so possess their under- 
standing as that the Spirit of error may depart from 
them, and that they may read and try Thy Truth by 
the touchstone of Thy Truth, the Holy Scriptures ; 
and finding that Truth, may embrace it and forsake 
their darksome inventions of Anti- Christ, that have 


deluded and denied the nations now and in former 
ages. Enlighten the world, Thou art the Light of 
the World, and let darkness be no more in the world, 
now or in any future age ; but make all people to 
walk as children of the light for ever ; and destroy 
Anti- Christ that hath deceived the nations, and save 
us the residue by Thyself alone ; and let not Satan 
any more delude us, for the Truth is thine for ever.' 

In 1669 John Wagstaffe published ' The Question 
of Witchcraft Debated.' According to Wood, he was 
the son of John Wagstaffe, a London citizen ; was 
born in Cheapside ; entered as a commoner of Oriel 
College, Oxford, towards the end of 1649 ; took the 
degrees in Arts, and applied himself to the study of 
politics and other learning. ' At length being raised 
from an academical life to the inheritance of Has] and 
by the death of an uncle, who died without male 
issue, he spent his life afterwards in single estate.' 
He died in 1677. Wood describes him as ' a little 
crooked man, and of a despicable presence. He was 
laughed at by the boys of this University because, as 
they said, he himself looked like a little wizard.' 

His book is illuminated throughout by the generous 
sympathies of a large and liberal mind. His perora- 
tion has been described, and not unjustly, as i lofty ' 
and ' memorable,' and, when animated by a noble 
earnestness, the writer's language rises into posi- 
tive eloquence. ' I cannot think,' he says, ' without 
trembling and horror on the vast numbers of people 
that in several ages and several countries have been 


sacrificed unto this cold opinion. Thousands, ten 
thousands, are upon record to have been slain, and 
many of them not with simple deaths, but horrid, 
exquisite tortures. And yet, how many are there 
more who have undergone the same fate, of whom 
we have no memorial extant ? Since therefore the 
opinion of witchcraft is a mere stranger unto 
Scripture, and wholly alien from true religion ; since 
it is ridiculous by asserting fables and impossibilities ; 
since it appears, when duly considered, to be all 
bloody and full of dangerous consequence unto the 
lives and safety of men; I hope that with this my 
discourse, opposing an absurd and pernicious error, 
I cannot at all disoblige any sober, unbiased person, 
especially if he be of such ingenuity as to have freed 
himself from a slavish subjection unto those preju- 
dicial opinions which custom and education do with 
too much tyranny impose. 

' If the doctrine of witchcraft should be carried up 
to a height, and the inquisition after it should be 
entrusted in the hands of ambitious, covetous, and 
malicious men, it would prove of far more fatal con- 
sequences unto the lives and safety of mankind than 
that ancient heathenish custom of sacrificing men 
unto idol gods, insomuch that we stand in need of 
another Heracles Liberator, who, as the former freed 
the world from human sacrifice, should, in like 
manner, travel from country to country, and by his 
all -commanding authority free it from this evil and 
base custom of torturing people to confess themselves 
witches, and burning them after extorted confessions. 


Surely the blood of men ought not to be so cheap, 
nor so easily to be shed by those who, under the 
name of God, do gratify exorbitant passions and 
selfish ends ; for without question, under this side 
heaven, there is nothing so sacred as the life of man, 
for the preservation whereof all policies and forms 
of government, all laws and magistrates are most 
especially ordained. Wherefore I presume that this 
discourse of mine, attempting to prove the vanity 
and impossibility of witchcraft, is so far from any 
deserved censure and blame, that it rather deserves 
commendation and praise, if I can in the least measure 
contribute to the saving of the lives of men.' 

Meric Casaubon, a man of abundant learning and 
not less abundant superstition, attempted a reply to 
Wagstaffe in his treatise ' Of Credulity and Incredulity 
in Things Divine and Spiritual' (1670). 

At Thornton, in the parish of Caswold, Yorkshire, 
was born, on the 3rd of February, 1610, one of the 
ablest and most successful of the adversaries of the 
witch-maniacs, John Webster. It is supposed that 
he was educated at Cambridge ; but the first event 
in his career of which we have any certain knowledge 
is his admission to holy orders in the Church of 
England by Dr. Morton, Bishop of Durham. In 
1634 we find him officiating as curate at Kildwick in 
Craven, and nine years later as Master of the Free 
Grammar School at Clitheroe. He seems afterwards 
to have held for a time a military chaplaincy, then to 


have withdrawn from the Church of England, and 
taken refuge in some form of Dissent. In 1 653 his 
new religious views found expression in his ' Saints' 
Guide,' and in 1654, in ' The Judgment Set and the 
Books Opened,' a series of sermons which he had 
originally preached at All Hallows' Church in Lom- 
bard Street. It was in this church the incident 
occurred which Wood has recorded : ' On the 12th of 
October, 1653, William Erbury, with John Webster, 
sometime a Cambridge scholar, endeavoured to knock 
down learning and the ministry both together in a 
disputation that they then had against two ministers 
in a church in Lombard Street, London. Erbury 
then declared that the wisest ministers and the purest 
churches were at that time befooled, confounded, and. 
denied by reason of learning. Another while he 
said that the ministry were monsters, beasts, asses, 
greedy dogs, false prophets, and that they are the 
Beast with seven heads and ten horns. The same 
person also spoke out and said that Babylon is 
the Church in her ministers, and that the Great 
Whore is the Church in her worship, etc., so that 
with him there was an end of ministers and churches 
and ordinations altogether. While these things were 
babbled to and fro, the multitude, being of various 
opinions, began to mutter, and many to cry out, and 
immediately it came to a meeting or tumult (call it 
which you please), wherein the women bore away the 
bell, but lost some of them their kerchiefs ; and the 
dispute being hot, there was more danger of pulling 
down the church than the ministry.' 


In 1654, our iconoclastic enthusiast strongly — but 
not without good reason — assailed the educational 
system then in vogue at Oxford and Cambridge in 
his treatise, ' Academiarum Examen,' which created 
quite a sensation in ' polite circles,' fluttering the 
dove-cots of the rulers of the two Universities. Yery 
curious, however, are its sympathetic references to 
the old Hermetic mysteries, Rosicrucianism, and 
astrology, to the fanciful abstractions and dreamy 
speculations of Paracelsus, Van Helmont, Fludd, and 
Dr. Dee. One cannot but wonder that so acute and 
vigorous an intellect should have allowed itself to be 
entangled in the delusions of the occult sciences. 
But his study of the works of the old philosophers 
was, no doubt, the original motive of the laborious 
research which resulted in his ' Metallographia ; or, 
A History of Metals' (1671). In this learned and 
comprehensive treatise are declared ' the signs of Ores 
and Minerals, both before and after Digging, the 
causes and manner of their generations, their kinds, 
sorts, and differences ; with the description of sundry 
new Metals, or Semi- Metals, and many other things 
pertaining to Mineral Knowledge. As also the hand- 
ling and showing of their Yegetability, and the dis- 
cussion of the most difficult Questions belonging to 
Mystical Chymistry, as of the Philosopher's Gold, 
their Mercury, the Liquor Alkahest, Aurum potabile, 
and such like. Gathered forth of the most approved 
Authors that have written in Greek, Latin, or High 
Dutch, with some Observations and Discoveries of the 
Author Himself. By John Webster, Practitioner in 


Physick and Chirurgery. " Qui principia naturalia 
in seipso ignoraverit, hie jam multum remotus est ah 
arte nostra, quoniam non habet radiam veram super 
quam intentionem suamfundit." Geber, Sum. Perfect., 
lib. L, p. 21.' 

In 1677, Webster, who bad abandoned the cure of 
souls for that of bodies, produced the work which 
entitles him to honourable mention in these pages. 
According to the fashion of the day, its title was 
almost as lono- as a table of contents. I transcribe 
it here in extenso : 

1 The Displaying of supposed Witchcraft, Wherein 
is affirmed that there are many sorts of Deceivers and 
Impostors. And Divers persons under a passive 
Delusion of Melancholy and Fancy. But that there 
is a Corporeal League made betwixt the Devil and the 
Witch, Or that he sucks on the Witches Body, has 
Carnal Copulation, or that Witches are turned into 
Cats or Dogs, raise Tempests or the like, is utterly 
denied and disproved. Wherein also is handled the 
Existence of Angels and Spirits, the Truth of Appari- 
tions, the Nature of Astral and Sidereal Spirits, the 
Force of Charms and Philters ; with other Abstruse 
Matters. By John Webster, Practitioner in Physic. 
" Falsce etenim opiniones Hominum pr 020 ccup antes, non 
solum surclos sed ut coecos faciunt, ita ut videre nequeant, 
quo3 aliis perspicua apparent'" Galen, lib. viii., de 
Comp. Med. London. Printed by I. M., and are to 
be sold by the Booksellers in London, 1677.' 

Webster, who was evidently a man of restless and 
inquiring intellect, and independent judgment, died 


on June 18, 1682, and was buried in St. Margaret's, 
Clitheroe, where his monument may still be seen. Its 
singular inscription must have been devised by some 
astrological sympathizer : 

Qui hanc figuram intelligunt 
Me etiam intellexisse, intelligent. 

Here follows a mysterious figure of the sun, with 
several circles and much astrological lettering, which 
it is unnecessary to reproduce. The inscription con- 
tinues : 

Hie jacet ignotus mundo mersus que tumultus 
Invidige, semper mens tamen sequa fecit, 
Multa tulit veterum ut sciret secreta sophorum 
Ac tandem vires noverit ignis aqua?. 

Johannes Hyphantes sive Webster. 

In villa Spinosa supermontana, in 

Parochia silvse cuculatae, in agro 

Eboracensi, natus 1610, Feb. 3. 

Ergastulum animse deposuit 1682, Junii 18. 

Annoq. setatis suse 72 currente. 
Sicq. peroravit moriens mundo huic valedicens, 
Aurea pax vivis, requies seterna sepultis. 

In 1728, Andrew Millar, at the sign of The 
Buchanan's Head, against St. Clement's Church in 
the Strand, published ' A System of Magick : or, A 
History of the Black Art,' by Daniel Defoe ; a book 
which, though it by no means justifies its title, is 
one of more than passing interest, partly from the 
renown of its author, and partly from the light it 
throws on the popularity of magic among the English 
middle classes in the earlier years of the eighteenth 


century. As it has not been reprinted for the last 
fifty years, and is not very generally known, some 
glimpses of the stuff it is made of may be acceptable to 
the curious reader.* 

In his preface Defoe lavishes a good deal of con- 
tempt on contemporary pretenders to the character of 
magician, who by sham magical practices imposed on a 
public ignorant, and therefore credulous. Magicians, 
he says, in the first ages were wise men ; in the middle 
ages, madmen ; in these latter ages, they are cunning 
men. In the earliest times they were honest ; in the 
middle time, rogues ; in these last times, fools. At; 
first they dealt with nature ; then with the devil ; 
and now, not with the devil or with nature either. 
In the first ages the magicians were wiser than the 
people ; in the second age wickeder than the people ; 
and in this later age the people are both worse and 
wickeder than the magicians. Like many other 
generalizations, this one of Defoe's is more pointed 
than true ; and it is evident that the so-called magi- 
cians could not have flourished had there not been an 
ignorant class who readily accepted their pretensions. 

Defoe's account of the origin of magic is so vague 
as to suggest that he knew very little of the sub- 
ject he was writing about. ( I have traced it,' he says, 
' as far back as antiquity gives us any clue to dis- 
cover it by : it seems to have its beginning in the 
ignorance and curiosity of the darkest ages of the 
world, when miracle and something wonderful was 

* Some authorities doubt the authorship ; but the internal 
evidence seems to me to justify the claim made for it as Defoe's. 


expected to confirm every advanced notion ; and 
when the wise men, having racked their invention to 
the utmost, called in the devil to their assistance for 
want of better help ; and those that did not run into 
Satan's measures, and give themselves up to the 
infernal, yet trod so near, and upon the very verge 
of Hell, that it was hard to distinguish between the 
magician and the devil, and thus they have gone 
on ever since : so that almost all the dispute between 
us and the magicians is that they say they converse 
with good spirits, and we say if they deal with any 
spirits, it is with the devil.' 

Here the greatness of his theme stimulates Defoe 
into poetry, which differs very little, however, from 
his prose, so that a brief specimen will content 
everybody : 

' Hail ! dangerous science, falsely called sublime, 
Which treads upon the very brink of crime. 
Hell's mimic, Satan's mountebank of state, 
Deals with more devils than Heaven did e'er create. 
The infernal juggling-box, by Heaven designed, 
To put the grand parade upon mankind. 
The devil's first game which he in Eden played, 
When he harangued to Eve in masquerade.' 

Dividing his treatise into two parts, our author, in 
the introduction to Part I., discusses the meaning of 
the principal terms in magical lore ; who, and what 
kind of people, the magicians were ; and the mean- 
ing originally given to the words ' magic ' and 
'magician.' As a matter of course, he strays back 
to the old Chaldean days, when a magician, he says, 
was simply a mathematician, a man of science, who, 


stored with knowledge and learning 1 , was a kind of 
walking dictionary to other people, instructing the 
rest of mankind on subjects of which they were 
ignorant ; a wise man, in fact, who interpreted omens, 
ill signs, tokens, and dreams ; understood the signs 
of the times, the face of the heavens, and the 
influences of the superior luminaries there. When 
all this wisdom became more common, and the magi 
had communicated much of their knowledge to the 
people at large, their successors, still aspiring to a 
position above, and apart from, the rest of the world, 
were compelled to push their studies further, to 
inquire into nature, to view the aspect of the heavens, 
to calculate the motions of the stars, and more par- 
ticularly to dwell upon their influences in human 
affairs — thus creating the science of astrology. But 
these men neither had, nor pretended to have, any 
compact or correspondence with the devil or with 
any of his works. They were men of thought, or, if 
you please, men of deeper thinking than the ordinary 
sort ; they studied the sciences, inquired into the 
works of nature and providence, studied the meaning 
and end of things, the causes and events, and con- 
sequently were able to see further into the ordinary 
course and causes both of things about them, and 
things above them, than other men. 

Such were the world's gray forefathers, the 
magicians of the elder time, in whom was found 
' an excellent spirit of wisdom.' There were others — 
not less learned — whose studies took a different direc- 
tion ; who inquired into the structure and organiza- 


tion of the human body ; who investigated the origin, 
the progress, and the causes of diseases and dis- 
tempers, both in men and women : who sought out 
the physical or medicinal virtues of drugs and plants ; 
and as by these means they made daily discoveries in 
nature, of which the world, until then, was ignorant, 
and by which chey performed astonishing cures, they 
naturally gained the esteem and reverence of the 

Sir Walter Raleigh contends that only the word 
' magic,' and not the magical art, is derived from 
Simon Magus. He adds that Simon's name was not 
Magus, a magician, but Gors, a person familiar with 
evil spirits ; and that he usurped the title of Simon 
the Magician simply because it was then a good and 
honourable title. Defoe avails himself of Raleigh's 
authority to sustain his own opinion, that there is 
a manifest difference between magic, which is wisdom 
and supernatural knowledge, and the witchcraft and 
conjuring which we now understand by the word. 

In his second chapter Defoe classifies the magic of 
the ancients under three heads : i. Natural, which 
included the knowledge of the stars, of the motions 
of the planetary bodies, and their revolutions and 
influences ; that is to say, the study of nature, of 
philosophy, and astronomy ; ii- Artificial or Rational, 
in which was included the knowledge of all judicial 
astrology, the casting or calculating nativities, and the 
cure of diseases — (1) by particular charms and figures 
placed in this or that position ; (2) by herbs gathered 
at this or that particular crisis of time ; (3) by saying 


such and such words over the patient ; (4) by such 
and such gestures ; (5) by striking the flesh in such 
and such a manner, and innumerable such-like pieces 
of mimicry, working not upon the disease itself, but 
upon the imagination of the patient, and so affecting 
the cure by the power of nature, though that nature 
were set in operation by the weakest and simplest 
methods imaginable ; and, iii. Diabolical, which was 
wrought by and with the concurrence of the devil, 
carried on by a correspondence with evil spirits — 
with their help, presence, and personal assistance — and 
practised chiefly by their priests. Defoe argues that 
the ancients at first were acquainted only with the 
purer form of magic, and that, therefore, sorcery and 
witchcraft were of much later development. The 
cause and motive of this development he traces in his 
third chapter (' Of the Reason and Occasion which 
brought the ancient honest Magi, whose original 
study was philosophy, astronomy, and the works of 
nature, to turn sorcerers and wizards, and deal 
with the Devil, and how their Conversation began'). 
Egyptologists will find Defoe's comments upon 
Egyptian magic refreshingly simple and unhistorical, 
and his identifications of the Pyramids with magical 
practices is wildly vague and hypothetical. Of the 
magic which was really taught and practised among 
the ancient people of Egypt, Defoe, of course, knows 
nothing. He tells us, however, that the Jews learned 
it from them. He goes on to speculate as to the time 
when that close intercourse began between the devil 
and his servants on earth which is the foundation of 


the later or diabolical magic, and concludes that his 
first visible appearance on this mundane stage was 
as the enemy of Job. Thence he is led to inquire, 
in his fourth chapter, what shapes the devil assumed 
on his first appearances to the magicians and others, 
in the dawn of the world's history, and whether he is 
or has been allowed to assume a human shape or no. 
And he suggests that his earliest acquaintance with 
mankind was made through dreams, and that by this 
method he contrived to infuse into men's minds an 
infinite variety of corrupt imaginations, wicked desires, 
and abhorrent conclusions and resolutions, with some 
ridiculous, foolish, and absurd things at the same 

Defoe then proceeds to tell an Oriental story, which, 
doubtlessly, is his own invention : 

Ali Albrahazen, a Persian wizard, had. it is said, 
this kind of intercourse with the devil. He was a 
Sabean by birth, and had obtained a wonderful reputa- 
tion for his witchcraft, so that he was sent for by the 
King of Persia upon extraordinary occasions, such as 
the interpretation of a dream, or of an apparition, like 
that of Belshazzar's handwriting, or of some meteor 
or eclipse, and he never failed to give the King satis- 
faction. For whether his utterances were true or 
false, he couched them alwaj^s in such ambiguous 
terms that something of what he predicted might 
certainly be deduced from his words, and so seem to 
import that he had effectually reveajecl it, whether he 
had really done so or not. 

This Ali, wandering alone in the desert, and 



musing much upon the appearance of a fiery meteor, 
which, to the great terror of the country, had flamed 
in the heavens every night for nearly a month, sought 
to apprehend its significance, and what it should por- 
tend to the world ; but, failing to do so, he sat down, 
weary and disheartened, in the shade of a spreading 
palm. Breathing to himself a strong desire that 
some spirit from the other world would generously 
assist him to arrive at the true meaning of a phenome- 
non so remarkable, he fell asleep. And, lo ! in his 
isleep he dreamed a dream, and the dream was this : 
that a tall man came to him, a tall man of sage and 
venerable aspect, with a pleasing smile upon his 
countenance ; and, addressing him by his name, told 
him that he was prepared to answer his questions, and 
to explain to him the signification of the great and 
terrible fire in the air which was terrifying all Arabia 
and Persia. 

His explanation proved to be of an astronomical 
character. These fiery appearances, he said, were 
collections of vapour exhaled by the influence of the 
sun from earth or sea. As to their importance to 
human affairs, it was simply this : that sometimes by 
their propinquity to the earth, and their power of 
attraction, or by their dissipation of aqueous vapours, 
they occasioned great droughts and insupportable 
heats ; while, at other times, they distilled heavy and 
unusual rains, by condensing, in an extraordinary 
manner, the vapours they had absorbed. And he 
added : ' Go thou and warn thy nation that this fiery 
meteor portends an excessive drought and famine ; for 


know that by the strong exhalation of the vapours of 
the earth, occasioned by the meteor's unusual nearness 
to it, the necessary rains will be withheld, and to a 
long drought, as a matter of course, famine and 
scarcity of corn succeed. Thus, by judging accord- 
ing to the rules of natural causes, thou shalt predict 
what shall certainly come to pass, and shalt obtain 
the reputation thou so ardently desirest of being a 
wise man and a great magician.' 

' This prediction,' said Ali, ' was all very well as 
regarded Arabia ; but would it apply also to Persia ?' 
4 No,' replied the devil ; for Ali's interlocutor w r as no 
less distinguished a personage — fiery meteors from 
the same causes sometimes produced contrary events ; 
and he might repair to the Persian Court, and pre- 
dict the advent of excessive rains and floods, which 
would greatly injure the fruits of the earth, and occa- 
sion want and scarcity. ' Thus, if either of these 
succeed, as it is most probable, thou shalt assuredly 
be received as a sage magician in one country, if not 
in the other ; also, to both of them thou mayest 
suggest, as a probability only, that the consequence 
may be a plague or infection among the people, 
which is ordinarily the effect as well of excessive 
wet as of excessive heat. If this happens, thou shalt 
gain the reputation thou desirest ; and if not, seeing 
thou didst not positively foretell it, thou shalt not 
incur the ignominy of a false prediction.' 

Ali was very grateful for the devil's assistance, and 
failed not to ask how, at need, he might again secure 
it. He was told to come again to the palm-tree, and 



to go around it fifteen times, calling him thrice by 
his name each time : at the end of the fifteenth cir- 
cumambulation he would find himself overtaken by 
drowsiness ; whereupon he should lie down with his 
face to the south, and he would receive a visit from 
him in vision. The devil further told him the magic 
name by which he was to summon him. 

The magician's predictions were duly made and 
duly fulfilled. Thenceforward he maintained a con- 
stant communication with the devil, who, strange to 
say, seems not to have exacted anything from him in 
return for his valuable, but hazardous, assistance. 

Defoe's fifth chapter contains a further account of 
the devil's conduct in imitating divine inspirations ; 
describes the difference between the genuine and the 
false ; and dwells upon signs and wonders, fictitious 
as well as real. In chapter the sixth our author 
treats of the first practices of magic and witchcraft 
as a diabolical art, and explains how it was handed 
on to the Egyptians and Phoenicians, by whom it was 
openly encouraged. He offers some amusing remarks 
on the methods adopted by magicians for summoning 
the devil, who seems to be at once their servant and 
master. In parts of India they go up, he says, to the 
summit of some particular mountain, where they call 
him with a little kettledrum, just as the good old 
wives in England hive their bees, except that they 
beat it on the wrong side. Then they pronounce 
certain words which they call ' charms,' and the devil 
appears without fail. 

It is not easy to discover in history wdiat words 


C. Think ! nay, I did not think ; I was dead, to be sure I was 
dead, with the fright, and expected I should be carried away, 
chair and all, the next moment. Then it was, I say, that my hair 
would have lifted off my hat, if it had been on, I am sure it 

D. Well, but when they were all gone, you came to yourself 
again, I suppose 1 

C. To tell you the truth, master, I am not come to myself yet. 

D. But go on, let me know how it ended. 

C. Why, after a little while, my old man came in again, called 
his man to set the chairs to rights, and then sat him down at the 
table, spoke cheerfully to me, and asked me if I would drink, 
which I refused, though I was a-dry indeed. I believe the fright 
had made me dry ; but as I never had been used to drink with 
the devil, I didn't know what to think of it, so I let it alone. 

In his third chapter (' Of the present pretences of 
the Magicians ; how they defend themselves ; and 
some examples of their practice ') Defoe has a lively 
account of a contemporary magician, a Dr. Bowman, 
of Kent, who seems to have been a firm believer in 
what is now called Spiritualism. He was a green old 
man, who went about in a long black velvet gown 
and a cap, with a long beard, and his upper lip 
trimmed ' with a kind of muschato.' He strongly 
repudiated any kind of correspondence or intercourse 
with the devil ; but hinted that he derived much 
assistance from the good spirits which people the 
invisible world. After dwelling on the follies of the 
learned, and the superstitions of the ignorant, this 
lordly conjurer said : 'You see how that we, men of 
art, who have studied the sacred sciences, suffer by 
the errors of common fame ; they take us all for 
devil-mongers, damned rogues, and conjurers.' 

The fourth chapter discusses the doctrine of 


spirits as it is understood by the magicians ; how far 
it may be supposed there may be an intercourse with 
superior beings, apart from any familiarity with the 
devil or the spirits of evil ; with a transition to the 
present times. 

And so much for the ' Art of Magic ' as expounded 
by Daniel Defoe. 

In 1718 appeared Bishop Hutchinson's ' Historical 
Essay concerning Witchcraft,' a book written in a 
most liberal and tolerant spirit, and, at the same time, 
with so much comprehensiveness and exactitude, that 
later writers have availed themselves freely of its 

Reference may also be made to — 

John Beaumont, ' Treatise of Spirits, Apparitions, 
Witchcrafts, and other Magical Practices,' 1705. 

James Braid (of Manchester), ' Magic, Witchcraft, 
Animal Magnetism, Hypnotism, and Electro-Biology' 
(1852), in which there is very little about witch- 
craft, but a good deal about the influence of the 

J. C. Colquhoun, ' History of Magic, Witchcraft, 
and Animal Magnetism,' 1851. 

Rev. Joseph Glanvill, ' Sadducismus Triumphatus; 
or, A full and plain Evidence concerning Witches and 
Apparitions,' 1670. 

Sir Walter Scott, ' Letters on Demonology and 
Witchcraft,' 1831. 

Howard Williams, ' The Superstitions of Witch- 
craft,' 1865. 


It may be a convenience to the reader if I indicate 
some of the principal foreign authorities on this 
subject. Such as — Institor and Sprenger's great 
work, 'Malleus Maleficarum ' (Nuremberg, 1494); 
The monk Heisterbach's (Caesarius) ' Dialogus Mi- 
raculorum ' (ed. by Strange), 1851; Cannaert's 
' Proces des Sorcieres en Belgique,' 1848 : Dr. W. G. 
Soldan's ' Geschichte der Hexenprocesse ' (1843) ; 
G. C. Horst's ' Zauber-Bibliothek, oder die Zauberei, 
Theurgie und Mantik, Zauberei, Hexen und Hexen 
processen, Damonen, Gespenster und Geisterer- 
scheinungen,' in 6 vols., 1821 — a most learned and 
exhaustive work, brimful of recondite lore; Collin de 
Plancy's ' Dictionnaire Infernal ; ou Repertoire Uni- 
versel des Etres, des Livres, et des Choses qui tiennent 
aux Apparitions, aux Divinations, a la Magie,' etc., 
1844; Michelet's 'La Sorciere ' is, of course, bril- 
liantly written ; K. Reuss's ' La Sorcellerie au xvi e . 
et xvii e . Siecle,' 1872 ; Tartarotti's ' Del Congresso 
Notturno delle Lamie,' 1749; F. Perreaud's ' De- 
monologie, ou Traite des Demons et Sorciers,' 
1655 ; H. Boguet's 'Discours des Sorciers,' 1610 
(very rare) ; and Cotton Mather's ' Wonders of the 
Invisible World,' 1695 — a monument of credulity, 
prejudice, and bigotry. 


It may also be convenient to the reader if I enumerate 
a few of the principal authorities on the history of 
Magic, Sorcery, and Alchemy. A very exhaustive 
list will be found in the ' Bibliotheca Magica et Pneu- 


matica,' by Graessel, 1843 ; and an ' Alphabetical 
Catalogue of Works on Hermetic Philosophy and 
Alchemy is appended to the ' Lives of Alchemystical 
Philosophers,' by Arthur Edward Waite, 1888. For 
ordinary purposes the following will be found suffi- 
cient : Langlet du Fresnoy, ' Histoire de la Philo- 
sophic Hermetique,' 1742 ; Gabriel Naude, ' Apologie 
pour les Grands Hommes faussement soupc,onnes de 
Magie,' 1625 ; Martin Antoine Delrio, ' Disquisi- 
tionum Magicarum, libri sex,' 1599 ; L. F. Alfred 
Maury, ' La Magie et l'Astrologie dans l'Antiquite et 
au Moyen Age,' etc., 1860 ; Eus. Salverte, ' Sciences 
Occultes,' ed. by Littre, 1856 (see the English trans- 
lation, ' Philosophy of Magic,' with Notes by Dr. A. 
Todd Thomson, 1846); Abbe de Villars, ' Entretiens 
du Comte de Gabalis' ('Voyages Imaginaires,'tome 34), 
Englished as ' The Count de Gabalis : being a divert- 
ing History of the Rosicrucian Doctrine of Spirits,' 
etc., 1714; Elias Ashmole, • Theatrum Chemicum 
Britannicum ;' Roger Bacon, ' Mirror of Alchemy,' 
1597; Louis Figuier, 'Histoire de l'Alchimie et les 
Alchimistes,' 1865; Arthur Edward Waite, 'The 
Real History of the Rosicrucians,' 1887 ; Hargrave 
Jennings, ' The Rosicrucians,' new edit. ; William 
Godwin, ■ Lives of the Necromancers,' 1834 ; Dr. T. 
Thomson, 'History of Chemistry,' 1831; ' Encyclo- 
paedia Britannica,' in locis ; Dr. Kopp, ' Geschi elite 
der Chemie ;' G. Rodwell, ' Birth of Chemistry,' 1 874 ; 
Haerfor, ' Histoire de la Chimie,' etc., etc. 



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